Friday, May 6, 2011

Musical Adventures

So I was thinking....the name of my blog is Sing! Bake! Create!, right? Well, so far I have only focused on the Bake! part. I think it's far time I venture into another topic--if for no other reason, than to prove that I do more things than slave away at the counter/oven/kitchen table and go to work.

I am a singer. It feels really weird to say that, since for a while I was not actively performing. Last April, I auditioned for The Philadelphia Singers, hoping that I would get in on a wing and a prayer. Well, the prayer worked; I was offered a volunteer position with the Singers, and I have been pleased as punch. My first concert scheduled ("contracted") was to be Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven's 9th Symphony (Choral). A major program, where both pieces I knew but had never performed. After the first rehearsal in February, though, I realized that I was probably the only person who had never sung the Beethoven. I was quite intimidated, and the assistant director, Jonathan, knew it--at least, he told me after rehearsal to not be intimidated by it, just listen to recordings, and I would be fine. I truly felt so naive. Maybe this was way over my head.

Luckily, the next few practices were for volunteers only, so I felt a little less intimidated...more like I didn't have to live up to some unattainable standard. The downside? We didn't really work on the Beethoven at all. At least I know the Stravinsky pretty well.

March was pretty uneventful, besides personal practice. So was April, besides church stuff. Then hits the end of April: I am asked to sing Holst's Planets, which I absolutely adore. Funny story: I bought tickets for a Beyond the Score performance of the Holst without checking my schedule; 5 minutes after I bought the non-refundable/returnable tickets, I realized that I had rehearsal for TPS Beethoven/Stravinsky. So I had 2 tickets for a performance that I couldn't attend...that I am now singing for. The tickets have been claimed at this point, though, so that's good.

So now I have two concert series, back to back. I have to take quite a bit of time from work, which is fine (besides the fact that I will be spending virtually no time on vacation this year). I believe it's worth it. But the work is hard. The hours are long. And while I am loving it, I am just so tired and worn out. I just keep telling myself that it will be over in less than a month, which is a bit sad, as I want to enjoy it and savor the moment with each rehearsal and concert. I'm sure I will.

So ladies and jellyspoons, in conclusion, I'm super excited to be singing with the Philadelphia Singers, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It's keeping me very busy, but worth it in tenfold.

PS: I finally baked something for the first time since the beginning of March: just basic chocolate chip cookies. I still have to post the chocolate mint chips, and I have a hand-painted shell egg from Easter that I want to post...until then!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Message to my Readers

I began this year with high hopes in my development as an (amateur) baker. I knew that if I could keep myself on a rigorous schedule in my baking experiments, then I could, by the end of the year, claim that I had done something extraordinary: I could be proud of my tenacity in this project, and could possibly become more dedicated to various projects throughout the course of my life.

I need to admit to myself, and you as my readers, that this challenge that I have posed for myself has become very difficult for me. I am almost to the point where I now find baking a chore rather than a sweet hobby...and this I fear more than anything else.

Please know that I am not quitting. I'm not even really taking a sabbatical or hiatus from this project. I am just at a point in my life right now where I cannot remain on such a rigorous schedule without having detrimental effects on my mental and physical well-being.

So what does this mean? I will most likely not be baking and posting on a regular schedule as I had originally intended. I need to give myself freedom to create at my own will, or else I will burn out; I am afraid that if that happens, I will never enjoy baking again, and thus never partake in such a glorious art form.

I beg of your patience and appreciate your well-wishes at this time, as I try to sort out things in my life so that I might clear the chaos from my daily life. Once this happens, I will be ready and rearing to go in full force again.

I still have a post pending for Week 10's cookie, so you can look forward to that in the near future. Week 11 will have to wait, though.

Thank you for what you have done for me, faithful readers. You have helped me believe in myself when I felt as though nothing was going right, and your encouragement through my blog, email, facebook, and in person has meant the world to me. I hope to be back soon.

