Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

endless experiments with small things that bring joy to life

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Christmas baking 2014

A bit late to the game, but Happy belated New Year!  I totally ate my crafting resolution in 2014 in terms of experimenting with new recipes, partly because I have started a second master’s program.  The most recent semester was quite brutal, given that all my classes involved intensive research; hence, no time to bake.  I felt languid without the butter grease on my hands, endless sifting of cake flour, and scratching my head bald in coming up ways to use up those leftover egg whites in the fridge.  This void was somewhat filled toward the end of 2014 with a mad dash of baking Christmas cookies.

At work, it is an established tradition to give a small token of “thank you” bags to student employees and guards.  Last year, the cookie due date lined up perfectly with project due date (of course, right?), but I just have had it.  Between proofreading teaching plans and concocting a coherent research proposal, I planned to bake one batch of walnut butter cookies.  That one batch turned into about seven batches of three different types of cookies.  Needless to say, no assignment was completed during the mad dash cookie baking, but some equilibrium was restored.

Right after the semester was concluded, I baked another 150 or so cookies for coworkers as small holiday tokens.  It is definitely not as impressive as Marianne’s cookie marathon, but my sense of balance was restored with endless creaming butter and sugar, waiting for the dough to set, and kneading.

Walnut cookies with powdered sugar that reminds me of snow. #baking #food
Walnut butter cookies

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Schokiladen-Butter-plätzchen or Chocolate covered shortbread cookie

I have been a lucky recipient of holiday cookies for years (Thank you, Marianne!) This year, I decide to make some cookies for coworkers, and my first batch is chocolate covered shortbread cookies.  The recipe I use is from Saveur and part of the reason I choose this recipe over others is because the relative small amount of sugar (1/4 cup of sugar to 2 cups of flour), and most German cookies I have tasted are simply delicious.  
The only thing I do differently from the recipe is the chocolate mixture.  Since they are supposed to be holiday cookies, I thought it will be nice that the chocolate has a slight mint flavor, thus I melted two pieces of Andes mint chocolate with 5 cubes of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate (72% cacao).  If you put any sort of extract (vanilla, mint), the syrup will crystalize and it will “seize” the chocolate, so it will not melt properly.  
The shortbread cookie itself is filled with the aroma of butter but it is not overly sweetened.  Though it is filled with butter, the texture itself is very light.  The lightness complements with the slight bitter and rich chocolate.  Try it out when you have a chance!
shortbread ready to bake!
baked shortbread.  Do not let them brown!
tempered chocolate, with a hint of mint.
if you look at them from the sideway, don’t they look like faces with different hair style? 🙂

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Linzer Cookie

During Thanksgiving weekend, I attempted Marianne’s recipe on Linzer cookies.  Every single Christmas, Marianne will send me a box of homemade cookies and in that medley, my favorite has always been Linzer cookies.   I am not sure why I like them so much, could be the jam and cookie combination.  
I have been contemplated making these cookies for awhile, but as you can see, it is time consuming comparing to other cookie recipes.  The dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour, it needs to be roll out and cut, plus the final assembly.  
For the ground almond, I used the almond slivers sold at Trader Joe’s and ground it with food processor.  One word of caution is that do not ground the almond too long, otherwise, you will end up with almond butter instead of ground almond.  The dough is relatively soft so be sure to roll it out gently.  If the dough begins to stick on the rolling pin and board, wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for 5 minutes.  You can only freeze the dough once; it will be too hard to roll out after that.  To create jam’s bubbly effect, scoop a small portion of jam onto the cookie without the cut out, and gently sandwich it with the one with the cut out.  
The cookies are very light in taste and not sugary.  They make a wonderful pair with your choice of tea.
Cookies ready to be baked
cutting out cookies
Linzer Augen!