We’re back from a brief hiatus over the Christmas holidays! I wish I could describe wonderful travels and adventures, but mostly I was just fighting cold after cold. However, I did get around to making some holiday iced shortbread cookies, both during and after the holidays, because there’s never a bad time for a little butter+sugar cheer. I used to always call these sugar cookies, but it turns out they don’t actually have to be (and might not be) sugar cookies. A shortbread cookie will last longer and has a great buttery taste to complement the sugary royal icing decoration. To make these snowflake cookies, I used the following shortbread cookie recipe, and then dipped the cookies in flood consistency royal icing before dipping in sprinkles and piping a pattern with medium royal icing.
- 454g (2 cups or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 170 g (1½ cups) powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 510 g (3¾ cups) all-purpose flour
1. Beat the butter, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on low just until homogenous and creamy. Do not aerate. Scrape down bowl.
2. Add the flour all at once and beat on the lowest speed just until the dough comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.
3. Briefly work the dough with your hand to make it pliable then roll out to a thickness of ¼ inch (⅜ inch for larger cookies, like the snowflakes). Cut out shapes as desired and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. I used R&M snowflake cutters.
4. Bake cookies at 375° F for about 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool completely on the pan and then store airtight.
With other shapes and royal icing colors, you can really get creative:
Something about plated desserts feels classy and elite to me. If I were to feel like a true pastry chef, I feel like I would have to master the art of these. However, I doubt I would ever work in the pastry kitchen of a restaurant. So, our dessert menu project from pastry school will have to suffice for life experience.
We had three units of individual plated desserts. Three! That is a lot, and I think most of us were a little sick of them by the end. I could fill pages of this blog with photos of visually stunning dessert plates, but I’ll stick with the ones I concocted for our dessert menu project, for which I created my imaginary dessert restaurant, Spiked, featuring cocktail-inspired desserts.
(Disclaimer: Again, neither this restaurant nor the URL is real.)
From my menu, the chef selected the Margarita and the Rum & Coke for actual presentation and taste-testing.
The Rum & Coke was intended to be a glass full of brown sugar rum ice cream sandwich cubes, coated or sprinkled with chocolate pop rocks, with a side of sour cherry compote and cherry cola sorbet. Unfortunately, the classroom fridge and freezer blew out the night before presentation, which melted everyone’s ice cream. So in a pinch, I remade the rum ice cream and scooped it into the cup, sprinkled with chocolate pop rocks, and inserted a chocolate tuile straw for decor. Tastewise, it was still a success!
The Margarita was my favorite, and is also the concept that inspired my recent eggnog bombe. This dessert is a citrus tequila mousse bombe with Grand Marnier crème brûlée and a lime cookie. On the side is an orange tequila sauce, lime cookie crumbs, crème anglaise and a candied lime.
Please excuse the iPhone photos! That’s all I had available in class.
Happy Valentine’s Day! To celebrate, I made some white chocolate and raspberry macarons. The white shells were a little more successful than the pink ones, which I over-deflated a bit, but both should be yummy to share with friends on a trip to Carmel this weekend.
To be honest, the hype and reverence around French macarons make me a little less excited about making them. That is probably why this is the first time I’ve made them at home (outside of class). However, I do think they are delicious treats, and no doubt big money-makers for bakeries (I almost always grab one when I’m at a Bouchon Bakery)!
Conceptually, petits fours are the most interesting to me. I love the idea of shrinking down desserts, and although it may be too labor-intensive, I could imagine having a bakery specializing in innovative petits fours. The French translation of petits fours is “small ovens” and the term refers to bite-sized desserts. The two dessert types are glacé (glazed, such as the ones you see in Swiss Colony catalogs), and sec (dry, such as macarons, meringues and biscuits). I believe there is also the savory type, salé (salted), for appetizers.
Some examples of petits fours from Unit 7:
Pâtes de fruits: raspberry and passion fruit jellies
Sablés: swirl cookies
Unit Exam: fruit jellies, Russian tea cakes, passion fruit barquettes, lemon-raspberry sandwich cookies, raspberry macarons, cat’s tongues, nougat, madeleines