Cookies may be small pleasures individually, but there's no denying they add up to a major strand of the home-cooking traditions of the winter holiday season.
Here are two new creations from Chicago chef Gale Gand. Gand, executive chef of Tru, the Chicago restaurant, won the 2001 Beard Foundation best pastry chef award, stars in TV's "Sweet Dreams" and writes cookbooks.
Fill your own cookie jars and gift-wrap scrumptious batches for others.
Austrian Shortbread Bars
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 scant cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup apricot or raspberry jam, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.
In a medium bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter-egg yolk mixture and mix just until incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into three balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze at least 1 hour.
Remove two balls of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate the frozen dough into the bottom of a 9-by-12-inch baking pan. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough. With a spoon or spatula, spread the jam over the surface, to within 1/2 inch of the edge all the way around. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface. Bake until light golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife into bars. Dust with confectioner's sugar.
Makes 24 bars.
4 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon finely ground espresso coffee or instant espresso powder
60 pecan halves
In a bowl set over simmering water, melt 3 cups of the chocolate chips and butter. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, ground espresso and melted chocolate mixture. Beat in the flour mixture until just combined. Add the remaining chocolate chips. Cover dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour until dough is almost firm.
Heat oven to 350 F. Shape dough into balls using 1 level tablespoon of dough for each. Gently press a pecan half into each ball of dough. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until cookies are barely set, about 9 minutes. (Do not overbake.) Remove from oven and let stand 2 minutes before removing to cooling rack.
Makes about 60 cookies.
(Recipes from Gale Gand, for the American Butter Institute.)
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