Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pistachio-Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

I love sprinkles (exhibits A, B, and see my blog header); I love bright and colorful desserts (same references).

But sometimes what I really crave is a simple, buttery, slightly salty hunk of shortbread.  This was one of those times. And since I was feeling all rustic and earthy, I didn't even reach for rainbows or sprinkles; instead, I opted for some semisweet chocolate and roasted pistachios.

The salted, roasted pistachios really bring out the salty-sweetness in the cookie, but you can really experiment with toppings here. Of course sprinkles are welcome, but what about orange zest? Or crushed toffee? Or (fast forward to Christmas) bits of candy cane?

Okay, I'm spiraling. Time to go calm down with a cup of tea and a slab of shortbread to dunk in it.

Pistachio-Chocolate Dipped Shortbread
makes 24 (3") cookies

  • 1 1/2 sticks salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 Tbsp shortening
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and combine.

Sift flour and salt into butter mixture. Mix on low speed until dough comes together (at first there will be a lot of excess flour and dough will seem crumbly - keep mixing for 20 seconds or so and it will start to form a ball).

Dump dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover, form into disc, and chill for 20-30 minutes.

Roll dough out between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper to a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Trim sides to make an even rectangle, then use a knife or pizza wheel to cut into 3"x1" cookies. Using a metal spatula or bench scraper, transfer to an ungreased sheet pan.

Chill cut cookies, on pan, in freezer for 10 minutes. This helps them keep their shape while baking.

Bake at 350F for 9-11 minutes, until bottom edges are barely browning. Allow to cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

On 50% power, microwave chocolate and shortening in 30 seconds bursts, stirring thoroughly between each heating, until melted and smooth. (I did this in a 1 cup mason jar to make dunking easier.)

Dunk each cooled cookie about a third of the way into the melted chocolate, scrape excess off bottom of cookie on edge of jar, and place on parchment paper. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. (I dunked then sprinkled about 5 at a time to make sure the chocolate was still wet).

Let set at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. Store cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature.
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Friday, May 15, 2015

Birthday Lemon Sugar Cookies

Who doesn't love a stack of freshly baked cookies on their birthday? (Or any day?)

These are an easy, fast, and yummy cookie to whip up for any occasion - but make sure to have rainbow sprinkles on hand if it's someone's birthday!

My sister Sophie loves lemony desserts (I'm in total agreement with her). Last weekend I had a few hours before hopping on a train to Rhode Island to see her on her birthday and I wanted to make a sweet lemony treat to mark the occasion. All of my go-to lemon desserts (lemon bars, lemon chiffon pie, lemon white chocolate fudge) took too long to prep, bake, or set; plus, I wasn't confident of their staying power on a train ride.

So, Google to the rescue, where I found this quick and easy recipe for glazed lemon sugar cookies. I upped the lemon flavor a bit by adding lemon extract to the cookie dough, and by making the glaze with lemon juice instead of water.

These cookies are delightful left naked, but the lemon glaze and sprinkles make them tarter and cheerier!

A few notes:

  • If you are wary of a tart flavor, leave the extract out, as in the original recipe.
  • These cookies spread - a lot! I imagine if you freeze the dough balls first they would spread a bit less, but I was short on time. Don't worry, they are still a delicious, if thin, cookie.
  • Because they spread, make sure to leave plenty of space - at least 2 inches - between dough balls on the cookie sheet.

Birthday or not, I bet you can find an excuse to make these this weekend!

Birthday Lemon Sugar Cookies
makes 24 cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1/4 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest 
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar for rolling 

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Rainbow nonpareils (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and a little fluffy. Add vanilla, lemon extract, egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice, beating until combined.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing just until combined. Refrigerate dough for ~15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop (I used a #100 scoop), scoop 1" dough balls onto the baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart. Coat each ball in the powdered sugar, then roll with your hands to make the sugar stick and create a more even ball.

If you have time, freeze dough for 15 minutes or so; this will keep the cookies a bit thicker by preventing them from spreading too quickly.

Bake cookies at 350F for 10-11 minutes, until they do not appear wet on top. Let cool completely on a wire rack before glazing.

Whisk lemon juice and powdered sugar together in a bowl. Add more liquid or sugar to reach a thick, but drizzle-able consistency.

Using a piping bag or zip-loc with the corner cut off, drizzle glaze over cookies, working a few at a time so you can quickly add sprinkles if you choose. (I like to make the glaze as thick as possible so it hardens quickly.)
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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lemon-Thyme Mascarpone Dip

Summertime is for cold drinks, lounging outside, watching baseball, and lots of other things, but not for turning your stove on to make a snack.

I'm into easy, quick, and oven-free appetizers (exhibit A), and this one fits the bill.

This dip is creamy but light, flavorful, and bright with fresh lemon and thyme. It pairs well with veggies and crackers, but my favorite vehicle to get it into my mouth has to be these Raisin Rosemary Crisps from Trader Joe's. (They are sweet and salty and uber-crunchy.)

Plus, this dip takes about 3 minutes to whip together, leaving you with more time to savor an ice-cold cocktail on the balcony.

Lemon-Thyme Mascarpone Dip

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (about half of a lemon's worth)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (about 3 three-inch sprigs)

Mix all ingredients together with a small spatula or spoon. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. That's it! This is ready to eat immediately, but the flavors also develop well when made-ahead and left to sit in the fridge.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cherry Gin Slings

While making last week's Cherry Almond Coffee Cake, I found myself staring at about a cup of cherry juice, formerly home to a big beautiful jar of morello cherries. My brain was saying "just pour it down the drain," but the little angel with a cherry-lined halo on my shoulder whispering "Are you kidding?! Make cherry syrup!" won out.

I simply simmered the juice (it came slightly sweetened) in a saucepan over medium heat until it thickened, about 10 minutes, and then let it cool in a mason jar. If you have fresh cherries, you could chop up a cup of them, add a little water and sugar, and cook them down, straining out the solids at the end.

And I'm glad. So far I've made these cocktails and drizzled the syrup over buttery pancakes, and I have more in the fridge awaiting its fate. No regrets.

Now, I would never order a cherry cocktail at a bar, because it would be sure to include some sort of Kirsch or Maraschino liqueur, which I truly can't stand. (I can barely tolerate the uber-elegant Luxardo cherry in my Manhattans as they're soaked in the stuff.) But have no fear, fellow maraschino-haters, as this syrup gives just enough tartness and sweetness to evoke yummy memories of cherry pie.

(That being said, if you're into Kirsch, splash some in!)

You could also easily make this fruity, refreshing sling with grenadine in place of the homemade syrup (assuming you listened to your brain and threw away the cherry juice).

Cherry Gin Slings
makes 2 cocktails
  • 4 oz gin
  • 1.5 oz tart cherry syrup
  • 1.5 oz triple sec or cointreau
  • 2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • Ice
  • Club soda
  • Mint (to garnish)
Combine gin, syrup, triple sec, lime juice, and bitters in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake to combine; strain into ice-filled glasses. 

Top with 3oz of club soda in each glass. Garnish with a couple mint leaves per glass.

{Tart Cherry Syrup}

In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer 1 cup reserved juice from a 21oz can or 24oz jar of tart cherries until slightly thickened. Pour into a glass jar and cool to reserve temperature; store in the refrigerator.
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