Thursday, January 07, 2010

Moving messes with Christmas tradition...

Had I been in my right mind, I would have considered that my big move and the annual Padula Christmas Cookie Exchange would converge on December 21, and I would have baked and frozen this year's cookies ahead of time. But as you can imagine, I was more than a bit scatty during that period and failed to plan (and yes, planned to fail). As it happened, when the party was upon us, I had access to two kitchens, but neither were fully functioning. So initially, I concluded that I wouldn't attend the cookie exchange this year. But I really couldn't bear that thought, and my friend and hostess, Janice, wouldn't hear of it. She said I should come anyway, but my pride wouldn't allow me to attend...cookieless. Therefore, I confess that I cheated and decided to make some sort of no-bake cookie, hoping that my friends would forgive me under the circumstances. And when they tasted the simple, but simply DELECTABLE treats that I made, I feel confident that there would be no hard feelings.

Awhile back, I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, and busy new mom, Deb, made a quick and easy treat that put a new twist on an old favorite: Rice Krispie Treats with Browned Butter and Sea Salt. GENIUS! Why didn't someone think of this before? By simply browning the butter to a nutty, caramel color and swapping slightly tangy sea salt for regular salt...well, it makes ALL the difference in the world! Oh, they don't look any different, but the flavor is improved exponentially. And for those of us who love that sweet-salty combo, these treats are like CRACK! I made six batches in rapid succession, flash-chilling them in the open-air blast chiller that is my front porch, cut and individually wrapped them, then bagged them up in winter-themed Ziploc baggies. TA-DAH! Ready for the cookie party with limited cooking facilities! You have to try these...

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 16 2-inch squares or 32 1- x 2-inch small bars

4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)

Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning; the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I liked to use a piece of waxed or parchment paper that I’ve sprayed with oil to press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners, though a silicon spatula works almost as well. (Gina's Note: Slightly dampen your hands,then just press with your fingertips.Works like a charm!)

Let cool then cut into squares.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not pay homage to the delicious grub that we had at the luncheon. With hosts named Padula, you have to KNOW that we got some fantastic Italian fare! We started with a lovely green salad with dried fruits and nuts mixed in, then there were two kinds of stromboli--ham and pepperoni--and also chicken parmesan with angel hair pasta and marinara. SO YUMMY!

And naturally, Janice's daughter and co-hostess, Dominica, baked up a storm for the affair, and shared an entire platter of beautiful and DELICIOUS Christmas cookies with us for dessert, as befitting the occasion. They were all so good, but two of the cookies really stood out to me, both coming from the Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Cookie Book. And both were types of shortbread, which should come as no surprise to those who know me or my blog, as shortbreads are my very favorite kind of cookie. The first was a maraschino cherry shortbread cookie that was very tasty (even without a dip in white chocolate as directed in the original recipe) and SO pretty with the flecks of red throughout...perfect for holiday gift-giving! The other cookie was my absolute FAVORITE edible item of the entire event, Chocolate-Pistachio Trees. In fact, they were SO good, I am thinking about making the same recipe in heart shapes for my friends and co-workers at Valentine's Day (note to self). Actually, come to think of it, the cherry shortbread--with its red and pink hues--would also be perfect for valentines if made into heart shapes (second note to self). And if any local friends and/or co-workers are reading this, please do try to act surprised come February. ;-)

White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
(Source and Photo Credit:
Better Homes and Gardens)

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
5. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.
6. To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Chocolate-Pistachio Trees
(Source and Photo Credit:
Better Homes and Gardens)

1 cup butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 cup ground pistachio nuts

1. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar; heat and stir over low heat until butter is melted. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool mixture for 15 minutes. Stir in egg, flour, and cocoa powder until mixture is combined. Stir in the 3/4 cup pistachio nuts. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill about 30 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough, half at a time, to a 1/4-inch thickness. Using a tree-shape cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake in preheated oven about 9 minutes or until edges are firm. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.
4. In a heavy small saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and shortening; heat and stir over low heat until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Dip one-third of each cookie into chocolate mixture; roll edges of cookie in ground pistachio nuts.

Makes about 48 cookies.

To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Hampers said...

Nice blog. Thanks for sharing the recipe of Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats. It was nice going through your blog.

Anonymous said...

Great post. This is why I have been missing you. Hope all is going well as you settle into your new place.
Happy New Year!
Seventies Girl

solid wood furniture said...

What a nice post! Thanks for sharing! Your blog is something I always wait for. Keep it up!

Just the Right Size said...

Those cherry shorbread cookies look divine! (Note to self...must copy recipe!)

Caleb said...

I found your food blog going through a few links. Glad I ran into it. Didn’t know that the food blog/recipe community was so big online. I love your posts!

I was wondering if you would like to exchange links. I’ll drop yours on my site and you drop mine on yours. Email at or stop by my site and drop a comment. Let me know if you would like to do a link exchange.