Saturday, December 09, 2006
It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Cookies
With the return of colder weather, frost in the mornings made the grass crackle underfoot. The persimmons are finally ripening. The birds have found the first soft ones, but I'll get a few for baking, too. I have everything ready to bake, bake, bake. I love baking cookies, with the warmth from the oven and the seasonal smells of cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Now the frost is past for now, winter rains have begun, Christmas is coming, and it's time for me to bake cookies.
Before I get to the persimmon cookies I'm going to make some usual suspects from years past.
Chocolate Shortbread Hearts have been a family favorite for many years. The recipe is very close to the one in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, 1980. If you don't have a copy and ever see one, buy it. There are many, many truly delicious chocolate recipes. She also does a superb job of explaining things, so that even recipes with lots of steps are not too challenging. I'm a chocolate addict, so you can imagine my delight in having more recipes than I'll likely ever make, all with chocolate.
These cookies are great for gift giving, which is why I'm making them right now. I'm going to be giving many tins of cookies for Christmas and I like to have a mix of flavors and textures in the selection. These cookies are buttery, very chocolate, crisp and dry. The flavor is so intense that no icing is needed. Use a good quality cocoa because the flavor of the cocoa is paramount. Dutch processed is best. I add some coffee flavor now and then because it really brings out the chocolate flavor.
Chocolate Shortbread Hearts
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup strained unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
A) On a sheet of waxed paper, mix these 3 ingredients together until well mixed.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coffee extract or 1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
B) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Adjust two racks to divide oven into thirds.
C) Cream the butter in a large mixer bowl. Add the confectioners sugar, vanilla, and coffee flavor or espresso powder and beat to mix. On low speed add the flour and cocoa mixture, scraping the bowl and beating only until the mixture holds together. If the dough is not smooth, place it on a board or smooth work surface and knead it briefly with the heel of your hand. Form the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly.
D) Flour a pastry cloth or board and rolling pin. Place the dough on the floured surface and turn to flour both sides. Roll the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick, or slightly thicker, with the same thickness all over. Re-flour rolling pin as needed while rolling out dough.
E) Dip a 1 1/2 inch or 2 inch heart shaped cookie cutter in flour, tap off excess. Cut the cookies as close to each other as possible. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on unbuttered cookie sheets. Gather scraps of dough together, knead once or twice, and re-roll, then cut more cookies. With skewer or tines of a fork, pierce cookies in a pattern. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until cookies are firm to the touch. Check often. These burn easily. Transfer to racks to cool. Makes about 3 dozen.
Posted by Elle at 9:39 PM