10 December 2019

New York Times Holiday Cookies

I made all six types of holiday cookies in the newest issue of Bon Appetit last weekend and before I even had the chance to try all the cookies, New York Times Cooking goes right ahead and shares their line-up of holiday cookies. All 12 of them. This year's NYT cookie collection is courtesy of Susan Spungen, a super talented food stylist and recipe developer whose work I have been admiring for the longest time. When I saw the photo Susan shared, I knew I had to make all the make the recipes. I was a bit intimidated at first because I wanted to make all the recipes at once but making 12 different recipes in one day can be quite overwhelming. The Bon Appetit collection of 6 cookie recipes took roughly nine hours so I could not imagine making double the amount. That is when one of my favourrrrrrite people (hi Jules!) volunteered to help me bake all! the! things! We bought all the ingredients on Friday night, starting baking at 3:30pm on Saturday Afternoon, and finished everything at 2:15am on Sunday morning (night?). Jules took on the task of measuring the dry ingredients of all the recipes (the task I hated the most besides cleaning) and I took care of all the wet ingredients. We shaped and cut out all the cookies together. Our strategy was that we would start a new recipe when the previous batch of dough was chilling in the fridge or in the oven and we grouped similar cookies together because we would have all the ingredients out on the counter already. All the decorating was saved for the end. Jules and I watched a few youtube videos, three Disney movies, and three Hallmark Christmas movies while making all 12 recipes and it was one of the best baking dates I have ever had. We even made a 13th recipe for dinner that day (hello, mushroom carbonara).

I hope that was a detailed enough response to the question 'how long did this take?' so I can move on to the next question you probably have — 'which cookie was the best one?' To answer that question I feel like I need to tell you that I generally prefer a buttery crisp cookie like a shortbread over a softer, chewier cookie. Unpopular opinion, I know. My favourites (notice the plural there) would be: peanut shortbread with honeycomb, pecan thumbprints with dulce de leche, and the brown sugar-anise shortbread. The peanut shortbread calls for both ground and chopped peanuts in the dough and it creates this intensely peanutty and rich crisp cookie. A honeycomb, dark chocolate, flakey salt layer sits on top of the shortbread base and it is everything. I also loved the thumbprints because like the peanut shortbread, the recipe calls for ground up toasted pecans in the dough. I really enjoy a cookie with a nut flour/meal in the dough because it adds so much flavour. I would definitely make these again with a different nut as well. Pistachio would be extremely tasty. The brown sugar-anise was also a big hit because there are not a lot of anise-flavoured cookie recipes out there and the flavour really works with brown sugar. The cookie itself is extremely tender and flakey but the anise and coarse sugar layer adds amazing texture. To be honest, every cookie from the collection were impressive and I would make them all again if I had another 11 hours to spare on a weekend. 

Here are the cookies we made:

Happy baking!

2 December 2019

Bon Appetit Holiday Cookies 2019

Favourite YouTube channel? Bon Appetit. Favourite podcast? Bon Appetit. Favourite Best New Restaurants list? Bon Appetit. Favourite holiday issue? You guessed it — Bon Appetit. I am typing this while I am wearing my Molly Baz t-shirt and if you look at the opened tabs on my computer, you will see that I have this cranberry-lime pie bookmarked and I am trying to fit this double-crumb crumb cake into my December baking schedule. If it was not already apparent, I am obsessed with everything BA. I make a lot of their recipes throughout the year (exhibit A, B, C), but my favourite recipes to make are usually from their December/January holiday issue. I bake a few of their dessert recipes every holiday season but last year I decided to make all my favourite BA cookie recipes in one day. I ended up with something over-the-top like this and was extremely flattered when BA reposted it onto their account.

This year's holiday issue features cookies that are a bit different than the typical festive shortbread and sugar cookie. The cookies are not covered with green and red sprinkles and there is no sanding sugar to mimic the sparkle of snow on a cookie. This year's BA holiday cookies are inspired by flavours of different cultures (think coconut dulce de leche and ancho chile spice) as well as modern takes of classics (a bright green minty black-and-white cookie). These are such fun cookies to add to any holiday cookie swap and are definitely strong contenders for any holiday bake-offs.

