But Sugar is Sweeter

Cookie

Pirouettes AKA Cigarettes Russes

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So I finished my test (yeah!) and  as it turns out, blogging actually helped my grade – so I think its safe to continue!  Almost immediately after the test, we left for Taos, New Mexico.  We had a great visit with my in-laws, ate and drank well, and even got some skiing and hiking in.  Apparently we brought the bad weather with us, but it was still better than the cloudy skys we came back to in Ohio.  I was planning on taking a break from cooking while on vacation – but of course I got the urge to bake after about 10 hours.  Actually I’ve had the urge to bake these particular cookies for several weeks.  I kept putting them off because they looked kind of complicated,   but spring break seemed like the perfect time to try these out!

The reason I have been wanting to make these cookies for so long, is that you really can’t buy them anywhere!  Sure, you can buy filled Pirouettes, but I like the plain and simple taste of just the wafer – without hazelnut, mint, or chocolate cream inside to ruin it.   Pepperidge Farm does actually make the simple “Cigarettes Russes” (without the filling), but the only place I have ever seen them is inside of the entertaining pack of assorted cookies, and even then you only get like 2! So while I really did enjoy making these cookies, there was also a utilitarian reason for making them.

I actually tried making these twice.  The first time they did not work out …at all.  I’m going to blame it on the 7,500 altitude in Taos, NM, but honestly I think there were a bunch of factors that caused the initial demise of these cookies.  The second time was much better, and now I know the specifics of how to make them perfect – and lucky for you, I’ll share that info with you :-)!

Cigarettes Russes

  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) softened butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 egg whites at room temperature (the first time I took them straight from the fridge – which didn’t work)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt.

1. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with silicone liners. (Do NOT use Parchment.  If you don’t have silicon liners you could try a greased cookie sheet, but this didn’t work as well for me)

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow.
3. Gradually add powdered sugar and continue beating until well blended.
4. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.

6. Mix flour and salt together, and gradually add to buter mixture.  Stir to combine.

7. Using a small cookie cookie scoop, drop the batter  onto a prepared baking sheet, forming only 4 cookies.  You can only do 4 at time because the cookies must be rolled quickly before they cool.

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8. Moisten a spatula, and using a circular motion, spread batter into an oval/circle.  The cookies need to be even, but the thinner you can make them, the better they will turn out.  Mine ended up being about 4×4 inches.

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9. Bake the cookies until just golden at the edges – about 3 minutes.   If your batter is not spread evenly, the edges will brown too quickly.
10. While the first batch cooks, prepare a second batch on the remaining sheet.  I actually thought it worked well when the cookie sheet was still warm from the previous batch.
11. Remove the baked cookies from the oven, and quickly remove one cookie using a thin spatula. Wrap the cookie around the thin handle of a wooden spoon.  Slighly greasing the handle with cooking spray will help if the cookies are getting stuck to the spoon.

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12. Remove the cookie from the spoon handle and place on a wire rack.  Repeat with remaining 3 cookies.  If the cookies begin to harden before you can shape them, return to the oven for 30 seconds to soften.
13. If your cookies are not as crisp as you would like, place them on a wire rack in a 250 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.  This will help suck the remaining moisture out of the cookies.

Chocolate Dip

  • 3 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1 tsp  butter
  • 1 tsp corn syrup (if you have it – I didn’t so I didn’t use it)
In a double boiler,  combine the chocolate, butter and corn syrup. Set over barely simmering water in the bottom pan and stir until melted and blended. Let cool slightly. Dip about 1 inch of each cookie into the chocolate. Place on waxed paper, on tope of a wire rack, until set.
Makes about 36 cookies.

Adapted from Williams Sonoma


Conversation Heart Sugar Cookies

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!   I know that this is my second post related to Valentine’s….but I just love excuses to make cookies!  I’m really lucky that my friends, Samiya and Sarah, also share in my love of cookie decorating – it makes it a great 10:30 at night study break :-).  A while back, Sarah had the idea to make heart  shaped cookies and decorate them like conversation hearts.  It sounded so cute that I just knew we had to make them.  This is our second time decorating cookies together, and I think we are getting a little better at it.  (Still not ready to open our own cookie business….but maybe eventually.)  I made a simple sugar cookie dough (seen below) and cut the cookies out.  Then together we whipped up a batch of royal icing, and started decorating.  To make these you need to make quite a few icing colors.  We made, blue, green, white and pink, and then then took about 1/2 of the pink icing and died it a darker pink/red to do the writing with. The conversation hearts also come in purple, yellow and orange – so you can just pick your favorites.

