last minute cookies; coconut spritz

img_0426If you are like 99% of the people I know, you are in a hurry and trying to get everything done; baking, cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and more.  Even though I am still trying to get my house unpacked from the move, I am also trying to do some holiday baking because it just isn’t Christmas without a small truckload of cookies in the house!  The good news is, that I have found one of the quickest and easiest recipes to prepare.

Coconut Spritz cookies are easy to mix and just as easy to shape.  While the dough can be shaped with a cookie press, it can also be scooped out and pressed with a cookie stamp, a flat bottomed glass or even the palm of your hand.  However, if you have a cookie press, use it, it will save you some time and produce cookies that are consistent in size.  One note, this dough is a bit high in fat and on the soft side.  Like most Spritz recipes, you should press the dough directly onto a sheet pan that is not non-stick or lined with any kind of paper.  While this may go against all you know about cookie baking, if you try to use paper or a treated pan, the dough cannot stick as you press it out and you will spend your time fighting with the press.  Do not worry, after baking, you will be able to get them off the pans by simply letting them set for a minute and then lifting them with a thin spatula.

The coconut flavor mainly comes from the oil so be sure to use a virgin oil that has not been refined and stripped of the flavor.  This recipe also calls for finely shredded coconut and if you plan to use the press, it must be extremely fine.  Whether it is sweetened or not is hardly important but in this case, size absolutely matters! If you cannot find it at the grocery store, try a Latino market, that is where I found mine.

img_7278Coconut Spritz Cookies

makes about 72 pressed cookies

1 cup coconut oil, at room temperature-not melted

5.4 oz sugar (153 g, 3/4 cup)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

10.75 oz unbleached all purpose flour (305 g, 2 1/4 cups)

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 oz extra fine shredded coconut (14 g, 1/4 cup)

3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, cream the coconut oil with the sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended but do not mix it too long-the oil may begin to melt.  Add the egg yolks and mix to combine, scrape the bowl well.  Stir in the flour and baking powder and then the coconut.  Mix until it comes together.  Add the heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a dough that is soft and easy to shape.  You may not need all of it, and the more you add, the more the cookies spread in the oven.

Using the press, deposit the cookies onto the baking pans, leaving at least 1 inch between them.  Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a little coarse sugar.  Bake until golden around the edges, about 12 minutes.  Rotate the pans halfway through baking.  Let the hot cookies set for a minute then remove them from the pan with a thin, metal spatula and cool completely on a rack.  Store in an airtight container for about a week-if they last that long…

If not using a press, use a small portion scoop such as a #50 scoop.  Dip the top of each ball of dough into the coarse sugar and place onto a pan.  Flatten them slightly with a cookie stamp, the flat bottom of a glass or your hand.  Baking times will depend on the size of the scoop used, watch them closely and adjust the time as needed.


oatmeal raisin cookies

IMG_6749The fact that I have a sweet tooth is no secret, it should probably be called an unhealthy obsession.  Generally, I keep it in control by not buying sweets and not baking them unless I am bringing them to someone else.  It’s a good plan, most of the time.  But every now and then, I cave.  Lately, when that has happened, Darry and I have gone out for ice cream. With the extreme heat we have had lately, how could you blame us?  In the evening, as the sun goes down, we like to go to the Village and visit the local ice cream shop and then walk around.

But this week, I felt like having cookies.  Oatmeal cookies, with raisins.  The kind that stay a little on the soft side and would probably make great ice cream sandwiches, but I will not be trying that anytime soon…feel free to do it though, and report back to me if you do.

IMG_6750Over the years, I have made oatmeal cookies with any number of added goodies.  Dried currants are my favorite choice but dried peaches and figs are really good too.  This batch has raisins, dark raisins but when I use raisins, I usually prefer the golden ones.  My husband likes them with dried cranberries.  While I love nuts, I hardly ever add them and more often than not, I see them with chocolate chips but even though I am a huge chocolate fan, I cannot stand oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips in them.

My pantry is a little over stocked and I made the choice of dark raisins; all part of the effort to clean out the pantry.  Helpful hint, if your fruit is dried out and leathery, don’t toss it out!  Put it in a pot, cover with water, place over medium heat and let the raisins get hot, just about boiling.  Remove them from the heat and let the fruit cool completely.  Dump the raisins into a mesh strainer and press gently to remove the excess water.  Then add them to the dough.  Once baked, the raisins will be nice and soft and will also add a little moisture to the dough but too much moisture can lengthen the baking time.

