Streams

Home Sweet Homemade

Recipes from Gourmet magazine's December issue

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HOME SWEET HOMEMADE

Why stop at cookies when you can transform your kitchen into a full-scale holiday sweetshop?
Recipes by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez and Lillian Chou

MINT LOLLIPOPS
MAKES 2 DOZEN CANDIES
ACTIVE TIME: 30 MIN START TO FINISH: 1 HR

You could buy peppermint candy, but nothing comes close to the tingly, verdant flavor of real mint. These sweet lollipops make wonderful treats for both children and adults. The color is a very pale green, which can be enhanced with a drop or two of food coloring.

1 cup water
3 cups packed mint leaves (peppermint or spearmint)
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint or spearmint extract
EQUIPMENT: a candy thermometer; 24 lollipop sticks; cellophane wrappers (optional)

Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets.
Bring water to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, then stir in mint and remove from heat. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes, then purée in a blender, about
1 minute (use caution when blending hot liquids). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of paper towel into a bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids (you should have at least 2/3 cup liquid).
Have an ice bath ready.
Heat sugar, corn syrup, and 2/3 cup mint liquid in cleaned saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and skimming any foam from surface. Put thermometer into syrup and boil until it registers 300°F (hard-crack stage; see Kitchen Notebook, page 240), then stir in mint extract. Immediately dip bottom of pan in ice bath to stop cooking.
Pour a 2-inch pool of syrup onto 1 of the baking sheets and quickly put a lollipop stick in it. Continue making lollipops, spacing pools of syrup 2 inches apart. (If syrup becomes too thick to pour, heat to thin it.) Let lollipops cool and harden, about 15 minutes, then gently loosen with a thin metal spatula. If desired, individually wrap lollipops in cellophane wrappers.
COOKS’ NOTES: To make raspberry lollipops, substitute 1 1/4 cups raspberries (6 ounces) for mint leaves, use only 2/3 cup water, and omit mint extract.
• Lollipops keep, individually wrapped in cellophane, 2 weeks.

TRIOS
MAKES ABOUT 3 1/2 DOZEN COOKIES
ACTIVE TIME: 1 3/4 HR
START TO FINISH: 3 1/2 HR (INCLUDES CHILLING DOUGH AND COOLING COOKIES)

Thumbprint cookies are a holiday classic, and we’ve tripled their appeal by forming each cookie into a tiny trio that showcases three jewel-toned jams. Each one is like a miniature holiday ornament.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
About 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
About 2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
EQUIPMENT: a 1/2-inch-thick wooden spoon handle or dowel

MAKE DOUGH: Whisk together flour and salt. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in egg and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 6-inch disk, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE COOKIES: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll 3 separate level teaspoons of dough each into a ball, then flatten each ball slightly (to 1 inch wide and less than 1/2 inch thick). Arrange them in a triangle on baking sheet with edges touching in center, then make a deep indentation in center of each round with wooden spoon handle. Make more cookies, arranging them 1 inch apart on baking sheets.
Fill indentations in each cookie with about 1/8 teaspoon jam (each cookie should have 3 different fillings), avoiding any large pieces of fruit.
Bake until cookies are baked through and golden-brown on edges, 15 to
20 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Bake more batches on cooled baking sheets lined with fresh parchment.
COOKS’ NOTES: Dough can be chilled up to 2 days.
• Cookies keep, layered between sheets of parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

MERINGUE STARS
MAKES ABOUT 7 DOZEN COOKIES
ACTIVE TIME: 35 MIN START TO FINISH: 4 1/2 HR (INCLUDES COOLING)

These chocolate-dipped stars look beautiful on the table, and their ethereal texture means guests can nibble without filling up. All three flavors—vanilla, chocolate, and coffee—come from one batter.

