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Day 6: Pizzelles

Most people I know collect something.  For some, it’s teapots.  For others, it might be beer steins.  If a person has a lot of money, they tend to collect things like art or cars.  Me, I collect cookie cutters.  I look for cookie cutters everywhere I go and I have quite a large collection now.  It’s so large, that I have to sort it by holiday to avoid having to dump out the bin when I need a particular shape.  I love pretty much anything to do with making cookies and now that I have caught the Springerle bug, I can see myself buying and collecting those as well.

But today, we’re going to talk about the ultimate cookie making tool: the Pizzelle maker.  I bought this on impulse last week when I was making my list of recipes I wanted to make for you.   I ran across a recipe for this cookie and remembered how a friend of mine would sometimes bring them to our church’s cookie exchange and how much I loved them.  The two or three that went home with me in the box never seemed to be enough.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  This is a one trick puppy.  It only makes pizzelles.  You cannot make anything else with it.  Generally speaking, I stay away from tools that can only be useful for one thing and won’t get much use except for one or two weeks out of the year.  But, then I read that pizzelles can be used to make cannolis (if you’re willing to depart from the traditional fried shells) and ice cream cones.  It was the ice cream cones that sold me.  Before I knew what hit me, I hit the buy now button and the rest is history.

We don’t regret a thing.

Firstly, it is insanely easy to make these.  In the time it takes to make the batter, the iron heats up and then everything is ready.  This pizzelle maker makes two pizzelles every thirty seconds!  In less than fifteen minutes, we had 2 dozen pizzelles, some of which we fashioned immediately into ice cream cones.

It went by so fast that we couldn’t stop there and the next day, we made another batch with candied ginger.  Even with the extra couple of minutes that it took to finely chop the ginger, we were done in 15 minutes.  Amazing.

The first day, we made a vanilla version with salted butter.  However, we all agree that the ginger ones are better.  Once I find some anise extract, I will make some with that flavor because I have read that those are the traditional flavor for this time of year.  I also think that candied citrus would be really tasty.

I am pretty sure that we will be using this new tool way more than any one of the cookie cutters that I have in my bin.  Ice cream sandwich, anyone?

Here’s a link to the pizzelle maker that I bought.  I highly recommend it.

Leave a comment here to enter to win a box of Christmas treats.  Pizzelles will definitely be in the box!  Tell me what you collect!

Triple Ginger Pizzelles

makes about 24

1  1/4 cup (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1/2 cup (3.5 ounces sugar)

3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a little

4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) canola oil

1/2 teaspoon ginger extract

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) finely chopped crystallized ginger

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the oil and melted butter and whisk together until smooth.  Whisk in the extract.

Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.  Fold in the crystallized ginger.

Follow your pizzelle maker’s instructions to make your pizzelles.  For the Chef’s Choice Pizzelle Pro maker, I used a scant tablespoon of batter per pizzelle and timed them for 30 seconds exactly.

 

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Day 5: Meringues

I was surprised to realize this week as I was looking through cookie recipes that I have never made meringue cookies.  I’ve made meringue frostings and am very familiar with the skill of beating egg whites until they are so stiff that you can turn the bowl upside down without anything moving.  But, for some reason that escapes me, I have never made meringues.

But, that’s all changed now and, even though these are far from perfect, I am sure it won’t be the last time I make them.  In fact, it may be my new favorite thing to do with a few egg whites hanging around.

I had 4 egg whites leftover from making some other cookies (they will remain unnamed because they did not make the cut for this series), so it was a pretty easy decision to make these.

They came together rather well, but I did run into a snag while shaping them.  I was hoping to make them pretty by piping them, but none of my piping tips were large enough to make the pretty ripples that are pictures with the recipe.  So, they don’t look as tidy and pretty as I would like.

Also, I think I must have over baked them because they turned a light brown color instead of staying pristinely white.  They were meant to look pure white and sparkly.

Despite their appearance, though, they taste fine.  They are light as air and melt in the mouth.  One can eat of lot of these without feeling the slightest bit guilty.  That’s a good thing this time of year when overindulgence is the norm.  I will definitely make them again, though I will probably lower the temperature of the oven to try to keep their white color.  And, I’ll look for a giant star tip to help make them pretty.

