Christmas Cookies #1: Zaletti

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Yay for getting in an entry to Food Blogga’s “Eat Christmas Cookies” on the last possible day!  At least I have a few hours to go until the midnight cut off… heck, maybe I might even be able to post a few more before then!  I’m pretty late with Christmas cookie baking… I made 5 batches of dough yesterday and I will bake them all off today.  #1 comes from Gina De Palma’s “Dolce Italiano”… Polenta Cookies from the Veneto, or, Zaletti.

I wanted to make a cookie with cornmeal I had sitting around…and I had never had a cornmeal cookie before! Thus, these cookies were chosen. Plus, another feature I love about cookies… melted butter! I simply mixed everything in the same bowl that I used to melt the butter in.. and my cookie dough was ready.  Actually… these aren’t the directions given, but it was a lot easier to mix everything in one bowl, and hopefully it didn’t actually make a difference in the end result.

Also, the recipe originally calls for using currants and grappa, but I had neither of these…so, my version has dried blueberries and brandy.  Still turned out great though!

Cookie #1: Thumbs up! I would definitely make these again.
Add some Italian flair to your Christmas cookie assortment this year!

http://flickr.com/photos/33431834@N08/sets/72157611423492435/ 

And make sure to check out the rest of the round-up of festive holiday treats!
Part 1
Part 2 

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Polenta Cookies from the Veneto
Adapted from Gina De Palma’s “Dolce Italiano”
Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies

3/4 cup dried currants (I used dried blueberries)
Grappa (or brandy) as needed
1 3/4 cups unbleached all·purpose flour 
1 cup instant or fine polenta (I used “medium grind” cornmeal and it was fine) 
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for garnish 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 large egg 
1 large egg yolk 
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I used 1/4 tsp lemon oil)

1. Place the dried fruit you have in a small saucepan, and pour enough brandy to come up at least halfway to the blueberries.  Heat until boiling, and then cover and take off the heat.  Set aside to let the blueberries plump and cool.

2. Place the flour, polenta, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine them. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk to break them up, then whisk in the melted butter and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed to combine thoroughly, about 1 minute. Add the currants and their liquid and beat them into the dough on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until it is firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper.

4. To form the cookies, use lightly floured fingers to pull off tablespoonfuls of dough and shape each one into a small, plump log about 1 1/2, inches long. Press the log down to flatten it and pinch the ends together to taper them, creating a diamond shape. Place the diamonds on the baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies lightly with granulated sugar.

5. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown around the edges and firm to the touch, rotating the sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Published in: on December 21, 2008 at 5:15 pm  Comments (2)  

nibby pecan cookies

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So I actually made these cookies for Christmas LAST year, but I never posted about them..and they are such a wonderful cookie, especially for Christmas, that I felt it was necessary to post about them now!

I truly love Alice Medrich…her cookies, brownies, cakes, everything! have always turned out perfectly for me.  (Actually, I recently just made her new almond cake, that I’ll post about soon…)   These cookies in particular are one of my favorites because:
1) They’re slice and bake cookies, which are my favorite to make for Christmas since they’re really easy and quick, and are always buttery yet light at the same time.
2) They have an incredible flavor from the cocoa nibs.
3) They have an incredible texture from the cocoa nibs.
4) They’re so cute!  They look like little buttons.

Also, the alcohol in this recipe is optional, but I think that the brandy added so much to the flavor, even though you wouldn’t think it from only using 1 tbsp.  I think the alcohol extracted some special flavor from the cocoa nibs and pecans and blended it together somehow… So, whatever you have on hand, (rum, brandy, bourbon…), trust me, you want to use it!

I always thought “nibs” was a silly thing to call cocoa bean pieces…and truly wished that whoever named them had picked something a little more…respectable.  Especially when I try to tell someone who doesn’t know what they are about them.  I mean, it’s hard to believe that something called a “nib” is actually a wonderful gourmet product.  But, alas, if you get past the silliness, “nib” is actually the perfect name for these little pieces!  The texture really is “nibbly,” if you will…  Cocoa nibs are pretty widely used now, but, if you still haven’t tried it, at least find a chocolate bar with cocoa nibs in it and try it!  Make it your New Year’s resolution.

So, with all the millions of cookies to choose from for Christmas baking, I hope you will seriously consider this cookie!  Especially if you haven’t tried using cocoa nibs in a baked good yet, this is the perfect way to showcase their unique flavor and texture.

 

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Nibby Pecan Cookies
From Alice Medrich’s “Bittersweet”
Makes about 48 cookies

1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) pecan halves
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp + 1tsp bourbon (I used brandy), optional
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Toast the pecans for 7-8 minutes until they are fragrant and browned.  Let cool and chop into small pieces.

Cream butter, sugar, salt, bourbon (or brandy) and vanilla in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in the nibs and pecans and combine.  Add the flour and mix on low speed, or stir, just until the flour is incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment and roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter and about 12 inches long.

