Saturday, December 03, 2005

Holiday Baking

Peppermint Spiral Cookies:
Shortbread spirals with delicate mint flavoring

Sadly, my holiday baking is not in quite as large volume as it usually is - though certainly not due to want (or lack of butter ;) )! Other things to conspire to limit my baking to this one batch of cookies - I'll call this the pre-holiday baking warmup, I guess.

All rolled up with sparklies and snowflakes for decoration

Recipe from the December 8th 2004 issue of the SanFransisco Chronicle - however, since I am somewhat paranoid about recipes disappearing, I will reproduce it here.

Peppermint Spiral Cookies
Yield: ~3 dozen cookies

2 cups unsifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces ( 3/4 cup) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon bright red liquid gel or paste food coloring, or 9 drops red liquid food coloring*
1 tablespoon unsifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups multicolored nonpariels**

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugars in a food processor. Process briefly to mix. Add the butter in pieces; process with on/off bursts until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add the vanilla and process until the mixture just forms a ball.***

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Return one of the portions to the food processor. Add the peppermint extract, food coloring and the additional tablespoon of flour to the processor and process until just incorporated.

Roll out each portion of dough between sheets of waxed paper. You want a rectangle about 11 x 8 1/2 inches by 1/8 inch thick. Leaving the dough between their sheets of waxed paper, stack on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Remove dough rectangles from refrigerator. Pour the nonpareil decors into a shallow rectangular dish (such as a 9 x 13-inch pan); set it nearby.

Peel off the top sheet of waxed paper from both doughs. Brush the vanilla dough very lightly with water. Using the waxed paper, lift the peppermint dough and invert it directly on top of the vanilla dough. Press with your fingertips to seal the two doughs together. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and trim the edges even.

When the dough is just pliable (but still cold), roll up the dough rectangles (begin with the long side) like a jellyroll. As you begin to roll, gently curl the edge with your fingertips so no space appears in the center as you roll dough into a log. As you roll, lift the waxed paper to help you roll the dough neatly and tightly.

After forming the dough into a log, discard the waxed paper, and roll the dough back and forth on the work surface to slightly extend and evenly distribute the dough. Gently lift the log on top of the nonpareil decors in the dish and roll until the log is completely coated with decors. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice (from 4 hours to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before slicing).

Adjust rack to lower third of oven and preheat oven to 325°. To bake, slice the log into 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick cookies and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for 15 to 17 minutes, until the cookies are no longer shiny on top and the bottoms of the vanilla portion are golden.

*If you use regular food coloring, it is likely you will not get the brilliant red color observed as on my cookies - I used liquid gel food coloring. With regular liquid food coloring, the color will be more subdued.

**Obviously, I did not use multicolored nonpariels. The only nonpariels I have in the house right now are the silver dragee variety - so I replaced the outer decoration with coarse sparkling sugar and snowflakes.

***If your mixture refuses to come to a ball, you can add moisture to force the issue by adding ice water a teaspoon or so at a time - I think I had to add about a tablespoon or so of water to get my mixture to come together. That's living in an arid environment for you.

Comments: As observed above, I had a bit of difficulty ensuring there were no airgaps in the dough when I made my roll - during baking, the dough relaxed enough to fill the gaps quite nicely - perhaps a little bit more patience on my part would have prevented this.

These cookies came out beautifully - with a delicate shortbread crumble and what I think is subtle mint flavor (but my husband likens to toothpaste) - it could be that the peppermint extract did not get distributed evenly throughout the dough (I didn't want to overprocess). The coarse sugar made for a subtle sparkle on the outer edges of the cookies. I think I would have been better off sprinkling the snowflakes on top of the cookies, rather than pressing them onto the sides, as some of them fell off during slicing, and a fair number wound up getting cut during the slicing process.


Blogger Maryellen said...

I'll be right over to taste. Put the kettle on! They look great.

11:12 AM  
Blogger mariko said...

Ooh, they look gorgeous! I bought some non pareils and peppermint extract over the weekend, so I'll definitely have to give the recipe a try (though I don't know about the toothpaste flavor ...)

5:15 PM  
Blogger Lewis said...

These look absolutely beautiful!!! I was looking for a red and white spiral cookie and you've have definitely got this one nailed!!!

Beautiful work and beautiful blog - I'm a subscriber now :)

If you're ever in the mood for bread stop by my bakery :)


7:19 AM  

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