Posts Tagged ‘cookies’

Date cookies

13 March 2015

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I have three most vivid food memories of Jerusalem, which I visited nearly twenty years ago: yemeni malawach, a thick deliciously greasy flaky pancake served hot with raw crushed tomatoes and za’atar; addictive sachlab, a thick drink so unctuous and sickly sweet that it at once repels and keeps you coming back for more; and the date cookies from Damascus gate.

It was the spring of 1997 and I spent a few weeks in Israel visiting a friend — not ‘a’ friend, my oldest childhood friend, my next door neighbor for years, my daily play companion. She was studying in Jerusalem, so, apart from a few days around Purim during which we traveled together to the Sinai, and a few days when I ventured North alone, I spent most of those three weeks in Jerusalem, wandering. I paced the old city endlessly. Memories fade but snapshots remains. I remember the stones, the steps, the incline, the precarious wiring, the satellite dishes. I took the back way, I met mostly children. I was often halfway lost. Inevitably, the streets washed me toward Damascus gate, the buoyant pulse of Old Jerusalem.

There, a few paces removed from the falafel stands, standing alone, a little closer to the gate, was a cart piled high with date cookies.

I think I bought just one or two at first, to try. I came home with a very large bag. And although Tamara didn’t care for them, a few days later I was back for more. And then again to take some back to Berlin. This was nearly twenty years ago.

Here in London the other day a friend mentioned date bars. Then promptly — as she is wont to do — forwarded the recipe link. These are not the date cookies of Damascus gate, but, in a Proustian twist, they have transported me back to a forgotten moment, a faraway place, a cherished time, a magical trip.

Dan Lepard’s date bars share the Jerusalem cookies’ best qualities. They are subtle and layered, the understated flavors develop slowly and get under your palate. I cannot stop eating them.

Dan Lepard’s date bars (Click on the link for the recipe)

NOTE: I made just two slight adjustments:

I used only 15ml each of rose water and orange-blossom water because the ones I have are quite potent and I did not want the perfume to be overpowering. I would suggest tasting the dough and adjusting the amount accordingly.

Also, I cut the bars into 2cm (1-inch) pieces as I preferred a cookie feel rather than the larger bars.

Christmas cookies | Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars)

22 December 2013

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Maybe I wasn’t being completely truthful last year when I exclaimed that the almond and currant cookies of my youth are my favorite. In reality I’ve always loved Zimtsterne most of all.

As a little girl, cinnamon stars represented the very promise of Christmas. The sweet tinge of icing an irresistible finish to the chewy bite. Nutty. Not too cinnamony. For some years I may have snubbed them a little, perhaps in a flaccid effort at emancipation from too obvious a childhood treat. But why resist the irresistible?

This is another recipe my mother has kept alive all these years. She received it initially, many years ago, from Marcelle, a close family friend and my grandparent’s neighbor in Switzerland.

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Marcelle’s Zimtsterne
The cookies must rest for a few hours or overnight before baking, so plan accordingly. They are best made a few weeks ahead. (Ahem.
)
Store in an airtight tin box, separating the layers with parchment paper.

450 g (3 cups) almonds

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

300 g (1 1/2 cups) unrefined sugar

2 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon

Kirsch (1 Tbsp for cookies and 1 Tbsp for the icing)

Star-shaped cookie cutter

100 g (3/4 cup) powdered (icing) sugar

Pulse chop the almonds in a food processor until they reach the consistency of coarse sugar. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until very firm.

Add the sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon kirsch to the almonds. Fold in the egg whites with a wooden spoon, then knead by hand until the dough holds together (kneading will help extract the almond oil).

Take the dough and flatten it evenly on a slightly moistened wooden board (working in batches if necessary). The height should be approximately 8 mm (1/3 inch), but the most important is that it be even so it also cooks evenly.

Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with sugar. Cut out stars from the dough with a wet cookie cutter and place them on the baking sheet. (Wet the cutter repeatedly throughout the process to avoid sticking.)

Let the stars rest, uncovered (they must dry a little), at room temperature, for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Slide the sheet in the middle of the oven and bake the cookies for 10 minutes. They will harden when they cool but must remain moist.

Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with 1 tablespoon Kirsch and 1 tablespoon water. The icing should be quite liquid, add water drop by drop if necessary.

Using the back of a small spoon, coat each star, while still warm, with a light layer of icing. Let dry.

Store in a tin box, layers separated by parchment paper, for up to a month.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas cookies | Almond and currant (Corinth raisin) cookies

22 December 2012

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Traditionally, my mother and I divided baking duties for Christmas. I baked Stollen, she made everything else. A most delicious fruitcake that soaks in bourbon for weeks, gingerbread with the children, Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Haselnuss Leckerli (Swiss hazelnut cookies), and these almond and currant cookies. Recipes from our childhood, which she has baked for decades.

In a newly discovered enthusiasm for baking cookies, in the past couple of years I’ve sought out new recipes, to complement the Christmas spread. Last year I also decided to make these myself, to pick up the tradition, perhaps? They are understated, without the heady Christmas spices. They are my favorite.

