Saturday, December 27, 2008

A busy December

Last year, I decided to start a tradition that many of you in the blogosphere participate in, and one that I will hopefully continue for many, many years to come -- holiday cookie gifts. The decision was a result of a limited budget, the desire to offer something that someone else might not, and an itch to bake, and after many, many hours of labor in the kitchen, a pretty impressive assortment was created. I could not have predicted the enthusiasm with which these cookie jars/bags/baskets were received, but it was clear that they were much appreciated and I have every intention of doing them year after year now.

The varieties from last year included both crispy and chewy chocolate chip cookies, cocoa chocolate chip cookies, World Peace Korovas, shortbread, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, rugelach, molasses spice, brownie bites, Mexican wedding, pecan squares, and I think I'm missing two others. Although, I was happy with most of them (save for the crispy chocolate chips -- too strong a taste of olive oil), I tried to improve the mix this year with mostly new recipes. The final list included: The Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe molasses spice, the beloved NY Times chocolate chip recipe, snickerdoodles and mini black-bottom brownie cups from The All-American Cookie Book, The Frog Comissary oatmeal chocolate chip, Vanilla Garlic's lemon mascarpone blondies, pecan tassies, cut-out sugar cookies, and a whole slew of Dorie recipes including peanut butter crisscrosses, rugelach (apricot pecan and chocolate walnut), Korovas (again), Punitions, pecan powder puffs, and Linzer sables. These were the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe hosted by Dennis of Living the Life earlier this month, and though that was a hectic week and I wasn't able to complete the recipe then, I thought it would definitely be a starlet in a holiday line-up.

The dough came together so easily (again, I pray at the altar of the Cuisinart), was amazingly easy to roll out and cut out, and baked up beautifully as well. I'm a huge fan of the D'arbo strawberry jam ever since having a tiny jar of it with my toast at Comme Ca, so I searched out their raspberry jam for this recipe and I have no doubt that it was the perfect filling to the cookie.

Spiced sandwich cookies with fruit filling don't immediately make my mouth water, and I didn't even love it at first bite, but the next day, perhaps once the flavors mellowed, or melded together, I was a fan. A British-by-way-of-Germany-but-born-American friend (and lucky cookie tin recipient) said it"tasted German" (not sure if that's a positive or negative statement), but I also sent a giant round tin to my sisters and the older of the two commented on its tastiness out of all the other varieties, so I'm taking it as a good thing. She described it as "the Pepperidge Farm looking one", but it tastes far better than anything prepackaged, in my opinion, and, clearly, was the visual standout in the sea of different shades of brown (yet delicious) cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Simple deliciousness

My sister loves sugar cookies, and while they aren't my favorite cookie, there is something to be said for an unadulterated sugar cookie -- chock full of butter and sugar, of course; pale, pale yellow, seemingly void of any flavor, but it's usually the recipes made of the simplest of ingredients that resonate in one's memory and stand the test of time. This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe is hosted my Ulrike of Kuchenlatein and is Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies and I was pretty excited to test it out to find a go-to sugar cookie recipe that my sister will approve of. It's been a busy week, so I wasn't able to employ any amazing variation to the recipe (although the measure of a great sugar cookie should be judged at its essence, I think -- just like a cupcakery should be evaluated by their vanilla-vanilla first and foremost). Roll-out cookies haven't had much of a presence in my baking as the nuisance of dough sticking on my counter was (as with the aforementioned bane of my existence -- pie dough) quite a deterrent. I didn't even have cookie cutters, so over the weekend I stopped by Surfas for some great, classic shapes. Fleur de lys? I know my friend would love them already!

The dough was manageable, but did soften up rather quick, leading to a slightly deformed snowflake during transfer to the baking sheet. Most of them made it to the oven, although there was a mishap involving the floor, and I sprinkled a bit of sanding sugar over the tops. Next time I'll surely involve some colored icing.

All in all, it was quite a tasty recipe. The cookie baked up firm, but after a bit of time, they did definitely soften up. I may prefer a sugar cookie with more bite to it, but we'll see what the verdict is with my sugar cookie afficionado sister.