Kourabiedes

DSC_0172Every year in the past I have provided readers several non-traditional holiday cookie recipes that are great to offer on holiday dessert tables or pass at holiday related functions. These non-traditional cookies help bring variety to the plethora of sugar cookies typically found decorating dinner tables or being passed at holiday affairs. I am not in any way discounting a sugar cookies worthiness of being served during the holidays as I too love them and look forward to my mother’s every year. However, I do like to try new things and venture outside of the typical so it is always nice to have something new alongside of a childhood favorite.

With that said, I slacked this year and only brought readers one non-traditional offering and it wasn’t even a cookie, it was the Greek jam tart Pasta Flora. I did make several cookies during the holidays that most families would not consider part of the norm so I would like to share these with you. Although you will not have the time to make them for any holiday this year as they have all since passed, perhaps you may try them now and decide if you would like to offer them next year at your holiday events.

DSC_0179The cookie for this entry that I am anxious to share is a classic Christmas dessert staple for Greeks and is known by the name Kourabiedes. These festive, soft delights are butter cookies drenched in the sweetness of confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar). My daughter devoured so many to the point I began to doubt the study that confirmed sugar does not make kids hyper. Along with attracting kids like a magnet, they are very easy to prepare and will add the perfect holiday theme to any table with their snowy appearance.

Kourabiedes

(Greek Christmas Butter Cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 9 oz. Butter; room temperature
  • 3.5 oz. Confectioners’ Sugar; plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tbsp. Ouzo or Brandy
  • 4 oz. Sliced Almonds; toasted
  • 16 oz. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder

 

Formula:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  2. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until it becomes light and creamy. Add the vanilla and ouzo/brandy, mixing until just incorporated. Add the toasted almonds and again mix until just incorporated.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and the baking powder. Do not skip this step as it is detrimental to the final texture of the cookies. Slowly add the sifted flour mixture to the creamed butter in 3 additions. Mix together until the dough is combined, soft, and easy to work with. If the dough appears too sticky and hard to work with, add up to no more than 2 ounces of sifted flour until the desired texture is achieved.
  4. To form the Kourabiedes, roll 1 to 2 tbsp. of dough into a ball between your palms and place on the prepared baking sheet. In the middle of the cookie dough ball, push down with your finger to form a small dimple in the surface. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie on the baking sheet. Bake cookies for about 20 minutes or until they take on a very light golden hue. Do not overcook them as they should not look golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Do not try to remove them from the sheet immediately as the cookies will break if they are still warm and they will not be thoroughly cooked.
  5. Once the cookies have cooled, remove them from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Continue forming Kourabiedes as in step 4 until all the dough has been used. Once all the cookies have cooled completely, place a few cups of confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, roll the cookies in the sugar so that the sugar coats on all sides. Before serving, place the cookies on a platter and sift a generous amount of confectioners’ sugar over the cookies.

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2015

 

Sugar & Spice Apple Turnovers

In most areas of the country, the leaves have fallen, temperatures feel closer to winter, and most importantly, the orchards have been cleared of their fruit before the frost and measurable snow sweeps in. Perhaps the two most significant fruits which remind me of fall are the apple and orange. Having already covered oranges in my previous post, I move on to apples. Since it is the holidays and time is certainly limited for all, finding a formula which is quick and simple to make is dire. These apple turnovers are sure to please with their comforting sweetness, warming spice, and short preparation time.

Although I enjoy the better flavor and texture of homemade puff pastry, who honestly has the time or patience these days to do such a laborous task. Certainly not I!!! For those never have attempted making homemade puff pastry, I will give you a word of wisdom. For the average home baker, the frozen stuff is just as good 😉 I say this because I have personally done the homemade version of puff pastry in my Bread’s class at Le Cordon Bleu, and I know what goes into this process. Believe me, it is not fun. Of course once those turnovers come out of the oven they certainly are worthwhile having known the process it took to get to that point but then you forgo your waistline as you feel compelled to eat every last one of those suckers knowing you worked so hard at them. Up you go 10 pounds like that. I will describe the process of making homemade puff pastry so those who have no idea what I’m talking about can get a better understanding of its complexity. First step of the process is to mix up your dough. Next it is rolled thin and into a large rectangle then spread with heaping amounts of butter. *Another quick word of wisdom…if you make this homemade you will never want to eat a turnover again because the amounts of butter which go into puff pastry can be nauseating. Continuing on with the process, the dough is folded over itself to cover the dough. This is called the puff pastries first turn. There need to be at least four turns in this process before you can move on to cutting the shapes for turnovers and after each turn the dough must rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. It is a time consuming and especially aggravating process when your dough decides to tear on the last turn exposing your butter pack in the center as did mine in class. That is why I choose use the trusty and reliable frozen puff pastry from Pepperidge Farm for this formula.

