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Culinary Spotlight: Sweet Spot For The Holidays

Photos By Nolan Schmidt

When I was a child, Christmas was all about the gifts. Sleeping the night before was nearly impossible because I needed to know what was under that dang tree. Now, though thoughtful or handmade gifts are wonderful, I don’t really get all jazzed up about them. For me, this time of year is all about food and family.

Sometimes we need a set reason like the holidays to visit family or spend time with friends. I come from a family where the seasonal meal has many required dishes that are part of our festive tradition. Jello has somehow made its way off the list but I’m sure it’ll make a comeback. Now, whether it’s because we want it or because we’re being nostalgic, only time will tell.

We’ve got a vegetable dish with half a box (more if I’m in charge of making it) of Cheez-It crackers crushed on top with melted butter. And even though it’s made in a microwave, it’s dang good. These types of recipes will always have a place at the table but I like to use the holidays as a reason to not only appreciate our traditional recipes but try some new ones as well.

One year I took an ancestral dive into my Polish heritage and made pierniki and rugelach. Both were delightful and were accompanied by traditional sweets like pumpkin bread and sugar cookies. This year I’m bringing my all-time traditional favorite shortbread cookies and introducing a new dessert that came across my radar a few months back that I have finally made the time to make; a Brazilian confection enjoyed at celebrations throughout the year known as brigadeiro.

The best part of both these desserts is how few ingredients each requires, many which you likely have on hand, and the textural experiences. The shortbread cookies are crisp, buttery and can be cut into magical wintery shapes that are covered in chocolate, caramel and sprinkles.

The key to making a successful shortbread cookie is using cold butter and not overmixing your dough. You want to keep the butter cold to help create the signature crisp and flake of shortbread. The brigadeiro took me a few tries to get it right. I did the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” this one; too soft, too firm and finally got it just right. The best part is, it tasted good in all three variations, however, it’s much easier to eat when prepared properly.

I challenge you to bring something new to the table this holiday season and may your 2019 end and the new year begin on sweet notes!

Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Makes about 24 -3” diameter cookies
Recipe Notes: Keep your butter cold, using a stand mixer or hand mixer works best and don’t over mix!

Ingredients:

16T. Unsalted butter, cold and cut into ¼” cubes
1/2c. Sugar
1/2t. Salt
2-1/3c. All Purpose Flour
Sprinkles, chocolate, decorations, etc.

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 350F
• Place sugar, salt and cubed butter in bowl. With mixer on medium speed, stir just until mixture is creamed. You do not want to whip it as that would heat up the butter.
• Reduce speed to medium-low. Slowly sprinkle flour into the mixer bowl and mix until it begins to pull together and barely starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
• Lightly flour work surface. Place dough on work surface and knead briefly until it forms a ball. You can cut the dough in half and work in smaller batches to make it easier. Roll dough out to roughly ¼” thickness. Cut to desired shape and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
• These cookies do not spread much so you can place them about 1-2” apart. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely before decorating. I often dip them halfway in melted chocolate and add sprinkles for color.

Brigadeiro Recipe

Makes about 24 -3” diameter cookies
Recipe Notes: Be patient with this one and do not increase your temp to make it cook faster!

Ingredients:

1-14oz. Can sweetened condensed milk
3T. Cocoa powder, sifted
2T. Butter + more for hands
Pinch of salt
Chocolate sprinkles, or sprinkles of your choice
Mini foil cupcake liners

Directions:

• In heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan, melt 2T. butter over mediumlow heat.
• Once butter is melted, add salt and the entire can of sweetened condensed milk and stir.
• Add sifted cocoa powder and stir. And keep stirring. And don’t stop stirring!
• Keeping the temperature at medium-low and stirring constantly, make sure to scrape the sides as well as the bottom of the pan to prevent burning.
• You will know when the mixture is ready by running your spoon along the bottom of the pan. If it takes 2-3 seconds for the mixture to fill that void back in, it’s ready. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes.
• Remove from heat and pour into a glass dish or plate. Let cool completely, 30-45 minutes. You can also try it warm, which is quite tasty
• Place sprinkles in a shallow bowl (the dark chocolate sprinkles by DeRuijter from Holland are so delicious I sometimes eat them by the spoonful).
• Lightly butter hands to prevent sticking and portion the cooled mixture into 1T. scoops. Roll into smooth balls and roll in sprinkles, coating entire surface. Place in cupcake liners and serve at room temperature. These keep for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container.

Casey Steele

Written by Casey Steele

Casey Steele helped found Square One with a vision to offer professional commercial kitchen space to up-and-coming food businesses. Casey teaches several classes at Square One while managing the facility, making her quite the foodie pro.

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