Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

Because you made me cookies! That’s why I talk to you. You did make me cookies, right? No? Oh. Well, you might want to get going on that. These are one of my favorite types of cookie (right along with the pizzelle and the Russian Tea Cakes), but I only make them once a year for Valentine’s Day.

This chocolate butter cookie recipe is one of Marmo’s, so I can’t take credit. She’s been making them since John and I were weeeeee lil’ ones. One of the reasons I like these cookies is that they have a nice soft “give” to them when you bite in. Not too hard, not too soft, juuuuuust right. Using a good quality unsweetened cocoa powder will give them a rich and not too sweet chocolate flavor. And, as an added bonus, even though they are fantastic plain, you can convert them into a bunch of different cookies: like  linzer cookies with some strawberry jam filling, or ice cream sandwich cookies. Here’s how you do it:

Basic Recipe for Chocolate Valentine Hearts:

What You Need:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder

What To Do:
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and 1 cup (2 sticks) butter until light and fluffy. The color will turn pale yellow. Add the milk, vanilla and egg and blend well. I used my food processor for this, and it worked quite nicely, but you can also use a hand-held mixer.

Lightly spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level it off at the top. Gradually mix in your measured flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder. Mix until combined.

Chill the dough for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with heart shaped (or any-shaped) cookie cutters and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes, remove and let cool.

Linzer Cookie Variation:

What You Need (in addition to the above):
A jar of your favorite flavor of jam (I used Stonewall Kitchen Strawberry Preserves)
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

What To Do:

If you can find them, use nesting cookie cutters, so that you can cut out a smaller heart from the inside of one of the larger hearts. This allows you to see the jam inside.

Bake the cookies as instructed above.

Once your cookies have cooled, spread some jam on one side of a heart cookie, and top with the cut-out version. Line them all up and sprinkle on some Confectioner’s sugar to make them fancy!

Ice Cream Sandwich Variation:

What You Need (in addition to the basic recipe):
A pint of your favorite ice cream (I used Talenti Black Cherry Gelato. A note on this: the consistency of Talenti is on the soft side. It makes for melty sandwiches. Which isn’t a bad thing, I’m just warning you).

What To Do:
Bake the cookies as instructed.

Once they have cooled, spread some ice cream on one cookie, then top with another to make a sandwich. You can even pop them in the freezer after they are assembled so they can keep for a while. This has the added bonus of re-freezing the ice cream so it’s not running all over the place.

Another idea:
You can also get alphabet cookie cutters and spell out messages, like I did in the first photo. I now have an entire cookie alphabet that hangs out in my fridge. Designers like this kind of hands-on typography. It gives us a thrill.


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In between filming our melodramatic NY Jets-meets-out-of-sight-Pot-Roast video, Marmo and I made more Christmas cookies. As I mentioned on Twitter, The Box laid waste to the butter cookies (actually, Marmo made more of them and hid them in a top secret spot – he hasn’t found them yet!). But we needed more butter cookies. This time, we decided to branch out a bit.

Marmo found a fantastic recipe in the Holiday Edition of Food and Wine: Ginger-Studded Sugar Cookies, in which you use crystallized ginger. Crystallized ginger is, if you didn’t know, awesome. I was totally on board with this recipe. Also, it involved decorating them with shiny little balls of sugar, which I was also excited about.

Incidentally, Marmo left me a voicemail telling me to go purchase said glittery sugar balls at a baking supply shop near my office. I never listened to her voicemail. I usually ignore all my voicemails, just so you know. Don’t leave me one. Anyway, she had the presence of mind to figure this out for herself and get us some. And so it began!

What You Need:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
Royal icing (recipe follows)
Colored sugars and/or dragées for decoration

What To Do:
In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the flour and salt at low speed until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, ginger, vanilla and orange zest and beat at low speed until smooth. Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working in batches if necessary, roll out the dough a scant 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Stamp out shapes as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, 14 to 18 minutes depending on their size. Transfer to a rack to cool. Meanwhile, refrigerate the scraps until chilled, then reroll, stamp out more cookies and bake.

Decorate the cookies with Royal Icing, colored sugars and silver dragées.

