Tag Archives: cookies

Viennese Whirl Cookies

I don’t remember eating a lot of desserts growing up … crepes, cream puffs, apple strudel, walnut torte with chocolate butter cream icing. Occasionally, my mom would make small crescent shaped cookies with ground walnuts in the dough. It may have been because she just wasn’t that fond of sweets. My dad, on the other hand, had a great sweet tooth. Unfortunately he didn’t bake so desserts were a rare event.

One of the first things I ever ‘cooked’ for my dad, that he loved, was Rice Krispie squares. The microwave made throwing together a pan so easy that I could have made them weekly but I didn’t make them often which made each pan that much more appreciated. (And the no bake cheesecake with Whip and Chill whipped cream, cream cheese, a crumb base, and canned cherry pie filling. My dad LOVED it.)

Over the years, I’ve expanded my dessert repertoire, and recently, UK/British ‘biscuits’ or cookies have become a small obsession.

After some previous successes, I’m iffy on the the most recent biscuit … Viennese whirls. I think it was the ‘idea’ of the cookie that inspired me. Tender shortbread cookies piped into a swirl and baked and then a butter/icing sugar filling and raspberry jam was sandwiched between two of the cookies.

I did some research, watched a few videos, picked a nice simple recipe and made a batch this weekend.

There were challenges in piping the dough which was quite stiff, even after I added some milk. And the cookies used up a LOT of the dough. I was able to pipe sixteen cookies, with which I could only make EIGHT sandwiches. The dough spread on baking so that the two inch cookies I piped out ended up about three inches in diameter. (PS: I had to increase the baking time of the tray of cookies to 20 minutes, because the tops/edges of the cookies remained pale, even after 15 minutes. The underside was a light golden brown by the end.) Handling the cookies was a challenge too since they were so tender and crumbly that the edges broke off when I tried to move them.

Which made filling the cookies a nightmare. When I tried to press down the top cookie to make a sandwich … it crumbled. By ‘smooshing, the buttercream filling down with an offset spatula, I managed to assemble a half dozen, more or less, nice looking cookie sandwiches. The cookies themselves were barely sweet but the filling made up for the lack. The jam (I used the last of my strawberry jam since I didn’t have any raspberry) almost seemed tart in comparison. I sifted icing sugar over the top, since that’s a feature of the cookies, but it’s NOT necessary.

REVIEW: The cookies are edible but, to be honest, you can barely get through one because they’re so BIG. And sweet. I’m sure they’d be appreciated by a lot of people. They just weren’t to my taste.

In conclusion, if I were to make something similar again, I’d try a different recipe and technique for making the cookies. The round ‘mound’ (top left in the picture directly above) I made using the dough scraps spread nicely and was a tasty nibble. No piping or filling necessary. If piping, small (1 inch) rosettes might work as they’d spread during baking, resulting in much smaller and thinner cookes to construct the sandwiches with. A recent post on FB resulted in the suggestion to reduce both the flour and the cornstarch by 25 gm each.

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Playing with Strawberry Jam

I didn’t want to title this post just “Strawberry Jam” because someone might assume I was posting about MAKING strawberry jam … and that’s not happening. Ever.

When buying jam, raspberry and apricot are neck and neck for first choice for me. A couple of weeks ago, I visited Freshco and saw that the Smucker’s brand was on sale. I decided to switch things up a bit and picked up a jar of strawberry jam instead. It was a nice treat and besides spreading it on my toasted sourdough bread and using it to fill crepes, I used it in the desserts below.

Strawberry Pop-Tarts – I used my friend Ann’s pie crust recipe for the tarts and read a number of blogs for assembly and baking instructions. The ‘recipe’ posted below is a combination of the best elements gleaned from my readings.

The results were very tasty, though I had some leftover pastry so I know I could have rolled the pastry a bit thinner and made three pop-tarts, not just two, with the pastry I had.

Glazed pop-tarts – I wasn’t sure how much icing I wanted to use so I played

Strawberry Pop-Tarts – makes 3

pie crust pastry, enough to make one 9 inch pie base
3-4 tbsp strawberry jam
1 egg white, beaten with a bit of water (use the egg yolk for the Jammie Dodgers recipe below)
1/4 cup icing sugar
enough milk to make a glaze
red or pink food colouring, if desired

Cut out a 3 1/2 inch by 5 1/2 inch piece of stiff cardboard to use as a template.

