Chocolate Hazelnut Snowballs

Snowball Cookies

Tonight, I was crucial to the success of a rescue operation.

It has been bitterly cold in Montreal this week, with today’s high around minus 15 degrees. My plan was to avoid the cold by sitting at home by the fire and napping/watching TV all day. Midway through Jeopardy the call came; my brother needed help. He had parked his car outside a metro all day and it wouldn’t start. Normally I would let my dad handle this type of situation, but this time it was decided we both would go. We donned our snow gear, grabbed the jumper cables and headed out.

When we arrived at the scene my brother looked half frozen, but he refused to put on a hat. The plan was to push my brothers car out of it’s parking space so that we could boost it. The men attempted to push the car while I got the cables.

But the car wasn’t moving.

So I headed over to help. And with my measly little pipe-cleaner arms I succeeded in getting the car moving.

I don’t know what they would have done without me. We got the car out of the spot, boosted it and everyone headed home, safe and sound.

Snowball cookies

Once home, I felt it was time to reward myself with a hot chocolate and a couple of these Chocolate Hazelnut Snowball cookies.The recipe was adapted from this one in the December Food and Wine. These were the last of the Christmas cookies I made this year. The texture is kind of similar to biscotti, a great cookie to have with a cup of tea or coffee.    I used hazelnuts instead the pecans called for in the recipe because of an allergy. I also cut the quantity of nuts used by half a cup, because I felt that the hazelnuts would overwhelm the cookie.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Snowballs

Makes 30-36 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Icing sugar for coating
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast them for 5 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt together. Stir the flour into the butter mixture until well combined. Stir in the hazelnuts. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Roll the dough in to tablespoon sized balls and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. The cookies will be slightly firm to the touch when done. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then cool completely on a rack.

Enjoy!

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Earl Grey Tea Cookies, Take Two

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who left a comment on my last post. My family has gone through a tough time lately, and although I’d prefer not to get into the details here, the virtual hugs are very much appreciated.

Secondly, I’d like to apologize to all my subscribers and followers for hitting “publish” instead of “preview” earlier today. This was the second time I’ve made that mistake, and I’m hoping I’ll never do it again. I hope having a broken link in your reader wasn’t too much of an annoyance.

Now onto the cookies. I was heading to a friends for coffee this weekend and didn’t want to show up empty handed. Cookies were the obvious choice; they’re quick, easy, and very transportable. I had a lot ideas about what to make but, as my mom pointed out, few ingredients. I took a look in the pantry and spotted a few containers of Mighty Leaf Tea. Tea in a cookie is something I’ve been meaning to try for awhile. I did a quick Google search and found a Martha Stewart recipe that sounded perfect. Then I had to make a tough decision; should I make the cookies as written, or should I make them with Jasmine Green Tea? In the end I chose to make them as written, but I will definitely be trying them with the green tea as well.

The cookies were perfectly crisp and very lightly flavoured with Earl Grey. Next time I make them I think I’ll omit the orange zest, because although Earl Grey is a citrus based tea, it’s flavour is too light to stand up to the orange. Despite that I really enjoyed these cookies, and I think I’ll be adding them to the Christmas baking rotation. I think they’d make a great gift along with some fancy teas.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

Makes about 60 cookies

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp finely ground tea (tea can be ground in a spice grinder or mini food processor, use the best quality you can afford as cheaper teas have less flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (optional)
  1. In a small bowl mix the flour, tea and salt together. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, powdered sugar and orange zest together with an electric mixer until the butter is light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the flour, mixing until well combined.
  3. Split the dough in half and create two round logs, 1 1/4 inches in diameter, wrap them with parchment paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. To keep the bottoms of the logs from flattening out you can slide the logs into paper towel tubes before refrigerating.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment, set aside.
  5. Cut the logs into 1/4 inch slices, place the slices on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes until the bottoms are just golden. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack before serving.

Enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

When tragedy strikes we feel the need to do something, anything, to make it better. Sometimes there are no actions that can be taken. All we can do is be there to comfort each other. The only thing that can make things better is time.

Comfort can come in many forms; kind words, a hug, or even a cookie (or two) with a tall glass of milk. These cookies were adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin cookies. I substituted unsweetened apple sauce for the pumpkin puree. Since apple sauce is much thinner than pumpkin puree, I strained the sauce with a coffee filter to get a thicker consistency. You could also try cooking the sauce down.

The cookies have a very cake like texture. The apple flavour came through very well, and was wonderfully complemented by the brown butter icing. One note on the icing, make sure to whip it well otherwise the butter will separate.

Apple Cinnamon Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

Makes approx. 48 cookies

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple sauce, strained
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes with an electric mixer). Mix in the eggs, followed by the apple sauce, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Add the flour, mixing till well combined. The batter will be quite thin.
  4. Spoon the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, making cookies approximately 1 inch rounds, spaced 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned and the tops spring back when pressed. Let cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Brown Butter Icing

  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  1. Put the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl, set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter becomes golden brown and smells nutty. Pour the melted butter over the powdered sugar, making sure to scrape the brown butter bits in as well. Add the evaporated milk and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Use to ice cooled cookies.

