December 22, 2009

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree: Thumbprint Cookies



Wowza! What a month! Lots of butter, sugar and flour has been in and out of the oven. Here's to the last cookie of the series--it's a good one.


And a Partridge in a Pear Tree: Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Simply Recipes

1 c butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 c flour
1 c chopped nuts (optional)
3/4 c favorite jam (I used lingonberry preserves from Ikea)

Cream butter and sugar on high speed for 3 minutes. Separate the eggs and add the yolk and vanilla to the butter/sugar mixture. (If you want to use nuts, put egg whites in a separate bowl and whisk until frothy.)

Continue to beat the butter mixture. Add flour and salt and mix until just combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into one inch balls. If you are using nuts, place them in a small bowl. Dip the balls into the egg whites and then into the nuts. Place dough on baking sheet and gently press the center down with your thumb to make a small well. Fill the wells with jam. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until slightly firm. Let cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack to cool.

Have a merry Christmas!


My dog, as Santa

2 Turtle Doves: Krumkakar




Light, airy and delicious. Making krumkakar (a/k/a krumkake) requires a krumkakar iron. I was fortunate enough to use my grandmother's electric version which was very handy and cooked two at a time.


2 Turtle Doves: Krumkakar
Recipe from family friend Eleanor Sonnesyn

6 eggs, room temperature
1 c melted butter, cooled
1 c + 1 T sugar
1 1/4 c flour
1 t cardamom (my grandma used pods ground with mortar and pestle so they were coarse)
1 T brandy (optional)

Heat electric krumkakar iron according to manufacturer directions. Beat eggs until lemony color with handheld mixer on medium speed, three minutes. Add melted butter and mix well. Add sugar gradually, continuing to mix. Add flour gradually. Stop mixer, fold cardamom and brandy in by hand.

Drop a heaping tablespoon on the center of the hot iron and close. Wait about 3 to 5 seconds and check the cookie(s). Once just barely browned, remove from the iron (with a fork or other utensil) and--while still piping hot--wrap around the cone form. Let sit on the form for 15 to 30 seconds before removing and letting cool on a cooling rack. This is an exercise in moving quickly!

If you are so lucky to have an electric iron that cooks two at once, put one cookie on the cone form and then grab the other cookie off the iron. Pull the cone from the first cookie and then wrap the second cookie around the form.

You'll also toughen up your finger tips with the heat. But no pain no gain, right? With these cookies, it's a big gain!

Recipe makes about 6 dozen cookies.

3 French Hens: Palmiers



What better for this entry than a French "cookie?"

3 French Hens: Palmiers
Adapted from Simply Recipes

Package of puff pastry
Plenty of sugar
Spices (optional)
Parchment paper

Place rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 400. Sprinkle about 1/4 c sugar on your work station. Roll the puff pastry to about 10 by 12 inches. Sprinkle another 1/4 c sugar on and any spices if you please. Roll the left side in about half way. Roll the right side in about half way to meet the left roll and form a sort of heart-shaped log. Press the seams together gently. Let the dough cool in the refrigerator for an hour or more.

Slice log in about 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle each lightly with sugar. Press both sides together again so they don't come apart in baking. Place on baking sheet; they will increase in size a lot, so give them plenty of room.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes until the sugar has caramelized. Let cool on cooling rack for 10 minutes.

Now, gimme some sugar!

4 Calling Birds: Cardamom Crescents



Four calling birds... hmmm... how about phone-shaped cookies?

I discovered these on the New York Times Web site. They are delicate, tender and sweet. The cardamom and orange go perfectly together. Best of all, they are super easy! You will need a food processor.


4 Calling Birds: Cardamom Crescents
adapted from New York Times, who attributed the Williams-Sonoma Cookies book and Luane Khonke

1 c flour
3/4 c walnuts
1/2 c butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/2 t grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
Vanilla sugar (1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 vanilla bean pulsed in a food processor and then sieved to remove and seeds) OR regular granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place all ingredients except vanilla sugar in the food processor. Pulse on-off until it resembles a coarse meal. Then process continually until it looks like a dough and begins to gather. Roll 2 teaspoon balls into half moon shapes (create an exaggerated moon shape). Place about one inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let sit on the baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. As soon as they're on the cooling rack, sprinkle with vanilla (or regular) sugar.

Enjoy!

