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!