Yours Truly,


PS: maybe this would be a good time to try some of the recipes for yourself? And as always...Happy Baking!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Week 9: S'mores Cookies

I needed something simple to revive my track record of cookie-ing, so I did some research. This cookie is fun and very simple. It's a drop cookie, so no rolling or strenuous shaping/molding/cutting/etc. In fact, it is, in essence, a chocolate chip cookie.

I found the recipe online (somewhere) and am now having trouble locating the source; so if anyone reading this wants to look for it and let me know, I would be forever grateful.

The idea behind this cookie was simple enough: a chocolate chip cookie with some of the flour substituted out for graham cracker crumbs; and at the last minute press in marshmallows and milk chocolate pieces. I am extremely pleased with how they came out, and will definitely be making them again. In fact, one of my co-workers claimed that they are my best cookie so far. I do have to say, they are much better right out of the oven than after sitting for a while...but they are good cooled as well! These were just yummy. Plain and simple.

And without further ado:

S'Mores Cookies
makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (or as necessary) mini marshmallows
4 (or as necessary) milk chocolate candy bars (such as Hershey's)

1. Combine flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined. Stir in flour gradually until dough forms. Mix in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for one hour.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.

4. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased (or prepared) cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place marshmallows and broken pieces of chocolate candy bar into soft cookies. Return to oven to bake for another 2 minutes.

Bake, taste, enjoy....and as always, Happy Baking!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week 8: Austrian Shortbread--My First Failure

See that? This is what I like to call My First Failure in my year long project of cookies. Did it bake? Yes. Did it taste okay? Yes. Did it turn out as I wanted it to? Absolutely not.

To preface, I should mention that I have made this cookie before. It was requested by certain family members that I make this cookie, so I caved. Truth be told, I hate making this cookie; it's just so difficult. And I know where I went wrong: the jam.

The idea behind this recipe is a layered bar; from top to bottom is shortbread, jam, shortbread. The recipe originally calls for seedless raspberry jam, which is wonderful and delicious and all sorts of good things that I cannot truly describe. It's light, fluffy, and flavorful. There is truly nothing like it. But I digress.

So the important thing is the jam. I had quite a bit of homemade pomegranate jam from my Pomegranate Pillow cookies, so I decided to use that instead of raspberry jam. I could tell right from the start that there was an issue, though; the jam almost immediately began to seep through the bottom layer of shortbread. I figured it would be okay, though. There was no way I was giving up before I bake it.

The recipe calls for the bars to bake for 30-40 minutes. After an hour, the bars were just about done. Once pulled out, the center caved in, the sides were discolored, and it did not look good at all. So I threw some powdered sugar on top and decided that it would be a "treat" for us; there was no way that I was going to take this embarrassment to work.

So how did it taste? Pretty good, actually. That doesn't make up for the fact that I messed it up, though. Perhaps for a frame of reference I should include a picture of the shortbread bars done correctly:

Yea, slightly more attractive. And the layers are distinguishable. Beautiful.

So, there is nothing wrong with the recipe itself. Just make sure you use the right jam.

You really should try this recipe. If you want a workout for your upper arms, that is. You heard (read?) me correctly. The trick to this shortbread (besides using the right jam) is grating the frozen dough into the pan. AND you can't compress the gratings. And there's a lot of dough. Once the dough is mixed, it is separated into two equal pieces, wrapped in plastic, and frozen for a bit. When you're ready to prepare the bars, you take one half out of the freezer, grate it into the pan, and spread it evenly without pressing down. I have yet to prepare this recipe in a pan under 40 minutes. Can you see now why I was so pissed off that this one was a botched batch? Yea....

Anyway, the recipe is great, and definitely worth a try at least once. So of course I will share it with you! I found this recipe online, and I love the end result so much. Seriously, try it some time.

Lydia's Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
makes 12 to 16 large bars

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, lightly softened
4 egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup seedless raspberry jam, at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.

2. Mix the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter and egg yolk mixture and mix until just incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball with plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight (can be frozen up to one month).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it by hand or with the grating disk of a food processor into a 9x13 inch baking pan or a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough.

5. With the back of a spoon or a flexible spatula, spread the jam over the surface, to within 1/2 inch of the edge all the way around. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface.

6. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. As soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, dust with confectioners sugar. Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife.

Some alterations I made:
- I use a piping bag to cover the shortbread with jam. It seems to work better for me.
- If you can, use a baker's bench knife to cut your bars. It makes a cleaner cut, gets all the way to the edges cleanly, and doesn't scratch your pan. Such a great buy for all your baking needs.
- If you're a chocolate junkie like me, adding miniature chocolate chips on top of the jam before you grate the rest of the dough makes for a heavenly result. Again, definitely worth a try.
- I know that the recipe calls for raspberry jam, but feel free to substitute any flavor you long as it's jam! :-D

So the failure? I've decided it's not so bad. No one is perfect, right? Of course right!

And for those who have been following it, I have not updated my Tastebook for some time; I hope to catch up on that soon.

Stay tuned for next week's exciting cookie! And yes, I do know what it will be. ;-) And, as always, happy baking!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week 7: White Chocolate-Chip and Craisin Cookies

I'm back. It's been a long week, and I finally baked my cookies, and now I'm sharing them with you!

How this cookie came to be is a bit of an interesting story actually. I decided to make Love Letter Cookies for Valentine's Day, and I asked my dad to get me candied cherries for them while he was out on Sunday. What I received instead were cherry-flavored craisins (cranberry-raisins). No big deal, especially since I forgot to let the butter defrost (oops). So, at that point, I decided that I was going to make my Austrian Shortbread bars using the pomegranate jam (sans seeds and raisins) that I made for my pomegranate pillows a few weeks ago. I decided to make the dough Sunday night, let it freeze throughout Monday, and bake on Tuesday. Instead, I fell asleep. Things were out for Monday, as I was out late with Spanish lessons and Choral Rehearsal (side note: right after I typed the word "choral" at 6:48 PM, I realized that I had choir rehearsal for another choir 6:30 PM. Oops!), and thus was not able to bake. So I decided on Tuesday that I was going to do something with the craisins that my dad got. After searching for a bit in my books and on the internet, I cam up with this idea. Apparently it turned out splendidly; I don't really have enough left to take in to work tomorrow, but I did promise some to 2 they will get it.

This cookie was really basic, and exactly what I needed during the middle of a stressful week. It's rather interesting how my week became so stressful; I think it all started with the fact that I didn't have my cookies done. After that, my week has just gone downhill. At least tomorrow is Friday, and I have a long weekend to recuperate. Anyway...the cookie. It's my basic chocolate chip cookie recipe (aka, Nestle Toll House) with white chips substituted for the semisweet, and a cup of craisins added. I'm sure you could use any sort of dried fruit bits in this, but the cherry-flavored craisins are what I had to work with. I really think raspberry-flavored craisins would be wonderful...almost like a raspberry cheesecake cookie! At first I wasn't so sure that I liked them, but they turned out great in the end.

It's getting late now, though, so let me just get on to the recipe...enjoy!

White Chocolate-Chip and Craisin Cookies
makes about 5 dozen cookies

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I find that light brown sugar is best)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup craisins (cranberry raisins)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Set aside. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in white chocolate chips and craisins.

3. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons on ungreased cookie sheets (As usual, I use my silpat mats). Bake 7-9 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

As I said...pretty simple. And they're enjoyable. So, go on! What are you waiting for? Get thee to a kitchen!!! And, as always...happy baking!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

With Sincere Apologies

Well, it's Tuesday morning, and not only have I not posted, but I have not made this week's cookie. I will have one done and posted by the end of the week; I've just been terribly busy. I'm beginning to think that this project might be a bit too challenging...but I refuse to give up just yet.

