Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cranberry Pecan Icebox Cookies

These little tender crisp cookies are a sure hit. Sweet, but not overmuch.
Absolute shortbread perfection.

what you'll need:

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (this is crucial)
2/3 c. sugar
1-2 t. vanilla (good vanilla, again this is crucial)

cream the butter to break it up and make it smooth, add the sugar, cream for a minute before mixing in vanilla.

Then add:

2 c. flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt

I use my Kitchen Aid with its paddle for this, but a hand mixer will work well, too.
It gets kind of stiff so hand mixing is a little harder, but doable.
(If your dough is very crumbly looking and won't form a ball in your mixer, just add a titch more vanilla until it does.)

Gently mix in:

1/2 c. dried, chopped cranberries (leave out the dried fruit for true Pecan Sandies, my favorite!)
1/2 c. pecans, finely chopped (I put them in a ziplock bag and mash them well with a rolling pin)

Turn out your dough onto a generous piece of plastic wrap and form into a log about 2 inches high and 2 inches wide...notice that mine has a flat top...since I can't form a round log to save my life.

!!AWESOME OPTION ALERT!! - roll that log in some raw, large granulated sugar before chilling!
ok, back to your regularly scheduled shortbreading.

Wrap the log up in the plastic and chill until firm.
This will take a good hour.

Heat your oven to 350*F and remove the log from the frig. Slice the log into 1/2 inch slices and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet about two inches apart.
Bake for about 23-25 minutes.
Some of the cookies may have a slight ring of golden tan around the edges, some may not, depending on where they are on the cookie sheet.
Remove the sheet from the oven and let the cookies sit on the sheet until they are mostly cool.
CAREFULLY remove the cookies with a spatula onto foil sheet. If I repeated that "carefully" was the crucial way to do it, would it cheapen the meaning?

Anyway, these little guys are terribly tender, so when they are hot they will just crumble to nothing. So, patience is key here.
As much as you would like to dive into the whole batch, please refrain yourself and give them a chance to firm up as they cool.

If you made the log similar to mine it should yield about 30 slices.
Of course, I have no way to confirm this since most of the first pan of cookies were eaten before the second pan came out of the oven.
Sorry about that.

Here's a photo of the cookies if you want to see them sugared up!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bread for the Lazy Baker...aka me.

What you'll need:
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast with the water in a large bowl or container. Mix in the flour and salt with a large wooden spoon until they are thoroughly combined. Don't worry about kneading, but you want to mix until there are no more lumps of dry flour.

Cover the dough loosely with a clean dish towel and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours.

The dough can be used right away, although it is recommended to cover it well and refrigerate it for anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks.
It develops such a nice flavor, if you can wait...if you are me and cannot wait, read on.

On baking day, dust the surface of the dough with flour and divide your dough in half. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching and rotating it. Shape your dough into an oval-shaped loaf. Allow to rest and rise on a piece of parchment paper on a wooden pizza peel or flat cookie sheet for about 45 - 60 minutes.

Thirty minutes before you want to bake your bread, preheat the oven to 450*F with a baking stone on the bottom rack. (That's where my element is)  Place an empty tray on another shelf in the oven.

Slash deep parallel cuts across the loaf using a serrated bread knife.

Slide the loaf off the tray, carefully, onto the baking stone.
I do this gentle little shimmy, shimmy, shake thing using small jerking motions to get the loaf to move off the wooden peel.  The parchment paper is KEY here, it just slides right off the board onto the stone and its fine in the oven with your bread!  The parchment stays with the dough...and its okay, you definitely want to bake right on it.
Before I had a pizza peel...I used a large piece of cardboard. True story.

Pour 1 cup of hot water into the other pan and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the loaf is brown and firm. They really want you to allow the loaf to cool before slicing and eating, sometimes this is just not realistic.

This recipe makes 2 loaves that are about a pound and a half a piece.

Here is one of the loaves I made. I added minced onion, bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes with some basil and cracked black pepper.

sliiiced it....ate it....all.
blogging is hard work, you know!

This recipe was adapted from the famous Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes recipe, hope it serves you well as it has me!


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