Ways to tell you aren't qualified to marry a Jewish guy (Rugelach fail and brown butter thumbprints plus a cookie swap recap ad French Chocolate bark )

Holy cow, it is three recipes in one!  We have an office cookie swap every year and this year I got to be in charge of it since our usual Cookie Czar is on maternity leave.  I always try to do something ambitious for these things and I always forget the lesson that I am a cook, not a baker,  Baking is science, cooking is creative.  I am more creative than scientific which is a bit weird since I am also a type A lawyer.  Anyway, I got my daily email from the Kitchn a few weeks ago and they had a recipe for Rugelach.  Growing up a sheltered New Orleans Irish Catholic girl I had never had such a thing but it looked scrumptious.  Well as you can tell below, it was a fail.  I talked to my pal Jen who actually went to culinary school and actually knows how to bake and knows Rugelach and she suspected my problem was cold butter.  It should have been room temp.  I will recreate these next year with that change.  

I went on to make brown butter thumbprints because 1. I had all the ingredients 2. I know how to make sugar cookies and have before 3. They jumped out at me in Food Network Magazine 4. Who doesn't love brown butter?  They were very good, but not as good as the cookie swap winner Monica's French Chocolate Bark.  Holy cow it was delightful!

You will get the Rugelash, thumbprints and bark recipes below.  But in the meantime, please enjoy the montage of fail and fun!

I decided to fill mine with Apricots, blueberry jam and walnuts.  Only because they were in my pantry.  I like to use up what I have!

Here's where I apparently went wrong, should have let the butter come to room temp.
Pulse the flour and salt a bit.
Add the good stuff.  What a waste of cream cheese!
Mix together an egg yolk and some vanilla.
Here's where the story ends.  It was more the consistency of whipped cream than dough, although the picture doesn't portray that. I immediately threw it all away.  This is very unlike me.
Round Two!  Brown Butter Thumbprint Cookies!

Luckily I have a well stocked pantry.  That Cardamom was from my days in Austin, probably time to throw it out.  Oops, so is the baking powder.  
I like how Trader Joe's Butter looks smaller than a regular stick of butter. It makes you feel better!
Just delicious!  I love brown butter.  It's goes into a pan sauce like a dream too.
Mix your dry ingredients
After about 35 minutes in the freezer you have reconstituted brown butter.
Mix with sugar and hope that settling to the bottom was supposed to happen...
Cream them together and then add dry ingredients.
And we have dough!  I stuck mine in the fridge while I made dinner and so it would be less likely to get warm in my hands.
Unnecessarily roll it out.  You can just pull pieces off of it. 
Roll into little balls and dip in sugar.
Use the bottom of a wooden spoon to make a thumbprint.  Or heck, use your thumb!
Fill the print with jam.  I used blueberry that had been in a Hollygrove Box.  I knew it would come in handy one day!
The finished product.  Feels like Christmas!
The hideous government issued conference room was transformed into a cookie wonderland!
Poor Greg will never live down bringing meringues his first year. Everyone has called him Cookie since!  He was made into the Grinch and got a participation award.  
My lovely girl Monica got first prize!  Her award?  A squirrel in underpants.
Luckily I could sneak a pic before they were all gone!
Our office funny guy/musician made me the butt of his joke Christmas Carol this year.  The song was called "Unhinged" and made fun of my online dating mishaps.  At least the bad dates lead to good stories!  Happy Holidays!  Enjoy the time with your family.  Here's the recipes for some sweet treats!

Rugelach (Via the Kitchn)
Makes 64 cookies

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (8 ounces) cold cream cheese, cubed
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 batch filling (see ideas below)
Powdered sugar

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to mix.  Mix in the cream cheese and butter. Scatter the cubes of cream cheese and butter over the flour. Pulse 10 to 12 times until coarse crumbs form.  Whisk together the vanilla and yolk in a bowl, and the pour them over the butter-flour mixture. Run the processor continuously until the dough starts to clump together and form large curdlike pieces.  Turn the dough out onto the counter and gather the pieces into a ball. Divide into four portions and flatten each into 1-inch thick disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours or up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months (thaw in the refrigerator before using).  When ready to bake the rugelach, preheat the oven to 375°F and prepare your fillings.

Sprinkle your work surface generously with powdered sugar. Take one disk of dough from the refrigerator and let it warm on the counter for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle the surface of the dough and the rolling pin with more powdered sugar. Roll the dough from the center out into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Don't worry if a few cracks form near the edges. Use more powdered sugar as needed to prevent sticking. Spread the filling in a thin layer evenly over the surface of the dough. Make sure it goes right up to the edge of the dough.  Slice the dough into 16 wedges, like a pizza, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Roll up each wedge, beginning at the wide outer edge and moving inward. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure the tip is tucked underneath.

Refrigerate cookies on the baking sheet, 20 minutes. Bake the first tray of cookies until golden-brown, 20-25 minutes. Cool on the sheet, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack. Cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for about a week.

Brown Butter Thumbprint Cookies: (Borrowed from Food Network Magazine)
Makes 28 cookies


2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg
1/3 to 2/3 cup jam

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan, until brown flecks appear and the butter smells nutty, about 7 minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl. Freeze, stirring occasionally, until the butter is spreadable, 35 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Beat the browned butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until the dough comes together. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to indent the centers, pinching together any large cracks (a few small cracks are fine). Refrigerate until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.  Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 375 degrees F. Fill each indentation with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon jam. Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the cookies are set and lightly browned on the bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

French Chocolate Bark (By my friend Monica via the Barefoot Contessa)


10 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or semisweet chocolate chips)
10 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or dark chocolate chips)
Fleur de sel (for light sprinkling) (optional but divine)

Variations for toppings:
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups of trail mixes of your choice
1 cup of banana chips

Melt the semisweet chocolate and half of the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  when just melted, pour int he rest of the dark chocolate pieces and stir until all is melted.  The more you stir, the glossier the chocolate will be.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.  Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. This will make three rectangles.  Sprinkle the toppings over the chocolate and then lightly dust with fleur de sel. Set aside for 2 hours until firm or place in freezer if you are pressed for time. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature or cold.  Or over gelato ;)

Happy Cooking!


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