Seven Days of Cookies: Cacao Nib Meringues a la Tartine

Tartine. The storied bake shop in San Francisco. Everyone has a Tartine story, almostimg_7759 all begin with the length of the line and include a remark on the size of their gougeres (softball). Even my own review includes both.

During my just under three-year-stint living in the Bay Area, I only visited Tartine the one time. I lived in Oakland and there were so many cakes to see and pastries to try. But their Cacao Nib Rocher is a sweet for the ages. Unforgettable. A mini-Matterhorn of vanilla scented meringue studded with cacao nibs. Such simple ingredients, it’s hard to imagine just why these are so spectacular. But they are.

tartine-rocher

The original from Tartine

As it happens, I own the Tartine cookbook. It includes a Rocher recipe but for their Almond version. However, since I am Nib obsessed, I decided to adapt the almond recipe to see if I could approximate the deliciousness of the originals.

Turns out, I could! Almost: I used to help my mom make meringues for some 1970s showstopper of a dessert so I used her  instructions (a holiday nostalgia moment), which call for three egg whites, cornstarch, and granulated sugar. (Tartine’s Almond Rocher recipe calls for 2 egg whites and powdered sugar.) And yes, both recipes call for one cup of sugar. Friends, I just can’t. So I reduced to 3/4 cup and these are plenty sweet. They are crunchy on the outside and a bit marshmallowy on the inside. These are perfectly lovely for the holidays what with their snow white color and dark specks.

The meringues are delicious on their own, but I suggest balancing the sweetness by serving two on a plate with a small puddle of bitter orange marmalade (warmed and strained) to round out the flavor.

Cacao Nib Meringues a la Tartine

Adapted from the Tartine Cookbook

Ingredients

Whites from 3 large eggs (about 1/2 cup), room temperature

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

3/4 tsp  vanilla

1 Tbs cornstarch

3/4 c granulated sugar

½ cup cocoa nibs (I use Valrhona)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 250° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Whisk the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment and combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl. Starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium, whip until soft frothy peaks form.img_7755

Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Add the vanilla.

Continue beating until the mixture is glossy and very thick. Remove the bowl and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the cocoa nibs.

Using a #40 ice cream scoop, drop dollops of meringue on the prepared img_7756-copybaking sheets. You should get about 10 on each sheet. Use a small spoon to drop any remaining meringue on the tops of  the dollops on the sheet.

Bake for about 30-45 minutes, rotating and switching the sheets halfway through, until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside (not sticky at all), and still white. When done, let cool on the pan on wire racks for 20 minutes or until completely cool.

Serve plain, or with two on a dessert plate alongside a teaspoon of bitter orange marmalade (1/4 cup heated in the microwave and strained).

Enjoy!

 

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Bonus Holiday Cookie!

OK, so yes, we completed the Seven Days of Cookies, but in the course ofIMG_3696 all that baking, I came across a recipe from Alice Medrich that cried out to be tried. So even though I’ve been rolling [in] dough for a week, I had to make one more batch of cookies.

These are called Pebbly Beach Fruit Squares. The recipe is from Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies. These are beyond delicious, a crispy-chewy sandwich of delightfulness.

Notes

  • Alice says these cookies can be customized to your taste through your choice of fruit and spice. I love cranberry and orange so I used dried cranberries and candied orange peel with just a touch of cinnamon.
  • Make sure your fruit is moist! If it’s not, Alice says to soak it in water, juice or spirits for about 20 minutes (any longer and it will be too mushy to use). Pat dry before using.
  • Do the best you can when rolling the dough. It was a bit sticky so I rolled it between two pieces of parchment, flipping it several times and smoothing the paper. Even then I fell short of the desired 16.5 inch length.

I wasn’t sure whatIMG_3697 to expect from this cookie. I knew it would be good (Medrich, dried fruit, butter), but I wasn’t prepared for just how good. The kind of good that makes you laugh out loud.

