Monday, October 29, 2007

Recipes for the cookies

I used a sugar cookie recipe that I found on the foodtv site courtesy of Nigella Lawson. The dough was easy to work with and produced a soft cookie with a good flavor. I did roll the dough out in a mixture of powdered sugar and flour, but that's the only change I made to the cookie recipe. I prefer a soft cookie so I checked the cookies after 8 minutes and usually pulled them out of the oven after 10.


6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and moving towards moussiness, then beat in the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely. If you think the finished mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as too much will make the dough tough. Form into a fat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place disk of dough on it, and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then roll it out to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the cookies a little apart on 2 parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes; obviously it depends on the shape you're using and whether they are on the upper or lower shelf, though you can swap them around after about 5 minutes. When they're ready expect them to be tinged a pronounced gold around the edges; they'll be softish still in the middle, but set while they cool.

The frosting was more challenging since I don't like powdered sugar glazes (the standard for decorated sugar cookies) and I don't like most butter cream frostings either. I finally found a recipe from epicurious for a mocha chocolate butter cream that I modified a bit. Here is the recipe as I made it:


6 ounces good semisweet or white chocolate
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
1 large egg yolk at room temp
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth

I used white chocolate to make the frosting for the cookies which produced a sweet frosting that didn't taste like powdered sugar and wasn't overpoweringly sweet. The white chocolate flavor was actually very subtle -- so don't use this recipe if you're looking for a knockout white chocolate kick. The challenge was that the frosting does not firm up at room temperature, so I would frost and decorate a layer of cookies, put them in the fridge or freezer, pull them out when the frosting was solid and stack the next layer on top. It was a bit time consuming, and of course after sitting all day at room temperature at work, the frosting softened up again.

I used the same frosting recipe for the chocolate frosting on the banana cake, but I used a 53% cocoa Nestle bar for the chocolate. The chocolate frosting was good, but still quite sweet. I think the next time I make it I will use a chocolate with a higher cocoa content which should add a nice slightly bitter cocoa counterpoint to the sweet & rich butter cream.

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