Daring Baker - November 2012: Twelve Days of Cookies

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

I normally have a strict rule about not making christmas cookies, before we reach christmas time. I tend to think that shops get into the christmas decoration and products way too soon, and I only get "christmasy" when the advent time starts, so basically 4 weeks before christmas.

But as this month challenge was a little on that theme, I had to be flexible, but I choose a recipe that I don't necessarily link with the holiday season: Piped shortbread. To me shortbreads are more linked to Scotland, I bought Walkers as a child because of the tartan packaging and than kept on buying them because I liked them so much.

So it's been long overdue that I do some myself! It is a fragile cookie, so leave it to cool before moving it, and even then, do it with caution. A good handmixer or a standmixer is a must here, unless you have really good upper strenght, something I personnaly don't have.

Piped Shortbread

About 40 Cookies (depending on the size)

225 gm softened butter
175 gm all-purpose (plain) flour
65 gm confectioners' sugar
45 gm cornflour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 150°C
2. Combine butter, flours, vanilla and confectioner's sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk beater.
3. Beat for 10 minutes.
4. Pipe into rings.
5. Decorate with maraschino cherry pieces to look like little wreaths or leave plain.
6. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
7. Cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate or icing (frosting) if you want to.
Important Tips I have learnt since I did the Food Talk Article:
To pipe shortbread beat for 10 minutes NO MORE – if you overbeat the mixture it won’t hold when it cooks.
A cool oven is important. If your oven is too hot the butter and sugar boils and you end up with lacy cookies that fall apart as soon as you try to do anything with them.
Between piping put the bowl and the piping bag away from your oven so it doesn’t get hot but don’t put it in the refrigerator because it gets too cold and you can’t pipe it.


The Easy Way: Plum Tart

Sometimes I wish life would be easy like this pie. It's crystal clear: a crunchy pastry, soft plums, a little bit of sweet, a little bit of sour, a little something for everyone. Instead, life is confusing, at least to me. You try to head into the direction you think is right, but you have to manoeuvre between the bumps and pothole, and sometimes someone puts a stop sign, right in front of your face. As someone I know would say: "That's life".

So let me get back to my kitchen, there at least, I'm the boss of what's going on. Well I said easy, because I had some leftover puff pastry from the Daring Baker's challenge, and you don't want all your effort to go to waste, plus I can find any excuse to actually make some dessert. If you do make your own puff pastry, it will be a little more work.

I've made this a while ago with the last plums I had, but I think it would work with figs, caramelized apples, pears, peaches... Whatever suits your mood of the day would do, depending on the season. I've used greek yogurt and honey on top because I love the combination, but ice cream or whipped cream would do too, aswell as adding a few toasted almonds slivers maybe... See, you can put a lot of work in the simplest thing, and it's worth it.

Plum Tart

Serves 1

100gr of Puff Pastry
2 Yellow Plums
1 Teaspoon of Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt
1 Teaspoon of Honey

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Roll out your puff pastry about half a centimer thick. Wash the plums, cut them in half to remove the pit and cut each half in 3 or 4 equal part. Place the slices of plum on the puff pastry, sprinkle it with sugar before placing it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

When the puff pastry has a nice golden color, take the tart out of the oven. You can serve this still hot, or at room temperature, with some yogurt and honey on top.


Back from the forest: Trumpet of the dead cream sauce

Some time ago, I saw on TV that if you ask children to draw a fish, some of them actually draw a square or a rectangle, or whatever shape they get when they order (what passes for) fish in big fast food chains... Is it just me or is that plain scary?
Now I didn't grew up on a farm either, I've never milked a cow or butchered a pig (I'm thankfull for that actually). Beside cherry tomatoes or some fresh herbs I grow, I'm not much of a provider myself.

But a few weeks ago I had the chance to go mushroom hunting again, which I hadn't done since I was a child I think. And it's been so nice, walking around in a peacefull, sunbathed, quiet forest, looking for what nature has to offer us.
Trumpet of the dead is what I came home with. Once cleaned, they have been dried in the oven (door open, 50°C with fan, for about an hour) and store in glass jars for the winter.

Of course it means getting up at dawn on a sunday morning, walking a few kilometers in the cold, but it's so much more rewarding than queueing at the check out line of the supermarket.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cave person, quite the opposite, ask my friends: I'm such a geek. But I think it's important to know that fish don't have the shape of a rectangle, that peas don't grow in tin cans or that bread should not come in a plastic bag with a list of 23 ingredients in it.

Pasta with Trumpet of the Dead Cream Sauce

serves 1

60gr of Pasta (orechiette)
20gr of Dried Trumpet of the dead
Hot Water
10cl of Cream
1 Small Shallot
1/2 a Clove of Garlic
1 Teaspoon of Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley
Salt, Pepper

In a bowl, rehydrate the mushrooms with some hot water. This should take about 20 minutes.

Heat up some salted water to cook the pasta, according to what the packaging is saying.

Chop the shallot  and the garlic as finely as possible, in a non-sticky pan slowly heat up some butter and add the shallot and garlic and stir for a few minutes.

Drain the mushrooms, but keep 10cl of the water you used to rehydrate them. Add the mushrooms in the pan, stir (still on a low heat) for a few minutes.

In the 10cl of water you kept from the mushrooms, add the cornstarch and stir to dissolve it. Pour this, aswell as the cream on top of the mushrooms. Keep stiring for a few minutes, until the sauce has the wished consistency. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Drain the cook pasta and serve with the sauce on top, to finish sprinkle the freshly chopped parsley on top. Instead of pasta, you could serve this white meat or game if you like.