Saturday, December 29, 2007


I just found a great way to make my standard croquembouche (meaning roughly "crunch in the mouth") much better. It's a tower of cream puffs glued together with hard crack caramel. You don't really see it at its best here because I made too little caramel and had almost none to make the gorgeous gold filaments encircling the tower. The dish has great aesthetic potential but before this Christmas, once guests started breaking off cream puffs, it got ugly. Since there's not much in the culinary world harder than hard crack caramel, my cream puffs would break and the half-eaten croquembouche would end up looking more like Miss Havisham's wedding cake.

But now, a simple trick fixes all that, after the cream puffs finish baking, turn the oven off and leave them in for 30 minutes as the oven cools. That's it! Now the puffs crack off whole and the tower gets neatly shorter and shorter until all the puffs are gone.

Here's he recipe:

the puffs:
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
6 large eggs

PLace the water and butter into a medium-sized, high-sided sauce pan and heat over medium-high until the butter is totally melted. Add the salt and the flour all at once and stir to combine. It will be very lumpy at first but don't worry, as you stir it will smooth out. Keep stirring until the paste ecomes a thick ball and sounds like it's frying. Take off heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add each egg one-by-one stirring it in until it is totally incorporated before adding the next one. It's the eggs that will make the puffs puff. Once all the eggs have been incorporated, let the dough cool to room temperature while you make the pastry cream.

the pastry cream:

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
4 tbsps flour
1/8 tsp salt

Scald the milk in a medium saucepan. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the sugar, eggs, egg yolk, flour and salt until combined and smooth. Once the milk is scalded, take it off the flame and pour it very slowly into the egg mixture stirring constantly. Pour the egg, milk mixture back into the saucepan and return to the stove at medium heat. Stir constantly until the custard thickly coats the back of your spoon. Take off heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside and cover with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap should touch the surface of the custard so that it does not form a skin. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until completely cooled.

Baking the puffs:

Pre-heat oven to 425F. Spoon enough of the cream puf dough to fill a pastry bag halfway. Using the widest tip (or no tip at all, just the screw-top opening of the pastry bag) squeeze out 1 inch diameter balls of dough onto two greased cookie sheets. It is best to hold the tip very close to the cookie sheet as you squeeze out the dough so that the result is an even dome shape. Once all the dough is used up, dip your fingertip in cold water and smooth out any uneven tips on the domes. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 400F and switch the cookie sheets (top goes to bottom, bottom to top for even baking). And bake for another 20 minutes or until the puffs are very round, puffy and golden-brown. Tuen oven off and let puffs rest for 30 more minutes. Remove and let cool.

* Party preparation tip> The puffs and the pastry cream can be made the day before and the croquembouche can be assembled within 1/2 hour on the day of the party!

With a small tip on the cleaned pastry bag, pour in enough pastry cream to fill the bag up halfway, twist the end of the bag and grip firmly. Poke a small hole in each cream puff with the pointy tip of the pastry bag (you can usually see where the puff is thin, and make the hole there.) and fill each puff about halfway.

the caramel:

3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp water

Have all your filled cream puffs and a cake plate to build the croquembouche on ready. Separate the larger creamp puffs from the smaller ones. The larger will go on the bottom of the tower and the smaller on top. In a small-medium saucepan, place the sugar and sprinkle the water over it. Heat over medium-high. You will see the edges begin to melt and eventually turn golden. I think it's ok to stir a bit the get all the sugar to melt, others disagree saying that it can cause the caramel to get grainy in texture. In my experience this doesn't happen with simple burned sugar hard crack caramel. If we were making soft, chewy cream caranmel, it could pose a problem. So, cook until the caramel turns a medium to light brown and take it off the heat. As you are building the croquembouche you may need to reheat the caramel to make it more liquidy and stickier so do not make it too dark in the beginning. Begin immediately to dip a corner of each larger cream puff in the caramel and place firmly on the plate in a circle. I make a 5-cream puff circle with one puff in the center. Then build upwards. Five cream puffs per layer is a good way to start for the first 3-4 layers, then you can taper as you build up. After you have laid on the lart cream puff I suggest you do what I didn't have a chance to this time: decorate the tower with filaments of caramel swirled around its perimeter. Dip an ordinary fork, into the remaining caramel and move it in a circle around the tower. A very thin stream of quickly hardening caramel will stick to each cream puff it touches making a web of golden filaments. Keep this up dipping the fork and encircling the tower until you are satisfied with the result. Once the tower is decorated it shoud NOt be refrigerated; the caramel filaments will get melty and drippy, and should be eaten within the day.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Superior Babka

