Wednesday, December 26, 2007

If Only Raindrops Were Cookies...

It rained all day here in Northern Virgina. Typically, I like the rain. I find the pitter patter of the rain drops to be rather comforting, especially when curled up with a good book or fixing up a big pot of warm soup. But that's in San Francisco. Where the temperature has about a 20 degree range and rarely falls below 50. Where I don't mind a couple of drops of rain on my head as I sprint out to the car. Here though, it's cold and it should be snowing. Snow that is light fluffy flakes that you try and catch with your tongue. That are too light to really feel. But it's raining. Those rain drops are freakin' COLD!

I must have been baking too much recently because on the way to the post office to ship out MORE cookies, the little raindrops that were balling up on my windshield (thanks to lots of Rainx from Dad) reminded me of little balls of cookie dough. No, I swear, this is not something I came up with just because its 2am in the morning and I needed an segue into my cookie pictures. Honestly!

No, it's just that I baked 7 types of cookies, on my own over the course of the past couple of days. And for a girl who previously detested baking (what? you want me to actually follow directions?), that's a lot. So why bake so many cookies? Well, due to my lovely food magazine and blog obsession, I had a large handful of "I'll make that when I'm on vacation" and here I find myself on a two week "vacation" at home with the parents (they really aren't that bad). That + desire to take pictures + requests from Dad's office + need for Christmas gifts = 7 batches of cookies and a subsequent photo shoot.

Thus, without being even more of a tease, I present the 2007 Holiday Cookie Roster:

- Chocolate Walnut Toffee (aka Brownie Cookie)
- Peanut Butter Kisses (aka PB Blossom)
- Thumbprint

- Raspberry Gelees

- Peppermint Patties (homemade!)
- Peanut Butter Munchies (aka Reeses in cookie form)

- Salted Langues de Chat

I knew immediately after viewing the Salted Langues de Chat that I would love them. Caramel + Salt + Butter = Me Drooling. Not a surprise given my recent salt on sweets kick. But the parents liking them? Ok, Dad maybe because he likes crunchy things. But Mom? Mom even declared that they were "pretty good"(a big feat in her book. She eats to live. Not lives to eat, like me. Are you sure there wasn't a mix up, doc?) and her favorite of the year.

Langues de chat are otherwise known as cat's tongues. Thank goodness I don't speak French! Enough with the animal body parts people. I don't care if it actually looks like that, name it something else. (I'll have to post more later on the so called "flies' heads that I've been eating recently. Sorry if that makes you lose your appetite; it's just minced pork and chives.) Langues de chat are a classic French cookie that is essentially a long, thin butter cookie. Gourmet played with the concept and tweaked it to add a caramel, salty flavor. We liked them so much, I think I'll be adding these to my regular list. In French, of course.

Salted Praline Langues De Chat
adapted from Gourmet magazine


For praline
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds (preferably with skin), toasted - one small bag in the baking aisle

For cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds (preferably with skin)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
5 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

Equipment: a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch plain tip or a big ziplock bag with the corner snipped

Make praline:
Put a large sheet of foil on a heatproof work surface.

Heat sugar in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is golden. Add toasted almonds, stirring until coated well, then carefully pour onto foil (mixture will spread) and cool completely, about 15 minutes. Peel praline off foil and chop with a large heavy knife. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Make cookies:
Preheat oven to 325°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour and table salt. Pulse almonds with sugar in a food processor until finely ground.

Beat butter and sugar mixture with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in egg whites and extracts. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches until just combined well.

Transfer batter to pastry bag, then dab some batter under corners of parchment to secure to baking sheets. Pipe 6-inch-long strips (about 1/3 inch wide) 1 1/2 inches apart in 2 slanted rows (so they will fit) on each baking sheet.

Bake until slightly puffed but still pale, 7 to 9 minutes, then sprinkle generously with praline and lightly with sea salt. Continue baking until cookies are baked through and golden-brown on edges, 7 to 11 minutes more. (Turn baking sheets if cookies are browning unevenly.) Slide parchment with cookies onto racks to cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool).

Form and bake more cookies on cooled baking sheets lined with fresh parchment.

Cook's notes:
• We used an Ateco 804 plain tip for our cookies.
• To avoid stickiness, try to bake these cookies on a dry day.
• Praline can be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
• cookies keep, layered between sheets of parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.


FJK said...

did you make the raspberry gelees, too? They look wonderful. I've always wanted to make fruit pates.

Thanks for linking to me!

Faith of Blog Appetit

Chu on this said...

Certainly did! They turned out a little melty though if they sit out, so we found out they have to be eaten right away. Not too hard to take care of though...