I just wanted to keep everyone in the know about this; I will be back soon to post, but not yet.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week 6: Cinnamon Spirals

The general regime that I've created for myself is bake cookies on Sunday, post on blog on Monday, and add to Tastebook on Tuesday. In working out my projection for the rest of the year, I've come to realize that keeping this regime is good as a guide, but life will get in the way from time to time. For instance, the beginning of this week has been very busy. I had my first rehearsal with The Philadelphia Singers on Monday, and I didn't get in until almost 10 PM. If you know me, then you know that this is very late for me; usually I'm in bed by 9 or so. So Monday was a bust. Yesterday was Tuesday, and I was out much later than I expected at my fancy-schmancy dinner at Le Bec-Fin, the premiere restaurant in Philadelphia. It was well worth it, the complimentary cookies inspired me for new projects this year, and I decided to forgo another night of blogging. So here I am, Wednesday night. Never fear, readers! I have not forgotten about you.

This week was a fun cookie, and turned out...interestingly. I actually started the cookie on Saturday due to a busy weekend and the fact that the dough had to chill for some time. There's no sugar or leavening part in the dough itself, and thus the cookie is only slightly sweet. The idea is pretty basic: make dough, roll out dough, sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture, roll up dough, freeze, cut in slices, bake. So, I guess that's the short story of it.

These were pretty fun in the end. I think the best part of making my cookies are involving the "testers"--primarily my sister and my mom. While I was cutting the dough, my sister came in and asked if she could try a raw cookie. (Before you get grossed out, you have to realize that we are big in my family on cookie dough. And kudos to this one because there are no eggs in the dough, thus no raw eggs, thus no risk of food-borne illnesses. Score!) She enjoyed them so much that I had to give them a try...and I do have to say that they were rather tasty. So much so that I ended up not baking the last quarter of the last log so that I could reserve it for frozen snacking. They were just as good as the baked cookie in the end.

The other interesting thing about these cookies was that the centers would peak in the spirals; my sister and I decided that they looked like something that came out of a Dr. Seuss book. She told me that I should make more in July for our trip to Massachusetts (I have a wedding to attend, but we're making a stop on the way up to visit the Dr. Seuss Park in Springfield).

A few notes regarding technical alterations:
The recipe instructs the baker to cut the slices of spirals with a serrated knife. I tried this at first, but had a bit of difficulty; I ended up using a scraper blade that I use to smooth frosting on my cakes. Ours had an edge that looked like it could cut into something like frozen dough. This worked extremely well, and I would suggest this above all else.
As always, I never use ungreased cookie sheets anymore: I always use my silpats or parchment paper, depending on the cookie, even if it calls for ungreased cookie sheets. I find that there's less clean-up and more clean-cut (cookies, that is).
I find it best to freeze the cookie dough logs in icebox cookie form in order to slice it best. I did leave mine in the freezer for quite some time, so I would suggest to let it sit out for a few minutes (no longer) before slicing if you have left the logs in the freezer for a few hours.

These were pretty good. Not my favorite, but they were fun to make. I also find myself cursing at roll-out dough less and less nowadays. I feel like I'm accomplishing things little by little.

And now, the moment you've all waited for: Cinnamon Spirals from Good Housekeeping's "The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Book".

Cinnamon Spirals
Makes about 120 cookies

1 cup butter or margarine (2 sticks), softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and cream cheese until creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in flour and salt until well mixed, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

2. Divide dough in half. On sheet of plastic wrap, pat 1 piece of dough into small rectangle; wrap tightly and refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm enough to roll. (Or freeze dough for 30 minutes.) Repeat with remaining dough.

3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir sugar and cinnamon until blended.

4. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll 1 piece of dough into 15" by 12" rectangle. Sprinkle half of cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over dough. Starting from a long side, tightly roll rectangle jelly-roll fashion. Brush last 1/2 inch of dough with water to seal edge. Cut log crosswise in half. Slide logs onto ungreased cookie sheet; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or until dough is firm enough to slice. (Or freeze dough for 45 minutes.) Repeat with remaining dough and cinnamon-sugar mixture.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove 2 logs from freezer; with serrated knife, cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place cookies 1/2 inch apart, on two ungreased large cookie sheets.

6. Bake cookies until lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 2 logs.

Oh, and the cool part about this recipe? There's Nutrition information!

Each cookie: 45 calories, 1 gr protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 3 g total fat (2 g saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium

Not so bad, especially if you use reduced fat or fat-free cream cheese.

