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Honey Cookies for Your Valentine Honey

IMG 1821 Edited Honey Cookies for Your Valentine Honey

For no particular reason, I started to make heart-shaped cookies near Valentine’s Day when I was in college. I cut the cookies from a tube of sugar cookie dough and slathered them with icing bought in small plastic tubs. I shared a few cookies with my roommates, and I ate my fair share of the cookies. I also brought a plate of the cookies to my great-great-aunt Laura’s house, since she she lived in the same city where I went to school.

I was never overwhelmingly close to Aunt Laura. Given she was my grandpa’s aunt, she was always “old” to me, and until I moved to Columbus to go to college, we lived a couple hours’ drive apart. Given I was an able-bodied family member who reduced those couple hours to a couple miles when I moved to attend college, I felt a certain obligation to visit her, but it was an obligation I didn’t really mind. Aunt Laura was a good conversationalist, and to be honest, pretty cool. She graduated from college in 1929(!), taught school, worked at Lazarus, lived in a city, married an older man(!), and lived a life to the ripe old age of 101.

IMG 1860 Edited Honey Cookies for Your Valentine Honey

I’ve long since graduated from college and those tubes and tubs of cookie dough and frosting. This year I made heart-shaped cookies using a recipe in The Complete Cookie by Barry Bluestein. Given Saint Valentine is the Patron Saint of bee keepers and love, I thought a honey cookie to present to your honey would be more fitting than a boring, ol’ sugar cookie. (In addition to other love-related themes, Saint Valentine is also the Patron Saint of epilepsy, fainting, plague and travelers. I don’t know what to make for those. You can read more about Saint Valentine at History.com.)

IMG 1840 Edited Honey Cookies for Your Valentine Honey

I don’t know that chewy is the best description for these honey cookies. They are slightly chewy, but I would describe them as more of a crisp-chew. The dough is incredibly sandy, for lack of better descriptor, and it really takes a while to come together once it is rolled out. I had the most success after I rolled out the cookie dough a few times, and an extra sprinkling of flour really helped cut down on the sticking. The dough needs to sit in the refrigerator ,wrapped tight in a log, for about four hours, so be sure to plan accordingly should you wish to bake a batch.

To decorate, I simply rubbed some sugar on the tops of the honey cookies once they had cooled. I pulsed granulated sugar in my coffee-bean grinder (feel free to use a food processor as that tool is likely more appropriate) to make it super fine. I also colored my sugar at home by rubbing some food color into the sugar. The color, whether liquid or gel, globs onto the sugar, so you really need to rub the color into the sugar. You may want to wear gloves during this step to avoid staining your fingertips. The honey makes the cookies so sweet that icing these lovelies might make them too sweet, but as always, the kitchen is yours!

IMG 1832 Edited Honey Cookies for Your Valentine Honey

Chewy Honey Cookies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup honey
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about one to two minutes.
  3. Add the egg yolk and the honey and beat until well incorporated.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to beat until just combined.
  5. Form the dough into a log, seal in plastic wrap or wax paper, and refrigerate for four hours.
  6. After four hours, remove half of the dough, and leave the other half refrigerated.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thickness.
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into desired shapes, returning unused scraps of dough to the refrigerator to firm as necessary.
  9. Repeat rolling and cutting until all dough is used.
  10. Place the cookies on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned.
  12. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  13. If desired, dust with sugar once cooled.
Notes
¼ teaspoon of cardamom can be added to the cookie batter if desired.

 

Finicky Runeberg Tarts

IMG 1730 Edited Finicky Runeberg Tarts

Some people I know are naturally drawn to the cultures of the far East, others to the countries of South America. I gravitate towards Scandinavia, in particular Finland, and the reason is fairly ridiculous.

It started in March 2006. A few weeks before, I had moved to Charlotte from Tampa, started a graduate school program, started a new job, and knew one person in the city. One Friday night, I was living it up by sitting in my apartment, doing Economics homework in front of the television. A Conan O’Brien episode where he visited Finland came on, and I laughed repeatedly. So, that’s when I decided to like Finland. Whenever I associate laughter (or donuts) with something, I am forever a fan. At times, I am a simpleton.

February 5th marks the birthday of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. As such, I tried my hand at Runeberg Tarts. Legend (i.e. internet research) has it Runeberg’s wife, Fredrika, baked these little lovelies for him to enjoy at breakfast.

My attempt at Runeberg Tarts resulted in something much less lovely. In hindsight, I suppose they weren’t really all that terrible, but I got caught up in related failures that included spilling coffee-twice, dropping nearly every utensil I wanted to used on the floor, and trying to make sense of recipes that called for sugar measured in ml (I eventually realized the authors probably meant dl). I started to think  my icing rings were too thick, but my hand was too shaky to make a nice, thin icing ring. It also didn’t help that I used a mini muffin tin rather than a cylindrical cake mold.  Frustrated, I scrapped the originals and frosted them all. My Runeberg Tarts morphed into mini Runeberg Cakes.

IMG 1782 Edited Finicky Runeberg Tarts

An amateur baker at best, it really peeves when I read a blog where the author laments being self taught, then proceeds to post photos of gorgeous, intricate desserts. Becoming a great baker seems near impossible when I read about lovely dishes that came about with seemingly no effort because let me tell you, every ounce of this blog – the baking, the writing, the photography – is still a giant effort. It pains me to post desserts that didn’t turn out the way I envisioned; desserts like these that I consider fails. But I post them because sometimes I could really benefit from reading someone’s “hey, look how much I screwed up” post.

I certainly wanted to give up yesterday, but in the end, I decided I owed it to myself to keep going. I was fortunate enough to realize though I have not yet mastered nearly as much as I had hoped, and perhaps I never will, quitting is the only sure-fire way to ensure I don’t get to where I want to be.

