Sunday, December 23, 2018

Peanut Butter Cut Out Cookies

Cut out cookies show up for special occasions because they can be decorated to fit the theme. Gingerbread and sugar cookies are tasty and are a good canvas for decorating. They are classics, but in the cut out category there is an array of flavors that are overlooked.

This particular recipe is for a peanut butter cut out cookies. They make for a good stand alone for dunking in milk. Also, they are versatile enough to be "spruced up" for the holidays by sandwiching  together or decorated on top. These cookies are deceiving because they appear to be just a sugar cookie. It is quite a delicious surprise when you bite into them. The tasty flavor of peanut butter in an unusual format of a cut out cookie. This recipe makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter Cut Outs
adapted from ACH Food Companies

2/3 cup of light corn syrup
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups of flour (divided use)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Fill a stand mixer bowl with the butter and peanut butter. Beat mixture until blended and smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then cream the brown sugar into the mix. Add the eggs and the corn syrup and blend together until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Place a sieve over a medium size bowl and sift together only 2 cups of flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Fold dry mixture into peanut butter/sugar blend. Once fully combined (with no dry streaks) add the remaining 2 cups of flour and mix until a cohesive dough is formed.

Separate dough into 2 equal mounds. Place each on a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Cover completely with wrap and refrigerate both disks of dough for a minimum of 4 hours and a  maximum of overnight.

Once the cookies are ready to be formed, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a flat surface by placing a piece of parchment down (the size of your baking sheet) and dusting with flour.

Take out one of the dough disks and place on floured surface. Roll the disk out into a 1/8 inch thickness into a rectangle that will fit on the baking sheet. Once rolled out, place the parchment with the dough on the baking sheet. Cut dough into desired shapes and remove the dough from around the cut outs.

I use this method on some cut out cookies because it eliminates the risk damaging them if you cut out on a flat surface and transfer to a baking sheet. Also, you can quickly chill the dough in the fridge on the baking sheet if it gets too warm when you are forming the cookies.

Place cookies in oven and bake until light brown, this should take about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a baking rack to cool completely. Repeat forming the cookies (taking time to re-chill the dough when needed) and baking as stated.

Once cool you can decorate as desired. I piped melted chocolate over the top. Other suggestions are to ice with chocolate and sprinkle with peanuts or sandwich together with chocolate buttercream. 
                                   **TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Custard Tart**           

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Pistachio Snowballs

The theme this month is cookies. However, I ran across this wonderful holiday recipe for candy that I could not wait to share. If you are one that has to "stash" away cookies or candies so the kids do not devour them all, you will be glad to know that these are for adults only.

The add ins of these snowy gems are pistachios and white chocolate. I have never experienced these two flavors together except in ice cream. While the combination may be obscure, the taste will have you wondering why. The tie together element is the white chocolate liqueur. I consider that ingredient as a way of gilding the lily, but I would not recommend making these candies without it.

In addition, this recipe is quick and easy, leaving you with more time to prepare for the holidays. It makes about 4 dozen.

Pistachio Snowballs
adapted from Sophisticated Cookies

1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup white chocolate liqueur
2 cups vanilla wafer cookies
1 cup white chocolate chips

Pour the white chocolate chips and the vanilla wafer cookies into a food processor. Process the mixture until it becomes crumbs. Add the liquids (liqueur and corn syrup) and pulse. Once all the ingredients are blended into a dough, measure out one cup of the powdered sugar. Pour into the dough and run the food processor until the powder is absorbed into the dough.

Add all the pistachios and use the food processor to grind the nuts into smaller bits and blend them into the dough. Using a medium size bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with the granulated sugar.

Form the dough into 1 inch balls. Then roll in the sugar blend. Store for a few days so the flavor can meld.

Tips and Notes:
1. The recipe states you can sub the pistachios with unsalted skinned almonds and 2 tbs grated orange zest for a flavor alteration.

2. If you are unable to find unsalted pistachios, just boil the salted ones for about 10 minutes and then rinse. You can dry the nuts out in the oven-just as you would toast nuts.

