First up is a delightful frosted cookie from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life. Now, if you've never read this book, you're in for a treat. Based upon her blog Orangette, this tells of how the author went to Paris following the death of her beloved father, how she fell in love with food, and how she fell in love period. It's nothing less than a warm, funny, delicious book that should be given to friends, and be sure to keep it handy so that you can cook from it whenever you need a good serving of comfort food.
And a note for those of you who lovelovelove cold frosted cookies... these are great right out of the fridge or freezer with a cup of hot coffee. Another note if you don't have any kirsch or cherry flavoring: I used raspberry extract instead, and it was quite good, but I think I should make another batch with kirsch just to make sure, don't you think?
(Note: I've rewritten Molly Wizenberg's recipe in my own words not because I don't respect and love what was originally written, but because I've been told by the Food Blog Alliance that that's the way it should be done. Dorie Greenspan's recipe, though, is reproduced here exactly as it appears in Around My French Table because that is the way that she prefers.)
Makes 20 to 24 (3-inch) cookies, but about 40 2-inch cookies
Cookies:3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Frosting:8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt [my addition]
1 1/4 teaspoon kirsch, or more to taste, or a little bit of cherry or raspberry or other "red" tasting extract
Red food coloring (2 drops will about do it)
1. Beat the butter and powdered sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until they are light and fluffy. Combine the flour and salt, and slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture while the speed is on low. Beat the dough only until the flour is incorporated, and then stir in the vanilla. Pat the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic; refrigerate it for about an hour or so until it hardens up.
2. Cover two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a floured board to a thickness of 3/8 inch. Cut it into whatever shapes you want; pink frosting equals pink hearts in my book (never Christmas trees or Scottie dogs), so I used a smallish heart cookie cutter. Arrange the cutout cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets, and then bake the sheets for 16 to 20 minutes until the cookies are gold around the edges, but not yet brown. Slide the cookies on either the Silpat or parchment paper onto a flat surface so that they cool completely before you remove them. You can store the cookies in the freezer at this point if you pack them in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag.
3. Whenever you're ready to make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth, preferably in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in the powdered sugar until no lumps are visible, and then add the flavoring (add any extracts a few drops at a time so that they don't drown out the nice tartness of the cream cheese) and a couple drops of fool coloring; beat well until the color is uniform. Taste and add more flavoring as needed. Slather the frosting on the cool cookies. You can eat them immediately or freeze to keep longer. (I froze them in single layers and then packed them in freezer-proof containers.)
The second cookie is from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. Gorgeous in every way, this fabulous collection of recipes is also a fun read about French food sensibilities. In fact, I fell in love with Ms. Greenspan's newest book at the store the moment that I flipped it open to a page called "Complaining, the French way." Who knew that the route to respect from a French cheese vendor required polite kvetching? But that is how she ended up with her own "cheese coach." As she notes, "in America, if you complain, you're a crank; in France you're a connoisseur"!
That convinced me. And after making it, I assure you, it's just as delicious and fun as promised. Two notes here: one, I didn't have any gray salt or kosher salt on hand, so used fleur de sel instead, and it was perfect. Second, since I wanted to foof it up for the holidays, I mixed a little red food coloring into the yolk glaze and sprinkled some pearl sugar on top.
|The communal cookie perfected|
Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table
Makes 4 servings1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 to 1 teaspoon sel gris (coarse gray salt) or kosher salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3 - 5 tablespoons cold water
1 egg yolk, plus a few drops of cold water
1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal - you'll have both big pea-sized pieces and small flakes. With the machine running, start adding the cold water gradually: add just enough water to produce a dough that almost forms a ball. When you reach into the bowl to feel the dough, it should be very malleable.
2. Scrape the dough onto a work surface, form it into a square,and pat it down to flatten it a bit. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for about 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.)
|Something for Santa|
4. Remove the dough from the fridge and, if it's very hard, bash it a few times with your rolling pin to soften it. Put the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper and roll it into a rectangle that's about 1/4 inch thick and about 5 x 11 inches; accuracy and neatness don't count for a lot here. Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet.
5. Beat the egg yolk with a few drops of cold water and, using a pastry brush, paint the top surface of the dough with the egg glaze. Using the back of a table fork, decorate the cookie in a crosshatch pattern.
Bake the cookie for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is golden. It will be firm to the touch but have a little spring when pressed in the center - the perfect break-up is crisp on the outside and still tender within. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and allow the cookie to cool to room temperature.
[Note: this cookie freezes well, which is the only thing that saved it from being devoured on the spot.]