Sunday, December 22, 2013

Maraschino Snowball Cookies

They say it is all about quality ingredients.  When I think of all the different things I have bought and ordered for the sake of creating something in the kitchen, there is a lot of unique as well as imported ingredients I can recall.  There is probably a blogger in another country that has the same situation.  The grass is always greener so we find ourselves coveting ingredients from another country who regards that ingredient as commonplace.

This particular recipe requires maraschino cherries which are imported from Italy.  I have made cookies before with maraschino cherries, called Cherry Bon Bon Cookies.  Between the two, I prefer this recipe over that.  This recipe has the added flavor of almond but the vast difference in the maraschino cherries is what won me over. The cherries in the US are more of a neon color and are stored in a watery liquid.  The Luxardo ones are black and packed in a syrup. The cherries taste much sweeter and stronger, which melds nicely with almond flavor of the cookie. I am hooked, so there are no plans to go back the red neon maraschinos that are so easy to find in the states.

I am adding this one to my holiday cookie recipes. Below you will find the original recipe as well as the tips and notes.  This recipe makes 2-2 1/2 dozen.

Maraschino Snowballs
adapted from Elizabeth Morris via Saveur Magazine

1 egg 
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup or about 30 pitted Luxardo cherries, drained
1/2 cup almond paste
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups white sparkling sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and powdered sugar.  Add the almond paste, vanilla extract and egg.  Beat until all is blended and batter is fluffy.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in another bowl.  Add 1/3 of sifted ingredients to butter mixture and mix in with wooden spoon.  Repeat the process two more times until all the dry ingredients are mixed into the batter.  The end result is cookie dough that should easily clump together with your hand.

Separate the dough into 30 pieces.  Center one cherry inside each piece of dough and form into a ball. Roll each cookie in the sparkling sugar and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Cookies will toast on the bottom and the edges will turn golden when done.

Remove and let cool on pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to completely cool.

Notes and Tips:
1.  For less leftover ingredients, I doubled the recipe so my can of almond paste would be used as well as the complete jar of Luxardo cherries.
2. The amount of decorative sugar used application is based on preference and method.  In doubling the recipe and keeping about 3 tbs or less in a shallow bowl at any time for rolling only required 1 cup of sparkling sugar.  However, more of the sugar will increase the crunch and sparkle to your cookies.
3. These are a crumbly cookie so they should be bite sized.  They are best eaten by popping a whole one into your mouth.
4. For more color to your cookies, try colored sugar or drops of food coloring to the batter.
5. was the resource for the Luxardo Cherries
                                 **2 YEARS AGO: Hendrix Pie**   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gooey Butter Cookies

This cookie recipe is one that has evolved through the years.  The recipe started out with the use of a boxed cake mix and then there was one created from scratch. That recipe used 1 cup of butter and three cups of sugar. Since then, there has been some variations on those two ingredient amounts and additional flavors incorporated such as Nutella and Red Velvet. However, I landed on the recipe created by by Mathew Rice and Gerard Craft of Pastaria Restaurant.  The recipe does cut back on the amount of butter and also incorporates glucose as an ingredient.

Since I have never ate or baked these cookies, the thing I wondered about was the name.  Would they be liquid and creamy inside or is gooey a misnomer?  After making them, I would say a misnomer. The texture of these cookies are right on the border between being doughy and being crisp. Not really "gooey" as the name states. They are fluffy and light, unlike standard sugar or butter cookies.

Even though there are lots of variations on the net, I thinks that the simple butter/cream cheese flavor is perfect when paried with any of the wintery beverages such as hot chocolate, flavored teas and coffees. This recipe makes about 3 dz. cookies.

All of the variations can be found on the net under different blogs and websites, such as Lottie and Doof, Eating up, Tasting Table, Delightfully Dowling.

Gooey Butter Cookies
adapted from Gerard Craft and Mathew Rice of Pastaria

1/4 cup glucose (substitution ingredient is light corn syrup)
2 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 lb cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter (room temp)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 1/2 cups of flour
1 tbs and 1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups powdered sugar and more for final dusting

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and have a few extra squares of parchment on hand to fit the sheets.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Also, fill a shallow bowl with the powdered sugar and put aside for later use.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl and set aside.  Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with cream cheese, butter, sugar and glucose.  Then split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl as well.  Cream ingredients together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl at 1 minute intervals.  Add the vanilla extract and one of the eggs and beat until blended.  Beat in the second egg.

