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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Lemon Gems

When I opened up the December issue of Gourmet, I was instantly drawn to one very sparkly, very pretty, very glittery cookie. But do you know what’s even better than a pretty face? Substance. The object of my affection was filled with fluffy cream.

I set out to make these Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies on Thursday evening, in anticipation of bringing them along to my many meetings on Friday. The recipe in Gourmet instructed me to place “scant teaspoon” sized balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. My cookies were going down on the pan as chubby tablespoons. When they came out of the oven, I laughed out loud at the idea of making sandwich cookies out of them – they would have been the fattest cookie sandwiches ever. Well, maybe not ever. I believe that the long ago forgotten Oreo Big Stuff still holds that title.

But they would have been uncomfortably big for people to eat. So I ditched the sandwich idea and just piped the lemony icing right on top of each cookie and served them up as singletons. People were singing their praises all Friday long.

I was instantly enamored of these cookies. They are so darn pretty. And the taste … oh my goodness. They are good. These are perfect holiday cookies: glittery, pretty, and delicious.

Lemon Gems
Recipe adapted from Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies – Gourmet, December 2008

Makes about 50 cookies

Cookies

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
2 sticks Earth Balance (or butter substitute of choice), softened
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
Sanding sugars

Filling

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp light corn syrup
½ stick Earth Balance, softened

Make cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silipat sheet.

2. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt.

3. Beat together Earth Balance and confectioners sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in zest and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture just until a soft dough forms.

4. Put sanding sugars in different bowls. Roll a scant tsp of dough into a ball and drop into sugar, turning to coat. Reshape if necessary and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat, spacing balls 3/4 inch apart, until baking sheet is filled.

5. Bake until tops are slightly cracked but still pale (bottoms will be pale golden), 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. Form and bake more cookies on second baking sheet.

Make filling:

6. Beat together all filling ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined well. Transfer to sealable bag and snip off a corner. Pipe about 1/2 tsp filling on top of each cookie.

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Spritz Cookies

After the cake debacle left me with no sweet treat for my guests, I kicked into overdrive to find an adequate replacement that I could make with the clock ticking. As I scanned my cupboards for inspiration, one thing jumped out at me, a most unsuspecting item: a box that looked like it came to me straight out of 1972. It was a cookie press that I had scored new in the box for $1.99 several years ago. It remained new in the box in my kitchen as I had never even opened it to make use of it.

I quickly found a recipe for cookie press cookies from Martha Stewart that looked easy and for which I had all the ingredients on hand. I subbed in Earth Balance for butter and canola oil for egg yolks (2 tablespoons of oil per each large egg yolk the recipe called for). To make the dough festive, I divided it in half and mixed in green food coloring to one half and red food coloring into the other half. I topped the cookies off with some sanding sugars before popping them into the oven.

I could not believe how easy these cookies were to make, or how easy the cookie press was to use. Literally, just point and shoot! I can’t believe that for all this time I have been missing out. Now I want to make spritz cookies every day … just because I can. One trick that I did develop was to use two cookie sheets, but only put one in the oven at a time, so as to chill the other. I had found with my second batch that the dough coming out of the press did not stick to a hot cookie sheet. As one batch baked, I let one sheet cool over my sink and stuck the dough and press into the fridge to let it chill. I found that this system worked quite efficiently for me.

My secret for perfectly done cookies is to pull them out of the oven before they look done. If you leave them in until they start browning they are, in my opinion, already too far gone. I know that some people enjoy the crispiest cookies the best. Admittedly, I am not one of them. For these types of cookies, in particular, I enjoy a nice crisp outside that yields easily to a soft inside. To achieve that effect, I timed these cookies at exactly 10 minutes. I sacrificed the first batch by letting them go for 12 minutes, which resulted in very crispy browned edges and bottoms. They did not end up the trash, though – I set those aside for the extra crispy lovers among us to enjoy. I did not, however, put them out for all to see!

Spritz Cookies
Adapted from this recipe by Martha Stewart
Makes 6- 8 dozen cookies

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) Earth Balance (or other butter substitute of your choice)
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
3 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Colored sanding sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance and sugar until light and fluffy. Add canola oil and mix, then add flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

2. Fill a cookie press with the dough, and turn out cookies 1 to 2 inches apart onto a non-oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with colored sanding sugars.

3. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. To ensure even baking, rotate sheet halfway through the baking process. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

One of my guests who enjoyed these cookies asked about any sweetener substitutions I made. Oops – busted! Despite my commitment to cutting out refined sugars, the two holiday recipes I’ve made thus far this season – fruit cake and these cookies – have found me sneaking sugar back in. We discussed the difficulty of mitigating health resolutions and ingredient substitutions with tried-and-true traditions. Have any of you had success with substituting some of the naughtier ingredients in traditional holiday recipes with their nicer and healthier counterparts? If so, please share your stories and tips in the comments below.

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