Though these may not look like a traditional Runeberg Tarts, I assure you they taste delicious. I’ve even been asked by my taster to hide them! Though the base for all Runeberg Tarts recipes uses almond of some sort, there are a lot of ways to boost the flavor. I used ground ginger snaps rather than ground almonds in the batter, and I added almond extract as flavor to both the batter and sugar syrup. Other recipes call for additional spices, primarily cinnamon, cardamon, or cloves, and other flavorings, like rum or amaretto.

I used a pastry bag fitted with a tip 230 to fill the tarts with raspberry preserves before topping the muffins. For the large frosting ring seen in this post, I used a round tip 12, though round tips 5 and 3 would probably be better suited to the task. I used leftover frosting I had on hand, but most recipes I came across simply suggested mixing small amounts of water, confectioners’ sugar, and a dash of almond extract for flavor.  Have fun experimenting!

IMG 1783 Edited Finicky Runeberg Tarts

Runeberg Tarts
 
Serves: 14 mini-muffins
Ingredients
  • For the Tarts
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ cup crushed ginger snaps
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • Raspberry Preserves
  • White Icing
  • For the Syrup
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour, ginger snaps, and baking powder and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and the almond extract and mix until combined.
  4. Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix until incorporated.
  5. Spray a mini-muffin tin with vegetable spray and fill muffin cups about ¾ full with the batter.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin/tart comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool for five to 10 minutes, then use a toothpick to poke a few holes in each muffin/tart.
  8. While the muffins cool, boil ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, and 1 teaspoon almond extract.
  9. Pour the syrup over each muffin/tart and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  10. If desired fill each muffin/tart with a small amount of raspberry preserves.
  11. Top each muffin/tart with raspberry preserves and held in place by a ring of white icing.
Notes
To make the icing for the ring, mix a small amount of confectioners’ sugar with a small amount of water and almond extract.

 

Homemade Soft Pretzels

SAM 5871 Edited Homemade Soft Pretzels

Need a last minute snack idea for the Super Bowl this Sunday? Homemade soft pretzels are a sure bet. I love soft pretzels. They are my snack of choice to purchase at a sporting event or if I need a bite to eat while shopping at the mall. I like them with salt or without salt. I like to dip soft pretzels in melted cheese, coat them in mustard, or eat them plain – I just plain like them!

SAM 5862 Edited Homemade Soft Pretzels

The process of making homemade soft pretzels is similar to that of making bagels. Mix a yeast dough, allow the dough to rest, then shape, boil, and bake. A word of caution, the pretzels are very, very slippery when they come out of the boiling water. I used a slotted spatula to remove the pretzels from the boiling water, and moving too quickly rocketed one pretzel off the spatula and onto the floor. This was doubly sad since I was convinced that pretzel has the prettiest twist.

I used a recipe from Bobby Flay of Food Network. Alton Brown of Food Network also has a soft pretzel recipe that I would like to try the next time in an effort to conduct my own Food Network recipe throwdown of sorts.  I substituted one and a half cups of whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour with no immediately noticeable effects. I say ” immediately” as the flavor of the whole wheat flour became more pronounced after the pretzels sat a day or two. I am very sensitive to the taste of whole wheat flour (I think it tastes a bit like dirt, though I don’t eat dirt, so a more accurate description is I think it tastes like dirt smells), so I liked the pretzels fresh or with only the all-purpose flour.

SAM 5880 Edited Homemade Soft Pretzels

I was fully intimidated when it came time to twist the pretzels, but it turns out this was an incredibly simple step, and there are a lot of video and photo tutorials available on the web. I found a post on The Kitchn especially helpful. In the photo above, you can see how differently the pretzels turn out with a varying number of twists and lengths. I wrote the recipe in its original form, calling for 22 inch ropes to yield eight pretzels, but I found I liked using a slightly shorter rope for twisting a slightly shorter pretzel.

Homemade soft pretzels are yet another DIY recipe I approached with trepidation and quickly learned the fear was all in my head. I assure you, making soft pretzels at home is both easy and inexpensive, and homemade soft pretzels taste just like the soft pretzels you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. If well wrapped, they also freeze and reheat fairly well. So if you have leftovers from your Super Bowl snacking, you can enjoy soft pretzels again another time. Happy snacking!

SAM 5876 Edited e1327716492790 Homemade Soft Pretzels

5.0 from 1 reviews

Homemade Soft Pretzels
 
Author:
Recipe type: snack
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2½ teaspoons salt
  • 4½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 quarts water
  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons cold water
  • Coarse salt
Instructions
  1. Combine the 1½ cups warm (not hot!) water, brown sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until combined. Allow to sit for five minutes.
  2. Add the salt and flour and mix with the dough hook on low speed until combined.
  3. Increase the speed to medium and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. If the dough appears very wet, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly flouered surface, then knead into a ball with your hands.
  6. Place the ball of dough into a bowl coated with the vegetable oil, and turn the dough in the bowl to coat.
  7. Cover the dough with a clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm area until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  8. After one hour, bring the water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat.
  9. When the water is boiling, add the baking soda.
  10. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface.
  11. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces.
  12. Roll each piece into a rope measuring about 22 inches
  13. To shape, pull each end of the rope up toward the center. Twist the right side across the left one or two times, then lay the twisted ends down towards the center of the rope.
  14. Place the pretzels, one or two at a time, in the boiling water and baking soda solution.
  15. Boil for 30 seconds, and carefully use a spoon to splash the tops of the pretzels with the water.
  16. Remove the pretzels with a large flat slotted spatula (they will be slick!).
  17. Place the pretzels on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  18. Brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg wash and season liberally with salt.
  19. Bake at 425 degrees F until golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.