St Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, USA
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Elk III, John
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La Belle Cuisine - More Cookie Recipes

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New Orleans Christmas Cookies



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Christmas Cookies in the Shape of Snowmen
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Diane Millsap
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La Belle Cuisine


A baker's dozen

Six pastry chefs and bakers create magic with
sugar cookie girls and gingerbread boys

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA
Thursday, December 09, 2004
By Judy Walker, Food editor

"Baking seems like the purest kind of kitchen alchemy, turning butter and flour
into crispy magic.
This time of year, lots of people find a special joy in trying to recapture that
magic by getting out holiday recipes and cookie cutters they haven't used for
the past 12 months. They often connect their recipes to a beloved ancestor,
reaching back in time with a rolling pin. Yesterday's sweets are created anew,
to become the pleasure of the present and memories for tomorrow.
This year, as a salute to this special time, we give you a special holiday baking section -- and a few new recipes.
Six pastry chefs and bakers accepted our challenge to create an original vision
with sugar cookies and gingerbread.
While baking 600 gingerbread bricks for the playhouse-size gingerbread house
he builds in the famous angel hair lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, executive pastry
chef Thierry Marceaux made sugar cookie girls and gingerbread boys. The classically trained chef decorated a pair, too.

Also participating were:
-- Dana Logsdon Carpenter, who co-owns La Spiga Bakery with her mom, Mary Logsdon, and whose booths at the Crescent City Farmers Market are known
for boxes of assorted Christmas cookies.
-- Ann Dunbar, owner of Anna Banana Catering, whose long experience
includes training under Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse.
-- Joy Jessup, a California Culinary Academy graduate recruited to be pastry
chef at René Bistrot and La Cote Brasserie.
-- Longtime New Orleans pastry chef Mihn Duong, currently at the
Monteleone Hotel, who has made white chocolate bread pudding for
viewers of the Discovery Channel and London and South African TV.
-- Joe Trull, who worked in his grandfather's bakery and was pastry chef at
NOLA for almost 10 years until moving to Elizabeth's this year.

They got out the royal icing, the colored sugar and the pastry bags, and went to work. The results show what you can do with a little imagination and gumdrops."

 * * *

"Bakers in south Louisiana face special challenges, two of the professionals said.
La Spiga has eliminated at least one cookie recipe, a fragile, buttery pecan
finger, because it doesn't hold up well in this climate, Carpenter said.
'Some baking recipes tell you to bake things at too high a temperature,' said
Dunbar. 'It seems like I cook things at a lower temperature than most people do.'
Jessup, who moved here four years ago, said she has found anything normally
baked at 350 degrees does better here at 325.
'It's because we are below sea level,' she said. Because of the humidity, she
also adjusts bread recipes, holding back some liquid at first.
'When you bake cookies, they're only going to stay crispy one day,' Jessup said.
'If you bake them at a lower temperature, 250 to 275, it takes longer to cook, but
it also dries them out to resist humidity longer.' Bake until golden, she said.
Trull, who used to live in the mountains of North Carolina, said he has never had
to make any overall temperature adjustments in the 10 years he has worked in
New Orleans. He said that bakers should get to know their ovens.
'It's one of the those things you have to judge for yourself. My oven here at home cooks differently than my ovens at work, and the two ovens there cook completely differently,' Trull said. 'The temperature on a recipe is a good starting point, and make adjustments from there.'
'Rotate cookie sheets halfway through cooking,' Dunbar said."


" 'The most important thing,' Trull said, 'is starting with fresh, quality ingredients. When it's cookies, to me, it's all about butter.' Use unsalted (also called sweet) butter. Cookies made with liquid sweeteners (honey, molasses, corn or cane
syrup) stay moist and fresh longer.
'Whenever possible, use natural flavorings instead of artificial ones,' Jessup
said. 'You need a lot of patience to be a good baker,' said Dunbar. 'Having the
patience to wait until something is ready to go the next step is key.' "


" 'Make doughs in advance,' advises Carpenter, 'so you don't have to do
everything in one day. Refrigerate or freeze dough.' She said you can even
scoop out cookies and freeze them, unbaked, until you're ready to bake.
First step: Set out cold ingredients to let them come to room temperature.
In a warm kitchen, leave butter or cream cheese out for an hour, Dunbar
said; in a cold room, leave it out overnight, wrapped."

Temperature control

"Chilling dough has many advantages, especially here. Dunbar said buttery
doughs - especially ones for chocolate chip, sugar and Mexican wedding
cookies - should be chilled before baking to prevent excess spreading.
'If you make a hot pie filling, let it cool before putting it in the shell,' she said.
Make the filling a day ahead and refrigerate.
'If you're using puff pastry, make sure it's cold,' Dunbar said in reference to
baked brie. 'Refrigerate it or put it in the freezer. Make sure it's really cold
and the oven is hot, to get it to puff up nicely.' "

Rolling tips

" 'After you cut out shapes with cookie cutters,' Carpenter said, 'cut the
remaining dough into artful diamonds. You won't have to re-roll.'
Marceaux pointed out that parchment paper, useful for lining pans when
baking sticky or delicate doughs, can be re-used two or three times. Or
try the Silpat, or other brands of silicon baking sheet liners. They are
more costly, but are made to be used hundreds of times."


