Posts Tagged ‘Cookies’

Christmas cookies – Again!

December 24, 2011

Every Christmas, at least for the past 5 years or so, I make a big batch of cookies, and package them up for my workmates. Last year I made Nicciolini, the year before that I made Lavendar & Lemon, and for a few years before that I made plain shortbread. This year I was confident enough to “invent” my own recipe, even though I’m positive its been done before. Enter Lemon Shortbread.

These were by far the most successful shortbreads I’ve ever made. Successful in that they kept their shape perfectly during baking, even the most intricate shapes. The cooking time I chose was spot-on, even though it was a number I literally picked at random. The dough was so easy to work with and didn’t deteriorate as it got warm. I will be coming back to this recipe again and again.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

3 & 3/4 cups of plain flour

1 & 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup caster sugar

1 large egg & one large egg yolk

grated rind of 3 large lemons*

 

*make sure, if you can, that they’re organic lemons, or get them from a home garden. I’d hate for anyone to ingest poisonous sprays with their cookies!

Method

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together for about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the butter is mixed in. Add the egg & egg yolk and the lemon rind, and beat until combined and smooth. Add the flour one large spoonful at a time, until all flour is incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl one more time and beat until mixture is smooth. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, and pour out the contents of the bowl onto the plastic. Press the dough into ball and wrap tightly in the plastic. Refrigerate for several hours, the easiest though is to make the dough the night before you need it, as this gives the lemon the most time to infuse its flavours into the butter. Also, the dough needs to be quite cold when you’re working with it, as this is one of the factors that help the cookies hold their shape.

Time to bake those cookies! Preheat fan-forced oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Find a smooth surface to roll out your dough onto, I did mine straight on my kitchen counter. Using a rolling pin, slowly roll the dough out until its about 3mm thick. (Two things – roll it out slowly to prevent the dough from tearing and forming odd shapes. Secondly: 3mm might seem thin when the cookies are cut out, but they do rise ever so slightly in the oven, and 3mm was the perfect thickness for my cookies. Do experiment with different thicknesses until you find one you like.) Start cutting out your shapes – I did stars, flowers, snowflakes and a bunch of mini shapes with the scraps. Place on baking trays lined with baking paper**, fairly close together (remember these cookies hold their shape really well) and bake for 8 minutes, or until the edges are just turning golden. The biscuits will feel soft when they are hot but will firm up once they cool.

**I recommend preparing at least 4 trays with baking paper. This way, you can bake 2 or 3 trays while cutting out your next lot of shapes.

Once cookies are completely cool, you can now decorate them! There are lots of ways to do this. I used royal icing, but you could just as easily use a lemon sugar glazing, or simply dust with icing sugar. I made so many, and I don’t wat to bore you with thousands of cookie photos, so I’ll just show you some of my favourites!

Stars & Stripes

Groovy Snowflake

Classic Snowflake

Spotty Stars

Let the icing set for at least an hour before bagging them up and giving them away 😀

Ready for gifting!

Merry Christmas to all my lovely readers, I’ll see you in 2012!!

(Mis)Adventures with Choc Chip Cookies

May 31, 2011

I had a craving this morning. And no, before you ask, I’m not pregnant.

I had a craving for good old-fashioned chewy choc chip cookies. So, naturally, I went onto the internet in search of a good recipe.

Here was the source of my mis-adventure.

I like Foodgawker. I have got many many many great recipes from there, and I use Foodgawker because the recipes cannot be posted to the site without an awesome photo in the original blog posting. Photos are essential for my recipe searches, as I am a very visual person, and will rarely try a recipe unless it has at least one photo of the end result. (Some recipes have automatic immunity however. Julia Child’s original Boeuf Bouguignon recipe is an exemplary dish which rose far above the modest tone of the printed recipe.)

So I searched on Foodgawker, and selected a bunch of delicious and chewy looking recipes to look at. I wanted something simple, just with chocolate chips, so I closed all the ones that had nuts or oats or peanut butter or salted caramel or cranberries or raisins. I closed all the ones which were egg/dairy/gluten/sugar/salt/cholesterol/whatever free, and closed the ones for which I didn’t have ingredients (I am not leaving the house today. That would require a certain level of kempt-ness that was beyond the scope of my effort levels today). As I was reading & closing recipes, one thing stood out to me like a hamantash in a row of kourabiedes.

On more than one of the recipes I was browsing today, this was listed in the Ingredients section:

1 package instant vanilla pudding mix

Begin rant.

It is a total cop-out for anyone professing to be a so-called “food blogger” to publish recipes touted as the best/chewiest/tastiest/moistest/amazing cookie recipe when a significant portion of the “ingredients” are a commercialised replacement of a once-traditional foodstuff, like “pudding” (which, as far as I can gather, for Australian audiences is most similar to our cartons of custard. So imagine that, but in power form.). It is an insult to real cookery masters everywhere to pass these kinds of short-cut recipes off as the bees knees of cookie recipes, and do you know what the really sad thing is? New cooks make these recipes and it shapes their understanding of home cooking from then on! These new cooks, these unwitting victims to short-cut cooking, have no concept of the skills, guts, and sheer brilliance of traditional do-everything-from-scratch cooking. And that really saddens me.

