Sunday, November 17, 2013

Biscoff-Pumpkin Spice Spritz Cookies

I just downloaded another book on food photography and food styling. I have a small modest collection of special plates, napkins and props. Just a few. Storage, in my small kitchen, is at a premium. My husband made, for me,  a little "set" using some tiles and wood (to hide my tile kitchen counter), and I even have a Tunsten light set. In theory, I should be able to shoot photos during winter, when natural light is at a premium-- given that I don't get home from work until dark, during the Fall/Winter months.

Alas, time isn't my friend, when it comes to setting up a shot. The sun was going down, dinner time is just around the corner, but I wanted to write down this recipe, lest I forget how I made it. So much for setting up a small decorative ceramic turkey,  some food props, a fancy plate and a color-coordinated napkin-- oh, and the milk bottle with the colored striped straws. "set up" that looks like the front page of a food magazine. In my case, ain't gonna happen. The desire is there, but the time isn't.

What you will get, should my lackluster photos inspire you to do, is to be glad that you baked these cookies. Stat.  I'm so behind with all the trendy ingredients that go viral on food blogs. Biscoff Spread is so "last year". I know. I've been trying to think of a way to use this ingredient in a way that not everyone else has. Good luck with that, because when I get an idea for a recipe, someone else already has. Sigh. (Oh, and Trader Joe's sells Cookie Butter, which is a clone of Biscoff spread.) As far as I can tell, nobody has made spritz cookies with Biscoff, so I'm claiming them!

This year, I haven't made anything with pumpkin. I adore pumpkin, but I don't like the way pumpkin cookies turn out. They have a fluffy, biscuit texture, and I prefer a crunchy cookie. If it has a chewy center, even better.  In my last post, I shared the Butter Spritz Cookies, using my new OXO Cookie Press.  I wondered if I substituted half the butter for Biscoff spread, and added some pumpkin spice, if the cookies would work out okay.

I wanted an excuse to use the "Turkey" Disk that came with the OXO Autumn Disk Set.   It takes a little bit of patience to press the level, on the cookie press, until the first cookie dough comes out. It's usually a bit wonky, so I just scrape it off and toss it back into the bowl of dough.

I can fit 20 cookies per cookie sheet. The turkeys are kinda cute!

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Spritz Cookies/Swedish Butter Cookies

For the most part, I've kept my kitchen gadget addiction under control. That is, until I started to see a few blog posts about OXO's Cookie Press. It's been many years since I've made Spritz Cookies. Partly, it's because my 30-year old metal cookie press became separated from some of it's parts. I bought another one, made of clear plastic. I forget the brand, but it broke the first time I used it. Plus, the cookies were okay. But I didn't find them to be anything special.

So, I caved and I bought the cookie press. The cookie press comes with recipes, but I found  an America's Test Kitchen recipethat I wanted to try, first.  A basic spritz cookie recipe is very simple-- butter, sugar, egg, salt, vanilla and flour.  America's Test Kitchen recipes usually have some sort of "twist", and so far, any recipe I've made of theirs turns out great. This recipe was no exception.

You don't have to buy a cookie press to make Spritz cookies! You can use a piping bag with a star tip. I will say, though, that cookie presses are easy, fast and a bit of fun to use. 

ATK's "twist" is that they use only the egg yolk, and one tablespoon of heavy cream.  Once the egg yolk and heavy cream are whisked together, I added one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

Two sticks of softened butter, a pinch of salt and sugar are beaten until fluffy.  Then the egg/heavy cream mixture is added and mixed until blended.

2 cups of flour is gradually added, and then you scrape the dough until it's all gathered in the mixing bowl. This takes minutes! The key is to have the dough soft, so it can squeeze through the press.

I liked ATK's tip of shaping the soft dough into a "log", which drops into the cookie press cylinder.

I decided to choose the "Sunflower" disk.  This cookie press using a lever that you press down on. It works great!  See?

Yes, you'll get a few deformed cookie shapes. All you have to do is scoop them off the baking sheet, and toss them back into the bowl of dough. (Or, you can pop them into your mouth. Hey, I've eaten raw cookie dough all my life, and have never gotten sick!)

Whatever you do, do not set the cookie dough on parchment paper, nor should you grease the baking sheet. You'll get frustrated. Trust me, the cookies won't stick. I promise.

I also made an almond version of cookie dough, by adding 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract and 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  I decided to add some coarse sugar on top, for texture and I use the "Daisy" disk for this version.

For Christmas cookies, I have some red and green coarse sugar. This batch is purely for practice!

I baked the cookies at 375F and rotated them half way between baking times-- which turned out to be ten minutes for a slightly golden edge.  I found that it was ideal to loosen each baked cookie after a few minutes and then to let them cool for a few more minutes. Then, I moved them to a cooling rack.

