christmas cookies

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so, i made you some really adorable and yummy cookies for this holiday season. packaged them up in sweet little boxes with tissue paper and ribbons. and then proceeded to take many, many horrible photos of them.  

you are welcome!

i've been struggling to get into the holiday spirit this year. too many cocktails, not enough general cheer.

too many packages gone missing in the brown ups truck in the sky.

Christmas, it's on.

my gifts for my sisters-in-law may not arrive until february, but i had a pretty solid cookie strategy.

my go-to sugar cookie recipe is a cut above due to the addition of an aggressive amount of citrus zest.

i upgraded my oatmeal chocolate chip recipe with some cranberries for color and tang.

several of our nation's dairy farmers are having a fine christmas thanks to the brown-buttery deliciousness of rosemary walnut shortbread.

and because it isn't christmas without some powdered ginger and sparkle, i added dorie greenspan's speculoos buttons into the mix, but mine aren't nearly as cute as those gracing the cover of bon appetit.

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extreme walnut close up. please just be grateful it isn't blurry.

these shortbread cookies will melt in your mouth. did i mention the butter? they left darling little grease spots on the tissue paper. 

allow me to warn you about the speculoos buttons, however. it will be nearly impossible to tell when the little buggers are done since they are such a warm lovely brown color to start. so you must remain vigilant about over baking them, which will turn them into tiny spiced hockey pucks. you will lose a tooth. you have been warned.

but aren't their sparkly edges nice?

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believe it or not, this was one of the better photos. in my next life, my kitchen will be nothing but windows. WINDOWS I SAY.

ahem.

for those of you who know my sommelier, you will enjoy the image of him on the couch on a saturday night, watching a dreadful movie involving horses and the end of my respect for steven spielberg, delicately frosting reindeer antlers with a squeeze tube of royal icing.

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i think we generally ended up with a nice mix of frosted cookies that looked nearly professional, but just charmingly off key so as to seem legitimately homemade. 

towards the end of the rather nice bottle of twomey 2008 napa valley merlot, the cookies looked a lot closer to what you might expect out of a kindergartner with some fine motor skills challenges.

those cookies ended up at the bottom of the box. just slightly out of frame. 

not that you would even be able to tell much about the quality of our handiwork, based on my mad skills with a camera. so, with that, i will leave you with this gem and some links to cookies that you should revisit in march perhaps, when the gray sky and several months of pretend-dieting leave you in the need for something sweet.

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does the filter make it seem like it was supposed to be fuzzy? good. let's go with that. it was quite the pretentious little display of cookies anyway.

 

twd: baking with julia: rugelach

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as a kid growing up in southern california, rugelach were not abundant. we were an oatmeal cookie kind of family. as an adult, the cardboard specimens i ran across left me unimpressed. they always seems so dry. the filling wasn't gooey or rich enough.

this recipe CHANGED MY MIND. for serious. it was a multistage process, but it was worth every moment.

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there was rolling. slash beating of that mighty hunk of dough with a rolling pin.

there was chilling. more rolling. slicing, dipping. way too much eating.

but these rugelach were some of the best cookies i've ever had. rich and buttery, coated in cinnamon sugar that gets crisp, caramelized, chewy.

i made two types – apricot and dried cherry, with homemade apricot lekvar, and dark chocolate with nuts and cinnamon.

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lekvar is a type of jam made from dried apricots. the flavor is deep and rich.

i think maybe my secret was an excessive amount of filling. i did not manage to create much of a spiral effect, and that is even after i scooped a bunch of filling out of the way post first attempt, which, by the way, was fantastic over greek yogurt. no homemade lekvar went to waste here! 

i'm pretty sure this isn't what the rolls of deliciousness were supposed to look like.

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the dough kept melting and needing to be rechilled, making me curse the concept of rolled pastry, but silently, so the somm wouldn't think i was going too crazy.

the result was cookies that are almost like slices of pie – rich, chewy centers of dried fruit or chocolate, surrounded by the tender cream cheese crust.

just because it was a novel trick for me, i'm going to say that rolling the crust out with a dusting of powdered sugar instead of flour helped keep the crust so light and tender despite my repeated mangling attempts to get it to behave.

they aren't pretty, but man were they good.

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this recipe made a lot of cookies. i tried foisting them off on friends, neighbors, coworkers, but still ended up freezing about a dozen.

and discovered a whole new way to love rugelach. oh, good lord. frozen, they are even chewier and more satisfying.

i really felt initiated into the community of rugelach lovers when describing my triumph to a friend's mother who seriously knows her way around good pastry and she whispered . . . have you tried them frozen?

yes, barbara. yes i have. there's no going back now.

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seriously, if you have a free weekend, do yourself a favor and make these cookies. just be sure you have a distribution plan, or you WILL end up eating them all yourself. find the recipe in this book, or at tuesdays with dorie, including this week's hosts ´╗┐jessica of my baking heart and margaret of the urban hiker

and here's this week's gratuitous shot of manchego, the cat who is too cool for rugelach.

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spicy double chocolate cookies

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the next two posts i have planned have a theme: using food to make friends.

i have told you before that i am shameless in using baked goods at the workplace. here is my latest entry . . . a revamp of a tried and true chocolate chocolate chip cookie. inspired by this recipe, i decided to up the flavor with cinnamon, super finely ground coffee and cayenne pepper.

these are serious cookies. they come to play.

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clearly, they aren't the only ones.

they make an impression. this is a chewy, soft, brownie-like cookie. it isn't crisp. it's rich and fudgy.

leave out the spices and coffee, and this is as true a chocolate cookie for chocolate lovers as you can get.

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add the spices?

you'll leave people wondering just what it is about those cookies. they'll ask you for the recipe. word will get around. 

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mission accomplished.

Spicy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Crisco – don't judge until you try them!

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp finely ground coffee or espresso powder
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1tsbp water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 package chocolate chips – I find I like the bigger chunks for this recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together dry ingredients – flour through spices and coffee – in a medium bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat shortening, water and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients to wet, mix at low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until set.´╗┐´╗┐