So with all of that said, we will begin this formula by thawing our frozen puff pastry sheets. Besides, even the greatest pastry chefs take shortcuts sometimes. It’s nonsense to believe they don’t. Bakery profits can double with little tricks such as these. Another trick of this formula is making use of all the apple has to offer. Not only will I use the apple for the filling, but also the juice it excretes. Less waste = more profits for businesses and the better the home cook feels about baking at home more often. It is important when buying apples to select a variety which can hold up to the harsh heat without turning to mush. The best choice for this formula is Granny Smith Apples. This variety is firm enough to hold it’s shape and also provides a tartness which compliments the sweetness added later. Now that we have the correct apple variety, let’s make sure it’s prepared properly. If left sliced, the apple would not cook all the way through before the puff pastry would essentially burn. Well unless the apple is sliced extremely thin but who has the patience or fingers to spare??? I certainly don’t and refuse to subject my stubby yet precious fingers to knicks with each knife slice trying to achieve such a silly feat. So instead the food processor is yet again a trusty reliable friend. With a few pulses, the apples come out a rough small dice. The perfect size for filling to give that slight crispness we love about apples but also making sure they soften in the short cooking time.

Once the apples are chopped, it is important to strain them for a few minutes. This rids the filling of excess juice which would make the filling runny and the puff pastry soggy. Both no good. And don’t throw out that excess juice. We will need it later. Make use of anything and everything. Remember the pastry chef can make or break a restaurant. Same applies to a household. Can make or break you. If it breaks you to bake at home you wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. So conserve and get creative. That juice will be our glue to hold the turnovers together and be a low-fat alternative to spread on the top for color, flavor and again glue for the sugar and spice topping as opposed to the typical choice of butter/margarine. Now apples alone wasn’t going to cut it for the sole component of the filling, especially in their smaller state. The ultimate staple I use for toast came in handy for this formula. It gives the apples a much desired flavor boost and brings all the pieces together into a thick and delightful filling. What is this secret ingredient you ask??? Why Apple butter of course. But as always if you don’t have apple butter on hand as I do or it’s difficult to find at your local grocer, you can certainly use applesauce as a suitable substitute. If using applesauce I prefer the spiced variety over plain. It will usually state on the box somewhere that it contains cinnamon. Musselmanns being my preferred brand although any will give great results.

*A few quick notes before I present the formula: If you don’t have a food processor, don’t result to slicing the apples or chopping them by hand. Run them across the coarse side of a grater. The recipe can easily be doubled or cut in half for your desired amount. If you need to make these ahead of time, go ahead and follow the formula as directed, filling the puff pastry, folding them over and freezing them on a baking sheet. Once completely frozen you can transfer them to a more space friendly airtight container or freezer bag. They can be stored up to 1 month. When ready to bake, thaw the turnovers at room temperature for about 20 minutes then proceed with the formula.

Sugar & Spice Apple Turnovers

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • Pinch of Ground Cloves
  • 2 Granny Smith Apples; peeled, cored, & chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 cup Apple Butter
  • 1 pkg. (2 sheets) Frozen Puff Pastry; thawed
  • All-Purpose Flour; For dusting

Procedure:

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle & lower-middle positions. Heat oven to 400°. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
  2. Pulse the apples, remaining sugar, lemon juice, and salt in food processor until roughly chopped. Set a fine mesh sieve/strainer over a small bowl. Place apple mixture in sieve. Allow the apple mixture to rest/strain for 5 minutes in sieve. Reserve juice. Transfer apple mixture to a bowl and stir in apple butter.
  3. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 10 in. square. Cut the dough into four 5-inch squares. Fill each turnover with strained apple mixture. Brush the edges of each turnover with the reserved apple juice, then fold and crimp edges with a fork to seal. Place turnovers on a plate and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining sheet of puff pastry and apple filling.
  4. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Before transferring turnovers from the plate, brush the tops with reserved apple juice and sprinkle with cinnamon spiced sugar. Place turnovers on sheet pan and bake until evenly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pans halfway through the baking time to prevent oven hotspots and promote even baking. Transfer finished turnovers to a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly. Turnovers are best served warm but can be eaten at room temperature as well.

Special Thanks to: Peter Mendoros & Jeremy Sauer

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011

Egyptian Chocolate Butter Cookies

On this Labor Day, like any other holiday, a heap of decorated cookies must always be present. Traditionally, sugar cookies reign supreme amongst family gatherings but today in this house it is all about the butter cookie. To make the day festive, I chose fun and unique shapes inspired by the style of Ancient Egyptians. To complete the theme through color and flavor, I chose chocolate as the star and a solid basis for gold and red accents.

