December 10, 2009

It’s down to the wire. I’m mailing out all the Christmas packages in two days. This is the first post I’ve done since joining forces with the inimitable Jennifer Perillo and the Share Our Strength 12 Days of Sharing program. Please consider donating to this important cause, to help end childhood hunger.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

I made my favorite candied grapefruit peel. Also threw in some Meyer lemons, just because I found them at Trader Joe’s and it seemed like an omen. This is my favorite recipe — it’s a four day process. But so worth it.
Forget dipping them in chocolate. After four days, I’m done messing with citrus peel. And, once I peeled the grapefruit, I made my favorite breakfast fruit salad with grapefruit and bananas and a few blueberries from my frozen berry stash.

I made some granola for my brother-in-law.

And then I made some orange pistachio biscotti

And then I made some florentines

And then, I spent last night making cookie doughs that need to be chilled. Almost every cookie dough will benefit from chilling, but in the case of thumbprint cookies, and gingerbread chocolate cookies, if they’re not properly chilled, they don’t hold their shape. Here’s an example of hazelnut thumbprint cookies that smooshed. Still taste great, but not so pretty for presentation.

Here are my three chilled doughs: hazelnut thumbprint, cheddar thumbprint and gingerbread chocolate, with the jams all ready, too.
I like to make the doughs while dinner is cooking, then pop them in the ‘fridge until the next morning. All three are sturdy. They need to be kneaded and formed into the nice packages you see here. I put the dough inside the plastic and then push it around and use my rolling pin and bench scraper to make a nice even square.

When I take the dough out, I cut it into cubes, making them all the same size. I like a small cookie, so I get around 48 cookies/recipe, but 36 cookies would yield a very nice sized cookie. Then roll into little balls and chill again for a couple of hours, then dip in egg white and chopped nuts (for the thumbprints) or roll in sugar (for the ginger/chocolate.)

I like making all the similar types of cookies on one day. It creates a rhythm – the oven temp is the same – and you need the same equipment. If you’re thinking of a holiday baking day, you can make these three cookies in a total of five hours. You’ll have a sweet, a savory and a chocolate – almost all the food groups!

Cheddar Thumbprints
Makes 48 two bite cookies

12 oz grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
4.5 oz unsalted butter
1-1/2 c flour
1 c toasted pecans, chopped very fine
2 egg whites, beaten
4 oz hot pepper jelly, habanero jelly, vidalia onion jam or apple butter

Cream together cheese and butter.
Add flour and beat until the mixture forms a ball.
Form dough into a disk and chill overnight. (or freeze for two hours)
Remove dough from the refrigerator and break off 1 tsp. pieces and form into a ball.
Chill for two hours.
Preheat oven to 350.
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Put beaten egg whites in one bowl and pecans in another bowl.
Dip the cookie ball first into the egg white and then into the pecans.
Place an inch apart on the baking sheet.
Slide the baking sheet in the oven for five minutes. Remove and make a deep indentation in each cookie with the end of a wooden spoon or a small dowel. Spoon some jelly into the indentation.

Return the cookies to the oven and bake until the tops are lightly brown – about 10 minutes.
Cool completely on the sheet pan.
Will keep for three days. Store in layers between wax paper.

Hazelnut Thumbprints
Makes about 48
8 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 c hazelnuts, chopped fine
4 Tbls sugar
2 egg whites
4 oz raspberry jam (Some people run the jam through a sieve to remove the seeds. I don’t.)

Cream sugar and butter together in the mixer. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add flour and salt and combine well.
Chill dough in plastic wrap (form into a nice square) overnight.
Cut the dough into 48 pieces and form into balls.
Chill the balls on a sheet pan for two hours.
Preheat the oven to 350
Beat the egg whites in one bowl. Mix hazelnuts and sugar in another bowl.
Dip the balls in egg white and then in the hazelnut/sugar mixture and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and make a deep indentation in each cookie with the end of a wooden spoon or a small dowel. Spoon some jelly into the indentation.
Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

Here’s Beans the cat. She sat in this chair all day while I baked. I wish she could do the dishes.

3 Responses to “What I’ve Been Doing”

  1. The Yummy Mummy

    Okay, I'm a little in awe of your baking. All of these look so amazing. I have no idea how you do all this… and so effortlessly.

    And thanks for the great tip about thumb print cookies. Going to buy a bag of Kisses today and put the children to work turning a bunch of leftover dough into these little gems.

    But seriously, next time, I'm going to come to you before I embark on a baking endeavor. It might save me from my next cookie ordeal!


  2. Maggie

    Thank you for posting this! I've been looking for a chewy ginger cookie and I think the one you linked to could be perfect!

  3. Winnie

    You are a baking/cooking goddess…a force of nature!!!
    Wish we lived near each other- I think we could have some fun in the garden/kitchen…
    Love hearing about all you're doing, as usual!


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