As a helpful hint, we used gel food coloring, and even with globs of it we had trouble getting the icing to be “Red”.  My advice would be to add color until it looks like hot pink, and then the icing will dry a little bit darker.  Also, in retrospect, you really need very little icing to “write with”, and it would be easier to darkly dye a smaller amount of icing.

I don’t feel that I’m near good enough (yet), to make my own tutorial on how to ice with royal icing, but if you are interested here are a few sites that seem to have it down pat:  Brown Eyed Baker, Annie’s Eats, Sweetopia.   One day, (probably over spring break), you will be seeing a royal icing tutorial from me.  However, I think that these cookies are a simple enough design that a plain “dip” icing, or buttercream would also work fine.  Royal icing just gives the cookies that professional looking sheen.

Please take note of the “P.L.T.” cookie.  We were inspired by this week’s episode of Glee, and the Micheal Jackson song, “Pretty Little Thing”…Which we realized after was actually called “Pretty Young Thing”…whoops.

And then of course, you have to have the classic phrase, “That’s what she said”.  Which was kind of inspired by my favorite blogger, Annie, and by the fact that this phrase is awesome…

We also tried our hand at some other languages, with cookies like “Te Amo”, “Ich Liebe Diche”, “Je t’aime” & “Mi Amore.”

Janice’s Sugar Cookies

– I made half of this recipe, and it made about 30 large heart shaped cookies.

  • One lb. butter (4sticks),  softened
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5-6 cups flour
Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla for 10 min, until fluffy. Mix together baking soda and 3 cups flour…add to butter mixture. Mix 1 min. Add remaining flour until bowl is clean and no batter is around the sides.
Chill dough for 20-30 minutes.
Roll on lightly floured board. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or just before the cookies start to brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Recipe passed on to me by our family friend Robyn M.

Linzer Heart Cookies

With Valentine’s day right around the corner, it seemed like the perfect excuse to bake some cookies!  In my opinion, these are the quintessential Valentine’s day cookie.  They are just so adorable, and the raspberry jam peaking through the center of the heart is just the perfect for the holiday.  My mom used to make these for Valentine’s day, and I can remember her sending me some in a cute little Valentine’s care package.  I remember this so well because my mom isn’t really much of a baker, and I was so impressed that she made this complicated cookie, AND managed to get it in the mail before Valentine’s day.  I really wanted to send her some of these,  but of course – It’s saturday, Valentine’s day is on Monday, and I don’t think express shipping for cookies is really warranted. Maybe next year….

These cookies are really unique.  They are so airy and light, and almost melt in your mouth when you eat them. If you’ve ever had those little ball shaped cookies, covered in powdered sugar at Christmas time –  these cookies are somewhat similar (but more delicious). But such qualities in a cookie don’t come easy.    I’ve made these for 3 or 4 years now, and I think I have learned something new about how to make them better, and prettier each year.  Here’s a few tips that I’ve learned from my mistakes:

  1. These cookies are very fragile.  They are actually probably one of the hardest cookies to send in the mail (mine were bubble wrapped !) So don’t be afraid to make the dough a little bit thicker than 1/4 inch (and definitely no thinner).  It will help keep them in one piece.
  2. The dough has to be VERY cold when you are rolling out the cookies.  I usually divide the dough into 3 batches, so that I can roll out 1, while the other 2 are still as cold as possible in the fridge.
  3. I’ve found that it works best if you roll out the dough between 2 floured pieces of wax paper. The flour helps when you go to lift the cookie onto the cookie sheet. Another thing I’ve done is to roll out the dough and then refrigerate the flat sheet before cutting out, this also works well and if you do this you don’t have to re-refrigerate after cutting them out.
  4. The step that says “Chill the cutout cookies for 45 minutes before baking”, was actually included in the recipe for a reason (other than annoying an inpatient person like myself).  If you don’t chill the cookies before baking, they lose their shape quickly in the oven.  They still taste good, but it makes it hard to find cookies that match up nicely to sandwich together.  And they just don’t look nearly as beautiful.
  5. You cannot eat just “a piece” of this cookie.  Inevitably, you end up finishing the whole thing…

Linzer Cookies

  • 3 sticks (3/4 lb) butter, softened
  • 1  1/4 cups powdered sugar + more for dusting
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 cup cornstartch
  • 2 cups shelled walnuts or pecans, finely ground***
  • 3/4 cup red raspberry preserves

***Grind the walnuts in a food processor by pulsing 5-15 times.  Be careful not to overgrind because the walnuts will actually start to turn into paste, like peanut butter.  To help prevent this you can try adding a little bit of the powdered sugar to the nuts while grinding them.