 To start off on the right foot, knowing your basics about chocolate is key to achieving a desirable rich chocolate flavor and avoiding the typical bland butter cookie. The differences between chocolate varieties lie in the percentage of cocoa solids and fat. For example, the sweetened variety of chocolate, such as bittersweet, only contains 35 percent cocoa solids, which are responsible for the rich chocolate flavor profile we all crave. The remaining percentage consists of sugar and cocoa butter. For this formula, cocoa powder is necessary because it contains up to 90 percent cocoa solids, it won’t alter the texture as melted chocolate does, and best of all it doesn’t contribute added fat.

If you desire an intense chocolate flavor profile as much as I, bloom cocoa powder in butter with a bit of instant espresso. The butter creates more flavor molecules for our taste buds and the espresso powder contains hints of bitterness, a complimentary quality found in cocoa powder. When combined, the warm paste exudes rich, chocolatey goodness.

While in the oven, the chocolate aroma filing into the kitchen through a warm cloud may signify to the novice that the formula is a success, however if all of the chocolate flavor is lost into the air it will make for a bland, crispy bore later. The only hope of saving it would be a tall glass of milk or perfect timing for removal from the oven. Seeing as the dough is a dark hue, this can be a daunting task for the home baker, and often avoided at all costs. Since there is a lack of visual clues such as browning edges, the easiest way to tell if the cookies are done is by gently pressing your finger on the cookie’s center. If there is a slight resistance to the touch, they are ready to be cooled. If left in the oven beyond this point, the edges will darken and the flavor will turn bitter.

 For the best chocolate flavor profile in a butter cookie, I recommend using Dutch-processed cocoa powder, however natural cocoa powder is a suitable substitute. Espresso powder provides an interesting complexity to the cocoa powder, but when in a pickle, instant coffee can be substituted. If you mix up the chocolate butter cookie dough but are unable to bake it the same day, don’t fret… it will keep up to three days refrigerated. Once baked and cooled, the cookies should be dusted with confectioners’ sugar or glazed with chocolate to maintain freshness. Stored properly at room temperature, these cookies will remain fresh up to three days.

Although dusting with confectioners’ sugar is an easy decor option, I chose to decorate these cookies with a thin spread of bittersweet chocolate glaze. Once the glaze set up firmly, I used gold edible luster dust and red piping gel to create design accents relative to the cookie shape and theme of Ancient Egypt. If you are located in a warm and humid environment, it may be necessary to give the decorated cookies a quick blast in the refrigerator to firm the glaze up more quickly. No matter what decor you choose, these chocolate butter cookies are sure to be as fun to make and good to eat as they look…

Chocolate Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 20 tbsp. ( 2 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 2 oz. Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Espresso Powder
  • 7 oz. Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 2 large Egg Yolks
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 11.25 oz. Pastry Flour

Procedure

  1. Melt 4 tbsp. butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa and espresso powder and stir until mixture forms a smooth paste. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the remaining 16 tbsp. butter and sugar. Add the salt and cooled cocoa mixture, mixing on high speed until combined and fluffy. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl once more. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the flour in three parts. Scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition of flour.
  4. Mix until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into three disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the disks until the dough has firmed yet soft enough to roll out, about 45 to 60 minutes.
  5. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 375°. Roll out the dough disks on a lightly floured surface and use desired cookie cutters to create personalized shapes and sizes.
  6. Place cut out shapes 1 in. apart on parchment-lined baking sheet using a metal spatula. Bake until cookies show slight resistance to the touch, about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure to rotate the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. If cookies begin to darken around the edges they have overbaked.
  7. Cool cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheets. Transfer cookies to a wire rack by carefully lifting the parchment from the baking sheet to cool completely. Repeat process until all remaining dough and scraps have rolled, cut and baked.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze

Ingredients

4 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate

4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter

2 tbsp. Corn Syrup

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Procedure

Melt chocolate and butter together. Mix until smooth. Add corn syrup and vanilla and mix until smooth and glossy. Using an offset spatula or back of a large spoon, spread about a teaspoon of glaze over each cookie. Spread the glaze almost to the edge. If the glaze becomes too stiff to spread fluidly, reheat over low heat until smooth Allow the glazed cookies to dry completely before decorating. Use piping gel, edible luster dust or confectioners’ sugar to add a final accent to your personal design. 

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Special thanks to Erika Bruce and my wonderful boyfriend Peter for all the help and support.

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011