Wednesday, November 28, 2012

THE DARING BAKERS’ November, 2012 CHALLENGE: TWELVE DAYS OF COOKIES



I haven't been here much this month as I hosted the November Daring Kitchen Challenge - Twelve Days of Cookies




Introduction: 
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…..Lalala you know how the carol goes. I was so excited when Lisa asked me to do celebration cookies. Holiday time is nearly on us people and something edible is the perfect gift for that person who has everything or anyone for that matter.



Your challenge is to make a celebration cookie, square or bar. I am giving you 12 recipes (or the links to them) ranging from difficult to easy. I am really looking forward to seeing what you love to cook for holidays.  I have made all of these and I know they work.
When I cook I use weight for dry ingredients and metric for liquids. The wonderful Audax has converted the recipes for us so a big thank you to him.

Recipe Source:  If I have used someone else’s recipe I have linked back to them. If there is no acknowledgment then that is one of my recipes.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree – I am giving you my Pear and Ginger Bites. (Recipe 1)

2 Chocolate and Caramel Turtle Bars. Don’t worry there are no turtles in there they are pecans. (Recipe 2)

3 French Sables.
The Food Networks Double Chocolate Sables

Or French Foods Almond and Nutmeg Sables for something different


5 Golden Rings- Piped Shortbread Rings
Shortbread is a ratio recipe as I explained in my Foodtalk article. The ratio is the traditional one and came from my trade school textbook. (Recipe 3)

GermanLebkuchen from The Pink Whisk.
If you would like them a little bit more textured you can chop some blanched almonds instead of using almond meal.

7 layer cookies – These are amazing I hope lots of you will try these. I started with the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it is excellent. I changed it as I didn’t want to use pre-purchased almond paste. Deb had a bit of trouble with the cookies falling apart and found them easier to cut frozen. I found that my recipe doesn’t need to be frozen to cut perfectly. For a gluten free recipe go to HeyThat Tastes Good   (Recipe No 4 is the recipe I use)

8 Foaming Milk Cookies are an old family recipe from my mother in-law, perfect for the allergy sufferers. There are no eggs in the recipe. I have made these with water, juices and a variety of milk substitutes. I have used butter and margarines. I have used gluten free, rice, nut and coconut flours.  I have added spices, nuts, dried fruits and chocolate chips. This recipe always works. (Recipe No 5)

9 Lady fingers from Joy of Baking

10 Ginger Bread Lords a Leaping  from Art of Dessert


11 Pipers Brown Butter Shortbread. Scotland = Pipers= shortbread. (Recipe No 6)

12 Drummers Drumming Chocolate coconut cookies from Baking Glory -  because they look like little drums.


Note:  Specific tips and hints are provided with each recipe.
How I cut my squares.
There are a few tricks to cutting a perfect square.
             Line your pan with bake paper or foil and leave enough of an overhang so you can lift the item out easily.
             Cool and chill before you try to lift it out.
             Buy yourself one of these mats from a craft shop.
             Use a long sharp knife and clean it between each cut. To cut through a chocolate top heat the knife in hot water and dry it quickly. Then cut the bar.
             Trim the edges and reserve them for cooks perks. Measure the bar and cut it in half, then quarters. Then into 1” (2½ cm) (or whatever measurement you are using) lengths then into squares.
             You can also buy a quilters ruler and use that to cut your sections.


Mandatory Items: The only mandatory requirement is to make at least one of the 12 items provided from either my recipe or link plus your own favorite cookie, square, bar or other type of celebration sweet.

Variations allowed:  Vary away, anything goes as long as you make a cookie, square or bar.

Preparation time:  I have given the times in the recipes I have provided.

Equipment required: Equipment required is provided with each of my recipes.

Recipe No.1: Pear and Ginger Bites

Preperation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time:40 minutes

Makes 121 1” squares or 30 mini muffin size bites

Equipment required:
Sharp knife
Cutting board
Small heat proof jug
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Scales
Large mixing bowl
Electric stand mixer (optional)
Metal mixing spoon
9“ x 9” (22.5cm x 22.5 cm) baking tin
Bake paper
Cooling rack

Ingredients
½ cup (90 gm) (3 oz) Dried or glace pear
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (11gm) (1/3 oz) glace ginger
½ cup (120 ml) boiling water
½ teaspoon (2½ gm) Bi Carbonate Soda (baking soda)
1 large egg
½ cup (100 gm) (3½ oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup (115 gm) (4 oz) caster sugar
½ cup (115 gm) (4 oz) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
½ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) slivered almonds
1½ cups (210 gm) (7½ oz) plain flour
½ teaspoon (2½ gm) mixed spice
1 teaspoon (3 gm) dried ginger
¼ teaspoon (1¼ gm) baking powder

Icing (Frosting)
1½ cups (360 ml) (190 gm) (6-2/3 oz) icing (confectioners') sugar
3 tablespoons(45 ml) (45 gm) (1½ oz) softened butter or margarine
1 – 2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) lemon juice

Directions:
1.            Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/ 180°C/gas mark 4.
2.            Grease and flour (or line with baking paper) a 22.5cm x 22.5 cm (9” x 9”) square tin.
3.            Chop the fruit into a fine (1/10-inch) (2 -3 mm) dice.