IMG_6752One of the nice things about oatmeal cookies, it is easy to hide whole grains in them.  Besides using whole grain rolled oats, you can also use whole wheat flour and trust me, no one will know!  The oats can also be swapped out for other whole/rolled grains.  Trader Joe’s sells a mixture of rolled whole grain made from a mixture of oats, wheat, barley and rye and that would work in this cookie too!

IMG_6754A few notes to ponder:

Because I do try to make better eating choices, I made the batch of dough, scooped it out using a restaurant style portion scoop and chilled the balls of dough.  When it was time to bake them, I only pulled 8 scoops of the dough and froze the rest in a ziplock bag.  Now I do not have to worry about eating too many at once!  My scoops were 1 ounce a piece and the best size scoop for that is a #40 scoop.  What does that mean?  Food service portion scoops are somewhat standardized.  A #40 scoop will most likely have a purple handle and the number stands for the amount of scoops needed to equal a quart.  Look for this scoop in your local restaurant supply shop or online, you will not regret purchasing one because it will help you get a consistent size and make quick work of the scooping.

Recently, I wrote a guest post for fellow Virginia Blogger, Liz of I Heart Vegetables, on the importance of proper measuring in baking.  While using a scale is something I have done all of my professional life, it isn’t always the way I do things at home.  Until now, this recipe and the majority of recipes to follow will be written using weights.  If you like what you see, you will need to use a scale to make it.  Before you panic, you can easily find one at the store-even the grocery store, and the majority of them cost less than $20.

Quite a few of the ingredients in this recipe are interchangeable on a 1:1 basis.  While I could have used butter, I chose coconut oil because I wanted to add the flavor without adding the texture to the cookies.  When I bake, if a recipe calls for molasses, I almost always reach for sorghum instead.  It is milder in flavor and a little lighter in color but most importantly, it tastes so much better!  Sorghum is a traditional Southern syrup made by cooking down the juices extracted from sorghum canes.  It is sweet and turns a deep amber as it cooks which gives it a molasses-like flavor and for that reason, it can be referred to as sorghum molasses.  It can be tricky to find in other areas of the country so you may have to purchase it online.  Remember when I mentioned using whole wheat flour?  Well, sometimes I use only whole wheat, other times, I blend it half and half with all purpose and if I am not paying attention, I am likely to just use the all purpose.  Don’t sweat it, use what you like, and if you want to add a little fiber to your diet, use whole wheat, you will still love the cookies!

IMG_6765Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins

makes about 24 (1 ounce) cookies

4 ounces of raisins or your favorite dried fruit

6 ounces unbleached all purpose flour

5 ounces rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 ounces organic coconut oil

6 ounces granulated sugar

2 tablespoons molasses or sorghum

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

If the raisins are a bit dry, place them in a pot and fill with water to just cover them.  Heat the raisins over medium heat until steam begins to rise from the water and small bubbles start to form around the edges.  Turn off the heat and set the fruit aside to plump until cooled.  Dump the raisins into a mesh strainer and gently press out the extra moisture.  Adding a lot of extra water will cause them to spread like crazy and will ruin the texture of the cookie.

Place the flour, oats, baking soda and cinnamon into a small bowl and whisk to combine, set aside for now.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the coconut oil with the sugar, molasses, vanilla and salt.  Begin to cream the mixture, scrape the bowl and allow it to cream for 2-3 minutes.  Add the egg, mix it in, scrape the bowl and mix again.  Add the flour mixture followed by the raisins.  Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix by hand until it is thoroughly blended.

Using the portion scoop, carefully scoop the dough and place on a pan lined with parchment.  Chill completely.  Before baking, preheat the oven to 350.  Place the desired amount of dough at least two inches apart on parchment lined pans (or silpats) and allow them to sit and soften a bit.  Press down on the cookies to form a thick disk (will encourage spreading) or leave them in the shape of the scoop (for thicker cookies).  Bake for 6 minutes, turn the pan and rotate top to bottom, and bake for another 6 minutes for soft cookies, 8 for crispy ones.  Allow the cookies to cool on the pans for a few minutes then carefully lift them off and place onto a cooling rack to finish setting.  Store airtight at room temperature, will stay soft for about 3-4 days after which they will get crispy but will still taste good!