December 20, 2009

5 Golden Rings: Berlinkranzers (Wreaths)


These are cookies my family has made just about every holiday season. They are really delicious. The orange zest gives them a nice brightness, and they are very cute on the cookie tray. One disclaimer: they might test your patience. Just take a deep breath and you'll get the hang of it!


5 Golden Rings: Berlinkranzers (Wreaths)
3/4 c butter or margarine softened
3/4 c shortening
1 c sugar
2 t grated orange peel or 1 t almond extract
2 eggs
4 c flour
topping:
1 egg white
2 T sugar
red candied cherries
green sprinkles
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix butter, shortening, sugar, orange peel and eggs. Blend in flour.
Shape dough into ropes about 6" long (or a little more and you can pinch off the extra once the wreath is formed) and 1/4" in diameter. Place on ungreased baking sheet into wreath shape. Beat egg white until foamy and add 2 T sugar one at a time. Brush tops of wreaths, add sprinkles and cherries.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Avoid getting them brown. Leave on the baking sheet for one minute and then transfer to cooling rack.


December 19, 2009

6 Geese a-Laying: Chocolate Nests




If I were a goose, I'd want to lay an egg in this here nest. This chocolatey, crunchy cookies are a mess to eat but so worth it.


6 Geese a-Laying: Chocolate Nests
Recipe from my grandma

1 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 6 oz package butterscotch chips
1 12 oz package chow mein noodles
1 6 oz package can Spanish peanuts

Melt the chips together. Stir in the chow mein noodles and peanuts. Place on wax paper-lined cookie sheets and chill.

Makes 50 cookies. Could these be easier?!





7 Swans a-Swimming: Minty Meringues



These meringues are light and airy with that crispy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. A touch of peppermint extract and chocolate chips makes them really divine. These should be baked in the evening as your last batch... you'll see why when you read the recipe.


7 Swans a-Swimming: Minty Meringues
Recipe from my grandma SWANson

2 egg whites (with no trace of yolk)
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/4 t salt
1/8 t peppermint extract
1/2 to 3/4 c chocolate chips, depending on your liking
5 or 6 drops green food coloring

Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 250. In a very clean medium or large bowl, beat egg whites with hand mixer on medium-high until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar. Beat until nearly stiff. Add sugar in about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until stiff. Gently fold in the food coloring, peppermint extract and chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonfuls on the prepared cookie sheet. (I made mine pretty large, but I think smaller is nice. Just use two cooking sheets.) Bake for one hour. Do not open the oven door. Turn off the oven and leave the cookies in it overnight. Resist the temptation to peek! Also, leave a note on the oven for the other family members so no one unknowingly turns the oven on too soon.

Substitution: You can use mint chocolate chips and then omit the peppermint extract and regular chocolate chips.

Enjoy!




December 16, 2009

8 Maids a-Milking: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies


Despite the blog title, these cookies have no milk. But I love the milky white color against the darkness of the chocolate. These are some of the best cookies I have EVER made... so, so good! I'll quote the cookbook's description: "Striking snow-white and black, these wonderful cookies are slightly crunchy on the surface but gooey chocolate inside--oh, yum!"

Amen.

The dough needs time to rest, so plan ahead.


8 Maids a-Milking: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Adapted from BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher

1 3/4 c plus 2 T all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)
2 3/4 c sugar, divided
1/3 c canola oil
2 T light corn syrup
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 t pure vanilla extract
1 c confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt thoroughly. Set aside.

Melt chocolate (in microwave at 50% power, or gently on stovetop). In a mixer with paddle attachment or using a hand beater, beat together 2 1/2 c of the sugar, oil and corn syrup to blend. Beat in the eggs, egg yolk and vanilla. Then on low, beat in the melted chocolate. Add the flour mixture bit by bit and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for a several hours or overnight. The dough is very dense and heavy. It sort of reminded me of a giant Tootsie Roll!

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325. Line a baking sheet with release foil or parchment paper.

Pour the remaining 1/4 c sugar in a small bowl and the powdered sugar in a larger shallow dish. Take out about a quarter of the dough at a time from the refrigerator. Roll the dough into 1 1/2-to 2-inch balls. First roll it in the granulated sugar and then heavily in the powdered sugar.

Place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on cooling rack.

A few notes:
By rolling in the regular sugar before the confectioners' sugar, the cookie stays more bright white because less of the sugar soaks into the cookie.

