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Black and Whites

It’s a New York thing.  If you were born and raised in New York City (and any of the five boroughs) you know what a Black and White is.  If you move away (as I did) you crave them, you dream about them and it’s difficult to find them anywhere else.  Sometimes you think you’ve found them, and then you take a bite and…they’re crunchy!   Aaargh!  A true Black and White is never, ever crunchy!  You need to have sweet vanilla and chocolate icing on a meltingly soft cake/ cookie for it to be a true Black and White.  They come in many sizes, but the taste and the texture are always the same.

This recipe is fairly easy to make.  Buttermilk gives the cookie it’s tender, cake -like quality.  The icing is a simple confectioner’s sugar icing.  These cookies benefit from refrigeration or freezing.  They’re bite- size, so, be careful they are very addicting.

Mini Black and Whites

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour                                           1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                             1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt                                                1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons unsalted butter,                                        1/3 cup buttermilk (low-fat)

room temp

Icing

2 cups confectioners sugar                                               1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup            1 tablespoon water, more , if needed

2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice                                  1 tablespoon unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Make cookies. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

Put butter in bowl of electric mixer , fitted with a paddle attachment.  Mix until creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add granulated sugar, mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in eg and vanilla.  Mix in flour in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk.

Roll tablespoons of dough and place on parchment or silpat lined cookie sheets, 2″ apart.  Bake cookies rotating halfway through, until bottoms are golden, about 10  minutes.  Cool completely on sheets on wire rack.

Make icing.  Whisk confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and the water.  Add more water if needed, it should be a little thicker than honey.  Transfer half the icing to another bowl and add the cocoa.  Add more water, if needed.

Spread white icing on half of each cookie and the cocoa icing on the other half.  Let stand until set, 30 minutes.  Can be stored between parchment paper.

Tips

1.  I can never roll the dough into balls, I use a teaspoon cookie scoop, they come out perfect!

2.  You can always make extra icing-don’t skimp.

3.  I use a small, offset spatula to spread the icing, it works really well.

4. I freeze the cookies on the cookie sheets and then store them in the freezer between sheets of parchment.  When they thaw, they are the perfect consistency!

These are a family and regional favorite, enjoy!

Whoopee Pies

French Macaroons are all the rage now (and yes I do make those) and Whoopee Pies have gone out of vogue.  My family, however, missed the memo.  They love Whoopee Pies, all kinds of Whoopee Pies.  Red velvet, pumpkin, carrot cake, chocolate marshmallow-you name it, they love it.  What’s not to love, Whoopee Pies are convenient , tasty, little sandwich cakes that are very versatile!

They are said to be native to Maine, and I have seen them sold in bakeries there, but other states claim them as well.  I just know that they’re easy and delicious!  I am giving you the recipe for the traditional chocolate marshmallow ones.  Some recipes call for marshmallow cream (hard to get now), this one uses marshmallows (easy).  Most of the other flavors use either cream cheese or buttercream filling.

These cookies are so easy-it’s a shame NOT to make them!  They are pretty big, but somehow they always disappear!

 

Whoopee Pies

 

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped                               1 cup all-purpose flour

4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped                                   1/4 cup natural cocoa powder (not dutch process)

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)                                           1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup sugar                                                                                  3/4 teaspoon fine salt (not kosher)

3 large eggs                                                                                 18 large marshmallows

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment or silpat.

Put the chocolates and butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat at 75% power for about 2 minutes.  Stir, and continue to microwave until completely melted, about 2 more minutes.

Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until smooth.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until moistened. Switch to a rubber spatula and finish folding the batter together.  Don’t overmix!

Use a tablespoon cookie scoop or spoon to drop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto the cookie sheets.  Repeat to make 36 cookies.  Space about 1″ apart.  Bake until the cookies spring back when lightly touched, about 6 minutes.

Cool the cookies slightly.  Transfer half the cookies to a rack.  Turn the remaining cookies over so they lay flat side up on the sheet.  Place a marshmallow on each and return pan to oven.  Cook until the marshmallows soften and puff, about 3 minutes.  Cool marshmallow topped cookies about 2 minutes.  Top with remaining cookies, press lightly to make sandwiches.  Cool completely on racks.  Store in  container 1 week or freeze.

