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Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

I hardly eat or use pecans in my baking, maybe because my impression of it stays in sticky pecan pie, which is awfully sweet to me. A while ago I tried out a bakery in Castro Valley called Karin Johnson, and bought a couple of pecan macaroons due to rave reviews on Yelp. Those small size pecan macaroons were not cheap, and they also changed my mind on pecans. The macaroons were chewy, and full of pecan flavor. Too sweet? Very much so! However, I liked the pecan flavor that much that I was willing to give in to the awfully sweetness (which is not a typical me), nibbling the macaroons a little at a time.

I guess I like pecan more than I expected– enough so for me to search up pecan macaroons recipes online at a later time. I looked at all the foodie pictures online and the range is wide. Finally I had my eye on this recipe by deb’s pots— it’s the closest to what I had from Karin Johnson. I bought pecans. I kept the online recipe opened on my iPad for months. But pecan macaroons never happened in my kitchen, not until Christmas time annual new cookie tryout. You see, the timing was finally right— I had egg whites leftovers from making my Christmas tiramisu giveaway, and I didn’t have to look further for new cookie tryout (which is a thing for me!) for our Christmas bake at home.

Pecan Macaroons

Pecan Macaroons

Pecan Macaroons, a bite into chewy pecan heaven.

Pecan Macaroons, a bite into chewy pecan heaven.

Pecan Macaroons– adapted from Pecan Macaroons by deb’s pots (makes 50 pieces)

Ingredients:
6 cups pecans– lightly toasted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg whites (4 egg whites)– see note below
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. Grind pecans in a food processor for 1 minute. Add in sugar and process until all blended. Add in egg whites, vanilla extract and salt. Process until mass forms around the blade.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop, scoop batter (tablespoonful, leveled) onto lined baking pan, leaving 1 inch apart. Bake for 25 minutes, turning halfway of necessary (depending on your oven). Let macaroons cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Regina’s Note:

  • Sugar: The amount of sugar is kept the same even I doubled the amount of pecans from the original recipe. The macaroons were still sweet, but not over the border. Next time I’ll try cut it down to 1/3 cup.
  • Egg whites: I suggest not to add in all egg whites at once. The batter should be thick enough (like a thick pecan paste) to form a shape without spreading out too much. Don’t worry if your batter turns out too runny, just add more grind pecans (1 cup at a time) until it reaches the right consistency.

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I found out I like lemon more and more, especially the Eureka variety that really has a very refreshing lemony fragrance. Unfortunately, for lemony baked goods I get from stores, it’s usually too sweet and not lemony enough for my liking. I want to taste the tangy flavor… with this mind I created this cookie recipe to try for our annual Christmas cookie bake at home.

The results? I like it a lot. The coconut flavor is there but subtle compared the sunny cheery lemons. These cookies give a refreshing change to the typical sweet cookies around Christmas holidays. The glaze is a MUST!

May your Christmas as joyous as these lemon shorties!

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies. Before glaze. Look at the yellow specks of lemon zest!

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies. Before glaze. Look at the yellow specks of lemon zest!

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies, after glaze.

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies, after glaze.

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies (makes around 50 Cookies)

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut– grated and toasted to light brown
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh lemon zest (about 5 large lemons)– see note below
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter– softened

Lemon Glaze (mix until smooth):
1 cup powder sugar, plus a little more if needed
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients (except butter) in a large bowl. Mix to blend well.
  2. Add butter and use finger to rub butter into the flour mixture, until it forms a dough.
  3. Place dough on parchment paper. Shape the dough into a log and roll it up tight (using a rolling pin if you feel comfortable with this method, see note below). Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours until harden.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking pan with parchment paper.
  5. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thickness and place on baking pan, 1 inch apart. Bake for 20-22 minutes, turning halfway during baking. To prevent cookies from spreading out too much in the oven, keep unbaked dough in the fridge at all times until it’s ready to bake.
  6. After removing for the oven, let cookies sit in baking pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Once cookies are completely cooled, dip the cookies top into lemon glaze then let them dry for 1 hour. When the glaze is dried, you can stack the cookies and store in airtight container.

Regina’s Note:

  • Lemon zest: To help lemon zest mix into flour mixture better, I washed lemons and dry completely with paper towel to keep the zest as dry as possible.After zesting, I finely chopped instead of grating lemon peel from straight– I found grating will break out the lemon oil in the peel and form little lumps, which is hard to break up in flour mixture.
  • Lemon glaze: Even with 1/2 cup of lemon zest in the cookie dough, the unglazed cookies still don’t have a prominent lemon flavor to my liking. Lemon glaze really brings out the soul of that bursting refreshing lemony flavor. Take care of the ratio of lemon juice and powder sugar, thicker glaze results in sweeter instead of tangy flavor. Thinner glaze creates more rundown which means thinner layer of glaze, resulting less prominent lemon flavor.
  • Grated desiccated coconut: always toast to light golden brown (in a dry clean frying pan, low heat stir constantly) to bring out the aroma of coconut. I like to use unsweetened coconut because it doesn’t stick together after grating and toasting, making it easier to mix with flour mixture. If sweetened coconut is used, reduce amount of sugar.

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The first time I had a brown sugar icebox cookie was from Karin Johnson Specialty Cakes and Pastries in Castro Valley, California. They used oatmeal instead of nuts that is typically used for this cookie. As I was chewing the first bite I was pulled by its characters– honest, pure, simple and down to earth. Honest as it does not have any fancy coating; pure in its flavor that is not taken over by other addition; simple for its ingredients and texture, and down to earth for its form and nature goodness.

This cookie is not to be sat side by side with other kinds (especially the Chocolate ones!), because they are often overlooked. But if you give them a chance, they will keep you in good company, especially on cold rainy days, with a cup of tea, a good book, and some soothing music playing in the air… Life is content, life is love, life is beautiful.

Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies

Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies

Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies– recipe adapted from Auntie Rose’s brown sugar-walnut Icebox Cookies posted on BostonGlobe.com (makes about 30-35 pieces)

Ingredients:

2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter– soften– see note below
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup oatmeal– toasted– see note below

Method:

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Mix in egg, followed by vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  3. While the mixer on lowest setting, gradually add in flour mixture to butter mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is smooth. Stir in toasted oatmeal with a spatula until well distributed.
  4. Divide the dough in half and scoop onto a large parchment paper and shape into a rectangle bar or cylinder. Wrap up tightly and chill until it hardens. Slice into 3/8-inch thickness.
  5. Place cookies on a lined baking pan, 2 inches apart. Bake at preheated 350F oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a rack and store in air tight container when cooled completely.

Regina’s Note:

  • Butter: Use really good quality butter as it’s the soul of these cookies.
  • Toasted oatmeal: Because I want to taste the buttery and brown sugar of the cookies, I used toasted oats instead of nuts. Oatmeal is a very “mild” ingredient to provide some texture without taking over flavor of the cookies.
  • My cookies were crunchy on the edge when they were fresh out from the oven, with the center being firm (but not hard or crunchy). As the days go by the cookies get a little soft each day. So if crunchy cookies are preferred, slice the, thinner and/or bake them longer.
  • Cookie dough can be kept in freezer– wrap up dough tightly with parchment paper, then double wrap with foil. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator or until the dough can be sliced. To prevent cookies from spreading out during baking, slice dough when you are ready to bake, or keep sliced cookie dough chilled in the refrigerator.

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