Desserts

Win Two Great Cookbooks -Share Your Holiday Cookie Recipe

I believe December should be declared as the “Month of Cookies.” I think you can guess why? As far as I remember, years back from the day of my arrival to this wonderful country to date, people like to bake a variety of cookies for Christmas rather than cakes or other desserts.

I assume one of the reasons is that it is easier to create a variety of cookies as compared to cakes, pies and other sweets. During this holiday people like to have more than just a single cake, because this is also “a visiting season”. We all expect visits from families and friends, bringing presents for the kids and just finding the opportunity to reconnect. The tradition in my family (which goes from generation to generation) is to treat my guests by setting up a dessert table next to a great cup of cappuccino, tea, or champagne – or all three. Do you have a similar tradition? If not, could you share with me yours?

Another reason is kids. Both, Christmas and Chanukah can be declared the holiday of kids; they can’t wait for the day and the minute when they can tear the wrapping paper from the boxes under the tree (or next to Menorah) and expose the content. Once they are satisfied with the gifts, the next thing they want to enjoy is a homemade cookie with a glass of milk.

So, that is why I’d like to invite you to share your favorite cookie recipe and photograph, and then browse to see what others sent in. You may be inspired by baking something you have never baked or not familiar with, or you may find a lost recipe

You can rate any of the recipes between:

  • 1 to 5 stars (5 being excellent, 1 being fair), or
  • vote for them with thumbs up or down (although I doubt anyone will give a thumbs down to a cookie).

The cookie sharing event starts December 5, 12:01 am Eastern Time and

will be open until midnight Eastern Time December 20, 2011.

After that I will review the ratings/votes and the one that received the most high ratings and/or most thumbs up will receive, one the best books of Alice Medrich:

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

If you are a chocolate enthusiast as I am, you do not need an introduction to Alice Medrich, the award-winning baker and the mother of chocolate truffles. The book received the title of the “Baking Book of the Year, at IACP 2010. You may be interested to know that in this book Alice slashed the Butter and sugar content and enhanced the flavor of the cookies by adding interesting spices, like cardamom or ginger and lots of dark chocolate.

The runner-up will receive the following book:

Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum

a collection of 60 great cookie recipes by the author, who sometimes called the “Baking Goddess”

And now, I’d like to open the “Sharing of Cookie Recipes” with my all time favorite – The Linzer Cookies. And when it comes to baking the best linzer cookies, there isn’t anything better than the one I jotted down years ago, by Nancy Silverton. Nancy became famous with creating the best artisan breads in the 1980s; particularly she is the Mother of Sourdough Bread and lucky me, I own a video of her creating the sourdough starter. Her technique was considered to be advanced and creative, that produced breads that were out of this world, taste-wise, texture-wise, aroma-wise and shall I continue?

Linzer “tort” is one of the oldest recipes existing today (the oldest one was found in 1653 in the archive of Admont Abbey). Baking Linzer tort, or Linzer cookies for Christmas is an Austrian, Hungarian and German tradition. I guess the reason this recipe survived for this many centuries is because its taste is memorable (just as I am writing about it I can create the feel in my mouth that induces my juices to flow) its visual appeal is inviting and it is fairly easy to prepare. I assume what makes Nancy’s recipe so special because it contains hard-boiled eggs that make the cookies’ texture melt-in-your-mouth deliciously.

Linzer Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup (1 1/2-ounces; 50g) whole unblanched hazelnuts (Please note: you can substitute almonds or pecans if you do not have hazelnuts; walnuts changes the taste completely)
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/2-ounces, 50g)  granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup (1 1/2-ounces, 50g) plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour (I used half and half) all-purpose
  • 4 extra-large eggs, hard-boiled (NOTE: Extra-Large Eggs)
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely chopped (from about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond and vanilla extract

Powdered sugar, for dusting

FIG JAM, or any other jam for filling. I used fig jam, because I created it home-made (see instructions below)

Special equipment: 2 1/2-inch round, heart, square, diamond, star-shaped cutter or punch cutters
or 1-inch heart cutter, for cutting out the center of the cookies

PREPARATION

      1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
      2. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.  (NOTE: when you feel the aroma, the nuts are done)
      3. Shake the pan halfway through baking to make sure that the nuts toast evenly. Allow the nuts to cool.
      4. Gather the hazelnuts into a kitchen towel and rub them together to remove the skins.
      5. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the hazelnuts with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon, and process until it’s the consistency of a fine meal.
      6. Add the flours and pulse a few times to combine.
      7. Separate the whites of the hard-boiled eggs (you can use the whites use for salads?)
      8. Push the egg yolks through a fine-mesh sieve, scraping the yolks off the bottom of the sieve and into the flour mixture. Pulse on and off a few times to combine.
      9. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and lemon zest on low 2 to 3 minutes, until softened.
      10. Add the remaining sugar and mix on medium, 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
      11. Add the almond and vanilla extract and mix to combine.
      12. Turn the mixer off, add the nut mixture, and mix on low until just incorporated (Do not over mix at this time)
      13. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten it into a rectangle, about 1-inch thick.
      14. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours or overnight.
      15. Divide the dough in 1/2 and return one 1/2 to the refrigerator.
      16. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness, flouring the surface of the dough as necessary. Using the shaped cutter, cutting as closely together as possible, cut out the cookies.

Serving

  1. Place them 1-inch apart on 1 to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets to chill until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Set the scraps aside.
  3. Roll and cut out the remaining dough in the same way.
  4. Gather all the scraps together, chill, then roll, and cut to make the tops.
  5. Using the small cutter cut out the centers of 1/2 of the cookies and chill until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
  6. Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm to the touch and lightly browned, rotating the baking sheets halfway through to make sure even baking. (NOTE: If you use convection oven, you do not need to rotate the baking sheet)
  8. The cookies with the holes may bake more quickly than the others.
  9. Allow cooling and then dust the perforated cookies with powdered sugar.
  10. Flip over the cookies without holes, placing the darker side of the cookie underneath.
  11. Spoon about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of the fig jam into the center. (NOTE: I used fig jam, but you can use your favorite jam)
  12. Place the perforated cookies, powdered sugar side up, on top of the jam, matching up the edges and pressing gently to spread the jam.

Yield: 4 dozen 2-inch cookies, depending on the size of your cutters

FIG JAM
INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (could use 1 cup sugar if  you do not want the jam to be too sweet)
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from two lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoons sea salt

Method of Preparation

  1. In a large saucepan, toss the figs with the sugar and let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the figs are juicy.
    Add the lemon juice and bring to a boil on medium fire, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Simmer the fig jam over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid runs off the side of a spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 20 -25 minutes.
    Spoon the jam into three 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top.
  3. Close the jars and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Store the jam in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Notes Variation: Substitute 1/2 cup of white port for the water and add one 4-inch sprig of rosemary with the lemon juice; discard the rosemary before jarring.

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