Desserts/Pastries

Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies

Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies

 

I have a very specific picture in my head when I think of a Holiday Cookie Platter. Gingerbreads, a smattering of butter cookies, an array of sugar cookies, perhaps a few “American” macaroons…..and of course, Linzer Cookies.

These buttery cookies first originated in Austria and were derived from the Linzertorte—which is essentially a tart filled with preserves. How did these buttery delights converge as a holiday cookie staple? The world may never know. But I was inspired by the recent wave of Linzer Cookies postings in the blogosphere and decided to try my hand at the wonderful Dorie Greenspan’s take on these delectable bites.

The ending results yielded a rich and buttery cookie that had a lovely “nutty” flavor profile due to the almond meal I used. The richness from the cookies were “cut” by the tart raspberry jam I used to sandwich these goodies. A rad balance indeed.

What could have I done better? Well, I won’t lie. The recipe called for me to roll the dough to a ¼ inch thickness and I may have gone a smidge thicker.

Just a “smidge” mind you. 🙂

But still, the cookie sammy was too thick once all was said and done. My suggestion, if you’re going to deviate from the recipe—-go a smidge thinner and reduce the baking time.

Did I care much? Nah…when a cookie is this tasty, very little matters.

And as I wipe the cookie crumbs away from my mouth, I wonder….How many other Holiday treats can this gal cram in before the holidays end????

 

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Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies
From Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

1½  Cups Finely Ground Almonds
1½  Cups Flour
1½  Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
¼  Teaspoon Salt
¼  Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Large Egg
2 Teaspoon Water
½  Cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
½  Cup Sugar
½  Cup Raspberry Jam plus 1 Teaspoon Water
Confectioner’s Sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. In a small bowl, lightly beat together the egg and water.

In an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture and beat until combined. On low speed, add the nut and flour mixture and beat only until just combined.

Divide the dough into two halves, and shape each half into a disk. Place each disk between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap, and with a rolling pin roll out until the dough is 1/4 inch thick. Place both pieces of wrapped dough on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for about 2 hours, or freeze for about 45 minutes, or until firm. If you don’t want to bake right away, you can keep the dough refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.

After dough is firm, preheat oven to 375ºF and place rack in center of oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Using a 2-inch round (or scalloped) cookie cutter, cut out, cut out as many cookies as possible. If you want a hole in the top cookie so you can see the jam inside, use a small cookie cutter to cut a small shape out of the center of half of the cookies.
Set the scraps aside, you can combine them with the scraps from the second sheet of dough.

Place cutout cookies on the cookie sheet, leaving space in between cookies. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Repeat with the second sheet of dough, and also roll the scraps out between two sheets of wax paper and repeat.

While cookies are cooling, combine the jam and teaspoon of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat. Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread half of the cookies with about 1/2 tsp of jam and sandwich together with another cookie. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Makes about 25 sandwich cookies.

Desserts/Pastries

Peppermint Crisps = Confidence Boost

Peppermint Crisps

 

Today was one of those days in the kitchen. You know what I’m talking about….those days where everything you attempt seems to go to heck in a handbag. It started at about 7:30am and after 4 failed desserts/pastries, I finally had to throw in the towel at about 1:00pm. I won’t get into the details of every misadventure but it was bad. Really bad.

Yes, I was the epitome of a Hot Mess.

But then I took a look at my nieces who I had promised a full day of baking to and decided to put on my big girl panties and get back into the kitchen. Their Cô Nam (auntie) is no quitter!

Since I was nursing a little bruised spirit, I opted for a sweet treat that required no “baking” and few ingredients. Hey—I was trying to increase my odds for success to end the day off in a good note. 🙂

Luckily, The Galley Gourmet recently posted a recipe for “Peppermint Crisps” and they looked delectable. A few hours later and HALLELUJAH–we did it! A bright treat after a tumultuous morning.

These little guys are perfect for a “late afternoon pick-me-up” or as a small goodie to end off a meal. Wonderfully minty with the delicious finish of chocolate. Pair it with a hot cup of tea or glass of dry red wine and you’ll be a happy camper.

PHEW!!! Victory at last!

Life lesson of the day….Humility is best served alongside a piece of chocolate 🙂

Note: A tin full of these minty bites would make a wonderful gift for the holidays!