 

Tips

1.  I have used semisweet morsels instead of chopped chocolate-just make sure that the chips don’t have added oil.

2.  I have forgotten to use the baking powder and they’ve come out just fine – but, please try to remember to use it!

3.  The tablespoon cookie scoop works the best-the cookies come out uniform.

4.  You can freeze the cookies in a container between sheets of waxed paper.

Fig Crescents

I think figs just scream Christmas!  It’s a  very unique flavor that just gets better with some additions that are made in the following recipe.  Walnuts, honey and orange make the fig flavor just pop.  The sweet flavor and crunchy texture (from the seeds) bring me back to my childhood when I loved Fig Newtons and a glass of milk.  These cookies take Fig Newtons up a notch!  They came out of a magazine-hope I still have the subscription!

These are  roll and cut cookie, so you’ll need a 2 1/2″ fluted cookie cutter, they’re easy to find.  They’re also sprinkled with coarse, decorating sugar.  You can find it an any cooking specialty store or an arts and crafts store with a baking department.  Regular sugar won’t do, it’ll melt.

These are worth the work, they are really flavorful!  I hope you’ll try them.f

 

Fig Crescents

 

Dough

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour                                1 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt                                                        1/2 c. butter (or margarine), softened

1/4 tsp. baking soda                                       2 Tbsp. heavy or whipping cream

2 large eggs                                                       1 tsp. vanilla

 

Filling

1 large orange                                                   1/4 c. raisins

5 oz. dried mission figs,                                1/4 honey

stems removed

1/2 c. walnuts                                                  1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

 

1 large egg

1/4 c. white decorating sugar

 

Prepare dough; on waxed paper, combine flour, salt and baking soda.

In a large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, sugar and butter 2 minutes or until creamy.  Beat in cream and vanilla  until mixed.  Reduce speed to low, gradually beat in the flour mixture until just blended.  Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.  Flatten each disk in plastic wrap, refrigerate 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Prepare filling; grate 1/2 tsp. orange peel (from orange)  and squeeze 3 Tbsp. orange juice.  In food processor pulse orange peel, juice, figs, walnuts, raisins, honey and cinnamon until coarsely ground.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease to cookie sheets, or use silpat.  Beat egg with a fork.

On a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling-pin, roll 1 disk of dough 1/8″ thick.  With floured 2 1/2″ fluted, round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible.  Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator.  Carefully place dough rounds 1″ apart on cookie sheets.  Spoon 1 level teaspoon filling onto 1 side of each dough round.  Fold dough over filling, gently press edges to seal.  Lightly brush crescents with egg, sprinkle with decorating sugar.

Bake 15-16 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.  Repeat with remaining trimmings, filling, egg and sugar.  Store at room temp for 2 weeks or in freezer for up to 3 months.                                                                                                                                                    Tips

1.  Make sure you only coarsely grind filling-you need the texture!

2.  Don’t over fill the cookies-they won’t seal properly.  Use a teaspoon measure-if you use a teaspoon cookie scoop, it will be too much!

3.  Do use coarse decorating sugar, regular sugar will melt and the decorating sugar adds texture and sparkle!   Yum!

Rugelach

I know, I know what you’re thinking-“what does a woman with  an Italian last name know about Rugelach?”  Well, I’m going back to my roots!  I’m not Italian, I’m of Eastern European descent and I used to be Jewish.  It’s a long story, but I still cook a lot of traditional Jewish foods and my mixed heritage kids love them! Rugelach are one of those foods that transcend ethnicity.  The are little, rolled pastry/cookies filled with jammy, nutty, raisiny, cinnamony goodness!

They look difficult, but they’re really easy and are they addicting!  The best recipe I’ve found so far is Ina Garten’s.  The following recipe is hers and it will be followed by tips and ways to change it up.  By the way these freeze really well.

