Thursday, December 23, 2010

[Cookie 094] Gingersnap Palmiers


Hi! It's just like old times, ain't it? I'm back to posting like normal, or even better than normal considering that this is my second post this week. Who needs New Year's Resolutions when you're already kicking ass? Okay, that was obnoxious and totally inaccurate, but I am hoping to keep up this rapid-fire method of churning out cookies and blog posts into 2011. Anyways, it should be easy at least for the next few weeks since I'll be at home in California, with a great kitchen, a great pantry, and a house with no heat--perfect conditions for cookie baking. Of course, being winter, all things spicy and gingery and molassesy are first on the list. Gingersnap Palmiers? Hell yes!


Now, although these cookies look pretty nice, and sound pretty tasty, I'm just going to put it out there that the recipe is a little fussy as far as Martha's recipes go. I liked it; it was more interesting than 95% of her other recipes in this book. I'm usually really bored by these recipes, even the ones that produce great cookies. But this one required multiple steps and produced cookies that look pretty and different. So if you've got a good chunk of time to set aside, I'd recommend these!


But, be forewarned: you will make a giant mess of your kitchen. This delicious gingery molasses syrup will get everywhere. Oh, and here's an important tip: Even though the recipe says to first sprinkle the puff pastry with a sugar-spice mixture and then brush the dough with the syrup, you should do these steps in reverse! First, brush the dough with syrup, and then sprinkle sugar on it! And then roll the dough up by each side and freeze the logs. Another note: make sure to wrap the logs really well in plastic wrap, because the syrup leaks out of the ends of the logs and gets all over your freezer!


So, I don't know bout you guys, but I'm pretty sure I'm one of the only self-professed bakers who has never used frozen puff pastry before. And, I'm just going to put it out there: not so great. I'm sure homemade puff pastry is far better because this stuff is just kinda greasy and artificial tasting. I guess that's why Martha tells you to use a "high quality" frozen puff pastry. I guess if you're a fancy pants baker and you make your own puff pastry, by all means use it; otherwise, maybe splurge for the expensive brand of puff pastry. Or, if you're down with the regular kind, go for it anyway!

When you take the logs out of the freezer, be sure to let them soften up a bit before you try to slice them. This might seem obvious to all you who have used frozen puff pastry before, but I had no idea. The result was that the first few cookies I sliced off cracked and crumbled pretty bad. So....basically they looked like this:


...but then baked up to look like this:


Oh, and ANOTHER tip: After the first 10 minutes of baking, you are supposed to flip the cookies over and brush them with more syrup. First of all, I don't think this is really necessary, but more importantly make sure you let the cookies sit for a few minutes, because right out of the oven they are saggy and floppy and impossible to flip over. After a minute or two, they crisp up a bit and you can go right ahead.


Yeah, so as you can see I had a lot to learn on the fly with this recipe. But I still had fun making them! And they are perfect cookies for holiday parties, amirite?? I am right. So go ahead and get messy because it's worth it. Sure, they aren't the tastiest cookies I've ever made, but they are fun and pretty and make you feel like a professional pastry chef...a little bit.


Gingersnap Palmiers
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen


  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 14 ounces good-quality thawed frozen puff pastry, such as Dufour

  • Directions

  • Bring brown sugar, molasses, ginger, and 1/4 cup water to a simmer in a saucepan, whisking until sugar has dissolved. Simmer until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour syrup into a bowl; let cool.
  • Whisk granulated sugar, salt, and spices in a bowl. Lightly sprinkle sugar mixture over a clean work surface; place puff pastry on top. Cut into two 10 1/2-by-7-inch pieces. Sprinkle generously with sugar mixture; press into pastry with a rolling pin. Brush generously with syrup.
  • Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll in from both long sides, meeting in the center; brush with syrup to seal. Sprinkle generously with sugar mixture. Wrap in plastic, and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours (up to overnight).
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut dough crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Dip slices in sugar mixture. Space 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten with your palm. Freeze 30 minutes.
  • Bake 10 minutes. Flip, and brush with syrup. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until darkened, 10 minutes more. Transfer palmiers to a wire rack; let cool completely. Palmiers can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 4/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
    Tastiness: 3.5/5
    Attractiveness: 4/5
    Is it worth it?: Yeah!

