Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Eve

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...well, in the midwest. No snow here in NYC but the decorations around midtown are pretty impressive. And even though it is Christmas Eve Eve, there is still time to bake more cookies! I think I might need to make an extra batch to take to the movies to eat instead of popcorn...

Last week there was a cookie baking fundraiser at work. For every cookie brought in, the Glad company would donate $1 for each to Cookies for Kids' Cancer. (There is a lack of funding for pediatric cancer research and improving therapies. Take a look at the website!) My office mates and I baked 742 cookies and collected cash donations as well. In one afternoon we raised over $1000! (Makes me feel better about all of the cookies that I ate after the count.) I made these two variations of shortbread which I am wishing I had now. Would be good for Christmas Eve breakfast and I have a free afternoon...

Espresso Shortbread
Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners' or granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Sift together the flour and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), cream the butter until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. 

2. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 teaspoon of hot water and add to the butter along with the vanilla and sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes more. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low, scraping the bowl if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed.

3.  Form the dough into a disk; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight). Roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds. Score a line down the middle of each with the back of a knife and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4. Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes then transfer the cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Cookies will keep, in an airtight container, at room temperature 3 weeks.

Note: This dough can be prepared and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to three months, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Thaw the frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. The baking time for the shortbread will vary depending on the kind of pan and cutters used.

Pecan Sandies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup pecans, finely ground
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350˚F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

2. Mix the ground pecans with the flour and salt, and add to butter mixture. Beat, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium, until combined, about 1 minute.

3. Lightly flour your palms, if necessary, and roll the dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake until just brown on edges, about 20 minutes. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet while still warm; sift confectioners' sugar over tops.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Half Baked

So even though I continue to not cook, I have baked (though not in the Colorado sense) despite being sick the week before and after Thanksgiving. This tasty little cookie is not overly sweet and has a familiar rosemary scented holiday aroma, surprising in a cookie I will admit. I know that I have made shortbread in the past: mocha as well as both chocolate and lemon sables, but these are extra cool because you could serve them with a cheese plate or with other sweets. And you might as well check out these other cookie recipes (coconut macaroons, snowball cookies, and janhagels) for holiday inspiration, because who knows when I'll have another chance to bake!

Rosemary Shortbread
Adapted from Family Circle

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Sea salt, to taste

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, rosemary and salt. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the flour mixture. Mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gather the dough into two balls. Wrap both tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Remove one dough ball and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness on parchment paper. Punch out cookies using a 3 1/2-inch round (or tree-shaped) cookie cutter. Transfer the cutouts to a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart, sprinkle with sea salt if desired, then refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat with the second dough ball. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. (Do not allow the cookies to brown). Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Makes about 24 cookies.