Alright folks...that's all from me for now. Stay tuned for next week's super awesome Valentine's Day cookie...once I decide what I'm doing! :-)

And, as always, happy baking!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Week 5: Blueberry Drop Cookies

After the stress from the Pomegranate Pillows last week, I wanted something easy to wrap up my month of fruit cookies. Blueberry drop cookies seemed to do the trick. I found this recipe on AllRecipes, which I have really come to enjoy as a source for baking recipes.

These recipes are pretty simple: mix the ingredients, chill for a few hours, scoop, and bake. I really like this particular recipe because of the various flavors that are found in it; besides the prevalent blueberry flavor, there is also lemon zest, almond extract, and vanilla extract. It's a bit tantalizing on the tongue, and really keeps the person enjoying the cookie guessing...unless you read my blog, of course. :-)

I was worried about the cookies being too cake-y and not so much like cookies, but they turned out pretty good in the end. I did find myself wishing that there were such a breed as mini-blueberries, since the berries I used were rather large. In the process of folding in the berries, I allowed the berries to "burst" or "smush" into the dough; refrigerating the dough for a few hours helped not only the consistency, but it allowed the flavors to intermingle.

Overall, I think these cookies turned out rather well. I should note that I altered the recipe a bit at the recommendation of the comments on AllRecipes. The original recipe can be found at the link above; my version can be found below.

And so, to conclude the 5th week of cookies, or 1/12 of the year, I present to you Blueberry Drop Cookies.

Blueberry Drop Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup blueberries

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, milk, egg, sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract, and lemon zest; mix well after the addition of each ingredient. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; blend into the sugar mixture. Fold in the blueberries. Cover and chill for 4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 1-1/2 inches apart.

3. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in preheated oven. Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

See you next week, and happy baking!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Extra, Extra!

Are you in love with these recipes? Would you like to own your own bound copy of all the recipes I use throughout 2011 in my "A Year in Cookies" project? Never fear, my friends! I am in the midst of creating a digital copy of what will eventually be the hard copy of my Year in Cookies book! Thanks to the lovely folks at Tastebook, I am able to chronicle my 2011 project for my own bookshelf...and if you want, for yours too!

If you would like your own copy of "A Year in Cookies: 52 cookies in 52 weeks", let me know! Obviously you will not be able to get a copy of this glorious work until the beginning of 2012, but at least you know it is something you can look forward to! If you would like to share in my recipes on tastebook, forward over your email address to me; I will invite you to my tastebook project so you can see it develop over the next 48 weeks (can you believe it? Only 48 weeks left!). The best part of participating and sharing online with me? The more people I invite and that sign up for tastebook as my "friend", the more free copies I can get of my cookbook! Do you know what that means? DISCOUNTS FOR YOU!!!!!!

Okay, that's all I've got for now. Send me your email, message me, leave a comment, send the GoodYear Blimp, waft some smoke signals my way....well, you get the picture. Just let me know if you're interested!

And, as always....happy baking!

Week 4: Pomegranate Pillows

I'm not going to lie--these were a huge pain in the butt. I was excited to work with something new, and something a bit challenging. In order to make these I had to create my own jam from scratch, roll out cookies, assemble, bake, and drizzle. I feel like everything that could have went wrong did go wrong. I was distracted while making the jam and ended up re-boiling it a few hours later; The dough kept crumbling when rolling it out; and the cookies would fall apart as I took them off the pan! I know that I can't always have great batches of cookies, but I have high expectations for myself, especially because I guarantee cookies at work every week. So I tried my best to keep them decent-looking, packed them up, and brought them to work.

Thankfully, the reviews from my co-workers were rather positive. They are a very flaky cookie, so I would suggest drinking something with them (milk, tea, coffee, etc...). The dough is very reminiscent of shortbread, so the filling gives it a little bit of a pop. After trying one of the cookies the day after I made them, I thought that they turned out better than I originally believed. I must say, though, I don't think this is a recipe that I would ever voluntarily make again. It was worth the experience, but not worth the stress. Because of this, I actually have to tweak my plan for my cookies for next week; they use the same dough recipe, and it will be over my dead body before I use that recipe again!

