Crystalized Ginger Shortbread Cookies

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Ginger Shortbread Cookies

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe with some very minor modifications. There were only 6 reviews and two were negative on the Food Network site but 6 reviews isn’t enough to pay attention to. We love ginger and I had ordered some diced crystalized ginger from Nuts.com and I love their stuff, the flavors are always great and everything is fresh. It’s really important to get good ginger so that you get that fresh, spicy aroma and taste. (No, I’m not selling or profiting from mentioning their stuff, I just use it and like it, so I might as well let you know!)

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Lighter bake means a chewier inside… yum!

We loved these cookies. These shortbread are crumblier when the edges are darker, and chewier when baked lighter. Plus a little chew from the ginger. They had excellent flavor, even right out of the oven (Chris can never wait, he says he’s doing it for scientific purposes). They were very good after they had time to cool (the ginger bite is more subtle but comes up at the end) but they are even better the next day when the ginger permeates the cookie with more flavor and chewiness, so make these cookies 1 day ahead and you’ll be glad you did.

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup diced crystalized ginger (dry, not the stuff in syrup)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F
  • Im medium bowl whisk flour and salt
  • In bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar but don’t whip it, you just want them combined. Whipping the butter will ruin the cookie texture and the cookies will spread.
  • Add vanilla and 2 tsp water and mix just until combined
  • With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture until the dough starts to come together
  • Add the ginger until just incorporated
  • Dump it onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a flat disk
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes (if you chill it longer you will need to let it sit out a bit so that you can roll it out but keep it cool and it will keep it’s shape)
  • Roll the dough to 3/8 thick (mine were closer to 1/4″ but probably somewhere in the middle) and cut out the cookies with a round cookie cutter (mine was a 2 1/2 inch round)
  • Place cookies on parchment on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar
  • If you are baking two trays of cookies at once then bake the for about 20 minutes, until the edges just start to get golden – a single tray will brown faster so shorten the time. We like them on the lighter side so that they are chewier.
  • Cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container. Best served the next day for great flavor.

 

 

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Jam Tarts

Dan & Kathy recently returned from a trip to London and Paris so I thought I would make some British jam tarts for Kathy’s belated birthday celebration. They were very cute and colorful but a good warning to give is that when you use jam filling, it will bubble up everywhere, especially when you use a jam with less pieces of fruit inside. The chunkier preserves stayed more stable. They were all delicious.

I can’t believe it, I thought I took a picture, but I didn’t! They were so cute and I hand cut little shapes for the top pastry layer… I didn’t have small cutters. Dan said it looked like lucky charm shapes, hearts, moons, stars, and diamonds. My knife skills didn’t allow for more. 🙂   They looked very similar to this photo (taken from BBC’s Good Food, but I didn’t follow their recipe):

tarts

I tested it with jams that we had in the house: raspberry (Smuckers), black currant (Bonne Maman), and cherry (Trader Joe’s). The raspberry and the cherry tied for favorites. The raspberry jam bubbled up a lot, though not enough fruit. I would use a better preserve next time. Black currant was a bit too sweet for us and while it performed the best by not splattering everywhere, it didn’t stand out enough. The cherry was great because it had large cherry halves in it, tasted like little pies! Tartness is needed to balance the delicious but buttery shortbread pastry. These would be great with lemon curd too.  Chris wants me to make it with apricot jam next time.

I made a number of modifications to this recipe if you would like to see the original.

