Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cookie Monster

Yknow whats great--cookies with breakfast. not cookies for breakfast, i still have to have my oatmeal, after all. But with. Or after, I suppose, as dessert usually occurs.
This notion started with a little note in Heidi Nobleès ÈFrom the Orchard TableÈ cookbook. She confessed to loving her biscotti with her coffee at breakfast; I confess to her biscotti recipe being the only one that ever worked for me.
Biscotti is pretty understandable, though, perfect for dunking in lattes and not too sweet, hardly a cookie at all, but as welcome at breakfast as say, a muffin or sweet scone. But it was merely a starting point.
Then there was that little cafe in Vancouver, where I couldnt help but have not only a biscotti after my toasted baguette and jam, but a ginger shortbread, almond thumprint and the most amazing lemon sables--a breakfast dessert I found myself craving once home.
So to my cookie gurus website I went, and was not disappointed, Molly had a recipe for classic lemon sables (she is passionate about France and cookies after all). Changing it slightly to adhere to my love of lemon by doubling the amount of zest, they were just as at the cafe, no, better, for the bits of coarse salt, a pleasant surprise every odd bite.
By now my addictive personality had kicked in, and our pastry chef at the restaurant, Sandrines, cinnamon petit fours did not help. And before I knew it, I had three different kinds of cookies at home, too many really, for one person, even with the freezer space.
As if that was not enough though, I baked cookies for a catering. Deliciously nutty things that were a success of recipe combining and a new staple when I crave oats in cookie form. But there were only a few of those, as the guys liked them as much as I did, so there was only a minor delay in eating the cookies I already had, ones that I needed to get through, even if they were in the freezer (the choices were a tad overwhelming).
So I began to work on my always present biscotti. The last one was dipped but four days ago. One down, two cookies to go. You would think. But no, instead, having some spare time this morning (and inspired last night by beautiful photos on a newly discovered blog--when I intended to be writing on my own none the less) I baked up an entirely different batch. Even though I have been craving cinnamon buns for over two months, even though I want to try a recipe for apricot tarts from Maggieès Harvest (a most beautiful cookbook by the way) with some late season surprises I picked up at the Winfield farmers market, no, instead I am back to three different kinds of cookies.
So I have come to the following conclusion: I am obsessed. I dont know if it is because they are quick and a baking item that I actually have time for, if it is because they are dainty and snacky to eat, not really a dessert, more like a sweet cracker and great with all the fresh fruit I have, if it is because I get to use my fingers to eat them, or because I have an addictive personality, and my cooking fetish has become a necessity for my very existence: if I do not bake a batch I may very well be stranded at dessert road with no where to go but whipping cream and more wine (would that be such a bad, but its better with cookies too...).
And for now, I am ok with this addiction. Because quite frankly, they have all been really good. They are the kind of dessert I like, at any time of the day; and having me smiling at many times of the day. May they make you smile too.

Hazelnut Biscotti
I love this classic Italian cookie; hardly sweet at all, and a good crunchy mouthful. But baking them has never worked for me. They always seemed to go beyond crunchy to brittle, inedible without dunking, but disintigrating if you did. Until I discovered Heidi Nobles recipe. But like I said, they are hardly a cookie-cookie, not the lack of fat content, and thats the way I like them. Good with coffee after breakfast, even better, as my Italian mama Franka advised me, dipped in wine after dinner. They keep well too, in an airtight container for two to three weeks, leaving plenty of time for other cookies in between.

Combine in a large bowl:
2 cups AP flour
3é4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1é4 tsp salt

In a seperate bowl, beat together:
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp each, white wine and brandy (or cognac)

Add dry to egg mixture, as well as:
1 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Stir just to combine, not overworking the dough. Using flour as your friend, shape into a 10 by five inch rectangle and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 300F for fifty minutes, until firm and dry. Cool on tray for ten minutes, before slicing. Now, traditionally biscotti are cut on an angle, but I dont like a bunch of different sized dippers, especially not those silly corner pieces, so I slice horizontally, so that all my cookies are five inches long (though I suppose ten would be ok too). Lay the slices, cut side down, on the tray and bake for twenty minutes, flip, and then 15-20 minutes more. Cool completely on a rack, biscotti are not a cookie best enjoyed warm, but rather dipped into warm things.

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