3 large egg whites, at room temperature 30 minutes, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 pinches of cream of tartar, divided
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons instant-espresso powder
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 (3 1/2-oz) bar 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
EQUIPMENT: 3 (12-inch) disposable pastry bags; a 1/2-inch star tip

MAKE VANILLA AND COFFEE MERINGUES: Preheat oven to 200°F with racks in upper, middle, and lower thirds of oven (or use 2 racks and bake in batches). Line 2 or 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat 1 egg white with vanilla (for vanilla meringues) and a pinch each of cream of tartar and salt with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until it just holds soft peaks. Add 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks. Fold in
2 tablespoons superfine sugar gently but thoroughly.
Transfer meringue to a pastry bag fitted with tip, then dab some meringue under corners of parchment on all baking sheets to secure to sheets. Pipe 1-inch-wide stars (1 inch high) about 1/2 inch apart.
Make coffee meringues using same amounts and procedure as above but using espresso powder (1 1/2 teaspoons) in place of vanilla.
MAKE CHOCOLATE MERINGUES: Sift cocoa through a fine-mesh sieve and whisk together with 2 tablespoons superfine sugar.
Beat remaining egg white with a pinch each of cream of tartar and salt with mixer at medium-high speed until it just holds soft peaks. Add remaining
2 tablespoons superfine sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks. Fold in cocoa mixture gently but thoroughly.
Transfer meringue to a pastry bag and pipe more stars.
BAKE MERINGUES: Bake, switching position of upper and lower sheets halfway through baking, until dry, crisp, and firm, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Meringues are done when they release from parchment.)
Turn off oven and cool meringues in oven with door propped open about
1/2 inch using handle of a wooden spoon 1 hour, then slide parchment with meringues onto racks to cool completely.
DIP MERINGUES IN CHOCOLATE: Line a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Stir together chocolate and vegetable oil until completely smooth. Peel meringues off parchment, then dip bottom of each into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Transfer meringues to lined baking sheet, arranging as close together as possible, and when baking sheet is full, freeze meringues just until chocolate is set, about 3 minutes. Remove meringues from freezer.
COOKS’ NOTES: We used a Wilton 2110/1M star tip for our meringues. An Ateco 885 swirl star tip also works well.
• To avoid stickiness, try to bake meringues on a dry day.
• Dipped meringues keep, layered between sheets of parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week or frozen, container tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 month. Thaw frozen meringues, still in wrapped container, until container reaches room temperature, at least
30 minutes. (Do not unwrap and open container until completely thawed.)

CHOCOLATE PEANUT TOFFEE
MAKES ABOUT 3 POUNDS
ACTIVE TIME: 45 MIN START TO FINISH: 1 3/4 HR

The transformation of butter, sugar, and salt into toffee is culinary alchemy at its best. This version is studded with cocktail peanuts and a decadent layer of bittersweet chocolate.

4 sticks (1 lb) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups whole cocktail peanuts plus 1 cup chopped (1 lb 10 oz)
7 to 8 oz 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
EQUIPMENT: a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan; a candy thermometer; a metal offset spatula

Butter baking pan and put on a heatproof surface.
Bring butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth, then boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden and registers 300°F (hard-crack stage; see Kitchen Notebook, page 240) on thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.
Immediately stir in whole peanuts, then carefully pour hot toffee into center of baking pan. Spread with spatula, smoothing top, and let stand 1 minute, then immediately sprinkle chocolate on top. Let stand until chocolate is melted, 4 to
5 minutes, then spread over toffee with cleaned spatula. Sprinkle evenly with chopped peanuts, then freeze until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.
COOKS’ NOTE: Toffee keeps, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature 2 weeks.

PASSION-FRUIT GELÉES
MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN CANDIES
ACTIVE TIME: 45 MIN START TO FINISH: 13 HR (INCLUDES SETTING TIME)

These delicate gelées are wonderful for company—the passion-fruit purée gives them golden color and heady tropical flavor. As an added bonus, they keep beautifully for up to a month.

4 (1/4-oz) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup water
2 cups sugar plus additional for tossing
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup thawed unsweetened passion-fruit (maracuyá) purée such as Goya
EQUIPMENT: an 8-inch square nonstick baking pan

Lightly oil baking pan.
Sprinkle gelatin over water in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and let stand
4 minutes to soften. Heat gelatin over medium-low heat, stirring, until dissolved. Stir in 2 cups sugar until dissolved, then stir in lemon juice.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil, uncovered, without stirring, 13 minutes (watch carefully so that mixture does not boil over). Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes for bubbles to dissipate. (Skim any foam that remains after 5 minutes.) Stir in passion-fruit purée (do not scrape bottom of pan; leave any dark bits that stick). Pour into baking pan and let stand at room temperature until set, at least 12 hours.
Run a sharp knife around edge of gelatin and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips, then cut strips into 1-inch pieces. Just before serving, gently toss gelées in a bowl of sugar to coat, brushing off excess.
COOKS’ NOTE: Gelées, without sugar coating, keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 2 weeks.