Enjoy!

Daring Bakers: Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

The challenge this month was to decorate cookies with a September theme. September honestly doesn’t have any special significance to me. When I was in school it did, but I finished university 7 years ago and seem to have gotten past the urge to buy notebooks and agenda’s at this time of year (although the agendas do tempt me).  So what’s happening? I’m eating fall foods, watching the leaves change colour, and waiting impatiently for the hockey season to start. (Go Habs Go!)

I have zero decorating skills, so this challenge scared the bejezus out of me.  The smart thing to do would have been to start right away and decorate as many cookies as a possibly could until I got the hang of it. That is not what I did. I waited till two days before the challenge deadline to start working. I baked the cookies Saturday, “decorated” (ie dropped splotches of colours on said cookies) on Sunday afternoon, and started writing this post Sunday night.My attempt to make the Montreal Canadiens logo was very quickly abandoned and I moved on to simple apples and leaves.

It turns out royal icing is tricky. To use it properly you need to know what the consistency is supposed to be for the edges and for flooding the center of the cookies. I think what I used for the edges was probably a flooding consistency, but without more practice I really couldn’t tell you. When I forget about the food colouring stains on my fingers I might try again.

I used the recipe as given in the challenge, but found it much too dry to roll out so I added a couple of tablespoons of milk to it.

Basic Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups plus 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  1. In a standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until well combined. Beat in the egg and lemon zest.
  2. Add flour and salt. Mix until dough just comes together.
  3. Form two disks of dough, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Use cookie cutters or a sharp knife to cut out the desired shapes.
  5. Chill the cut dough for another 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for 8 to 12 minutes.
  6. Decorate with Royal Icing (I used the Joy of Baking recipe)

If your cookies are funny looking, don’t worry about it. Decorating and taste are not correlated.

Raspberry Crumb Bars

I spent a couple of days happily munching on my Quebec raspberries, but I realized I’d have to actually do something with them or they would go to waste. What to do, what to do? A memory of recipe for raspberry bars popped into my mind, and thankfully I had bookmarked it. The recipe for these raspberry crumb bars is courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. I should have realized, most of my bookmarked recipes come from there.

These bars were really easy to make. The recipe says to pulse everything in a food processor, but since I only have a mini one I mixed everything together with my hands. I think a pastry cutter would have worked too. I made a couple of other small changes; I swapped whole wheat flour for all purpose, cut back on the sugar, and baked them in a smaller pan. These bars are deeelicious. The tartness of the raspberries is perfectly cut by the sweetness of the oats. I had a hard time not eating them all as soon as I cut them.

Raspberry Crumb Bars

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup quick oats
  • 3/4 packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Put all ingredients in a large bowl, mix with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until well combined (mixture will be crumbly)
  3. Press half the crust mixture into an 8×8 inch pan lined with parchment paper. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

Raspberry Filling

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 pound raspberries
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  1. In a medium bowl, mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice and zest, and butter together.
  2. Add raspberries to mixture, toss gently till all the raspberries are covered.
  3. Once bottom crust has baked for 12 minutes, cover with raspberry mixture and then with remaining crumb mixture. Press the crumb down gently.
  4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
  5. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Seriously. It will be tough, but if you cut them too soon they will just fall apart.

Enjoy!

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My Initiation Into Egyptian Shortbread

I think my mom might finally actually trust my baking abilities. This Easter I have been assigned the task of making “my father’s cookies” as my mom likes to call them. To everyone else they are Egyptian shortbread cookies, traditionally (at least in my family) stuffed with a date filling.

When I was a kid I hated the date filling, it looks like chocolate but it’s not chocolate. That’s very upsetting to a child. To appease my anger, my mom also started making nut filled cookies just for me. The problem? All of the cookies looked exactly the same. Biting into a date filled cookie when I was expecting walnuts was also very upsetting. Now that I’m a little older (ok, a lot older) I’ve learned to appreciate dates, so I made both versions of the cookies.

My personal touches? Two different shape for easy identification, and almonds instead of walnuts due to some recent face swelling experiences after eating walnuts.

out these, but I think I did a pretty good job. I used too much dough in the first few cookies while trying to figure out how to properly shape them, but still managed to get over 50 cookies from the recipe. It turns out the secret is to really press the dough into your palm before putting the filling in. That way the dough can easily be wrapped around the filling to make the crescent shape.

It’s important to have a good filling to dough ratio. You may have noticed there is no sugar in the dough, so all of the sweetness comes from the filling and the icing sugar on top.

I  used vanilla instead of rose-water, because rose-water isn’t something I keep in the house. If you do want to make the cookies with rose-water keep in mind that it has a very unique flavour.  A whole tablespoon can be over powering to those who aren’t used to the flavour, it makes the cookies a little perfume-y. I think flavouring the cookies with orange rind would also be very tasty. That’s an experiment for another day.