If you chose not to bake all of the dough, place the rest of the chilled scoops into a ziplock bag and freeze for a later day.  Allow to thaw before baking, will keep in the freezer for about a month.

homemade milano cookies

IMG_5486When I was a child, a really young child, I would spend weekends with my grandmother and great-grandparents.  They would indulge me in many ways, especially sweets.  My great-grandmother always had a batch of jello in the fridge.  For as long as I could remember, my grandmother took great pleasure in telling the story of my “disappearance”  while I was visiting one weekend.  Apparently, I climbed out of my crib and went on a midnight jello raid and fell asleep on the dining room floor.  The three of them frantically searched for me and in their panicked state, they did not see me in the corner of the room.  Luckily, they found me before they called the police or worse yet, my parents.  Over the years, we shared many laughs with each retelling of this story.

IMG_5497Another story my grandmother loved to tell was how I would sit with my great-grandfather and watch tv with him.  According to my grandmother, he had a favorite show-I think it may have been the Jackie Gleason Show but I was too young to remember.  What I do recall is that I had a little yellow chair with a cane seat and that I would sit along side of him as he watched the program.  He also had a thing for Milano cookies and he would share the with me as we sat together.

My grandmother would have turned 100 on the 26th of March and as I was making cookies to send out to my family for Easter, I decided to make a batch of Milano cookies in honor of the two of them.  Rather than try to duplicate the recipe myself, I turned to a website that I can trust and this time, I went to Leite’s Culinaria where a copycat recipe is posted.  The recipe calls for piping out the cookies and while I didn’t mind that part, I did not have the right sized tip so my cookies were rather small in comparison to the recipe.

If you make these cookies, plan ahead and get the proper tip.  Also keep in mind that it is best not to put the entire batch of dough into the piping bad-your hand will thank you!  Use a ruler as you go to make sure that you get the right length so that your cookies are all the same size.

IMG_5482Now to the filling…While I may know a lot about baking, I am not an expert on everything but I do know this, boiling chocolate is not the best idea.  The filling recipe calls for simmering the ingredients until they “break” and then to blend them back together.  The mixture of cream, sugar, unsweetened chocolate and butter being simmered and it thickened as it cooked.

IMG_5492After 45 minutes or so, it finally got real thick and broke.  The fat separated out and floated on top.  Unfortunately, I do not own an immersion blender and had to rely on a whisk to mix back together.  The whisk did not do the job and the filling was a little grainy.  More importantly, it did not taste anything like what I remember the filling of a Milano cookie tastes like.

IMG_5502If you look closely, you can see the grainy bits of chocolate in the filling that I mentioned.  Despite this, my family members enjoyed them.  While I may make these again, most likely will make these again, I will not make the filling again and I think I will probably just make some dark chocolate ganache to fill the cookies.

IMG_5527Over the years, Darry and I have lived in different cities on the East coast, the West coast and in between and some how, I still have this little chair.  It is showing its age, well, so am I if you must know.

birthday cake macarons

IMG_5455When I was 15, my sister Kristen was born.  Needless to say, we haven’t had much of a chance to spend time together; she lived with my father and stepmother, I lived with my mother.  Did I mention that I was 15 at the time?  You know, a teenager?  Before I knew it, I was shipping off to the Culinary Institute of America.  Then suddenly, I was married-Kristen was our flower girl, and Darry and I started our migration.  We had moved away by the time she was seven and now that we are back on the east coast, we are still pretty far apart; we are in Southern Virginia and she is near Boston.  We rarely find ourselves in the same location.

As a result, I communicate through cookies.  When I send boxes of sweets to my girls, I generally pack one for Kristen too.  Not this time.  Today is Kristen’s 37th birthday.  Yes, it hurts a little to say that out loud.  Surely, that much time cannot have passed… Apparently, it has and luckily for me, she and I are both the same age now.  Yes, you read that correctly; we are the same age because I stopped having birthdays when I turned 37.  It is a long standing family tradition and we have the portraits in the attic to prove this.

