white chocolate cherry shortbread

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I don’t think this was terribly successful. I found a recipe online somewhere (I can’t remember where) that claimed you could actually form this dough, once assembled, into a cohesive ball and then could flatten it with a glass to make individual cookies.

No. Fail. Maybe less flour, more butter? Using the recipe below, however, I salvaged it by just pressing the dough into round pans like I do with any other normal shortbread recipe. It was crumbly, and I was skeptical as to whether it would hold together and allow me to cut it into slices. But it did… and even though I have no idea how it tastes or even if the slices will hold up until I get them to their intended recipients, it at least worked well enough for now. I suspect these could be experimented with to achieve a better consistency.

White chocolate cherry shortbread
1/2 cup candied cocktail cherries, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups flour (maybe 2 cups would be better?)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 to 2 cups white chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond, if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 325F/160C. Use two round cake pans to bake in.

Mix flour, sugar, butter and mix until fine crumbs form. Mix in the extract.

Add your cherries and chocolate. Divide dough into the two pans and press it firmly into the pan evenly. Bake for about 15-18 minutes.

 

Happy Halloween

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I will post later with all the recipes and reflections on this, but here are some images of all the baked stuff I made this weekend – my last big bake, I do believe. I set it all up in the office and feel very… free.

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Getting the big Halloween bake all set up in the office

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Very basic Halloween decorations

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How will I organize this??

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Ready for their close-up: Coconut cream bar cookies

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Chocolate chip cashew cookies – same recipe as the white chocolate macadamia cookies, only throw in chocolate chips and cashews instead of white chocolate and macadamia nuts

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Mini pecan pie recipe… also these got some rave reviews

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M&M cookies… same recipe as the white chocolate macadamia cookies

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Chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips – same recipe as the chocolate mint cookies but with peanut butter chips instead of mint

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Table 1 of 2: Getting rid of ingredients cookies rather than the Halloween-themed goods

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The Halloween-themed spread

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Chocolate cupcakes (which happen to be vegan – not by design, just coincidence) with grey vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

 

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Witch finger shortbread cookie recipe… they freak everyone out

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Chocolate truffles: Very easy to make

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Coconut dark chocolate bites recipe: I toasted the coconut and blitzed it in a food processor, which is not indicated in the recipe. I think it works better this way

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Close-up: Candy corn cupcakes

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The full spread: Halloween baking 2017

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Happy Halloween 2017

 

 

the tail end of baking

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I wrote the other day about how I no longer derive joy from baking. But I discovered that in the middle of a medium-sized bake. Later I posted pictures of the baking, and everyone exclaimed, “You’re baking! But I thought you said you weren’t going to!” Yeah… I won’t. But I didn’t realize I didn’t want to until I was too far down the road of baking this recent stuff to stop. I finished the bake, vowed only to do my planned Halloween bake next month, and then that’s it.

Meanwhile, if you want to try your hand at the things I made for my office this week, here are the recipes:

Parting in stations/Craving comfort

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For the first time in my life, I have no butter in the house. I usually have a small stockpile because I’m always preparing to bake. But I haven’t baked since Christmas, which must be the longest bake-drought of my adult life. If I were to get into it, I am sure the drive would return, but now isn’t the time. Sometimes I wonder about shifts like this – are they phases, or are they permanent changes in our make-up? Are lemon cakes and Anzac biscuits a part of the past?

While in the now (or ‘the noo’ to be all Scot about it), the scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies does not waft through the air, I am surrounded by sunlight, poetry and music. All ache and exultation.

from Mean Free Path
by Ben Lerner
What if I made you hear this as music
But not how you mean that. The slow beam
Opened me up. Walls walked through me
Like resonant waves. I thought that maybe
If you aren’t too busy, we could spend our lives
Parting in stations, promising to write
War and Peace, this time with feeling
As bullets leave their luminous traces across
Wait, I wasn’t finished. I was going to say
Breakwaters echo long lines of cloud

Oh, what could be more beautiful than “I thought that maybe/If you aren’t too busy, we could spend our lives/Parting in stations, promising to write/War and Peace, this time with feeling”?

Maybe the soundtrack du jour: Ruby Haunt’s “Crave”. It sounds just like something I would have fallen in love with in high school but sounds immediate at the same time. It pulls my heartstrings.

“Listen to the girl, who waits by your side, in a simple world, no need to ask why, nothing’s gonna change, the people pass by, you feel no pain, as she starts to cry. Craving, craving some comfort. You can’t explain, the things on your mind, you’re on your way, you won’t rewind. It’s over with, no need to lie, you’re just a myth, but you know it’s fine. Craving, craving some comfort.”

