Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas cookies

Sunday, December 14, 2008
My friends Cathy and JoAnne and I usually get together one day in December and turn out hundreds, maybe thousands, of cookies. It's a big, steamy, messy day and we have a lot of fun doing it. This year we couldn't find a single day that suited us all, so we ended up making them separately, then meeting for lunch and trading them. This was actually far more efficient, since we weren't standing in line for the oven and trying to figure out which cookie pan belonged to whom. Also, we all decided that we really didn't need THAT many cookies. Still, I missed the companionship of our traditional cookie day.
The cookies I decided on were two new ones: Dorie Greenspan's rugelach and a cranberry-pistachio icebox cookie from Gourmet. They are both excellent, flavorful, buttery cookies that make a great addition to a holiday cookie platter.
First, the rugelach. I love rugelach. I love the rugelach recipe in Rose's Christmas Cookie cookbook, which I've made often, but I decided to try Dorie Greenspan's recipe, which gives Rose's recipe a real run for the money. I don't know if Dorie is related to Alan, but I'm pretty sure she's done more good for the world than he has.
Her rugelach recipe has a lovely cream cheese and butter base, which comes together easily in a food processor.

The dough gets shaped into a disc and refrigerated for at least a few hours.

After that, you roll it out into a big circle. I'm kind of a whiner about rolling dough out with a rolling pin. My friend Cathy is a whiz with the rolling pin. It looks so easy when she does it. I just don't have the technique. If I were called on to do a demonstration of rolling pin skills, I'd want to use Cathy as a body double. Or an arm double anyway. Still, it worked out fine.

Well, you can see that my circle is not too circular; it's an unknown geometric shape. But it didn't much matter after I cut the dough into triangles and rolled them up.

These rugelach are brushed with melted apricot jam, then sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, and strewn with currants, chocolate chips, and pecans. They're rolled up, brushed with an egg wash, and sprinkled with sparkly decorating sugar. They come out of the oven golden, crisp, and sparkly. Too pretty to eat. Almost.

While I was tending to the rugelach, I had the icebox cookies--which were actually delicate shortbreads--shaped into oblongs and resting in the refrigerator.

This is a thick, crumbly dough, filled with pistachios and dried cranberries, made spicy with cinnamon and citrusy with a goodly amount of orange peel. The crumbly dough doesn't necessarily want to be shaped, but it can be whapped into submission. A dough scraper is very effective at whapping.

After a few hours in the refrigerator, the dough is ready to be brushed on all four sides with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar. I used white, red, and green sugar--I thought the red was the prettiest.

At this point, it looks like an odd glittery cucumber, but after the cookies are sliced and baked, the colored sugar is much less peculiar.

Cathy made chocolate-cherry drops and her grandmother's fabulous recipe for fruit and nut cookies. JoAnne made linzer bars and miniature black-and-white cookies. Now I have a lot of cookies. Jim has efficiently made his way through a number of them, and I've stashed some in the freezer to give away. I may have to make another batch of those rugelach this weekend, though--just to make sure I have enough to give away.
Happy holidays, everyone!


Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to see you made rugelach, and that you made them from Dorie's book. That's where I got my recipe and they actually looked like yours! I was so pleased with them as I'm not a big cookie maker, we don't go in for this tradition of cookie making, although it is starting to filter over here gradually, thanks to the likes of Nigella Lawson. Have you heard of her, she is a popular cookery writer at the moment. I like the look of your other cookies, anything with nuts goes down well with me. I just made a Bundt cake from Dorie's book, it has a swirl of fruit and nuts through it and tastes good, very good in fact, only problem I had was getting it out of the tin without it breaking! I just took the coward's way out and covered it well with icing sugar! Jeannette.

Anonymous said...

*waves to Marie*

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...rugelach! They look soooo nice! Is this recipe in Greenspan's "Baking From My Home To Yours?" I still don't own it, but the longer I am without it, the more I think I really need it. :-)

On that note, if anyone could give a shout out as to what baking book they used the most this year, I would very much appreciate it! I am trying to be more selective of the books I buy; I am hoping to limit it to the ones I would really use.

Happy, happy holidays to Ms. Marie and everyone who posts here. It is such a nice group and I enjoy reading everyone's responses.

Laura NYC

Melinda said...

I've been waiting for your millions of cookies post! I see the recession has pared you down a bit.
I've never made rugelach or tasted them either! But I must say they look mighty good. And since it is in my Baking DG book, I should try them out.
The cranberry-pistachio shortbreads are beautiful! Perfect Christmas cookies for both colours and flavours. (and I have never made these, either!)
I applaud your adventurous cookie baking. I wish I had a cookie exchange group and a baking buddy. Jeannette should live closer to me!
To Laurie, her baking book question: I have used Dorie's Baking book and Sherry Yard's Secrets of Baking. Both are really good books that I have bought in the last year.
(I use all of RLB's books and Peter Reinhart's, Bread Baker's Apprentice, but I have had those for a longer time.)

I wish everyone a lovely Christmas and a peaceful New Year. Cheers

jini said...

i wish i'd known about the use of whapping when i made the speculaas. the pictures tell a sad tale, but they had a wonderful taste. i made the double chocolate-cherry drops that won the strib's cookie contest and they were superb!!
i haven't made rugelach, but i love them, and guess i'll have to try baking them. the shortbreads look really good, and luckily i have both ingredients on hand, so maybe....
i am busily sewing an apron for a christmas present so my baking is on hold for a few days.
happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

That does it! Dorie's rugelach have been calling to me since I bought the book when it first came out. Sunday I'm going to a latke party and these rugelach are what I will bring to share. Breadbasketcase is my absolute favorite blog and I go into withdrawal when there's no new entry for a week -- or longer! Happy Holidays to everyone!

breadbasketcase said...

