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Submitted by Pam on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 16:42
Guess what I've been up to these last few days!
If you guessed "baking Valentine cookies" - you would be right!
Visit Diane's post from last February at CraftyPod to learn more about my annual Valentine project. Valentine's Day is, after all, the best time of year to let people know that the things they do for you all year long are appreciated.
So here is the cast of characters in this year's production, including some recipes and a few preparation tips.
Starting at the top - (and then moving clockwise)
Double Chocolate Bourbon Brownies. I will be sharing the recipe with you in my next post.
Linzer cookies! Everyone's favorite! This recipe is very similar to the one I use. TIP: "Grind" your almonds in a food processor until they are very fine - almost to the flour stage.
Grinding the almonds this fine makes a very flavorful and tender cookie.
Island Macaroons - another favorite. I couldn't believe it when Diane found the very recipe I use on the web last year. The recipe is so simple and tastes like you really knocked yourself out. TIP: Toasting the coconut and macadamia nuts requires constant attention. They burn quickly!
Stir the mixture thoroughly EVERY sixty seconds. If you are diligent and watchful, your toasted coconut will look like the tray on the left. Toasty. Delicious. Perfect.
The cranberry red and pistacio green make these a festive choice during the winter holidays. TIP: I always add large sugar crystals for a little extra sparkle. Just before I pop these in the oven, I will press each one gently with the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to "seat" the crystals so they won't fall off after baking.
Aaaaaaah! Lemon Bars. I love the "Triple Layer Lemon Triangles" from the Better Homes and Gardens 2004 Special Interest Publication: Christmas Cookies. I wish I could find this recipe on the web so I could share. If you still have the issue, look it up and try it! It is the most unusual and delicious lemon bar I have ever eaten.
The shortbread crust is flavored with cloves, cinnamon, and crystallized ginger. Just before you bake the shortbread, you brush a thin layer of molasses over the top. After the shortbread bakes a while, you add an egg & lemon juice topping and bake it a little longer. Once cooled, you spread a thin lemon/powdered sugar glaze over the top. Ooooooh - just excuse me a minute will you - I need to go raid the lemon bar tin.
Rolled Sugar Cookie Valentine Hearts. I just discovered the most wonderful rolled sugar cookie recipe from King Arthur - again in the Cookie Companion. But this one from their web site is also very good and easy to work with.
TIP: When rolling out sugar cookies, be gentle. Do not use very much pressure or the dough will repay you by becoming a nearly permanent part of your rolling surface!
Most cookie doughs do not like to be handled too much - they will reward you with rather tough little cookies. I try to get as many cookies cut from the first "roll-out" as I can by cutting the cookie shapes as close to each other as possible. Re-roll cookie dough only one time for best results - ie: tender cookies!
Don't you just love the pink sanding sugar?
Carmel Nut Squares. Another fabulous cookie for which I am unable to offer a recipe link. A lovely caramel topping made with butter, brown sugar, honey, cream and mixed nuts spread over a shortbread crust flavored with lemon peel.
Shortbread cookies - my second favorite cookie. (Sugar cookies being my first cookie love.)
I have not tried this shortbread recipe from King Arthur, but I have never had them fail me yet!
Or... Try this! Beat 1 pound soft, salted butter with 1 cup granulated sugar until it is well mixed. This incorporates air into the mixture, which will give you light and tender cookies. Add 1 tsp. vanilla and mix it in. Add 4 cups flour and mix just until it is blended into the butter/sugar mixture.
Now, turn a jelly roll pan upside down, (about 11"x17"), and pat the dough out onto the surface. Try to pat it to an even thickness.
Score the dough with a sharp knife, marking the bars. I make mine 3/4" x 2". (I should have taken a picture, shouldn't I???) Then prick the bars with a fork - at least twice per bar.
Place the cookie sheet with the dough still on it into the refrigerator or freezer to chill. Remove when firm, cut the bars apart with a sharp knife, and place them about an inch apart on a cookie tray lined with parchment baking sheet..
Bake at 275 degrees for a total of 35 to 40 minutes, turning the tray after 20 minutes to ensure even browning. Ovens vary - bake until they are a lovely pale golden color. Do not under-bake them.
Sometimes I drizzle melted bittersweet chocolate over the bars. Picasso style!
I really wanted to dip mine in white chocolate this year, but as always, always, always happens when I try to melt white chocolate, it turns into a paste-like substance, not at all pretty or workable.
Is there anyone out there who can help me???? Is there a way to make a lovely, flowing melted white chocolate that will coat my shortbread with a pretty blanket of white?
Happy Valentine baking everyone!