    Drink: Hot cider, or a hot toddy!
    Song: Keep it Rollin' -- A Tribe Called Quest
    Activity: Baking these cookies while listening to the new Kanye album...yeah?

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    [Cookie 093] Italian Polenta Cookies


    JUST IN TIME FOR HOLIDAY COOKIE CRUNCH TIME......I AM BACK!!!! Sound the airhorns, stop the presses, release the carrier pigeons, send the fair eyed virgins a-dancing! This boat is real!


    Seriously now, how has it been so long? Oh yeah, I remember now: I was in Ghana with a gas stove which had no temperature gauge, could only be set to "inferno" (...more commonly known as "broil" I think), no measuring spoons, no chocolate that costed less than 1 arm and 1 leg, and oh yeah, baking in 90ยบ+ weather...yeah right. But now I'm sitting in my cozy new apartment in Brooklyn and it is cold cold cold! And I've already baked up a new batch of cookies to cut the ribbon, so to speak, of my new life in BK. (Did I mention I live above a Polish Bakery?!)

    Some shots of my new place! Kitchen, fridge, window to the fire escape.

    Yeah, lot's to say in this post, that's for sure! I am just so glad to be back in America, and able to cuddle up with my roommates, make hot tea, watch 30 Rock and Arrested Development, and celebrate my 21st birthday by drinking some hot, boozy apple cider. It's so great. Oh, but you're here to get a cookie recipe right? You're in dire need of a new recipe for that cookie exchange right? Or something new and special to bring to that nondenominational holiday party at your workplace right?


    Well, this recipe might be it. I say "might" only because I found the cookies to be only so-so. But they are still really tasty and definitely unusual; plus, when you tell people they have polenta in them, they'll think you're such a hotsy totsy food snob, which is always a good thing!


    I was technically supposed to make these cookies LAST YEAR for my good friend/roommate/"I-only-eat-Italian-food" Long Islander, but I failed her. And she never let me live it down, until two days ago when I made them. Unfortunately, they didn't look remotely like the photos in the book because a) I used whole wheat flour which gave the dough that lovely beige/sand color (yuck), and b) the dough was way too dry and crumbly for me to squeeze it out of a pastry tube into cute little S shapes. I have no clue why this happened, and I really should have just added more liquid to thedough, but I'm a moron, so I just decided to make drop cookies. The result: THE UGLIEST COOKIES I HAVE EVER MADE, EVER!


    Plus, they tasted a tad bland, so we decided to dip them in chocolate. This did not help their looks, but did make them taste real nice. But the chocolate isn't 100% necessary if you intend to eat the cookies a day or two after you make them, because they do taste better with a little bit of aging. Also, I would recommend using a high quality chocolate if you take that route, because Toll House chocolate morsels are pure shit.


    But hey! What's with all this negativity? What I liked about this recipe was the inclusion of a hefty amount of lemon zest, which you could actually taste. Plus, polenta (I used cornmeal, same diff) is a great texture for a cookie, and definitely different than your usual Christmas gingerbread/peppermint/who-cares cookies. Seriously, no one wants to eat another gingerbread snowflake, OKAY? Well, I'd eat it, but that's because I have to eat at least one of every edible thing within my sight.


    So, now that I'm back fer reeeeal, get ready for major cookie updates. I miss baking so so so0o0o0o0o0o much and cannot wait to really dig my teeth in and bake up a storm. Storm o' flour and butter, watch out! This is only the beginning. I have 1 month and 5 days until classes start, so I'm goin' crazy. Get ready. To get fat. j/k!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    xoxo--missed you all, fair readers. (thanks for the emails by the way, they light up my day!)


    Italian Polenta Cookies
    Makes about 2 1/2 dozen


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Italian polenta, or yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, (1 lemon)
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, polenta, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Add egg and egg yolk, one at a time, beating after each addition to combine. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip (such as Ateco No. 826).
  • Pipe S shapes about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, spaced 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake cookies until edges are golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment to wire racks; let cool about 10 minutes. Remove cookies from parchment, and transfer to racks to cool completely.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 2/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 3.5/5
    Tastiness: 3/5
    Attractiveness: 1/5
    Is it worth it?: Yeah, I guess so.

