Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mandelbrot & Macaroons


It's that time of year again.... The first "real" snow has fallen, Christmas music plays nonstop, and I've already broken out the long-johns from their warmer weather storage.... It's holiday time!

With the winter season rolling in, I get the urge to indulge in everything sweet and fattening. Pies... Candy... What was that? Black Forrest Cake? Don't mind if I do! In between gorging on sweets like Augustus Gloop, and then trying to stop them migrating to my hips with numerous bouts of Zumba, I like to share the wealth of calories with our friends and neighbors; I bake cookies. 

In the past, I have gone with the traditional sugar cookie - the labor intensive but oh-so-satisfying chocolate stuffed Rugelach, and 7 Layer Bars fit to burst even Santa's groaning belt! But this year, I'm tempted by the simple. The traditional flavors of cinnamon and sugar. Maybe a little coconut. Hmmm, even a variation on a tried and true homey cookie that takes me back to my childhood with every crumbly bite. This year, it's Mandelbrot and Coconut Macaroons.


Mandelbrot, or sometimes called Mandelbread, is a traditional twice baked cookie, often served with tea. Popular among Eastern European Jews, it is similar to the Italian biscotti and can be made in the same infinite number of variations. Fragrant Almond. Walnut & Chocolate dipped. Orange scented. All lovely, but I went with the traditional warm cinnamon flavors that taste lovely dipped into a hot mug of coffee. You can practically hear the Bubbies sighing in contentment with each bite.

The cookie is very simple to make and rustic in appearance. The "twice baked" aspect is achieved when, after the initial baking, you slice the cookies into pieces, then carefully broil in the oven for a few minutes until they turn a golden brown. You can completely skip this extra step (my Mum always did), but I like the nutty flavor that double baking gives the cookie.

My second batch of cookies is the simple yet sophisticated Coconut Macaroon. We aren't talking about fancy, brightly colored French Macarons that are all the rage, and that I'm itching to try my hand at. Nope, this is the kid friendly make-a-big-mess version. Sweet and fluffy coconut mixed with egg white, sugar, and salt transform into lightly toasted snow balls after baking. You can spice the cookie up with additional toppings like melted chocolate or adding in a little jam.

With my spatula in hand, and my little assistant by my side (Big Boy is always ready to play with sugar), we got to work. Between puffs of flour and trying to stop little hands from eating all the white chocolate chips, we did it. Cinnamon Mandelbrot, Orange Cranberry & White Chocolate Mandelbrot, and a pile of Coconut Macaroons. Hmmm, I hope there's enough for the neighbors...

Mandelbrot

Original recipe found in the Silver Palate Good Times Cook Book, 1984
by J. Rosso, S. Lukins, & S.L. Chase

3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups of all purpose flour (+ more for kneading)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (I omitted these)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper).
Beat eggs and sugar in a mixer bowl until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add the oil and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together and add to the sugar mixture. Mix until blended, adding the nuts as the dough starts to come together.
Briefly knead the dough on a floured surface (***see note***). Divide into 2 pieces and shape each into a log, 3 inches wide. Place the logs on the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake until golden, 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle.
Preheat broiler.
Cut the logs diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Broil (watching carefully!) the slices on the cookie sheet until just toasted.

***note***
I find this dough to be quite sticky, so I add in a 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, knead, until the dough doesn't stick to the board. Usually two tablespoons does the trick. I also don't work the dough too much, a brief knead is all it needs!

Orange Cranberry & White Chocolate Variation

Follow the original recipe and add in the zest of 1 orange at the same time of adding in the oil & vanilla.
After dough has come together, stir in 3/4 cups of dried cranberries and 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips.
Bake as above. After broiling & cooling, I like to drizzle melted white chocolate on the finished cookie.

Coconut Macaroons

Original recipe found on marthastewart.com, Everyday Foods, April 2004.

3 large egg whites
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 package (14 ounces) of sweetened flaked coconut (5 1/2 cups)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or coat generously with nonstick cooking spray).
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar, and salt until frothy. With a fork, stir in the coconut flakes until moistened.
Drop mixture in packed level spoons onto the prepared sheet. Cookies will not spread. Bake until lightly golden, 25-30 minutes.



  

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