Cookies

Almond Date Pinwheels

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Pinwheels are a classic winter cookie, in my mind- like thumbprints, gingerbread men, and cucidati- they usher in the Christmas season! This recipe was truly a shot in the dark when William and I created it. We had some extra dough while making cucidati this season, so we decided to put it to good use.

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These cookies are made with dates, almonds, and figs. We added no spices considering the impromptu nature of the experiment, and it actually turned out amazing! However, I think if you want to make it fancier or give it a more complex flavor, you could add similar spices: allspice, cloves, and even orange extract.

These are much easier to construct than the cucidati and that is convenient, but you will still need a food processor and large workspace to create the pinwheels.

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This recipe was basically made up on the fly, but it turned out so well, I thought I’d share it.

Ingredients

1/2 recipe cucidati dough
~1 ounce dried dates
2 ounces dried, mission figs
3/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup sliced almonds

We Sliced and de-stemmed about 10 dried dates, and 1-2 ounces of dried, mission figs. Then, we boiled them in the simple syrup and let them sit for half an hour. We then combined the sweetened date-fig mixture in a blender with 1 cup of sliced almonds.

Finally, we spread the mixture onto a long, flattened square of excess dough.

We rolled the dough up and sealed it with a bit of water. We then sliced it into little pinwheels with a sharp knife, and finally cooked it following the same process as with the cucidati.

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Slice carefully with your sharpest knife, and lay them onto parchment paper. Some of the date filling may squeeze out on one side if your knife is a bit dull. To keep your pinwheels pretty, lay them down on the parchment paper with the messy side down.

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Enjoy!

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Cucidati (Sicilian Fig Cookies)

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During the winter, right around Christmas, it’s a tradition amongst many Sicilian families to get together and make certain types of cookies. Perhaps my favorite of the cookies are the cucidati. These tiny cookies, jammed packed with flavor, always remind me of Christmastime. However, for such a small cookie the amount of effort involved in constructing them is very high. The prep process for these little guys is not something you can do casually in an hour or so for a late-night snack. It makes for a great afternoon activity and the more people you have, the more fun it can be- it’s the one time our idiom “too many cooks in the kitchen” seems to be untrue on a very literal level!

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Cucidati are crescent-shaped cookies made with a light, white dough and filled with a spiced, fig-nut filling. In our family, we love to use the flavors of clove and allspice with a hint of orange extract. We also use pecans to add the nuttiness. Many families use walnuts, but I’m convinced that the south rubbed off on us and we switched to the less bitter, and less expensive pecan in many dishes! Some people also use dates in the mixture- I prefer 100% mission figs for the filling.

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Every family has their own recipe for cucidati. In my family there are two different methods for making these delicious cookies. I decided to blend the two and create my own recipe. This is partially due to necessity, most family recipes for cucidati make 100-200 cookies… which I do not need in my two-person household. This recipe makes about 50 cookies, with some extra dough to play around with. First-time cucidati makers will hopefully find this recipe useful because of the extra dough, it can be difficult to get the cookies looking pretty the first few times around. With this recipe though- you should be sure to be a little stingy with the filling. If you’re not prepared to be careful about doling out the filling- make double the filling recipe.

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We ended up making an impromptu date-almond jam and made pinwheels with our excess dough. I will post that recipe later! (It’s here, it’s here! 🙂

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A few additional notes: you’ll want a very large work space for these cookies, especially when constructing them. You’ll need a rolling pin as well as a sharp knife for cutting the characteristic slits in the top of the cookie. When I get together with my aunt, grandmother, great-aunt, cousins, and mother, we use a pack of razor blades. However, this most recent time making them I just used my pocket knife and it worked out fine! You will also need a food processor to make the filling.

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As with many Sicilian family recipes, it is assumed that you’ve had someone teach you how to make it so you know how the dish should progress in its look and feel. With the filling here, that’s a big part of it. I give a recipe for simple syrup to help break down and sweeten the figs- do not use all of the simple syrup, you will NOT need all of it. I will repeat this throughout the recipe, as a reminder.

