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Posts Tagged ‘holiday baking’

Today we’re starting to build some variety into our 12 cookie collection. With that same basic cookie dough, we started with a simple butter cookie, made pecan bars and now add a sandwich cookie and some chocolate to the mix. Two buttery cookies with a dark chocolate filling makes for something quite lovely. The spin? The little something that makes it just a little bit different and special? Earl Grey tea. My favorite. A hot mug on a cold morning is heavenly. Earl Grey is quintessentially British, a black tea flavored with bergamot orange, a citrus fruit with the flavor somewhere between an orange and a lemon with a little grapefruit thrown in. It’s delightful and makes a particularly good cookie.

For this one, I add the tea right to the base butter cookie dough with a little extra sugar and some orange zest to accent the bergamot flavor. I used Twinings earl grey tea, readily available in grocery stores but any kind will do. If you opt for a loose leaf tea, give it a few buzzes in a spice grinder to break it down a little first. The filling is a simple ganache, just chocolate and cream, with the earl grey steeped into the warm cream first then removed. 

Don’t forget my rule for cut out cookies: roll warm, cut cold. As soon as you make the dough, roll it into sheets between 2 pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill. When firm, cut into neat shapes. You can bake right away or layer between pieces of parchment and freeze for later. The ganache filling can also be frozen and defrosted just fine.

12 Days of Cookies from years past:

FruityJam ThumbprintsJam Streusel TartsRaspberry Linzer SquaresLemon Poppyseed ButtonsOrange Sesame CrispsCranberry Pistachio CoinsAlmond Raspberry StripsOrange Sandwich CookiesApricot Rosemary ShortbreadCoconut Lime SticksBourbon Glazed Fruitcake ButtonsLemon Cornmeal BiscottiBlueberry Lime ButtonsDate Swirls

NuttyMexican Wedding CookiesRussian Tea CakesPecan TassiesMaple Black Walnut CookiesPB&J Sandwich CookiesPecan Triangles

SpicedCinnamon Sugar PinwheelsCandied Ginger Spice ButtonsCardamom Rose CoinsBrown Sugar Wafers with Lemon Lavender Glaze

ChocolateBasic Chocolate Butter Cookie DoughMexican Chocolate CrinklesChocolate Cocoa Nib Wafers, Raspberry Chocolate DropsChocolate Hazelnut ButtonsDark Mocha Sandwich CookiesEspresso CrinklesCranberry Cocoa Nib WafersChocolate Dulce de Leche Sandwich CookiesChocolate LebkuchenFudge TartsChocolate Marzipan DropsChocolate Coconut BullseyesChocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich CookiesChocolate Almond CrescentsChocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

BarsRum Butter BarsPeppermint Brownie BarsBanana Walnut BarsChocolate Banana Petit Fours

Holiday ClassicsCream Cheese WreathsClassic Molasses CookiesPeppermint Candy CanesAndes Mint Chip CookiesHoliday Mallomars

This year:

