X for XIAODIANXIN – Chinese Almond Cookies – Day 24


This was one tough letter. There are only a few dishes that begin with the letter X and even fewer that are baked and native to a particular country. I had only two choices - Xiaodianxin which means Cookie in Chinese or any X-mas Cake. I chose to do the cookie and made Chinese Almond Cookies.

X for XIAODIANXIN – CHINA



Chinese Almond cookies are eaten during the Lunar New Year. They are shaped liked coins and symbolize good luck, hence people make or buy these coin-shaped cookies. Made with almond meal/flour these are crumbly rich cookies.

I made my own Almond flour with blanched almonds. I weighed the quantity of blanched almonds needed and then pulsed it with the quantity of sugar in the recipe. If you pulse almonds without the sugar it will turn to butter! So always pulse it with sugar/powdered sugar. You can use Almond meal too which is made with raw almonds and the meal is coarse with specks of brown in it.

The original recipe has egg yolk in it, I decided to leave it out and make these eggless instead. I stuck to the recipe with no other changes and these turned out absolutely melt-in-the-mouth.



You will need:
Makes: 24-26 cookies (half recipe as stated below)
Recipe adapted from here

60 gms blanched almonds (to make the almond flour)
90 gms All-purpose flour
60 gms Granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
½ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Baking soda
75 ml Vegetable oil
Unsalted almonds (to top the cookies)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low. Add the vegetable oil and continue to beat on low until the mixture forms a dough. If the mixture looks crumbly, add a teaspoon of oil at a time until it comes together.



Pinch small pieces of dough and roll into a bowl. Press an almond in the center of the ball, place this on the lined baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough. Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes. 


Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet and then transfer to a rack carefully and cool completely. Store in air-tight container for up to a week.



W for Whole-Wheat Herb Bread – Day 23


For the Letter W, I picked a herby whole-wheat bread from Tuscany, Italy. It has a crisp hard exterior with soft scrumptious bread on the inside. Perfect for dipping in olive oil. We have enjoyed this bread many a time at Italian restaurants. Its hard to resist and we often fill up on this even before we order the main course! :D

W for WHOLE-WHEAT HERB BREAD – ITALY





Italian Bakers call this bread “Pane Integrale”. The name refers to the unadulterated nature of whole-wheat flour. Traditionally Sage is the herb of choice for this bread but since I didn’t have that on hand I used Oregano. The tantalizing aroma of bread baking in the awesome is just something one has to experience. I baked this last night,it was quite therapeutic before going to bed.

You will need:
Makes: 1 medium sized loaf
Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Baking book

1 1/3 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast (7g/2 ¼ tsp)
1 tbsp Olive oil
½ tsp Dried Oregano
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1 ½ cups Whole-Wheat flour
2 to 2 ½ cups Bread flour or All-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl stir together the warm water, yeast, olive oil, salt, oregano and sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes until foamy.




Using a wooden spoon, stir in the whole wheat flour, about ½ cup at a time. Stir in the 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour a little at a time, stir until most of the flour has been absorbed and the dough begins to form a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes) Shape the dough into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl turning once to grease the surface. Cover let rise in a warm place until double (45-60 minutes)

Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet. Shape dough into an 8”x4” inch loaf pan. Place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional flour. Cover and let rise for 30-45 minutes.




Preheat oven to 425F. Using a sharp knife, slash top several times making each cut about ½ inch deep.  Place in pre heated oven. For a crisp crust spray or brush the loaf with cold water every 3 minutes for the first 9 minutes. After 9 minutes turn down the temperature to 375F. Lightly sprinkle the loaf with additional flour. Bake about 20 minutes more or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.


Serve with olive oil topped with cracked pepper.





BAKES FROM AROUND THE WORLD: 

A for ANZAC BISCUITS - AUSTRALIA




V for Viennese Fingers - Day 22


This week seems to be flying much faster than all the other weeks! We are onto Letter V of the mega blogging marathon. Excited about baking for the last few letters of  the alphabet :)


V for VIENNESE FINGERS -AUSTRIA 




These light, buttery crisp cookies dipped in chocolate are native to Vienna. They are typically piped into whirls, baked and then sandwiched with vanilla icing. The recipe for the whirls and the fingers is the same. Some recipes call for egg yolks but I chose to make these eggless. I initially thought of doing the Viennese Whirls but they would be similar to the Lemon Sandwich Cookies so I made these Fingers instead. 




These cookies are different from Vienna Fingers which strangely have no connection to Vienna and have been manufactured by the U.S. Company Keebler, a division of Kellogg's. 

You will need: 
Makes: 24 2-inch long cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
115 gms All-purpose flour
25 gms Powdered sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract 

40gms dark chocolate 
Chopped nuts/ sprinkles (optional) 

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Cream the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract. Then add in the flour and beat until combined. Transfer mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large Rose tip - Wilton 

Pipe mixture onto the lined sheets in a tight wave. Space them about an inch or two apart. The cookies will spread while baking. 




Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Bake one sheet at a time. 

Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. 




Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave in 20-second bursts until smooth and shiny. Dip one end of cookie in the chocolate and set on a parchment lined sheet and allow to harden. If you choose to use nuts or sprinkles, add them while the chocolate is still wet. I used white nonpareils. 

Store cookies in an air tight container. 


BAKES FROM AROUND THE WORLD: 

A for ANZAC BISCUITS - AUSTRALIA





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