Here’s a link to the recipe I used.  I like this one for its ratios, especially because there is less sugar, but like I said above, it might turn out better with a lower temperature.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for an entry to my Christmas Treat giveaway.  Tell me about your favorite stocking stuffer, to give or get.  I love to get yarn in my stocking (not a big surprise there!) and I love to give small knitted gifts.  Barring those, chocolate is always well received!

Day 3: Springerle

Today’s bake is a traditional cookie that hails from Europe, specifically Switzerland and Germany.  These first caught my eye years ago because they are beautifully stamped with intricate pictures.  There are all kinds of  different stamps that you can buy to create these beautiful cookies and there are even rolling pins that make it easier to create lots of stamped cookies at once.  Most of these are very expensive, though, and I have been reluctant to try them because of that.

However, last week, while on a day trip to visit the King Arthur Flour flagship store, I found these cool cookie stamps that I thought would also work for Springerle.

So, I did a little recipe research and took off running.  The dough was easy enough to make.  Aside from the flavorings, it’s just eggs, sugar, and flour.  No butter!

You start by whipping the eggs (here I add some grated orange peel, but you don’t have to) until they are quite thick.

The sugar and flour are added in to create a dough.  Then, you roll it out.

I rolled it out between two sheets of parchment.  To make sure the stamps would not stick, I dusted the top of the dough with a little powdered sugar before stamping away.

After stamping, I used a biscuit cutter to cut the cookies out and then transfer them to parchment lined baking sheets.

Then, here comes the odd part of the recipe.  The cookies have to sit out and dry for a day.  Some recipes say at least 24 hours.  Mine dried for about 18, but it is very dry in my house right now.  The purpose of this step is to make sure the decoration sets so that it will not get distorted when it is baked.

When they are ready, they are baked at quite a low temperature for awhile until they are firm and have a characteristic foot.

Can you see how there’s space between each cookie in the stack?  That’s the foot that happens when the cookies are baked.  Because the top and sides are dried, the only way for the cookie to rise is from underneath.

Now, to be honest, we have never had a Springerle cookie before these, so we have no standard by which to judge these and no idea how they were going to taste.  And, I have to say that these are unlike any cookie that any of us have ever had.

They have a pleasant sweet citrus flavor (from the orange zest and fiori di Sicilia extract that I used in the dough), but it was the texture that was different to us.  The best way we could think of to describe it is to compare it to eating a dense marshmallow.  Soft and chewy.  Somewhere between a french macaroon and a dense cake.

In the end, I’ve decided that I love them.  Not only are they absolutely beautiful, but they are easy to make and also tasty.  Today, even though I have several other cookie options in the house, I chose this one to go with my afternoon tea.  Part of the reason could be because of the absence of butter.  In a way, it feels like a healthy cookie, but that’s never been a criteria for a good cookie for me.  Ultimately, it comes down to taste and these taste really good and they have a pleasant chewiness that keeps me going back for more.

If you want to try making these, here’s a link to the recipe I used.  Just a note:  for some of the cookies, I rolled the dough over some anise seeds because anise is a traditional Springerle flavor.

And here’s a link to the cookie stamps.

And, lastly, a link to some more traditional Springerle stamps.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the Christmas treat box giveaway!  Tell me how you are getting ready for Christmas this weekend.

Day 2: Pains d’Amande

Or Brown Sugar Almond Slices.

I’ve come across this recipe a number of times in my endless trolling for cookie recipes online and I even have the book that it was originally published in.  By all accounts, it is a perfect cookie.  Nutty, buttery, crisp and perfect with tea or coffee.  It’s also a good keeper and the recipe makes a huge batch of cookies so that you can keep most of the dough in the freezer for cookie emergencies.  I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to try this recipe, actually, since so many bakers that I respect have raved about this cookie.  But, better late to the party than never, right?

The dough comes together quite easily and then you press it all into a square pan.  Place in the fridge to firm up overnight.

Then, the next day, you can slice them up.

And bake them.  I only baked a quarter of my dough, which made roughly three dozen.  The rest I wrapped and froze for the future.  This was a really good recipe to kick off the cookie baking season here.

It’s quite a good cookie, though not fancy to look at.  The little bit of spice makes it more than just an almond butter cookie.   I suspect that this is one of those cookies that doesn’t impress you at first, but is instead the reliable one that you can count on when a cookie situation arises.  It’s the type of cookie that you can eat everyday of the year and not get tired of it, which makes it actually quite special indeed.

