Take a look at the calendar. It's time to do some major baking. Hanukkah beings Saturday; after next weekend, you'll be down to the Christmas shipping wire. And for those of us who simply use the season as a joyful excuse to eat more cookies, we'll be more than happy to take some of those Röckenwagner lebkuchen (LAYB-koo-kuhn; photo above) off your hands. Have Maida Heatter's Cookies book? You really should, it's a great book. And you can make your own version of the traditional German holiday spice cookies, as Heatter includes a recipe.
In the spirit of sharing, after the jump, get three of our favorite cookie recipes from baking books published in recent years. One is generously spiced, one is loaded with nuts, the third relies on classic chocolate inspiration. Holiday baking diversity at its finest.
Even better: They all come with a bonus for you, dutiful baker.
Why: Because every time we pull out this great, tiny little Biscotti book filled with 'basic' Italian cookie recipes, we find something we want to make. Like these delicate little pine nut cookies.
Baker's Bonus: These cookies will stay fresh for a week, but are best eaten the day they're made. Go ahead, have another.
Pinolate (Pine Nut Cookies)
From: Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of The American Academy in Rome (Mona Talbott and Mirella Misenti)
Makes: 20 cookies
200g / 7 ounces pine nuts
85g / 3 ounces blanched almonds
85g / ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1.Preheat the oven to 300 F.
2. Spread the pine nuts evenly on a baking sheet and toast them for about 10 minutes, or until they are lightly golden. Let them to cool before using.
3. Pulse the almonds with the granulated sugar and 50g (1/3 cup) of the pine nuts in a food processor to create a fine, sandy texture. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and egg white and mix well. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Form the dough into cherry-size balls (10 g/ 1/3 ounce) and roll each ball in the remainder of the toasted pine nuts, pressing them gently into the dough. To bake, adjust or preheat the oven to 325 F.
5. Evenly space the biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving 2cm ( 1 ½ inches) between each cookie. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until golden-brown. These cookies are best eaten fresh, but will keep for up to 1 week in a sealed container.
Turn the page for Alice Medrich's chocolate-laced tuille cookies.
Why: Everyone loves them, regardless of age or cookie culture, so why don't chocolate chip cookies make many holiday appearances? Perhaps they suffer from overuse; lack that "special gift" bling. Alice Medrich, arguably the queen of baking with chocolate, and her excellent book Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies (a baking shelf necessity if you don't have it) to the rescue. She developed this delicate rendition, a cross between a classic chocolate chip cookie and a delicate French tuille, for the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory Store some years ago.
As Medrich explains in the recipe introduction, they are a "theatrical departure from mainstream chocolate chip cookies, these ultra-thin cookies are large and decidedly flat. They shatter dramatically when you bite them, releasing loads of caramel brown sugar goodness and bursts of bittersweet chocolate." Just what we're looking for -- a grand holiday cookie entrance.
Baker's Bonus: That tendency to shatter dramatically means you're going to break a few as you make them. Lucky you.
Ultra-Thin Chocolate Chunk Cookies
From: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies (Alice Medrich)
Makes: 15 5-inch cookies
Note: Per Medrich, "These cookies will not spread as they should in a convection oven, so make them only if you have a conventional oven."
1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) rolled oats
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (2 ounces) light corn syrup
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 generously heaping cup chocolate chips or chunks
Equipment: Cookie sheets, lined with foil, dull side up. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
1. Combine the flour and baking soda in a small bowl, mixing them thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, oats, sugars, corn syrup, milk, and salt. Whisk in the flour mixture. If the batter is still warm from the butter, let it cool to room temperature before adding the chocolate. Stir in the chocolate chunks. If possible, let the dough rest for at least several hours at room temperature or covered overnight in the fridge. The rest makes for an especially crisp and extra-flavorful cookie.
3. Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces (each a scant 1/4 cup or about 1.75 ounces). Arrange 5 pieces of dough (4 in a square and 1 in the center) well apart on each sheet of foil, remembering that the cookies will spread 5 inches. Flatten each piece of dough until it is about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Slide two of the sheets of foil onto baking sheets.
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4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies are thin and very brown. If they are too pale, they will not be crisp. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Slide the cookies and foil onto wire racks to cool completely before removing the cookies from the foil. Repeat with the third batch--you can slide the next foil and cookie dough onto a hot baking sheet as long as you put the sheet in the oven immediately. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. May be kept in an airtight container for at least 3 days.
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