20 December 2011

The Cookies of Christmas

Having been thwarted in my plan to bake cookies yesterday, I did so today. It was cloudy and chilly, and then rainy and almost warmish, so it was a perfect day for it.

In the spirit of multitasking, I also washed two loads of clothes, played Christmas carols, and [mumble]. This rather affected my output, as I made a bit of a mistake with the first batch of cookies. They still taste fine, but they look a bit different.

I decided not to bake any almond bars this year and concentrate solely on the wine biscuits. This is a classic Italian cookie my mom baked before I was even born. The recipe was actually from an aunt, but Mom cut back the sugar in hers. The resulting cookie is a bit more solid and not as crumbly, and definitely not as sweet, which is a big factor for me.

Here's the basic recipe:

4 cups of flour
3/4 cup of sugar
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup strongest burgundy wine you can find (Hearty burgundy is best.)
2/3 cup of oil

Finding hearty burgundy in Georgia is a bit like finding hen's teeth, but it can be done. Trouble is, even the "hearty burgundy" isn't all that hearty anymore. No hearty? Get the deepest color red wine you can find. Nothing in the world will live up to Papà's homemade wine, which rivaled garnets for color, and the dough then had a purplish tinge.

So you start with the dry ingredients:

And then add the wine and the oil, which does look a bit weird:

You then start mixing it together with a spoon as much as you can, but eventually you will get to the point where it's no longer any use. (This batch was very wet; the resulting spoon mix is usually more raggy-looking, with lots of flour splotches.)

It's at this point you have to give it a hand. Well, two hands, actually. :-) This is when you discover if you have a too wet mix or a too dry one. For too dry add wine a bit at the time; you don't want it sticky. For too wet, add flour a bit at the time; you don't want it doughy.

Eventually, what you will get is this:

As you can tell, it's still a little light, even with me using hearty burgundy. The very last batch looked a lot better. At this point, though, I was at the bottom of the wine bottle (to the point that I had to strain it so I didn't get the mother or other leavings, plus add a little of the cabernet souvignon that James uses for cooking to make the rest of the cup).

Then you make the little "ropes" of dough that you then cut and form into the doughnut shapes:

As you can see, I make all sizes. But once they are lined up on the cookie sheets, I'm not quite done. You beat an egg with a spoon, and then use the egg for a glaze on the top of each. Mom did it with a pastry brush; I just dip the spoon into the egg and brush that over the cookie. The "glaze" isn't that evident in the finished photo which follows.

Just a few of the second batch:

In the meantime, the tree is overseeing the gifts. Two left to get!

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