    Drink: A 7-and-7. Don't ask why.
    Song: An oldy, but goody!!!!!!!!
    Activity: LOVING AMER-CUH!!

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    [Cookie 092] Sand Tarts


    I tried. You know, I really did. I gave it the ol' yeoman's effort, as my high school math teacher would say. But when I put a bunch of hours worth of effort into producing a cookie that is sad, soft, and definitely NOT baked to golden perfection, I get a little disheartened.


    It's become quite obvious by now that I've not been baking nearly as many cookies as I should be this semester. Living in Ghana means that chocolate is ridiculously expensive (despite the fact that this country exports some of the finest cocoa and chocolate products out there! But why sell it domestically when you can make more money abroad?), and nuts other than cashews and groundnuts (read: peanuts) are nearly impossible to find. And then there's the crazy oven with no temperature reading, and then there's the fact that I only have a 1/2 cup and 1 cup measure, no teaspoon measures, and no baking sheet, and no cookie cutters. I promise to stop whining about all of this, but I just gotta give some context/cover my ass, because these cookies are pretty shameful.


    So let's have a run-through of how the baking of these Sand Tarts went. I got out the butter, and seeing as I'm living in AFRICA near the EQUATOR, it came to room temperature in about 20 seconds. Whip that up, add sugar and all that shit.


    Measure out the flour in a measuring cup that of course doesn't fit inside the flour bag. So instead of doing something logical and pouring a bunch into a bowl and then measuring it, I pour the flour directly into the measuring cup and try to get it exactly right. And spill a bunch, DUH. Ugh. Okay, moving on…


    Mix wet and dry ingredients and make: the most boring dough in the world. Oh, did I mention that I just didn't even add the lemon zest? Lemons are not really abundant here, so I was just like "EH! Who cares!" My tastebuds care, that's who. Oh well--punishment for ignorance, I suppose.


    After refrigerating the dough for a while, it's time to roll it out. Oh wait! Guess who doesn't have a rolling pin! Never mind that, we just used a glass bottle (one that used to hold a bunch of delicious, delicious groundnuts…). Okay, so that works out decently. Now time to cut out circles with…a cup. Because I don't have a cookie cutter. Whatever! It still works! Awesome! Stick those babies on the "cookie sheet" which is really a roasting pan, which I'm pretty sure is one of the main factors that is fucking up the baking time of my cookies…


    And then you have to get a hand print on your ass and pose for a picture looking like a complete...ass. I still can't figure out how that got there, considering it was my own hand. Awkward…I'll post a small picture to retain some shred of dignity.

    Alright, so thus far nothing bad has really happened. It has just been an exercise in makin' in work! We bake up the first batch, and of course the oven burns the bottoms and doesn't toast the tops. Does anyone have any recommendations on how to fix this? Should I put a bain-marie underneath the tray in order to circulate heat? Ideas??

    Here's the best part of this baking experience: about 2 minutes into the second batch WE RUN OUT OF GAS. Welcome to Africa. Arrggggasdflkajh! So I scrape off the warm blobs of uncooked dough, put them into a tupperware container, and then…voila, we have gas again. By this point I'm pissed off, so I quit. The cookies taste okay, but definitely not how they should.


    Obviously, the main reasons that my cookies came out so poorly were because of my own situation, but I still think that the recipe itself is pretty boring. There's not really a dominant flavor, other than "sweet" and maybe a little bit "vanilla-y." I bet if they came out crisp and crunchy like they were supposed to, I might have liked them better, but alas. They did not. I ate them anyways. They were good with coffee. I mean Nescafe. No coffee here.

    Fortunately, they make the deplorable Nescafe taste better, and the Nescafe makes the cookies taste better. And if you have a kitten mug, EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!


    See the kitten cup in the background?!!? My favorite purchase I've made in Ghana. But still, the end result of the cookies is a little disappointing. I miss my oven.


    Sand Tarts
    Makes 2 dozen


  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Sliced almonds, for decoration
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

  • Directions

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, and beat until light-colored.
  • Beat in egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Sift flour with salt, and add to butter mixture. Mix on low speed just until dough comes together. Wrap and chill for several hours.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk egg white and the water in a small bowl. Set aside. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a 3-inch round cutter, and place on ungreased baking sheet. Brush with egg-white mixture, decorate with 3 sliced almonds, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven; allow to cool.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 2/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
    Tastiness: 2.5/5
    Attractiveness: 3.5/5
    Is it worth it?: I dunno...they are easy, but you could find a more interesting, tastier cookie that is just as simple to make.