Which is truly the best way to conclude a “baker’s dozen” of Seven Days of Cookies.

Enjoy! And have a beautiful Christmas!

Pebbly Beach Fruit Squares

Adapted from Alice Medrich

Ingredients

1 3/4 c plus 2 Tbs flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but still cool

3/4 c granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

Finely grated zest of one medium lemon and one smallish orange

1/2 c moist candied orange peel

½ c moist dried cranberries (coarsely chopped to about the same size as the orange peel)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup crystal sugar

Preparation

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

squareIn a medium bowl (with a mixer set on low), beat butter with the granulated sugar until smooth and well blended but not fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and both zests, and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix until completely incorporated.

Divide the dough in half and form each into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Wrap the patties in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the dried fruits with the cinnamon.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let sit for 15 minutes to soften slightly.

IMG_3682On a sheet of parchment at least 17 inches long, roll one piece of dough into a rectangle 8.5 inches by 16.5 inches. With a short side facing you, scatter half of the dried fruit on the bottom half of the dough. Fold top half of the dough over fruit, using the paper as a handle. Gently peel paper from the top of dough. (If it sticks, chill dough for a few minutes until the paper peels easily.)

Press the top of the dough down lightly, then dust with half of the coarse sugar, again patting it lightly to make sure the sugar adheres. Use a heavy knife to trim thIMG_3683e edges. Then cut it into 4 strips and then cut each strip into 4 pieces to make 16 squares. Place cookies 2 inches apart on lined or greased cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, fruit, and sugar.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Rotate pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Let cool on sheets for about 10 minutes, then move to racks to cool completely.

Cookies keep in an airtight container for a week. Yields 24 to 32 squares. I wasn’t able to roll my dough to the full 16.5 inches so I ended up with about 24 cookies.

These are insane.

 

 

Seven Days of Cookies: Chocolate Molasses Buttons

OK, I’m veering from my original plan of only tried and true recipes to closeupinclude this one which I just discovered: Chocolate Molasses Buttons. These are a variation on the traditional molasses crinkle through the addition of cocoa and a chocolate ganache to dress them up. The cookie is crisp-chewy and the flavor is addictive. The molasses comes through clearly here, so if it’s not a favorite, I suggest you go with a traditional molasses crinkle using the best recipe I’ve found.

Also newly discovered this year is delicious. magazine out of the UK. Not sure how I stumbled across it, but their FB feed is fantastic, full of recipes and gorgeous photos. I’ve adapted this cookie recipe from their site, converting the measurements from metric to American Standard. Full disclosure: I weighed my ingredients (setting the scale to grams). If you’d like to do the same, the original recipe is here.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Molasses Buttons

Adapted from delicious. magazine.

Ingredients

1 c plus two tablespoons flour

1/4 c natural cocoa powder

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground allspice

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp fine sea salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c brown sugar, packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/3 c scant, unsulphured molasses (such as Grandma’s)

Crystal sugar for rolling

For the chocolate filling;

1/4 c, generous, dark chocolate, chopped

2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

½ tsp unsulphured molasses (such as Grandma’s)

Preparation

For the dough,  in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Line two large baking sheets with parchment, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat with on medium-high for about 4 minutes or until the mixture transforms from a dark gritty mixture, to a smooth, noticeably lighter color. Beat in the egg. Beat in the molasses until blended.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until fully incorporated. Scrape dough into a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for about  2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

snowPour the crystal sugar into a shallow dish. Using a small ice cream scoop with a capacity of about a tablespoon, portion the dough into balls. Roll the dough balls in the crystal sugar, coating each one completely. Even space 12 of balls on each prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until they are set at the edges but still very soft in the centre.

Quickly pull the baking sheets from the oven to retain the heat then, using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a deep, fairly wide indentation in the center of each cookie. Return to the oven for 5 minutes more. If the indentations have become shallow, press down again with the wooden spoon handle. Cool cookies on racks.

