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Sweet Treats for the Holidays

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Tuesday, 08 December 2009
List of viewable recipes from "Unforgettable Desserts" by Dede Wilson

Written by Dede Wilson

ImageBaked goods fresh from your kitchen are a heartfelt way to wish teachers, co-workers, friends and family a happy holiday season. They are also great for last minute invites to use as host and hostess gifts. For me, a great edible gift will be easy to make in quantity, keep well, package well and of course, be delicious.

Shortbread is a classic cookie for good reason. It is buttery, rich, easy to make and its simplicity is a boon as it can be offered alone or with other desserts such as ice cream, sorbet or fresh fruit. In this recipe I have added matcha (powdered green tea) to a shortbread cookie dough and used a leaf shaped cookie cutter to echo the tea leaves.  It is easy to produce many cookies at once, you can vary the look by topping some with sparkly sugar and leaving others plain, and the small cookie size allows for a variety of packaging ideas. Tins are easy to find at dollar stores and work wonderfully, but for this cookie the green color is so beautiful I like to use clear glass mason jars and tie up the top with a decorative ribbon.

Matcha can be found at specialty stores as well as online, such as through Ito En.

I also love florentine cookies. Their crunchy texture and combination of caramel, chocolate, nut and fruit flavors is irresistible. They are usually made as lacy individual rounds. Here I have turned them into a bar cookie - quick to make a larger quantity, they keep well and they are easy to package.

ImageDede Wilson is a popular food writer and television personality with her own public television show, Seasonings with Dede Wilson. She is the author of Unforgettable Desserts (Wiley, 2009), among others.  Dede is a contributing editor for Bon Appétit magazine and hosts a monthly Bon Appetit segment on the CBS's Early Show. Visit her blog, For the Love of Food,  or follow her on twitter at twitter.com/dedewilsoncooks.

Matcha Tea Leaf Shortbreads

From Unforgettable Desserts by Dede Wilson, Wiley 2009.

Classic shortbread cookies will never go out of style. The rich buttery flavor and irresistible crumbly texture are incomparable. They are also very simple to make and lend themselves easily to variations. Matcha is Japanese green tea that is finely ground into a powder and is used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It is very concentrated in flavor and color and you will probably have to mail-order it unless you have a well-stocked tea purveyor near you. The optional sanding sugar can be sprinkled on half of the cookies; after baking, when both the sugared and plain cookies are arranged on a platter, it creates a nice contrast between sparkly and matte. The sugar can be ordered from Beryl's.  The leaf shaped cookie cutter is a playful nod to that fact that these contain leaves - tea leaves.  

Makes 80 two-inch cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons matcha (powdered green tea)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sanding sugar (optional)


Line 2 jellyroll pans with parchment paper; set aside.

Whisk flour and salt together in a small bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.

Beat butter on medium-high speed with flat paddle until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add matcha and beat until butter/tea mixture is a uniform green color and very creamy. Add sugar gradually and continue beating on high speed until very light and fluffy. Turn machine off, add about one-third of the flour, then turn machine onto low-speed. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing just until blended, scraping down bowl once or twice. The mixture will look crumbly; if you squeeze it between your fingers, it will come together. Gather it together into a ball with your hands while it is still in the bowl.

Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness between two pieces of lightly floured parchment. Peel off top parchment and cut dough in half. Sprinkle sanding sugar evenly over one half of the cookie dough and gently, with hardly any pressure, roll over it with rolling pin to help it adhere. Using a 2-inch x 1-inch leaf shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from both doughs and place on cookie sheets 1-inch apart. Use the back of a sharp paring knife to make vein patterns on each cookie (see photo). Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, if desired.

Position racks in upper and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for about 17 to 22 minutes or until the cookies are dry and firm to the touch; their color will not change. They should retain their shape if you try to pick one up and there should also be a fragrant butter and matcha scent emanating from the oven. Cool pans on racks for a couple of minutes, then carefully transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.

Tip: I used a cookie cutter that is just shy of 2-inches long and 1-inch wide. You can certainly use a larger cookie cutter, or even a different shape, but the yield and baking times might change.

Florentine Bars with Candied Orange and Cherries

From Unforgettable Desserts by Dede Wilson, Wiley 2009.

Florentine cookies are my very favorite owing to the combination of caramelized sugar, chocolate, nuts and sweet/tart fruit. However, their classic round shape is often hard to accomplish, due to their lacy, free-form nature. Here, the traditional cookie is a topping for a thin shortbread, all of which is formed in a pan - easier to make and to serve but with all of the classic ingredients and flavors.
Makes 40 squares

Shortbread:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Florentine filling:

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced candied orange peel
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


Topping:

  •  2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted, such as Scharffen Berger (62%)

For the Shortbread: Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch pan with non-stick spray, line bottom with parchment cut to fit, then spray parchment.

Whisk flour and salt together in a small bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.

Beat butter until creamy with flat paddle on medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat, about 3 minutes at medium-high speed, until very light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add flour, mixing just until blended, scraping down bowl once or twice. Pat crust into an even layer in prepared pan.

Bake crust about 20 to 25 minutes or until just beginning to turn very light golden brown along the edges; it should be dry to the touch. Prepare filling while crust is baking.

For the Filling: Place butter, sugar cream and honey in a medium sized saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Turn heat to medium-high, bring to a boil and cook to 235 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in nuts, fruit and flour until well combined.

Pour filling over partially baked crust and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is bubbling all over and has turned light golden brown all over. Color might be darker around edges. Cool pan completely on rack.

For the Topping: Place melted chocolate in a parchment cone and make a free-form zigzag pattern all over the bars. Chill to set chocolate; cut into 40 bars (5x8). Refrigerate for up to 1 week in airtight container in single layers separated by parchment paper.  Bring to room temperature before serving

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Last Updated ( Friday, 04 December 2009 )
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