When in Doubt…Leave it at 350

baking, cooking, and other adventures

Holiday Cookies Part 1 December 22, 2008

100_1765OH Holiday Cookies how you took up a week of my life


Oh how I have been putting off writing two entries on my cookies 🙂

I guess I got exhausted from making all the holiday cookies and then making dessert for Dancer’s Avon Party.  Lately I haven’t been making much of anything because for the past few days I have had a problem moving my neck.  It just started randomly one morning.  I was unable to really look down or touch my left ear to my left shoulder.  I have no idea what happened, but I am slowly gaining movement back.


Anise Cookies

For the Vegan Bloggers out there a few of these would be very easy to VEGANIZE.  Especially the Butterballs 🙂

For this holiday season I actually didn’t make as many varieties of cookies as I usually do.  A few of the cookies that I made are actually “Secret” family recipes so I won’t be sharing the recipes for them: Anise Cookies, Anise Walnut Biscotti, and Hazelnut-Chocolate Chip Biscotti.  The Hazelnut Biscotti actually are a variation of the Anise Walnut Biscotti.  I usually make the base for the anise biscotti and then add whatever flavors I like.  I have been known to make Cinnamon Chip Biscotti, Cherry-Almond Biscotti, Cranberry-Walnut, Chocolate Chip-Walnut, etc.  If you have your own Biscotti base recipe you can just experiment with flavors like I do and you can usually never go wrong 🙂

There are a few cookies that I made this holiday season that I have already posted about.  The first cookie is Anise Pizzelles.  I have been eating anise pizzelles since before I can remember.  My Grandma’s next door neighbor use to make them and bring them over all the time when I was a kid.  I thought about using my Stovetop Pizzelle Iron to make these, but once I started making all the other cookies the last thing I wanted to do was mess with that.  I ended up getting out my electric iron and that worked out perfect.  Especially since this time I decided to put the dough in the fridge overnight.  Since the dough was chilled I was able to roll it into balls and it made the time pass a lot quicker.  It only took about 25 minutes to make all of them instead of the usual hour and the clean up was so much easier.

The other cookie is actually a biscotti.  I ended up making the Cherry- Almond Lenox Biscotti from Tuesdays With Dorie.  This time around I only made a half batch and they didn’t turn out as pretty so the ugly ones have taken up residence in my stomach 🙂  They are so tasty.  For the recipe just cruise on over to the presenter for that week and search their site.  It should be there.  Or just buy Dorie’s book already, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

One of my favorite cookies that my mom would make when I was growing up is what she called Butterballs (recipe at the bottom of the post).  The rest of the world refers to these as Mexican or Italian Wedding Cookies.  I have seen a bunch of different recipes out there for these cookies and they all are the same basic recipe except using a different nut and they have a different name.  For the version that I make I use finely ground walnuts, and do a double coating of powdered sugar (once when they come out of the oven and after they have cooled).  It makes them look prettier and you can catch if someone has been sneaking in to eat your cookies because they will be covered in powdered sugar 🙂

100_1731A couple of years ago around Christmas time I was at the grocery store and found Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips, and made cookies out of them.  From that moment on I was on the look out for the Andes Baking Chips.  In recent years they have been hard to find so anytime I would see them I would buy 5 bags.  So this year I had a backstock and ended up making 3 batches of Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I have found if I use my small cookie scoop to scoop them out that they make a perfect cookie shape.  I have only made one modification to the recipe.  I use unsalted butter plus 1/2 tsp salt instead of salted butter.

Next cookie, ITALIAN FIG SPIRALS (recipe at the bottom of the post).  I found these cookies while looking through Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies. If you do not own this book you should go out and buy it right now.    These cookies are probably one of the most popular that I make.  If you like Fig Newtons these are BETTER.  I have made these with dried Mission Figs which give you the dark purple color and then recently I started making them with a dried White Fig and they have an orange color and still taste fantastic 🙂

I have already mentioned in a previous entry that I tried my hand at Venetians (aka Rainbow Layer) this year.  They turned out fantastic even with the disaster that was the red layer.  I was so surprised.  If you don’t know what a Venetian (recipe at the bottom of the post) is it is a three layer almond cake with the layers being green, white and red to represent the Italian Flag.  In between each layer is a thin layer of Apricot Jam and then it is covered in chocolate.  The incident was the last layer to go one.  I was in a hurry and didn’t let the layer cool completely and when I went to put it on it completely fell apart all over the counter.  So I pretended it was a puzzle and put it back together and pushed it down. Actually what surprised me more was that I didn’t care or try to throw out the cake.  I was actually calm and tried to fix it.  Everyone that tried these “cookies” LOVED them.  The best compliment was when everyone at work said they tasted better then the ones we carried, included my boss and the pastry chef.  TAKE THAT!!!!  Too bad they won’t let me make them for the store :/


Source: My Mother

1 cup unsalted butter,  room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely ground walnuts

extra confectioners’ sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 375°F

Cream the butter and sugar until combined.  Add a pinch of salt, vanilla, and the flour.  Mix until everything is combined.  Then add in the walnuts and mix until they are fully incorporated.  Scoop out 1 tbsp at a time and roll into a ball.  Place on a parchment line cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Place extra confectioners’ sugar in a paper bag or ziploc bag.  When cookies come out of the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Then toss them in confectioners’ sugar until fully coated.  Let them cool to room temperature and toss them in confectioners’ sugar again.