"Marceaux said to have a picture in your mind before starting to decorate.
Look at photographs.
For frosting cookies, 'go from light to dark colors, always. That way, you can
use the same bowl, so you don't have to wash it.' Start with white icing, then
add food coloring to make it, in succession, yellow, orange, red, green, black.
As Duong ices cookies with royal icing (see her gingerbread cookie recipe),
she puts the cookies into the oven briefly after applying each color, to set the
icing before the next color. 'When it's time to eat, it's like candy on a cookie,'
she said.
'One more thing: Practice with the pastry bag,' she said. 'Stick paper onto a
work surface with a bit of oil, and draw designs until you are used to working
with the bag. Then move onto cookies, cakes, or whatever you are decorating.' "


" 'To keep flavors separate in a cookie assortment, stack cookies in muffin cup
papers or otherwise separate them,' Carpenter said.
Stack a few cookies and roll them in wax paper, then fold or twist the ends.
'Paper, paper, paper,' Duong said. Place paper between cookies to cushion
them. Wad plastic wrap or wax paper to fill spaces in boxes.
Cookies 'adapt really well to being frozen if they are wrapped up in airtight containers,' Trull said. 'Put them in a metal tin, wrap that tin really well in
plastic wrap, and they will be good in the freezer for a week or so. When it
comes to holiday baking, it's always good to get a little head start.'
'To refresh and recrisp cookies,' he said, take them out of the freezer and
pop into a 300-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.' "

Just add kids

" 'And,' the bakers added: 'Bake with children. They love it.' Carpenter has two
kids with whom she is baking this season; Dunbar's children love to bake, too.
'I used to bake with my grandmother all the time,' said Jessup, who makes gingerbread houses every season with her 12 nieces and nephews, each of
whom gets to decorate their own birthday cake.
'It takes so much prep time; it really allows them to work with you without
fear of getting burned,' she said. 'It's good for them to get their hands into
the doughs and the sugars, to learn to measure, to start paying attention to
things like that. And they love, love, love to decorate things.' "

Mihn Duong's
Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

2 teaspoons melted butter
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour (Duong uses bread flour), plus
additional for work surface
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening, brown sugar and salt until creamy. Add ginger, then molasses, and mix.
Add egg and beat. In a separate bowl, sift or mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add dry ingredients gradually to wet mixture,
until both are combined thoroughly.
Generously flour a work surface, and lightly dust with flour a rolling pin
and your hands. Divide dough into thirds. Working with one-third at a
time, roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Loosen dough from work surface by
running your hands lightly under it. Cover with a barely damp towel
and let it rest 10 minutes before cutting out shapes. This step prevents
shrinkage. Repeat with remaining dough.
Use nonstick cookie sheets, or butter cookie sheets, or line them with parchment paper. Cut out cookie shapes and transfer them to the baking sheets. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate cookie pans in the oven. Bake
for 25 to 30 minutes total, until golden brown. Remove from oven and
leave on pans until cookies are cooled. Let cookies cool for several
hours before decorating.
Royal icing: With a hand mixer, whip a half pound (half a box) of
powdered sugar with one or two egg whites until the mixture is thicker
than syrup. Add more sugar if needed. As you work, cover the bowl of
icing with a wet towel to keep it from drying. Divide portions into cups
to add food color. Apply with a spatula or pastry bag. Ice the cookies
with a base color, then put them in the oven for about 10 minutes to dry
out and harden before applying the next color. After applying each color,
harden it in the oven for another five minutes.


Ann Dunbar's
Chocolate Charlie Christmas Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

"Anna Banana caterer Ann Dunbar named her variation
on Mexican wedding cookies after local chocolate distributor
Charlie King."

1 pound unsalted butter, slightly cool
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Kahlua or cold drip coffee*
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup roasted pecans
2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, cream cool butter with sugars, mixing until light
and fluffy. Add vanilla and Kahlua. Add remaining ingredients, being
careful not to overmix. Mix just until cocoa looks evenly blended. With
a teaspoon, portion dough onto lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 14
minutes. To test for doneness, lift a warm cookie off the pan. It should
still be fragile, but not falling apart. The chocolate will solidify in 25 to
30 minutes as the cookies cool on the parchment paper. (You can
carefully slide the parchment, with the cookies on it, off baking pans
onto a countertop to cool faster).
To garnish cooled cookies, sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder lightly
over cookies on serving platter.
*Or substitute any favorite liquor or brandy that lends itself to chocolate (Frangelico, Grand Marnier, Nochello)


La Spiga's Shortbread Cookies

"Dana Logsdon Carpenter's recipe makes a VERY large batch, but can be
used as is or flavored different ways. It freezes well, so you can work with
half at a time. The dough is rolled for cutout cookies, pressed into short-
bread pans, or cut in diamond shapes."

2 pounds unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
6 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract*
Flavoring options: 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder;
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder; up to 3/4 cup chopped
crystallized ginger; up to 2 cups chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add sifted flour and salt.
For plain shortbread, add vanilla. (If desired, pick one or two flavoring options; see below.) Wrap dough in plastic, and chill until firm enough
to roll, at least one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pat dough into a disc and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment, or dust well on both sides with powdered sugar. Roll to 1/4-
inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters (or press into short-
bread pans; or cut with a sharp knife or pizza cutter into strips; cut
strips on the diagonal to make diamonds).
Transfer to well-buttered cookie sheets (or cover sheets with parchment paper). Bake until golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.
*To flavor doughs: If using other flavoring options, vanilla is optional.
Mix in wet flavorings with the vanilla, and dry ones after other dry
ingredients. Amounts for flavors are for entire batch; divide as
needed and add, adjusting to taste.

Click for Lagniappe! (another New Orleans cookie recipe)

Featured Archive Recipes:
Gingerbread Biscotti
Gingerbread Cookie Cutouts (Keegan and Lisa)
Emeril's Big Boy Christmas Cookies
Frank Brigtsen's Christmas Cookies
German Spice Icebox Cookies
Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies 
Ruth Moulton's Spice Balls
Speculaas (Dutch Spice Cookies)
Maida Heatter's Christmas Cookies
Laurie Colwin's Classic Shortbread
NOLA's Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

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