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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Greek Walnut Cookies(Kourabiedes)

I love foods from all over the globe!  I love trying new and exotic foods and I love using those ingredients in my cooking.  You can travel to distant countries by eating the food from that region-it’s like going on a vacation at home!

This recipe came from a Greek friend when I was a teenager.  I’m sure it came from his Ya-Ya (grandmother).  These little bites are served at celebrations and especially at weddings and at Christmas.  They always are adorned by powdered sugar, but at Christmas a whole clove is added at the top.  This is to represent the gifts of the Magi. This kind of food history makes the cooking and the eating more special, don’t you think?

The recipe uses brandy (yum!) and orange flower water.  I’m sure that if you don’t like or can’t get the orange flower water, you can leave it out, but it’s flavor and aroma lend so much to the exotic characteristic of the cookie it would be a shame to omit it.

Definitely make sure to follow the directions-the dough should be crumbly to start!

The resting period is important too!  I promise that if you make these you’ll love them as much as we do!  The are pretty straightforward and don’t take too long to make.  Wonderful with tea!  The recipe and my tips follow.  Enjoy!

                                                                                                                   Greek Walnut Cookies (Original Recipe)

1 cup walnuts                                                1/2 cup confectioners

                                                                                          sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                             1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon baking powder                           1 tablespoon brandy

1/4 teaspoon salt                                                1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened                      1 tablespoon orange flower

         unsalted butter                                                water

 confectioners sugar for dusting                    whole cloves (optional)

Toast the walnuts until golden, in the oven at 350 degrees F. or in a pan on the stovetop.  Let cool and then chop half the walnuts.  You should have 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.  Process the remaining walnuts until finely ground, you should have 1/4 cup.

Stir together the chopped nuts, the ground nuts, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, egg yolk, brandy and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Use medium high speed-it should take between 5 and 8 minutes depending on your butter.

At the lowest speed stir the nut mixture into the butter mixture until it’s a crumbly dough.  Let the dough rest, covered, for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Use silpat, parchment or nonstick spray on your cookie sheets.

Scoop about 1 inch pieces of dough out.  Roll into balls with the palms of your hands. Pinch ends to shape into football shaped ovals.  PLace a whole clove in center of each cookie, if using.  Bake 18-20 minutes, until the cookies start to take on color.

While the cookies are still warm, brush with orange flower water.  Don’t make them soggy, just give them the once over with a pastry brush, or sprinke wih your fingers.

Add confectioners sugar to a bag and gently toss a few cookies at a time with the sugar.  Remove and put on a rack until all the cookies have been sugared.  Serve.

Dough can be frozen for up to 2 weeks.  Baked cookies for up to 1 week in an airtight container or 2 weeks wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and stored in the refrigerator.  Let them come to room temp and then dust with confectioner’s sugar.

                                                                                                                            Tips

1. Make sure you don’t overwork the dough-it changes the texture of the cookie!

2. I use a rounded  teaspoon scoop to help form the dough-they’re a tad smaller, but easier to roll.  Sometimes you have to reroll the balls because they crumble from the walnuts-it’s OK.

3. Don’t use too much orange flour water-it will cause the cookies to lose they’re crumbly texture.

4. And finally-DON’T eat the cloves-they’re a decoration and add a slight spiciness to the cookies.

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Hello World!

So, here we go.  People have been telling me for ages that I need to start a blog about cooking so I can share my culinary talents with the world.  Here’s the first attempt.  I’m sure that the blog will evolve as I go-as I’m really new at this (I even inadvertently deleted my first post).  However, I’m NOT new at cooking!

Cooking (and especially baking) has been my passion for as long as I can remember.  It has been my survival kit, my therapy and my hobby.  I obsess about cooking!  I read cookbooks, watch food TV and spend endless hours in the kitchen.  Lucky thing that I work for my husband-I have even taken time off to cook!   A new or complicated recipe is a challenge to improve on it.  A dinner at a fine restaurant is a game to guess the ingredients.

This blog will be full of recipes, pictures and tips!  It will include my successes and my failures AND what I’ve learned from them.  I hope that you can learn from them as well.

Cookie season is now upon me.  I have had to cut down on how many kinds of cookies I make each year because my kids once counted 5000 cookies in my freezer!     Now I make about 15 different kinds each year, some old standbys, some new-all delicious!  I give out trays of cookies as gifts and people really do look forward to receiving them.  At the salon where I get my hair cut they call me “the Cookie Lady”!

First up is Crackled Molasses Cookies.  I got the recipe from a friend about 20 years ago and have been making them ever since-only BETTER!  These are rounds of  sweet, spicy deliciousness.  They are reminiscent of gingerbread, but (I think) with a better texture.  They are great with tea or coffee or even milk.  The recipe makes a bunch (60-90, depending on how heavy-handed you are) and they freeze really well (a plus when you’re making many, many cookies).  The recipe comes first and then my tips and tweaks.  Enjoy!   

Crackled Molasses Cookies (Original Version)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups shortening                   2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups brown sugar                1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs                                        2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

2/3 cup molasses                   1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves

5 1/3 cups all-purpose         2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

flour                                  granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream together shortening, brown sugar, eggs and molasses.  Add dry ingredients and spices.  Mix dough, it will be stiff.  DIvide in half and refrigerate, dough handles better when cold.

Use a rounded one half teaspoon of dough.  Roll between palms to make a ball.  Roll ball of dough in granulated sugar. Place balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Dip the bottom of a glass in sugar and use it to slightly flatten dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.  Cool sheets for 1 minute and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.  Cool completely before storing.  Makes 60  -90 cookies.

TIPS

1. If you are serious about cookie baking invest in 3, possibly 4 things:   SILPAT!  These are silicone baking mats, there are all types and all sizes.  Most are pretty expensive, but you can’t beat them, cookies won’t stick and you don’t have to grease them.  Cookies won’t burn either (unless you leave them in too long!).  Teaspoon and tablespoon cookie scoops, your cookies will always be round and uniform.  An oven thermometer-no one’s oven is perfect and they can be off as much as 50-75 degrees!  And finally, if you can afford it, a stand mixer.  They can handle even the stiffest dough, they knead bread dough with ease and meringue is a snap!

2. For this recipe:  Use butter flavor shortening-I know, I know it’s not real butter.  But it lends the cookies a rich flavor that can only come from butter without sacrificing the chewy texture of the cookie.

3. Use dark brown sugar.  For this cookie the flavor of the light brown variety can’t stand up to the spices and the molasses.

4. DO NOT stack the cookie sheets in the oven.  I know-it will take twice as long to bake the cookies.  But, even if you switch them top to bottom and front to back halfway through, one sheet always loses the characteristic crackles on the top of the cookie.

5. Don’t over or under bake the cookie.  Under baked cookies will lose the pleasant crunch of the exterior, over baked cookies will lose the distinctive chewiness.

Up next-Greek Walnut Cookies (Kourabiedes).  Until then leave me some comments, criticisms etc.  Happy cooking!