Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Countdown: The Last of The Cookies

We're cookie here, I know, but I promise, this is the last one this year.

These are Applebutter-filled Gingerbread Cookies. I found the recipe back when Luisa made applebutter last year, and she mentioned it could be used in cookies as well, providing a link to the LA Times and a recipe. Unusual for me, I didn't bookmark the recipe, only printed it, and it had been languishing in my notebook ever since. That is, until I made applebutter a couple of months ago and tried finding something to use all those jars for, besides licking it off a spoon. Which is good, but these - are absolutely divine.

I made the dough a couple days in advance so I needed only to roll, fill and assemble, then bake on the day. That whole thing is a bit time consuming, but I really like the look of these, so I think it's worth it. I cut the "windows" at an angle, as you can see from the picture below, just to play around a little. They're gently spiced, and with the applebutter peeking giving the whole thing a boost of freshness - yum.

I have to say though - these don't keep very well. It may have been because I used my own applebutter, or didn't let the cookies cool completely (I was running out of cooling racks - does that happen to you too?), but they quickly - within a day and a half - turned soggy on the bottoms and crumbled. The taste was still lovely, they just weren't nearly as pretty, or easy to eat, with all those bits and pieces all over your napkin, as they were on day one. Eh. Just make less at a time, and you'll have fresh, crisp, cookies when you need them. Definitely recommendable this one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Countdown: Liqour Cabinet Clean-Out

The last of the Gourmet cookies I tried this year. Chocolate Sambuca Crinkle Cookies.

Admittedly, I made these because I have not one, but two half bottles of Sambuca lingering on top of the wine glass cabinet where we keep or liqour. We don't drink Sambuca. In fact, we rarely drink hard alcohol at all, but if or when we do, it's usually gin or vodka tonics, or the occasional mojito. I think maybe the bottles are leftovers from my younger days - I seem to remember a pretty hardcore shot of vodka, with orange slices dipped in sugar, resting on the edge of the glass, with a bit of sambuca poured over it, and then lit with a match. But truth be told, if that's what I drank, how on earth do I still remember? Sounds like it could make anyone forget!

The cookies also have chocolate and walnuts in them, which are big ringers in the taste department, and Sambuca definitly needs something to pair up with. Personally, I like the anise-taste, but M despises it. I can't even get him to eat fennel. So I figured I better make these cookies for someone else, hence they were served at the Julestue. I wouldn't say they were a big hit though - people noticed the alcoholic afterthought in these babies, and that just doesn't ring well with my crowd, I suppose - but I liked their deep, dark flavor. They're mighty pretty though, plus I got to use up an entire half cup of Sambuca - the cabinet's already looking better!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Countdown: Gingerbread Snowflakes

I told you before that I am a hoarder. But I'm not only a hoarder of dried goods. I'm also doing very well in the kitchen utensils/machines/gadgets department.

Like cookie cutters. I have a big jar full of them, and they look mighty pretty on my shelf, in my office - they're not even in the kitchen any longer. But truth be told, I've hardly ever used them.Yet, when I'm abroad (they're expensive around here, so I seem to be able to control myself) one or two always seem to sneak themselves into my suitcase. I have no idea how this happens.

The truth is, I don't really care for cut-out cookies. They're often bland, buttery, boring affairs with their biggest asset being their shape (and perhaps their frosting). I know, you shouldn't judge a cookie - or anything else, except maybe a new haircut - by it's shape alone, but I do. I like the rugged, crumbly, fat discs of joy - not the controlled, straight-lined kind.

Still, those cutters needed some excercise (and I needed the jar for cookies) so I went looking for a recipe, and again, Gourmet to the rescue. These are delicately spiced Gingerbread cookies that keep well and stay crisp. They even, for this cut-out cookie disbeliever, were deemed worthy of their calories, even when competing against five other kinds of cookies. That is pretty high marks, I tell you.

You'll find the recipe here. I used only 1½ teaspoon baking powder and rolled them just short of 1 cm. thick. They were glazed with a mix of powdered sugar and lemon, because I wanted them all white, like Shauna's pretty things. And I used my latest investment, the snowflake cookie cutter, because 'tis the season, right? I think I got about 40-50 cookies, but it will of course depend on the size of the cutters you're using.

Now at least I feel a little bit better for having used my cutters...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Countdown: Still Time for Cookies

I have been sorely absent form this blog - again. I will try and make it up to you with a spurt of a Christmas Countdown - I know I have only five days to go (we celebrate Christmas Eve here in Denmark, so I'm counting down to the 24th., in case you thought I got the days mixed up), but at least it's something. Next year, I'll be better. Early with the New Year's resolutions, aren't I?

As we have done the past three years, this Sunday, the third Sunday in advent, was Julestue chez nous. Cookies were baked, both the traditional vaniliekranse and klejner, but for once I managed to make some of the ones I'd bookmarked during December as well. I always make many plans to try something new, only I never succeed - the days just seem so short in December, don't they?
I bookmarked these Brown-Sugar Brown-Butter Shorties from both Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet - did you by the way have a look at their extravagant spread of cookies from the decades? You must! The cookies were a BIG hit, especially with my older Sister. They look like your average butter cookie but there's no doubt the browned butter changes everything and makes these so much more than that. Plus, they're easy to make and you can make them well in advance and just have the logs waiting in the fridge (or freezer, I suppose) for when the craving hits.

Here's the recipe, with a couple of my notes and weight measures instead of cups - that's how we roll here, you know. Sis - bake your heart out!

Brown-Sugar Brown-Butter Shorties
- from Gourmet

175 g. unsalted butter
100 g. cup packed brown sugar (I used light muscovado sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
200 g. cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Demerara sugar for the edge of the cookies

Place the butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it has a nutty fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the butter to a bowl and chill. It should firm up. I browned the butter a whole day in advance, and just left it in the fridge. I took it out about an hour before wanting to procede with the dough.

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then mix in flour and salt at low speed until just combined. Transfer dough to a sheet of wax paper or parchment and form into logs, 4-5 cm. in diameter. Roll the logs in demerara sugar, making sure the sugar sticks to the sides in as thick a layer as possible.

Chill, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, about 1 hour, or up to one week.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Slice dough into 1 centimeter-thick rounds, arranging 5 cm. apart on an ungreased, lined baking sheet. Bake until surface is dry and edges are slightly darker, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.