My intense fall baking sessions actually begin in August at our summer rental, which has a lovely kitchen and a KitchenAid mixer. The closest market is over 30 minutes away, so I also bring many ingredients and all baking pans, etc. Basically we look like sherpas as we load the car in Boston and fools as we unload it four hours later in Vermont.
Then, when the aromas start filling the cabin, we remember why we went to all the trouble. After making miniature versions of Lisa Yockelson's cakey brownies, I turned my attention to these chocolate-chip mandelbrot (above), a favorite cookie, similar to biscotti, but much easier. They're made with canola oil, and sprinkled on top with cinnamon and sugar. I usually sprinkle them with sparkly white decorating sugar.
I had enough sparkling sugar to make Alice Medrich's crunchy sugar cookies (recipe to follow in a future blog). They're especially delicious.
Then I made a cream cheese and butter pastry for rugelach, and tried to shortcut the time-consuming classic method of making a round, scattering a raisin and brown sugar filling on it, cutting it into triangles, then rolling each one individually. Instead, I formed little jelly rolls, which I cut into 2-inch lengths. They taste good, but they're distinctly uncharming and look a lot like pigs in a blanket. Some wintry night, when the freezer is also looking kind of sorry, the homely rugelach will seem like a treasure.
And finally, these very thin almond cookies, sent in many years ago by Jillian Greene, a reader whose great-grandmother, Jean Fine, gave her the recipe. They won a cookie contest in the Food section and they look very professional.
Butter (for the pan)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup sliced almonds (skinned or unskinned)
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter an 11-by-16-inch jelly roll pan.
2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add the egg yolk and vanilla. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, beat in the flour.
3. Pat the dough into the pan, pressing it into the corners. It will be quite thin, and you may think you don’t have enough; just keep patting.
4. In a bowl, whisk the white until frothy. Spread it on the dough with your fingertips. Sprinkle with the almonds, pressing them onto the dough.
5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the dough is cooked through and the nuts are beginning to brown.
6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.
7. With a long straight knife, make 5 lengthwise cuts in the dough and 7 horizontal cuts to form 48 pieces. Let them cool completely. Use an offset metal spatula to remove them from the pan. Store in an airtight container. Adapted from Jean Fine
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