Roll out the pie crust pastry into an 11 by 12 inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut SIX rectangles out of the pastry using the template above.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Place THREE of the pastry rectangles cut above onto the baking sheet. Brush a 1/2 inch strip of beaten egg white around all four edges of each rectangle. Place a heaping tablespoon of jam in the middle of the pastry rectangles and gently spread out, to where the egg white strip begins, with a small off-set spatula or the back of a small teaspoon. Place the tops onto each pastry and press down gently on the edges to seal. Use the tines of a fork to press down and seal the edges fully. With the prongs of the fork or a sharp skewer or toothpick, make vent holes across the top of the pastry.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops of the pastries are golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then use a spatula to transfer each pastry to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Make a glaze for the pastry tops by adding milk, a teaspoon at a time, to the icing sugar in a small bowl. You may add a drop or two of food colouring to the icing sugar before adding the milk.

Jammie Dodgers -This is the third most popular biscuit in the UK, according to a survey taken last December. By the way, I’ve made the number one pick, chocolate digestive biscuits, and it IS a winner. The recipe I included below is a rewritten version of the one I used, and includes vanilla extract, which that one did not. I had to extend the baking time to accommodate my oven’s idiosyncrasies.

PS: I’m not pointing fingers but the Jammie Dodgers look very similar to Linzer cookies, an Austrian rolled Christmas cookie.

Jammie Dodgers – makes about a dozen 3 inch/8 cm cookies

250 g plain/ all purpose flour*
200 g salted butter**
100 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk, from the pop-tarts recipe above
1 tsp vanilla extract
strawberry jam, to fill the cookies
additional icing sugar, for dusting

* The pastry was so soft I couldn’t pick it up without it ripping, even when I heavily dusted more flour on my work surface and over the pastry. I tried working more flour in … still too soft. I even tried freezing the pastry for half an hour with minimal benefit. Still, I persisted, and managed to get almost a dozen Jammie Dodgers baked.

** I was short on butter so I used margarine. This may have contributed to the soft pastry above but further reading suggested that a short bread type pastry dough, like this one, should have 3 pts flour: 2 pts butter: 1 pt sugar. This means that I should have used 300 g of flour. So that’s what I’ll do next time.

Preheat the to 350 deg F/170 deg C and line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and icing sugar.

Add the butter (or margarine) to the bowl and, with a pastry blender, cut it in until your mixture resembles bread crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the egg yolk and the vanilla extract. With a fork, incorporate the dry mixture into the wet. Gather the pastry into a ball and wrap it with plastic food wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Turn the pastry out onto a floured surface and roll out to around 1/4 of an inch/6 mm thickness. Cut your biscuits out into 3 inch/8 cm circles and, from half the biscuits, cut out an additional shape from the middle.

Place your cookies onto the baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden colour around the edges.

Once the cookies are cool enough to handle, dust the tops with a little icing sugar. Spread about a teaspoon of jam over the bases and sandwich the tops and bases together.

NOTE: For an even prettier presentation, using a tiny spoon, fill the cut out in the middle with a bit more jam so that it comes to the same level as the top cookie.

“Jammie Hearts” – the cutouts make bite sized cookies

Pantry/Freezer Clearout – Chocolate Digestive Biscuits

It’s always fun when you have all the ingredients for something that catches your eye.

I saw these delicious looking biscuits on one of the FB food groups I belong to. When I checked out the link I found that the recipe used whole wheat flour and fine porridge oats and not all purpose flour. I happened to have some leftover finely ground rolled oats, from a previous sourdough bread bake, in my pantry, so it was a win-win situation. Cookies/biscuits AND it used up another item from my pantry. The recipe, as posted by Paul Hollywood, seems to be similar to the McVitie brand of biscuits.

Paul Hollywood’s Chocolate Digestive Biscuits

 

  

Review: Just a touch of sweetness. I used a 72% dark cocoa chocolate for the coating but if you want something sweeter, a milk chocolate would be tasty as well.