They just shared on the recipes for this year's holiday cookies, so you should add these to your holiday baking list:

The butter cookie is the best blank canvas and is extremely simple to make. The tie dye icing is a classic royal icing and the best part about these cookies is that no two cookie will look the same.

Triangular slice-and-bake cookies that have a stained-glass effect from dried fruit, chocolate, and hazelnuts. The ancho chile and sesame add savoury elements to these cookies.

Maple-syrup-glazed pecans are in two different parts of this cookie — in the dough and sprinkled on top with sanding sugar.
*This one was my favourite!

The traditional South American honey-almond cookie gets a tropical twist thanks to a oconut dulce de leche filling and shimmery, brightly dyed coconut flakes on the top of the cookies.

Rye flour pairs with molasses and ginger in both the deep, toasty batter and the crunchy streusel topping. The result is something like gingerbread, but softer and much more flavourful. 

A play on two classics: the Thin Mint and New York City’s iconic black-and-white cookie

Happy baking and happy holidays!

1 December 2019

Cookie Advent Calendar

Happy first day of December! Are you surprised that this is not a post about a holiday cookie box? Because I am. Every year when I am in the seventh hour of cookie box making and assembling, I promise myself that I would start my holiday cookie box earlier in December and not wait until the last minute. In the weeks leading up to December, I always contemplate starting my Christmas baking to try and avoid any royal icing-induce meltdowns closer to the holidays. Guess what? Once again I will be making my cookie box mid-December, but this year I have a good reason to delay the cookie box. Besides the fact that it is not as fun to be making Christmas cookies in November, the reason I am pushing my holiday box aside is that I wanted to make this — a 100% edible cookie advent calendar inspired by this CBC one and these other two calendars! A cookie advent calendar is more straightforward than a cookie box because you only need one type of dough for the entire project. I chose sugar cookie because it is one of my favourite cookies despite its simplicity. Shortbread, gingerbread, or any cookie that does not lose its shape when baked would also be great for this. I toyed around with the idea of baking 25 different types of cookies (insane) for this calendar instead of 25 uniquely decorated cookies (still insane but less so). I quickly tossed that idea away because baking 25 different types of cookies means I would end up with over 300 cookies in my house because one cannot really bake just one cookie from any cookie recipe and I was not quite ready for that level of commitment. Just using one dough for this project was commitment enough already.

The hardest part about making an entirely edible cookie advent calendar is not setting aside the time you need to decorate the calendar, but measuring, cutting, and creating the calendar itself. It took me quite a while to decide how large I want the calendar itself (because that will determine how big or small you need to make the cookies behind the doors). The larger the frame of the calendar, the easier it is to make and decorate the cookie inserts, but the harder it is to transport the frame in/out of the oven and off the baking sheet. My original frame was too large and did not fit in my oven (oops) so I had to gather my dough and re-roll it to make this one. Measure your baking sheet first and then decide how large your calendar can be. You also need to do this in a timely fashion because a chilled dough is much easier to work with. A warmer, softer dough means it will be harder to cut and maintain straight lines and edges for the calendar frame. Those are the two main things to keep in mind when making a cookie advent calendar, and the rest is the same as making regular decorated sugar cookies. Oh! One last thing before we move on to the steps of making a cookie calendar — remember that cookies (even the most chilled cookie dough) will expand a tiiiiiiny bit when baked. So when you are making the inserts for each window, allow a little wiggle room around the cookie to make sure it will fit in the frame and behind the cookie door that will lay on top of it.

How to make your own fully-edible cookie advent calendar

What you will need:
Your favourite sugar cookie dough (I made a double batch to make sure I do not run out of dough)
A large baking sheet
Square cookie cutter (for the windows)
Assorted cookie cutters (for the inserts)
Royal icing and other cookie decorations
Piping tips

Make your favourite sugar cookie or shortbread dough according to the instructions, divide the dough into two equal portions, and chill the dough until firm. After chilling, roll out one portion of the dough into a rectangle that 1/4-inch in thickness. With a ruler or measure tape, measure out a large rectangle. I made my calendar 13 x 15 inches. Trim off the excess dough and transfer rectangle to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. It is important to transfer the dough the the baking sheet BEFORE punching out the windows. If the dough has softened at this point, return the baking sheet to the freezer and chill for 10 minutes.