Enjoy the cookies- and the experience of making them! 🙂

Cucidati- Sicilian Fig Cookies
makes 50-60 cookies with extra dough

for the dough
4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup crisco
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

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for the filling
simple syrup (made with 3/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water) You will not use all of this syrup!
6oz dried mission figs
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 tsp each cloves and allspice
3 tsp orange extract

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for the icing (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
~2 tablespoons milk

First, make your dough. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt).

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Cube the crisco and mix it into the dry ingredients by hand until combined. The mixture will be crumbly.

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Add in the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, and vanilla). Fold until it comes together in a ball. Let it rest in a cool place for half an hour.

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During these 30 minutes, you can make the filling! First, you will want to make a simple syrup. I use a recipe for a large amount of simple syrup, just in case. Plus, it’s useful for all sorts of other things like jams and fancy cocktails! Stir the sugar with a cup of water in a pot over medium-high heat. Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved (almost or just to boiling/simmering usually). Let this cool down. You can store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Remember, you will not be using all of this simple syrup for the cucidati recipe.

De-stem and quarter the dried figs.
Chop the pecans in half.

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Combine the two in a food processor until it forms a very loose paste or crumble. You might need to stir it a bit in between pulses to jostle the figs around, they are very sticky.

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In a bowl, combine the fig-pecan mixture with the spices and orange extract. Mix together.

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Next, add to your filling the simple syrup. You will probably be adding only around ¼ cup, but it takes a little bit of practice to get the consistency right. Add the simple syrup a tablespoon or two at a time until you’ve got a fairly sticky paste that keeps together and could be spread. You do not want to add too much, otherwise it will leak out of the cookies. It should be about the consistency of a cheese spread (or a little thicker).

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Now comes the construction. First, create your workspace. Lay down a large sheet of parchment paper and set up a small bowl of water, a pizza cutter, and your pocket knife/sharpest, smallest knife. Flour the surface of the parchment paper. Roll out half of the dough and trim the edges to form a large square.

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Cut the square into 2″ strips using the pizza cutter.

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Taking one strip at a time, flatten it out and shape a thin line of filling down the center.

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Fold one side of the dough over the filling. Lightly wet it with water. Fold the other side on top and press down to create a seal.

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Flip the roll “seal-side down” onto your floured surface. Using your kitchen knife, cut the log into 2-3″ pieces.

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Finally, take your sharpest, smallest knife and cut 3 small slits in the top of the dough. You want to slice through the top layer of dough only.

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Shape the cookie into a crescent and place it on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

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Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes on the bottom rack and 5-7 minutes on the top rack. When each batch is finished, take them out and allow them to cool completely. The filling will be very hot.

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If you like, you can then create a light glaze by mixing 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar with about 2 tablespoons of milk. Brush the glaze over the cooled cookies. It hardens very quickly, so that you can enjoy your fig treats soon!

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Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

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These cookies are my new favorite. They are not very child-friendly or pregnant-person friendly, because they do in fact contain espresso powder. However, they are soft and chewy and sweet and salty and even a little bitter to the taste! They have a kick of caffeine and they stay nice and soft for at least a week or two after being made!!

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They are the answer to every craving (excepting, perhaps, the late-nite snack run). Truth be told, you also have the option of using decaf instant espresso for an all-day treat, accessible to anyone with a penchant for that delicious mocha flavor.

To top it all off, they are incredibly easy to make. The actual mixing time is about fifteen minutes, and baking time is ten to fifteen. Be aware, though, you must let the batter chill for an hour or two after being made, otherwise, these cookies will melt all over your oven. However, they stay so delicious and yummy even a week after being made, that you can always prep the dough ahead of time and bake ahead of time or prep the dough and let it chill for a day or two before you actually need to bake them! Either way- you’ve got plenty of options, and no excuse not to let yourself enjoy these fabulous cookies.

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Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

(makes about 18-20 cookies)

Ingredients

1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon finely-ground sea salt

2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure, vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder

2 ounces chocolate chips (any cocoa percentage is fine)
coarsely-ground sea salt for dusting

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First, mix the flour, baking powder, and finely-ground sea salt in a large bowl.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar.

Over a pot of boiling water, in a medium-sized metal bowl, melt together the bittersweet chocolate, butter, and espresso powder. Stir continuously. For faster melting, chop all of the ingredients before putting them together over heat.