Sometimes, my cooking choice is designed around using up a specific ingredient. Like  the cream of wheat dumplings (Hungarian grizgaluska) I made with the last 3/4 cup of cream of wheat in my pantry. And the pot of chicken stock made with a chicken carcass, a few chicken backs and about a dozen chicken thigh bones that I ran across, as I was transferring the contents of the upstairs freezer to the basement one. I served the dumplings in the resulting soup.

 

Sweet Potato Buns (and Looking at the Dough NOT the Clock)

I recently saw a post on one of my bread making FB groups about making potato bread/buns … and I was intrigued.

So, this past long weekend, I went down into the basement for the last six Yukon gold potatoes that I had …

… only to have a second thought based on the presence of a LARGE sweet potato in the shoe caddy hanging at the top of the stairs into the basement.

The result was eight HUGE moist and tender buns. (I used “Chef John’s” Sweet Potato Bun recipe from the All-recipes website.)

Crumb of the sweet potato buns

NOTE: On line recipes are sometimes a crap shoot when it comes to the detail of the instructions given, or lack thereof. In this particular case, the proofing times were way off. It took my dough one hour to rise to the top of the bowl NOT the two hours that the recipe claimed. Only the dinner plate covering the top of the bowl prevented a spill over. And my kitchen wasn’t even particularly warm … barely 72 deg F.

Based on that, I watched the final proofing time carefully. It took half an hour for the buns to have doubled in size. Since I had something else in the oven already, I threw the baking tray with the buns into the fridge until I was ready to bake them.

Looks like ‘someone’ was nibbling on that warm buttered bun. 🙂

REVIEW: Soft and tender buns with a bit of sweetness. Beautiful golden colour. The size though … well, when they said LARGE, they meant large. I used 115-120 gm of dough per bun. I’d scale that back to 95-100 gm next time which should give me ten buns and not the eight I ended up with. And I’d definitely make this recipe again.

Here’s another case of a recipe that didn’t QUITE work as expected.

Mocha cookies sounded pretty amazing when I ran across them on a recent web search. And the pictures made my mouth water. I followed the instructions carefully. Butter at room temperature. I even weighed it. Egg at room temperature. And I have a light and consistent hand when measuring flour. My oven is calibrated properly and it was preheated long enough that I knew it was accurate. I was surprised that the recipe said it only made FOURTEEN cookies but used a soup spoon to measure out the dough. The resulting balls were about two inches in diameter so I decided to scale them back to one inch in diameter, made the fourteen cookie balls and prepared to watch the timing so they wouldn’t burn.

SURPRISE

I ended up with little marbles.

They didn’t spread AT ALL even after I gave them an extra couple of minutes of baking time.

I still had a bit over half the cookie dough left so I weighed it, and divided the dough into EIGHT (46 gm) portions. The first batch of cookie balls had all sorts of cracks and imperfections after they baked so I made sure that these cookied balls were perfectly smooth, pre-baking. I took a good look at the dough balls before I put them in the oven and they looked HUGE. Since I didn’t want GIANT marbles, I decided to dip the base of a coffee mug into granulated sugar and flatten the dough balls.

NOTE: For some reason I didn’t think to increase the baking temperature from the 350 deg Fahrenheit in the recipe to 375 deg for this second batch.

The cookies still didn’t spread but the resulting cookies were more ‘cookie-like’ in shape. And like the first batch, they were soft.

REVIEW: The cookies were tasty though I think they were missing … something … taste-wise. I don’t think I’d make this recipe again.

Experiment: Mini Cheesecakes

Recently I had a cookie fail … a type of spritz cookies (ETA: they’re actually called meat grinder cookies) from a Hungarian recipe. I used an old cookie press that I inherited from my mom, but the dough was so stiff that I almost broke my thumbs trying to push it through the decorative nozzles. I finally gave up after forcing out about a dozen of each kind of cookie and threw away the rest of the dough. (I had added red gel food colour and cocoa powder to equal portions of the dough.) Even worse, the finished cookies were dry and tasteless.

In an effort to turn lemons into lemonade, I decided to grind up the cookies and use the ground crumbs as a base for individual cheesecakes.