IMG_5456When I was growing up, my mother would always say she was 27.  Year after year, she was 27, again and again.  Not surprising since her father, my grandfather, had stopped having birthdays after his 39th.  Then when our first daughter Alix was born, on my father’s birthday, he made the decision to hand over the reins to her and he has been 46 ever since. As it stands, I am 10 years older than my mother, 2 years younger than my grandfather was when he passed away, 9 years younger than my father and exactly the same age as my sister.  Gotta love math…

Since it is also a family tradition to make a cake for a family member, I did the next best thing I could think of; I made birthday cake flavored macarons.  Please do not ask me why.  Obviously, I couldn’t mail her a cake, at least not one she would want to eat, so macarons seemed like a fancy alternative.  And everything is better with sprinkles on top.  Although, Darry did look at me kind of strangely when he found the box of cake mix in the pantry-with one eyebrow raised he asked, “you bought cake mix?”

IMG_5462Making macarons is a new thing for me.  They just seemed too fussy and annoying to make.  Too many rules.  Then I found an article from Fine Cooking Magazine written by Joanne Chang and it includes a wonderful video.  Rather than post that recipe, I suggest you click on the link-if you follow her instructions, you will be turning out dozens of perfect little macarons!


To make these macarons, I made one single batch of the batter from the recipe I linked to above.  If you are wondering why my macarons look speckled (and not from the sprinkles) it is because the almond flour I had was made from almonds that had their skins on.  When I sifted the almond flour and powdered sugar, some of the skins stayed in the strainer and I threw those out but plenty of little bits went through, we are going to call that adorable and move on.  After piping them out, I sprinkled a few nonpareils on top of each macaron and the batch yielded 70 pieces, enough for 35 macaron sandwiches.

The filling was made by creaming 3 ounces of cream cheese with 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (both at room temperature) until it was fluffy.  1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar and 1/4 cup of white cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Classic White cake mix) are sifted together and then added to the cream cheese mixture, 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix in 1/2 cup, scrape the bowl and then add the next 1/2 cup, repeat the process and so on.  It is important that you scrape the bowl well to be certain that it is evenly incorporated.  Then let it cream a 2-3 minutes until it is fluffy.  Finally, stir in 1 tablespoon of nonpareils by hand-the mixer would smash them and color the filling.  If you want more sprinkles, add 2 tablespoons.  Just be sure to mix only to incorporate (excessive stirring will cause them to make streaks of color) and do it by hand!  Using a small spatula, spread 1 teaspoon onto the bottom of 35 cookies, top them with the remaining cookies

IMG_5470All packed up and ready to ship out to Boston.

IMG_5478Because macarons are delicate, I knitted a scarf/wrap to keep them safe on the trip.  It seems that I have been doing a lot of knitting in recent months-it keeps idle hands busy.  This yarn is so soft too, found it one day while wandering through Tuesday Morning and could not resist.  When I walked out of the store that day, every skein of this yarn went with me!

IMG_5480Everybody join in and help me wish my sister a big, Happy 37th Birthday!!!

macarons; another one for the baking bucket list

IMG_0836It seems that to call yourself a pastry chef, one must know how to make macarons.  Well, maybe not but that is the impression I have been given.  A baker’s version of the Holy Grail, your cookies must be perfect little circles with slightly glossy, smooth tops sans cracks, and those famous “feet” and they are also the thing anxiety attacks are made of.  They are fussy, subject to all kinds of results (and not many that you want) and quite capable of intimidating even the most experienced bakers.  Of course I am speaking with experience.  My own efforts landed with mixed results and I was beginning to hate the little things.  This was only aggravated by the plethora of blogposts and pinterest posts from bakers and their dogs bragging about how easy they were to make…It was time to take action and by action, I mean that it was time to get over my fear of failure (again) and to actually try making them.  First I needed to find a better recipe and I did; Joanne Chang has a video tutorial and an article in Fine Cooking that explains making macarons in a way that simplifies the recipe and shows intimidation to the door!

When made properly and that includes the filling, they are wonderful.  Sadly though, most that I have tasted fall squarely into the “meh” category.  Luckily, the recipe for the macarons also comes with recipes for fillings.  To make mine, I added a little pink paste food color, after all, I was making these as Valentine’s Day gifts and then I filled them with raspberry paste and ganache.  To make the cookies, follow the link for the recipe.

