A Few Recipes From the Chef: Pastry Chef Jan Purdy's Holiday Cookies

When we stopped by to visit Butter Tart bakery--which is set to reopen next month--the other day, pastry chef Jan Purdy was in the kitchen, baking holiday cookies. Purdy has been working with Butter Tart chef-owner Andre Guerrero since their days together at Linq (which is now the home of Christophe Eme's Ortolan), and was at Max in Sherman Oaks before it became Marché, where Purdy is now the pastry chef. Guerrero is either chef, owner, partner, or a combination of some or all of those titles, at Butter Tart, Marché, The Oinkster and BoHo. Purdy is pastry chef at the first three, and helped design BoHo's dessert menu. (Got all that? Chefs are probably very good at musical chairs too.) Guerrero and Purdy, by the way, got involved both personally and professionally after the pastry chef crashed a Christmas party over a decade ago at one of Guerrero's restaurants. Happy holidays.

Purdy brought out a tray of three kinds of holiday cookies: chocolate earthquake cookies, peppermint brownies, and maple shortbread cookies. Okay, maybe only the peppermint brownies, with little candy canes adorning the tops, are full-on Christmas cookies, but it depends on your definition of a holiday cookie. Butter Tart has a vaguely Canadian theme anyway, as its previous owner was Canadian and butter tarts are Canadian in origin. The moose heads on the walls, by the way, have been removed. If you want pretty decorations when Butter Tart reopens, just look at the Syneso espresso machine. For Purdy's three cookie recipes, turn the page.

holiday cookies from pastry chef Jan Purdy
holiday cookies from pastry chef Jan Purdy
A. Scattergood

Chocolate earthquake cookies

From: Pastry chef Jan Purdy of Marché, The Oinkster and Butter Tart.

Makes: 3 dozen

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (68% or higher)

6 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Curacao (or rum, brandy or other liqueur)

1 cup finely ground almonds

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

to coat the cookies:

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler or in short 30-second intervals in a microwave, stirring often.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the ground almonds, flour and baking powder and set aside. In a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until thick, pale ribbons form, about 5 minutes.

3. Pour the liqueur into the chocolate mixture and stir to combine, then add to the egg mixture. Mix to combine, then add the dry ingredients, whisking briefly until combined. The batter will be thin. Chill the batter until it's solid, about 2-3 hours.

4. Place the remaining sugar and powdered sugar into separate bowls. Using a 1-inch ice cream scoop, scoop the chilled batter into round balls. Roll the balls first in the plain sugar and then in the powdered sugar to coat thoroughly. Place on a baking sheet, leaving a few inches between balls of dough.

5. Bake the cookies for about 18 minutes, or until cracked open on the surface, firm in texture but still soft to the touch in the center.

Maple shortbread cookies

From: Pastry chef Jan Purdy of Marché, The Oinkster and Butter Tart.

Note: Maple extract can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.

Makes: About 2 dozen 3-inch cookies, or about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies

1/3 cup toasted pecans

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup cake flour

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon maple extract

1. In a food processor with the blade attachment, chop the nuts and sugar until very fine.

2. Add the butter and mix well. Add the egg yolks, extracts, and salt and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

3. Add the flours last and pulse into a smooth dough, being careful not to overmix.

4. Pat the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and chill for about 3 hours.

5. Preheat the oven to 350. Roll the dough on a well-floured board to 1/4-inch thickness. Chill for about 10 minutes, until firm.

6. Using a cookie cutter, cut the chilled dough in desired shapes, such as leaves or acorns, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

7. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until just golden. Cool completely on a rack.

Maple Icing:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon maple extract

1 or 2 tablespoons of milk

Garnish:

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup toasted pecans

1. For the icing, blend the sugar, maple extract and milk well, using just enough milk to achieve a spreadable consistency. Reserve.

2. For the garnish, melt the chocolate in a microwave in short 20-second bursts and stir often until smooth. Transfer to a small pastry bag and cut tip very small. Very finely chop the toasted nuts.

3. Spread each cookie with icing so that it is only 1/2 covered and dip the frosted side into the chopped nuts. Use chocolate to trace leaf veins or edging between the side with icing and the rest of the cookie.

 

Peppermint brownies

From: Pastry chef Jan Purdy of Marché, The Oinkster and Butter Tart.

Makes: 48 small brownies

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (68% or higher), chopped

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup all purpose floour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the interior of a 13 x 9 inch pan. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave with short 30-second intervals, stirring often. Reserve and allow to cool slightly.

2. In a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and mix just to blend.

3. Mix in the eggs and the sugar, beating slightly in between additions.

4. Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt with a spatula. Fold in the chocolate chips. Turn the batter out into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly with the spatula.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are firm but the center is still soft. Cool completely.

Frosting:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons water

3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

red food coloring (optional)

1. For the frosting, blend all the frosting ingredients in a standing mixer with a whisk attachment until completely smooth. If desired, add a drop or two of food coloring.

2. Spread the frosting evely over the cooled brownies and chill until firm.

Ganache:

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 ounces unsalted butter

small peppermint candy canes (optional), crushed or whole

1. For the ganache, in a small saucepan, heat the milk and cream over high heat until they just reach a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

2. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup and butter and whisk until thoroughly combined. Spread the ganache over the chilled peppermint-covered brownies. Chill again until firm.

3. Cut the brownies into 1 1/2-inch x 1 1/2-inch squares (or as desired). Garnish with crushed peppermint or small peppermint sticks.


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