Rugelach (about 4 dozen cookies)

 

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp                                                            1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, room temp                                   1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 9 tablespoons                                 3/4 cup  raisins

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt                                                                       1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla                                                                                   1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in food processor

2 cups all-purpose flour                                                                          1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

 

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light.  Add 1/4 sugar, the salt and the vanilla.  With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour and mix until just  combined.  Dump the dough out onto a well floured surface and roll into a ball.  Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.

On a well floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a 9″ circle.  Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling.  Press the filling lightly into the dough.  Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges-cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each into thirds.  Starting with the wide edge roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash.  Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on cookies.  Bake 15 -20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Tips

 

1.  Room temp means room temp!  If the cream cheese and butter are too cold, they won’t mix properly.

2.  If you haven’t invested in a stand mixer, the dough can be done by hand-its just more difficult.

3. The refrigeration period is important!  It will enhance the flakiness of the dough and not cause it to spread too much or open up.

4.You can use different fillings:  seedless raspberry jam and almonds, nuts and mini chocolate chips etc.  the combinations are endless!

5. When you blend up the preserves it will become opaque-that is the way its supposed to look-don’t worry!  Enjoy! They won’t be around long.

 

Lemon Polenta Cookies

I am a sucker for texture!  Creme Brulee with a crunchy top, creamy ice cream with sandy cookies or crumbly cake mixed in, rice pudding with a bite to the rice… I don’t know why, but the texture of foods speak to me.  These cookies have texture, there’s a certain crunch and sandiness the polenta adds to the cookie that makes them irresistible!  The fragrance of the fresh lemon zest only adds to the appeal.

Just a warning-you need some “special” equipment for these cookies and a lot of muscle!  The cookies need to be piped out in an “s” shape, so you need a pastry bag fitted with a 7/16″ star tip.  If you can fit the tip at the corner of a plastic zip top bag, then you don’t need the pastry bag.  They do make plastic, washable and reusable pastry bags and they’re pretty cheap.  Ateco and Wilson make great tips and they ‘re very cheap.  As for the muscle, the dough isn’t the easiest to squeeze out, I’ve been sore a few tines after making double batches of these delectable morsels!  I’ve even considered teaching my husband how to pipe out the dough!

These are my daughter’s Christmas favorite and we never leave them out.  If you decide to “bite the bullet” and try these-you won’t be disappointed!

Lemon Polenta Cookies (about 2 1/2 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour                                            2/3 cup sugar

1 cup polenta or coarse corn meal                                1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt                                                              1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp               1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together flour, polenta and salt in bowl.

Put butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add yolk and egg, one at a time, beating after each addition to combine.  Mix in vanilla.  Gradually add in flour mixture, beat until just combined.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 7/16″ star tip.

Pipe “s” shapes about 3″ long and 1″ wide, spacing 1 1/2″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment (or silpat). Chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.  Bake cookies until edges are golden, 15-18 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Transfer cookies, parchment and all to wire racks, cool 10 minutes.  Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.  Can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.

 

Tips

1. I can’t say enough about using the right tools for the right job.  I believe that if you have the right equipment, half the battle is one.  A microplane is the best tool for grating zest for cookies and a plastic pastry bag is the right tool for piping!  (I could go on and on about a proper stand mixer-but I won’t.  At least not now!).

2. DO NOT LET THE DOUGH STAND!  It becomes stiffer and harder to work with.  I think the polenta starts to really absorb the liquid and stiffens the dough, it also loses some crunch.

3. You really need to work at the piping, there’s no getting around it.  It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

4. I don’t transfer the cookies,  parchment and all to the wire racks.  I let them cool a little on the silpat and then transfer just the cookies to the racks.  The cookies are none the worse for wear.

5. Once cool, I freeze the cookies.  The lose nothing in flavor or texture (and you know how I feel about texture!) and they last forever! Enjoy!

 

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

The next couple of cookie recipes are taken from Martha Stewart.  This recipe, because it’s so unusual, and I love the taste of Earl Grey tea!  This cookie has the taste of a delicate butter cookie with the added zing of orange and bergamot.  They are a favorite of quite a few people and I can never leave them out of my repertoire.  The recipe is easy and they bake fast.  In fact, you can leave the logs in the freezer , slice and bake them when you need them!  They also freeze well when baked.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies (Martha Stewart recipe-she says it makes 8 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour                                                                1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons finely ground Earl Grey tea leaves                 1 cup (2 sticks)unsalted butter, room temp

(you can use loose or 4 bags tea leaves-just grind               1/2 cup confectioners sugar

in a spice or coffee grinder)                                                        1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

Directions

Whisk together the flour, tea and salt in a bowl, set aside.

