Posts tagged cookies

florentines

Until recently, I had never had a Florentine, those thin, crispy almond-and-orange cookies.  I had seen them in the odd cookie book or collection, but for some reason they had never interested me enough to make.  In the end, for this particular recipe iteration, I’m not totally sure it was worth the time.  Oh, I can certainly see where it would be – they tasted great, after all.  Still, the amount of time needed to turn out what ended up being a very fragile and uneven product, well, it makes me think that I might need to rethink the recipe is all.

The issue is that the dough was very crumbly and hard to roll, and although that problem was fixable – warming the dough in my palms before making balls – it was time-consuming.  Also, the cookies spread far more than I was expecting, so far in fact that they had numerous holes in their surface, and I think, this can’t be right.  So, I’m thinking perhaps the fact that I didn’t pulverize my almonds enough was probably the culprit.  Also, several recipes called for corn syrup, and I used golden syrup, because I like the taste better.

florentines (makes about 30 4-inch sandwich cookies)

Note: When my oven was at 350, my edges got far too brown, nearly burning before the center was cooked past the point of being chewy.  So I eventually had to turn my oven down to 200 in order to get the edges and the middle to cook even close to evenly.  Again, not sure if this is a problem with my dough, so, if you’ve pulverized the almonds thoroughly enough, start off at 350 with your first batch, and keep turning down the oven accordingly, if needed.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. blanched almonds, ground finely
  • 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. flour
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. each heavy cream + golden syrup
  • 1 stick + 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. chocolate (your choice of milk/semisweet/bittersweet)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together almonds, flour, orange zest, and salt.
  3. In a saucepan, bring sugar, cream, golden syrup, and butter up to a boil.  Stir frequently and cook until the sugar has been dissolved.  Leave on the stove another minute, then remove to stir in vanilla.  Add to almond mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
  5. Scoop teaspoon-sized amounts of dough and roll them into balls.  Place them about 4 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  6. Bake about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 5 minutes, and watching carefully for doneness.  They should be an even golden brown – too light in the middle, and they will be chewy and sticky rather than crispy.
  7. Cool on the baking sheet until you can safely move them to cooling racks, about 3-5 minutes.
  8. When all the cookies are out of the oven and cooling, chop your chocolate and melt it over gentle heat on the stovetop, or in the microwave in 30-second bursts.  Stir while letting it cool briefly, then spread over the bottom sides of half of the cookies.  Top with the remaining half to make thin cookie sandwiches.
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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, I admit, I accidentally doubled the butter in a recipe I was following, leaving you with the below.  However, since the dough was very dense, I’m not quite sure I see how it would work out with less butter.  The taste of these was very, very chocolaty and delicious, but they crumble like you wouldn’t believe.  Planning on trying this recipe again and seeing whether I can get the dense flavor but with a chewier cookie as originally planned.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. kamut flour
  • 3/4 c. teff flour
  • 1 tsp. wheat gluten (optional; if using, place in measuring cup before measuring out kamut flour)
  • 3/4 c. dutch-process cocoa flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • scant 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. agave syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.
  3. Beat butter with sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in agave syrup and egg.  Fold in dry ingredients and chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoon onto the baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, or until done.

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Pumpkin Ginger Cookies

These definitely ended up kind of flat and sticky, so, the ratios are probably a little bit off.  The taste, however, was very nice – sweet and lightly spiced.  No picture since this is from awhile ago and they weren’t very pretty.  When I get around to making them again, I’ll probably update.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. spelt flour
  • 2 c. oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add maple syrup and brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until combined.  Add pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla, and beat until thoroughly combined.
  • Fold in remaining ingredients.
  • Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets and bake 10-12 minutes or until done.

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Spiced Seasonal Cookies

Now that the weather has finally cooled off from the over 90 temperature days of late summer, I’ve been in the mood for autumnal cooking.  As it happens, fall and winter are generally my favorite seasons for cooking.  Sure, spring brings with it rhubarb and asparagus, and summer is a lovely time for beans, tomatoes, berries, melons, and so on.  But my heart (and stomach) belong to the deep, unctuous meat stews, softly starchy root vegetables, mounds of butter and sugar, and spices – dear, sweet winter spices: cinnamon especially, but also ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg…

Gingerbread is a favorite holiday treat, but I’m not a particular fan of hard cookies, unless I’m planning on eating them with tea (which I should really do more often).  Typically, when I make gingerbread, I like it in dark, dense, moist-crumbed loaves – really excellently delicious with a light lemon icing, by the way.  But I wanted a ginger cookie, and last year, I discovered these.  Soft and chewy, well-spiced, but not overwhelming.  This dough is relatively sturdy, and could probably hold up to rolling and cutting out into whatever shapes you desire.

