King Arthur Flour
King Arthur Flour
Sure, these gorgeous, gleaming holiday treats from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook (Countryman Press) involve some work, but the results are worth the effort. Once cooled, they can be hung on a Christmas tree, left out for Santa, or fed to ravenous grandchildren.
For the dough:
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
4 ounces (half an 8-ounce package) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
4 cups (17 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the candy centers:
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
A few drops strong flavoring of your choice (optional)
1. To make the dough: In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the cream cheese, vanilla, and egg and beat well.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating until well combined. The dough will be soft; cover and refrigerate it overnight.
3. The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into quarters. Refrigerate three of the pieces until needed. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two or three baking sheets.
4. Roll each piece of dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface.
5. Use a 3 1/2- to 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut the dough, and immediately transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheets, leaving a bit of space between them. Use another shape cutter if you like; just make sure it leaves enough space in the middle to cut out the space for the candy filling. Use a smaller (1-inch or so) cutter in the shape of a circle, heart, star, diamond, or another shape to cut out the centers. A bagel or doughnut cutter works well here—it cuts out the cookie and its center hole at the same time. If the dough isn’t cold enough, refrigerate the sheets and cut out the centers when the dough is a bit easier to work with. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
6. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, or until they’re barely firm and still somewhat pale; they’ll be just lightly browned around the outer edges. Let them cool on the baking sheets.
7. To make the candy centers: Place two or three 1-cup ovenproof glass measuring cups (or any small ovenproof, spouted glass cups) in a 375 degree F oven to warm. In a medium-sized pan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water, and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Next, and without stirring, cook the syrup until it reaches 300 to 310 degrees F (hard-crack stage) on a candy thermometer. Remove the syrup from the heat and take one measuring cup from the oven. Pour one half (or one third) of the syrup into the measuring cup, depending on how many colors of filling you want to make, and stir in the food coloring and flavor of your choice. Leave the remaining syrup in the pan, set over low heat.
8. When the syrup in the cup stops bubbling, hold the cup with a very thick potholder and pour the syrup in a thin, gentle stream to fill the cookie centers. Stop pouring just as the syrup comes up to the top level of the cookie. Be careful; this is an extremely hot process and you may need to take a break halfway through to give your hand a rest. Alternatively, you can use a small (teaspoon) cookie scoop to dip syrup out of the cup and deposit it in the cookie centers; fill the scoop about halfway. This prevents the mild discomfort of holding on to a hot glass for a long time.
9. Use the second and/or third cup and the rest of the syrup, colored and flavored differently, to fill the centers of the remaining cookies. (If you have any leftover syrup, pour it into small rounds on a piece of parchment or aluminum foil to make hard candies.)
10. Let the finished cookies cool completely. Using a metal spatula, loosen them carefully and peel them off the baking sheets. If these cookies are for consumption, store them in a cool, dry place in a single layer in an airtight container. (For show, we’ve left them uncovered for at least 1 month, and they’ve been just as sturdy as ever. Be sure not to store them near a heat source.)
Makes 4 dozen cookies
From The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook © 2004 by King Arthur Flour. Reprinted with permission of The Countryman Press.
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