Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cookie Exchange

Are you hungry yet? Cranberry-chocolate chip cookies and Bouchées aux noix
My office decided to have a cookie exchange this year - something I haven't participated in for many years.

The only thing I did special for the cookies was to toss in some dried cranberries and then, instead of dropping lumps of dough onto the pan, I formed balls.

Although you don't get to taste these treats, I will share the recipe for Bouchées aux noix with you.

The original recipe (which I have modified) was given to me by my neighbour Odette way back when we lived in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and is a well-worn favourite in the Stephen Sibbald Famous Recipe Book. These may be the most the delicious bars I have ever tasted. They are a fair bit of work and incalculable calories, but are worth all of it.

Bouchées aux noix

Preheat oven to 400F.

In food processor, with sharp blade, combine:
2 cups flour
1 cup of COLD butter (or your mixture turns to paste)
6 Tablespoons of sugar

Process until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Dump it into a jelly-roll pan (which I have always called a cookie sheet, but real cookie sheets don't have sides. You will need the sides.). Spread the crumbs evenly across the pan, then gently press them down and into the corners. I use my hand to start with, but then use a large spoon to make the edges smooth.

Bake 5-8 minutes at 400F.

While that is baking, combine the following in the food processor:

3 eggs
1 ½ cups of firmly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoons of vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Pour the mixture into a bowl. It will look like this:
Sort of a foamy liquid.
Stir in:

A total of 1 ½ cups of stuff. The original recipe called for chopped nuts and shredded coconut, but I've always believed that chocolate is a worthwhile addition to any dessert, so I added chocolate chips. And then I wanted something red for Christmas one year, so I added maraschino cherries. Here is what I added this year:

½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup chopped maraschino cherries
¼ cup shredded coconut

You could, of course, do this in the food processor, but I find it chops up all the yummy bits too much. 

By now your crust should be out of the oven and have been cooling on the counter. Carefully pour the topping over the crust, trying to distribute fairly evenly so that all the solid bits don't end up in the middle.

Being careful not to tear the crust, use a spoon to gently push the topping around. I sprinkle on a few nuts (when I use nuts) to alert people who have allergies as well as for decoration. This is what your treat should look like now:

Bake for 10 minutes at 400F. Do NOT undercook or you will end up with a goopy mess. Make sure the top is nicely browned. 

When it first comes out of the oven it will be kind of puffy, but that passes so quickly that I was not able to get a picture. 
The smell is heavenly!

Run a sharp knife along all edges to separate them from the pan while it is still warm, but DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CUT UNTIL IT HAS COOLED. You will just end up with a goopy mess.

Now, to cut these into diamond-shaped bits worthy of their deliciousness. This picture does better than words.
Tip: use a sharp paring knife dipped frequently in a cup of hot water and wiped on a wet cloth to keep your cuts tidy.

Bonus: all the little bits at the edges that form oddly shaped triangles -- those are for the chef.

This recipe doubles well and freezes well.

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