Lori's Slice and Bake Chocolate Swirls

As I mentioned in a previous post, my daughter is my official chocolate recipe taster. When she was home last August, I made two Christmas cookie recipes for her to try. I wanted to post both in time for the holidays: the Maxines and Lori's.
They're somewhat similar in ingredients, but they ended up looking entirely different and the flavor wasn't the same either. Trying to get Tracy to decide which she liked better wasn't easy. These particular swirls are softer to eat and I think perhaps were her favorite, although it was a close call on my part to guess and she still won't choose. She loved them both, but for different reasons.
I had frozen both batches, she finished Lori's first (that should tell you something) and then began on Maida Heatter's famous Maxines. She took what was left of those home with her. The almonds in the latter recipe were what changed the look and flavor.
Hope you get a chance to try both....
Lori from The Recipe Girl says her family has been making this cookie for over 40 years and personally I think this recipe will be more popular with your kids (not quite as sophisticated as the Maxines), but both will be  killer cookies for your holiday cookie tray. No way can I decide...I leave it up to you!

Lori's Bake and Slice Chocolate Swirls
From The Recipe Girl

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon shortening (like Crisco)
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups all-purpose flour, measured then sifted
3/4 cup walnuts or almonds, chopped (optional, I didn't use)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a microwave, melt chocolate in 15 minute increments until most of the chips are melted, then stir until it's all melted together. Add the condensed milk and shortening. Stir and set aside to cool.In your electric mixer bowl, cream together butter, salt, vanilla and sugar. Blend in flour and mix well. Add a few drops of milk to help the batter hold together. The dough will come together but will not be sticky.
Divide dough into thirds. Roll out each on floured surface to a 10x6-inch rectangle. Spread each with chocolate filling; sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Roll up, starting with the 10-inch side. (See Lori's notes below. I rolled out on wax paper for less mess and ease of making the rolls.) This next part is tricky: transfer the roll to an ungreased cookie sheet. (I used parchment paper.) You can see I didn't divide my dough evenly! Bake 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown. 

Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cool and wrap in saran wrap.

To serve, cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick. These can be frozen in the whole rolls, then defrosted and sliced later. I sliced and then froze, worked fine.

Lori's Tips:
When finished mixing the dough, if it appears too dry- try placing it inside a large zip baggie and kneading it together to get it nice and held together and ready to roll out.
For a floured surface, try using a flour sack dish towel. This will make it easier to roll as you can lift up the towel and easily help guide the rolling.

For the Christmas holidays, Lori always mixes some red/green sprinkles with the powdered sugar.


Alice Medrich's Seed Cookies

These anise-flavored gems will be an unusual addition to your cookie tray this season. I've made and posted another cookie along this line, but think these are even better. Love them with a cup of tea. 

Alice Medrich's Seed Cookies
From Chewy, Gooey, Crispy Crunchy Cookies by Alice Medrich

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons flaxseeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/4 cup Demerara sugar (or any coarse raw sugar)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons bourbon

Preheat oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
Mix the seeds and Demerara sugar together and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth, but not fluffy. Add the egg and bourbon and then the flour mixture. I did this by hand. Do not over mix.

You can make round cookies or square. 
For round, take a big spoonful of dough and roll it into a ball. Roll it in the seed mixture, place on the parchment and flatten slightly.
To make square cookies:
On a floured board, roll out the dough to an 8 inch square. Sprinkle half the seed mixture on top and press into the dough with a rolling pin. Turn the dough over and repeat on the other side. Cut the dough into whatever size you like. I cut into 8 strips each way, making 64 square cookies. 

For both cookies: place on parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until edges are brown. Reverse the pans in the oven and also reverse racks for even cooking. Cool. These will store airtight for 2 weeks.


Susan's Brussels Sprouts Souffle

Are you like me...always on the lookout for new side dishes for the holidays? My family has their favorites and I'm always happy to make those dishes for them, but I really do like to introduce one new veggie dish each year. Their favorite sprout recipe to date is one I first made many years ago and posted it in 2008 HERE. My family still requests it. But when I saw Susan's recipe for the sprout souffle, I just knew I'd have to make it for the holidays this year. I gave it a test run and my guests loved it. I have no doubt this will soon replace my family's old favorite.

Susan's Brussels Sprouts Souffle
From Savoring Time in the Kitchen

¼ cup butter 
¼ cup all-purpose flour 
½ teaspoon salt 
1 cup milk 
4 egg yolks 
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 
1 10-oz package frozen Brussels sprouts, cooked, drained, and finely chopped (about 2 cups) May use fresh, cooked Brussels Sprouts, of course - do not overcook (I used fresh)
4 egg whites 

Preheat oven to 350F
In a very large  sauce pan melt butter until bubbly and then blend in the flour and salt until well combined. Add the milk all at once and cook quickly till mixture thickens, stirring constantly. 

Beat egg yolks till thick and lemon-colored. Blend some of the hot butter mixture into egg yolks to temper them; return the yolk mixture to the pot and stir rapidly to that the eggs do not curdle. Stir in cheese and finely chopped sprouts. Set pan aside. 

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry and carefully fold into hot mixture. Make certain they are mixed, but do not over-fold.

Turn the mixture into an ungreased 2-quart soufflé dish. 

Bake in 350 degree oven for 40-60 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Susan's notes: May be made the day before and refrigerated after cooling. Allow to come to room temperature and reheat in a 350 oven, covered with aluminum foil until heated through - about 20 minutes.