Put butter, sugar and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Use paddle attachment. Mix on medium until pale and fluffy,  about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, gradually add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Divide dough in half. Transfer each half to parchment paper and shape into logs.  Roll in the parchment to 1 1/4″ in diameter. pressing a ruler along the edge of the parchment at each turn to narrow the log and force the air out.  Transfer in parchment to paper towel tubes, freeze until firm-about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4″ thick slices.  Space 1 ” apart  on baking sheet lined with parchment (or silpat).

Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 13-15 minutes.  Cool on wire racks. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Tips

1. Invest in a microplane-there is nothing better to grate zest, nutmeg etc.  They aren’t expensive, come in a variety of sizes and are the best tool for the job.

2. If you don’t have an electric mixer-you have to do this by hand.

3. I do not use the towel tubes and my cookies come out just fine!  I never remember to save the tubes!

4. I never get 8 dozen-I usually get about 5 or 6 dozen.  In order to get the 8 dozen you need to cut them thinner than 1/4″!

5. I always freeze mine after the y are baked and cooled completely.  They lose nothing from freezing and it’s convenient.  Enjoy!

Pignoli Cookies

Changed the look of the blog, the old layout wasn’t really conducive to recipe writing, who knows. it may change again.  As I said, this is an evolving blog, sometimes it feels as if it’s a living thing! On with the recipe!

I have had numerous requests for a good Pignoli Cookie recipe.  I won’t be providing a picture with this one since I’m not actually baking them this year!  There are a few cookies I try to make infrequently because of time constraint and cost.  My children (adults) have coerced me into making Rainbow Cookies (also known as Seven Layer Cookies) this year.  Both the Pignoli Cookies and the Rainbow Cookies require almond paste.  Whether you buy canned almond paste or make your own, it is a costly endeavor.  So. I chose to make only the Rainbow Cookies (you’ll get the recipe when I make them-I promise!).

I got the Pignoli Cookie recipe from a friend whose father was a baker.  The recipe is a good one, just time-consuming and costly.  The recipe follows with lots of tips!

Pignoli Cookies   (Original Version) makes 20 cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar                                                                              9 oz. almond paste

1/2 cup confectioners sugar                                                   2 egg whites

1/4 cup flour                                                                               Parchment Paper or Silpat

Directions

Put almond paste in a bowl and break it up.  Then add the egg whites and beat the mixture  with an electric mixer on low-speed.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix by hand with a wooden spoon.

Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat.  Scoop 1 teaspoonful and place on cookie sheet.  As you place your pignolis on the top of the cookie it will take shape.  If the dough is to sticky, just dab your finger in a very small amount of flour. Flatten the cookie slightly to press in all the nuts. Space the cookies about 1″ apart on the sheet, they’ll spread a little.

Bake 12-19 minutes, depending on your oven, until they begin to brown.  Remove the cookies and parchment (if you’ve used it) together onto a cooling rack. Then, peel of parchment paper.  If you’ve used silpat, cool slightly on the pan and then use a sharp-edged spatula to remove the cookies, and place on cooling rack.

These cookies are best when fresh, but will remain soft for 3-4 days in a plastic bag.

Tips

1. If the cookies are sticky and you dab your finger with flour-don’t use too much!  The cookies will come out dry.

2.Do not be tempted to omit the parchment or silpat, you won’t be able to remove the cookies from the pan!

3. When you flatten the cookies, be gentle-they’ll flatten even more when baking and after!

4. Please don’t roll the dough into balls, dampen them and roll in the nuts-IT DOESN’T WORK! You’ll have to place each nut individually anyway-it’s a waste of time!

5. Do watch the cookies in the oven-they over brown fast.

If you have a fondness for these cookies (they’ve got a big fan base!) you’ll really enjoy these!