Thursday, December 24, 2009

Emily Y.'s favorite: Dried cherry and almond cookies with vanilla icing

I am overwhelmed by my family and friends' generosity. They have responded to my call to action, opening their worn binders and recipe boxes to share some of their favorite cookie recipes with me. As I draw to a close on my 25 Days of Cookies this Christmas Eve, I'm able to look over the long list of some of the wonderful women in my life and feel truly blessed.

I actually have more than 25 recipes to share - so today I'm sharing two with you, gentle reader. Emily is Jeremy's work wife. They are the two reporters in the Chicago bureau of an advertising trade publication. Emily is a serious reporter with a delightful laugh and lovely singing voice. And she can cook too. In fact, she is starting a food blog of her own; stay tuned.

Here is her introduction and recipe:
I don't come from a cooking family, and it's taken me awhile to learn my way around the kitchen. So this is first year that I've made Christmas cookies. I wanted to try something more modern than the tree-shaped, green-sprinkle sugar cookies my mother still buys from Magee's Bakery in Lexington, Ky every year. My boyfriend, bizarrely, is not a fan of desserts, especially of the sweet and chocolatey variety. This Giada DeLaurentiis recipe for dried cherry and almond cookies with vanilla icing caught my eye because it's got cherries and almonds (two of my favorite things) and it didn't look like it would be too sugary. The comments on the site are raves. Turns out - they are fantastic. The flavors are really festive, the icing makes it fun, and they're not too hard to make. But they've got a little something for everyone. The picky eater in my house described them as "the best cookies ever."

Dried cherry and almond cookies with vanilla icing
I started by creaming:
½ c unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
½ sugar plus 2 tablespoons - I like vegan cane sugar because it's mellower
½ vanilla extract
½ almond extract
¼ t ground cinnamon
¼ t fine sea salt

I left this running in the stand mixer with paddle attachment while I got the other ingredients ready. It was frothy and white by the time I added:

1 egg

After it's all incorporated, scrape down the bowl and paddle, and gradually add:
1 ¼ c all-purpose flour (I used white wheat flour for half of that quantity)

next fold in:
¾ c chopped dried cherries
½ c slivered blanched almonds that have been toasted and cooled (I had slivered almonds for baking on hand, and it was fine)

Form the cookies into a log, about 12 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as three days. Later, slice the log into ½ inch pieces and arrange on two heavy baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Space them about one inch apart. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until cookies are puffed and beginning to brown around the edges. (I added a couple of minutes to get them all slightly brown, and frankly could have pulled them at 15) Cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes

Meanwhile, recipe calls for a glaze, made with
2 ¾ c. powdered sugar
2 t vanilla extract
3T water, and more if necessary (I needed 5)

Whisk vanilla extract into sugar, and add water one tablespoon at a time, until it becomes a good drizzling consistency. I needed 5 tablespoons, and could have added even more.
(This made easily twice the amount of icing I needed to drizzle each one. If you want them really sweet, and decide to coat the entire cookie, this would be enough. I'll half the amount next time.)

Let cookies set completely before serving, about 1 hour. Of course I had to try one right away. It was sensational. But they're mellower in flavor after setting, and even better the next day.

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