Saturday, January 4, 2014

Christmas Cookies 2013

My friend Suko has a Christmas cookie swap that she has kindly invited me to twice now. Here's the write up of last year's cookie. This year I didn't have a solid game plan until the very last minute. I know I wanted a more savory and perhaps tart/sour cookie. In the end I settled on "Christmas Grinchies", which were a lard based cookie shell and a kiwi paste interior... Sadly, the idea didn't translate into reality as well as I had hoped.

Grinchie Cookies

The basic recipe as I half scrawled on on the back of an envelope:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar = 100g => 80g
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup flour = 156g => 175g
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 100g lard (not melted)
  • Green food coloring & black poppy seeds to resemble a kiwi
  • Spices and stuff... cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, etc...
This, I believe, was lifted from some basic sugar recipe I found online and then modified. Sadly, it wasn't great. The day before I did a test run where I used my usual lard-cookie recipe ( online recipe found here and involving melting the lard first) and it turned out stellar. But handling the goopie dough had been a real bitch. I should have stuck with what I knew.

The second part was the kiwi paste interior. I gutted a handful of kiwis... 5? 7? (they were lifted from my office) and pureed them with a immersion blender. Poored them in a small pot, added some (but not enough!) agar agar powder and brought to a boil. Then I poured them out into two dishes and let cool/set. In my case I did not weigh the puree nor measure out the agar agar and this was a BAD idea because they did not set firmly enough. My test batch the day before was smaller and had way more agar agar in comparison and they set solid. REALLY solid. So solid that they didn't budge while cooking the cookie. The larger batch I worked with was mushy and barely held its form.

Anyway, to assemble the cookie I rolled the dough into a long log then squared it & chilled it for an hour. Then I cut slices off the log and assembled them around the paste center. Then I cooked them at... 370°? for... 15 min? and it went all to hell. The paste center was not strong enough so each and every carefully assembled square went PHFFFHHFFHffhfhf... and fell over in the oven. Lame.

While that was going on I was compelled to try and add some make some meringue santa hats to gently rest upon the Grinchies. I followed this meringue mushroom recipe directly and was greatly assisted by Adam, who actually wound up doing all the initial whipping by hand. Turns out meringue is suuuuper awesome to make and work with, but really isn't my type of thing. In a futile attempt to cut the sweetness and error back towards tart I added some malic acid to the "red" parts of the santa hats... but I don't think it was really noticeable.

OMG meringue!

After the required number of cubes were made I had all these leftovers so I made little tiny cookies-- lard cookie base, kiwi paste middle, topped with a puff of meringue.

Fallback cookeis

In the end it wasn't a horrible, horrible, vomit-in-your-mouth failure. But it certainly wasn't a success. I shouldn't have been so stingy with the agar agar and I shouldn't have worked with lard in a style I've no experience with (un-melted). Also, while the cookies were great if you knew what was in them, I found out from my mother's horrified expression that if you're not expecting the paste center, they're not fun to bite into. Makes you think it has a massive uncooked center.

Oh well, there's always next year... and 12 months in the mean time to expand my skill set.

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