Some hints to help!  Do follow the cookie recipe, bring your laptop or tablet to the kitchen with you and watch it as you go; stop and rewind if you have to-I did!  If I can only give you one hint, use a scale to measure.  No arguments, go to the store and buy one if you do not have one.  Seriously, they can be purchased for less than $20 and I know this because I spent about $15 on mine!!!  The filling recipes make more than you need so you can make multiple batches of macarons now, use the fillings in another recipe or freeze them for another day.

Raspberry paste:  Place 6 ounces of raspberries (thawed with the juices if using frozen) into a small sauce pot with 1/3 cup sugar.  Over medium-low heat, bring to a simmer.  Mash the berries and continue to simmer until it thickens up a bit, about 15 minutes-reduce the heat to low if it looks like it is sticking before it thickens.  Pour the mixture into a mesh strainer and press it through to remove the seeds.  Do your best to extract as much of the fruit as possible.  Discard the seeds and chill the paste.  Once chilled, it will be a loose paste, nearly a jam in consistency.

Ganache:  Place 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate into a heat proof bowl and set it over a pot of nearly simmering water to melt.  In a small pot, heat(don’t boil, just heat it to help melt the chocolate) 3 tablespoons of half and half with 2 tablespoons of booze (I used Pennington’s Strawberry Rye but you can use what you like-or just use more half and half).  Add the heated half and half and whisk until smooth.  Let it sit until it has the consistency of mayonnaise.

To assemble the cookies, on one half of the cookies, spread a thin layer of the raspberry paste on the bottoms.  Set each one, paste side up on a clean tray.  On the other half of the cookies, spread about a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of the ganache over the bottom of the cookies.  Pair the cookies together so that each has a raspberry and a chocolate cookie and gently press them together.  Allow them to sit long enough for the ganache to completely set and then you can package them to give as gifts.  Mine are rolled into clear cello with the ends tied shut.


cornmeal-currant biscotti; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5013It has been a while since I baked with the TWD gang.  The holiday season is generally a hectic one for me and with all that I was baking for gifts, I just decided not to bake anything more, because baking it means eating it and I have gained more weight than I care to admit at this point.  (thanks menopause…)

Even so, I am a sucker for anything that claims to be a biscotti and to make matters worse, I apparently hoard cornmeal.  When I checked the pantry for cornmeal, I found a complete rainbow; white, yellow, blue, roasted yellow and bloody butcher red.  A quick look at the different colors led me to choose between the organic blue and the organic bloody butcher and since the latter was more coarsely ground, it was my first choice.

IMG_5027Stone ground cornmeal is always more coarse than the regular grind but the bloody butcher had a large range in particle sizes and makes it very easy to see the meal in the dough.  This particular batch was grown and ground right here in Virginia and it is from Blenheim Organic Gardens which is located in Washington’s Birthplace, yes, that is the name of the town and no, I did not make that up!  They come to the Williamsburg Farmers Market when it is open and I look forward to the return of the Market in March.

IMG_5023There was a box of currants lurking in the pantry and since they were a little dry, I added several tablespoons of dark rum to them and heated them so that they would plump up.  To offset the extra liquid, I cut out the extra egg yolk and that made the dough slightly drier than I would have preferred.  However, now that we have our own egg laying hens, I hate the thought of wasting an egg white.  The recipe calls for the dough to be formed into a log and cut into scone-like wedges.  After asking one of the other TWD bakers how they worked out like that, I decided to go with a slice and bake log which is what most of the recipes I read called for.  The result was a crunchy, crumbly cookie.

IMG_5056The weather took a sudden turn towards winter today and turning on the oven was comforting in many ways and so was the scent of cookies baking-although, I really do not need to be eating cookies at this point!  The bottom line, I love currants and cornmeal but it is not likely that I would think to make these again, at least not with this recipe.  Personally, I would like them to be a little sweeter and a little crispier.  Either way, these cookies are a lovely accompaniment to a cup of hot tea, especially on a chilly day!