4.            Transfer the chopped fruit into a small heatproof jug or bowl. Add the boiling water and soda and stir. Leave it to soak for 5 minutes.
5.            Mix the egg, sugars, butter and vanilla in the large bowl until smooth. Pour in the fruit, soda and almonds. Mix until smooth.
6.            Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the wet mixture. Stir until just combined.
7.            Spread into the prepared tin



or use the small ice cream scoop or a table spoon to fill the tins just
       below the top edge.

           
                
8.            Bake in a preheated moderate oven for 40-45 minutes for the large tin or 15 – 20 minutes for the bites      
       or until skewer comes out clean.  
9.            Let it stand in the pan on a wire rack until cooled or for the bites turn the whole mini muffin tray upside down on the cooling rack and leave for 5 minutes then remove the tin and leave the bites to cool.
10.         Icing (frosting) – beat all the ingredients together in a heat proof jug until smooth. Heat in the   microwave for 30 seconds or stand in some boiling water until the icing is a bit runny. Drizzle over the slice, cool completely, remove from the tin and then cut into 2½ cm (1-inch) squares.



Variations

Substitute margarine for butter
Use gluten free flour instead of wheat flour please add the recommended amount of guar or xanthan gum for the amount of flour.
Any nut can be used instead of pecans.
Any fruit can be used – glace fruit gives a more luxurious mouth feel than dried.

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips:  you can freeze this slice or store it in an airtight container in a cool spot or refrigerator. I am not sure how long it will keep but it does keep for at least 2 weeks. That’s the longest I’ve had it out of the freezer.


Recipe No. 2: Chocolate and Caramel Turtle Bars


Preperation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
Makes 117 1” size bites


This photo is a ½ quantity made in a smaller tray.

Equipment required:
Sharp knife
Cutting board
Small heat proof jug
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Scales
Large mixing bowl
Electric stand mixer (optional)
Metal mixing spoon
22.5cm x 32.5 cm (9” x 13”) baking tin
Bake paper
Cooling rack

Ingredients
Base
2 cups (280 gm) (10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (200 gm) (7 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) mixed spice
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) melted butter

Caramel Layer
¾ cup (180 gm) (6-1/3 oz) butter
1 cup (200 gm) (7 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
1½ cups (200 gm) (7 oz) pecans chopped into 1/4 -inch (2/3-cm) pieces

Top Layer
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200 gm) (7 oz) dark eating chocolate
121 toasted pecans (1 for each piece after cutting) or 1½ cups (200 gm) (7 oz) toasted pecans chopped into small chunks

Directions:
1.            Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/ 180°C/gas mark 4
2.            Grease or line with bake paper a 13”x 9” x 2” (33cm x 23 cm x 5 cm) baking tin 
3.            Mix the dry ingredients well in a medium size bowl and mix in the cup of melted butter.
4.            Press evenly into lined tin.


5.            Bake for 10 minutes.
6.            Scatter the chopped pecans over the base. Bake for another 5 minutes.
7.            While the base is baking melt the ¾ cup (180 gm) (6 1/3 oz) butter in a small pot over low heat.
8.            Add the brown sugar and stir until smooth.
9.            Heat over a medium heat until the entire surface is bubbling.

10.         Pour over the base and spread evenly.

11.         Bake for 10 minutes or until the surface is covered with bubbles.
12.         While this step is baking break up the chocolate and chop or blitz in a food processor until the chocolate is in small ¼ “ (1cm) chunks.
13.         Spread evenly over slice as soon as it comes out of the oven.
14.         Let it sit for 2 or 3 minutes and then smooth the chocolate with a spoon.
15.         Roast the 121 pecans on a lower shelf for 5 minutes (or until they smell cooked) while the base is cooking then let them cool. Place the pecans evenly over the chocolate while it is still soft so when you cut the bake into pieces there is a pecan on each square. Or sprinkle chopped roasted pecans over the top.

16.         Cool completely in the pan before cutting.

Variations

Substitute margarine for butter – the taste will not be the same and I’ve never made this with anything but butter so I cannot guarantee the result.
Use gluten free or almond flour instead of plain flour
Any nut can be used instead of pecans. Smaller nuts such as peanuts or hazelnuts do not need to be chopped as small.
Substitute any chocolate for the dark. The chocolate can contain nuts or coconut but should not be a soft center type.


Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips:  you can freeze this slice or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator however the chocolate may bloom.

