Friday, December 17, 2010

Gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies

All my life, I've been searching for really good gingerbread cookies. And all my life, until now, I've failed, 'cause most recipes are meant to be structural more than delicious -- they're meant to be hard, sturdy, sorta tasteless but good material for building a gingerbread house. But as a food, as a delicious cookie, they totally fail.

These, on the other hand, are the cookie I plan to make from now on, 'cause they're soft and chewy and full of flavor. They're the gingerbread cookies you've always wanted to come out of your oven. Make them -- you won't regret it.

Gingerbread Cookies
From Cook's Illustrated

3 c flour
3/4 c dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp butter, softened and cut into pieces
3/4 c molasses
2 tbsp milk

1. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal.
2. Add the molasses and milk and mix until a soft dough is formed.
3. Chill the dough at least 45 minutes.
4. Roll the dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out your shapes, spacing them 3/4 inch apart on your baking sheet.
5. Bake at 350 degrees about 9 minutes, until they are set in the centers and the dough barely retains an imprint when touched very gently with a fingertip. Do not overbake!
6. Cool on sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling racks.
7. When cooled, decorate (I used Wilton cookie icing in a bottle).

Chocolate toffee cookies

Chocolate toffee cookies

I probably don't need to say anything besides "chocolate," "toffee" and "cookies," do I?

Oddly enough, these ended up being those cookies that sound great but look totally unimpressive and really don't go over that well right away. But later... later, a few hours or a day later, you pick one up and take a bite, and then you notice how awesome they are, how almost brownie-like, how rich and fudgy and delicious. And then you wonder where they all went, 'cause surely, there was a full plate here a minute ago. :)

Chocolate Toffee Cookies
From Smitten Kitchen

1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
16 oz bittersweet chocolate, chips or chopped
1/4 c butter
1 3/4 c brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp extract
5 1.4-ounce Heath bars, coarsely chopped (I used the same weight in fun-size bars -- in hindsight, the toffee-to-chocolate ratio was a bit off, so I might use more if I used the little ones next time)
1 c chopped walnuts
Sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
2. In another bowl, microwave the chocolate and butter, stirring and heating until smooth.
3. In a larger bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together until thick. Add in the chocolate, then the vanilla, then the flour mixture. Stir in the nuts and toffee.
4. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes. Optionally, form into logs and chill in plastic wrap, so you can slice and bake them later.
5. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets (the parchment keeps the toffee from sticking to the pans). Sprinkle with sea salt.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes, until the tops are dry and cracked. Cool on sheets (they'll continue to bake slightly as they cool).

Forgotten cookies

Forgotten cookies

I wouldn't normally turn to Emeril Lagasse for a cookie recipe. I mean, he's more known for being the bayou-cooking guy, right? Bam, lots of spices? But this recipe looked good anyway, and it was well-reviewed, and I'd never made meringues before.

Overall, I'd say that these are tasty, but there's not much cookie to them -- they're pretty much all chocolate and nuts. They're also flourless, meaning that your celiac friends should love them. :) And they're easy, so you should love them, too. In fact, they're so easy that you don't even have to watch the oven, 'cause they bake overnight, all on their own.

Forgotten Cookies
From Emeril Lagasse, via the Food Network

2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chocolate chips
1 c chopped walnuts

1. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and beat until fluffy.
2. Add in the sugar, a bit at a time. When half of the sugar has been added, pour in the vanilla. Add the rest of the sugar slowly and keep beating until the sugar dissolves and the meringue is shiny and tight.
3. Carefully fold in the chocolate and nuts.
4. Spoon by teaspoon-fulls onto parchment-lined baking sheets (the parchment is important, 'cause they'll stick to the pan otherwise).
5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When it's fully heated, put the cookies in and turn off the oven.
6. Walk away. Go to bed. When you get up the morning, they will be cookies.

Linzer cookies

Linzer cookie

It's cookie season!

Every year, I try to do at least three new kinds of Christmas cookies -- you know, the fancy ones you only make in December, not the regular kind you make the rest of the year. I try to balance out my picks between chocolate, fruit and spice kinds. And this year, I upped the ante by deciding to put the results into gift packages for a few people on my holiday card list.

I picked out my recipes, which in itself can take a week or two. I plotted out the perfect date to do all of this baking. And then... I had surgery on my finger, which severely impeded my ability to bake (as well as to blog, sadly). But fear not, 'cause there's always Mom, and she was eager to help. With her assistance, I got everything done, including these delicious Linzer sandwich cookies.

The only trouble I ran into was that I didn't have a cutter small enough for the centers -- I ended up using the mouth of an empty (cleaned) soda bottle. Well, there was one other problem, too, I guess, and that was that these were really awesome, but by the time I packed some up to ship, there were hardly any left. I'd make a double batch next time.

Linzer Cookies
From Baked Perfection

2 1/3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 c sugar
3/4 c butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract

1 c chocolate chips
1 c seedless raspberry jam

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, eggs and almond extract until creamy. Add the dry ingredients, a bit at a time.
3. Chill dough until firm, at least 45 minutes.
4. Roll out 1/8-inch thick and cut with a scalloped 2-inch cutter, cutting the centers out of half of them.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-9 minutes. Let cool.
6. Melt the chocolate chips. Spread about a teaspoon of chocolate on the flat side of each whole cookie. Let sit for a moment, then spread a bit of raspberry jam over the chocolate and top with the cookies with holes.