Wrap the log of dough in parchment and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.

To bake the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Use a sharp knife to cut the log 1/4-inch thick slices.  Place cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating halfway, until cookies are light golden brown at the edges.  Let cool on pans for about 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

The cookies taste best the next day, and will keep in an airtight container for at least a month.

Published in: on December 15, 2008 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  

double-peanut chocolate cookies

mmm, I’m currently enjoying these cookies:

Check them out here on BlakeBakes!

p.s., they’re especially great crumbled over reese’s pb ice-cream

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 11:10 am  Comments (1)  

cappuccino chip fudge cookies

Using up some more of the things lying around my house… (as if this problem could ever be solved…) a bag of cappuccino chips! I couldn’t use them as the chips in chocolate chip cookies, since I would miss the chocolate too much. I COULD however, use them in dark chocolate cookies! I’ve made the brownie-like cookies with the shiny exterior, but for these chips I wanted a chewy cookie with some substance. And that’s where Tish Boyle’s white chocolate chunk fudge cookies came in.

I love the way the cookies look…one look and you can tell it is chewy heaven. Yum!
One reason I haven’t been baking or posting as much as I’d like to is because I’m in the midst of working and studying for MCATs, which I’m taking August 15th, whoo! I had my last MCAT class this past week, so I brought these in for everyone. Needless to say, they were gobbled up. 🙂

Cappuccino Chip Fudge Cookies
Adapted from “The Good Cookie” by Tish Boyle
Makes about 36 cookies

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
11 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp unsulphured molasses
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup nonalkalized cocoa powder, sifted
12 oz (1 bag) of cappuccino chips (originally 9oz white chocolate, chopped)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Melt chocolates together, stir until smooth, and set aside. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
2. Beat the butter on medium-high until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in sugars and continue to beat for 1 min. Beat in the molasses and vanilla, then the eggs one at a time. Beat in the cocoa powder, then add the melted chocolate and mix until blended.
3. Reduce the speed to low and blend in half of the flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Then, using a wooden spoon, fold in the remaining flour, then the cappuccino chips. Do not overmix.
4. Drop dough in walnut-sized mounds, 2 inches apart, onto baking sheets. Flatten the balls slightly, and bake for 11-13 minutes, until tops are puffed and cracked. Do not overbake, or cookies will be dry. Cool on baking sheets for 3-5 min, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 10:49 pm  Comments (5)  

ny black and white cookies

This past weekend, I was reuniting with a great friend that I haven’t seen for almost a year.  For such a grand and joyous occasion, I knew I couldn’t show up empty-handed!  My mind churned and churned… what to make for such a special friend, whom I see so rarely?

Cookies and bars are basically my go-to gifts, as they can be easily made, easily packaged, and easily loved.  But I try to do something to personalize what I make for each person…and in this case, I tried to tie in my friend’s past residence in NYC by making these Black and White Cookies from Carole Walter’s “Great Cookies” (which is a great cookie book, by the way!).  I have come across these cookies enough times in cookie books to know that they are ubiquitous in NYC.  Although I didn’t really know whether or not my friend had actually eaten or enjoyed these cookies, I took a gamble and hoped that its strong presence in the city meant she would be able to relate to these cookies somehow.

Fortunately for me, it turned out that these cookies did play a role in her past life in NY!  Supposedly her 4th grade teacher would reward her class with Black and White Cookies according to how many books they read…so eventually she just ended up reading books for the cookies, and considers the cookies a part of her childhood.  Success!

Having never tried an actual Black and White Cookie, I’m not sure how these would compare to the real thing… but they are cakey and soft, and I must agree with Carole Walter in her description, “When I first made them, I thought ‘Much ado about nothing!’  But I was wrong. I found myself cutting off little bites from this big cookie…a slice of chocolate here, a piece of vanilla there…until, before I knew it, the cookie was gone.  There is something about this cookie that is so alluring.  See for yourself!”

If you ever want to bake something for a friend who is no longer in NYC, try these out… even if it wasn’t necessarily their favorite cookie while living there, it’d probably bring back great memories for them!