If Jerry Seinfeld knew me, he'd be proud. All considered, I think I did rather well for a shiksa on her first attempt at Chocolate babka. I'd never tasted this decadent dessert before making it so I have no nostalgic childhood expectations the way most babka lovers do. The only thing I knew was that Chocolate babka supposedly trumped the lesser cinnamon babka, according to Seinfeld lore. Having wanted to make this for Hannukah, I ended up procrastinating enough to miss it by at least a week and a half, but it seems that this dessert isn't strictly linked to the holiday anyway.

I found the recipe on Deb and Alex's excellent Smitten Kitchen who in turn got it from Martha Stewart, Queen of the Shiksas. So starting out I was in pretty good company. You can click on "Smitten Kitchen" for the recipe, itself.

As for me, I'll just tell you a couple of points about Babka from my first experience:

How to deal with Babka dough: Babka dough falls into the sticky, hard to handle brioche-like category, so I employed the survival tactics I developed to make Finnish pulla, namely resist the temptation to add extra flour and chill before kneading to keep sticking to a minimum. If you have a big Kitchenaid stand mixer like Deb and Martha, you don't even need to worry about this; brioche dough becomes effortless.

The streusel snafu: I may have screwed up the streusel topping. I have faith in Martha and Deb as great cooks so it must have been an error on my part that the topping resembled high-strength concrete rather than something edible. It broke off in big, extremely hard chunks that were not even chewable.

Death by Chocolate?:
Finally the recipe called for more than 2 pounds of semi-sweet chocolate. I even mistakenly forgot one of the chocolate bars I was supposed to put in and the result was still very very rich, almost too much so. I was promised "unseemly amounts of chocolate" and I got them. I'm thinking the next time around I'll go for the cinnamon babka, which might be lighter. As Jerry, himself says, "Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka...Lesser babka - I think not."

All in all, this is a lovely, rich deep dessert that if you have the nerve for it, (and the streusel ability) you'll love. Music to eat Chocolate Babka by: The Hannukah Song by Adam Sandler.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Leftover Turkey Mole

Want a leftover holiday turkey recipe so good it'll make you forget the original dish? Whether you need to get that half a Thanksgiving turkey out of your freezer to make room for Christmas cookie dough, or you're planning ahead for what to do with the extra Christmas turkey, I give you ...Red Mole Poblano (my way with the Mexican ingredients I have left here in Italy)

Ingredients this time around (having made adjustments to fit my pantry):

12 guajillo peppers, seeded (keep the seeds)
8 pasilla peppers
1 big chipotle in adobo
3 large slices of stale white bread
1 sm. white onion
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup almonds
10 cups chicken broth
1 20 oz jar tomato puree
1 sm tomatillo
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Mexican cinnamon
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 large green platano, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
1 tsp plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil or lard
a 3-oz. disk of mexican chocolate
3 dried avocado leaves
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup sugar

So how's that for an ingredients list?

The toasting: Place a large cast-iron skillet on a high flame and slice open the peppers, unfolding them as flat as you can. Dry roast each pepper for about 10 seconds on each side until you see the skin blistering and a wisp or two of smoke. Place each roasted pepper into a bowl of hot water and set aside. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the hot skillet and lay the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves on as well as the peeled and thickly sliced onion. Roast until very dark, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove and let cool. Now, toast the pepper seeds until they are jet black, no really! Do it because this time around I only got them to mahogany brown and the mole color and flavor were a bit more pallid than usual. See medium brown photo. Remove, cool and buzz to a powder in a spice grinder. Now, char the bread slices. You may choose to do this on the dry skillet or on that burnt toast setting on your toaster. You know the one you always thought was ridiculous, 'cause why would anyone voluntarily burn toast? Well, now you know why. It makes your mole rich and deep looking and tasting. Then toast the sesame seeds by shaking the skillet over the flame intil the seeds are dark brown and fragrant. Set aside. Now toast the nuts. Place them all on the skillet and stir frequently to get a rich and even deep brown color. Remove into the same bowl as the sesame seeds. Add a teaspoon of oil to the skillet and fry the plantain on the 2 flat sides along with the tomatillo until medium brown.