    Drink: Nescafe (if you want to cry yourself to sleep)--otherwise, real coffee please.
    Song: Remember (Walkin' in the Sand) -- The Shangri-Las
    Activity: Eat these while at the beach, because they look like sand dollars...??

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Oh hey

    Hi. So basically, I'm going to be making cookies tomorrow, so I'll be posting soon. That being said, I realize it has been more than a little quiet round these parts, but the truth of the matter is: baking supplies are ridiculously expensive here!!! A quart of heavy/whipping cream is 10 dollars. And a chocolate bar of good quality is at least 6 dollars (for a 3 oz bar of Green & Black's, for example). And those are the ingredients I can actually find...half the stuff I need I can't even find in stores here, like butterscotch. Oh woe, it is so difficult. And then there is the whole oven issue.

    Yeah, yeah, bitch bitch bitch. I'm whining. I'm just sad that I'm missing autumn and can't bake pumpkin bread, let alone cookies. Hopefully things will be lookin' up one of these days. We'll see Until then, if you are bored you can read my other blog which I update more often and has absolutely nothing to do with cookies: Zziee

    Thanks biddies.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    [Cookie 091] Sesame Seed Cookies


    Hello folks, I'd like to introduce you to someone. This is Marjorie. She is my hero/tailor.

    I am forcing her to be my friend.

    And obviously, my first step towards achieving this goal was to make her cookies. Specifically, these Sesame Seed Cookies.


    Okay, I think I should do some 'splaining. First off, I am taking a Projects in Photography class this semester, and it focuses primarily on portrait photography. Which is pretty rad, in my opinion, since I never get around to actually shooting posed portraits and I have really wanted to give it a try. For our most recent assignment we had to pick a Ghanaian that we were relatively chummy with (or not--just depends on how confident you are with potentially awkward situations) and photograph this subject over an 8-12 hour block of time. So, I chose Marjorie, who is the go-to seamstress for most of the students in my program. She always came off like somewhat of an enigma to me, in part because of her no bullshit attitude and somewhat stony countenance. Plus, she can sew a pretty 1960s cocktail dress in about 6 minutes, from raw fabric to ironed lapels.


    So I set up a date to come in and shoot some pictures of her, and in preparation I make a batch of these Sesame Seed Cookies (mainly to get on her good side before I would proceed to bug the hell out of her with my camera). Another example of how baking cookies has helped me where my social skills are lacking! I hand her the tupperware containing the cookies, and she takes a bite, and says "You did good" and then continues her cutting and measuring. I felt like I was in a detective movie and had just returned to my boss with a particularly juicy bit of info, and the P.I. gruffly patted me on the shoulder and told me "Ya did good, kid." Yay!


    Anyway, I shot a million pictures, only got a few that I like, and none that I love. Oh well, c'est la vie. At least the cookies were a hit, and that's what I should be talking about anyway! So I'll hop to it.


    These cookies are really good. You must excuse their appearance, because once again my crazy oven situation messed them up pretty badly. But the dough is delicious and the flavor of the actual baked cookie is pretty awesome. The sesames get all toasty and pack a bunch of flavor as well as crunch. I would most definitely make these again, because not only are they easy to make, but they are unusual, so you can impress your friends (and friend-crushes) without breaking a sweat.


    Sesame Seed Cookies
    Makes about 4 dozen

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup hulled sesame seeds, toasted


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture, and beat until combined. Add toasted sesame seeds, and beat until incorporated.
  • Using a spoon, drop cookie batter, about 1 tablespoon at a time, onto prepared baking sheets, allowing at least 2 inches between cookies for spreading.
  • Bake until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 1/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
    Tastiness: 4/5
    Attractiveness: 3/5
    Is it worth it?: Yes! Especially those of you who are fans of sesame know who you are.