Yes, I take shortcuts. Yes, I make my chicken laksa from store-bought laksa paste. But, combined with my homemade chicken stock, homegrown herbs and vegetables, my laksa still possesses a lot of the traditional elements authentic laksa has, and furthermore, my desire to learn how to make my own flavour pastes is just waiting for when I have enough time to dedicate a day or two to learning how to do it. You have read before on this blog about my love of the long way round to gastronomical bliss, and when I eventually learn how to make my own flavour pastes I know this will open up a whole new world to me. But I digress.

So I made my feelings known to the whole of Twitter (with liberal use of the exclamation mark and the rage hashtag), and I was not prepared for the overwhelmingly positive outpouring of support of my statement. I made the pleasing discovery that I was amongst like-minded people, and was blown away by all the offers to share their tried & true choc chip cookie recipes. My #rage quickly subsided, and I went about choosing the recipe that I made this afternoon.

This recipe was generously given to me by my knitting friend Sheralynn and with her permission, I am going to share it will all of you lovely readers.

Regular Run-Of-The-Mill Traditional Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

125g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4/5 cup (that’s four fifths) self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips

Method

1. Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla and combine.
2. Sift in flour & salt and mix, then stir in choc chips.
3. Roll into a long tube about 1-2 inches in diameter and wrap in saran/glad wrap. Chill the log of dough for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
4. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 180oC and slice hockey pucks from the log, place on baking tray and bake for 7-10 mins.
Cookies should be golden.
5. Leave to cool on sheet until hardened then move to rack to cool.
So I made these and they were delicious! Chocolatey, sweet, chewy, nom! The only little hiccup I had was when chopping the log into “hockey pucks” (I just love this term) they didn’t hold together very well, and I think this was because I was using chocolate chips that were a bit on the large side, and the knife couldn’t cut them easily. But it didn’t matter, I just pressed the mix back together for each cookie. Also, one of my Silpats made the cookies stick, but the other didn’t. I’m not entirely sure why!
So, what have we learned today? I have learned that blog sites are sometimes not all they are cracked up to be. I have learned that twitter friends are amongst the bestest friends one can have. And I have learned that there is at least one recipe that I want to try on a different day, for it requires some pre-bake planning.
I have also learned that while the cookies might be mangled from getting them off a sticky Silpat, they are still delicious!

Christmas preparations

December 14, 2008

Here is the ‘christmas’ part of my cookie cutter collection… Pretty soon they will be used to make a big batch of Christmas cookies for all of my lovely workmates. Stay tuned!!

Cookies & Spring

July 27, 2008

Signs that Spring isn’t too far away!! Some Daffodils are flowering on my deck, but the ones in the garden haven’t started yet. I also have some Snowdrops in pots which are such a pretty sight in the morning. Another discovery I made while out in the garden today was my Delphiniums sprouting already, so I quickly put some snail bait on them before they got chewed up.

I decided this weekend I would make some cookies! I used this recipe (from one my favourite bloggers, Lex Culinaria!), except I pretty much tripled the amount of Lavender & lemon in them.

I used my mortar & pestle to grind up the Lavender a little before putting them in the mixture. The fragrance that this produced was phenomenal, I couldn’t stop smelling it! The lemon rind too is gorgeously fragrant.

I won’t repost the whole recipe over here, but I did make a few changes…I rolled out the dough a little thicker then the original says, and when doing complex shapes like the snowflake (like I have in the past) it’s a little hard to “transfer cookies to cookie sheet using a spatula”, I found doing this made the cookie go all out of shape. So I rolled out the dough directly onto my baking paper, cut out all the shapes, and then removed the excess dough from between the shapes, and then put the whole sheet on a baking tray.

This time I just made round ones because I wanted to experiment with different decorating techniques.

After they cooled I made a batch of royal icing using 4 egg whites and about 700 grams of sifted icing sugar. To make royal icing, start by beating the egg whites, and gradually add the icing sugar. Keep adding icing sugar until your icing is quite thick (my hand beater starts to sound a bit stressed at this point). When it’s ready, you’ll need a bunch of little bowls and some baggies. Decide on how many colours of icing you want, and put a couple of tablespoons of icing into each bowl. Wilton colour paste is fantastic for stuff like this, and I am trying out a new colour today, Red Red. I read warnings that this colouring could make the icing bitter, but I decided to try it anyway & there was only a hint of bitterness when tasted by itself, but on the cookie with the rest of the icing it was fine. Here are all my little baggies I used today:

The baggies are to make little piping bags for drawing on your cookies. You’ll need one filled with plain white icing too. Make sure to keep some white icing separate for coating the cookies. To do this, cut a tiny bit of a corner off your baggie and pipe an outline in white (or any colour, really) leave it to dry for 15 minutes or so & fill it in with the plain icing (you may need to add a little water to make it easier). Then, before it dries completely, you can make pretty pictures like this:

And this:

Or even this:

All these designs were created by piping parallel lines into the wet white icing and dragging a skewer across it. You can do them in alternating directions or, like the pink & blue one in the second photo, all in the same direction to make them look like French awnings 🙂

You can make lots of different designs by using this technique, let your imagination run wild:

Let the cookies dry completely before packaging them up for your friends 🙂