SALTED PRALINE LANGUES DE CHAT
MAKES 5 TO 6 DOZEN COOKIES
ACTIVE TIME: 35 MIN START TO FINISH: 1 HR

Love a cookie with crunch? These thin, crisp butter cookies are for you—each one is topped with crumbled almond praline, and its flavor plays on the time-tested combination of caramel and salt.

FOR PRALINE
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds (preferably with skin), toasted
FOR COOKIES
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 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
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.
COOKS’ 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.

PEPPERMINT PATTIES
MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN CANDIES
ACTIVE TIME: 1 1/2 HR START TO FINISH: 2 1/2 HR (INCLUDES SETTING TIME)

The bracing blend of peppermint enrobed in bittersweet chocolate is one of the best—and most refreshing—candy combinations going, and homemade versions of these popular patties are leagues better than anything you’ll find in a foil wrapper. Here, we’ve tempered the chocolate to give it a beautiful sheen and to prevent the coating from developing a bloom at room temperature.

2 1/2cups confectioners sugar (less than 1 lb), divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
10 oz 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
EQUIPMENT: a 1-inch round cookie cutter; a digital instant-read thermometer

MAKE FILLING: Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a
7- to 8-inch round (less than 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.
Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.
TEMPER CHOCOLATE AND COAT FILLING: Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.
Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.
Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet (to make decorative ridges on patty, immediately set bottom of fork briefly on top of patty, then lift fork straight up). Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.
COOKS’ NOTE: Patties keep, layered between sheets of parchment in an airtight container, chilled, 1 month. Bring to room temperature before serving.

CINNAMON PALMIERS
MAKES ABOUT 6 DOZEN COOKIES
ACTIVE TIME: 45 MIN START TO FINISH: 5 HR (INCLUDES CHILLING DOUGH)

These pretty little cookies are similar to the bakery staples, but made with a flaky, homey, easier version of puff pastry. A liberal sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar in between the layers gives each cookie both sweetness and a hint of spice.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, frozen
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Stir together flour and salt in a chilled large metal bowl. Coarsely grate frozen butter into flour, gently tossing to coat butter.
Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over flour mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Test mixture by gently squeezing a small handful: When dough has the proper texture, it will hold together without crumbling apart. If necessary, add another tablespoon water, stirring until just incorporated, and test again. (Do not overwork dough or add too much water, or pastry will be tough; dough will be lumpy and streaky.)
Form dough into a 5-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15- by
8-inch rectangle (with a short side nearest you). Brush off excess flour and fold dough into thirds like a letter. Rewrap dough and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Arrange dough with a short side nearest you on a floured surface and repeat rolling out, folding, and chilling 2 more times. Brush off any excess flour, then halve dough crosswise with a sharp knife and chill, wrapped separately in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.
Stir together sugar and cinnamon, then generously sprinkle a clean work surface with some of cinnamon sugar and place 1 piece of chilled dough on top. Quickly roll out into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle (1/8 to 1/16 inch thick; if dough becomes too soft, chill on a baking sheet until firm). Trim edges with a sharp knife. Sprinkle top of dough evenly with some cinnamon sugar to cover completely, brushing off any excess (see Kitchen Notebook, page 242). Fold 2 opposite long sides of pastry so they meet in center. Fold in same sides of pastry in same manner, then fold one half over the other (like a book) and press gently with a rolling pin to flatten slightly, forming a long rectangular log. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon sugar if dough is sticky.
Chill on a baking sheet, uncovered, until firm, at least 30 minutes and up to
2 hours. Meanwhile, repeat with remaining piece of dough and cinnamon sugar.
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut 1 log of dough crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices with a sharp knife and arrange slices, cut sides down, 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake until puffed and golden around edges, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven and turn palmiers over with a spatula. (If palmiers begin to unroll, gently press to reshape when cooled slightly.) Continue baking until golden all over and sugar is caramelized, 3 to
5 minutes more. Transfer as done (palmiers may not bake evenly) to a rack and cool. Make more cookies on cooled baking sheet lined with fresh parchment.
COOKS’ NOTES: Dough, without cinnamon sugar, can be chilled, wrapped well, up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month (thaw in refrigerator).
• Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 4 days. If desired, palmiers can be recrisped in a 300°F oven until heated through, about
5 minutes.

DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES
MAKES ABOUT 3 1/2 DOZEN COOKIES
ACTIVE TIME: 1 1/4 HR START TO FINISH: 4 HR (INCLUDES CHILLING DOUGH)

Whether you dunk them in milk, pry them apart, or devour them whole, sandwich cookies are irresistible. These, with their crisp chocolate wafers and ganache
filling made from fine-quality white chocolate, are so much better than that supermarket version.

FOR DOUGH
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
FOR GANACHE
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 lb fine-quality white chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
EQUIPMENT: a 1 3/4-inch fluted round cookie cutter
GARNISH: decorative sugar (optional)
MAKE DOUGH: Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 6-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.
MAKE GANACHE WHILE DOUGH CHILLS: Bring cream and corn syrup just to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, then stir into melted chocolate. Stir in butter and vanilla until smooth. Cover surface with parchment paper and chill, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 30 minutes.
CUT AND BAKE COOKIES: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter 2 large baking sheets.
Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 14- by 10-inch rectangle (1/8 inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and freeze until dough is firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
Cut out as many rounds as possible from first chilled square with cutter, reserving and chilling scraps, then quickly transfer cookies to a buttered baking sheet, arranging them 1/2 inch apart. (If dough becomes too soft, return to freezer until firm.)
Sprinkle half of cookies with decorative sugar (if using), then bake cookies until baked through and slightly puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on sheet on rack
5 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool).
Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once).
ASSEMBLE SANDWICH COOKIES: Beat ganache with an electric mixer at high speed just until light and fluffy. Transfer to a sealable plastic bag (snip off
1/8 to 1/4 inch from 1 corner with scissors). Pipe ganache onto flat sides of plain cookies, then top with sugared cookies to make sandwiches. Chill, layered between sheets of parchment, in an airtight container until filling is set, at least 1 hour.
COOKS’ NOTES: Dough can be chilled up to 2 days.
• Ganache can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered with parchment. Bring to room temperature, then beat with mixer before using.
• Sandwiched cookies keep, chilled, 4 days.

PISTACHIO TORRONE
MAKES ABOUT 3 DOZEN CANDIES
ACTIVE TIME: 45 MIN START TO FINISH: 1 DAY (INCLUDES SETTING TIME)

This traditional Italian nougat is typically made with almonds, but we’ve substituted pistachios for their bright color and delicate flavor. Torrone can vary from firm to soft, but this one has a nice, subtle chew. Flavorless sheets of edible wafer paper (see Kitchen Notebook, page 243) keep the strips from sticking to one another.

1 1/2 cups clover or other mild honey
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons orange-flower water
3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 1/2 cups salted roasted shelled pistachios (5 oz)
1 tablespoon cornstarch plus additional for kneading
EQUIPMENT: an 8-inch square metal baking pan; a candy thermometer; a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment; edible wafer paper

Oil baking pan, then line bottom and sides with pieces of edible wafer paper, trimming it to fit.
Heat honey, sugar, and water in a 5-quart heavy pot over low heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Put thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until it registers 310 to 315°F (upper end of hard-crack stage; see Kitchen Notebook, page 240).
When thermometer reaches 300°F, start beating egg whites with salt in mixer, beating until they hold soft peaks. Remove syrup from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate.
With mixer at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into whites in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until mixture has cooled to warm (mixture will rise, then fall), about 20 minutes. Add flower water and almond extract and beat 1 minute more. Stir in pistachios.
Sprinkle a work surface with cornstarch (1 tablespoon), then spoon torrone mixture onto cornstarch and gently knead a few times with hands dipped in cornstarch.
Pat torrone mixture into baking pan and top with a square of wafer paper, trimming to fit. Let stand at room temperature at least 8 hours.
Run a sharp thin knife around edges of pan, then invert torrone onto a cutting board. Leaving wafer paper on, trim ends and cut torrone into 1-inch-wide strips. Wrap each torrone strip in parchment paper. (If desired, cut each strip into
2-inch rectangles.)
COOKS’ NOTE: Torrone keeps in an airtight container in a dry place at cool room temperature 2 weeks.