Recipe No. 3: Piped Shortbread



Preperation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time:8-10 minutes
When piped to about 2.5 cm/1 inch this recipe makes approximately 120 cookies.
for golden rings it makes about 60

There is a lot of technical information and how to photos on my Piped Shortbread FoodTalk article.

Equipment required:

Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Scales
Large mixing bowl
Electric stand mixer
Metal mixing spoon
Cookie sheets
Bake paper
Cooling rack

Ingredients

1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) softened butter
1¼ cups (175 gm) (6 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (65 gm) (2- 2/3 oz) confectioners' sugar
¼ cup (45 gm) (1½ oz) cornflour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence
Nuts, chocolate chips, maraschino cherries

Directions:
1.            Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F/ 150°C/gas mark 2
2.            Combine butter, flours, vanilla and confectioner's sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk beater.
3.            Beat for 10 minutes.
4.            Pipe into rings.
5.            Decorate with maraschino cherry pieces to look like little wreaths or leave plain.
6.            Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
7.            Cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate or icing (frosting) if you want to.
Important Tips I have learnt since I did the Food Talk Article

To pipe shortbread beat for 10 minutes NO MORE – if you overbeat the mixture it won’t hold when it cooks.
A cool oven is important. If your oven is too hot the butter and sugar boils and you end up with lacy cookies that fall apart as soon as you try to do anything with them.
Between piping put the bowl and the piping bag away from your oven so it doesn’t get hot but don’t put it in the refrigerator because it gets too cold and you can’t pipe it.

Recipe No. 4: 7 Layer Christmas Cookies



 Preperation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time:10 minutes
Refrigeration Prior to Cutting: 4 hours or Overnight


Equipment required:
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Scales
Large mixing bowl
Electric stand mixer (optional)
Metal mixing spoon
22.5cm x 32.5 cm (9” x 13”) baking tin
Bake paper
Crank handle spatula
Cooling rack

Ingredients
4 large eggs, separated
1-1/2 cups (350 gm) (12-1/3 oz) sugar, divided
1 cup (240 ml) (125 gm) (4-1/2 oz) almond meal 
1-1/4 cups (300 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract (or since it is Christmas some brandy or rum extract)
2 cups (280 gm) (10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) red food colouring
1 tablespoon (15 ml) green food colouring
1 cup (360 gm) (12 oz) apricot jam heated and strained
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200 gm) (7 oz) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1 teaspoon (5 gm) butter
1 teaspoon (5 gm) sugar

Special equipment: a small offset spatula, a heavy-duty stand mixer if you have one; a hand-mixer should work as well but will be a lot of effort.

1. Put an oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to moderate 350°F/ 180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Line a 13-inch by 9-inch (33cm x 23cm) baking pan baking paper, leaving a 2-inch (5 cm) overhang on 2 ends.
3. Beat egg whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold just stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Put this in another bowl as you’ll need the mixer bowl for the next step.
4. Switch to your paddle attachment, then beat together the ground almonds, butter and the remaining sugar until its pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract and beat until it’s combined well. Turn off the mixer and add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. I have to put a tea towel over the mixer to stop the flour flying everywhere.
5. Beat 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the almond mixture then remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
6. Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food colouring into one and green food colouring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set the white batter aside. Put the green batter, covered into the refrigerator.






7. Pour the red batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula (layer will be about 6mm or 1/4-inch thick).
8. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (The cakes won’t look cooked but a tester does come out clean.)


9. Using the paper overhang, transfer the layers to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean the pan and re-line with parchment paper. Bake the white layer in prepared pan for 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer the white layer to a rack. Prepare the pan again and bake the green layer in the same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.
10. When all layers are cool, invert green onto a parchment lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of the preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with the remaining preserve. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper.
11. Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan and 6 tins of fruit or soup. Chill at least 8 hours.

12. Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring the layers to room temperature.
13. Chop the chocolate into small bits put half the chocolate, 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, once it’s melted and smooth take the bowl off the pan of water and turn off the heat. Throw in the rest of the chocolate and stir until it’s smooth. Put the bowl of chocolate back over the water you don’t want it too start to set.
14. Trim the edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Freeze until firm, at least 1 hour. You can freeze the whole thing like this until you want to use it. Don’t thaw it before cutting.



Deb from Smitten Kitchen cuts hers frozen. I find that if I use my recipe rather than hers it holds together enough to not require freezing.
15. Cut into 1-inch (2-1/2 cm) squares or into 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) wide strips then cut the strips crosswise into 3/4-inch (2 cm) wide cookies. (There is a how to photo at the beginning of the article.