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The dough must sit in the refrigerator overnight so plan accordingly, otherwise the cookies are extremely quick and easy to make. They improve with time so, ideally, they should be prepared a few weeks in advance. Oh well.

1 cup (225 g) butter

1/2 cup (115 g) sugar

4 egg yolks

3 1/4 cups (400 g) flour

1 cup (100 g) slivered almonds

3/4 cup (100 g) currants (Corinth raisins)

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Let the butter soften at room temperature.

Mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well, then the flour. Mix and knead until the dough is homogenous and smooth.

Divide the dough into two equal parts. Add the almonds to one half and the currants to the other, kneading well until they are completely integrated.

Roll each half into a long log approximately 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. (Optionally, to make squarish cookies as shown above, flatten the log on four sides.) Wrap each log first in parchment paper then clingfilm, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to bake the next day, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

With a thin sharp knife, cut the logs into thin cookies 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 8 to 10 minutes, until they just start to turn golden. (They will feel soft to the touch but will harden as they cool.)

Store in a tin in a cool dry place for up to a few weeks.

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Related recipes

Christmas cookies | Swiss Anisseed Chrabeli

Stollen

Candied orange and lemon peel

8 December 2012

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For years I’ve wanted to do this. Every time, as I gather all the ingredients to make Stollen in early December, I think I really should make candied citrus peel myself. But caught in the rush I end up scrambling and scouring stores desperately to find an acceptable option — usually just barely.

So I’m quite excited. It’s not as if I’d suddenly been graced with lots more time, rather to the contrary, but I guess that’s how it works.

It does take time — a few hours. Peeling, cutting, staying close to the boil. Repeating. It’s time-consuming. But simple. It’s meditative. And worth it.

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Orange peel

I candied the peel to use in Stollen, but there is plenty left over, which can be eaten as is, rolled in sugar, or dipped in dark melted chocolate to make orangettes. Mmmm.

5 oranges

3 cups (600 g) sugar

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the oranges, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.
Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should be translucent too.)

Place the pieces of peel on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Lemon peel
(Same technique but the quantities are halved, and lemon peel can also be dipped in dark chocolate to make ‘lemonettes’!)

5 lemons

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

3/4 cup (200 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the lemons, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.

Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 3/4 cup (200 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should not be white anymore, completely translucent.)

Place the peels on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Related posts

Stollen

Christmas cookies | Swiss Aniseed Chräbeli

21 December 2011

While I don’t shy away from de-veining a foie gras or beating the heavy dough of the yearly Stollen for 10 solid minutes, the idea of forming sticky wet dough into dozens of tiny elaborately shaped cookies never particularly appealed to me. I used to find cookies too fiddly.

But time passes, I change, and how else to have lots of homemade cookies at Christmas time? So last year I embraced cookies, and I must admit I’m enjoying making them — a lot.

There is a strong Christmas cookie making tradition in Germany, where my grandmother came from, and Switzerland, where my grandparents lived and where we spent every Christmas until I was 9. So the cookies I crave at Christmas are Lebkuchen and Zimtsterne, Linzer and Chräbeli.

Chräbeli are scented with anis. They have a very specific shape that reminds me of a branch, though the Swiss refer to them as ‘feet.’

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Makes about 40 cookies. Translated and very slightly adapted from La Mia Cucina, with thanks to Jennifer for pointing me in its direction.

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups (200 g) powdered sugar

2.5 flat Tbsps anis seeds

1 tsp Kirsch

1/4 lemon zest

1 pinch salt

2 cups (250 g) flour

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With a whisk, beat the eggs and powdered sugar for a good 10 minutes.

Optionally, heat a small pan, remove from heat, and add the anis seeds just to warm them up.

Combine the anis seeds, Kirsch, and lemon zest with the egg/sugar mixture.

Add the flour little by little. Once all the flour has disappeared, cover the bowl and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. **The dough must be sticky but not runny. If it doesn’t hold together in a loosely shaped ball in the bowl, add just enough flour before setting to rest.**

Prepare a cookie sheet with buttered parchment paper.

Divide the still slightly sticky dough into 2 parts, and form into a thick roll; divide each of these into 4 pieces, and roll each piece into an even, long stick about 1/2 inch (1 cm) in diameter. Form each of the four sticks into 4 cookies and place them onto the buttered parchment paper. To form the cookies: cut the stick into 4 pieces 1 3/4 in (4 cm) long, then with a clean, sharp knife, cut 3 angled incisions halfway into the cookie to form the ‘branches’ (or ‘feet’), then bend into a half-moon shape.

Let the cookies rest for 10 hours in a cool place with an even temperature and no draft.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top is slightly hard to the touch, but not yet turning brown. **Do not open the oven for the first 10 minutes.**

Store the cookies in a tin in a cool place for up to a few weeks.

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Related posts

Stollen

Christmas cookies | Almond and currant (Corinth raisin) cookies


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