November 9, 2015

Butter Cookies and a Lesson in Tempering Chocolate

When I was a kid and it was Tết or the holidays I could normally count on a relative or family friend to bring a tin of Delacre Belgian Cookies to the house.  They were such a treat and my favorite cookie from the assortment was the long butter cookie dipped in chocolate.  I'm elated to report that I think I've been able to make a Butter Cookie that is a very legitimate replica at home.

I refrained from making these types of cookies for a long time because I knew it required tempered chocolate.  Believe me when I say chocolate work is my Archilles heel in the realm of baking.  Tempering just seemed to involve too much science, not to mention all the mess that goes along with chocolate.  

But it was while watching an episode of The Great British Bake Off that I finally gathered up the courage to give it a go.  The contestants were working on a chocolate challenge and I noticed that several bakers were using infrared thermometers to temper. Yep, the kind of infrared thermometer found in a  hardware or home improvement store.  How cool!

From a google search I found several techniques to temper chocolate on Valrhona's website, found here.  I ended up using the "seeding" method and got fantastic results.  It is true what they say - the tempered chocolate hardened in mere minutes at room temperature and was shiny and not tacky to the touch.  Why did I avoid it for so long when it was so easy?  Even better, there was no mess to clean up, just one glass bowl.     

The butter cookie recipe is from Gretchen's Bakery and is a basic spritz cookie, a holiday favorite of mine.  To shape the cookies you need either a cookie press or sturdy piping bag and decorating tip.  Just a forewarning though that if you use the piping bag, like I did,  make sure your hands and arms are strong because the dough is stiff.   Good exercise I say!

With my newfound confidence in tempering it's like a whole new world is opening up to me.   I'll say one thing though, these cookies will definitely be making it on this year's Christmas cookie list.

Butter Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter (226g), room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
1 large egg, room temperature (50g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5ml)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole milk (44ml)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (320g)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar on high speed of a stand mixer until light and fluffy about 3 minutes.  
Add the salt, egg and vanilla extract to the butter mixture.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate well.

Add the milk and mix until combined, scrape the sides again.

Add the sifted flour all at once and mix on low speed just until combined.

With a piping bag and large star tip (Ateco #826) or with a cookie press, pipe the dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan spaced about 1 inch apart.

If you feel that your dough is too stiff to pipe, you may add a few tablespoons more milk to the recipe.
To avoid spreading of the dough, you may place the sheet tray of piped cookie dough in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Bake for about 12 - 17 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges.
Cool completely.  Dip in tempered chocolate (instructions here).

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