Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Butter, Butter everywhere...

'Tis the season for cookies galore. I've had great cookies, cookies that made my teeth hurt, cookies I couldn't get past my gums and cookies I don't feel I could live without. I have many memories attached to cookies in the holiday season - warm memories of midnight cookie-snacks in grandma's kitchen, and 'painting' on cookie frosting at my aunt and uncles house.

When I roll up my sleeves and get into the baking holiday spirit, I have my short list of favorites. My absolute favorite cookie of the season however, will always be the simple, scrumptious frosted sugar cookie. I've always had the inkling that butter was the key to a successful cookie - especially when you're talking about a cookie that get's all of its flavor from butter and sugar. Today's NYT food section article puts science behind that belief.

It really is remarkable just how many butters are out there - and how little I, and many I believe, know about them. Like any dairy product, there are so many variables that affect the over all taste, quality and usability. European butters, with an emphasis on terroir and higher percentage of butterfat, an increasing production of non-factory farmed butters from American producers and with slightly lower percent milkfat of it's European counterparts.

I can't wait to try out some of the recipes they offer here, especially to try out some butter's I've never tried. this one is at the top of my list.


Adapted from “Field Guide to Cookies” by Anita Chu (Quirk Books, 2008)

Time: 45 minutes

3/4 cup blanched almonds or hazelnuts, lightly toasted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt (if using fine or table salt, use 3/8
1 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
1. Position 2 oven racks in top third and bottom third of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, grind nuts, sugar and salt to a fine meal. In a mixer, beat flour and butter together on low speed until texture is sandy. Add nut mixture and mix on low until dough starts to form small lumps; keep mixing until dough just holds together when pinched between fingers. Do not use wet fingers: the
cookies will collapse.
3. Pinch off about a teaspoon of dough and place in palm of your hand. With tips of fingers, pinch and press dough together until cookie has a flat bottom and pointed top, like a rough pyramid. Cookies need not be perfectly smooth or equal size. Place on parchment about 1 inch apart.
4. Bake about 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through. Cookies should be turning golden brown on edges. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely before storing in airtight containers up to 1 week.
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies.

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