Remove batter blade and bowl from mixer.  Fold the sifted ingredients into the butter/cream cheese mixture until a dough is formed and there are no more dry streaks.  Shape pieces of the dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Roll balls into powdered sugar and place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies about 12-15 minutes.  The cookies should be firm on the edges and soft in the middle and have cracks.  They should not brown on the edges.  Remove the cookies and let rest on baking sheets about 5 minutes.  Slide the parchment paper with the cookies off the sheet onto a cooling rack.  I was able to lightly transfer them off the parchment paper to a cooling rack by hand, but they are very delicate. A light touch is important if you want to do the hand method as opposed to sliding the parchment.

These cookies are best kept in the refrigerator and served cold. Before serving, as an option, you can dust again with powdered sugar. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Tres Leche Cake**

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fruits of the Forest Pie

There are actually 2 types of fruits of the forest pie, one being fruit and the other being nut.  However the nut version is the more authentic type.

Since there is such a large group of pecan lovers out there, I decided to try a different type of nut pie.  The pie, as you can see, is quite packed with nuts.  It has very little liquid filling, but what is there does impart a lot of extra flavor to the nuts.  It includes nut liqueur as well as nut extract.

A little does go a long way but it is sure to please the nut lovers in the family. I especially liked how the liqueur flavors came through in the taste. There are some important tips to this recipe at the end, so be sure to read it completely before starting.

Fruits of the Forest Pie
adapted from Pie by Ken Haedrich

1 basic pie pastry, single crust refrigerated
1 tbs hazelnut liqueur
1 tbs almond liqueur
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
5 tbs unsalted melted butter
2 1/2 cups roasted salted mixed nuts chopped

Once the pie crust is firm enough to roll, roll out into a circle 13 inches in diameter.  Roll up around the rolling pin and roll out into a 9 1/2 inch deep dish pie pan.  Make sure it is centered and push the dough into the pan.  Then sculpt the upper edges as desired.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove from the freezer and cover the interior with aluminum foil and place pie weights evenly in the center then bake for 15 minutes.  Slide the rack out of the oven with the pie pan on it.  Remove the pie weights and the foil.  Prick the pie all around the bottom interior.  Lower the temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Add the eggs to a large bowl and scramble with a fork.  Stir in the corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, liqueurs and extracts.

Pour the chopped nuts into the pie shell. Then pour the egg filling evenly over the nuts.  Using a spoon, make sure all the nuts in the pan are completely covered with the wet filling.  Bake for 30 minutes and turn pan halfway. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.  The pie should be firm in the center when done.

Serve at room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. The mixed nuts must not contain peanuts.  Peanuts have a very strong flavor, so strong that it can be overpowering in baked items or pastries.  I found the brand of Emerald has the mixed nuts without the peanuts.
2. Feel free to eliminate some of nuts, should the amount be too much for your preference, but remember that the liquid filling is sparse due to the amount of nuts.
3. The pie dough I used was a butter shortening mix.
4. The recipe ingredient list has salt, listing the amount to be 1/4 to 1/2 tsp, due to the salt in the nuts I eliminated it from the recipe.
                                **LAST YEAR: Cinnamon Roll Cookies**

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Czech Nut Bars

It is that time of year again...time for the annual LA Times Cookie Bake Off.  I usually look at all the recipes closer to the end of the year because there is actually more variety to vote on.  After reviewing some of the recipes, I landed on this particular one. I thought that with all the shopping and getting ready for the holidays, these bars are perfect for those with little time but still wanting something homemade.

This is basically a shortbread type of bar with walnuts in the batter and raspberry jam in the center.  I do have a lot of recipes with this type of fruit in it but I never grow tired of it.  Paired with some hot raspberry tea, it hits the spot on a cold blustery day.

Czech Nut Bars
LA Times 2013 Cookie Bake Off

2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1/2 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
2 egg yolks

Preheat the oven 350 degrees.  Grease the interior of a 9 inch square pan and line the bottom and two sides of the pan with parchment paper.  There should be some overhang on the two sides to help you lift the bars out of the pan before cutting. Grease the face up side of the parchment paper.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the salt and flour.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar in a separate bowl, running the mixer on medium high speed for 2 minutes.  On low speed, beat in one egg yolk for 15 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another 15 seconds.  Repeat the process for the additional egg yolk.

Fold the sifted ingredients into the butter mixture, blending until it becomes a dough that can be clumped together with your hand.  I found the mixture a little dry, so I added 1 tbs of water.  You want the dough to clump so the base can be formed but still be somewhat crumbly for the top layer.  Mix in the walnuts.

Take half of the dough and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan.  Then smooth the raspberry over the top, covering the surface evenly.  Lastly, crumble the rest of the dough on top of the raspberry layer.

Place in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Remove and let cool in pan completely and then remove using parchment paper.  Cut with a sharp knife into squares or triangles.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Crisp Apple Kolachy***