3. While these may look like cookies, they have a very sweet candy consistency.

4. These are also great for gift giving in the mail because they hold their shape.
                               **LAST YEAR:Savory Kalacs**

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

While vanilla extract is a primary flavoring, I feel that almond is a very close second. As I review recipes, almond keeps coming up in baked goods. Not just the nut or the flavoring, but almond liqueur is prominent as well. Almond based items are hard to avoid at the grocers-nuts, flavoring,oil, almond liqueur, milk and flour. Time to stock up on this staple ingredient.

These almond cookies are actually a copy cat recipe of Mother's brand cookies and are really easy to make. The brand is still around but this flavor of cookie has been discontinued. Almond shortbread studded with mini chocolate chips- the flavor combination is one of my favorites. Easy and perfect for the cookie jar or holiday table, this cookie recipe is a keeper.

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies
adapted from Recipelink Website 

1 egg
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cup flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper.

Fill a stand mixer with the shortening and sugar. Beat for 3 minutes on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Using a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla and almond extracts together. Stir both mixtures together to blend. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together into a large bowl. Then fold the sifted ingredients into the sugar/egg blend until no dry streaks remain. Lastly, fold in the mini chocolate chips until even dispersed throughout the batter.

Measure batter out in heaping teaspoons and drop onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until golden on the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 2 minutes. Then transfer to rack to completely cool.
                                      ***LAST YEAR:Chestnut Pie***

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pecan Praline Cookies

December is the month of cookie swaps and holiday cookie contests, so my holiday cookie posts this month will fall into place. We all have our favorites, but this month I will steer away from the traditional cookies. I hope the recipes will inspire you to start a new tradition by adding one or more types of these special cookies to the holiday dessert table.

The first are a creation with a favorite candy from the French Quarter in New Orleans-pecan pralines. The praline mixture is created first and then added to the dough just prior to baking. However, unlike regular pralines, there is very little sugar base. There is only enough sugar to hold the pecan pieces together. The end result is an extra nutty cookie, which is a plus. This recipe makes about thirty 2 3/4 inch cookies.

Pecan Praline Cookies
adapted from International Cookie Cookbook

1 cup pecans (chopped)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
1 egg
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour

The praline is the first step to these cookies. Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees and greasing a heatproof platter (I used a pizza pan). Place the chopped pecans in a pan, spreading evenly. Toast in oven for about 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Remove pan and set aside.

Fill a saucepan with 2 tbs of water and the sugar. Stir and set over medium high heat. Let come to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place a cover over the saucepan and let it continue to boil for another few minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. The mixture will start to develop a golden color. Watch closely for the ideal amber color (you do not want burnt sugar) and remember that it still continues to cook a little even after removed from the stove. Once syrup is ready, pour in pecans and quickly toss to coat. Transfer to buttered pan and flatten with a heavy saucepan.

After 10 minutes, praline should be cooled. Crack praline and place in a plastic bag. Using a mallet or heavy saucepan, break up the mixture into tiny pieces. Separate out 1/3 of a cup. Set both aside.

Change the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Prepare 2 sheet pans by lining with parchment paper. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat until silky, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then add both sugars and blend until a fluffy texture is reached. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Then place a sieve over a large bowl. Fill with flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Sift through the sieve.

Add half of the sifted ingredients to the sugar/butter blend. Fold the ingredients together until no dry streaks remain. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix together until completely blended. Pour the larger portion of the pecan praline into the batter. Stir until all praline is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Form cookies by rolling dough pieces into a 1 inch ball. Take each ball and dip the top into the remaining 1/3 cup of pecan praline. Place each ball about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for about 5 minutes. Rotate pans and bake for another 5-6 minutes or until barely golden on the edges. Be careful not to over bake. Over baking will change the texture from slightly chewy to hard and crunchy. Once the cookies are done, place pan on cooling rack. Let cookies cool on pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
                                        **LAST YEAR:Samoa Bundt Cake**