chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

black ‘n gold chocolate sables

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Hello, stranger! It’s been a mighty long time. I sort of checked out a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to get much done around here. I am still without a Christmas list because I’m having a serious aversion to shopping this year. And I’ve yet to mail a single holiday card. Uh-oh.

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The good news is I’m actually really enjoying this holiday season. I took part in my very first cookie swap earlier this month, which was super fun (and left me with a major sugar hangover). My vintage Christmas trees have gone up at home and at work, and my collection of little Christmas elves is on display. There’s also this playlist I created for Little Magazine. If you need some muzac to get yourself into the holiday spirit, this is for you. There’s also this gem from a few years back.

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You might’ve noticed this little guy in the green suit that makes his appearance every December. He’s my fave. Something about his expression reminds me of the Mona Lisa – a little mysterious, a little bit naughty. He loves delicious sweet treats, especially cookies.

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I made these chocolate sables for the cookie swap I mentioned earlier. These are Dorie Greenspan’s famous “world peace” cookies. They’ve been on my to-do list for a while. I had the most insane chocolate shortbread cookie at a party a few months back and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, so I figured now was a good time to bust these out. I love chocolate sables because they’re so unassuming. But it only takes one bite to realize you’ve hit the cookie jackpot – buttery, crumbly, and oh-so-chocolatey. Because it’s the holidays (and because I love me some bling), I thought it would be fun to add a little gold sparkle to these. How could anyone possibly say no to a gold-encrusted cookie? ‘Tis the season…

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black ‘n gold chocolate sables

makes about 3 dozen cookies

adapted just slightly from Dorie Greenspan via The New York Times Style Magazine 

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip-size bits

1 egg yolk

gold sanding sugar

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until the butter is soft and creamy. Add the sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for another 1 or 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated (the dough may look crumbly). For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible. Toss in the chocolate; mix to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface, divide in half and, working with one half at a time, shape the dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (As you’re shaping the log, flatten it once or twice and roll it up from one long side to the other, to make certain you haven’t got an air channel.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill them for at least 1 hour. (Wrapped airtight, the logs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.)

Center a rack in the oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk egg yolk in a small bowl to loosen; lightly brush all over 1 log. Sprinkle with (or roll in) sanding sugar. Repeat with the second log.

Working with a sharp, thin-bladed knife, slice rounds 1/2-inch thick. (If the cookies break, squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie.) Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheets, leaving an inch of space between them. Bake only 1 sheet at a time and bake each sheet for 12 minutes. (The cookies will not look done nor will they be firm, but that is the way they should be.) Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest, on the sheet, until they are only just warm. Repeat with the second sheet of cookies.

elfie takes a cookie break

rugelach

It’s about to be a factory of sweets up in this joint. I’m making my list and checking it twice. And I’m getting excited.

These rugelach are most definitely adding to the excitement. Whenever I go to New York, I make sure I get my fill of rugelach. And for whatever reason, I pretty much only eat them when I’m in New York. Until this past weekend.

The original plan was to make a chocolate babka. But I was reviewing recipes and they all involved several hours from start to finish, as most yeast doughs do. This usually is not a deterrent for me, but my hours are precious these days and I just couldn’t commit to such a lengthy project.

And then this rugelach recipe winked at me. And I just knew. I love it when a new recipe works out perfectly, no mishaps, no funny business.

If you’ve never had rugelach, you’re in for a treat. They’re sort of a cookie-pastry hybrid; tender, flaky cream cheese dough, filled with preserves and nuts and cinnamon-sugar and rolled into little cresents. As they bake, the sugar mixture melts into the preserves, which become a little bit sticky and caramelized and the dough puffs around it. And since they’re not terribly sweet, they are dangerously easy to eat.

rugelach

from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine

makes 36 cookies

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

8 ounces cream cheese, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raspberry or apricot preserves, or a mixture of the two

1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until evenly combined, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Beat in 2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Reduce the speed to low. Add 1-1/4 cups of the flour and mix just until incorporated, then repeat with the remaining 1 cup of flour. Do not overmix.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Flour your hands and gently knead to be sure that the ingredients are evenly distributed, about 10 seconds. Divide the dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a 1-inch thick disk and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 2 hours.

To make the filling, combine the walnuts, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

Position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

Working with one disk of dough at a time, unwrap and place on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, and roll out into a 13-inch-diameter circle. Using a small offset metal spatula, spread with about 2 tablespoons of the preserves, leaving a 2-inch diameter space in the center of the dough, and a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the jam with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture. Using a sharp pizza wheel or large knife, cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 wedges, to give a total of 12 wedges. One at a time, starting at the wide end, fold the corners in about 1/4-inch and then roll up. Do not roll the rugelach too tightly or the filling will ooze out. Wipe your fingers clean after rolling each rugelach to avoid getting jam on the outside of the cookies. Place each rugelach on the pans about 1-inch apart, with the point of each facing down. Curve the ends of the rugelach slightly toward the center to make a crescent. Repeat this process with the other two disks of dough.

Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on the pans. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Just before serving, sift with confectioners’ sugar.