Monday, September 24, 2007

Mondays with Maida - French Sugar Fans

French Sugar Fans
Page 254 in the old book / page 273 in the new book

I like these cookies, but I'm not convinced they're worth the effort. Don't get me wrong - they were very good and went over well in the office, but the dough was difficult to handle. They're basically sugar cookies with two big things going for them: their looks and their lemony flavor.

I love the idea of the fan shape, which is particularly suited to serving with ice cream. I also really enjoyed the lemon flavor (from lemon zest). Beyond that, I didn't think they were any better than my favorite sugar cookie, Maida's Plain Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies. I think I would choose to modify that recipe slightly next time I'm looking for a lemony and/or fan-shaped sugar cookie rather than making this one again.

The fan shape is achieved by rolling a portion of the dough just large enough to cut out a circle 8 inches in diameter (I used an 8-inch cake pan as a guide). You can use a pastry cutter to get a ruffly edge, though the dough for this recipe is so soft it tends to accumulate in the little notches of the cutter. The circle is then cut into 8 wedges and radiating lines are pressed into each wedge (I used a bench scraper to do this).

The pretty little fan shape is definitely worth the trouble, I just don't think it needs to be quite so much trouble :-) Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "Delicious! Without knowing the name of the cookie, I said to a fellow staff member, “how attractive; they look like fans”. I could smell and taste the lemon flavor in the cookie and they had just the right amount of sugar on top. The cookie was delightful. Rating - 5.0"

Denny: "Surprisingly good. They are very nice-looking but I could tell they were just a sugar cookie so I was disappointed. The lemon zest changed my mind completely. With the minus 1 no chocolate penalty, I give them a 3. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "Light, buttery, and delicious! Lovely light flavor of lemon with sugar crystals sprinkled on top. Yum! Rating - 5.0"

Terri: "Delicious and artfully beautiful! These would be the perfect cookie to serve with raspberry sorbet! Just the right amount of lemon zest (and I really like lemon in cookies). Rating - 4.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.3

Next week - Swedish Fried Twists

Nutrition Facts

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Connecticut Strippers

Connecticut Strippers
Page 252 in the old book / page 272 in the new book

I'd love to know why these (and last week's) cookies are attributed to the state of Connecticut, but searching on-line for information on cookies called "Connecticut Strippers" is futile at best. Clicking on a link in your search results is far more likely to take you to someplace you don't want to be than to enlighten you on the naming of these cookies. Oh well.

Anyhoo, while the Connecticut part of the name still puzzles me, the stripper part obviously comes from the way in which the cookies are made. As with last week's Connecticut Date Slices, these cookies are formed into long, flattened logs, baked and then sliced.

The cookies are flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar, and have currants and walnuts in them. I ran short of currants and so used a mixture of currants and raisins. They are also topped with a mixture of chopped walnuts, cinnamon and sugar before baking. I'd recommend that when shaping the logs you not just flatten them, but make a very slight depression down the middle. This will help keep the topping in place, which otherwise tends to bounce and roll off.

The cookies were very good, but I think I may have left them in the oven a minute or two too long - I thought they were a little on the dry side. They were still well received by all in the office, even Suzanne (!). Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "Actually, I liked the 'Strippers', even though they had raisins. I really didn’t taste the raisins and enjoyed the cinnamon, currants and nuts. This would be great with coffee. Rating - 4.5"

Denny: "Very good. Tasty and crunchy. I give them a 3.0 after -1 no chocolate penalty. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "These are delish! Wonderful and spicy with the hint of walnuts. Nice and chewy with a sprinkling of sugar on top. Rating - 4.5"

Terri: "These 'strippers' are delicious, but not as chewy as the last cookies from Connecticut. I prefer the spicier and chewier ones from last week to these. But the currants /raisins and walnuts were delicious. Both of these types are great fall cookies with coffee, tea, or hot apple cider! Rating - 4.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.0

Next week - French Sugar Fans

Nutrition Facts

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Connecticut Date Slices

Connecticut Date Slices
Page 250 in the old book / page 270 in the new book

Though not the most photogenic of cookies, these date slices more than make up for their looks with a warm, spicy flavor that is complemented by sweet dates and raisins. Surprisingly, there are no nuts in these cookies, but if you just can't go without, walnuts or pecans would do nicely.

The spicing for these cookies is a little unusual. At first bite you might think the cookies have ginger in them, but instead they have cinnamon, cloves, and Maida Heatter's secret ingredient - mustard powder (this is the third cookie she's used it in). With the spices, molasses, dried fruits and sweet glaze, I thought these cookies were reminiscent of Maida's Hermit Bars.

In fact, these cookies are much like bar cookies, but instead of being baked in a cake pan, the dough is formed into long strips that are baked on cookie sheets (as for biscotti). The strips are then sliced after they've cooled. Easy, homey, and very good!

Here's the panel...

Drucie: "Spicy and moist, and best of all, no nuts! (Which makes them nice and chewy.) The sugary glaze bumps up the sweetness just enough. I like this cookie a lot! Rating - 4.5"

Denny: "Very good, but maybe a little too spicy. Kind of overwhelmed the dates. 3.0 with the minus 1 for no chocolate. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "These have a nice ginger spice cake texture and flavor, definitely enhanced by the dates and raisins. Rating - 4.5"

Terri: "Wow - these are outstanding! Very moist and just spicy enough. These are a combination of ginger, cinnamon, and just the right amount of raisins. Absolutely wonderful with coffee or tea! Rating - 5.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.3

Next week - Connecticut Strippers

Nutrition Facts

Monday, September 03, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Almond Tartlets

Almond Tartlets
Page 248 in the old book / page 269 in the new book

Tartlets again, but this week they're almond. The recipe is very similar to last week's. The filling is the same but for the chocolate and flavorings and the pastry is still shortbread-like, but even richer this go-round with two whole sticks of butter and an egg. I had no problems making these, but the end-product was generally thought to be bland.

The recipe suggests a couple of variations where either candied cherries or pineapple are put under the filling and the finished tartlets are dusted with powdered sugar. I think this would make for some pretty cookies and might be appreciated by those that were bored with these sweet, but (in spite of all the almonds in them) not very almondy cookies.

I had remembered Suzanne's criticism of last week's cookies (she couldn't taste the almond) and was concerned that the fact that my almonds had been in the freezer for a number of months might have deadened their flavor. Whether or not that was the case, the freshly-purchased blanched almonds in these cookies were no more flavorful. Even though I enjoyed these tartlets, I would have to agree that the almond flavor was subdued at best. Perhaps toasted almonds or maybe even almonds with their skins on (unblanched) would convey more flavor. I think a hazelnut version of this cookie would also be nice.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "The Almond Tartlets were the same shape as last week’s cookies and also had the same pie-crust flaky shell. This week I could taste the sweet and crunchiness of the almonds. This was a great cookie with my morning coffee. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "Very plain. Couldn't taste the almonds. -1 for no chocolate gives them a 1.0 in my opinion. Rating - 1.0"

Laura: "Moist and flaky tartlet crust. Almond filling is sweet but nothing terribly exciting (and I love almond flavor). Rating - 3.5"

Terri: "These are very tasty, but not quite as good as the chocolate version from last week. I'm not a chocoholic, and I do love almonds, but this tart seemed a bit bland. Rating - 3.5"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.0

Next week - Connecticut Date Slices

Nutrition Facts

Tea and cookies