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Archive for the ‘cookies’ Category

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I’m not known for my self-control around desserts (or any food, for that matter) in general, but there are a few extreme cases. One is lemon. I almost never make lemon desserts, because I will eat them, all, until they’re gone, within a very short period of time. The other, which I only realized recently, is cheesecake. When I made cheesecake in a mini muffin pan, I had no resistance to grabbing just one more tiny cheesecake.

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And then I saw this recipe, which is a combination of those two things. I was in trouble. I made them for the SuperBowl, thinking that was as good an excuse as any to overeat.

Except I didn’t overeat them. Because surprisingly, these did not knock my socks off.

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The base is a standard shortbread lemon bar base. The filling is similar to a regular lemon bar, including lemon juice, zest, eggs, and sugar, but includes cream cheese and sour cream, and leaves out the baking powder included in most lemon bar recipes.

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Of course they were good – there’s no way to go wrong with this combination of ingredients. But other than a texture that was a little creamier, I didn’t notice a significant difference between this and a regular lemon bar. The difference in fat content, however, is significant. It looks like I’ll be keeping my lemon bars and my cheesecake separate.

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One year ago: Julia Child’s French Bread

Lemon Cream Cheese Bars (adapted from recipezaar)

Crust:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
pinch salt
¼ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) unbleached flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Filling:
10 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
5 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until creamy. Add sugar and salt and mix until it’s thoroughly combined. Add the flour and cornstarch and mix on low until the mixture forms large curds. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of an ungreased 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and set it on a cooling rack while you finish the filling.

2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the cream cheese for 2 minutes, until it’s completely smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, and lemon zest and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the sour cream and lemon juice and beat the mixture on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue mixing until the filling is smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Spread the topping evenly over the cooked crust. It’s okay if the crust is still hot.

3. Bake the bars until the top is slightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 1 hour. If the topping bubbles up during baking, prick the bubbles with a toothpick or a thin knife.

4. Allow the bars to cool completely on a rack. Dust them with powdered sugar. Cut them with the point of a thin sharp knife that is dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each cut.

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I haven’t missed a Tuesday with Dorie since I joined the group last April. There were a few times, when I was traveling or something, where it was close, but for the most part, it’s been easy. I never really understood what the big deal was with people who only made half the recipes. It’s not like I wouldn’t be baking every chance I got anyway.

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Oh, did I mention that I was unemployed for most of the last year, and had an easy part-time job for the remainder? Yeah, that makes a difference. Everything seems so easy when you don’t have to actually work.

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Now that I have a much more demanding job, I’m getting each TWD recipe done just by the skin of my teeth. I’ve gotten in the habit of finishing the recipes Monday night, and I’m lucky if I can get the blog entry done by the end of Tuesday.

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As I’m more rushed to finish each recipe, I find myself diving into the baking before I read it through. I was halfway through making these before I realized that they were basically fancied-up chocolate chip cookies. Woohoo!

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The base is a cinnamon- and espresso-enriched shortbread version of a chocolate chip cookie. Once that’s baked, it’s topped with finely chopped chocolate that quickly melts, then finished off with toffee bits. The cinnamon and espresso were pretty subtle – I couldn’t pick them out, but there was a little spice in the cookie. Overall, I really enjoyed these and wouldn’t change anything next time I make them.

Whitney has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Challah

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This week, I’m one of those reviewers – the ones who tweak the recipe beyond recognition, then say the recipe sucks and no one should bother making it.

Except for the ‘beyond recognition’ and ‘the recipe sucks’ parts, at least. For whatever reason, I took it upon myself to, um, improve upon this recipe. Yes, the World Peace Cookie recipe that has gotten one shining review after another.

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But a few Tuesdays with Dorie members said the dough was so crumbly they could hardly roll it into a log, and that trying to slice cookies off of the log was a mess. So I added an extra tablespoon of butter. And then I figured that what’s a chocolate cookie doing without espresso powder? So I added some. And I forgot to buy fleur de sel, so I used some coarse sea salt that I’ve had forever.

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And the result was good. Not mind-blowing, but good. I don’t think the espresso was a good idea – the bitterness didn’t really blend into this cocoa-flavored cookie. The extra butter seemed like it was a good thing, because the dough was still pretty crumbly. On the other hand, there was a bit of a spreading problem during baking. (Maybe a higher temperature would solve that?)

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Actually, I’m not sure shortbread is really my thing. I’m not against it, mind you, but my ideal cookie is chewier. I like them; I just like these chocolate cookies better.

Jessica (along with a lot of other people) has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Chocolate Cupcakes

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Due to an email mishap, I found out that I was going to get a mini muffin pan for Christmas a few weeks early. It was great; I had lots of time to get excited about it and think about exactly what I wanted its first use to be. Bite-sized cheesecake!

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By the way, bite-sized cheesecake is a very bad idea. Even though post-Christmas detox is otherwise on in full force, I was hopeless in the face of these tiny cheesecakes. I ate one to make sure they were cooked through, then one when they had cooled a bit to make sure the consistency was right, then two that broke when I took them out of the pan, then one when I was taking the pictures, and one more after adding the strawberry sauce. Then two for dessert. <burp>

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One thing I really like about Dorie’s cheesecake recipes is her initial step of beating the cream cheese alone, before even the sugar is added. What a great way to ensure that there are no lumps in the final batter. I’ve started doing this with all cheesecakes.

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The recipe calls for either heavy cream or sour cream to be added to the batter. I used sour cream. I’m far from an expert, but in my experience, heavy cream dulls and dilutes the cream cheese flavor, while sour cream enhances it.