The baked, undecorated cookies can be wrapped well and frozen for up to 1 month. The decorated cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Royal Icing

What You Need:
1 large egg white
1/2 pound confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

What To Do:
In a bowl, beat the egg white at medium speed until foamy. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating between additions until the sugar is completely incorporated. Add the lemon juice and beat at high speed until the icing holds its shape, about 5 minutes. Thin with water as needed. Throw some icing into a pastry bad and pipe onto the cookies. If you don’t have a pastry bag, no problem. Get a Ziploc bag, trim off a teeeeeeny-tiny piece of one of the corners and use that to pipe your icing.

Notes: It’s much easier to apply the little, shiny colored balls to the cookies with tweezers. Really, we tried it. HUGE difference. For fun, you can add some food coloring to the icing. We did some in light blue. Also, you cam make these any time of year. Just get differently-shapped cookie cutters. Like a groundhog-shaped one for February.

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What else did we eat at my recent holiday party? A lot more than I posted about on Monday. Actually, it’s impressive that people didn’t start rummaging through my fridge, but not because I didn’t have enough food. Here are a few more hors d’ oeuvres that made an appearance (and then subsequent disappearance) on Saturday night:

Roasted Pork Loin Crostini with Cranberry Relish
This recipe is really flavorful. The pork loin roasts up quite juicy and savory (with the herbs and salt). Topping it with cranberry relish gives it a nice sweet contrast. The added punch from the horseradish (in the cranberry sauce) brings the flavor over the top.

What You Need:

A pork tenderloin
1 semolina baguette, cut into thin slices
Sea salt with dried, chopped herbs (you can use rosemary, basil, thyme, sage…)
Olive oil – a drizzle
Stonewall Kitchen’s Cranberry Horseradish Sauce

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Place the pork tenderloin in a roasting pan and sprinkle with herbs and salt. Drizzle with olive oil.
Roast until done – about 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the tenderloin.

Remove from oven and let set for about 30 minutes.

Cut in thin slices and place on sliced bread. Top with Stonewall Kitchen’s cranberry horseradish sauce and serve!

On an adjacent platter were arranged the teeny-tiniest quiches. These can be made and frozen weeks in advance, which is quite handy for party planning. When I first made them for last year’s party, there was a wonderful cheesy/pastry smell coming from the oven mixing with the pine needle smell from the Christmas tree, and it all made me very happy. Bu that’s neither here nor there! When I asked my mom for the recipe to make them, I received the following via email:

Recipes seem to be collected quite randomly in Marmo’s kitchen.

Moving on! We also had the famous Gruyere and Caramelized Onion Pizza (recipe here), which disappeared in a snap. I got a little adventurous and concocted a Raisin Mostarda, which I have been obsessed with ever since I started frequenting Anfora Wine Bar and eating all their Ricotta cheese (which is served with a raisin mostarda).

Here is the recipe that I cobbled together for the Raisin Mostarda:

What You Need:
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil

What To Do:
Heat a little olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and sauté until soft – about 5 minutes. Stir in the OJ and all the ingredients up to the cumin. Bring the whole concoction to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove it from the heat, let it chill for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the marmalade, mustard and salt. Give it a taste and see if it needs anything else. Then let it hang out in the fridge to chill until you need it (covered, of course).

It’s pretty good, though it’s not like Anfora’s. Honestly, next time I think I will leave out the curry. I liked the flavor, but I think it might be better without it. I served it with Ricotta crostini drizzled with honey.

Onto dessert! What kind of sweets do you offer a bunch of festive maniacs that have had A LOT of wine? And beer. Did I mention that John just HAD to buy PBR lights? Cuz he did. An entire case of them, in fact. Still not sure why. Anyway, I got cupcakes from Sweet in Hoboken. They have some amazing flavors, and I told them to give me a mix of their mini cupcakes.

* Picture from Sweet’s website.

The cake part of these cupcakes is really moist (impressive for the mini cupcakes) and their cream cheese frosting is award-worthy. Especially on the Red Velvet cupcake. My favorite is the Marshmallow, which is a chilled ganache cupcake topped with marshmallow meringue. Out of sight.

I supplemented the cupcakes with my Russian Tea Cakes (a Iaciofano Family Christmas special – recipe here).

Finally, it seems that my holiday parties always end up with a dance party in the kitchen. People love the kitchen. I can’t get ’em out of there. So what kind of music was on the playlist? I’ll give you the top 5:

1. Katy Perry’s Firework – John would NOT STOP playing this song.

2. Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You – I couldn’t help it.

3. Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison – You should see people get down to this song. Yeah, even me.

4. Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls – Gotta love that one.

5. B.O.B’s Magic – So John and I could relive our pizza glory days.

It was all worth it, as a good time was had by all. Even if this was what greeted me in the morning:

* I wasn’t kidding about the PBR Light!

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Like many families, the Iaciofanos have their own Christmas cookie traditions. We work with a general rotation of around 18 different species of cookie, depending on Marmo’s level of energy for baking (unbounded), our relative moods, and the amount of free space in the house for cookie hiding places.

Why make cookies and hide them, you may ask. Frankly, it is because The Box and John will eat them all before anyone else has a crumb.

The Box prefers 3am cookie feasts, delving into the overflowing tins when no one else is around. He thinks no one notices, and will even categorically deny eating any cookies at all. However, when you open a tin first thing in the morning (cookies are good for breakfast) and it looks like low tide at the bay, you know The Box has struck again.

In contrast, John will eat the cookies out in the open, but treats them much like popcorn, grabbing actual handfuls and walking away with them.

So we hide the cookies. Under side tables, up in high cabinets, inside dresser drawers, in the dryer. It only throws them off temporarily, but that’s usually all we need to make it to Christmas.

What follows are three Iaciofano cookie staples. Whichever other cookies we make, these are never out of rotation. They are:

The Pizzelle: a traditional Italian wafer cookie made with anise seeds.

Mexican Wedding Balls (aka Russian Tea Cakes): little snowballs of butter, sugar and pecans.

Butter Cookies: tree and wreath shaped cookies that are almost solidly butter.

My favorites are the Pizzelle. About 10 years ago, I rolled an uncooked ball of Pizzelle dough in a bowl of circular rainbow sprinkles before putting it in the special Pizzelle iron to cook. The result looked like a cross between a Fourth of July firework and a tie-died shirt. We’ve been doing this brand of abstract expressionist Pizzelle ever since. Here’s how it works:

What You Need:
6 eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup melted butter
2 Tablespoons anise seeds (or to your preference)
Special Gear: pizzelle iron

What To Do:
Heat up your pizzelle iron.

Beat the eggs, adding sugar gradually. Beat the sugar and egg mixture until smooth. Add the COOLED melted butter (if you don’t cool the butter you will cook the eggs when you add it in).

Sift the flour and baking powder and add it to the egg mixture. Mix well, adding in the anise seeds as you go.

Roll the dough into small balls, then coat with sprinkles. Press them into the pizzelle iron and close the lid. Let bake a few minutes until very lightly golden. Lay flat to cool.

John loves the Russian Tea Cakes (an extremely close contender to the Pizzelle for me). Dusted with confectioners sugar, these buttery, pecan-y snowballs practically melt in your mouth. You can always tell when someone’s been at them, however, as the confectioners sugar tends to make a mess and you end up looking like the powdery version of a child with his first ice cream cone.

The following Russian Tea Cake recipe has been handed down from my grandmother (on The Box’s side) and is surprisingly easy.

What You Need:
1 cup of butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (plus more for dusting)
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour

What To Do:
Mix together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the flour, nuts and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture.

Roll the resulting dough into 1″ balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes (may need a few more minutes – the bottoms of the cookies will turn a light brown). Remove them from the oven and while the are still warm, roll them in confectioners sugar.

Note: I also like to dust them a bit with the sugar after I roll them around in it. Makes them look a little more even (if you like that kind of thing).

Unsurprisingly, The Box prefers the simplicity of the Butter Cookies. Consequently, these are usually the first to disappear. This year my mom and I juuuuuust managed to get them packaged up and put away in a top secret location before he arrived home.

What You Need:
1 cup butter
3 oz. of cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups flour
Special Gear: one of these cookie presses featured below:

What To Do:
Cream the butter and cream cheese, adding in the sugar while you mix. Then add in the vanilla. Slowly add the flour in increments, and mix well. Put the dough (not all of it at once, calm down!) in the cookie press and follow the directions on the box (this usually involves pressing the handle until the dough squeezes out through the stencil at the base of the cookie press).

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

When you’re done, get a hold of some cookie tins in which to store all this buttery madness. The ones we have are horribly cheesy. Some of ’em are pretty darn old too. But they work. Then hide them around the house. If you’re lucky, you’ll forget where you put them and come across them accidentally in April while Spring cleaning your gutters.

Bonus points of you give me a good cookie hiding place!

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