Wednesday, January 27, 2010

With Love

So, Valentines day is just around the corner, and regardless of whether you've got somebody to love, I think you should make these cookies. You will love them. If you are one of those anti-Valentines day people, make these anyway. Cut the cookies into circular shapes for goodness sake. What I am ensuring right now is true, decadent love in cookie form. And I think it goes without saying that we all need a little love in our lives, no matter what format it may come in.

I stumbled upon 'Jimmy's Pink Cookies' while reading A Homemade Life. I don't know what it was exactly that made me so excited to try these cookies. I used to think the idea of icing on top of a cookie was completely unnecessary, and I guess, in most instances it is. It's over the top, entirely. It's far too sweet and way too much. However, I figured if it was good enough for Molly, it would probably be more than good enough for me. And oh baby, I am so happy I gave these guys a chance. These are the kind of cookies that evoke "Oooh's!" and "Ahhh's!" left, right, and center. They are buttery, decadent, and sinfully sweet in the nicest possible way. I probably ate far to many, but we've nearly made it through January, and if you ask me, a little decadence at this point wouldn't hurt one bit.

Jimmy's Pink Cookies
Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

This recipe makes a magnificent amount of icing. Perhaps too magnificent an amount. But as Molly says, "Don't be alarmed by the amount this recipe makes. You will want it all, or most of it, at least. These cookies are meant to be frosted very generously. Without a nice, thick layer, they aren't nearly as good." And trust me, this is true.

For the cookies

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1¼ teaspoons kirsch, or more to taste, or a capful of cherry extract
Red food coloring

To make the cookies, combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat, first on low speed, and then slowly increasing to medium, until light and fluffy.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt, whisk well. With the mixer on low. add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is just absorbed. Add the vanilla and beat well to incorporate. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on a large, clean surface, and turn the dough out onto it/ gather the dough into a ball, press it into a thick disk, and wrap well. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
On a clean, floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. (If you don't have a lot of room, cut the disk of dough down the middle, and work with only one half at a time, leaving the second one in the refrigerator until ready for use.) Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into whatever shapes you would like.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1½ inches apart. Bake them one sheet at a time, keeping the second sheet in the refrigerator until the first one is done, for 16 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are pale golden at the edge. Do not allow them to brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies completely on the pan.
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed to fully incorporate, then raise the speed to medium or medium-high and beat until there are no lumps, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the kirsch and a couple drops of red food coloring and beat well. The frosting should be a pretty shade of pale pink. Taste, and if you want more cherry flavor, beat in a bit more kirsch. Generously spread onto the fully cooled cookies.
Stored in an airtight container, pink cookies will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days-and they're delicious cold-or you can freeze them indefinitely.

Yield: 20 to 24 (3-inch) cookies

Monday, January 4, 2010

Beginning, Again

Oh January. You are the month I loathe the most. To me, January is about over-crowded gym's, healthy eating, ugly weather, and too-short days. It is also the most anticlimactic time of year, seeing as just under two weeks ago we were caught up in the magic of Christmas. Now the holidays have come and gone, and now we are sitting a month that doesn't offer much, although depending on how you look at things, a new start is a definite possibility. There is something quite wonderful about a new year, something utterly refreshing. You've got twelve brand new months to make anything happen. Twelve untouched months in which you can do, go, see, and create just about anything.

My new years resolution was to take all the essential vitamins every morning, and it isn't panning out so well. I'm two for five right now. I keep forgetting. Pathetic, I know. And certainly not a legitimate excuse. I heard Ginkgo Biloba helps with memory, so if I can somehow manage to remember to take it, all will be well. In other news, I've become a living, breathing cookie monster AGAIN. Being a cookie fiend during the holidays is completely acceptable, but I was really quite naive about quitting cookies for good. There is no switch to turn it off after the holidays are over. People keep baking and I keep eating, and THANK GOD for good genes. I feel guilty. I'm estimating that at least 95% of the population is trying to eat healthy and I'm sitting here stuffing my face full of sweets. To rectify this sad situation, five days into a new year, I decide that an incredibly healthy and delicious salad was in order.
Nothing like a bulgar and lentil salad to kick a new year off right. For some reason I feel like anyone who is reading this is going to roll their eyes and/or look at me like a complete idiot (*wink, wink, family..). Bulgar? Lentils? Who eats that crap anyways? I eat that stuff, and I LOVE it, wholeheartedly. And anyway, if you were one of those people who made a promise to yourself to treat your body a little better this year, this is a noble place to start.
Normally, this salad makes it's appearance in spring or summer where it makes a lovely side dish at a BBQ, but who's keeping track? All of the ingredients are easy to get your hands on, all year round, making it a perfect salad for making whenever you feel like it. Besides from being quite simple and basic, the salad has the most amazing texture/flavour combination: a nutty crunch from the walnuts, slightly chewy from the bulgar and lentils, a bit of sweetness from the carrots, and a zing from the shallot vinaigrette. I find this dish to be very satisfying, and slightly addicting. Really, I keep a bowl in the fridge and munch on it all day.

So I say put down the cookies, take some vitamins, and make a healthy salad. It's a new year!
Bulgar and Lentil Salad with Tarragon and Walnuts
Adapted from Gourmet, July 2004

I'm still in holiday (lazy) mode, and did not really make a valiant effort to find either tarragon and tarragon wine-vinegar. In all honesty, all that tarragon was not missed.

1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
3 tablespoons tarragon wine-vinegar
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup bulgur, preferably fine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup shredded carrot
3 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine

In a small bowl combine shallot and 1 tablespoon vinegar. In a small saucepan simmer lentils in water to cover by 2 inches until just tender but not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes, and drain well. Add hot lentils to shallot mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cool mixture, stiffing occasionally.

In a small heavy saucepan combine 1 1/2 cups water, bulgur, and salt and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer bulgur to a large bowl and cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Add lentils to bulgur with celery, carrot, tarragon, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, oil, walnuts, and salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Salad may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving.

Yield: Serves 4 as an entree or 6 as a side dish