The cheesecake was really really good (obviously,  if my uncontrollable snacking is any indicator). It seems like almost everyone in Tuesdays with Dorie loved it. The texture was kind of light and fluffy, which I liked, and the taste was spot on – the cream cheese flavor is balanced nicely between tart and sweet.

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The recipe is posted on Anne’s website. For the minis, I used the same amount of crust ingredients, just pressing them into the muffin cups with the bottom of a small container. I made a fourth of the recipe, and I divided the cheesecake batter among 24 mini muffin cups, but this might be a little underfilled – you could probably fit the same amount of batter into just 18 cups. I baked the cheesecakes at 300 degrees (no water bath) for about 15 minutes, until they seemed fairly set. Then I left them in the oven, turned the oven off, and propped the door open. This seemed to keep them from sinking in the middle. I found it easiest to remove the cheesecakes from the pan when they were at room temperature, although last time I tried something similar, freezing them seemed to work too. When they were chilled from the refrigerator, they clung to the pan and broke apart when I tried to remove them.

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I’m a member of Tuesdays with Dorie because it encourages me to bake often and to keep trying new recipes. But I also like how it challenges me to be creative about presentation. When I’m writing a blog entry about the same recipe as hundreds of other people, I want to think of some sort of display that will look impressive or original. This is the real challenge for me.

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Not that square cookies is the most unique presentation ever. I’d heard that the cookies hold their shape in the oven really well, so I thought this might be a good cookie to use a cookie stamp on. But I don’t have one. My almost-3-year-old nephew is just starting to learn shapes, so this idea came from him. For the circles, I used spoonfuls of dough like the recipe calls for, and for everything else, I rolled the dough into about a ½-inch thickness and then used a knife to cut the shapes.

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The recipe was very easy. Just like a standard cookie recipe, the butter and sugar are creamed together, the egg and vanilla are added, and then jam is added before the pre-mixed dry ingredients are mixed in just until blended. The dough tasted pretty good, which is always a good sign.

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The cookies were decent. As soon as I saw that the recipe only called for ¼ teaspoon of salt for 2 cups of flour, I was concerned. I’m finding that I like my baked foods on the salty side. I added more, about ⅛ teaspoon, but I still would have liked the cookies to be saltier. They seemed a little bland. It didn’t help that I couldn’t taste the ginger at all. My powdered ginger is very old, so I’m sure that’s why. I suppose I should break down and replace it with fresher stuff.

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So they didn’t knock my socks off, but I’m glad I tried them. Dorie has a lot of fun ideas for cookies that I wouldn’t think of on my own. Heather has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Braised White Beans with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Garlic.   This is still one of my favorite meals.

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Believe it or not, I had all of November’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipes baked by November 1st. (And somehow my freezer was still full of desserts by the end the month.) December has been a different story. I did make these cookies last week, but I only finished them one day before leaving to spend a week with my parents. The rest of the month is characteristically busy for December, so I’m sure this trend will continue.

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Fortunately, none of the recipes this month seem to be long involved projects. These sugar cookies are a pretty basic cookie dough recipe with a bit of chilling, then the standard rolling and cutting. And baking and decorating. So I suppose there’s a fair bit of work, but I kept it as simple as possible.

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Keeping in mind that I prefer my sugar cookies super tender, I baked these for a little less time than the recipe indicates. Not wanting to struggle with my annoying clingy cookie cutters again, I was left with only one other option (two if you include Halloween cookie cutters, which I don’t in this case) – round biscuit cutters. Dorie suggested a simple cinnamon sugar coating for these cookies, which sounded a little plain. I didn’t have time for elaborate decorations, so I compromised with an easy powdered sugar glaze.

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The cookies were pretty good. I added a bit of lemon zest, although a lot less than the lemon variation recommended. I wasn’t looking for a lemon cookie, just a little flavor besides sweetness. I liked the lemon, although next time I’ll add even less. I do prefer the sugar cookie recipe I made last month to this one. Dorie says in the recipe’s introduction that these are crispy, and even with the shorter baking time, they weren’t as soft as I like. But they were very tasty.

Ulrike has the recipe posted.

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I think Tuesday snuck up on a lot of the Tuesdays with Dorie members this week. I know it did for me. I’ve been holding onto last week as much as possible, with the long weekend and the holiday largely dedicated to food (oh yeah, and being thankful) and the turkey and the pie and mostly the long weekend. But going back to work yesterday made it hit me that I better get crackin’ on making this week’s recipe.

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I’m glad Dennis picked a fairly simple recipe this week, so I could get the whole thing done Monday after work. Fortunately, I happened to have three bags of walnuts in the pantry that each had just a little bit left, and together made just enough ground nuts for me to make this recipe.

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Some people who made the recipe before me suggested rolling out the dough thinner than Dorie’s recommended ¼-inch, so I took that advice. I’m glad I did, because I can see how that would have made some pretty thick cookies. The only other issue I had was a result of my super cheap cookie cutters, which were determined to hold onto the cut cookie dough instead of releasing it onto the baking sheet. I will be adding cookie cutters to my Christmas list.

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I really enjoyed the cookies. The spice was a really nice addition, and the texture was this great tender-crisp combination. I don’t know that crisp is the right word, but they’re definitely not soft and chewy. Sablé, meaning sand, is really the right name for these cookies. I didn’t add enough jam to mine, but that wasn’t a big deal. Dave and I agreed that they’re a very nice cookie for Christmas.

You can find the recipe on Dennis’ blog.

One year ago: Crockpot Rice and Beans – I really love this meal.  We’re actually having it for dinner tonight.

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