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Let the melted chocolate mixture cool for about five minutes. Combine it with the egg mixture and whisk. Add in the dry ingredients and mix. Finally, add in the chocolate chips (we used dark chocolate) to create the dough!

Chill the dough for an hour or two at least. If you are making it ahead of time, you can chill it for up to two days.

To bake- cover a pan in parchment paper and place the dough in rounded tablespoons. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 325° F. The cookies are done when the tops begin to crackle!

Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about five minutes.

 

Dust with coarse sea salt and enjoy!

 

Ginger Spice Cookies

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You can always tell when a recipe has been loved and tested many times. Little notes are written in the margins, sometimes with different handwriting. The evidence from years of baking is clear on the page of this cookie recipe. Splotches of spices and butter linger from past years, a testament to its positive reviews!

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This is one of my favorite recipes to make around the holidays. In our family, Christmas means it’s time for ginger cookies and cucidati (Sicilian fig cookies).  I must say that these ginger cookies are a spice-lovers heaven! I know many people who do not love that popular blend of pumpkin spices– allspice, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. If this sounds like you, then you may want to tone down the spice levels in these cookies a bit.

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However, for anyone who loves that familiar fall flavor, this is it in cookie form! These are a bit like ginger snaps, but much richer in flavor and not quite so tough to eat.  They are very soft cookies that are chewy and tangy from the crystalized ginger. They are different than anything you’ve ever had. So- put away your Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, and get out that baking pan, it’s time to make some cookies!

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Ginger Spice Cookies

makes about 30 cookies!

2 cups AP flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
several gratings fresh nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons clove
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon crystalized ginger
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup salted butter
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses

turbinado sugar (for rolling the dough)

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Combine the flour, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and whisk together. I usually like to buy cinnamon sticks for this and grate them on a manual grater for that strong cinnamon flavor. However, this is not really an easy task, and a spice grinder can be used just as easily, or even pre-ground cinnamon. The cookies will be delicious either way! After these dry ingredients are mixed together. Chop the crystalized ginger finely and add it into the dry mixture, stirring thoroughly.

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Next, in a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, shortening, and butter. I do not have any type of electric mixer so I always melt ingredients like shortening or butter before adding them into a batter. However, if you have a beater of any kind, use it here with the shortening and butter at room temperature! You’ll want to beat the mixture until it becomes thick and fluffy. If you’re like me, without those lovely kitchen tools, you can just melt the butter and shortening and whisk everything for about 10 minutes. Your mixture will not be “fluffy” per se, but it will still make great cookies. You just need it to be thick and shiny.

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Add the egg and molasses to the wet ingredients and continue beating until they are thoroughly mixed.

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At this point, the batter will look thick and very dark in color. This is good! You can use a lighter molasses to get that more traditional ginger snap coloring, but I personally love the dark molasses because of the rich flavor it brings to the cookies and the incredibly scrumptious texture it gives them!

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Now, slowly add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the molasses mixture. It will not be easy to mix. This is a fairly thick dough, and I try to spend some time on it with a rubber spatula trying to get the flour completely integrated with the wet ingredients.

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At this point you need to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or up to a day.

 

When you are ready to bake your cookies, prepare two baking sheets by wrapping them in parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the turbinado sugar out onto a plate and roll the dough into small balls (taking about a tablespoon of dough per ball). Coat each ball generously in the sugar and arrange them on the baking sheet an inch or two apart.

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Bake them for about 12 minutes, or until they are fragrant and soft- but crackled a bit on the top and edges!

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Like I said, this recipe makes a ton of cookies, but I promise you will have no trouble getting rid of them!

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Enjoy!

 

The Brown-Sugar Sugar Cookie

sugar cookiesIn the famed battle of salty vs sweet, I always come out on salty’s side. However, one random Tuesday a few weeks ago, I got this craving for a sugar cookie. It hit me out of nowhere and I thought, this is gonna be a tough one. I mean, I can make many things, but sugar cookies have never been on my radar. So, I conjured up a few ideas of what I was looking for: chewy, rich in flavor (like actual sugar flavor), a little crispy, and buttery!

