There are times when I must accept something: I’m not Ina Garten or Martha Stewart.
Sure, I’d like to think that I’m capable of turning out 150 individuals breakfast tarts for an area homeless shelter while knitting a Civil War outfit for a premature baby but, hey, I’m not buoyed by a sizable kitchen staff (or ANY kitchen staff) able to prep and prep and prep all day long. Case in point: this past holiday season. I fantasized about channeling Ina and Martha, whipping out varying cookies of different sizes, textures, and flavors; then wrapping them in individual bags and running about town, passing them out to friends:
“You’re welcome. Really, R-E-A-L-L-Y, it was nothing. Just a little butter and flour.”
In reality, it is something. A lot, in fact. In the end, there was no time and I knew there wouldn’t be any time until I made it to January, that time of the year where there is nothing but, uh, time. Time to make these cookies, inclusive of just a few ingredients but a bit labor intensive as the butter is cooked in two stages and “some assembly is required.” Just like Fisher Price.
The cookies are best if you let them sit for a few days, tightly wrapped in plastic. They keep like this for two week and taste better the longer they sit. The butter takes on an ethereal quality. It’s a sandy-tasting cookie that quickly melts in your mouth. A wonderful combination of flavor and texture.
So, here I am with time on my hands. Time to bake cookies and time to avoid those detox diet resolutions I made just a few weeks ago. Ho-hum.
Gourmet Magazine, December 2005
Makes 20 Cookies
- 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, slightly rounded
- 1/3 cup fruit preserves (your choice. I mix strawberry and raspberry together)
Special equipment: a deep-bowled teaspoon (not a measuring spoon)
Fill kitchen sink with about 2 inches of cold water. Melt butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a rich caramel brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (Butter will initially foam, then dissipate. A thicker foam will appear and cover the surface just before butter begins to brown; stir more frequently toward end of cooking.) Place pan in sink to stop cooking, then cool, stirring frequently, until butter starts to look opaque, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from sink and stir in sugar and vanilla.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and stir into butter mixture until a dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and let stand at cool room temperature 1 to 2 hours (to allow flavors to develop).
Form and bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
Press a piece of dough into bowl of teaspoon, flattening top, then slide out and place, flat side down, on an ungreased baking sheet. (Dough will feel crumbly, but will become cohesive when pressed.) Continue forming cookies and arranging on sheet. Bake cookies until just pale golden, 8 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on sheet on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
While cookies cool, heat preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until just runny, then pour through a sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on solids, and cool completely.
Spread the flat side of a cookie with a thin layer of preserves. Sandwich with flat side of another cookie. Continue with remaining cookies and preserves, then let stand until set, about 45 minutes. Transfer cookies to an airtight container and wait 2 days before eating.
· Dough can be made 12 hours before baking and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature to soften slightly before forming cookies, about 30 minutes. · Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.