16 December 2008

Time to make the cookies!!

Remember the Dunkin' Donuts commercials from the 80s, where the poor guy got up every morning at an ungodly hour, with the tag line, "Time to make the donuts."?

It has been 'time to make the cookies' for several weeks now, and I've been busy doing just that.  I don't feel like the Dunkin' Donuts man, though, I truly enjoy making the cookies.

There was a cookie exchange earlier this month, and I pulled out my Swedish cookbooks in search of that elusive something different.  I found a great recipe (yes, I'll share, but not in this post, sorry) that translates to the unfortunate-sounding Nut Logs.  I made a test batch, and figured out quickly that those suckers couldn't stay at my house.  Way too buttery, way too good, way to get fat!  

I took them in to work, along with every other cookie I've experimented with this season, and I should have been prepared for the consequences.  Take the cookies, and everyone moans about how I'm ruining their diets.  Don't take in cookies, and they're annoyed that there is nothing to nosh on along with that all-important 3 o'clock cup of coffee to keep you going through the late afternoon.

Either way, they make me laugh.  The whining and moaning and complaining about how I'm ruining their diets mean that they're eating and, better, enjoying the cookies, so I take that as a compliment.  The whining that there are no cookies in the office kitchen (horrors!  whatever shall we do?)  also means that they like 'em.

There are 2 standbys for holiday cookies for me.  Coffee Cookies, which I have written about pretty extensively in the past, and Rose's Crescents, which I don't think I've written about before.  

In an attempt to at least stay awake until after 7 PM on Sunday night, I made the dough for the crescents, but they require a stay in the fridge, so I wasn't going to actually bake them that night.  Monday morning, I realized that it was Monday, and for about the last 6 weeks, I've taken a batch of cookies in on Mondays.  Uh-oh.  

When I take in cookies, I don't want to take just a dozen; first of all, that isn't enough and secondly, that isn't enough.  So I shaped and baked two dozen mini crescents at 6:30 in the morning.  Clearly, I'm nearly as insane as the author of the christmas cookie cookbook from which the crescents come.  The gingerbread house in the back of the cookbook is the Cathedral of Notre Dame, for heaven's sake.

Worth it, sure, for the happiness the crescents give anyone who eats them, but silly to fire up the oven and bake during the six o'clock hour.  I mean, really.

The crescents use ground almonds in place of some of the flour, and the resulting cookie is buttery, crumbly, and ohmigod delish.  This is good cookie to make if you're looking to impress someone, and actually have the patience to shape the crescents.

Almond Omigod Crescents

(adapted loosely from Rose's Christmas Cookies)

2/3 c finely ground almonds
1/3 c sugar
1-2/3 c flour
2 sticks of butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 tsp salt

Her directions spell out the way to make these either in the food processor or with a mixer.  Go with the food processor.  Trust me, easier.

I buy blanched slivered almonds, and grind them up in the food processor.  Add the sugar, and process until it is crumbly looking.  Add the butter (using the food processor, it doesn't necessarily need to be softened) and process again, briefly.  If you allow the dough to come together in a big ball at this stage, you will have to spend considerable time kneading in the flour by hand.  Again, trust me.  So minimal processing on the butter.  Take the lid off of the food processor, and sprinkle the flour over the top, along with the salt.  Process again, and this time, it is OK to allow it to come together in a ball.  Run it too long, though, and your food processor's motor will be unhappy with you.

Dump the contents of the working bowl out onto a big sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper, and shape into a large round flat disc.  You might have to knead in some of the bits no matter what you do, so if it looks like panko breading, allow the warmth of your hands to help it become more cohesive.  Spend 10 minutes or so just patiently kneading it until it has a consistent texture.  Let it hang out in the fridge for about two hours.

I use a small ice cream scoop (I think it is a #100 disher, to be exact) and use that to make little balls of dough.  Then I shape them into crescents by rolling them into a short snake between the palms of my hand.  I make it crescent shaped by draping it over the back of my index finger.  The book says 325F for 12-14 min, and even making them much smaller than the book's instructions with my #100 scoop, they still need just about that much time.  They should be only lightly browned on the bottoms, and hardly even golden on top.  The final pain-in-the-ass step can't be avoided, and perhaps makes these even fussier than they need to be.  You roll them while they're still warm in cinnamon-sugar.  Gently.  Really gently.  They're still kinda fragile.  Cool on wire racks.  Eat.  Rinse & repeat.

The recipe claims that it makes 5-1/2 dozen 3-inch long crescents.  I don't know how the heck that happens, because when I make them following the directions to the letter I still don't get that many.  And people, I never follow directions to the letter.  Ever.  Recipes and patterns are a starting point, a road map, but not the be-all end-all.  The recipe directions say to shape 3/4 inch diameter balls into 3 inch long crescents; but the picture in the book shows big, big fat-looking cookies, and making them 3 inches long makes for skinny puppies.  To illustrate how much I followed the directions to the letter, I even used a ruler for a few of them.  Finally, in the end, I threw up my hands and decided I'd make them like I want them to look.  Really you could skip all the fussy-fussy shaping and just make them round.  They won't work as cut-out cookies, but you could make them any shape you cared to.

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