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Friday, November 26, 2010
the archbishop's gonna sanctify me for these fine-ass cookies
Listening to:pub rad predicting downfall of USPS
Reading:Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
Weather:38, rain/snow
We made it to Black Friday, or thank$giving. Just to be contrarian I'm going to scroogily hang on to my pennies today and not spend a fuckin thing. And I'm going to make up adverbs. Heh.

If the web had smellovision I believe you'd be smiling right now, as my first batch of cherry almond shortbread just came out of the oven. I tend to bake a lot of cookies this time of year to give as gifts and it's a good excuse to warm the house with the oven and just cuz I like to bake. I've tried lots of recipes, modified many to my liking, and learned some lessons of chemistry along the way. I'm still a student of the fat/flour ratio. I particularly like to eat shortbread, maybe it's from genetic memory as my people are from Scotland. Years ago I started making plain shortbread. It's a lovely addition to a plateful of pretty cookies, just simple and slightly sweet, a little sparkly sugar on top of a barely brown-edged buttery rectangle. Then I branched out and made almond shortbread by adding some ground blanched almonds and almond extract.

This year I decided to get crazy and try a bunch of variations, including a savory one, and roll and slice instead of baking my usual large scored slab. A cookie with sharp white cheddar and chives? Not a cookie, no sugar, but the texture of a nice shortbread cookie with a salty savory flavor. Could accompany a nice malty dark beer. Or a salad. Or a steak. Now you get the picture, yes?

So I figured I'd warm up the baking season with something somewhat less daring, somewhat more familiar, but still new. I made pistachio shortbread. Pale green, chopped pistachios on top, sweet. Rolled and sliced into coins. I must say this turned out frickin awesome. The secret, no secret at all, really, is replace about 1/2 cup of the flour with a box of pistachio pudding mix. Don't reduce the sugar, it'll just be a bit sweeter than usual, though still less so than most cookies.

K, on to the savory experiment. I knew it might take a few tries at the batter, since the cheese would be a substantial increase in fat content, but hard to say exactly how it would affect the set since it also added milk solids. I mixed up a batch, rolled it into a log, wrapped in cellophane to refrigerate overnight. Next day I sliced just a test number of coins, 6 or 8, and pondered a baking temp. Lower than cookies to keep the cheese from melting too much? Higher than cookies to bake faster and help it hold its shape and get a little crisper on the edges? I went for lower. Not entirely successful. They spread a little, something good shortbread does not do, it bakes up pretty much in the same shape you mold it into. But even though they got a little raggedy on the edges, I browned them up nicely and they had a lovely flavor, though they were a little heavy on the fat. Next batch I think reduce the butter.

Now that I've totally busted out I have visions of crazy shortbread in my head. I quickly started visualizing cherry almond shortbread coins, cardamom pecan, lemon hazelnut, and started amassing the required ingredients. So yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, I had a luxurious day at home to do whatever I wanted. My mom's a xmas nut, so I've never missed a visit to her on or very near that day, but Thanksgiving is one I've always kept for myself, ever since I first left home for college. I've had plenty of years where I've cooked for friends and my progeny, and years where I've gone to have friends cook for me. But honestly my favorite years are the ones I get to lounge around at home with no obligations, cooking or otherwise, for at least 2 or 3 of the 4 day weekend off work. And, perish the thought, I'm not really a huge fan of turkey. It's OK, I'll eat it, it's pretty good with all the other stuff smushed in around it, but I wouldn't miss turkey if it never made it to my plate again.

This morning after some strong coffee and assessing the atmospheric conditions in my yard (the all-night rain turned into a few flakes of snow for a bit) I turned on the oven and pulled out the cherry almond log to slice up. It had ended up a somewhat sticky dough, I had tweaked it Pee Wee Herman style (a little dry, add some more butter, now it's a little sticky, add some more flour, oops, too dry, more butter, etc.). I had chopped up dried tart cherries very small, so the pale dough is flecked with red bits. I mashed one side each coin into a mix of sugar and finely chopped almonds and baked them until the edges just started to get a little color.

Now the cookies (minus the two I already ate, no I didn't burn my tongue, but almost!) sit on cooling racks on my counter and the oven is still on awaiting the cardamom pecan logs I'm about to slice. The aroma will shift to something a little more perfumy and exotic.

So instead of spending coins this black friday I'm making coins. There's a root of evil joke in there somewhere, she said wiping the crumbs from her chin.

permalink posted by cat 8:45 AM

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the archbishop's gonna sanctify me for these fine-ass cookies