Sunday, December 30, 2007

My New Favorite Cookie

Even though I didn't participate in December's Daring Bakers Challenge, I have been baking up a storm. Baking my least favorite things to bake, cookies.

This year, I decided to take the bull by the horns and pretty much jettisoned virtually every cookie I had baked previously, with a couple exceptions. Those exceptions were due to great taste, in the case of my mother-in-laws bourbon balls, and emotional appeal, in the case of Hershey's peanut blossom cookies.

The first cookie I decided to test was a butter cookie. I pulled the recipe from an add for Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter that I found in a recent issue of Gourmet magazine. Instead of Kerrygold, I used an Icelandic butter that I had purchased at Whole Foods, and that I needed to use up.

The butter was amazing - the texture was like cutting into a soft cheese or a fudge. The flavor was clean, with no aftertaste. And it produced the best butter cookie that I have ever made. Ever.

Butter cookies and shortbread are my favorite cookies. They are simple, satisfying, and melt in your mouth. When the butter you have used is top quality, that is. Some folks are very sensitive to the flavors in coffee, or cabbage, or wine. In my case, I can really taste when the oil in fats or nuts is even slightly off.

I will make these again, and again, and again. But using only a great European butter. I've tried butter cookies with Plugra brand, and while they were good, they were not outstanding.

And if you're wondering what the little pink dots are in the middle of some of the cookies, they are pink peppercorns. When you bite into them, you get a jolt of a vibrant, flowery flavor, not any heat. I took a cookie making class with Betsy Cukla of Hammersong (a great cookie cutter manufacturer) at La Cuisine a couple years ago, and that was something that she taught us. If you freeze the cookies after baking them, keep them in their own individual container so that they don't pick up other cookie flavors.

Elinor Klivans’ Slice and Bake Butter Cookies
Pastry chef and cookbook author, Elinor Klivans, developed this crisp and buttery cookie recipe for Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter. Adapted from an ad in Gourmet Magazine, 2007.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 package (8 ounces or 1 cup) salted Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, at room temperature, or another premium European butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1/3 cup granulated sugar or coarse sugar crystals for rolling the cookie log
Pecan halves, walnut halves, or pink peppercorns (optional)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl and set aside. In large bowl beat butter and sugar until lightened in color and fluffy, using an electric mixer on medium speed, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until flour is incorporated and soft, smooth dough forms. Do not over beat, or you will have a tough cookie.

Divide dough into 2 pieces; form each into a log about 7 ½ inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate about 1 hour until cold and firm, or overnight. I chilled mine overnight, which is longer than I'd chilled cookie dough before, and it made a big difference in maintaining the shape of the log later on as I cut the cookies. Or freeze, wrapped securely, for up to 1 month. (Defrost in the refrigerator before slicing and baking.)

Position rack in middle of oven. Heat oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In small bowl, use fork to beat egg white until foamy, about 30 seconds. Use pastry brush to brush each log with egg white. Sprinkle the 1/3 cup sugar on strip of wax paper then roll each log back and forth in sugar to coat lightly. Use large sharp knife to cut each log into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Press nut half or peppercorn into each cookie before baking, if desired. Bake one sheet at a time until cookie edges and bottoms are light brown, about 18 minutes, but start checking on your cookies before then, at about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 3 days, or freeze.
Makes 40-60 cookies.


Blogger rowena said...

I thought I wouldn't want to look at another cookie after the holidays but as far as I'm concerned, no one has ever presented butter cookies so curiously and appealing good! Pink peppercorns? That sounds great! I'll have to make a trip to get some farm fresh butter at the dairy co-op. Happy New Year to you both and the pups!

January 03, 2008 11:36 AM  
Blogger Madam Chow said...

Thank you, Rowena, Happy New Year to you and Maddie, as well.

January 03, 2008 2:56 PM  
Anonymous the dowager chow said...

can't recall running out of adjectives before, but after being served these incredible cookies by madam chow herself, i have to confess that it did happen! (its amazing that she had any left to photograph...hmm...she must have hidden a few from me!) i intend to hang around her kitchen any time she has the urge to create cookies!

January 18, 2008 5:44 PM  

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