Cream butter and 1 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well. Sift together flour and cornstarch together, and add to butter mixture. Add walnuts and mix thoroughly.

Gather dough in ball and wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper. Chill for 4-6 hours, or overnight, or a day, or 2.

Sandwich the dough between 2 pieces wax paper.  Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness.  

Using a large heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 1 cookie and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicone baking mat).  Then cut out the same size heart, and using a smaller heart, cut a heart shaped hole out of the middle, also place on the cookie sheet. Place about an inch apart on cookie sheet (Mine in the picture were a little too close together!) Then chill for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes, or until they are only slightly browned. Remove and cool on wire rack.

While they are still slightly warm, spread half of the cookies with raspberry preserves, 1/2 teaspoon of jam on each cookie. Top each with one of the remaining cookies. Press together carefully, this is when it is very easy to break the cookies!

Once fully cooled, sift the remaining powdered sugar over the cookies. Turn cookies over and sift onto the other side.  I like to sift a little powdered sugar on them again before serving.

Makes about 25 “sandwiches”.

Passed on to me by my Mom, and originally from The Silver Palate Cookbook


Peanut Butter and Chocolate French Macarons

I’ve always been in love with things related to France – French language, French food, French wine and French cities.  When I started seeing French macarons around the blogging world, I knew I had to make them.  Luckily, we found out that we are going to have a SNOW DAY, so it seemed like the perfect time to try these rather complicated French delicacy.  After eating several of them, I can honestly say that these little treats are divine.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect because a no flour, egg white base  sounded a lot like meringue cookies to me, which I happen to dislike.  But these treats are crispy on the outside and almost like cotton candy on the inside. I even liked the plain cookie without the filling.

I learned pretty much everything I needed to know in this tutorial, which I found via Annie’s Eats. But I have a few comments.

  1. You really need to have a food scale to make these (which gave me a good excuse to use some gift cards to go buy one)
  2. The egg whites quickly go from soft peaks to stiff peaks (so don’t walk away from the mixer while you’re beating them …like I did)
  3. I found I liked a lot less filling then the original recipe called for, but if you think you’d like more filling, the original recipe called for 6 oz chocolate and 3/4 cup cream (and I had more than 1/2 of it left over)
  4. Also the original recipe called for blanched, unsalted peanuts, but I accidentally  bought roasted, salted and they worked fine.
  5. I used 2 silicone baking mats to bake these on (which my brother John introduced me to for my birthday). They are awesome for anything baked in the oven and I would definitely recommend buying one!

Peanut Macarons

55 grams slivered almonds

55 grams peanuts (I used roasted, salted)

200 grams powdered sugar

100 grams egg whites (aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours)

50 grams granulated sugar

Chopped peanuts for garnish

Weigh all ingredients. Combine almonds, peanuts and powdered sugar in a food processor and process until smooth.  In large bowl beat aged egg whites on medium-high until foamy.  Slowly add the granulated sugar to the eggs and beat on high until stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to overbeat. Then carefully fold in the almond/peanut/powdered sugar mixture until the mixture seems consistent throughout.

Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats, (or parchment paper if you don’t have silicone mats). Spoon the batter into a pastry bag or Ziploc.  Cut the edge of the bag to leave an opening of about 1/2 inch. Pipe the batter into small rounds about 1-2 inches wide on the baking sheet.  Leave about 1 inch in-between cookies, although they generally do not spread. Now quickly sprinkle with chopped peanuts.  Then let the cookies sit for about an hour at room temperature.

Once a cookies have started to develop a hard shell, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Bake the cookies for 11-14 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on pans.  Place in an airtight container until you want to fill them.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Filling

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 c. peanut butter

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer.  Pour over chocolate and then stir until the mixture becomes smooth. Let the ganache cool until easy to handle.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip.

Add peanut butter to another pastry bag also fitted with a medium tip.

Match up cookies so that they match as best is possible in size. Pipe a layer of chocolate onto the flat side of the cookie and top with a dollop of peanut butter. Sandwich cookies together and push down lightly.  Store in an air tight container until ready to eat.  (But I’ll have to say – at the rate they disappear, you might not need to store them :-))

Recipe from Annie’s Eats