Friday, March 18, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Extremely Fragile-icious"

Photo by Orin
Orin's Goodies

Reading Orin's blog makes me, once again, reflect on the difference between a true baker and a recipe follower.  Orin is a true baker--one who carefully reads the recipe, sees the pitfalls ahead and figures out how to deal with them, and then adapts to her own needs.  For instance.  Well, first of all, she already has a big batch of brown butter made and stored ahead of time.  That is impressive in itself.  
Then, she could tell just by looking at the dough that it would be a "challenge," and she didn't even bother with a rolling pin--just used the palm of her hand to coax the dough into a circle.  Then, what really impressed me was--after hiding the cookies from her fiance, she decided to use them for the crust for a cheesecake, reducing the amount of butter in the crust recipe to allow for the buttery cookies, and it was a beautiful success.  Go to her blog to see these cookies morphed into a cheesecake crust.

Not that there is anything wrong with being a recipe follower, although sometimes not following the recipe can lead to great results.  Jen knew from reading the recipe that these cookies were going to make her tear her hair out, and they did.  "This cookie tried my patience and almost made me hate it, but the end product is so delicious and addicting that I may just make them again.  No promises."  Instead of rolling them out with a pin, Jen rolled the dough into logs, froze them, and sliced the dough into coins.  It went pretty well except for the first batch, which she tried to slice while they were still frozen.  The dough rebelled.  And took forever to bake.  But once they were done, she and Eliot ate one, "then another.  Then another."  "Amazing."

Faithy also tried Jen's trick of rolling the cookies into logs.  It's been very hot in Singapore lately, so Faithy had been planning to sit out this recipe--it just wasn't the weather for rolling out sticky, fragile cookie dough.  And it worked!  Faithy is also a person who just happens to have  a few tubs of clarified butter in the freezer.  "Just the right amount of sweetness and spice....  And now I know why these cookies are called Sandies, because the texture is very sandy ... in a good way."

According to Catherine, "everything is better in a star shape.  This is a universal truth."  And to think I don't even have any star-shaped cookie cutters--what a loss I've been suffering all these years!  But not Catherine.  At least partly because of the shape, these cookies were "a definite hit."  "Delicately crunchy, very sandy, nutty flavoured and perfumed with cinnamon and a mix of sugars.  They got a thumbs up all round from my taste-testers."  When a friend asked her if they were hard to make, she quickly assured her they were not, but then thought about making the beurre noisette, and refrigerating, then freezing the dough, and rolling them out...  But "if you've ever made a 9-pages-of-instructions, behemoth cheesecake, cake and buttercream extravaganza, then starry biscuits are somewhat of a doddle in comparison."  Alles ist relativ.

To Aimee, "this recipe proves that your freezer is a baking tool."  I never thought of it that way, but she's absolutely right.  Without some freezer time, these cookies wouldn't be ready for oven time.  The notion of pecan sandies brought back some happy childhood memories for Aimee.  "As a kid I was a big fan of pecan sandies that the elves baked in their tree".  [Wonder if they had a freezer in their tree too?] "They were also one of the very few packaged cookies that my mom would buy, probably because my dad liked them, too.  Only if she had a triple coupon, though."  As it turned out, these sandies were even better than elf-baked.  "Tender and crunchy, nutty and buttery, cinnamon and pecan, so good."

Rachel's mom also kept the elvish cookies around the house because her dad liked them so much.  Unfortunately for the elves, this version "blows the Keebler version out of the water."  "Sweet and salty and rich and nutty, the dam dough kept breaking off at the edges, and I had no choice but to eat the bits that were too tiny to press back into the main piece."  Poor Rachel.  But, inevitably, some of the dough actually made its way into cookies.  "Most excellent cookies, if I do say so myself."

To Rosa, these  "flavorful and fragile" cookies were "dangerous."  Again, in a good way.  Instead of rolling them out, Rosa just used a small ice cream scoop to put the dough on a baking sheet, and flattened them a bit with her hand.  She didn't even chill the dough!  She also didn't coat the cookies with sugar because she thought they had enough sugar in the dough itself.  And the result?  "These flavorful and fragile cookies are ... a perfect balance of sugar, spice, and salt that makes you take more than one and then another."

In honor of Pi Day, Vicki miraculously turned her cookies into pie (well, at least a kind of tart).  She claimed it wasn't inspiration but desperation that brought her to the pie.  Her new mini Cuisinart Plus didn't want to incorporate the flour, so she threw the dough into a tart pan, pressed it down, and "scored and sugared the top, like British shortbread, chilled and baked."  Vicki also compared these sandies with the elfin kind.  Again, the elves lost.  I think that Vicki's experiment proves that this dough is very versatile, and not nearly as finicky as it appears.

Kristina says she "messed up the recipe at least twice," but the cookies still disappeared rapidly at two birthday parties she attended.  Kristina came "this close" to stopping the recipe when she tasted the dough at the "buttercream" stage, and just eating that.  But she didn't.  She said she over-processed the pecans, so they were more like "pecan flour" than chopped pecans, and she mistakenly coated the cookies with a mixture of granulated sugar, turbinado sugar, and cinnamon instead of sprinkling the turbinado sugar on top.  But the cookies were still "delicious."  Still, she can't get that "buttercream" mixture out of her head.

Kim's biggest challenge was trying to figure out how thick 3/8 of in inch was.  Luckily, she has some pastry wands that helped her "mathematically challenged" brain understand that 3/8" was almost a half-inch--a very thick dough to roll out!  She ended up with only about 24 cookies, and, although she wanted to save some for guests, kept eating just one more.  She figured she just might have to make another batch.  "Or two more batches?" of these "quintessential Pecan Sandies."

Jenn almost didn't bake these cookies.  She was not impressed when she saw them on the schedule.  Rolled cookies?  Ugh.  Too "high maintenance."  "You roll it out, cut it, move it to the baking pan, then if the dough gets too soft, it needs to be refrigerated before it can be rolled out again."  So why did she decide to make these pesky cookies?  Two words:  "beurre noisette."  And she liked working with the dough, even though, as predicted, these cookies were high maintenance.  "The smell of pecans, muscovado sugar, and beurre noisette together created a very intoxicating smell."  And yes, she would make them again.

Next week:  it's going to be hard for the next recipe to live up to the raves for pecan sandies.  But my guess is that Rose's babka might be the just the thing to do it.  I've been looking forward to this recipe ever since I got the book.  And so many choices for the filling!  I'm going to try the almond, but the chocolate schmear sounds tempting.  I hope we end up getting reviews of them all.

I'm going to Florida for a beach (or rain) vacation next week, so the roundup will either be posted early (probably Wednesday).


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  2. Great roundup Marie, and have a nice week vacation in Florida, Wish I could go on a hoily day.

  3. Orin's cheesecake looked wonderful! Great idea to use the heat from hands to smooth the dough. FYI, the mistake I made was pulverizing the pecans with the sugars instead of the flour in the Cuisinart. I creamed the rest in the mixer. That one mishap made an interesting change in the texture. Safe traveling!

  4. Have fun in Florida! Congrats to Orin for such a beautiful featured photo. I'm kind of itching to try Vicki's version of the cookie/tart because that would really entice me to bake these more often.

  5. Have fun in Florida! Congrats to Orin for such a beautiful featured photo. I'm kind of itching to try Vicki's version of the cookie/tart because that would really entice me to bake these more often.

  6. Here are mine. I found them fragile but not at all difficult.

  7. I am humble and honored to be part of this wonderful group of talented bakers,very grateful and speechless. Thank you again for the opportunity to be part of this!