The corn syrup helps prevent crystallization, which produces the soft chocolate center. The oil also helps this. Did you notice the lack of butter in this recipe? I didn't miss it!



December 13, 2009

9 Ladies Dancing: Almond Lace Cookies



These cookies are so beautiful and delicious. They have a crispy, light texture and big almond flavor. You just have to be OK with the fact that they will leave a thin film of butter on your fingers when you eat them. Just remember, butter is a good thing. Always. Even when it stains your shirt.

These cookies are from a great cookbook, BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking by Shirley O. Corriher. She is best known for her book CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed. If you want to know why your cookie is crispy instead of soft, or how the cookie crumbles in general, this is the book for you.


9 Ladies Dancing: Almond Lace Cookies
Adapted from BakeWise by Shirley O. Colliher

Nonstick cooking spray (if using parchment paper instead of release foil)
2/3 c slivered and blanched almonds (buy in the bulk section to get exactly what you need)
1/2 c sugar
6 T unsalted butter, melted
1 T all purpose flour
2 T whole milk

Position rack one third from the top of the oven and preheat it to 350. Cover a baking sheet with release foil OR parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray lightly. It's important to use one of the two.

In a food processor with steel blade, process the almonds and sugar until the almonds are finely ground. It's OK if a few larger pieces remain. Using the pulse action on the food processor, blend in the melted butter, then the flour and milk.

The cookies will spread, so drop heaping teaspoonfuls on the baking sheet. Only do four or five per sheet. Bake one sheet at a time, 6 to 7 minutes or until the edges begin to brown slightly. Pull out of the oven and let sit for one minute. Then pick up the parchment paper and place it upside down on the cooling rack (so cookies are face down on the cooling rack). Carefully peel the parchment paper off. Then flip the cookies so they are right side up.

Once the cookies have cooled, place them on paper towels so some of the butteriness can fall away.

A few notes:
  • The recipe said you can use a wide spatula to pick up the cookies. This didn't work for me, so I recommend the flipping action described above.
  • One neat thing about this recipe is that when the cookies are still hot from the oven, you can shape the cookies. Maybe you'd want to form it into a tiny basket to hold fruit or curl it over a rolling pin. Or just make sculpture!
  • The melted butter and lack of proteins (minimal flour) is what allows these cookies to spread so much and create a lace-like look. The sugar is what allows the cookies to harden. If you want to create more spread, Shirley recommends adding another half tablespoon of melted butter, which I did.




December 10, 2009

10 Lords a-Leaping: Captain Crunch Cookie



I almost called these cookies "playground snowballs" after snowballs formed by kids with the tiny rocks in them. These are much more fun. The cookies have great texture... chewy from the marshmallow, crunchy from the nuts/cereal and smooth from the almond bark.


10 Lords a-Leaping: Captain Crunch Cookies
Recipe from my grandma

2 lbs almond bark
2 c rice crispies
2 c mini marshmallows
2 c peanuts
2 c Captain Crunch cereal

Melt almond bark gently in a 250 oven or over double boiler, stirring frequently. Once melted, mix in other ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls in mini muffin paper cups or on wax paper. Chill 15 minutes or until firmed up.

Instead of almond bark, I used vanilla CandiQuik. It came in a microwaveable tray; it couldn't have been easier!

So simple and delicious.

December 09, 2009

11 Pipers Piping: Gingerbread Men




These Gingerbread Men are so delicious! They are super spicy and not overly sweet. They are soft, which I like. Be sure to use fresh spices, less than a few years old.


11 Pipers Piping: Gingerbread Men
adapted from Penzeys One

1 1/2 c dark molasses
1 c sugar
1/4 c plus 1 T cold water
1/2 c butter, softened
7 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 T ground ginger
1 t ground allspice
1 t ground cloves
1 t cinnamon

Cream together the molasses, sugar, water and butter with a handheld mixer. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining (dry) ingredients. Add the flour mixture in three stages. You may have to use your hands to get it fully incorporated. If it is too dry, add a little water. Do not over mix. Cover it well and refrigerate for 2 hours. It is much easier to work with the dough when it's cold.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface (or nonstick mat) with a lightly floured rolling pin. Cut with cookie cutters and place gingerbread men on lightly greased cookie sheets. Place unused dough in the refrigerator (or freezer!) until you are ready to roll it out and repeat the process. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

If you want your cookies more crispy, bake a little longer.

Enjoy!


December 06, 2009

The Season for Baking Is Here!