Recipe for Pains d’Amande can be found here.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.  More details here.  Tell me, What cookie can you eat everyday and never get tired of?

 

Sugar and Spice

It’s that time of year again when I start looking through all my cookbooks and brainstorming with the boys for cookie ideas. I have been wanting to make some cookies for weeks now, but other things seemed to get in the way. You know what I am talking about. All this is to say that making cookies was not a big priority, even though I kept thinking about wanting to make them. So, when a friend contacted me looking for a cookie recipe for a baby shower, I was primed and ready to go. All I needed was a reason to get baking. In the space of two days I made three different batches of cookies.

On the third day, I had to make a trip to the store to restock the butter, sugar, and eggs. Then, I made another batch, which I suspected would be the winner, but I had to make sure.

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So, I made them again. You know, just to be sure they were just right and would work for my friend, who had some specific requests for this recipe, which are as follows:

First, they had to be a spice cookie because they are for a baby shower and the baby is a girl. She wanted to be able to write on the label something like, "Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice." Cute, right? But, she didn't want to bake the cookies serve or to give away. What she wanted was a mix that she could put into a mason jar and give out as favors. This presented some more limitations which leads to my next point.

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Second, they have to be easy to make. Not everyone likes to make cookies or has the equipment or energy to cream butter and sugar. To make a cookie mix that people will actually want to make, and not just leave sitting on a shelf until they decide to throw it away, the mix has to be basically a dump and stir recipe. This is actually not how most cookie recipes operate, so this part of the recipe took quite a bit of experimenting.

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Third, the cookie cannot require any extra ingredients that people are not going to want to buy. Most spice cookies I looked at called for molasses, which is not a pantry item for most people. Me, I try to always have at least four jars on hand at all times of the year because you never know when you will want to make a gingerbread cake. However, I recognize that not everyone is crazy like me and if I were not that way, I know that I would not want to buy a jar of molasses for a recipe that will only want two tablespoons. Then what in the world would I do with the rest of that jar? For this reason, I decided that the recipe must only call for butter and eggs to be added to the mix. Most people have butter and eggs on hand and don’t mind having leftovers of those ingredients hanging around. The secret here is the dark brown sugar, which has molasses in it. In a pinch, you can make it with the light stuff, but it won’t be as rich tasting.

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Lastly, the mix has to look good and fit in a pint sized jar. Quarts are a bit big for party favors, especially for this party, which I anticipate will be on the large size. This baby is a highly anticipated one.

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Many dozens of cookies later, I finally put together a cookie that met all these requirements and tasted good as well!  Of course, then my friend tells me that they aren't going to use the mixes anymore.  They are going to just bake a bunch and give them away in cute little bags. This is probably what I would have done as well because it turns out that these cookies are so easy, that it will not a be a chore to make a huge batch of these and give them away. Still, I am glad that I did it because it definitely got my cookie juices flowing.  It does make a good cookie mix recipe to give away for the holidays or to just keep on hand for a cookie emergency.  Plus, I get to share it with you!  Enjoy!

Sugar and Spice Cookies

To package this up in pint sized jars, cut the recipe in half and layer all the dry in gredients in a jar.  A wide mouth funnel really helps cut down on the mess if you are doing this.  The cookies are rolled in a spiced sugar mixture that I put in a little baggie at the top of the jar.  You can get these at just about any craft store.  Or, it can be omitted. Also, I cut a piece of parchment to include with the jar because, amazingly, there are still people who have not discovered the joys of parchment. Trust me, your giftee will thank you.

12 Tablespoons butter

2 eggs

1 1/2  (10 1/2 ounces) cups dark brown sugar

2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For rolling:

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in a large microwavable bowl.  Let cool until lukewarm.  Whisk the eggs into the butter.

Add all the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix with a stiff spoon or hand mixer until there are no lumps or dry spots in the dough.

Whisk the sugar rolling ingredients in a shallow bowl.

Scoop out heaping Tablespoons of dough (about walnut size or ping pong ball sized) and roll between your hands into a ball.  Then, roll the dough ball in the sugar and spice mixture until coated.

Place cookies about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake 12-15 minutes.  The cookies should still be slightly puffy in the middle, but look mostly dry.

Cool on pans for at least five minutes and then transfer to racks to cool.

makes 22-30 cookies