Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Christmas Cookie Blogs

Due to recovery from knee surgery - how many times will I have to say this? -I cannot follow my usual holiday tradition of cookie baking for my family and Lee's. In past years we baked 12-15 different kinds choosing family traditions and mixing with new and exotic cookies. They would be sorted and boxed according to families and numbers of people and sent across the United States. All told more than 1000 cookies were baked and sent. It is fun and a time filled with spirits of Christmas past, the joy of Christmas present and hope for Christmas futures.

Because I cannot bake I've decided to do a series of posts of Christmas cookies that I have baked for loved ones. There will be a little story with each recipe that talks about the cookie, its tradition or the people that love the cookie.

I am starting off with the youngest generation of folk. Eli and Gabe ages 7 and soon to be 4 live in Seattle. They are great Christmas aficionados and love tradition. Their favorite cookie happens to be grasshopper squares. Grasshopper squares are a lovely combination of chocolate and mint. The boys love this flavor combination and the creamy, minty frosting. The recipe description says, "These cookies fairly explode in the mouth with silky, fudgy chocolate and cool mint ganache. " Yowser! Jen asked for the recipe as she will bake some cookies for the season as her momma couldn't come through. The boys will help her bake and as it is with most child bakers we have to wonder how much will end up on faces and hands and how much cookie will be left. I'll be waiting for pics of baking on their web site in the Picasa gallery.

Please oh please if you choose to bake any of the cookies use high quality ingredients. Follow quantities and directions explicitly. You'll have the best results. I promise.

Okay so I won't keep you waiting a minute more.

Grasshopper Squares adapted from Gourmet

Brownie Layer

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
10 1/2 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate finely chopped (no more than 60% cacao)
1 1/2 C packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 C plus 2 T. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
3/4 tsp. salt

For Mint Ganache
1/2 C heavy cream
10 0z. fine quality white chocolate chopped
2 T. creme de menthe
1 tsp. peppermint extract

For Chocolate Ganache

1 C heavy cream
10 oz. fine quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened) finely chopped

Brownie Layer
Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter a 13 x 9 baking pan and line with two criss-crossed sheets of foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on the sides. Butter foil.

Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a 3 qt. heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined. Whisk in flour, cocoa, and salt until just combined.
Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until set and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs adhering, about 20 minutes.
Cool completely in a pan on a rack 90 minutes.

Mint Ganache
Bring cream to a simmer in a 2-3 qt. saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over white chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Stir in creme de menthe and extract and chill, stirring occasionally until thick, 1 hour.

Chocolate Ganache
Bring cream to a simmer in a 2-3 qt. saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over bittersweet chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Chill, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Assemble layers

Spread mint ganache over brownie layer in a thin even layer using an offset spatula, then chill until firm but still slightly sticky, about 30 minutes.
Spread chocolate ganache over mint and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
Lift dessert out of pan using foil overhang. Run a heavy knife under hot water and wipe dry, then trim 1/4 ' edge off each side of dessert. Cut dessert into small squares and peel foil.

This makes 6 dozen cookies.

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