TOASTED-COCONUT MARSHMALLOW SQUARES

MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN CANDIES
ACTIVE TIME: 1 HR START TO FINISH: 3 1/4 HR (INCLUDES SETTING TIME)

We often relegate marshmallows to a hot-chocolate topper, but these coconut treats definitely deserve to be offered up solo. Each pillowy square is surrounded by a flurry of toasted coconut. And since they keep for a month, they can be made well in advance of the holiday rush.

2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
3 (1/4-oz) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
EQUIPMENT: a 9-inch square metal baking pan; a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment; a candy thermometer

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Toast coconut in a shallow baking pan in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes.
Oil 9-inch baking pan, then sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften while making syrup.
Heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Put thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it registers 240°F (soft-ball stage; see Kitchen Notebook, page 240). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate.
With mixer at low speed, pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat 1 minute more.
Spoon marshmallow over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky), then evenly sprinkle top with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.
Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.
Run a sharp knife around edge of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares.
Put remaining toasted coconut in a small bowl and dredge marshmallows in it to coat completely.
COOKS’ NOTES: Marshmallow squares keep, layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container, in a dry place at cool room temperature 1 month.
• To avoid stickiness, try to make marshmallows on a dry day.

ORANGE CARDAMOM COOKIES
MAKES 1 1/2 TO 2 DOZEN COOKIES
ACTIVE TIME: 1 1/2 HR START TO FINISH: 3 1/2 HR (INCLUDES CHILLING DOUGH)

Want to shake up your cookie platter? Simply make a notch in two of these lightly spiced sugar cookies, then interlock them to create an edible sculpture that also makes a beautiful tree ornament (for photo, see gourmet.com).

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
EQUIPMENT: a 3-inch round or 2 3/4-inch square cookie cutter
GARNISH: citrus icing (recipe follows; optional); food coloring (optional); decorative sugar (optional)

MAKE DOUGH: Whisk together flour, zest, cardamom, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Quarter dough and form each piece into a 6-inch disk, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.
CUT AND BAKE COOKIES: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into an 11-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.
Cut out as many cookies as possible with cookie cutter (chill dough again if necessary), reserving and chilling scraps. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart. (If making cookies into ornaments, see cooks’ note, below.)
Bake until edges are golden-brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet
5 minutes, then slide cookies, still on parchment, onto a rack to cool completely.
Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once) on cooled freshly lined baking sheets.
If icing cookies and coloring icing, transfer small batches to small bowls,
1 for each color, and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color of icing into separate sealable bags, pressing out excess air, and snip an 1/8-inch opening in 1 bottom corner of each bag (see cooks’ note, below). Pipe icing onto a plate to test consistency. If too thick, thin a small batch with a few drops of orange juice.
Decoratively pipe icing onto cookies, then sprinkle with decorative sugar (if using) and let dry completely, about 1 hour (depending on humidity).
COOKS’ NOTES: To make three-dimensional cookies, start with cut (but not baked) cookies on lined baking sheet. Make a 1 1/2-inch-long notch (1/3 inch wide) in each cookie, cutting toward center. If you want to make the cookies into ornaments, punch out a small hole (for string or ribbon to go through) on each side of notch on half of cookies using a piping tip with a 1/4-inch round opening. Bake and cool as directed. To make sure pairs of cookies fit, interlock cookies (one cookie with holes and one without) at notches to form sphere- or cube-like shapes. If necessary, carefully trim notches with a small sharp knife. If desired, ice unassembled cookies, avoiding middle portion near notch. Tie string or ribbon (if using) through holes of cookies and interlock.
• Using a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip results in cleaner lines of icing.
• Dough can be chilled up to 2 days.
• Cookies (not interlocked) keep, layered between sheets of parchment if iced, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

CITRUS ICING
MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS
ACTIVE TIME: 15 MIN START TO FINISH: 15 MIN

Fresh orange and lemon juices lend this simple icing a lovely zing, and the addition of powdered egg whites helps it set, allowing you to create a host of intricate designs.

1/2 cup fresh orange juice, strained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, strained
1 (1-lb) box confectioners sugar
4 teaspoons powdered egg whites (not reconstituted) such as Just Whites

Beat together all ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
At high speed, continue to beat until icing is thick and holds soft peaks, about
3 minutes in a stand mixer or 10 with a handheld. If not using immediately, cover surface with a dampened paper towel, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
COOKS’ NOTE: Icing can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered with a dampened paper towel and bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap.

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