Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Part I: Spotlight On

I am not usually too wary when people offer me things for free. Often times, I accept without giving it a second thought. The words “free” or “sale” usually get my attention without too much coercion. However, I have to admit I was little cautious when Sara made me the offer to participate in a cookbook spotlight, where I would receive a copy of a new cookbook and then were to blog about it. Did they want something in return? Was there more to it than just a mere exercise in blogging? What if I don’t like the book?

I wasn’t sure at first, but my qualms were quickly allayed when I read that I would be receiving a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s new book,
Baking: From My Home to Yours. I had been coveting this book for sometime and knew that it would not be available here for some time if at all. In fact Sara’s email just came in time as I was just about to buy myself a copy of the book on Amazon; fortunately I decided to read my emails before purchasing the book!

The book is quite thick; it landed with a thud on my doorstep and woke my dog Jack up from his daily afternoon nap. It’s a big solid piece of culinary literature, and would take up a sizeable amount of the meagre shelf space I already have. So for now it sits with a stack of other cookbooks on the floor that I have yet to find a home for. Despite it occupying a rather lowly piece of real estate in my room, the book has been read, pored over and admired many times since its arrival. The book is one that you can sit with on a lazy afternoon and lose yourself in. And at times it seems as if Dorie is right there reading it to you, the book is personal and reads more like a diary than a cookbook.

I love Dorie’s intimate writing style. Most of her recipes are accompanied by insightful anecdotes or a short history as to how they came about. There’s one thing to make a chocolate Armagnac cake but it’s another to make the chocolate and Armagnac cake that got her fired. There is a certain level of familiarity that she assumes with her readers that is sometimes absent in other cookbooks.

Being the cookie fiend that I am, I decided to make two cookie recipes. The great thing about these two recipes in particular is that both can be done whether you are pressed for time or on the contrary, if you are looking at exhausting time by means of baking. Both recipes are divided into two parts so if your time is limited you can either carry out the two parts separately, or spend a good few hours completing one.
Dorie’s Rugelach recipe comes from her mother-in-law; passed down and adapted through several generations, this recipe has bit on ancestry to it. The dough can be made in advance and then rolled and baked later. Being somewhat time-poor this week, I made the dough one night then baked the cookies the next day.


These cookies remind me Christmas, perhaps it’s the chocolate and fruit filling and the fresh burst of spicy sweetness that is somewhat reminiscent of fruit cake, a yuletide staple when I was younger. And come to think, these cookies would probably make for great presents over Christmas. But whatever season, I will certainly be making these cookies, as that the extra rolling out and filling of the dough is worth the result in the end. The cream cheese pastry is wonderfully flaky and biting into one results in an eruption of flavours in your mouth that cannot be accurately described but can only be understood through experince. Here is the recipe:
(makes 32 cookies)


110g cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
110g cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt

2/3 cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
¼ cup plump, moist dried currants
110g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1 egg
1 tsp cold water
2 tbsp sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar

Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes- you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.
Put the flour and salt into a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds- don’t work so long that it forms a ball on the blade.
Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half.
Shape each half into a disc, wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until ti liquefies.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 30cm circle.
Spoon a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar.
Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the currants and half of the chopped chocolate.
Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough.
Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.)
Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent.
Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies.
Refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Repeat with second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for 30 minutes. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don’t defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)

Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of the glaze over each rugelach.
Sprinkle the cookies with sugar.

Preheat oven to 180˚C.
Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden.
Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or room temperature.


STORING: The cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.


Sara said...

Yummy! Can't wait for the world peace cookies!

Anonymous said...

Delicious Jenjen! I think i could come for breakfast at your house any time!

Helene said...

I really like that book and can't stop trying out recipes. I finally emailed Sara the links to the one I had tried: the more revies the better.
I love love love your first pic!
Makes me want to try the cookie next time.

Anonymous said...

Good choice! I too am interested in your thoughts on WP cookies.

Ange said...

Yum, these look sensational!

wheresmymind said...

Hrm...I'm hit or miss on sugar on top of my cookays :)

Anonymous said...

great work jen..they look soo cute.
gotta say I'm a sucker for free stuff too.

lobstersquad said...

no, impossible to store them for three days. they´d be gone in trhee seconds!

Anonymous said...

These look absolutely fantastic - I definetely need to give these a try!

foodiemama said...

looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

I don't think I can get too much of this book but I do think I could eat too many of these cookies. Wow, they look wonderful.

Jen said...

Sara- Thank you for allowing me to part of it. It was so much fun.

Bea- Definitely come on over, and perhaps you could teach me to make some of your wonderful criossants and brioche!

Helene- Thanks, I am still going baking crazily from the cookbook, I just can't get enough of it.

Peabody- Thanks! The WP cookies, were amzing, I really loved them.

Ange- They certainly were : )

wheresmymind- I quite like the sugar on top business, I like the crunch you get biting into them. Although it can't be done for every cookie.

Jules- Free stuff are the best, how can anyone say no.

Lobstersquad- You're right, they were gone the instant they came out of the oven. I didn't even get a chance to cool them. Luckily I was able to stash a handful away for photos.

Ellie- Give them a go and let me know what you think. I am fairly certain you will love them.

Foodiemama- Thanks, they definitely were delicious!

Tanna- I know what you mean, they are terribly addictive and not the best things to have around if you are on a diet. Luckily I am not on one.

christine said...

Beautiful pictures and great post as usual! :)

Anonymous said...

These look beautiful... and delicious!