So as you may know, baking has become my preferred medium for creativity and expression. The use of 3 fundamental ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, manipulated in myriad ways to create desserts from flaky, to chewy, to crunchy is magical and I’ve never been happier with all this sweetness around me.
So I figured I’d share this joyousness by baking xmas cookies for friends and family. Unfortunately the latter were not wow’d by the goodies that came in their cookie box. The variety was not appreciated or acknowledged. It was like popcorn, just grab and pop in the mouth, if that. I was very disappointed by this and also concluded I will not be baking for fam anytime soon. My baby cousin enjoyed the sugar xmas tree, but other than that he was more preoccupied with the scented color pencils I got for him. My father was especially uncaring for it, and I suppose that was my mistake because he doesn’t really eat dessert. Koreans don’t really dessert, there is no sugar regimen in korean food, except maybe rice pudding. So basically I made all this for the wrong crowd. Now I know better.
Nonetheless, I had a shitload of fun baking and decorating the cookies, I love the multiplicity and singularity of cookies, the ability to take one whole bite and continue in this oral fixated repetitiveness that is actually harmful for me. I had a hard time trying not to eat these cookies and distributing them accordingly, they were really good and each had its own particular cute individual character.
I don’t remember the recipe for these sugar cookies anymore but I can confirm they were sugary for sure. The icing alone took three laborious hours but I enjoyed every minute of it. It took some practice and trial and error to get the piping tools to work properly and not goop and spill everywhere, and it was a challenge to figure how I would want to design my very first iced cookies. My favorite are the xmas trees, and the zig zags as branches and leaves. I didn’t want to waste a whole of icing filling all of them so tried to be as minimally creative as possible. The cookie itself is soft and not so sweet without the icing which compliments the topping very well. It’s solid and soft, meaning it doesn’t crumble all over you upon taking a bite. The recipe, if only I could remember was a keeper. The only thing that was odd was the food coloring didn’t fully dissolve, turning it more into a white and color splotchy swirl. I would like to find a better royal icing recipe, which is basically cups of confectioners sugar, vanilla and water.
I made these sables not so long ago here and they were so irresistibly delicious then so I had to try it again. It came out much prettier this time around now that I’ve got the gist of rolling, storing, and decorating. They tasted just as delicious and almost consumed an entire batch. I’ve concluded shortbread cookies are my favorite kind of cookies with the knock you out butter flavor and crumbling softness that gently melts in your mouth upon taking a glorious bite. A friend helped decorated with sprinkles and I unfortunately didn’t have red so settled with festive orange and green lining. Don’t they look delicious?
Thumbprints. Also from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking book. These cookies were even crumblier than the sables, a good thing they were mini bite size because they just feel apart at the mercy of your mouth. The jam I used was Sarabeth’s raspberry orange marmalade and it was very subtle so the cookie wasn’t too sweet. It was a great balance of texture and taste, texture emphasized by the ground hazelnuts which wasn’t overpowering or overtly flavorful. It reminded me of the linzer sables I made not too long ago, but softer and better. Recipe at end of post.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. My least favorite of all the cookies I baked, recipe found here. They’re mushy and chewy, I don’t get so much of the pumpkin flavor which also seems to silence the chocolate’s flavoring. They did come out uniform, round and bubbly so looked cute and soft, but not my favorite.
Chocolate Hazeulnut Crinkle Cookies. Both hazelnut and chocolate so subtle and well blended, a softspoken thick almost brownie like cookie that beckons your attention with its luscious cracks and powdered topping. They didn’t taste as beautiful as they looked but I got an aromatic high from the smell alone so that was enough for me. Recipe found here.
The perfect madeleine is very hard to find. It is rare I will even see madeleines in a bakery. I’m sure that’s not the story if you’re Paris. But in Brooklyn and Manhattan, I am yet to find the perfect madeleine. Mine aren’t that much better. I for some reason baked it a bit too much so they were too brown and tasted too brown. Buttery but too bready, not plump and airy enough, and also too thick due to my overfilling the pan. Still, don’t get me wrong, they were delicious. It was moisturized a bit too much but it would still melt in your mouth and revel in the beauty of butter. Recipe at end of post. Oh, and do read this article on the importance of butter.
I think these were my favorite cookies from all the batches, the classic NY Black & White cookies. It was definitely the icing that won me over. I’ve never had b&w cookies this good, usually would see the big ones in bakeries and only eat the chocolate half and they were always thick and doughy. These here are miniature nite size, thinner, softer, lighter, sweeter. The icing has some lemon juice in it which really comes out in the white part and makes eating that half more tolerable. The cocoa powder that is on the other side is just pure orgasm. One challange was balancing the consistency between the two shades, the white ended up too diluted, I added too much water, but didn’t mind because the chocolate was absolute creamy perfection before drying. I loved these and will be making it again and again. Recipe here.
Those were a lot of cookies weren’t they? I think it will be awhile before I bake again, need a break from such a gluttonous fat inducing activity, not to mention there is an unforgiving relentless zit on my forehead borne from layeres of oil and butter. But don’t fret, I will be back in the kitchen before you know it.
Makes 60 cookies (I halved)
1 3/4 cups finely ground hazelnuts
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
About 1 cup raspberry jam (or the jam or marmalade of your choice)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Whisk together the ground nuts and flour.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add extracts and beat to blend. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add nut flour mixture, mixing only until incorporated.
Working with a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steading each cookie with the thumb and finger of one hand, use pinkie of other hand or end of a wooden spoon to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be only slightly colored, they may even look underdone. they should not be overbaked When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let rest for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with wide metal spatula and sift confectioners’ sugar over them.
Repeat with the remaining dough, remembering to cool the baking sheets before baking the next batch.
Bring the jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat, or bring to a boil in a microwave ovenp remove from the heat. Fill the indentations with enough hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature.
Traditional Madeleines from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking
2/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs at room temp
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.
Working in a mixer bowl or large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working wiht whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium high until pale, thick and light, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter to form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines. For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. or if you have a non stick pan, give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. if you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan on a baking sheet.
Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don’t worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven’s heat will take care of that. bake large madeleines for 11-13 minute, and minis for 8-10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temp.
If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch, making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pan before baking.
Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioners sugar.