Category Archives: cookies

Pannelets

ICC-Menu-Project-Dessert

Recipe adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich.

MAKES 20 COOKIES

INGREDIENTS
½ cup (4 oz.) mashed baked sweet potato
1 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut, toasted
½ cup sugar
1 large egg white
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 oz. whole blanched almonds, finely chopped
Sugar, for rolling

INSTRUCTIONS
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the sweet potato, coconut, sugar, egg white, salt, and lemon zest. Slowly stir in the almonds until fully incorporated. Chill the dough overnight (and up to 2 days) in the refrigerator to allow the coconut to absorb moisture and the dough to firm up enough to roll into balls.
2. Heat the oven to 325° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop level tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls; roll each ball in sugar and place one inch apart on the baking sheet.
3. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cookies are crusty on the surface but still very moist inside. Rotate the pan halfway through baking to ensure even baking. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet before storing in an airtight container. Cookies will keep for up to five days.

Gluten-Free Pecan Puffs

Finally: a gluten-free recipe for my favorite Christmas cookies. With thanks to the SAVEUR test kitchen who came up with a gluten-free version of a very similar cookie, I was able to create this gluten-free version of pecan puffs. They hold their nice round shape in the oven, and melt instantly in your mouth with a puff of powdered sugar and rich nutty flavor. I served these cookies on Friday at my annual Christmas cookie (and charades) party, and they were a big hit. The little bit of chestnut flour in there gives them a nice wintery smokiness. They don’t keep quite as well as their wheat-full versions do though, so go ahead and gobble them all up within a couple days (that shouldn’t be too hard to do).

Gluten-Free Pecan Puffs
Adapted from SAVEUR’s Gluten-Free Vanilla Crescent Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

6 oz pecans, finely ground
13 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies
1 1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup chestnut flour
generous pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325°.

Cream the butter and the 1/3 cup confectioners sugar until soft, then stir in the vanilla.

Stir the pecans, all the flours, and the salt into the butter mixture, and mix well.

Roll the dough into 2 tsp size balls and place evenly on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake until the cookies are just barely starting to brown, about 15 minutes.

While still warm, roll each cookie in the confectioners sugar then let cool completely on a cooling rack.

I like to dust all the finished cookies with a bit of extra confectioners sugar through a fine sieve for a smooth finish before serving.

Making Mistakes

I feel like I’ve been making a lot of mistakes in the kitchen recently. I don’t often share my kitchen mistakes; I like to whisk them away into the garbage can without telling a soul… but since I don’t have any good new creations to tell you about just now, I’m going to share some of my recent mistakes this time. Within the past week there have been two big disappointments in my little kitchen: First there was a baking soda- flavored batch of my favorite peanut butter cookies, and then there was a curdled quiche. Both these things I was making for someone else, and that just made the fact that they didn’t work out feel worse, because you all know how much joy I get out of being able to feed other people yummy things.

I made the peanut butter cookies with the intention to bring as a gift to Sela and her dad, but after eating several cookies myself, and feeding a few to Grif (who kindly told me they weren’t all that bad but that something was a bit off), I decided they just weren’t worthy of being given. I brought Sela and Toni tulips instead. The peanut butter cookies were made exactly like I always make my flourless peanut butter cookies, but something just wasn’t right. There was a distinct taste of baking soda, and instead of being puffy and melting in the mouth, they were thin and crisp. Maybe I beat the batter too long? Maybe I misread the baking soda measurement? Maybe the particular jar of peanut butter that I used had a particularly high oil content? I really don’t know- do you?

The quiche was made on Monday night for my Gossip Girl date with Laura. Yes, I am a shameless fan of Gossip Girl, but since neither Laura or I have a TV, we like to watch it together at her boyfriend’s place. We were so excited to finally have a new episode to watch, and we had been craving and planning our quiche all day. We chose a recipe for zucchini, bacon, and Gruyere quiche, divided up the ingredient list and brought everything to Jose’s place in time to whip up dinner before the episode started. My pie crust looked perfect, the bacon was making our mouths water, and the zucchini was delicious fried in the bacon fat. I had decided to substitute buttermilk for the called for combination of milk and heavy cream, because that’s all I had in my fridge. As I was heating the buttermilk, I got distracted gossiping about Gossip Girl… and the buttermilk started to boil and then curdle… ooops! But we had no more milk, and we had four hungry people to feed, so I just whisked it up, crossed my fingers, and assembled the quiche. The quiche came out looking pretty darn good, and I happily started serving. But alas, beneath the lovely surface there was a curdled mushy mess. It tasted fine, but it looked gross. My friends were such troopers; they all happily ate it and declared it tasty while I tried not to spoil dinner by overly bemoaning my mistake. I had a bit of a sore stomach after eating that quiche. I’m not sure, but I think it was just the curdled buttermilk that made the quiche so weird- does anyone know any other reasons why this could have happened? Also, is there any way to fix buttermilk once it has separated like that? These are questions I would love to know the answer to…

