Advent Calendar, Day 20

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Sweet treats
A little something for my co-workers.

For all Advent Calendar posts, click here.

recipe after the jump

Here are the two cookies I made for office gifting, both delicious. The nuts you see in the picture were ok, but not quite up to snuff; I’ll work on the recipe and get back to you.

Kourabiedes: Walnut Sugar Cookies from Food Network

3/4 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons orange flower water
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Toast the walnuts until golden brown and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool, then chop about half of the nuts (you should have about 1/2 cup chopped). Pulse the remaining nuts in the food processor until finely ground (about 1/4 cup ground).

Stir the flour, baking powder, salt and nuts together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolk, brandy and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture gets light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.

At low speed, stir in the nut mixture to make a crumbly dough. Cover the bowl and set dough aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or coat with nonstick spray.

With a tablespoon, scoop out 1-inch pieces of dough and roll into balls between the palms of your hands. Pinch the ends of the balls to make a football shape. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies set and start to brown, about 18 minutes.

Remove cookies from the oven and immediately sprinkle them lightly with the orange water. (If you don’t have a brush, simply dip your fingers into the water and flick it over the cookies a few times.) Take care not to douse them, just enough for them to carry the scent of flowers.

Put the confectioners’ sugar in a bag, and add 5 to 6 of the warm cookies to it. Very gently toss the cookies to coat with sugar. Remove them from the bag and cool cookies on a rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. Serve.

Busy baker’s tips: Dough can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Baked cookies can be wrapped in plastic, then aluminum foil, for up to 2 weeks. To serve, let cookies come to room temperature before dusting with confectioners’ sugar.

Chocolate- and Almond-Dipped Sandwich Cookies from Epicurious

I did away with the ganache/sandwiching step out of laziness, also assuming these cookies would be rich enough without. Boy, were they ever.

Cookies
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Filling
1 cup whipping cream
12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped garnish
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups slivered almonds (about 5 ounces), toasted, chopped

For cookies:
Place slivered almonds in processor and add 1/4 cup sugar. Grind almonds finely. Using electric mixer, beat butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg yolk, vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add ground-nut mixture and flour and beat until moist clumps form. Gather dough into 2 balls; flatten each ball into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out half of dough between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper to scant 1/4-inch thickness, sprinkling dough lightly with flour as needed to keep from sticking and occasionally peeling off top paper to remove wrinkles. Peel off top sheet. Using 2 1/2×1 1/2-inch oval cookie cutter (or cardboard template), cut out cookies. If dough is soft, slide rimless baking sheet under paper and chill 10 minutes to firm. Transfer cookies to prepared sheets, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Gather scraps and reroll dough, cutting out more cookies. Chill cookies on sheets 15 minutes before baking.

Position racks in top third and bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Bake cookies 5 minutes. Reverse sheets and bake until cookies begin to color, about 6 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

For filling:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Let cool until thick but still spreadable, about 2 hours.

Place half of cookies, bottom side up, on work surface. Spoon ganache filling into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain tip. Leaving 1/4-inch plain border, pipe (or spread) ganache on cookies. Top each with second cookie, bottom side down, pressing to adhere.

For garnish:
Stir chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water until smooth. Place almonds in small bowl. Dip end of 1 cookie in chocolate, then in almonds. Transfer to sheet of foil. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let stand until garnish is set. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight in refrigerator in single layers between sheets of waxed paper.