The pureeing: Place the soaked pasillas and guajillos along with the chipotle into the bowl of a food processor and puree adding up to 3/4 cup of the turkey stock to allow everything to whizz freely. Pour mix out into a mixing bowl add the cground chile seeds and set aside. Place the roasted onion slices and the now peeled, roasted garlic in the unwashed food processor, whizz for a second or two then add the roasted nuts. Process until the nuts are almost paste then add the tomatoes and process for another 15 seconds to combine everything. Pour out in to a different mixing bowl. Now put the bread, spices, tomatillo and platano into the unwashed processor and puree to a smooth paste with up to 3/4 cup of stock to keep things moving. Once you have a smoothe texture, pour out into a third bowl.

The cauldron:Now it's time to add your three purees into the big mole pot! You're almost there and at least most of your work is over. Pour 1/4 cup of oil or lard into the bottom of a large, heavy pot and heat over medium-high then add the pepper puree and allow to sear noisily while you scrape down the sides and bottom to keep the purtee from burning. Allow to darken to a rich red-brown before adding the tomato-nut puree. Stir to combine and let reduce for about 5 minutes before you add the bread, platano puree. Now, raise to temperature to the highest setting and pour in what remains of the stock. Stir and allow to come to a simmer. Add the chocolate and avocado leaves. Leave at the simmer for 1 hour and 1/2 returning periodically to stir and scrape the sides. to make sure there's no hot point burning. At the end of those 90 minutes, you should have a lovely fragrant, rich dark ruddy red-brown bubbling cauldron. Take out the avocado leaves and add the salt and sugar. Serve over warmed leftover turkey with corn tortillas and a cold beer. Music to slosh leftover turkey in loads of rich brown sauce by: "Thirty Drity Birds", my favorite song by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy St. Lucia's Day! Celebrate With Finnish Pulla

Brioche makes me crabby. It's not the eating, the rich slightly sweet eggy dough is a pretty good mood booster but the making that's the problem. All the yummy rich ingredients, the eggs, the butter, make for the stickiest dough. Kneading something that is more adhesive than cohesive, that seems to want to glom onto your fingers more than stay in the bowl, just makes me crazy. My ordeal with brioche-like challah will fill you in on the details. So it was with a little annoyance and way too much flour that I made my second attempt at pulla bread from Finland. Looks pretty good, doesn't it? Well is isn't. The extra flour was a huge mistake; I was relatively happy kneading the controllable dough but the end result was solid. Doughy. Not light, stretchy and eggy. Normally, the lovely thing about pulla is the way the house fills with the scent of cardamom when it's baking, and of course the taste. Along with coffee and maybe some jam, it makes a lovely holiday morning breakfast, especially if your Scandinavian older sister serves it to you while wearing a crown of real candles. So it's not like you shouldn't try this. You should, really.

So, here's my do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do recipe pulled mainly from Finnish-American chef, Beatrice Ojakangas's entry in the Baking With Julia cookbook with a couple additions and changes of my own to help make this recipe workable without all the extra flour.


1 cup milk
1 tbsp dry yeast or 1 block of fresh yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp crushed cardamom seeds
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
4-1/2 to 5 cups flour (and NO more!)
1 stick (112 grams)

1 beaten egg plus 1 tbsp milk for glaze

Place the dry yeast in a large mixing bowl and add the 1/4 cup warm tap water. Scald the milk in a small saucepan then set aside with a food thermometer in it. Let the milk cool to 115F then pour the milk in to the yeast mixture. Whisk in the sugar, cardamom, salt and eggs. In a medium mixing bowl, place 4 cups of the flour and add the butter in small chunks. Cut the butter into the flour with a fork or rub between your fingers until the flour looks more like white cornmeal. Add 2 cups of the flour/butter and mix with a spoon until you get a uniform consistency. Continue adding the flour/butter by half cups mixing and incorporating before each new addition. Then add the next 1/2 cup to 1-1/2 cups and mix. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a cool surface (marble is excellent for this). If you've reached 5 cups of flour and you still have a too-soft texture, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour and then try kneading it. After kneading the dough should be smooth and uniform, even satiny. Grease a mixing bowl and place the dough into it. Let it rise covered for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in volume.

