Looking through Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets, which I purchased several years ago and have yet to make anything out of--I just keep reading the recipes but haven't had the gumption to make any of them--I decided that the Anise Cookies/Pains d'Anis look very promising. Greenspan says they only last a week, so I'll have to wait another week to make the giveaways if I like them. Upon looking at her variation of using vanilla instead of anise, I decided that though I love anise, not many of the kids in our group of friends do...so I'll have to dip into my stash of vanilla beans for this recipe. I'm excited about using the pods all ground up. It's so frugal! Another interesting note that Greenspan has is about the cookie's appearance. It's humdrum and looks quite like a macaron with the circlet of a "foot"...in other words, it's got to rest for 24 hours and on top of that, it's got to be on buttered and floured baking sheets. Geesh! oh well, we'll give it a try.
Anise Cookies/Vanilla Cookies
from Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
3 T (15 grams) anise seeds or 2 vanilla bean pods (or 4 t vanilla extract)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- The day before: Butter two baking sheets, dust the sheets with flour, and shake off the excess. If you want to pipe the cookies, fit a medium pastry bag with a 3/8 inch (1cm) plain round tip and set it aside; if not, you can use a small spoon.
- Put the sugar and vanilla pods in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process for a full minute to flavor the sugar with the vanilla. Pour the sugar through a strainer into the bowl of a mixer; discard the vanilla chunks that remain in the strainer. Crack the eggs into the bowl, then, working with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on high speed until they are thick and pale, about 3 minutes. When you lift the whisk, the mixture should fall back on itself and form a slowly dissolving ribbon. Switch to a large rubber spatula and, adding it through a strainer, gently fold in the flour in two additions.
- Pipe or spoon rounds of the batter, each about 1 3/4 to 2 inches (about 5 cm) across, onto the baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them. Allow the cookies to rest uncovered overnight at room temperature.
- Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350degrees F (180C)
- Bake the cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom midway, or until they have turned pale, almost white, on top and have formed a rough little foot at the base. Transfer the cookies to a rack and cool to room temperature.
The second cookie I'm intending on putting into the Boxes instead of my usual Green Tea Shortbread Trees, which look so cute, are Foodbeam's recommendation of Green Tea Sweets (which ought to be less bitter than my shortbread cookies were last year!) from the Lovescool food blog.
My third choice for the Boxes will be Alice Medrich's Nibby Pecan Cookies, which were so unusual and tasty.
Number five should be something crispy and chewy and vaguely healthy--hey it's got oatmeal!--like the delicious Crispy Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
The sixth type of cookie shall be Greenspan's Korova (World Peace) cookies because Bebe, sitting on Santa Claus' lap at the mall for our yearly Christmas pictures, asked Santa Claus for--you guessed it: Peace on Earth--for Christmas! Yup. He said "okay".
Korova Cookies: a.k.a. World Peace Cookies
from Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets and Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 stick plus 3 T (5 1/2 oz; 150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (120 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 oz (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits
- Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together and keep close at hand. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the butter is soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt, and vanilla extract and beat for another minute or two. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated--the dough will look crumbly, and that's just right. For the best texture, you want to work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.
- Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface and squeeze it so that it sticks together in large clumps. Gather the dough into a ball, divide it in half, and working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill them for at least 1 hour.
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325degreesF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and keep them close at hand.
- Working with a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheets, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) spread space between them.
- Bake only one sheet of cookies at a time, and bake each sheet for 12 minutes. The cookies will not look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies stand until they are only just warm or until they reach room temperature. Repeat with the second sheet of cookies