Basic Butter Cookie Dough for all recipes

Day 1: Sparkly Sugar Cookies

Day 2: Pecan Praline Bars

EARL GREY SANDWICH COOKIES

Base Butter Cookie Dough – recipe here

  1. For the cookies: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the room temperature cookie dough, sugar, and loose tea until well combined.
  2. Divide the dough into 2-4 pieces and roll between sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to and even 1/8” thickness.
  3. Transfer to a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days tightly wrapped. Dough sheets can be frozen up to 2 months, tightly wrapped.
  4. When ready to bake preheat the oven to 350°F and line sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking liners.
  5. Cut the chilled dough into neat shapes and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat 1” apart.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until set on top and just turning golden on the bottoms. Cool completely.
  7. Carefully slide the parchment or silicon sheets onto wire racks to cool.
  8. Do ahead: it’s best to make and freeze the dough and bake as needed rather than freeze baked cookies. Frozen dough will keep up to 3 months.
  9. For the ganache filling: place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.
  10. Bring the cream to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the tea bag and cover the pot with plastic wrap. Let steep for 30 minutes. 
  11. Pour the cream over the chocolate, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, give it a little shake/swirl to fully submerge the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes. (If using loose leaf tea, pour the cream through a strainer to remove the tea).
  12. Remove the plastic wrap and gently stir until the ganache is smooth. If the chocolate isn’t fully melted at this point, microwave in 30 second bursts at 50% power or place the bowl over a simmering pot of water, stirring until melted and smooth. 
  13. Let the ganache cool; it will thicken as it cools. Transfer to a piping bag or a Ziploc bag.
  14. Turn half the cookies over, snip the corner of the piping bag and pipe the filling on top of the wrong sides. Top with another cookie, right side up and press gently to adhere.
  15. Cookies will keep, tightly wrapped, for several days. They’re not great frozen and defrosted so if you want to work ahead, roll/cut/freeze the shapes up to 2 months and bake from frozen. The ganache can also be frozen up to 2 months.
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So. Here we are. Twelve Days of Cookies. I thought after 48 cookie recipes (linked below) plus 12 for crackers (here) over the years, I was out of ideas. And I was, for a while. This year has been crazy busy and all my creative recipe brain space has been consumed with work projects but somehow, in a corner of my notebook, I’ve been scribbling cookie ideas here and there. Apparently, the idea portion of my brain takes a break and come back strong. So once again, here we are. A brand new set of Twelve Days of Cookies. Buckle up.

If you’ve played along in the past, you know the drill. If you’re new to this game, we start with one good, solid butter cookie dough and divide it into four, maybe eight, maybe only two pieces. Maybe even something in between. Then you add various things to those blocks of dough – brown sugar, cocoa, nuts, chocolate; all kinds of things – then roll, press, fill and cut to turn them into different cookies. Turning one basic dough into several completely different cookies is the solution to alleviating your holiday baking stress. Works remarkably well unless you try and bang out all 12 cookies the Monday before Thanksgiving like me. That brings a certain amount of aggravation into your life but is do-able if you have to. Sometimes you do what you have to do.

I did a recap a few years back on how to think about your selections and getting organized here and below is the basic dough recipe that starts every cookie. Make a batch or two to start and every other day until Christmas, I’ll throw a new cookie recipe at you in a few different batch sizes. There are a few bars this year, that workhorse of easy holiday baking. A filled cookie, some shortbread. Some are easy, some more involved. Plus don’t forget about the archive of years past – 48 other options to peruse. It’s a choose your own cookie adventure.

12 Days of Cookies from years past:

Basic Butter Cookie Dough: (see below)

FruityJam ThumbprintsJam Streusel TartsRaspberry Linzer SquaresLemon Poppyseed ButtonsOrange Sesame CrispsCranberry Pistachio CoinsAlmond Raspberry StripsOrange Sandwich CookiesApricot Rosemary ShortbreadCoconut Lime SticksBourbon Glazed Fruitcake ButtonsLemon Cornmeal BiscottiBlueberry Lime ButtonsDate Swirls

NuttyMexican Wedding CookiesRussian Tea CakesPecan TassiesMaple Black Walnut CookiesPB&J Sandwich CookiesPecan Triangles

SpicedCinnamon Sugar PinwheelsCandied Ginger Spice ButtonsCardamom Rose CoinsBrown Sugar Wafers with Lemon Lavender Glaze

ChocolateBasic Chocolate Butter Cookie DoughMexican Chocolate CrinklesChocolate Cocoa Nib Wafers,Raspberry Chocolate DropsChocolate Hazelnut ButtonsDark Mocha Sandwich CookiesEspresso CrinklesCranberry Cocoa Nib WafersChocolate Dulce de Leche Sandwich CookiesChocolate LebkuchenFudge TartsChocolate Marzipan DropsChocolate Coconut BullseyesChocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich CookiesChocolate Almond CrescentsChocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

BarsRum Butter BarsPeppermint Brownie BarsBanana Walnut BarsChocolate Banana Petit Fours

Holiday ClassicsCream Cheese WreathsClassic Molasses CookiesPeppermint Candy CanesAndes Mint Chip CookiesHoliday Mallomars

BASIC BUTTER COOKIE DOUGH

Makes dough for 2 or 4 or 8 batches of cookies

Vanilla has come down in price from years past (thank god) but if it’s still out of your price range, raid the liquor cabinet. I’ve used bourbon and dark rum as decent substitutions.