Ginger Cookies (makes about 2-3 dozen)

I made this version out of mostly whole-wheat flour with some teff mixed in for a variation on taste and nutrition, but you can make it out of a mix of any flours you like, really, including regular all-purpose flour.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • 1/4 c. coarse granulated sugar for rolling, on a plate

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg until thoroughly combined.  Stir in water and molasses.  Fold in dry ingredients until just combined.
  3. Shape 2 tbsp. of dough into balls, then roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet and flatten with the bottom of a glass.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Oatmeal Shortbread (makes 1 9×9 inch pan, 2 dozen small squares)

This shortbread is crisper on the edges and tends to be softer and chewier in the center, but even center pieces crisp up when completely cooled.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a 9×9 inch pan.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth.  Slowly beat in dry ingredients until dough begins to come together.  Mix in oats with a rubber spatula.  Spread in prepared pan.
  4. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool several minutes, or until you can cut into it without disturbing the dough.  Cut into squares, and then let cool completely before serving or storing.

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Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some days, you just want to bake cookies.  It doesn’t matter that the thermostat reads 80 because the afternoon sunshine has been streaming in through your windows for the past three hours.

This batter is, bar none, the most delicious batter I have ever tasted, the kind I sneak spoonfuls of when I go in to rotate my sheet pans.  It is so delicious, that I am at this very moment considering making a batch with egg white substitute (or just risk it, because after all the yolks add both texture and flavor) so that I can make cookie dough ice cream.  Say, does freezing kill salmonella?

This is the batter I’ve been using since last summer, when I decided that my previous best-batter-ever was faulty because it had instant pudding on the list of ingredients, and who knows what they put in there?  It was a foggy, drizzly, summer in the city and we were either just getting over or hadn’t yet experienced the horror of that summer’s early flu-bug, and dang it, I wanted some cookies.

Since then, I’ve decided I need to cook with more whole grains (other than wheat!) and alternative sweeteners.  That said, I haven’t yet experimented much with this recipe.  It’s so perfect, I’m afraid to mess with it, but after this batch, I think I’ll just force myself.  It’s so close to ideal that I couldn’t pass up making it even healthier.

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 2 dozen)

Okay, I admit it, I DID experiment with this recipe a little.  The batch I made today, I made with 1 cup spelt flour (an ancient wheat), 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, and used half chocolate chips, half raisins.

One additional note on texture.  If your kitchen is warm like mine was, and the dough is very soft, the cookies will spread a lot and be a little crispier and chewier.  I like my cookies soft and tender, and if you do, too, you’ll want to refrigerate your dough, about 15-20 minutes before you bake it.  Your dough balls should hold their shape on the baking sheet.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325.  Lightly grease baking sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients.
  3. In another medium bowl, mix butter and sugars until smooth.  Add vanilla and eggs and beat until light and creamy.
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix until almost completely combined.  Some of the dry ingredients should be visible on the top of the batter.
  5. Gently fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed and no more dry ingredients remain visible.
  6. Drop by 2 tbsp. on cookie sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between.  Bake 12-15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, or until golden brown and lightly crisped at the edges.
  7. Let cool several minutes on baking sheets before moving to racks to cool.

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Hamantashen!

The Jewish holiday of Purim was established, it is said, upon the day(s) that Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther (also Jewish, Mordecai’s adopted daughter) triumphed over the evil Haman (the King’s council), whose plot was to have all the Jewish people in the kingdom killed.  Queen Esther prevailed upon the King to reverse the order, and he did, establishing that on this day, Jews would be allowed to kill their enemies instead.  Much rejoicing (and slaughtering!) ensued.  Mordecai and Esther then declared that Jewish people should keep this day as a day of celebration throughout the ages.

Today, many Jewish people celebrate Purim by reading the book of Esther, and bringing food to their friends and family, including the traditional pastry, hamantashen, Yiddish for “Haman’s ears.”

Interestingly, I have never had hamentashen before, even having grown up Jewish.  They are so beloved that I couldn’t pass up making them this year.  Well, who am I kidding?  I can’t pass up an opportunity to make cookies pretty much any time.

The pastry dough I made for these was delicious, but the two fillings I made (poppyseed/raisin, and coconut) were sort of “eh.”  The ones we filled with Nutella and homemade tangelo marmelade, however, were delicious.

Hamantashen (makes about 24 cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • about 2/3 c. filling of your choice (traditional choices include poppyseed, fig, date, and prune, but you can really use anything)

Directions:

  1. Combine flours, baking powder and sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend.  Beat egg with oil in a small bowl and add to the processor with lemon zest.  Pulse to combine.
  2. Add lemon juice 1 tbsp. at a time, pulsing after both additions.  Dough should be sticky.  Press into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out dough, one half at a time, about 1/8″ thick.  Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds of dough.  Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each, and shape the hamantashen by pulling up three sides of the circle over the filling and pressing together.  Pinch the seams to seal.
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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