Oh, I've definitely heard of Nigella Lawson, but I don't think I've ever tried one of her recipes--that's an omission I should try to fix soon, because I know she's got an enthusiastic following. Cookies are a good tradition. You can freeze them and then have just a bite or two of something sweet when the mood strikes, as it so often does.

Yes, it's from Baking From My Home to Yours. I got it for a Lazy Bakers challenge, and I've been quite pleased with everything I've made from it so far. I know what you mean about cookbooks. I have so many that I thought I MUST HAVE, only to make one or two things from it and not be overly impressed.

I never heard of Sherry Yard's book. Does it really have "secrets" of baking? Like secret passwords and magic formulas? If so, I'll definitely get it. Sounds like a good source for a Lazy Bakers project. Speaking of which, I am going to pick a bread, perhaps out of a new baking book that I might possibly get for Christmas.

Where are your pictures? I want to see them. Yes, Cathy's chocolate cherry drops were the ones from the Strib, and they were excellent. Sewing an apron? That sounds very impressive to me--a person who can barely sew a button back on a shirt.

So are you making the rugelach today (Saturday)? Let me know how they turn out for you. I thought the dough was so good I could eat it plain, but why would I when it's chock-full of all the other good things.
And thanks for the nice compliment!

Anonymous said...

I made the same cherry pistachio cookies from a different recipe (an old sugar cookie dough that I just added the fruit and nuts to).

I baked mine naked and cooled them completely. Then I painted the edges with corn syrup and rolled them in chocolate jimmies. I'm not sure if colored sugar would melt into the corn syrup. ...but if it didn't, I bet it would have more vibrant color.

Melinda said...

Oh, goody!

Anonymous said...

Breadbasketcase, you asked that I let you know how the rugelach turned out. Well, Saturday evening I made the dough for both of the cookies you made and baked them off Sunday morning. I did change the ice box cookies to pistachio/dried cherry since I don't care for dried cranberries. Then I took half of each batch to a latke party a friend was having this afternoon. Everybody raved over the rugelach They truly are worth the effort! Thanks so much for giving me that extra little push I needed!

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks for checking back in. I'm so glad they were a success! I made another batch this weekend because I gave most of the first batch away, and they were so good. As I was eating one this afternoon, I told Jim happily, "I could eat a billion of these." Fortunately I didn't make a billion.

Anonymous said...

I still have one dough disc to make up, but somehow between now and Christmas Day, I need to make at least one more recipe. Maybe not a billion, but I think I could eat that many of them too. I even splurged and used Sarabeth's Peach-Apricot jam instead of cheapie Smucker's. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm....

Doughadear said...

I woke up this morning thinking which cookie I will bake today? Will it be my new favourite Cranberry Pistachio Ice-box cookies, which I made for the first time last year and loved or Lora Brody's Rugelach which I got from Epicurious and also is in Rose's Christmas Cookies? Then I checked out your blog and there they were in full colour the cookies I was going to bake, what a coincidence! These cookies are so good that they made it in my personal Tastebook that I ordered through the Epicurious site.
I've only used turbinado sugar for coating but I think your cookies look very festive with the coating of red and green sugar. Your rugelach by Dorie Greenspan look really nice I may just try that recipe also.
Merry Christmas to you and your family and best wishes for the new year.

Chai18 said...

i never thought of rugelach as a xmas cookie, but then again i guess anything can be, yours look amazing, happy holidays.

breadbasketcase said...

I've never tried Sarabeth's jam, but I agree that it's worth it to pay the extra $ to get the best. I've been experimenting with different butter, and I think I like Organic Valley and Lurpak the best.

That's funny! We must be kindred spirits--or kindred palates anyway. I keep meaning to check the two rugelach recipes to see how similar they are, but I haven't done it yet.

Well, I guess you wouldn't think of a recipe perfected by Jewish grandmothers as a Christmas cookie, would you? But they work awfully well as any-time-of-the-year cookies.

evil cake lady said...

BBC, I am one of the few who haven't tasted rugelach before, but yours look so good! Happy Holidays! ECL

Doughadear said...

Hi Marie,
So I was going to make Lora Brody's Rugelach today but after seeing your rugelach I decided I would give Dorie Greenspan's recipe a try. I ended up making two batches because I wanted to use up the entire package of cream cheese. I made one dough portion as per the recipe, one portion without the chocolate and two portions without the chocolate but added golden raisins instead. They turned out beautifully and taste wonderful.
Funny you should mention kindred spirits/palate as that is what I thought when I saw your blog. I am not kidding.
All the best.

breadbasketcase said...

You have a treat in store for you! They are really delicious, and fun to make too, even though they require a rolling pin, which in most cases is the opposite of fun.

Good idea to vary the fillings. I think I'll try that the next time I make them. I like the golden raisins that are in Lora Brody's version, but I also like the mini chocolate chips in Dorie Greenspan's. Did you taste all your different combinations and permutations? If so, which one did you end up liking best?

Doughadear said...

I can honestly say that they were all equally delicious. I think next time I may try adding dried cranberries.

breadbasketcase said...

Yes, dried cranberries would be good. Or dried cherries. Maybe almond paste instead of jam? Or candied fruit to make them really Christmas-y? I suppose there's no end to the possibilites; some would probably work and others would make you wonder why you decided to mess around with a good thing.

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