Chocolate-Covered Ginger Florentines

I love all things ginger; the stronger the ginger flavor, the better. I’m addicted to ginger tea; a cold night that does not end with a big mug of it is a very sad thing indeed. There is no better soda than a ginger beer, and don’t even get me started on how fabulous those little ginger chews are. These chocolate-covered ginger florentines are a brand new item on my ginger-vice list. Adapted from Alice Medrich’s cookbook, Pure Dessert, these cookies are natural show-stoppers. I can imagine they would be perfect served with a small bowl of (ginger) ice cream at the end of an elegant dinner party. At my cookie party, these cookies and their sweet caramelized crunch disappeared very quickly.

It takes some patience to make these, since spreading the dough out into thin circles on the baking sheets is a bit of a finicky task. A silicone spatula is really the best tool for this task, and a team of two cooks is better than one. Marta and I were able to form a pretty good assembly line making these and got them done much faster than I would have on my own.

Chocolate-Covered Ginger Florentines
makes about 50 cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs honey
5 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces
pinch of salt
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp flour
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Line baking sheets with aluminum foil, making sure to smooth any wrinkles.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cream, honey, butter, and salt and stir over low heat until the butter is melted and the mixture comes to a simmer.
Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 238 F.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in flour, almonds, and ginger.
Drop level teaspoons of batter about 3 inches apart onto one of the foil-lined baking sheets.
Using a flexible silicone spatula, flatten the cookies to a diameter or about 1 1/2 inches.
Bake until the cookies are a deep mahogany brown all over, 6 to 8 minutes, reversing the sheet from front to back about halfway through baking.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time, but while one batch bakes, you can contine to drop and flatten the batter on sheets of foil.
When each batch is done, slide the foil sheet of cookies carefully onto a rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the foil by peeling the foil gently from under each cookie (do not try to lift the cookie off the foil, this will break it).
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in a skillet of hot but not even simmering water.
Stir constantly until two-thirds of the chocolate is melted, then remove the bowl from the water and continue to stir until the remaining chocolate is melted.
Drizzle to tops of the cookies with the melted chocolate.
Let the chocolate set, then store the cookies in an airtight container (or eat them all right up).

Swedish Ginger Snaps for Christmas

These ginger snaps were a true revelation. Elegant in their unadorned perfection, they are delicately thin, and decidedly addictive. Fill a cellophane bag with these star shaped ginger snaps and you have the perfect last minute gift. I’ve tried making different versions of thin ginger snaps before, but never with much success- the dough was always too fragile to work with, or they would fall apart when I would try and take them off the cookie sheets- but not these. The recipe for these cookies is straight from The Gourmet Cookbook, and they are a sweet smelling breeze to make. The trick is that you really must have a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover. A pastry cloth is simply a big piece of canvas that you spread out on your counter top, and a rolling pin cover is like a little cotton sleeve for your rolling pin. When sprinkled with flour, these two pieces of fabric make it possible to roll out dough to its thinnest possible dimension without it ever sticking to the work surface.  A pastry cloth and rolling pin cover set can be purchased for about $7 at most kitchen stores (or here), and is absolutely worth having.

Swedish Ginger Snaps
makes about 12 dozen cookies 

1 stick (8 Tbs) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 cup sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
1½ tsp ground cloves 

Beat cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl at medium speed until pale and fluffy.
Beat in corn syrup and molasses.
Mix in the whipped cream at low speed until just combined.
Sift in the flour, baking soda, and spices and beat until well combined.
The dough will be airy and a bit sticky; form it into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut dough into quarters and work with 1 quarter at a time, keeping remaining dough covered in the fridge.
Lightly flour a pastry cloth and fit your rolling pin with a cover.
Roll out dough as thin as possible (less than 1/8 inch thick and about 14 inches in diameter).
Cut out cookies with cookie cutters and carefully transfer to ungreased baking sheets, arranging them about 1/2 inch apart.
Reroll scraps and cut out more cookies in same manner.
Bake until cookies puff and then collapse slightly, about 6 minutes per batch.
Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute and transfer with metal spatula to racks to cool completely.
Cookies will keep in airtight containers at room temperature for about 5 days. 

