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!