Important notes from Smitten Kitchen
1. Don’t stack cooled cakes if you use wax paper: they might stick together or if you get grease on the top and bottom the chocolate doesn’t stick well.
2. Be careful dividing your jam: Heat the jam, strain out any lumps and then weigh it or use only enough to put a thin even layer over the layers. Too much jam and it oozes out and makes it harder to cut.
3. They’re easier to cut when frozen: Deb had problems with the hardness of the chocolate in variation to the softness of the cake when she tried to cut these unfrozen. In my own recipe I added a bit of butter to the chocolate and it was easier to cut.
4. Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.


Recipe No. 5: Foaming Cookies



For step by step photos of how to make the dough go to my blog post CinnamonSugar Cookies.
For the photo above I cut the cookie dough with my star cutters and then made some green icing and dipped the edges in the icing and let it set and then stacked 2 of each of the sizes for a Christmas tree then sprinkled on some edible glitter. These would be cute wrapped in cellophane with a bow on top.

Preperation Time: 10 – 20 minutes
Cooking Time:10 -15 minutes


Equipment required:
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Scales
Pot
Heatproof jug
Large mixing bowl
Metal mixing spoon
Star cookie cutters
Cookie sheets
Bake paper
Cookie baking tray
Cooling rack

Ingredients
1½ cups (340 gm) (12 oz) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) milk
4 cups (560 gm) (20 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) softened butter
1 teaspoon (5 gm) bi-carbonate soda
2 tablespoons (30 ml) hot water

Directions:
1.            Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/ 180°C/gas mark 4.
2.            Rub the butter into flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs or blitz together in a food processor.
3.            If you use your food processor tip the flour and butter into a metal bowl.
4.            Melt the milk and sugar together.
5.            Dissolve the bi-carbonate soda into the hot water.
6.            Add to the milk and sugar and mix quickly into the flour/butter until well combined.
7.            The mixture will be runny but it will firm up as it cools.
8.            When the dough has cooled roll it out to 1/5-inch (1/2-cm) thick and cut out with the cookie cutters or roll into logs and freeze for ½ - 1 hour until firm and cut it.
9.            Place on greased trays and bake in a moderate oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until golden.
10.         Allow to cool slightly on the tray and then move to cooling rack.


Variations
Add  2 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cloves and 1 teaspoon mixed spice for ginger cookies or ginger bread men.

Substitutions
Gluten free flour or almond flour for Plain flour.
Dairy substitutes e.g. margarine for Butter
Water, juice or milk substitute for Milk.

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips:  you can freeze the iced cookies or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Undecorated cookies will keep indefinitely in an airtight container in the cupboard.


Recipe No. 6: 11 Pipers Brown Butter Short Bread

Preperation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time:10 minutes

Makes about 48 cookies or one 20cm – 22cm (8 – 9 inch) shortbread round. Or when piped about 100 depending on how you pipe them.

Ingredients
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (130 gm) (4½ oz) dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla bean paste
1-2/3 cups (230 gm) (8 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (12 gm) table salt

Directions:

Step 1
Cut the butter into smallish pieces and place in a saucepan over a low heat. Melt the butter and cook until it starts to brown and gives off a warm, nutty aroma. Stir from time to time to make sure the butter browns evenly. As it gets close to being browned enough it will foam up and you will see little brown bits in the foam. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof jug or bowl. Set aside to cool slightly and then refrigerate until it starts to set again but is not too firm. It should be the consistency of softened butter. Don’t strain out the little brown bits they taste great.



Step 2

1.            Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F/ 150°C/gas mark 2.
2.            Line 2 large baking sheets with silicon baking paper if making the cookies or line a loose-bottomed tart tin if making one large shortbread round.
3.            Add the sugar and vanilla to the browned butter and beat until very light and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved.
4.            Finally, add the flour and salt and mix for at least 2 – 4 minutes to form a soft dough.
5.            If making one large shortbread round, press the dough into the tin and flatten the surface with a fork for a bit of texture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking. Bake the large shortbread round in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 – 30 minutes. If baking the large round, let cool completely in the tart tin and remove when cooled. Store in an airtight container.
6.            If making cookies, flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up. Roll out the pastry to about 1/6-inch (4-mm) thickness and cut into cookies. Place the cookies on the baking sheets and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will make sure the cookies keep their shape as they bake. Bake the cookies in a preheated moderate oven for about 10 – 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. You may need to rotate the sheets half way through baking to ensure even browning. They will be a golden colour when cooked.
7.            You may pipe this recipe – To do so beat the mixture for ten minutes then pipe as in the Piped Shortbread Rings recipe. If you would like to do little stars you will need a star icing tip. I used a Wilton 6b or 8b.

Additional Information:  I have put the links with the recipes or at the beginning of this article.
Disclaimer:
The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of “alternate baking/cooking”.  If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it.  If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. The responsibility is YOURS regardless of what health issue you’re dealing with. Please consult your physician with any questions before using an ingredient you are not familiar with.  Thank you! :)