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Peppermint Crisps
From The Galley Gourmet
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch crisps

Ingredients:

½ Cup Granulated Sugar
½ Cup Water
1½ Teaspoons Peppermint Extract, divided
4 Ounces Dark Chocolate, chopped
4 Ounces Milk Chocolate, chopped
¼ Cup Shredded Unsweetened Coconut

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.  Over medium heat dissolve the sugar.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring until the mixture turns a light caramel color, about 7-9 minutes.  Halfway through wipe the sides of the pan down with a damp pastry brush to remove and crystallization.  Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon of the peppermint extract.  Swirl the pan to distribute the extract.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and set aside for 15 minutes or until completely hardened and cooled.  Break the hardened peppermint sugar into shards and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse to break up the large pieces, then process until it resembles fine sand.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the chocolates in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Remove from the microwave and stir.  If not melted, return to the microwave and cook for an additional 30 seconds.  Stir and repeat if necessary until the chocolate is completely melted.  Once melted, stir in the coconut, remaining peppermint extract and the processed peppermint sugar.  Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.  Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate into a 10×8-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.  Holding the parchment to the baking sheet, gently rap the baking sheet on the counter to even the surface.  Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to harden the chocolate, about 1 hour.

Remove from the refrigerator and let rest for 5 minutes.  Gently transfer the parchment to a cutting surface. Using a 1 1/2-inch circle cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can.  Reserve the scraps for nibbling or fold into your favorite ice cream.  Store in an airtight container in a cool location or in the refrigerator for a cool peppermint taste.  Enjoy!

Desserts/Pastries

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Frosting

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Frosting

I think one of my biggest challenges if I ever became a professional cook would be consistency. One day I’ll make something and it’ll turn out quite yummy. But to my disappointment, the next time I make the exact same thing, it’s a flop. Same conditions, no additions, no edits……just different results. Bummer, right?

Unfortunately that was the case when I made these Gingerbread Cupcakes. Last year I made them for the holidays and I was smitten! They had a wonderful flavor and were super fluffy—-I just couldn’t wait to whip some out for this winter season.

I happily volunteered to make these cupcakes for a holiday party my sister recently hosted. I was true to the cupcake recipe and didn’t change a thing. But I did however take some liberties and switched the Cardamom Frosting for my take on a Spiced Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting.

As they were baking, the cuppies emitted a spicy, rich aroma and I just knew the frosting would be a wonderful match for them. Needless to say, expectations were high. But alas, this batch just fell short. The cake did have a great flavor–just as I remembered it but the texture was quite dry and dense. Yeah….I was bummed. The good news is the saving grace was the new frosting—slightly tangy from the cream cheese and deeply fragrant from the spices and molasses.

Golden cuppies before getting their frosting swirls…

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses FrostingDid you happen to catch the cute little gingerbread men sprinkles on top?? Courtesy of Barbara of Pauline’s Cake Decorating Supplies in San Jose, CA

This rendition of Gingerbread Cupcakes is definitely worth a “Do-Over“—especially since I know that they can be deliciously moist. But if for some strange reason I get the same “dry” results, I’ll just turn them into Gingerbread Cake Pops. Shhh! It’ll be our little secret. 🙂

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Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Frosting
Makes 12 Cupcakes

Gingerbread Cupcakes (from The Spice Kitchen: Everyday Cooking with Organic Spices)
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
½ Cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
½ Cup Molasses
1 Egg
½ Teaspoon Vanilla
½ Cup Boiling Water
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1½ Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon Dried Lemon Zest
¼ Teaspoon Salt

Spiced Molasses Frosting
10 Ounces Cream Cheese, at room temperature
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
¼ Cup Molasses
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3-4 Cups Confectioner Sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with paper cups.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses, egg, and vanilla. In a small bowl, stir together the boiling water and baking soda until dissolved. Stir the baking soda water into the molasses mixture.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, lemon zest, and salt into a small bowl. Whisk the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until the batter is combined.

Spoon the gingerbread batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of one or two of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Place the gingerbread cupcakes on a rack to cool for 30 minutes.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare frosting. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Mix in molasses, cinnamon, and cloves. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup at a time. Continue adding sugar to desire consistency. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and pipe large swirls on top of the cupcakes.