To make the filling, melt the chocolate and the butter in a heatproof glass measuringIMG_3617 cup. Melt in the microwave on low in 30 second bursts, stirring well after each interval. Stir in the molasses. Transfer the ganache to a small Ziploc bag or disposable piping bag  (I use a small sandwich bag draped into a drinking glass) and work it toward the corner. When ready to fill the cookies, snip off a tiny bit at the corner and fill the indent of each cooled cookie. Let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour or until the ganache is firm.

Yields aboutchocmol 24 cookies.

Note: My cookies came out flatter than the rounded version in the photo on the delicious site (which look like traditional chubby thumbprints). The taste, however, is exceptional.

Seven Days of Cookies: Lemon Almond Shards

Lemon is not your typical holiday flavor but I love these cookies during theDSC00551 holidays. The bright freshness of the lemon and the super crunch is refreshing amidst the heavier, spicier seasonal sweets.

I pulled the recipe card for these from a Martha Stewart Living magazine while at the salon a few years ago. I’ve been making them year round ever since. If you can get hold of some backyard lemons (or farmers market), it makes a difference. I think these are pretty special.

Lemon Almond Shards

From Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients

3/4 c flour

3/4 c fine ground yellow cornmeal

1 tsp anise seeds

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 c sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 large egg white, lightly beaten for egg wash

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Crystal sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Gently crush the anise seeds a bit before whisking together with the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in whole egg and lemon zest. Reduce speed and beat in flour mixture.

DSC00552Press dough into an even 1/4-inch thickness on prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg white; sprinkle with almonds and crystal sugar.

Bake until golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Break into pieces.

Seven Days of Cookies: Almond Raspberry Thumbprints

I love a jam thumbprint, especially when the cookie has been baked with the jam – it getsIMG_3609 all chewy and delicious. There are a zillion thumbprint recipes but this one, adapted from Martha Stewart, is especially good.

Martha’s original version calls for hazelnuts and strawberry jam. I prefer the Linzer flavors of almonds and raspberries. I don’t toast my almonds beforehand because I feel they get toasted enough in the baking. You certainly can if you like.

As to jam, the best raspberry jam you can find is what you want here. (And make sure it’s jam vs. preserves. You don’t want big chunks of fruit in your filling.)

The cookies are rich. The recipe makes only 2 dozen, but on a cookie tray, that’s more than enough.

Enjoy!

Almond Raspberry Thumbprints

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (soft but sill ccol)

1/2 c plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 large egg, separated, each part lightly beaten in separate small bowls

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp almond extract (optional)

1 1/4 c flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 c slivered almonds, finely chopped (not powder fine)

Raspberry jam for filling

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350. Line two large baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla and almond extract (if using), and mix well. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and salt, and mix until just combined. Shape into a ball, flatten it slightly, cover in plastic wrap and chill for two hours.

Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and let sit for about 20 minutes.

IMG_3594Stir together chopped almonds and the 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Set up a production line of your bowl of egg white, the nuts, and your prepared baking sheets. Using a small ice cream scoop (1-inch), scoop level amounts of dough and roll into balls. Dip balls into the egg white and then into the almond-sugar mixture.  Space 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.

Using the end of a wooden spoon or small pestle, press down the center of each ball. Make a fairly deep crater but don’t push through to the baking sheet. Fill each crater with a 1/4 teaspoon ofIMG_3606 raspberry jam.

Bake for 16 minutes until golden brown. Cool on racks.

Cookies keep 2-3 days in an airtight container.

Seven Days of Cookies: Peppermint Sugar Cookies

Peppermint is the flavor of the holidays, showing up in bark, hotIMG_3600 chocolate, cakes and the ubiquitous candy cane. There’s nothing more cheerful than a candy cane but many of us, after the age of 13, like looking at them more than eating them. I don’t know, hard candies and sugar sticks – it’s tough to keep the dentist out of my head.