 

(Technical notes:  I made my cookies a bit smaller than Walter calls for, and made a mixture of her glaze with Martha Stewart’s glaze since Martha has you split the batch into two and whisk cocoa powder in, whereas Walter calls for using melted chocolates.  My laziness got the best of me!  But the chocolate glaze still tasted great, so no worries)
 

Black and White Cookies
Carole Walter’s “Great Cookies”
Makes 16-18 4-inch cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 3/4 cups strained cake flour, spooned in and leveled
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon oil
3/4 cup mlk

1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Strain together 3 times the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
2.  Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed until smooth and lightened in color.  Add the sugar in three additions and mix for about 2-3 minutes to thoroughly incorporate.  Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing 30 seconds after each addition.   Scrape down the bowl as needed, and mix in vanilla and lemon oil.
3.  Using a rubber spatula, blend in flour mixture, adding it alternately with the milk, four parts flour to three parts milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Do not overmix.
4.  Using a #16 ice cream scoop, drop six mounds of dough onto each cookie sheet, spacing them 3-4 inches apart.  Bake the cookies for 20-22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove cookies from the oven and let rest on pan for 5 minutes before moving to cool on wire racks.  While cookies are cooling, make the glazes.
5.  Starting with vanilla glaze, use a small offset spatula to outline the dividing point in the center where the two flavors on each cookie will meet.  Fill in the remaining area with the vanilla glaze.  After vanilla glaze has set, apply chocolate glaze on unglazed half, again starting at the dividing point and applying it as smoothly as you can.  Let glaze set before storing cookies in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 2 weeks. 
 

Vanilla and Chocolate Glazes
Martha Stewart’s “Cookies”

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp water, plus more if needed
1 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Whisk confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and water in a small bowl until smooth.  Add more water, if needed, to achieve a consistency slightly thicker than honey.  Transfer half the icing to a small bowl and stir in the cocoa powder.  Thin with water if needed.
 

Published in: on June 17, 2008 at 11:36 pm  Comments (6)  

coconut-pecan-date oatmeal cookies

Okay, I need to figure out how to come up with better names for these baked goods besides just listing off all the ingredients… the names get pretty long! But I feel like it would be quite sad to leave out any part of the cookie, because they are all fantastic and work together to make the cookie so great.

I have tried many oatmeal cookie recipes, each time ending in disappointment with the results. No matter how hard I tried, I seemed to only get dry and tough oatmeal pucks. They certainly did not meet the high standard of baked goods I have for sharing with others… but at the same time, I didn’t like them enough to keep for myself. Darn oatmeal cookies…

Except, for some reason, in the past few days, I had a HUGE craving for an extra moist, chewy, almost candy-like oatmeal cookie. I loved chocolate chip cookies made with melted butter, and wondered why I hadn’t found a recipe before that made oatmeal cookies with melted butter, since that’s usually what produced the extra chewy moist chocolate chip cookies I love.

But alas, Alice Medrich had already thought of it. In addition to using melted butter, she has you chill the dough overnight, saying the oats will absorb the moisture. This seemed like the perfect way to prevent dry oatmeal cookies! She is so clever, that woman! And lucky for me, shares the baking knowledge. I decided to use the coconut oil I had purchased without really knowing what I wanted to do with it, but felt like it would be a great change to the cinnamon-nutmeg flavorings for oatmeal cookies. Then, for good measure, I tossed in pecans, dates, and more coconut. Yum!

These were definitely EXACTLY what I was looking for… crispy and caramelized on the outside, but amazingly moist, and almost candy-like on the inside. It was everything Medrich described it to be. Not too sweet, and the coconut oil gives it a great flavor and aroma. (Best of all, no creaming…or even melting! Just measure the oil and pour it into a bowl)

My confidence in making oatmeal cookies has been restored. I hope you make these… I will certainly be turning to them over and over again!

Edit:  So, upon eating one of these cookies during breakfast… I realized that the caramelized character of these cookies gives it a taste similar to Samoas.  So, for a chocolatey experience, I would heartily recommend trying these without the dates and pecans, making them slightly smaller, and either dipping the bottom in semi-sweet chocolate or drizzling on top.

Coconut-Pecan-Date Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s “Cookies and Brownies”
Makes about 40 large cookies

“Melted butter is one key to the flavor and texture of these great cookies. Overnight chilling allows the oats to absorb the dough’s moisture. The cookies are baked directly on the pan, not on parchment paper; and at a low temperature, to produce great toasted oat flavor, caramelized crunchy brown edges, and flavorful chewy centers. Perfection!”

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats (although I used quick-cooking and they came out great still)
1 teaspoon baking soda
16 tbsp melted butter (or 1 cup unrefined virgin coconut oil)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar, lump free
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup toasted coconut (I used sweetened shredded)

1) Combine the flour, oats, and baking soda in a bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, stir together the coconut oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the flour mixture just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Let the mixture and the pan cool. Add the mix-ins. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
3) Remove the dough from the refrigerator to soften. Preheat the oven to 325º F. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
4) Scoop about 2 level tablespoons of dough and place them 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. If you want smaller cookies, use 1 tablespoon of dough. Bake for about 15 to 17 minutes for large cookies, 13-15 for smaller ones, or until the cookies are a deep golden brown. Rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
Remove from the oven and let cookies firm up on the pan for 1 to 2 minutes. Use a metal pancake turner to transfer them to rack to cool completely before storing or stacking. May be stored in a tightly sealed container for several days.

Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 1:49 am  Comments (11)