21 January 2009
Honestly, there's not too much happening around these parts. But I did want to tell you about these cookies, which also come from my latest lovely gift. I'd never made elephant ears before. When I was in the 6th grade, during the school's arts week, Mr. Onofrey ran the cooking module, and had made his own puff pastry at home, by himself. I was amazed--especially when he pulled out elephant ears, light and flaky and buttery and sugary and crisp and caramely and just. so. amazing. So amazing that I still have the recipe packet that he wrote out and photocopied for everyone who attended the module.
After that, I've been wrecked on puff pastry. I find the frozen kind never very good (or even very easy to work with, for that matter), but I really do love elephant ears. So when I saw a recipe for some, without actually having to make puff pastry, I was interested. Very interested, in fact. I was so interested that I even overlooked the fact that there is a whole tube of almond paste in the recipe. And then proceeded to make it, even though I wasn't convinced that almond paste in elephant ears would be the best route to go. And no spices.
But I was so so so wrong. They are delicious. And worth every ounce of almond paste.
If you choose to make these cookies (and you should), I have a very very important footnote. If you make the filling ahead of time, and do not let it sit to room temperature, which is hard to do, since the dough and the filling warm at different rates, you may have to pull out large-ish chunks of the filling and roll it out with a pin so it is nice and thin, and then kind of patchwork it onto the dough. A metal spatula is NOT going to cut it, especially if the dough is rolled out and rather malleable. But the patchworking seemed to work for me... so perhaps you can make it work for you?
Jumbo Almond Elephant Ears, adapted from bigfatcookies
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
7 ounces almond paste, broken or cut into 12 pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons heavy (whipping) cream or milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
approximately 1 cup granulated sugar, for rolling
prepare the dough
1. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Use a pastry blender to combine the flour mixture and butter, until the butter pieces are the size of small lima beans or so the butter pieces will be different sizes, and there will be some loose flour.
2. Add the sour cream and mix in with a spoon for about 2 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. Form the dough into a smooth ball and flatten it into a rectangle about 8 by 5 inches. You will see small pieces of butter in the dough; that is good. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes to rest and firm the dough. You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but then be sure to let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour so it is soft enough to roll out easily.
prepare the filling
1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the almond paste and butter until smooth. Mix in the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla, and almond extract until blended to a smooth, soft mixture. Likewise, you could make the filling in a food processor, and beginning with a few on/off bursts, process until a smooth mixtures forms, about 1 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and set aside at room temperature for up to 1 hour or refrigerate if leaving overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
3. Unwrap the dough. Lightly sprinkle flour and sugar on the rolling pin and rolling surface. Roll dough to a 14 x 12 inch rectangle. Don't flip the dough over while rolling, but lift and turn several times as your roll it to prevent it from sticking to the rolling surface. Use a thin metal spatula to spread the filling in a thin layer over the dough. Turn the dough, if necessary, so a short side faces you.
4. Measuring along the 14-inch sides, mark the center of the dough. Rolling from the 12-inch edge that is closest to you, roll the dough like a jelly roll just the marked center. Then roll the far side towards the center until the two rolls meet. you will have a double log of filled dough that is smoothly attached on the bottom side; turn so that side is up, for easier cutting.
5. Press the ends of the log to smooth them, and use a large, sharp knife to cut the log into twelve 1-inch-thick slices. Dip both sides of each slice in sugar. Roll out each slice of dough to a large butterfly shape, about 4 x 5 inches, and about 3/16-inch thick, sprinkling the rolling pin as necessary with sugar. The cookies will not all be exactly the same size. Use a large spatula to place the cookies at least 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with about 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops are evenly light brown, about 15 minutes. The cookies will spread about 1 inch and rise slightly. The filling may bubble up slightly on some of the cookies and have a few darker spots scattered on them. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then use a large metal spatula to carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. They outsides of the sugar-coated cookies will become very crisp as they cool.
Cookies can be stored in a singer layer in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.