100_1713Italian Fig Spirals

Source: Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies page 167

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 egg

3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely snipped dried figs

1/3 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup orange juice

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and baking powder.  Bea until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.  Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Meanwhile, for filling, in a small saucepan combine figs, marmalade, and orange juice.  Cook and stir just until boiling; remove from heat.  Set aside to cool

Divide dough in half.  Roll half of the dough between pieces of waxed paper into a 10×8-inch rectangle.  Spread half of the filling over dough rectangle to within 1/2 inch of edges.  Beginning with the short side, carefully roll up the dough, using the waxed paper to lift and  guide the roll.  Moisten edges; pinch to seal.  Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling.  Chill for 4 to 24 hours or until firm enough to slice

Preheat oven to 375°F

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Cut rolls into 1/4 inch slices.  Place the sliced 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

100_1758Venetians (Rainbow Layer Cookies)

Source: Italian Desserts by Maria Bruscino Sanchez

6 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp almond extract

12 oz almond paste

3 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups apricot preserved

2 cups dark chocolate (I actually ended up using two bags of chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Grease and line three 15 x 10 inch cookie sheets, with sides, with parchment.  Grease parchment.  Set aside

In an electric mixer with a wire whisk, beat egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff, 2 to 3 minutes.  Set aside

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar.  Add egg yolks and almond extract.  Break up almond paste into small pieces.  Add and mix until well blended and smooth.  Add flour and salt.  Mix until well blended.

With wire whisk attachment, fold in egg white mixture.

Divide the dough into three equal portions.  Add a few drops of red food coloring to one and a few drops of green coloring to another.  Leave one dough natural color

Evenly spread each dough into prepared pans.  each layer will be thin.

Bake each batter for 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Remove the pans from the oven.

Cool on wire cooling rack.  Remove and discard parchment.  Place the green layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Spread one cup of apricot preserved over the green layer.  Slide the white/yellow layer of cake on top of the preserves.  Spread remaining cup of preserved over the white/yellow layer.  Slide the red layer over the preserved.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Weigh down with a cutting board on top.  Refrigerate overnight.

Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Spread in a thin layer over the top of the red layer.  Let set until dry.  Flip the cake over onto parchment.  Melt the remaining chocolate and spread over the green layer.  Let set.  Using a serrated knife, trim the edges.  Cut into 1 inch squares

Makes approximately 80 cookies.


I Finally Used the Iron September 10, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cookies,Kitchen Gadgets,Pizzelles — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am
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The stove top pizzelle iron that is.

It has taken me almost 2 months to get enough courage to use the stove top pizzelle iron that I bought from Fantes. The whole process actually went quite well and as soon as the iron got properly heated it didn’t take time to make all the pizzelles. At first when I was making the first few they came out great, but then the next couple actually started to stick to the iron. I realized that I wasn’t heating both sides evenly and as soon as I started to heat both sides consistently there was no more sticking.



It’s coming….. July 10, 2008

Filed under: Kitchen Gadgets,Pizzelles — pastrybrush @ 10:44 am

Today my stove top Pizzelle iron arrives.

pizzelle iron

Pizzelle Iron via Fante's in Philly

I am so excited. I ended up going with the metal handled model since it reminded me of my childhood. The bad thing is that I will be at work when it gets here, so I won’t be able to play with it until tomorrow.

IT’S COMING….YAY!!!!!! :screaming like a little girl, along with jumping:


I love kitchen gadgets July 7, 2008

Filed under: Kitchen Gadgets,Pizzelles — pastrybrush @ 11:24 pm

I can’t help it. Every time I see a new kitchen gadget or something that I am looking for I can’t help but buy it. The newest item on that list I found online at Fante’s Kitchenwares Shop. It is a pizzelle iron. Not the ones that you plug into the wall….oh no, not that…a stove top one.

:I scream like a little girl:

I have wanted one of these ever since my grandmother (from here on out referred to as Grandma) told me that that is how her mom used to make them. I called Grandma the other day to ask what kind of iron that my great grandmother had: metal or wooden handles. Of course the response was metal, and then she proceeded to ask me to buy her one too.

So now I have to decide. Do I want one with metal or wooden handles? The difficult part for me isn’t the handles. I have been looking at the design that each makes and it is different. I think the design for the metal handled iron is what I used to see when I was a kid and Grandma’s neighbor use to make us Anise Pizzelles.

So begins my internal debate.

Once I purchase the iron, I will post pictures and the adventure of making pizzelles with a stove top iron.

This is going to be interesting.