    Drink: No drink. Nothing.
    Song: Side with the Seeds -- Wilco
    Activity: These would be good served at a nice little tea party or to give as a gift. See above anecdote.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Favorite Cookie [081-090]


    Another round come and gone. Actually, it's the 9th round, and 9 is my lucky number, so I would have to say that I'm a little disappointed that this set of ten cookies weren't better. These were my summer cookies, so I really have no excuse for not going all out! We had some really nice ones, that's for sure, but nothing that really blew my socks off. Is that even an expression? Blowing socks off? What?

    Anyway, it's definitely going to be a rough 10th round, that's for SURE SURE. This whole gas oven with no temperature gauge is killing me! I am literally baking completely blindly. Oh, and there is a nation-wide gas shortage, so that also doesn't really help me out. And to top it off, I don't have a cookie sheet, so I've been using a roasting pan. Aaaaand, I only have a 1-cup measure and 1/2-cup measure. No teaspoon measures. Yep. And the butter they sell here is sold by the 200g block, with no tablespoon/cup measurements on it, and I have no scale. Sooooooooooo…yeah.

    But let's cut the crap and get on with it. Here's the 9th round, in all its mediocre glory!


    1st place (Blue Ribbon!): Maple-Pecan Shortbread
    Alright, these were really nice. Besides the fact that they are very easy to make look nice (you just cut out a perfect circle of dough with a cookie cutter and squish a pecan onto it! simple!), the cookies have a surprisingly deep flavor--even if you don't add the maple extract, like I didn't. The maple syrup lends enough rich flavor alone, and the toasted pecans in the dough work fantastic with it. Highly recommend this one!


    2nd place (Honorable Mention!): Wholemeal Almond Biscuits
    These also have a really nice flavor that's a little unexpected. The cookie itself is a lot like a Hobnob (OMAHGAH HAVE YOU HAD THESE?!!? LOVE), but a lot less sweet. In fact, they are hardly sweet at all, but have a great cinnamon undertone, along with the toasty almond flavor of the biscuit. Great for tea, or really any fancy, fruity dessert. Pile on the clotted cream plz.


    3rd place: Almond Horns
    So almondy, so good. And they are majorly adorable, right? Am I the only one that gets all warm and fuzzy inside when she sees an adorable cookie? Is it bad that I look at cute cookies like normal people look at cute puppies?


    4th place: ANZAC Biscuits
    Okay, I ranked these highly because they basically introduced me to the nectar of the gods: Lyle's Golden Syrup. Holy shit, I can't even begin to tell you how many cans of this I'm bringing back to the US--customs or not! As for the cookie itself, I could eat the dough for hours/years/eternity.


    I was partial to these because I really love whole-wheaty, nutty, oatsy, hippie-dippie snacks, and these really fit the bill. But I have to say, they are more like a cake than bar, and hardly could be considered a cookie…just sayin', Martha.


    These definitely look very elegant and nice, but they didn't end up being as flavorful and spicy as the uncooked dough was. They tasted a little boring and bland once baked, but they are fun to make, so that's a plus.


    7th place: Fig Bars
    These took a lot of work. Yep. Making the fig filling is fun and it is very aromatic and delicious, but for some reason once the cookie is all assembled and baked, the fig filling isn't all that special tasting anymore. The assembly of the bars (ie. the rolling of dough, spreading of filling, and sandwiching of the two layers of dough) is a little tricky and tedious. They're good, but not worth all the effort.


    These taste exactly like you'd expect, and I think that the only reason Martha made the recipe "GIANT" was because the dough itself isn't all that special. The use of vegetable shortening does, however, lend a pleasantly different taste and texture to the cookie. You could add stuff to this recipe and easily spice it up, if you're interested. Add white chocolate chips, dip the bottoms in ganache, somehow incorporate peanut butter...


    9th place: Baci di Dama
    Ugh, what a serious pain in the ass. "Piping" the filling onto these little poops was a disaster, since the filling absolutely didn't hold its own and spilled all over the place. And the cookies, once I managed to actually get them to set and solidify, were hard and chewy and not so fab. Meh.


    10th place (Brown Ribbon!): Chocolate-Ginger Leaves and Acorns

    Alright, great. Got those done and behind me, and I'm ready for the new! But maybe that's just the Rosh Hashanah speaking. To all of you enjoying the first signs of autumn, I am whole-heartedly jealous of you. Eat lots of pumpkin and spice for me, because right now I'm looking at nothing but pineapples and plantains for another 3 straight months. Until my next post, soon...