If you try this recipe, I hope it works out for you. I guess the final word is that they are challenging to make, delicious to taste, but not worth the hassle. Hopefully someone out there can prove me wrong. If anyone reading this decides to try this recipe, let me know how it goes. I'd be interested in hearing your story.

Pomegranate Pillows
Makes 30 cookies

Pomegranate Filling
2 cups pomegranate juice
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1-1/2 cups pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped
1 teaspoon orange juice

Crust Dough
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Pomegranate Icing
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon orange juice
1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1. Make the filling. Combine the pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan over high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Sift in the cornstarch and continue stirring until the mixture has thickened slightly. Add the pomegranate seeds, raisins, and orange juice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes until very thick. Chill the jam in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

2. Make the crust dough. Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolks, vanilla, and orange zest. Gradually add the flour and ginger. Form the dough into two flattened disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter 2 cookie sheets (I used silpat mats. If you don't have silpat mats, use parchment paper. I found that buttering the cookie sheets DID NOT work).

4. Remove the doughs from the refrigerator and roll one disk out on a floured work surface and cut out 2 inch squares with a cookie cutter. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon filling onto half the squares. Top with remaining squares and pinch all edges together tightly with your fingers or the times of a fork. Place on the cookie sheets 1-1/2 inches apart and repeat with remaining disk.

5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

6. Make the pomegranate icing. Put the confectioners' sugar in a small bowl. Gradually add the orange and pomegranate juices, stirring until the icing is the desired consistency. Drizzle the icing on the cooled cookies.

That's just about it. Again, if you do try this, good luck--and let me know how it goes!

Until next time...happy baking!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Week 3: Banana Crescents

Week 3 was pretty hard; Monday was a holiday (and my sister's birthday!), so I didn't make my cookies until then. I feel like this threw me off, as it is now Tuesday night, and I am just getting ready to tell the world about these new cookies.

So, Banana Crescents. The dough was so very dry until I added the pureed banana; it just happened to come together perfectly at that point. I was worried that the dryness of the dough would result in a dry cookie, but I was pleasantly surprised; these cookies are a little drier than others that I have made, but they have been labeled "perfect for tea" by a few people who have tried them. I also hate using blenders and food processors, so this became a labor of love for those around me who would enjoy these cookies.

As you might guess from the picture, the three highlighted ingredients in these cookies are bananas (no...surely not!), almonds, and chocolate. There is actually very little sugar used in these cookie, which I found very interesting; I suppose the sweetness in the banana makes up for it. Also, I generally don't use margarine in my recipes, even if it calls for it; I always use butter. That might have made a difference in the texture or dryness, now that I think of it, but they did turn out decent. I don't think I would make these again unless requested. They are definitely not my favorite...but they are good enough.

Also, great tip for working with nuts like almonds--toasting them will bring out the flavor a lot. To toast, set the oven to 350 degrees F, spread the nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake for 8-10 minutes. It really does make a difference.

Banana Crescents
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 cup margarine, cut into pieces
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 extra-ripe, medium banana, peeled
2 to 3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1. Pulverize almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar in blender.

2. Beat margarine, almond mixture, remaining 4 tablespoons sugar, flour and salt until well blended.

3. Puree banana in blender; add to almond mixture and mix until well blended.

4. Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into logs, then shape into crescents. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack.

5. Melt chocolate in microwavable dish at MEDIUM (50% power) 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring once. Dip ends of cookies in chocolate. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

There are only 2 more cookies for January...tune in next week!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week 2: Frosted Lime Wafers

I think I've officially decided that January is the month of fruit cookies. I know that I said last week that I was doing a repeat cookie this week, but I did not blog about it yet. I will be blogging about it not as part of my year of cookies, but as a special project cookie. So my mid-week cookie for my Aunt's birthday party were Cinnamon Snail Cookies. They turned out great, and I will post about them shortly.