Christmas Cookie Party

I hosted a cookie party last week. I wanted to have some way to give something special to all my friends during this holiday season, so I fed them five varieties of sweet treats, bourbon-spiked eggnog, and Czech-style hot mulled wine. I’m not sure I know of a better way to say “I love you and I am so glad you are my friend” than by sharing my homemade sweet treats and booze. We played charades, which is really one of my favorite games in the whole wide world, and we tried to eat all my cookies. When everyone left I still had enough cookies to feed a small army.
 
With the help of sister Marta, I made Pecan Puffs, Dulce de Leche Half Moons, Coffee Toffee, Swedish Ginger Snaps, and Chocolate-Covered Ginger Florentines. I’d been wanting to make the Dulce de Leche Half Moons since last December’s issue of Gourmet magazine arrived at my apartment, but they require Back-Oblatan, which are these very hard to find German wafer cookies. I finally found my Back-Oblatan this year at Shaller and Weber at 1654 2nd Ave between 85th and 86th streets. The recipe from Gourmet is quiet simple and easy to follow with no baking required, though you must have the patience to sit and carefully insert all those pumpkin seeds. They are worth the effort though; the flavor is unlike any other Christmas cookie I’ve tried.
The recipe for the coffee toffee that I made came from Smitten Kitchen. The toffee was terribly addictive and perfectly crunchy. Stay tuned for the recipes for the Swedish Ginger Snaps and the Chocolate-Covered Ginger Florentines…

My Favorite Christmas Cookies (Pecan Puffs)

I am a stickler for holiday traditions, food and otherwise. I have a sinking feeling that sometimes I can be downright annoying about it (remember the pumpkin pie incident?), but really I just do it because I love it. One of the Christmastime food traditions I’ve latched onto is the need for Pecan Puffs, also known as “Mexican Wedding Cakes.” I love the way these little snowy balls instantly shatter into silky crumbs in my mouth. I love the not-too-sweet pecan way they taste. I love the way the powdered sugar sticks to my fingers.

Yesterday, midst cold city rain, I set up shop in my kitchen and put Marta and Hillary to work rolling balls of dough with me (while watching Elf of course). We rolled our way through a double recipe of pecan puff dough, and now I have enough of these perfect little cookies to last until Christmas (or at least until we go home next week and my mama makes more). I tried and failed to convert this recipe to be gluten-free, so until next year we’re just going to have to stick with this original recipe from the Joy of Cooking.

Pecan Puffs

1 cup butter
4 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups pecans, finely ground
2 cups cake flour
about 1 cup confectioners sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 300?F.
Cream the butter and the sugar until soft, then stir in the vanilla.
Stir the pecans and the flour into the butter mixture.
Roll the dough into 2 tsp size balls and place evenly on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake until the cookies are just barely starting to brown, about 20 minutes.
While still hot, roll each cookie in the confectioners sugar then let cool completely on a cooling rack.
I like to dust all the finished cookies with a bit of extra confectioners sugar through a fine sieve for a smooth finish.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

 I recently had a conversation with my cousin Phoebe about flourless baking, and she gushed on and on about the recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies in the Gourmet Cookbook. She was right of course, these cookies are totally worth gushing over. Light and airy in texture, they quickly melt in the mouth in a wonderfully peanut buttery way. They’re mindlessly simple to make, and the repetitive tactile task of rolling the dough into symmetrical balls provided me with just the right kind of calming meditation I needed to fend off the Sunday Night Blues. My mom and I used to always fight about the appropriate size for cookies. Whether we were carefully hand rolling balls for pecan puffs or dolling out spoonfuls of chocolate chip cookie dough, my measurement was always larger than hers, and she just couldn’t hold back her comments on what she thought was excessive. She found a way to solve the size argument last Christmas by buying me my very own cookie scoop. Here it is in all its glory:

It’s a wonderful little machine. Like an ice cream scoop, you squeeze the handles together and it pushes out a rounded 2 tsp. amount of dough. Now all my cookies are never larger than 2 tsp. worth of dough, and my mother doesn’t have to waste any breath commenting on excessive proportions. 

This recipe is adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook. Please note that natural style thick peanut butter won’t work in this recipe. You want your peanut butter to be as close to Skippy texture as possible (while avoiding Skippy if possible…) I used Whole Foods brand organic creamy peanut butter to great success.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350? F.
Butter a large baking sheet.
Beat together peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until well combined, about 2 mins.
Beat in egg and baking soda until the dough starts to stick into a ball.
Roll 2 tsp of dough into round balls and arrange about 1 inch apart on buttered baking sheet.
Partially flatten balls with tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern.
Bake cookies until puffed and pale golden, about 10 mins per batch. Cool on baking sheets for 2 mins, then transfer to racks to cool.