One more thing-- don't press cookies onto a warm cookie sheet! Let the baking sheet cool completely.  I was able to put them into the freezer to speed up the process, as I have three cookie sheets and wanted to move things along.

Each batch of dough yielded about 5 dozen cookies.  I stored them in an air tight container and the next morning they were exactly the same as when they were freshly baked.

TASTING NOTES:  These cookies are anything but ho-hum.  The vanilla version was buttery and crispy, with a really tender crumb. My son's eyes lit up when he tasted them. He said they were just like eating potato chips-- you can't eat just one!   I'm a big fan of almond flavored sweets, so I favor the almond version.  I have plans for other flavors-- like chocolate, and adding lemon zest for a citrus variation. I've got a few other ideas, I'll keep under wraps for now.

While these cookies are considered a traditional Christmas cookie, I think they are delicious anytime of year-- especially with tea.

My next recipe, using this Cookie Press will be some savory cheesy crackers (er, "biscuits).  You will be the first to know how they turned out!

NOTE: OXO did a great job with developing this cookie press  I like the press down lever (as opposed to my former "twist" handle). I also like that this is dishwasher friendly. OXO did not choose me to receive this cookie press for free (I wish).  I'm not being paid to promote this product. My opinions are truly my own!

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.


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Thursday, November 7, 2013

My favorite Thanksgiving recipes

I just got my broken camera lens back from the "Canon Hospital", so I've been unable to photograph any new recipes for the last couple of weeks. This weekend, I plan to make some new recipes. In the meantime, I've decided this is a good time to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes-- since the holiday is less than three weeks away!

I enjoy Thanksgiving, and I'm thankful that I have family to celebrate it with. But, last Thanksgiving, I let both of my bachelor brothers know that Thanksgiving 2013 I was not going to be cooking or baking.  I just need a break from slaving away in the kitchen for two days.  Standing for hours at a time took it's toll on my arthritic knee. Now that I have a brand new one, I'm still in the process of healing-- and my knee isn't as painful as it once was. Whew! Since I'm, pretty much, the sole cook and baker  I've found ways to make a few of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes ahead of time.

This "Make Ahead Turkey Gravy" is a lifesaver.  This recipe can be made a few days ahead of time (or weeks, and you can freeze it). I reheat it in a small crockpot, which frees up my stove-- plus, I don't have to hassle with making gravy, once the turkey is ready.   If you're on the guest list, and have been asked to bring one dish-- make this gravy!  Delicious!

Another time saver is this "Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes".  Personally, I think Yukon Gold Potatoes are the tastiest choice.   I add an egg, which gives extra richness to the spuds-- oh, and cream cheese, and heavy cream, and butter. Yes, these are rich and decadent.  Once in a while, just go for it!

When it comes to bread rolls, I just can't deal with store bought. These Golden Pull Apart Buns are tender, and perfect with turkey and gravy.

Would you believe that I made these Dinner Rolls in an hour? I wouldn't lie about such things. These are really easy to make-- even for a beginner bread baker. Oh, and I made a whole wheat version, too!

 I absolutely adore yams. I'll pass on stuffing any day. I have a hard time deciding which recipe I love the most-- these Candied Yams...

 ...or this "Sweet Potato Casserole".  This has a layer of marshmallow creme and a pecan streusel. Dessert or side dish? You decide.

 One Thanksgiving, I made these Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. They were a big hit with my family.

I don't have two ovens, and it's hard to juggle the roasting of The Bird, and baking the stuffing, the bread and side dishes.  We made a grilled turkey on our Weber (Cook's Illustrated).  Not only did this method free up my oven, it also delivered a moist turkey with a beautiful browned skin.   We loved it!

 Fortunately, everyone in my family loves pumpkin pie. I love Libby's Pumpkin Pie recipe. But this year, I tried a recipe from King Arthur Flour. There's a secret little ingredient that gave the pumpkin a little kick, but nobody could figure out what it was...until I told them. 

I'm surprised at how many people proclaim that they can't make a pie crust to save their life. Funny thing is, I'm not a big fan of pie crust, but I think they're fun to make.

I'll be making this "Pumpkin Roll" again. It makes an impressive looking dessert, and it's super easy to do.

If you truly don't like pumpkin, then this Apple Brown Butter Tart is a delicious Fall alternative for your holiday table.

This Thanksgiving, my husband and I will drive to Northern California, right near the Nevada border to spend the holiday with his sister and two cousins-- who are flying in from various parts of the country.  No, I won't be cooking.  We're eating out.

Though, I think I'll be making a miniature Thanksgiving dinner at home with just the three of us-- my husband and my son.  Just a quiet day to be thankful for what we have-- and that I can take it easy.

I'm looking forward to playing with some new kitchen toys gadgets tools that I just bought. Just wait and see!

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