chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

fruitcake.cookies-0065

Is everybody ready for the holidays? It’s been a busy busy season already. So far, I’ve made gingerbread houses at two back-to-back gingerbread parties, and attended one of my favorite annual holiday soirees. As per usual, I’m running a little behind on getting my cards mailed, and I still haven’t figured out what I’ll be baking. I have a feeling things are going to start getting crazy around here in the next couple of days. But it wouldn’t be the holidays if I wasn’t baking and gift making up until the last possible moment. That’s just how I roll.

And it wouldn’t be the holidays without cookies. And this is definitely a holiday cookie.

fruitcake.cookies-0010

I know most people are unenthusiastic about fruitcake. And understandably so. Fruitcake has a bad rap. Growing up, my parents would receive fruitcakes as holiday gifts, which would go uneaten, and eventually get thrown away, year after year. There was just something kind of unappetizing about that brick of pastry dimpled with weird, artificially colored fruit. I couldn’t get into it.

fruitcake.cookies-0018

It wasn’t until my twenties that I came to appreciate fruitcake. One Christmas, my Auntie Pam gave my dad a tiny loaf of homemade fruitcake. And since my very talented auntie (who happens to be one of my personal foodie heroes) made this confection herself, I knew I had to at least have a nibble. The cake was chock full of really good quality dried fruits and nuts, and there wasn’t a bright green cherry in sight. It was superb. I slowly ate the entire loaf all by myself, and totally forgot to share with my dad.

fruitcake.cookies-0058

Though I’ve contemplated making my own fruitcake, I’ve yet to commit to such a project. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a labor intensive endeavor and requires ripening time, which means I would have to start a couple of weeks before Christmas. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m not the best at doing things and planning in advance. So when I landed on this recipe for fruitcake cookies, I felt like I had to make them.

chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

This is a fantastic cookie. It’s a buttery cookie dough studded with dried figs, apricots, raisins, and pecans, so there are a variety of textures and flavors. And because it’s the holidays and I like things just a little on the decadent side, I thought a dip in some melted bittersweet chocolate , or even a drizzle, would make these extra special. Everything is better with chocolate, right?

fruitcake.cookies-0097

chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

adapted just barely from the barefoot contessa

makes about 5 dozen cookies

1/2 pound dried figs

1/4 pound raisins

2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped

2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 ounces chopped pecans

kosher salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 extra-large egg

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over mix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl.

Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on parchment-lined sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To temper the chocolate for dipping, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to very low. Place 8 ounces of the chocolate in a wide, heatproof bowl. Transfer the bowl to the saucepan, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate reaches 110° to 112°F on a thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and place on a kitchen towel. Add the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and stir until melted. Let stand, stirring every minute or so, until the chocolate reaches 88°F.

Line a sheet pan with fresh parchment paper. One at a time, dip a cookie in the melted chocolate, letting the chocolate come about half way up the sides of the cookie. Give the cookie a gentle shake to remove the excess chocolate, then carefully place the cookie on the pan. Push each cookie with your finger to move it about 1/8 inch from its position on the pan to dislodge and remove the “foot” the chocolate has formed. Let the cookies stand until the chocolate sets.

If you prefer a less chocolatey cookie, you can drizzle each cookie with melted chocolate rather than dipping.

chocolate fruitcake cookies

Advertisements

vanilla marshmallows

We’re back…

I really took it to heart when I heard someone say that this is the time of year for the Earth to rest. It’s not that I’ve actually done much resting, though I do like the idea of rest, but I have taken a bit of a break. Part of it had to do with my oven being out of commission. And I also burned out a little after all of those pies I made for Thanksgiving. But the holidays are officially here and I’ve been really anxious to get back in my kitchen.

Let’s talk about marshmallows. I like marshmallows. As an adult, I don’t typically find myself eating plain marshmallows. But when combined with other ingredients, marshmallows are one of my true loves. I love s’mores and rice krispy treats and scotch kisses and rocky road. These goodies would be nothing without marshmallow. After buying a package of fancy marshmallows at Whole Foods last year, I decided that I needed learn how to make my own.  And when I saw the marshmallow recipe in the Baked cookbook, I knew it was time.

Let me just say that eating a homemade marshmallow makes you feel like you’re eating a marshmallow for the first time. It’s like you’ve never had a marshmallow in your life prior to that moment, like those jet-puffed marshmallows you stuffed in your face as a child weren’t even marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows are soft, fluffy, and perfectly squishy and melty when you put them in your mouth. They make you say, ” OMG,” out loud, like it’s a reflex.

Making your own marshmallows is surprisingly easy, especially considering the payoff. The hardest part was waiting the six hours for them to set – I was dying to sample them! If you want to impress yourself and your loved ones this holiday season, make some marshmallows. I know I will. I can’t wait to distribute these bad boys. And I also can’t wait to throw one in a bowl of hot cocoa.

vanilla marshmallows

adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

makes 48 large marshmallows

vegetable shortening

12 sheets gelatin

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup, divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

Grease a 9x13x2 inch pan with vegetable shortening. Set aside.

Fill a medium size heatproof bowl with very cold water and ice cubes. Place the gelatin sheets in the water and set aside.

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and place on the stove over medium-low heat.

In another medium saucepan, add the sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup, and 1/2 cup of water and stir gently, making sure not to splash the ingredients onto the sides of the pan.  Put the saucepan over medium-high heat.

Put the remaining 1/2 cup corn syrup in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set aside.

Check the temperature of the saucepan of water.  When the temperature reaches 220°F, drain the water from the gelatin and gently wring any excess water from the gelatin sheets. Place the bowl of gelatin over the saucepan of simmering water and stir until the gelatin is completely melted.  Remove the bowl from the pan.

Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly pour the melted gelatin into the corn syrup. Keep the mixer on low.

Place the candy thermometer in the saucepan with the sugar mixture. Bring the sugar mixture to the softball stage on the candy thermometer, 235-240°F. Remove the candy thermometer from the mixture and remove from the heat.  Turn the mixer to medium speed for 1 minute, then slowly pour the sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture. When all of the sugar mixture has been added, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for about 5 minutes. The marshmallow mixture will begin to turn white and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and turn the mixer up to its highest setting for another minute.

Working very quickly, pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the mixture evenly. Sprinkle with a bit of sifted confectioners sugar and let sit for at least 6 hours.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the marshmallow and gently pull with your hands to remove. The marshmallow will come out in one large piece. Lay on a flat surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Place 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the marshmallows into a 6×8 grid. Roll each marshmallow in confectioners’ sugar. Keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.