12 Drummers Drumming: Snickerdoodles

It's the time of year to get out the butter, sugar and spices. In the next 20 days, I'm going to be baking 12 different cookies as a countdown to Christmas!

"Snickerdoodle" is fun to say, but we all know it's more fun to eat. This recipe is very easy and yields a slightly chewy cookie.

1 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 c flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

coating:
3 T sugar
3 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar and eggs until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Beat until just combined. Chill the dough for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator. While it's chilling, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the coating.

Roll dough into one-inch balls, then roll in the cinnamon sugar. Place on cookie sheet with ample space between. Bake for 10 minutes.

A few helpful notes:
It is important to have the dough be cool when it goes into the oven to prevent very flat cookies. So place the dough in the refrigerator between batches. Also, don't let the cookies get brown. You want them to have a sugar cookie appearance. Start with a small first batch in the oven to make sure you are happy with the timing.

Enjoy!


December 03, 2009

Phew!

I had two Thanksgivings this year. One was the usual lovely big family gathering. The other one was a day of me in the kitchen trying my hand at cooking 100 things at once for a small gathering of me, my husband and my dog.

There was not one dish that left unscathed. Crust in the pumpkin pie? Forgotten in the oven and left to get too brown. The sweet potatoes? Forgot that I halved the recipe, and added the full amount of butter to half the amount of potatoes (can't complain too much about that one). The mashed potatoes? I ended up skipping them because I was worn out. The Turkey Roulade was supposed to be one big Roulade. Instead it became a mess and turned into two. Oh well.

In the end everything turned out fine and TASTED GREAT. Isn't that something to be thankful for?

So as I unwind from Thanksgiving, I'm taking notes so I learn from these mistakes for next year. And I'm not even hosting!


Basic Cranberry Sauce

Sweet Potato Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Before it hits the oven, Turkey Roulade Stuffed with Mushroom Stuffing

Check out the Turkey


Basic Cranberry Sauce
adapted from Everyday Food, November 2008

12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
3/4 c sugar
1 t grated lemon zest

In medium saucepan, combine all ingredients plus 1 c water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Refrigerate to store, up to one week.


Sweet Potato Casserole
Compliments of Judy Frazier
Makes 8 servings

3 lbs sweet potatoes (7 or 8 medium-sized)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla (or almond) extract
1/3 c milk

Topping:
1/3 c melter butter
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/8 t cloves
1 c chopped pecans

Peel potatoes. Boil in water until softened and drain. Then mash with potato masher. Add sugar, butter, beaten eggs, vanilla and milk. Put in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of the potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes at 350.


Green Bean Casserole
2 cans reduced sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 c milk
2 t soy sauce
1/4 t ground black pepper
8 c green beans cut and steamed until tender
1 can (6 oz) French fried onions

Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and 1 1/3 c onions in casserole dish (3 qt). Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir. Top with remaining onions and bake for 5 minutes more.


Turkey Roulade
Adapted from Everyday Food, November 2008

1 boneless, skinless turkey breast (about 3 lbs)
1 recipe Mushroom Stuffing
12 slices of bacon

Preheat oven to 400. Place turkey, skinned side up, on a work surface. Hold a sharp knife parallel to the cutting board. Start on the thicker side and cut all the way through. Open like a book. With a meat mallet or small heavy skillet, pound out to 1/2 inch thickness. Spread Mushroom Stuffing on turkey breast, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Starting at the long end, roll the turkey over stuffing, pat and tuck turkey to form a uniform log. (Mine was not so uniform, and it was messy. Just do what you need to do to make it work. Once it bakes it works out!)

Place turkey seam side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Lay bacon crosswise over the turkey, overlapping the slices slightly. Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165 degrees, about 45 minutes to an hour. Let rest for 15 minutes. Slice crosswise and serve on a platter.


Mushroom Stuffing
adapted from Everyday Food, November 2008

1 c cubed bread with crusts removed (ciabatta or similar)
1/2 c whole milk
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 5 oz package mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 c white wine
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t dried thyme
1/2 t rubbed sage
salt and pepper

In large bowl, toss bread with milk and set aside. In large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes. Spoon out most of the grease. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook until they have released their liquid, about 4 minutes. Add wine, cook until evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Squeeze excess milk from bread and return to a bowl. Add mushroom mixture, eggs, thyme, sage, 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper; mix well. Use immediately or refrigerate up to 1 day.

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