Maida Heatter's Maxines

Some people think this is the best Christmas cookie ever. That's really saying something, even considering it's a Maida Heatter recipe...she's the queen cookie baker in my book, or books, as I have all of hers.  I think the best thing about her cookbooks are her instructions. Very detailed, which might put people off, but it's worth reading every word. The veriest novice cook can't mess up a Maida Heatter recipe.
I tried this recipe for the first time when my daughter was home last summer. She loves chocolate and I knew would give me a constructive opinion, chocolate-wise. (She gave it a win.) It's a refrigerator cookie, which you all know I love, and has a dark chocolate center studded with almonds, surrounded by a lovely brown sugary cookie batter. And guess what's mixed in with the chocolate? Condensed milk. Honestly, how can this cookie miss?

Cooks note: I froze my first batch after baking them and my daughter ate them out of the freezer with just a little thawing. I promise, they will disappear from your cookie tray.

Maida Heatter's Maxines
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies

Chocolate Log Mixture
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)
1 tablespoon crisco
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup blanched almonds, coarsely cut (each in 4 or 5 pieces)

Brown Sugar Dough
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk

For the log:
Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a medium-sized double boiler over hot water on medium heat, cover, and cook until partially melted. (I did this in the microwave at first for 30 seconds and then in 15 second increments...don't wait until they are all melted...take out of microwave and stir.)  Remove from heat.  If using milk chocolate (I used semi sweet morsels), the mixture will be very stiff.  Don't worry, but work quickly no matter which chocolate you use.  Stir in the condensed milk and the vanilla, then the almonds. The mixture will become somewhat stiff.

Tear off a piece of wax paper about 15 inches long.  Place the dough by large spoonfuls the long way down the middle of the paper, forming a heavy strip about 10 inches long.  Fold the sides of the paper up against the chocolate mixture.  With your hands, press against the paper and shape the mixture into an even round or square roll 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Squeeze while you wrap to get all the air out. Wrap in the wax paper.  Slide a cookie sheet under the paper and transfer to the freezer or refrigerator until firm.

For the cookie:  
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.  In the small bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter.  Add the vanilla and sugar and beat well.  Beat in the egg yolk, and then, gradually, begin adding the sifted dry ingredients.  Add until the batter begins to be crumbly.  Beat only until thoroughly mixed, but not dry. It will look crumbly, remove dough form the mixer and press it together with our hands and it will form into a ball.

Place dough on a piece of wax paper a little more than 12 inches long.  With your hands, shape it into a flattened oblong.  Cover with another long piece of wax paper.  Roll a rolling pin over the top piece of paper to form the dough into an oblong 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.  While rolling, occasionally remove and then replace top wax paper; then invert and do the same with bottom wax paper, in order to keep both pieces of paper smooth and unwrinkled.

Remove the top piece of wax paper.  Unwrap the chocolate roll and center it on the brown sugar dough.  Using the wax paper, lift one long side of the brown sugar dough and press it firmly against the chocolate.  Then lift the other side so that the sides of dough overlap slightly.  If the dough does not fit perfectly, the excess may be cut off and pressed into place where needed.

Enclose the roll in the wax paper, then run your hands firmly over the roll to remove any air trapped between the dough and chocolate mixture.

Rechill the dough only until it is firm enough to slice.  If the dough is frozen firm, it will crack when sliced.
Preheat the oven to 375°.

Unwrap the roll of dough and place it on a cutting board.  With a sharp knife, cut slices 1/2 inch thick — no thinner!  Place the slices flat, 1 inch apart, on parchment paper. Bake about 12 minutes, until cookies are lightly colored.  Reverse sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking to insure even browning.

Let the cookies stand on sheets for a minute or so until firm enough to transfer, then with a wide metal spatula transfer to racks to cool.


Café Johnsonia's Herbed Gruyere Thumbprints

As far as I'm concerned, these are the find of the season. Totally awesome and your guests will gobble them down in no time at all. Doubt you could ever make too many! But the best part? You make them anytime up to six weeks in advance, freeze them, and pop them in the oven at the last minute so your guests will have hot, crunchy, cheesy little bites of heaven. 

Café Johnsonia's Herbed Gruyere Thumbprints
From Cafe Johnsonia

½ cup unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
½ tsp. coarse salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 cup finely shredded Gruyere cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs—thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley
36 ½” cubes Gruyere (8 oz.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Get everything ready to go. Prepare your cookie sheets (you'll need two) and a silpat works best. Chop your herbs and grate your cheese.

Bring butter and salt and 1 cup water to a boil in large saucepan. Add flour. Stir vigorously until incorporated. Cook about 2  minutes or until mixture pulls away from sides and a thin film forms on bottom of pan. Remove from heat, let cool 2 minutes.
Place dough in a large bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon to incorporate each egg before adding the next, about 2 minutes. This takes some elbow grease, but it eventually comes together. Stir in pepper, herbs, and finely shredded cheese.

This is what I did: I sifted a very light coating of flour on the silpat. Then took one of my round cookie cutters (I used the 2 inch one...your choice) and marked rounds on the baking mat. So I then had a nice pattern to follow when piping. I piped 1 ½” wide rosettes 1” apart. After all the dough has been piped onto the baking mat, make a deep indentation in center with dampened thumb. (Use a small bowl of cold water to wet your thumb) Bake until crisp and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Cut your gruyere into small cubes.
Press a cheese cube into each indentation.
Place on a clean baking sheet. Freeze uncovered until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer to an airtight container. Freeze up to 6 weeks.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place thumbprints on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until heated through and cheese is melted—10 to 14 minutes.

Here's a nice kicker: if you're not 100% on board with making pâte à choux or using a pastry bag, go HERE for step by step photos and instructions.


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