Cookie Archive

Friday, December 13, 2013

linzer torte

linzer torte, cut into squares

I think if you were to rank foods in order of how intimidating they are to cook, at the bottom of the list would be stuff you throw together any night of the week without a recipe, the top would be basically anything Grant Achatz has ever made and then maybe, just barely a notch below would be a dish that someone you love and respect makes so perfectly that you consider it to be “their” recipe. It feels almost wrong to make someone else’s signature dish, to meddle. It’s their thing, not yours, thus there’s clearly no way you could do it justice. I mean, sure there’s something else you could contribute to the holiday baking curriculum, maybe one of your favorites instead?

one pound of walnuts + very little flour
cutting butter into flour and spices

And this has been my feeling about linzer torte for all of the years since we first met at this url in 2006. I am lucky enough to join a high school friend for Christmas Eve dinner every year, and her mom always includes squares of incredible linzer torte in her array of Holiday Baking Wonders. Her mother is an excellent cook and baker, and the one that introduced me to Maida Heatter, from whom you should buy every book, immediately, without questioning me because her recipes are detailed without being irritatingly so, charmingly written*, and will never lead you astray. Truly. I mean, remember when she showed us how easy Dobos Torte could be to make? Dobos Torte. Imagine what she could do with a black truffle explosion!

knead the dough right in the bowl

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

eggnog florentines

pecan florentines with eggnog filling

Today, because we don’t have enough bronzed and crisp, sugary, buttery thoughts already circling our heads, we’re going to talk about two recipes in one, a thin and lacy nut-caramel cookie known as a florentine and a filling that tastes exactly like eggnog, as if either of these things alone weren’t enough reason to gallop into the kitchen with your mask, cape and sense of urgency.

the high-low pecan florentine lineup
grinding the pecans with flour and spice

Florentines are essentially nuts, usually almonds or hazelnuts, coarsely or finely chopped, that have been baked into a buttery caramel disc. They hail, like so many delicious things, from Italy although I’ve seen versions from many other places, because once you try them, you’re going to want to make them your own too. Here, in a recipe that was published last year in the Tasting Table newsletter, someone did, a chef named Aaron Vandemark or Panciuto restaurant in Hillsborough, NC, a place I’d like to go immediately to applaud him in person for his creativity. Instead of almonds or hazelnuts, he uses pecans and a touch of cinnamon. He doesn’t stop there.

ground pecans, flour, spice

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

sugared pretzel cookies

sugared rye pretzel cookies

Six years ago, I attempted to shift my existing pretzel obsession into the cookie category, with only moderate success. The chocolate pretzel cookies I made were shiny, twisted and gorgeous, but tasted so mediocre — dry, flat in flavor, basically meh. I concluded that the firmness we’d want from a pretzel-shape was probably not something we wanted in a cookie. But silly me, I was just looking in the wrong place.

vanilla, white and rye flours, sugar, salt, hard-cooked egg

Last fall, as some of you might remember, I did a little tiny bit of book-touring from November through mid-December and then February through March of this year, just like 28 cities or so in total of us hanging out, no big deal. Okay, it was kind of a big deal, and so many cool things happened over the course of those trips, I never got around to telling you about them maybe because the whole thing was so surreal to me it didn’t seem easily digested in 500-word snippets?

cook's illustrated

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Monday, December 9, 2013

cigarettes russes cookies

cigarettes russes, dipped, sprinkled

Last week, guys, last week… Wait, no. We cannot start a week as dreary as this one already looks from my Monday perch (this view, plus ten thousand loose toys and dark gray rain outside) with a complaint, it would not be good. But I have to tell you where I was most of last week because it’s so traumatizing, I cannot keep it on the inside any longer: I was touring kindergartens. Like, school, big old public schools with lots of kids. School for five year-old giants. School that my “baby” will require next fall. It was terrifying. It was all-consuming. I tried to swim off my anxiety in the middle of each day, only to return home to find that the sun had basically set at 2:30 p.m. rending that whole cooking-and-natural-light-photography thing I love so much impossible. It was not my favorite week.

salt, egg whites, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla
melted butter

But this week, this week is going to be the opposite in every way because: butter. Because: cookies. Because I think we should a crazy thing like try to share a new cookie recipe with you every day this week, or have fun trying. I have such great ones on my docket — a mix of wonders I didn’t know you could recreate at home, classics that need to be in every repertoire, new riffs that I’m basically obsessed with, old-school bakery favorites, and a goofy little untraditional cookie, just because. It’s a tall order. But I figure if I can devote a week to things that are basically no fun at all, I can devote a week to things that are only fun, like little buttery, crisp, golden-edged bites of cheer.

such an easy batter

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

salted caramel brownies

runny salted caramel brownies

A couple months ago, someone requested that I try my hand at caramel brownies. Amazingly, this person was not my husband, but he endorsed this idea so wholeheartedly that I suspect he might have paid this person off. Then again, in most people’s minds, who doesn’t want to make caramel brownies? What kind of strange person considers what would happen when sea salt-flecked deeply copper-colored homemade caramel meets a chewy, rich homemade brownie and then shrugs it off, “Eh, I’ll pass.” Guys, it’s me. It’s not that I didn’t think that a salted caramel brownie could be delicious, it’s just that I imagine it’s well-trodden territory, which to me translates as “people who want to make this already know how to” and then I figure my time would be better spent making other things, like weird egg salads and silky hummus.

granulated sugar, starting to meltmelted sugar, copper-coloredadding butter, hiss, fizzbubbling and smelling awesome

But then, as I did a quick search or two, I discovered things that caused me to make that crooked face that I made when I’m thinking really hard, because sometimes after a day of explaining to a preschooler why we have to wear pants when we leave the apartment when I fully understand the desire to simply not wear pants sometimes, thinking is really hard. The first is that a whole lot recipes started with store-bought caramels or caramel sauce, which made me sad, because the homemade stuff requires three ingredients that you probably have, is really easy to make and the flavor comparison (especially if you add a fourth ingredient, salt) … well, there is none. They barely deserve to share the same name. The next thing that gave me pause was that they all looked achingly sweet, as if little consideration was given to the fact that dousing an already-sweet brownie with caramel sauce might cause teeth to hurt/dentists to buy new vacation homes.

pour onto a parchment-lined plate

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