Monday, November 29, 2010

Thinking About Cookies

I'm not ready to commit to a list of definites, but I do have Christmas cookies on my mind.  There are some standards that will likely be made:  gingerbread men (and women), peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses, jam thumbprints -- some rolled in coconut, some in chopped nuts, and filled with my friend Catherine's prize-winning jam -- and sugar cookies (Alton Brown's recipe).  Each year I make that simple fudge with the Marshmallow Fluff and chocolate chips.  One cookie that will definitely be on my Christmas platter is the chocolate crinkle (recipe below).  It's a soft, fudgy ball of a cookie, rolled in confectioners sugar just before it goes in the oven, and once it's baked, the surface is cracked all over - thus the name.  They're very pretty.  Another recipe I'm interested in making is one I saw in a magazine at the checkout counter at the grocery store -- a bar cookie, a Christmas blondie, with walnuts, candied cherries, and almond extract.  It's like a fruitcake cookie only so much more interesting! 

There are other traditional desserts that have come out of my Christmas kitchen over the years, many of which have been popular requests by friends during the holidays.  I make a Grand Marnier pound cake, mini-cheesecakes, pie-crust cookies, and apple jelly. Then there's "reindeer food," a prettier version of trail mix which is a concoction of rice chex, mini-pretzels, M&Ms, various nuts, raisins and dried cranberries, all tossed in a thin coating of melted white chocolate, resulting in a snowy-frosted bowl of colorful goodness which is especially pretty presented in a Mason jar with a Christmas ribbon.   And of course, this year Katie and I will attempt a more elaborate gingerbread house.  We're getting good at that, and it'll be fun putting a new creation together. 

Over the next few weeks, I'll be bringing you my recipes for the cookies and treats mentioned above.  I'll start by reintroducing my recipe for Chocolate Crinkles from last December.  You can find it linked here and also printed below.  In the meantime, I'll look for new recipes that hopefully will be woven into already-established traditions and go on to become family favorites for generations. 

Here's to creating new traditions in your home!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Baking)
originally posted on ADK Baker December 17, 2009

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
4 large eggs
2 c granulated sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 c chocolate chips (I like to use Ghiradelli bittersweet, but any semi-sweet will do)
1/2 c confectioners’ sugar

Melt the butter and chocolate on top of a double boiler, over simmering water, and stir often. Remove and set aside to cool a bit.

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients — flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture on low speed until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. The dough will be stiff, but you must persevere: mix in the chocolate chips by hand.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a good long while, at least 2 hours. I sometimes leave the dough in the fridge overnight.

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 325. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl.

Roll a rounded tablespoon of dough between your palms into a 1 1/2 inch ball, and toss it around in the powdered sugar. Place the cookies about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet.Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the tops are puffed and crinkled and feel firm when lightly touched, about 13-17 mins. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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