1 pound unsalted butter, softened (4 sticks)

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

4 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  1. In a standing mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Scrape the bowl and with the mixer running on medium-low, add the yolks one at a time, then the vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Scrape the bowl.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually mix in the flour until combined.  Scrape a final time and turn the dough onto a work surface and gently knead to incorporate all remaining flour.
  4. Divide the dough into two, four or eight equal pieces (a scale is ideal here) and use as is for a delicious butter cookie or proceed with one or several of the variations that will follow in the next twelve posts (or the forty-eight posts from year’s past). 

Tips:

  • Dough can be made ahead and refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.  Let return to room temperature before continuing.
  • If using salted butter rather than unsalted, decrease the salt in the recipe to ¾ teaspoon.

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This is it: Day 12 of The 12 Days of Crackers and the final in the olive oil cracker series. When I was coming up with ideas for flavoring all these crackers, I took stock of my spice selection. To put it bluntly, it is a vast assortment; the accumulations of multiple development projects, travel adventures and an irresistible urge to buy interesting things. Digging through a cabinet, I noticed I had 4 or 6 different bottles of Japanese seasonings, the majority in the togarashi family. I should probably use them.

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Ten down, two left and the third of four in the olive oil group. Whew. Crackers, crackers and more crackers! Like the last post that featured za’atar, I’m bringing another unusual spice into the mix, one near and dear to my heart. Piment d’Esplette. As za’atar is the cornerstone of Levantine cuisine, piment d’esplette is the cornerstone of Basque cuisine. It is a variety of not too hot chile pepper that is cultivated in the northern territory of the French Basque, that magnificent southwest corner of France that is a little French, and entirely Basque.

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Got the hang of an olive oil cracker? Good. Because now we’re getting interesting. This one has za’atar, that cornerstone seasoning of Levantine cooking. If you’ve cooked from any of Yotam Ottolenghi’s books, chances are good you’ve got a jar sitting on your spice shelf. (Probably some sumac too, right?) So let’s use it, shall we?

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Part Three … here we go. We’ve done four cheese crackers, we’ve done four savory shortbread crackers and now, for the final installment in the 12 Days of Crackers, we have the most crackery of the bunch: Olive Oil Crackers and the first one is a particular favorite … Everything Spice Olive Oil Crackers.

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Alright. We’re at the end of phase 2 of this series, the fourth savory shortbread recipe and eight of twelve down. Next up we’ll move onto rolled olive oil crackers but for today, we’re using one of my very favorite herb combinations: herbes de provence. It’s a blend of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region of southeast France and typically includes savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and for some reason only in the United States, lavender. Personally, I like the lavender addition here as it’s such a slight, complimentary flavor and in no way tastes like potpourri or soap as can often happen. Add some salt and pepper and maybe a little lemon zest and you have the best lamb dry rub ever. But I digress.

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What’s a holiday party with a thumbprint cookie of some sort? Jewel like jam in the center of a buttery cookie? Ok, hold that thought. Turn it around, add some crunchy cornmeal to that buttery dough and fill the center with some sort of savory jam. Say, a cranberry or mango chutney or a tomato or fig jam. Before you know it, you have a delightful cocktail snack. I can attest that these are delicious with an ice cold martini. Oh my.

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Continuing on this cracker journey, and more specifically this savory shortbread journey, today we’ll take that base shortbread dough and add some fruit and herbs. First up was a spiced, salty olive version, today is dried apricots and tarragon.

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So we’re moving onto the next phase of the 12 Days of Crackers. The first four posts were cheese based; a buttery pie dough type of base with cheddar, blue, goat or parmesan cheese mixed in. Did it, done, in the freezer, right? Ok, moving on. Today and for the next four posts, we’ll explore savory shortbread. Buttery, crumbly, just a touch sweet and utterly irresistible. And we’re starting off the bunch with a Mediterranean olive version.

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