This, amazing cookie is the result! This cookie has cornstarch in it, and I think that is what keeps them so chewy and delicious even after several days! The dough does require chilling (for at least two hours), so this isn’t an “Easy-Bake oven” type recipe, but the result is well worth the wait!

sugar cookiesSome of the pictures feature cookies with a white, gooey center. This is because the BF insisted on filling some of the cookies with chopped up Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream bars. It sounds so incredibly weird to me, and I was expecting them to be disgusting and way too sweet. Turns out, he has a knack for cooking and they were amazing.

That being said, feel free to add any little treat you want to the center! I can attest that it will stay there through cooking if you chill the dough well! I added cinnamon to my sugar cookies, but if you’re not a fan, do not add it! The cinnamon flavor definitely comes through and makes the cookies a little bit more like snickerdoodles (if we’re gonna get technical with our cookie typing).

Butter and Brown Sugar Sugar Cookies
Makes around 32 cookies, Inspiration from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup salted butter
1 1/4 cups dark (or light) brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 cup white sugar (for rolling)
parchment paper for baking

sugar cookiesFirst, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt.

sugar cookiesMelt the butter in a large measuring cup. Add the brown sugar and whisk them together! It will  take a good amount of time to stir together, but you want to make sure that you keep whisking until there are no more sugar lumps and the result is a thick, viscous liquid. Whisk in the vanilla, and, once you are sure that the mixture has cooled off add in the egg.

sugar cookiesPour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix them together with a rubber spatula or a spoon.

sugar cookiesYou will definitely be able to tell when the dough is ready to be chilled, because it will be very smooth and golden brown:

sugar cookiesCover the bowl with a sheet of parchment paper and chill the dough for at least two hours! You can chill it for up to three days, but I found that at two hours exactly, I was able to take it out and make perfectly solid cookies that were not totally falling apart.

After the dough is done chilling, take it out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and prepare the dough for rolling. Put the white sugar in a bowl and measure out one tablespoon of dough. Roll it into a ball with your hands and then roll it in the sugar, be sure to coat them well!

sugar cookiesLine the cookies up on a baking sheet, about 1-inch apart.

sugar cookiesBake the cookies for 9 minutes and then take them out. Press them lightly with a fork or spoon to get that crinkly top.

sugar cookiesFinally, bake them for another minute or so. They will still be soft when they’re ready to come out of the oven.

sugar cookiesEnjoy!

 

 

 

The Famous ‘Break-up Cookie’

breakup cookieThis is for people who need a very specific kind of cookie. A remarkable, delectable, culinary masterpiece. This is for people who want to make buckets of cookies and not be stuck with brick-like, petrified rocks in a week or two. This cookie will stay chewy! It is salty and sweet and buttery: the triad of great, classic flavors that are being overwhelmed by all of these new-fangled fancy cookie look-alikes!

Getting (almost) back to basics, I went in search of the one cookie to rule them all!

First, a couple caveats:
Don’t be put off by the cream cheese, it’s what helps them keep their chewiness over time.
Don’t make them if you’re on a diet! 😀

The Break-up Cookie Revamped

2 1/4 cups of AP flour
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar (I used dark brown and it also worked just fine)
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

break up cookiePreheat the oven to 375°F. I lined my pan with parchment paper, but it is totally not necessary, so if you don’t have any- no worries!

You can do everything else with just two bowls for minimal cleanup. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, white sugar, and brown sugar. Melt the butter in a microwave-proof container that can hold at least 2 cups. After it is melted, let it cool a bit and add in the cream cheese, vanilla extract, and eggs. Be careful to keep stirring or whisking it to prevent the eggs from cooking!

breakup cookieAdd the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula or spoon. It takes a bit for it to all come together, so don’t worry if your dough seems very dry at first. The flour will soak up all the butter and it will look almost wet when it is ready for the chocolate chips! Mix in the chocolate chips.

breakup cookieOnce everything is all mixed up, spoon about a tbs per cookie onto a cookie sheet. This dough doesn’t spread out very much while cooking, so if you want traditional looking, flat cookies, I recommend actually forming them that way before baking them.

breakup cookiedBake them for about ten minutes, and sprinkle them with a little kosher salt right as they come out of the oven. The Breakup Cookie strives to be both salty and sweet, but if you are all about the sweetness, you can certainly forget about the extra salt!

breakup cookieThis recipe makes just under 3 dozen cookies so there will be plenty to go around!

breakup cookieEnjoy!

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