I had about 1/2 cup of chocolate cookie crumbs to which I added 3 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp of melted butter. After distributing the crumbs (3 tbsp each) among four 4 inch diameter disposable aluminum pot pie tins, I tamped the crumbs down with the base of a glass and baked the crusts for 8 minutes at 350 deg F, filled the cooled crusts with the cheesecake mixture made from one 8 oz package of cream cheese (I used the cheesecake recipe on the Philadelphia cream cheese box) and baked the cheesecakes until set (~20 min at 350 deg F). The chocolate half of the cheesecake based had 1 tbsp of sifted cocoa powder stirred into the mixture and I found the resulting mini cheesecakes somewhat dry compared to the vanilla cheesecakes. I decided to be economical and only fill the tins half way up, assuming that the cheesecake batter would souffle up during baking but it remained decidedly flat.

On the positive side, the cheesecakes were more palatable than the cookies. Though they won’t replace the mini cheesecakes I make with ‘Nilla wafers bases.

Holiday Cookies … Romanian Kolache/Hungarian Papucs and Hamantaschen

I vaguely remember my mom serving these walnut filled cookies, called “kolache”, for special occasions … but I don’t think she had made them in the last 20 years of her life. As a result, I have no idea what recipe she used. I was going to use the same dough I use to make rugelach (butter/cream cheese based) for the kolache, until I remembered that that’s a very tender dough, and worried that I would have problems sealing them. So I tried a dough recipe that I found on line for the triangular cookies served for Purim, called “hamantaschen” or “Haman’s ears”.

Jam (especially plum or apricot), poppy seed or walnut are probably the most popular fillings for kolache, hamantaschen or papucs. Since mincemeat is widely available at this time of year, and since I had bought a jar to make no churn ice cream with, that’s what I used for some of my cookies.

Mincemeat Kolache Platter

Baked and ready to have icing sugar sifted over the top … if you really want to

Kolache Recipe:

The cookie dough was rolled 1/8th inch thick, cut into 2 inch by 2 inch squares, filled with a half teaspoon of the filling of choice, sealed and baked in an oven preheated to 350 deg F for 16-18 minutes.

And, since I was making the hamantaschen dough, I made some hamantaschen too. I got better at shaping as I went along. The poppy seed filling is the same one used for my cozonac in an earlier post.

Poppy seed Hamantaschen

 

Barbie’s Super Simple Oatmeal Cookies (with Coconut)

I enjoyed the taste of the last batch of oatmeal cookies that I made … but the ‘look’ didn’t thrill me.

These, on the other hand, are very photogenic. And they taste good as well. Not overly sweet … next time, I’d use half the amount of salt though cause the margarine, which I used instead of butter, was salty enough.

This recipe also came out of Edna Staebler’s “Cookies and Squares with Schmecks Appeal”. The kitchen was a bit warm for September (77 deg F) so, by the time I had mixed up the dough and started shaping it into 1 inch sized balls, my dough was pretty sticky. I persevered and then refrigerated the resulting cookie balls.

After 30 minutes, I used the back of a fork to press down gently on the cookie balls in order to flatten them and baked the cookies for 14 minutes, instead of the 12 minutes recommended, in a preheated 350 deg F oven. I left the baked cookies on the baking sheet to cool for about 10 minutes, before using a thin metal spatula to transfer them onto the cooling rack, to finish cooling.

Brutti Ma Buoni ver. 2 – Uncooked Batter

I recently made a quick batch of blender Hollandaise sauce using a recipe a blog friend shared with me and had two egg whites to play with. So I made the ‘easy’ version of ‘brutti ma buoni’.

Pavlovas, vanilla pine nut ‘brutti ma buoni’ and chocolate almond ‘brutti ma buoni’

I left out the cocoa powder. Instead, I added a tablespoon of vanilla sugar for flavour. And for nuts, I toasted pine nuts and chopped them up coarsely. I took the egg whites out of the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for about half an hour, and added the sugar a tablespoon at the time, but had trouble getting the sugar to dissolve so I stirred in the nuts and baked them off anyway.

  

Rather than getting my usual glossy looking meringues, they were dull and gritty looking after baking.

The taste was still good though. I only added nuts to half the meringue while baking the rest plain. I loved the moist centers of the plain meringues … they turned out more like pavlovas but the vanilla ‘brutti ma buoni’ were tasty. I preferred them to the chocolate version, to be honest.