If only life were like living in a bubble of poetry, literature, music, going to gigs, walking through the fields and forests, last-minute adventures, linguistic parades and endless conversations.

Oh, wait, it kind of is.

Easy vanilla gaufrettes (waffle cookies)

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Long ago I lived with a French guy. He went back to France for Christmas every year, and I stayed home alone. He usually came home with a tin of vanilla gaufrettes (thin, crisp waffle cookies) that his mother had made for him. Being who I am, I wanted to make some myself, but it was not until many years later, after I had moved to Sweden, that I bought the right kind of iron to make them myself. I rarely, if ever, make them. I had yet to find the right recipe. My latest experiment, though, was quite successful (except that they were a bit larger than I would like – but can adjust for size next time).

How to go for your own gaufrettes…

  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled

Makes about 8 cookies

While preheating the gaufrette or pizzelle iron to medium (about a 3 on a 5-level heating scale), beat the egg whites on high until they are stiff. Gently fold in the rest of the ingredients.

Place a scant tablespoon onto the preheated iron and cook for anywhere between 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on how well-done you like them. They will be a light golden brown but also are great if slightly darker.

You can cool them on a wire rack for cookies. Or you can shape them into small cones for ice cream.

 

Faux Girl Scout cookies: Homemade Samoa cookies

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Samoa cookies are not the simplest cookies to make. Easier to buy a box from the Girl Scouts. But then it won’t be homemade, won’t be fresh, won’t be quite the thing you get when you make something of your own.

I made the Samoas once before, and they were very popular. When I wrote up the recipe and baking process last time (way back in 2011!) I included a few photos of the process.

Here I repeat just the recipe and a couple of snaps.

Samoa cookies: Recipe
1. Make the dulce de leche (or buy it) and toast the coconut (you can do a day or two in advance)
2. Make the cookie dough (it will need to chill for a few hours before you can roll it out and cut it)

Shortbread cookie dough
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (do not add if you have used salted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk (you may not need this much – you are just looking to get the right consistency)

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in one bowl. Set aside briefly. In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy at medium speed, about 3-4 minutes. (I did this by hand.) Mix in the vanilla extract. Turn the mixer speed to low, and add the dry ingredient mixture, followed by the milk, one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together without being sticky. The dough should be a soft ball.

Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces and form each one into a rectangle. Wrap the pieces of dough in parchment or plastic wrap and freeze for about 45 minutes to an hour. (You could also just put it in the fridge, as I did. I left it overnight.)

When ready to roll out, cut and bake, take one of your dough rectangles out and set aside to soften slightly. Preheat your oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment.

When ready, put down a piece of parchment on your work surface. Lightly flour and put your dough on top. Lightly flour the top of the dough and add another sheet of parchment. Roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter and cut the dough into rounds. Cut a center hole (I used the round end of a frosting tip), and then transfer to your prepared cookie sheet. Gather the scrap dough and repeat the rolling out/cutting process.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then put on wire racks and allow them to cool completely. While cooling, make the topping.

Caramel-coconut topping
3 cups toasted coconut (you can use sweetened or unsweetened and can use untoasted coconut if you prefer)
1 14oz can of of dulce de leche
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
a bag of dark or semisweet chocolate chips (to melt)

Open the dulce de leche and stir it together with milk and salt in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a couple of times to smooth the caramel. When smooth, add toasted coconut and stir completely. (And no, actually, it’s not pretty.)

Spread 2 to 3 teaspoons of the topping onto each cooled shortbread cookie. While the topping sets, melt the chocolate chips (either in a double boiler or in the microwave, whichever works best for you).

Once the chocolate is melted, spread chocolate onto the bottoms of each cookie and put them on a clean sheet of parchment.

You will then want to drizzle chocolate over the finished cookies — I just did this by dipping a fork into the remaining melted chocolate and drizzling it over the cookies. You can be more orderly about this by using a piping bag.

Refrigerate the cookies for a few minutes to let the chocolate firm up. Store the cookies between parchment sheets in airtight containers.

Lemon in all its forms – Think pink: Lemon sandwich cookies with raspberry filling

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When I know I am going to do a big bake, I sometimes ask for requests – everyone has favorites. I got an enthusiastic request for something lemon – anything lemon. And lemon raspberry wouldn’t hurt either (since most lemon lovers are pretty addicted to the crack-like but luscious addictive nature of lemon raspberry bars).

I went to my go-to lemon cookie recipe after looking around and finding a far more complicated lemon cookie recipe. Why not just use what I know?

I baked these up and whipped up some raspberry buttercream to turn the cookies into sandwiches. I had frozen some very decadent cream-laden vanilla frosting and just added a bunch of de-seeded raspberry jam and a dot of red food coloring to make the frosting just slightly pinker.

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Into the pink…