Punch down the dough and separate into 3 equal pieces. Roll each out to at least 2 feet long. Braid the dough and pinch the ends together to make a wreath. Music to braid pulla dough by: Minnesota (thus probably Scandinavian) Post-Punk geniuses, Lifter Puller. Carefully lift the pulla dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and let rise at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Best one egg in a small bowl and whisk in 1 tbsp milk. brush the mixture on all sides of the dough then bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with hot morning coffee and crown on your head.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hazelnut Cocoa Biscotti

While in the States, we like to crunch our biscotti with a cappuccino or a caffe latte, in Italy, they're dipped in a sweet wine called vin santo for dessert. These cookies went in style with the high-end coffee revolution in the States but in Italy, they're a classic. Oh and by the way, in Italian, they're called cantucci, since biscotti is a general term for any sort of cookies (think "biscuit"). The cocoa in this recipe mixes so well with the hazelnuts, it gives them a gianduja flavor right out of Piedmont.

1-1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
3 cups flour
2/3 cup unsewwtened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

Grind 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts and 1/2 cup of the sugar to a powder. Don't go so far as to grind it to a paste. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and rest of the sugar until creamy. Add vanilla extract and eggs one at a time and incorporate until you get a uniform texture. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture little by little stirring to combine. Add the ground hazelnuts and then the whole ones and mix to incorporate. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour so that it will be less tacky and easier to manage.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the refrigerated dough into 4 pieces and roll each into a long log shape. Place 2 on each sheet and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the logs feel firm when pressed on top. Remove from oven and cool but do not turn the oven off nor throw away the parchment paper. Let logs cool for 15 minutes.

Slice the logs crosswise with a serrated bread knife making 1/2 inch pieces. Music to slice biscotti/(biscuits) by: "My Way" by obnoxious rockers, Limp Bizkit. Place the pieces back on the parchment-lined baking sheets leaving 1/4 inch spaces between each piece. Bake them again (not resting on one side, but standing up) for 15 minutes so that they can sufficiently dry to get that super crunch that goes so well dipped into coffee or Italian sweet wine. Oh and dry they last a long time in a tupperware container, if you don't eat them all up the first day!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Terrine de Lapin - Wild Hare Terrine

Here is one of Gabriel's family recipes translated into slangy American English by moi.: A traditional French and Suisse-Romande (French-speaking part of Switzerland) dish for the holidays is wild-hare terrine, a pate' with morsels of wild-hare fillets inside and covered in aspic. Remember aspic? This is the part of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking" that gave Julie Powell so much trouble. It was a big fad in early 1960's American kitchens but it never really went out of style in traditional French ones. Gabriel's dad holes up in the kitchen every winter for 2 days straight and makes about 12 of these terrines as gifts for lucky friends. However, if you grew up with the idea that gelatin should taste like cherries, this dish might give you a little pause. And then there's the pork blood, but I'm getting ahead of myself... If you're feeling bold, (not faint of heart or kosher of spirit), I give you Wild Hare Terrine:


For marinaded hare/rabbit:
1 wild hare or rabbit, de-boned (Gabriel used Italian grocery store rabbit)
1 onion, diced
bouquet garni: 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp juniper berries, bruised with the side of a knife
1/2 tsp hole peppercorns
1 sm clove garlic, bruised with the side of a knife
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cognac

for the stock:

hare/rabbit bones
1 whole onion with 2 cloves stuck into it
2 carrot
1 clove garlic
2/3 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
10 whole peppercorns

for the pate':

1 sm. mild Italian sausage link, w/o casing
4 ozs pork fillet
4 ozs pork blood
4 ozs cooked ham
4 ozs roast veal
8 ozs fresh pork belly, or fatty non-smoked bacon
8 ozs finely sliced fatty bacon*
1 egg
1/4 cup cognac plus extra cognac for the chef (amount up to you)

* In Italy we're lucky enough to have a butcher slice only the fat side of fresh pork belly, which is closer to what the original recipe calls for.

for the Aspic:

2 packets of unflavored gelatin
optional garnish: French cornishon pickles (not sweet gherkins, they are flavored very differently even though they look similar), cocktail onions, capers


The Marinaded Rabbit: First, 2-3 days before you want to serve this, de-bone the rabbit/hare: if your butcher will do this for you, all the better! Make sure that the fillets on the back remain intact. They should be 2 long strips. The meat at the thighs should be sliced into long strips like the fillets. The shoulder meat has a lot of tendons that you really don't want in the terrine, so take care to remove them. Like I said, it's way better if you can find a butcher to do this!