Using a square cookie cutter (I used a 2-inch square cutter), punch out 25 squares in a 5-by-5 pattern from the bottom of the rectangle, allowing an equal amount of space between each square. This will leave enough room to write 'DECEMBER' at the top of the calendar when decorating. Once the frame has been shaped and windows have been cut, return baking sheet to freezer and chill for at least 15 minutes before baking. A chilled dough means less expanding in the oven and we want the cookie to retain its shape. Gather and re-roll the dough leftover from punching out the windows and wrap in plastic wrap and allow dough to chill in the refrigerator. 

While the frame is chilling, roll out the second portion of dough (not the one you just gathered from making the frame) use the same square cookie cutter to cut 25 squares for the doors and place on a baking sheet. Use the remaining dough you just rolled out and the dough you have been chilling to cut out 25 cookies that will be behind each of the doors.

Bake the chilled frame, doors, and cookie inserts according to the instructions of your favourite recipe. Keep an eye on the frame when it is baking because the thin borders of the calendar will take less time than the other cookies. Remove from oven when ready and allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating.

Decorate the cookies and allow cookies to fully dry before assembling the calendar. You do not want to place a door on top of a cookie that has not fully dried.

Once cookies have fully dried, place cookie inserts into each cavity of the calendar. Gently place the doors on top of each cookie. Admire all your hardwork. Then enjoy!

Happy baking and happy holidays!

27 November 2019

Caramel Popcorn Cookies (from Pastry Love by Joanne Chang)

My favourite season of the year is cookbook season. It falls somewhere between Fall and Winter and it is the time when many highly-anticipated cookbooks are released. I had barely finished flipping through Michelle's new book when my copy of Pastry Love by Joanne Chang arrived in my mailbox. I own and love Joanne's other cookbooks so I knew Pastry Love would be another great one to add to the collection. In case you are not familiar with Joanne, she is known more formally as the owner of Flour Bakery and James Beard Foundation Award winner for Outstanding Baker, and less formally as the queen of sticky buns. What makes this book so special is that it features recipes for many things she could not serve in the setting of a bakery, but still delicious recipes nonetheless.

When flipping through this book that is divided into chapters like 'I Knead Bread,' 'Easy as Pie,' 'Time to Show Off,' and 'I Made This for You,' I gravitated towards a recipe that is simpler but just as eye-catching as the rest. Jessi's Caramel Popcorn Cookie recipe in the 'Afternoon Pick-Me-Up' chapter produces a cookie is equally crispy, chewy, sweet, salty, and everything you would ever want in a cookie. The amount of caramel popcorn you add to this cookie dough is a-l-a-r-m-i-n-g. It calls for six full cups of popcorn and I thought I misread the recipe and that my mixer would spew it all back out at me. When it was time to add the caramel corn, I had the mixer on the lowest setting possible (this is key!) and added the six cups, one cup at a time. My cookie dough with popcorn looked more like popcorn with a side of cookie dough but they turned out so perfectly. The edges are crispy, the centres are chewy, and the caramel popcorn studded throughout the cookie adds such great texture and flavour to the cookie. A generous amount of flakey sea salt tops this cookie, just as it should any cookie. I made the lemon sugar cookies with lemon glaze shortly after these popcorn cookies came out of the oven and I have the Japanese cotton cheesecake bookmarked as my next recipe to try.

Jessi's Caramel Popcorn Cookies
Yields 24 - 26 cookies

1 1/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
I teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups caramel popcorn, homemade or store-bought
Flakey salt, to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place racks in the centre and bottom third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg and vanilla. Beat until combined. 

In a separate medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just barely combined. Add the popcorn and mix on low until the popcorn is fully incorporated. (At this point the batter can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

Drop large rounded spoonfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about I inch between them. Sprinkle the cookies evenly with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets and switching their positions midway through the baking time, until the edges are golden brown and the centres are set. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Congratulations on the new book, Joanne!

Happy baking!


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