This cookie gives you what you love about candy canes without the tooth-aching sweetness and guilt. Plus they’re pretty on the plate. And terrific with hot cocoa.

I have a handwritten version of this recipe so can’t credit it, but if I had to guess, it’s another Bon Appetit treat (although it doesn’t come up in an Epicurious search.)

Enjoy!

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 c hard peppermint candies or candy canes, crushed powder fine (about 6 oz), divided
3-5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

Preparation

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients.

IMG_3593In a large bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until blended. Add egg whites and extract, and mix well. The mixure will look grainy, don’t be alarmed. Gradually beat in dry ingredients. Stir in 1/2 c crushed candies.

Gather dough into a ball, flatten it slightly, wrap in plastic and chill for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Position rack in middle of oven.

Using a small (or one-inch) ice cream scoop, scoop blobs of dough and dip rounded tops into remaining crushed candies. Place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned on bottom. Transfer to racks to cool completely.

Melt chocolate and, using a small offset spatula, spread melted chocolate on the bottom of each cookie. Place cookies,  bottoms up, on racks until chocolate sets.

IMG_3599The recipe yields about 4 dozen cookies. The dough freezes well so you can make mini batches throughout the holidays. Just let it defrost in the fridge for several hours before using. (PS, I’ve never tried this, but I imagine you could scoop all the dough, dip the tops in the crushed candy and THEN freeze the dough balls. Give it a try!)

 

Seven Days of Cookies: Cherry Pistachio Mexican Wedding Cakes

One of the best parts of the holidays for me (as you might imagine) are theIMG_3589 copy cookies. I love to make them, give them, exchange them, receive them. Over the years, I’ve narrowed my personal baking selection down to a handful of exceptional, easy to make recipes. These are cookies that turn out great every time and each is a showstopper in terms of taste, texture, and beauty. Each also stands up to freezing, shipping and storing.

For the next week, I’ll share a cookie recipe every day so that by Sunday you’ll have everything you need to have the most delicious cookie tray ever.

Enjoy!

Cherry Pistachio Mexican Wedding Cakes

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious. I’ve been making these every year since I saw them in the December 2006 Bon Appetit. They are light, delicious, and wonderful to give. Make sure your butter is soft but not warm, and do sift your flours. You don’t want anything to weigh these babies down. Also, note, if you ever wondered what making cookies was like in the olden times, this is the recipe to work with: Mixing in the 5 cups of flour by hand is a bit of work, but like with scones and shortbread, the warmth of your hands does something magical to the dough. Just go slowly and be patient, the results are well worth it. PS, this is why you should use a very large bowl.

I use a rectangular 1 Tablespoon measure when forming the cookies, the results are more consistent. The original recipe says it yields 80 cookies. I reliably get about 60.

Ingredients

2 c (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 c powdered sugar plus more for coating

2 Tbs vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

1 c shelled unsalted natural pistachios (about 4 ounces), chopped (I use Trader Joe’s dry roasted, unsalted pistachios)

1 c dried tart cherries or dried cranberries (again, Trader Joe’s)

3 1/3 c sifted cake flour

1 2/3 c sifted all purpose flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange racks on the top and middle of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with Silpat or parchment. Set aside.

Beat butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt, then pistachios and cherries. Dump in the flours and, usUntitleding your hands, carefully work the flour into the butter mixture. Be gentle, you don’t want to overmix the dough.

Using a rectangular 1 Tbs measure (or a generous round tablespoon), scoop dough and then roll in your hands into rough football-shaped ovals. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until bottoms just begin to color, about 16 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 10 minutes before coating.

powderPour generous amount of powdered sugar into medium bowl. Working with 5 or 6 warm cookies at a time, add cookies to bowl of sugar; gently turn to coat thickly. Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.

Can be made 4 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature. (I store mine in single layers in 1 Gallon Ziploc bags.)