Friday, April 16, 2010

52 Cookies - Chapter 15

I can't believe I've made it this far.  Not that I'm a quitter or anything.  It's just that, 15 never-before-tried cookie recipes in as many weeks is an amazing accomplishment for the traditional, if-it-isn't-broke-don't-fix-it kind of person that I tend to be. 

I like my chocolate chip.  I like my oatmeal.  I like my brownies. 

I have trusted, tried and true recipes that I have been making for...well...let's just say...a long time.  So when I set out on this Cookie Journey, I did not take the commitment lightly.  I realize, I am not even half-way through, and yet, I still feel a great sense of accomplishment.

This week's cookie is a tasty little gem that I will be sure to make again and keep in my back pocket whenever I need something quick, especially for a more grown-up audience.  In other words, there's no goopy icing or chunks of chocolate.  One thing that I especially like about this recipe is that it comes in a basic recipe to get you started and then offers 4 variations to change things up a bit. 

Variety.  It truly is the spice of life.

So, I said these were easy.  And you will not be disappointed.  These are Slice-and-Bake Shortbread Cookies.  The 4 variations include:
  • Cranberry-Orange
  • Pecan
  • Toffee-Espresso
  • Coconut-Macadamia
All of the options sound pretty good to me.  I had originally planned to do the cranberry-orange, but then realized, I don't have any oranges.  So that was out.  I think that choice would be especially good for the holidays.  I went with pecan, because, well - because I had pecans and I didn't want to just make plain old shortbread cookies.

This recipe is a prime example of why you should not only read through your list of ingredients ahead of time, but to also read through the steps.  I had scanned the ingredients yesterday and knew I had everything I needed to make the pecan version, but then I realized...Ack!...The dough needs to chill for at least FOUR HOURS!  That kind of nixed the whole, I'll-just-whip-these-together-real-quick-while-Owen-is-at-preschool plan.

So, I set out the butter to soften, mixed up the dough last night, formed my logs and then cranked these buttery, crumbly little cookies out this morning in no time flat.  Seriously.  It was an unusually uneventful school morning with my 3 children and I was able to start these cookies while they were eating breakfast, getting dressed and all that.  It helped that I had no lunches to pack this morning.  The cookies, all 4 dozen, were out of the oven and cooling on the wire rack by...get this...8:30 this morning!  Shall I brag a little and say that I also had 2 loads of laundry done by the time I left the house for preschool at 9 am?!  And I don't even drink coffee!

This recipe came from a magazine and that's all I have to say about that.  The name of the publication is not printed anywhere on the front or back and I just hate not being able to share who is my source.  My apologies.

Slice-and-Bake Shortbread Cookies
Here's What You'll Need:
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Here's What You Do:
Beat the butter at medium speed with a mixer until creamy.  Add to that the powdered sugar and beat on low so you don't have a big white cloud poof in your face!.  Stir in the vanilla and almond extract.  Find a medium sized bowl and combine your flour, baking powder and salt.  Give it a whisk and then slowly add this to your butter mixture.  Again, keep the mixer on low.  Beat until your ingredients are well-blended.

Shape the dough into two logs on two sheets of wax paper.  The logs should be about 8 inches long.  Wrap the wax paper around it and give it a roll like you would if you were working with Play-doh and trying to make a snake.  Come on.  Admit it.  We've all made a snake with Play-doh before.  Now, here's where you either stick it in the fridge for 4 hours, or...freeze the logs of dough in a zip-top freezer bag for up to 1 month.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  If you are using frozen cookie dough, let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Slice each log into 24 slices and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10 minutes and move to a cooling rack.

Now.  Here's where it gets interesting...
  • Cranberry-Orange:   Stir in 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries and 1 Tablespoon orange zest when you add the vanilla.  Continue on with the steps.
  • Toffee-Espresso:   Omit almond extract.  Stir in 1/2 cup almond toffee bits and 1 Tablespoon espresso powder with the vanilla.  Continue on.
  • Pecan:   Omit almond extract and stir in 1 cup finely chopped and toasted pecans with vanilla.
  • Coconut-Macadamia Nut:   Omit almond extract.  Stir in 1 cup toasted coconut, 1/2 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts, and 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract with vanilla.
These cookies went to our church flea market bake sale.  My policy generally states that I don't try a new recipe on guests or food I'm taking somewhere...unless the somewhere is my parents' home.  I know they'll still love me even if a recipe turns out to be a flop.  However, I know that cookies go well at bake sales and since I'm in this Cookie Journey for the long haul, I thought I'd take a chance.  They packaged up nicely and they weren't fussy.  Fussy foods are not good at a bake sale.  They get picked up, handled, moved around, merchandised.  You need sturdy food at a bake sale.  That's just my opinion.  Whatever that's worth!  

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