JAM TARTS

YIELDS 18+

  • 8 ounces plain flour
  • 4 ounces butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold water
  • flour, for dusting
  • jam for filling: use any kind – I tested raspberry, black currant, and cherry. Favorites were raspberry and cherry.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and blend it in using your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Use a fork to blend in the water, adding a little at a time until the mixture comes together and you can form a ball with your hands.
  3. Wrap the pastry in a piece of plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes – this will make it easier to roll out.
  4. Turn the oven on to 400°F.
  5. Sprinkle the work surface and your rolling pin with a little flour and roll the pastry out to about 1/8 inch thick.
  6. Dip the cutter in flour then cut out as many circles as you can – I didn’t reroll the scraps and made 18 circles. You can make more with the scraps, but make sure you leave a little of the pastry scraps for the decorative pastry lids. Once you have the desired amount of circles, roll out the pastry scraps and cut out the required amount of toppers.
  7. Lay the rounds of pastry in a well-buttered mini muffin tin or tart tin and press them gently into place. Prick the base of each tart once with a fork.
  8. Put the tart tray into the oven and bake for 6 minutes until the pastry is very pale golden.
  9. Carefully put 1 heaped teaspoon of jam into each tart, and then top them off with a pastry top. Bake for another 12 minutes until jam is bubbling and pastry has just begun to have darker golden edging.
  10. Leave them to cool (not too long or the jam glues them to the tin) then gently lift the tarts out and leave to cool on a rack or plate.

Christmas Cookies… 6 weeks late!

In the spirit of the season I forgot to make my blog entries for the Christmas cooking and baking, and this year was a big one!
So, it’s February 3rd, and here’s my Christmas blog entry. 🙂

Cookies, Christmas 2012:

  • Rainbow Cookies (7 layer) – old family recipe
  • Pignoli Cookies – new family recipe
  • Gingerbread Cookies (with a twist)
  • PB&J Thumbprints
  • Sugar-Free Spice Cookies

Seven Layer cookies in progress:

 

 

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Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

The gingerbread cookie recipe was from another blog, and is actually a modified version of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but it didn’t work at all! The recipe said it was for chewy gingerbread men, which I wanted to make so that the Geremias could decorate them on the Eve, but the dough was so soft, that even after time in the freezer the dough couldn’t be cut into little men. I made drop cookies instead, rolling them into little balls and smashing them into circles with the bottom of a floured glass, and they tasted great and were chewy. We iced them on the Eve and they were delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Royal Icing for decorating

Directions:

  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade, process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With food processor running, add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds.
  • My variations to account for too-soft dough: Wrap ball of dough in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator at least two hours (or overnight) or place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm.
  • Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Roll into small teaspoon-sized balls,  place on prepared baking sheets spacing cookies 1 inch apart,  and flatten with the bottom of a floured glass. Bake until centers are just set and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes. Rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 2 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Decorate as desired… we used Betty Crocker cookie icing, which dries fast and is great for a group project.

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumprints (minus the thumbs) – Martha Stewart’s recipe

Chris and Carolyn liked these after they shared a tin with the gingerbread cookies. Out of the oven they were too crunchy and crumbly, but after sharing a tin or zip bag with chewy cookies, they softened and everyone liked them better. I didn’t change anything in her recipe, so use the link above.

PBJ

Splenda Spice Cookies

Ingredients:
6 tbsp crisco vegetable shortening
6 tbsp butter
1 cup granulated splenda
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:
1. Mix shortening, butter, splenda, egg, molasses in large mixing bowl
2. Sift dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture. Mix thoroughly.
3. Chill dough in refriderator until firm (2 hours)
4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
5. Form dough into 30 balls, approx 1 level tablespoon each. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet and pat down gently with fork making a criscross pattern.
6. Bake cookies in the center of the preheated 350 F oven for 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies will look chewy when they come out but will become crisp. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 30 cookies. 1 cookie = 2g sugar, 80 calories.

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Coconut Macaroons (cheat)

King Arthur Flour makes a macaroon mix that’s amazingly easy. All you add is boiling water and then bake. Chris’ brother Dan brought them for Christmas and they were really good, so I bought a box for those times when I need a quick cookie fix. This time I also made break and bake toll house (mint swirl), but those came out way too crunchy. Yuck. I’ll never buy those again.
The macaroons, however, are delicious!

