I did a decent amount of cooking and baking this holiday season, but not all of it was successful. For example, although the cookies to the right were pretty adorable (toot, toot! that's the sound of me honking my own horn), they were kinda chewy. I'm not sure if I overworked the dough or if I didn't wrap them well enough before I iced them. There was a day between baking and icing. In any case, it wasn't my best work. The recipes are great, and I use them every Christmas. I think this was a case of user-error, so don't hesitate to give the recipes a try. They are from an old issue of Martha Stewart Living, but you can find them here on my mom's blog.
I didn't purchase any fancy treat boxes or tins for the cookies this year, especially since my boo has instructed me not to bring anything into his mother's house that might create more clutter. Every time I pass by the baskets and tins from years past, I get what he means. So instead, I put the cookies on a paper plate, wrapped some tissue paper around the plate, and tied it up with ribbon from Michael's. Ribbon from Michael's brings me a very strange amount of joy. Inside that little package sits shortbread wedges, sugar cookies with royal icing, and a little bag of truffles. See below for the shortbread recipe.I must say, the truffles were a huge hit. I didn't have the alcohol called for by the recipe, but I did have some Cointreau and cherry brandy. I decided to divide the batch in half and make two flavors. Unfortunately, my eyeballing skills are lacking, and I didn't divide it into two equal parts. The Cointreau batch didn't have enough Cointreau, but the cherry brandy batch was a huge hit. Very delicious. There's my boo to the left, carefully rolling the cooled chocolate into balls. It's messy work, and he did it all while I cooked for Christmas Eve dinner!
You might be wondering where the scary looking failures are. The sugar cookies were an internal failure (too chewy, oh, and my first batch, too done), and the truffles clearly a success. Well, before I get to it, take a look at the one cute-packing-purchase I did make. Striped treat bags! Those pictured are cookie bags for my coworkers, but the truffles were put in similar bags and tied at the top with a ribbon. For these, I folded the bags, punched holes in the flap, and strung pieces of ribbon through to tie them up. Now, the ugly.
Look at those fresh green beans, cooking away in organic vegetable stock while the onions carmelized in the pan! Or take a look at the layers and layers of potatoes just waiting for boo to get back from the store with the rest of the heavy cream! What could go wrong? EV. ER. Y. THING. Within moments of snapping this picture, I noticed that the potatoes were rapidly changing color. They had only been sliced a short while before, and although I know that potatoes can turn all funky colors after being exposed to oxygen (I think that's the deal), I never knew it could happen so quickly.
By the time I got them in the oven some were grey. I also think we sliced them way too thinly. It's possible there were too many and the cream should have covered the top layer completely. This was my first time making these by myself, and let me tell you, they sure didn't look like my grandma's. I didn't quite have enough cheese to cover the top, so the ugly bits weren't covered up. Then I took them to my boo's mom's house where they were heated and reheated at least twice. The green beans were fine except for all the reheating. By the time we ate everything, the top layer of the potatoes looked black, they were oily, and the beans were completely shriveled. Such a fail.
I think my biggest success was one I didn't get a picture of, naturally. Chipotle Bacon Deviled Eggs on New Year's Eve. Everyone agreed they were bomb. I had little knowledge of how to successfully boil and peel eggs, so finding this was a big help.
Maybe I was like a Top Chef contestant cooking his protein three ways or making an extra dish when he doesn't have to. I did too much and ended up doing few things well. Bummer.
*Here is the recipe for the shortbread, courtesy of my mom and her good sense to hold onto that Martha Stewart Living issue from nearly 10 years ago.
Shortbread Cookie Recipe - Makes 3 dozen
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter (doesn't say softened but we think it should be)
1 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Heat oven to 275. Grease three 8-inch springform pans. (I have only one 9-inch springform pan, so I did it in batches. I only got two batches out of the dough.) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and beat. Add flour and salt, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium, until flour is just combined.
2. Divide dough evenly among prepared pans. Using a spatula, spread dough out to edges of pan, making sure the tops are smooth and level. (Know that "spreading" the dough did not happen for me. The dough is not super easy to work with, and I had to use my knuckles to press it into the pan. As a result, the whole smooth and level thing didn't really work out.)
3. Lightly score dough in each pan into 12 equal wedges. (My mom uses a 10" bamboo skewer cut to the width of the pan and pressed it into the dough. I do the same. However, I did 16 equal wedges. Since my pan was a little bigger, this worked out fine, but with an 8-inch pan it would probably be a stretch.) Prick a pattern into each wedge with the tins of a fork.
4. Bake until shortbread is dry and barely golden, about 50 minutes. (I think mine was a bit overdone.) Cool on a wire rack. Using a sharp knife, follow the score marks to cut into neat wedges.