Every Wednesday we talk about food. In honor of everyone throwing a holiday party this year, we asked Ed Levine, founder of seriouseats.com, to give us some strategies for making affordable, easy finger food recipes for holiday parties.
- makes a baker's dozen -
1. Cream butter until smooth, add sugar and salt and cream a bit further, but do not beat ferociously as you do not want to incorporate air. Mix in all additions, one at a time, and fold in the flour gently but well.
2. Wrap dough as a flat disc and refrigerate for 2 hours.
3. You may do any number of things with this shortbread. I like to roll it out (sheet) between two pieces of parchment so as to get an even cookie without adding any more flour, which will make this cookie tough. If you sheet the dough, you may use any shape cutter. Shortbread can also be re-sheeted this way until you have no more dough.
4. You may also roll it in a log and chill or freeze log, baking only what you need when inspiration strikes you. If you go the log route, you may want to roll log in raw or turbinado sugar and then slice. Slice rounds no thicker than 1/2 inch.
5. Preheat oven to 300°F or 150°C.
6. Place cookies on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. If the bottom of your oven runs hot, double pan to ensure safety of your cookies. Set first timer for 15 minutes, at which time turn pan around to get an even bake. Set second timer for 8 to 12 minutes, but depending on your oven they may need a little more time.
7. With shortbread it is very important that a low and slow bake takes place and that the cookie is evenly dark golden. Color is flavor here. Think of it this way: In shortbread, your aim is to confit the butter.
8. Shortbread will keep two days at room temperature, although they are best eaten the day they are baked.
- makes about 30 cookies -
1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt together and keep close at hand. Place the butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed to soften. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth and creamy, but not airy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the ingredients are just mixed—no more. Alternatively, you can remove the bowl from the mixer and stir the flour into the dough with a rubber spatula. The point is to mix the dough as gently and as little as possible—this light touch is what will give the cookies their characteristic crumbly texture. As soon as the last of the flour is no longer visible, divide the dough in half, shape each half into a ball, wrap the balls in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that's about 1 1/2 inches thick and 7 1/2 inches long. (Aim to get the thickness right and the length will be fine.) To get a solid log, one without the commonly found hole in the center, use the heel of your hand to gently flatten the dough, then flatten the dough lightly each time you fold it over on itself to make the log. Assured that the log is solid, you can roll it gently under your palms to smooth it out. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours. (The dough can be made to this point, wrapped airtight, and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk until it is smooth and liquid enough to use as a glaze; keep it close at hand. Spread some of the sugar out on a piece of wax paper.
4. Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap them and brush them very lightly with a small amount of the egg yolk. Roll the logs in the sugar, pressing the sugar gently to get it to stick, if necessary, then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies 1/2-inch thick. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom at the midway mark, until the cookies are just firm to the touch. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to room temperature.
Keeping: The unbaked logs of dough can be frozen for up to 2 months, but once they're rolled in the sugar, they're unsuitable for freezing because the sugar will melt. Once the cookies are baked, they can be kept in an airtight tin at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.
- makes about 45 cookies -
1. Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of the double boiler. Place the butter, liqueur, and chocolate in the top of the double boiler (off the heat). Turn off the heat, then set the chocolate over the steaming water. Stir occasionally with the spatula until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove and let cool slightly while you whip the eggs.
2. Place the eggs and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in the bowl of the mixer and whip on high speed until very light in color and thick, 5 to 6 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, though you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape the melted chocolate mixture into the eggs and whip until blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Place the flour, nuts, cinnamon, baking powder, and chile powder (if using) in the food processor and process until the nuts are very finely chopped, 60 to 90 seconds. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until combined. Stir gently a few times with the spatula to make sure there are no patches of unincorporated flour or butter lurking near the bottom of the bowl. Cover the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until firm.
4. Preheat the oven to 325°F and position an oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Scoop the chilled dough into tablespoon-size balls using the ice cream scoop or a spoon. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in one small bowl and the confectioners' sugar in the other. Roll each dough ball in the granulated sugar and then in the confectioners' sugar. Be sure to coat the dough generously with the confectioners' sugar—in this instance, more is better. Space the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time, for 11 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and cracked. If you nudge a cookie, it should slide on the sheet rather than stick. It is better to slightly underbake these cookies than to go too far--when overbaked they are dry and unpalatable. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Storing tips:These cookies are best the same day they are baked. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
- serves 12 -
Adapted from All Recipes.
Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, but preferably overnight.
- makes about 2 1/3 cups of dip -
1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add half the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 1/2 the bag of spinach and cook until fully wilted, about 2 to 5 minutes. (If there are still large unwilted stems at that point, cut them off.) Remove spinach to a bowl to cool, and repeat the whole process with another teaspoon olive oil and the remaining half of the garlic and spinach.
2. Combine the remaining olive oil, spinach, beans, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in a food processor. If it all doesn't fit at first, pulse a few times with 1/2 the spinach, and then add the rest.
3. Blend until mixture is to the consistency you like. Serve with tortilla, pita, or veggies.
1. Melt the butter or margarine in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add the shallots; cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms; cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking until any mushroom liquid has evaporated. Stir in the parsley and savory; cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
3. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream cheese, 1 ounce at a time, until melted and completely combined. Stir in heavy cream. Chill.
Variation: Mushroom Tartlets: Spoon a rounded teaspoonful of the spread into baked 1-inch tartlet shells. Makes about 40.