Thursday, December 24, 2009

"The Wedding? I’m Here for the Cookies"

I loved this recent New York Times article about the "cookie tables" that are part of wedding traditions in Pittsburgh. Christmas is the one season in which I do a lot of baking. This year I tried some new cookie recipes and revived a few favorites:
  • Molasses Crinkles (see my adaptations in earlier post)
  • Chewy Chocolate Cherry Cookies
  • Pecan Shortbread (see my adaptations in earlier post)
  • Chocolate Wafers (from a more elaborate peppermint sandwich cookie recipe)
  • Almond Cookies (made by pressing balls of basic sugar cookie dough, below, into slivered almonds)
  • Cranberry-Cherry Pinwheels (made with Basic Sugar Cookie dough, below)
  • Filling:
    5 oz. (about 1 1/4 cups) dried cranberries
    1/2 cup sour cherry preserves
    2 T + 1 tsp. sugar
    Process until coarsely pureed. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring to avoid burning, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1/4 tsp almond extract. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

    Assembly & Baking: Remove half the sugar cookie dough (see below) from the refrigerator and roll it out into a rectangle, roughly 12" x 18". Spread half the filling thinly and evenly over the dough, then roll it up into a long cylinder. Freeze until firm.  (Repeat with the rest of the dough.)

    Remove the cylinder from the freezer and slice with a sharp knife into rounds about 1/3" thick. Transfer the slices to a baking sheet, placing them about 2" apart.

    Bake at 375 degrees, one sheet at a time, for about 9-14 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to darken and firm up. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
  • Basic Sugar Cookies (delicious and versatile!)
  • Mix together:
    1 1/2 sticks butter
    1 cup sugar
    1 large egg
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    (1 tsp. almond extract)
    In a separate bowl, mix:
    2 cups sifted flour
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    Stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Chill dough until firm. Form as desired and bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Meal #2: Recipes

Vegetable Chili (Sandy Cate)
1 large onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 large cloves garlic minced (2 tsp.)
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. very lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 28 oz. can tomatoes (chopped in juice, not ground; fire-roasted really nice)
2-3 tbsp. tomato paste
2 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans (original recipe calls for kidney beans
1 jalapeño
1 cup each diced green pepper, sliced carrots, diced celery
1 cup corn kernels, frozen or fresh (TJ's fire roasted? yum)
5 tsp brown sugar
5 tsp mild chili powder
1 T. cumin powder
1 T. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
Sandy's Notes: I usually use ground turkey, which works fine and yields far less fat. I recommend adding more tomatoes, especially when doubling recipe... maybe an additional 15 oz. for a doubled amount? One can fool with the "heat" — if chili powder is mild, 1 jalapeno is fine. I have accidentally made it blisteringly hot by adding my sister's ground chili powders.
  1. Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add meat, cook until browned. Drain off fat.
  2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Heat until bubbling, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add beans and rest of vegetables except corn, simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add corn and simmer another 10 minutes.

Cole Slaw (Christine Tolentino)
cabbage (1 large)
jalapeño (1 large)
red onions (1 large)
parsley (1 bunch)
oil (any will do)
red wine or apple cider vinegar
dijon mustard
Slice the vegetables finely. Toss with vinaigrette.
Christine's Notes: This will keep indefinitely in fridge, just be sure to toss occasionally. I use in sandwiches instead of lettuce, add to boring green salads, or as vegetable du jour.

Molasses Crinkles (Jenny Michael—from Epicurious)
Jenny's Notes: I used all butter instead of part shortening. which makes the cookies flatter and thinner. I also added 1/2 cup finely-chopped candied ginger (uncrystallized—from Trader Joe's).

Pecan Shortbread Cookies (Jenny Michael—from Epicurious)
Jenny's Notes: I like these brushed with an egg white wash and sprinkled with a little sanding sugar.

Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies (Jenny Michael—adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, December 2009)
1 c. dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 T Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. coarse salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
1/2 c. honey
6 oz. white chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used chips)
1/2 c. fine sanding or granulated sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, 1 t. cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  3. Beat butter with brown sugar till pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add honey and beat till creamy.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture and beat till combined. Mix cherries and white chocolate into dough.
  5. Whisk together remaining cinnamon and sugar. Scoop up 2 T. dough and drop into sugar mixture; roll to coat. Form into a ball and roll again in the sugar. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing cookies about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake until just set and starting to crack—about 15 minutes. Let cool on cookies sheets.
Jenny's Notes: These are very sweet, so a few go a long way! Also, it's easy to overcook them, so keep an eye out...

A Chili Feast! (Meal #2)

Our second gathering was held at Maria Massolo's home. There was lots of cooking going on—and plenty of time to relax with a glass of wine while the chili was simmering and the cookies were baking... Dinner was delicious and cleanup efficient!

Many thanks to everyone who contributed recipes, ingredients, money... and most especially your good energy in helping this all come together! Special thanks to Bob Fagan for again being our delivery guy.