To see how the other bakers fared, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and consider baking along with us!


while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; decorated gingerbread cookies


Fancy decorated cookies at Christmas are a given.  They can be found in stores and bakeries and even online.  Good friends give them as gifts and others share them in cookie swaps.  Our family is no different and we bake batches of them each year.  Mainly, we share them with family and a few special friends.  One family tradition we have is for our girls to decorate a batch of sugar cookies to give as a gift to their cousins each year.   Truth be told, they go out of their way to make them the craziest, most outrageous and quite honestly, the ugliest cookies a trio of boys (“the cousins”) have ever seen.  After dinner when dessert is on the table, many laughs are shared and many cookies are consumed.

Now that we are in Virginia, our tradition of sharing them on Christmas day will not be possible.  We will have to send them on to the boys via the post office and they will not arrive until after Christmas.  Even so, all is not lost!  Having a fair amount of time at home this holiday season, I was able to decorate a batch of gingerbread cookies to send out in time for the family Christmas dinner in Kentucky. 
IMG_2289This was the first time in a very long time that I had the time to give cookies any real thought.  In the end, I chose some of my favorite cutters and let my inner Martha loose in the kitchen.  Many batches of royal icing were whipped up and with my bottles of gel colors, I mixed up a rainbow of icing paints.  After digging through my equipment, I found all of my couplers and tips and I got to work.  The little nonpareils and white pearls just added to the fun and I was quite content to spend my day decorating cookies.


One thing I generally avoid, anything with faces.  While I can mix up colors and frost cookies all day, faces are not something I like to do; my skills just aren’t that good.  At least until now, these gnomes were pretty easy to make and while they aren’t very lifelike, they are really cute!

IMG_2281All nestled in one of my vintage tins from the thrift store


And since I was taking the photos with the tree as my background, here are a couple of my favorite ornaments.  My collection has many glass ornaments, quite a few have been hanging on our tree for 30 years.  For years, I have collected food ornaments and if you look at our tree, it is not unusual to find things like a head of garlic, a broccoli stalk or a can of soup hanging along with pretty glass globes.  One of my favorite types of ornaments are the ones that slip over the lights and glow.  This crazy one is a lighthouse and it is covered with glitter.

IMG_2295This little bisque bird is a creamy white but it takes on whatever color the light is.  This year, it is glowing yellow and I like the way it looks; the lighting shows off the feather details nicely.

Here’s hoping you have a sweet holiday!  Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

amaretti; a tuesdays with dorie post

Amaretti, even the name sounds delicious.  These little cookies are so simple to make, it is almost a crime not to whip up a batch.  Of course, you have to be a fan of the bitter almond flavor the almond paste contributes to the cookie.

Traditionally, these cookies are served with a cup of coffee or bit of wine or liqueur.  In our house, they are consumed by themselves, two or three at a time, every time we pass by the box they are stored in.  Needless to say, I will not be making these again for a while-my clothes are getting tight…

Way back when, in my days of working at the World Trade Center in New York City, I was a pastry cook in the hotel that sat between the two towers.  Our pastry chef, who was from France, had us make these all the time but he called them macaroons or maybe macarons, it was a long time ago and I cannot remember.  The recipe was nearly identical to the one we used at the hotel.  This I do remember because I still have the recipe and I make them from time to time.

The crazy thing about all of this, I was probably toiling away, below the plaza while Nick Malgieri, the contributor of this recipe to Baking with Julia, was working away at the top of the towers in the world famous restaurant, Windows on the World.  Small world, isn’t it?

To see what the other Tuesdays with Dorie-Baking with Julia bakers came up with, be sure to check the homepage.  Consider baking along with us if you have the book, or buy/borrow one and join in on the fun.  We are also baking our way through Dorie’s new book, Baking Chez Moi.

palets de dames, lille style: a tuesdays with dorie post

Can you believe that it has been more than two years since we began working our way through Baking With Julia?  Twice a month we prepare a recipe from the book and it has been a lot of fun to try all the different techniques.  When the Tuesdays With Dorie gals announced that we would also be baking from Dorie’s new book, Baking Chez Moi, I did not hesitate to order a copy of the book.
For our first recipe, we chose palets de dames, lille style.  To see the recipe, I always encourage folks to support the author by purchasing a copy or borrowing the book from a library, but the recipe has been available on the page for the book.
Let me first say that not only do I love the simple but elegant look of the cookies, I really love the fact that the recipe is an easy one!  The directions were easy to follow and the results were exactly as described.  While it may not seem like much to rave about, I am baking in a new kitchen with an electric range and it is almost like learning all over again.  