As for the Lime Wafers, these turned out pretty well. The recipe called for the dough to be scooped by rounded teaspoon, so I was not able to use my cookie scoop, as it is too big clocking in at over a tablespoon. At first I decided to use a melon scoop, but that was not so good; so I decided just to use the measuring teaspoon to spoon it out. The lime wafers are a nice butter cookie with a hint of lime, and the frosting glaze also has a nice lime flavor; green food coloring added to the ambiance, if you will. I am pretty sure that I would make these again, as response to them has been very positive so far. I have decided to order a smaller cookie scoop for things like these, as I am finding that more and more drop cookie recipes are calling for teaspoon-sized cookies. Norpro makes a 25 mm diameter cookie scoop that holds a little over a teaspoon, and Amazon has it for a great price. You can find it here.

I should also note that the recipe claims to yield 50 cookies, but I managed to yield 80. So they were pretty small, but perfect for popping in your mouth (and more for your buck)!

So, on to the recipe! The recipe for Frosted Lime Wafers that I used can be found in "The Cookie Book: The Only Cookie Book You Will Ever Need" by Janine Flew, Fog City Press (San Francisco), 2001

Frosted Lime Wafers
Type of Cookie: Drop
Makes approximately 50 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime zest
1/3 cup lime juice
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
few drops green food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.

2. For wafers, in a mixing bowl beat the butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking soda, and lim zest; beat until combined. Beat in the lime juice. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.

3. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to brown. Remove the wafers with a spatula and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

4. Meanwhile, for glaze, in a small mixing bowl beat together the confectioners' sugar, softened butter or margarine, and enough lime juice to make a mixture of glazing consistency. If desires, stir in food coloring. Dip the tops of the wafers in the glaze. Place wafers, glazed side up, on wire racks and allow the glaze to set before serving.

Well, that concludes this week's cookie. Stay tuned for next week, and reviews from the cookies past; there will also be 3 cakes made and decorated in the next week, so stay tuned for them!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Week 1: Lemon Poppy Seed

Happy 2011 everyone! As I promised to myself, this weekend marks the beginning of my year in cookies: 52 cookies in 52 weeks. I'm working toward trying a new recipe each week, so you probably won't see chocolate chip cookies or snickerdoodles throughout the year; maybe as a bonus in the middle of the week, depending on how I'm feeling. ;-)

These cookies were nice, pretty easy to make, and with great flavor. Apparently I don't know what a medium-size lemon looks like, and by the time I was done juicing my third lemon I felt like I had almost too much juice. This required more flour to be added, which made me think that maybe I didn't begin with enough flour since I don't have all the required measuring cups for solid with my next paycheck, I'll be investing in new graduated measuring cups and spoons to help keep me on track. Also, I used my regular cookie scoop, which has the capacity of approximately 1 or 2 tablespoons of dough while the recipe calls for drops of 1 teaspoons; I decided that I wanted bigger cookies, anyway. Well, the combination of the larger cookies and extra flour caused baking time to extend quite a bit; instead of 8-10 minutes, the cookies were done around 15-20 minutes. I did the first 2 dozen with my new silpat mats lining the cookie sheets, and the second 2 dozen without the silpat mats (since I thought baking time would shorten if I did that). Baking time did not shorten, and I decided that the cookies with the silpats were much better...but both did turn out well.

Following is the recipe for the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies that I used. This recipe can be found in "Crazy About Cookies" by Krystina Castella, Sterling Publishing Company, 2010.

Lemon Poppy-Seed Cookies
Type of cookie: Drop
Makes 36 Cookies

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 6 medium lemons
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest from 2 medium lemons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 cup poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Stir in the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, and poppy seeds, blend well.

4. Drop 1-teaspoon mounds of dough on the cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges are golden. Transfer to a rack to cool.

That concludes Week 1's cookie experience. Stay tuned for next week's cookie; it has become a staple of mine in our household for various functions, mainly for Christmas. It will be one of the few cookies that I will make that I have already made, and there is a reason for it....but you'll just have to tune in next week for more fun in the kitchen!

Happy baking!