Friday, December 31, 2010

MMMM Cookies

Here's December's column from the Petaluma Post.  It's probably past the time for cookies, but something for the future...

We all know how crazy of a month that December can be. With places to be and places to go, cooking and gifting, it is hard to make sure that you always have the right thing. I am a huge believer in consumables; we all have so many things and want to make our lives easier, I like edible gifts. To me the perfect gift is cookies. There is nothing that I love more than a plate with four or five different little nibbles. They are great to put out when guests arrive, or to relax with after a busy day.

It is a great idea to keep several cookie doughs on hand for just such a need. While cookies may only hold well for a day or two once baked, many of them hold very well in raw form in the freezer or refrigerator. Yes you can buy Pillsbury slice and bake, but you can make your own and use them the same way. All of the cookies that we make in the catering company are made and scooped then baked as needed.

One recipe that I really love is a basic short cookie; this recipe is great for cookies and can also be used as a sweet tart crust too.

Short Bread Cookies
2 lbs Butter
12 oz Sugar
4 Eggs
3 lbs Flour

This makes about one hundred cookies. I usually split this into two or three parts and add mix-ins (no its not Cold Stone but the term works so well). Try these classic additions:

A Russian Tea Cookies - add a ½ cup of chopped pecans, fold into dough

Mexican Wedding Cookies - add a ½ cup of chopped walnuts, fold into dough, when baked dust with powdered sugar.

Fruit Cake Cookies - add a ½ cup of chopped dried fruit; like craisins, apricots, cherries, candied lemon skins plus 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, mix together. I then roll the dough in large crystal sugar.

Black & White Cookies - mix 2 tablespoons of cocoa in to a ½ cup of the dough, then you can braid the white and chocolate dough together.

Feel free to experiment, it is a great dough.

Roll cookie doughs into logs and wrap in parchment or plastic wrap. They can freeze well for up to three months or hold in the refrigerator for about ten days. When needed, just remove from fridge or freezer and slice about ¼” thick. (If it just came out of the freezer, give it 20 minutes to thaw before slicing.) Place on lined cookie sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees, till just lightly golden.

The first year my husband and I were married, we were living in student housing, I had just graduated from cooking school and we were living off of one small income. So, I decided to make candy for everyone for Christmas. I started in mid-November with things that could freeze, like cookie doughs and fudge. Funny thing was that by Christmas there was still hardly any fudge in the freezer, but hubby needed a new belt

During that that time I created a great recipe for Peppermint Patties. A no cook recipe that holds great.

Peppermint Patties
1 can sweet and condensed milk
1 tsp pure peppermint oil (more or less to your taste, my family likes them strong)
1½ lbs powdered sugar
½ cup chocolate chips
½ Tbl vegetable oil

Place sweet and condensed milk in your mixer (a stand up mixer is best, but you can easily work it by hand), add the peppermint oil. Begin adding the sugar one cup at a time, the amount may vary slightly with the weather- rainy days take more. You want a very thick almost solid paste. Remove from the mixer (the house should smell great by now). Roll into logs, wrap in plastic, and allow to cool in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes.

To finish, slice patties off approximately ¼” thick, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Melt the chocolate chips with oil, slowly in micro wave or in a double boiler, then drizzle the chocolate over patties, allow chocolate to cool and set up. They are ready to serve.


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