Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guest Blogger: More on the Wedding

As the Baking Sisters’ dad, I obviously wasn’t invited to the Shabbos Kallah (see the Shabbos Kallah post). I did get to participate in – and bake for – another wonderful Jewish wedding custom: sheva brachot (seven blessings). These blessings are first recited as part of the wedding ceremony and then are repeated as part of grace after meals at celebrations in honor of the bride and groom for the following seven days. We hosted two dozen guests one evening in honor of Miriam and Dave. I won’t go into the full menu, just the desserts.

Four desserts seemed to offer enough variety, so I went with two chocolate and two non-chocolate recipes. Since the meal was a stand-up reception, everything was finger food, including the desserts: two kinds of cookies and two bar-type desserts (which I cut in half to make bite-size servings and served in mini-cupcake wrappers). All the recipes came from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. And if I don’t say so myself, everything was delicious!

I chose two classic cookie recipes. My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies are exactly what the name says. They’re Toll House cookies, but turbocharged. Buy a block of the best bittersweet chocolate you can find (or afford) and chop it into chunks, chips, slivers, whatever. I even included the shavings that the chopping produced; they made for great color in the finished product. You’ll find the recipe below.

The other classic cookies were Linzer Sablés, a wonderful sandwich cookie with an almond-based dough and a raspberry jam filling. Dusted with powdered sugar, they are both elegant and delicious, and not too sweet. The recipe is below.

The Bittersweet Brownies were almost like eating fudge – only better. They, too, call for the best chocolate you can get. Here is a link to the recipe.

I wanted something fruit-based for the fourth dessert, so I chose Applesauce Spice Bars. They have a wonderful combination of flavors and textures – spices and rum, applesauce and chopped apple, raisins and nuts – and are topped with a creamy glaze. Here is a link to the recipe.

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks and chips
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking
sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in
a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth.
Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended. Beat in
the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing
only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a rubber
spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts.

Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving
about 2 inches between spoonfuls (the cookies really spread as they bake!).

Bake the cookies – one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point –
for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center
(they may still be a little soft in the middle). Pull the sheet from the oven and allow
the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer
them to racks to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Linzer Sablés
1-1/2 cups finely ground almonds
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
Scant 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 large egg
2 tsp water
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam plus 1 tsp water
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Using a fork, stir

the egg and water together in a small bowl.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer
in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth,
about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture and beat
for 1 minute more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing
only until they disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour
is incorporated. If the dough comes together but some dry crumbs remain in the
bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a rubber
spatula or your hands.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, put the dough between
a sheet of waxed paper and plastic wrap. Using your hands, flatten the dough into
a disk, then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
Leave the dough between the waxed paper and plastic wrap and repeat with the
second piece of dough. Transfer the wrapped dough to a baking sheet or cutting
board (to keep it flat) and refrigerate or freeze until it is very firm (about 2 hours in
the refrigerator or about 45 minutes in the freezer). The rolled-out dough can be
wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer
for up to 2 months –thaw just enough to cut out the cookies.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking
sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Peel off the plastic wrap from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round or
scalloped cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. If you want a peek-a-
boo cutout to see the jam filling, using the end of a piping tip to cut a small circle
from the centers of half the cookies. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets,
leaving a little space between the cookies. Set the scraps aside.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies
are lightly golden, dry and just firm to the touch. NOTE: If the cookies are not of
uniform thickness, the thinner ones will bake much faster, so keep a close eye on

Repeat with the second disk of dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets
between batches. Gather the scraps of dough from both batches, press them into
a disk, roll them between a sheetsof waxed paper and plastic wrap and refrigerate
them as before, then cut and bake.

Place the jam in a small saucepan or in a microwaveable bowl and stir in 1 tsp of
water. Bring to a boil over low heat or in the microwave. Let the jam cool slightly,
then turn the cookies without the cutout flat side up and place about 1/2 tsp of the

jam in the center of each cookie; sandwich with the remaining cookies.

Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature, or
freeze without the sugar dusting (dust the cookies before serving).

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