Inside the vanilla ‘brutti ma buoni’

Brutti Ma Buoni (“Ugly But Good” Cookies) ver. 1 – Cooked Batter

UUUUGLY Cookie Warning!!

REALLY … I’m NOT kidding. These cookies look funky, especially before you bake them, but they DO taste good.

I’ve been meaning to make these cookies for some time but kept putting it off, until now.

There are two basic techniques or versions of “brutti ma buoni”, and of course, I chose the more complicated one which involves cooking the meringue batter to dry it out before it’s spooned out onto a baking sheet and baked. Even though I watched several videos, I overcooked the batter so that the last few cookies ended up dried and crumbly. These cookies had cocoa powder folded into the batter. Hazelnuts seem to be used most commonly in the recipes that I researched but, I used sliced almonds, since I had some in my freezer. Other nuts like pine nuts, pecans or even walnuts, may be used alone or in combination.

Brutti ma buoni al cioccolato (Chocolate “Ugly but Good” Cookies) – makes 10-12 cookies

2 egg whites (~75 gm)
150 gm white sugar
150 gm nuts, toasted and chopped coarsely**
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

** Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove 1 tbsp of the sugar and sift it, together with the cocoa powder, into a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large, clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually spoon in the sugar and continue whisking until hard peaks form. Fold in the sugar/cocoa mixture, then the nuts.

You can spoon the meringue “batter” onto the baking sheet at this point and bake it OR transfer it into a thick bottomed sauce pan and cook on the stove top at medium-low heat while stirring gently. Cook, scraping the bottom, until the batter has dried out and starts pulling away from the bottom and sides, about 10-12 min. (NOTE: Remember, the batter keeps cooking when you pull the pan off the heat so you might want to under cook it a bit.)

Using 2 tablespoons (scrape out the batter from the first with the second) transfer mounds of the batter, onto your lined baking sheet, about an inch apart, and bake for 20-25 min. They will be firm to the touch, but soft deep in the centre.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, after which they’ll be easier to remove with a thin spatula.

Let finish cooling on racks.

You can store leftover cookies in an air tight container in a cool dry place. Don’t refrigerate or freeze.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crackles (N is for Nutella Cookies)

This post combines two of my favourites, reading mysteries and baking. And chocolate. (But that’s pretty low down on my list of faves, to be honest.)

I’ve read almost all of the Joanne Fluke mysteries but can’t remember trying out any of the recipes she includes in each novel until I finished “Blackberry Pie Murder” late last night. One of the cookie recipes featured Nutella, and since I have most of a jar of the hazelnut chocolate spread in my pantry, I thought I’d give it a try. I just made half the recipe (2 1/2 – 3 dozen cookies) as I didn’t want to use up most of my unsalted butter.

The cookies were very good freshly baked, though I think they were even better a few hours later as the flavour developed/ripened. They’re not overly sweet so I liked them better than many sweeter cookies I’ve tried. I baked for the shorter time suggested as I wanted a chewy rather than a crunchy result. If you don’t want to just eat them plain with a cup of cold milk, turn them into ice cream sandwiches. If you want a fancier presentation, press a small hazelnut on top of the cookie ball before baking.

If you don’t think you can get a hold of the book from your library, you can find the recipe on line at “The Sugared Teacup” blog. (Sorry, the direct link is no longer valid.) below.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crackles (Nutella Cookies) – makes 5 to 6 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Nutella
2 large eggs, well beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour

Melt the butter (in a saucepan or microwave) and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat well until the sugar is mixed in well. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt and stir.

Add the Nutella and stir in until smooth and then add the beaten eggs and stir.

Add the flour and continue mixing until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Form the dough into walnut-sized (~1 tbsp) balls and place them on a greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheet, 12 to a half sheet. (If the dough is too sticky to form into balls, chill it for a half hour or so).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The balls will flatten out all by themselves. (Note: For more chewy cookies, bake at the lesser time.)

Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then remove them to a wire rack with a thin metal spatula to finish cooling.

*****

Recipe from Joanne Fluke’s Blackberry Pie Murder. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2014.