Glazed Lemon Cookies

 

Phil’s birthday is coming up and he loves lemon, so I made Martha Stewart’s glazed lemon cookies. The glaze is the best part. I wanted to eat all of the leftover glaze but I maintained just enough self control  and licked the spoon when I was done. Yum.  🙂
They’re super easy… this recipe’s definitely a keeper. Took only 1.5 hours from start to finish, with lots of time between for cooling. Also, they’re all items I keep in the house. Easy.
The recipe took a total of 4 med-large lemons (zest of all 4, juice of 3)…. it tastes like spring in a cookie!

If only spring would come… tomorrow’s supposed to snow. Hope it skips us.  🙂
Hope these cookies last until his birthday party too!

Ingredients: COOKIES

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Ingredients: LEMON GLAZE
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat until combined. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture.
Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool 2 minutes on sheets, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 
In medium bowl whisk glaze ingredients (2 cups confectioner’s sugar, 2 tbsp lemon zest, and 1/3 cup lemon juice). Spoon glaze over cookies and let set, about 1 hour. [This is a glaze, not icing, so it shouldn’t be thick but it will cool and make a hard glaze over the cookie]
Maybe I’ll bake something else tomorrow if we do have a snow day after all.

Turtle Cookies

Yay! Christmas baking has begun!
After work, and our run at the gym tonight, I made the Christmas dinner tilapia oreganata test run and then baked some mini apple crisps… Chris’ idea just in case there was a lingering fishy smell in the oven.
Then I made a new cookie recipe… what a day!
I love turtles… those yummy pecan/caramel candies covered in chocolate.
Better Homes and Gardens had a recipe to make a cookie version.

It made 32 for me (said it would make 36).
ingredients
1 egg
½ cup butter, softened
2/3  cup sugar
2   tablespoons milk
1  teaspoon vanilla
1  cup all-purpose flour
1/3  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4  teaspoon salt
16  vanilla caramels, unwrapped
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 ¼  cups finely chopped pecans


directions
1. Separate egg; place yolk and white in separate bowls. Cover and chill egg white until needed. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat well. Beat in egg yolk, milk, and vanilla.
2. In another bowl stir together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a small saucepan heat and stir caramels and whipping cream over low heat until mixture is smooth. Set aside.
4. Slightly beat reserved egg white. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in egg white, then in pecans to coat. Place balls 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie.
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. If cookie centers puff during baking, repress with your thumb. Spoon melted caramel mixture into indentations of cookies. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool. (If necessary, reheat caramel mixture to keep it spoonable.)
6. In a double boiler heat and stir chocolate pieces and 1/4 cup heavy cream over low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Add more cream if necessary Let cool slightly. Drizzle chocolate mixture over tops of cookies [it came out thick when I used a spoon, afterwards I heard that a fork works better]. Let stand until chocolate is set or throw into fridge to set quickly.

Lemon Tassies

Not my photo, but they looked exactly like this.

So the Christmas cookie vote of 2010 didn’t work well because I was planning to make so many of the traditional cookies that I could only make the winner of the vote for a new cookie. That turned out to be lemon tassies, cookies that didn’t really work for Christmas, but would be great for summer or spring.

I cheated and bought the Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Curd, which is delicious [although I wasn’t satisfied with Stonewall Kitchen’s delivery practices… I ordered them on 12/17 with 2-3 day priority shipping and they didn’t arrive until the evening of 12/24! So I had to whip up a batch at the last minute on Christmas morning].

The dough was a little too plain for our taste. I used Paula Deen’s recipe for the dough. Next time I’ll try Martha Stewart’s recipe. I like the idea of a little zest in the dough, and perhaps a little thinner dough too.
The curd was out of this world. I’m hooked on it. I’ll just have to buy it elsewhere.

Dough for Tassie Cups:
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the Tassie Cups: Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Form the pastry into 24 small balls; press with fingers into the bottom and up the sides of ungreased miniature muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from tray when cooled and fill with curd.