 Follow Dorie’s advice and use a scoop to portion the cookies.  Trust me, not only will it be much quicker and less messy than rolling the dough into little balls but the cookies will be much more consistent in size.  That little hint will keep you from having overbaked and underbaked cookies on the same tray.

To dip the cookies in white glaze was too easy, almost boring if you ask me.  So just to make them a little more colorful, I tinted the glaze with a bit of purple hoping for a nice lavender shade.  Let me just say that no matter how hard you try, it almost always ends up looking a little too much like grey. To prevent that from happening, I also added a tiny amount of red to the mix.   A little sprinkle of clear sugar crystals on top gives them a bit of sparkle too!

If you add sugar crystals, let the glaze set a bit until it is just a little tacky.  If you put it on immediately, it sinks in and doesn’t sparkle.  To see what I mean, compare the cookies at the top of the photo to the ones on the bottom.

So, this is all fine and dandy but the true test is tasting them.  Drum roll…Yeah, well, not my favorite cookie.  Hard to say but I really wanted these cookies to be incredibly good but all I tasted was sweet.  The texture is nice, almost cakey but to be honest, I just do not see how a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla could have added any flavor to the dough.  Usually, I tend to change or add flavors but this time, I followed the recipe exactly as written.  If I make these again, and I probably will because they are great for gift giving, I would pump up the flavor to a teaspoon of vanilla or even rosewater or add some freshly grated lemon zest.

The only part of the recipe that did not work out for me was the glaze.  The 1 1/2 tablespoon of milk called for was something I did not have so I subbed half and half.  The glaze required more like 2 tablespoons and even so, I still had about a dozen cookies without glaze.  Since the cookies reminded me of a childhood favorite, New York Black and Whites, I decided to mix up white and chocolate glazes to finish the batch; a perfect solution to my dilemma!

Not sure what a black and white is?  You can read about the history of them in this article by Robert Sietsema.  To make a batch of your own, use the palet de dames cookie recipe and mix up some chocolate and vanilla glazes or try this recipe from the New York Times.

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie page to see what the other bakers came up with!

a touch of fall; coconut sugar cookies

sugar cookies are something that never go out of season.  for a baker, they are the equivalent of a blank canvas just waiting to be transformed into tasty works of art.  the dough is also flexible enough that the ingredients can be manipulated with substitutions and it will still be easy to roll out.

for this batch i replaced the butter with coconut oil and the result was a crispy, flaky cookie with a rich coconut flavor.  since it is now fall, i thought a few swirls of fall colors in the dough and a leaf cutter would be a nice way to try out my new kitchen and oven.  by using toothpicks, it is easy to add little dabs of color to the dough.  do this carefully, as you can see, the red i used overpowered the orange and yellow and made the dough look a bit cherry red instead of marbleized fall colors.

marbleized coconut sugar cookies
makes about 24 large cookies
7 ounces coconut oil, at room temp and solid
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
paste food colors and tooth picks
leaf cutter
place the coconut oil into a mixing bowl with the sugar, vanilla and salt.  with the mixer on medium-low, combine the ingredients completely but take care not to mix too long.  coconut oil responds to friction quickly and will melt with a lot of mixing.  add the egg and mix to combine.  add the flour and mix the dough until it is combined.  
scrape the dough out onto a clean tray or large platter to prevent the colors from staining your counter top or cutting board.  to color the dough, dip the toothpicks into the food color and dab it onto the dough.  the more you add, the more the colors will mix and homogenize so do not try to add a lot.  wearing gloves if you do not want to stain your hands, gently knead the dough to distribute the colors.  add more color if you like, and knead it in.  do not knead it excessively or the colors will blend to form a single tint.  place the dough on the tray in the fridge to set for about 10-15 minutes to make rolling it out easier.  preheat the oven to 350.  line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats.  
to roll the dough, refer to this previous post which illustrates the use of dowels.  roll the dough, cut out the leaves and transfer them to the prepared trays.  bake the cookies for about 14-16 minutes.  the cookies should be lightly browned around the edges.  allow the cookies to cool completely, store air tight.