Place the rabbit/hare meat into a medium-sized bowl with the marinade ingredients. Add extra wine and/or cognac to make sure everything's covered. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. If you're using wild hare, the herbs will tone down the gaminess and if you're using supermarket rabbit, it will kick up the flavor.

For the stock: (it's also nice to do this part the same day as you do the marinade) Place the rabbit/hare bones in a large stock pot, cover with water and bring to a light boil. Remove foam from the surface and as soon as it stops producing the foam, add the vegetables and herbs. Allow to barely simmer uncovered for 4 hours while it perfumes your house with a chicken-soupy scent and you go do something fun. After 4 hours, strain the stock, cool and refrigerate.

For the pate': The day before you want to serve this, pre-heat the oven to 325F. Grind the pork fillet, cooked ham, roast veal and pork belly into a sort of Italian sausage meat consistency - not so fine that everything is totally uniform like in a kielbasa, if you get what I mean. If you have a kind butcher who will grind your meats for you, all the better! Otherwise, we have seen that a good food processor does the trick rather nicely. Place everything a large mixing bowl and set aside. Blanch the liver in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and place in the unwashed food processor and pulse along with the rabbit kidneys, if you have them, until you have small bits. Remove and place into the bowl. Add half the marinaded rabbit (the smaller parts, not the long strips) into the processor and chop to small bits as well. Remove and place in the bowl along with the liver mixture. Add 1/4 cup of cognac and combine.

Take a deep breath, close your eyes and have a shot of cognac or go to your happy place while you try not to think of what you're going to do next: In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg. Pass the blood through a mesh strainer to remove blood clots and pour in with the egg. Then add the mixture to the large mixing bowl with all the ground meat. (Yech!) Just think, to the Masai warriors (not to mention Julia Child), this is a standard everyday routine. Mix everything into a homogeneous pate'. Music to mix blood into your pate' by: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Goth greats, Bauhaus. Add salt, ground black pepper and ground nutmeg to taste. We're downing more cognac or going back to the happy place again as we take the risk of actually tasting this raw meat, egg, blood mixture or we whistle as we scoop up a teaspoon and fry it first. In any case knowing whether it's salty enough is very important since the dish should come out perfectly seasoned. You don't want to be sprinkling salt onto your terrine slices.

Preparing the terrines: M-kay, back to standard cooking practices. Line 2 standard (5"x9") bread loaf pans, with the thin slices of pork belly or fatty non-smoked bacon. All surfaces should be covered. Fill halfway with the pate' then add the rabbit/hare meat strips (2-3 per loaf pan) going longways. Add the rest of the pate' into the loaf pans, press down so as not to leave any bubbles or holes and cover over with the remaining sheets of pork belly or bacon.

Cooking the terrines: Get 1 large or 2 small, shallow baking dishes place the loaf pans inside and fill dishes with boiling water so that the water level goes up to at least halfway up the outside of the loaf pans. This bain marie will help modulate the temperature so the terrines don't overcook and dry out. Place in the 325F oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate overnight.

For the aspic: Several hours before serving, boil 2 packets of unflavored gelatin with the stock according to package directions (Gabriel was not too clear on this part, so if you follow package directions for amounts, you'll have plenty of aspic for the terrines. Cool the gelatin to room temperature. Take the terrines out of their loaf pans, place the empty pans in the freezer for quick gelatin setting and remove the strips of pork belly or bacon from the terrines along with any other fat on the surface. Place 1/4 inch layer of gelatin in the bottom of the loaf pans and place in the freezer for a few minutes until set, not frozen. Pour another 1/4 inch of gelatin on top of the first layer and place a few gherkins sliced in half the long way, cocktail onions and capers in an attractive way. Repeat freezer step. Remove the pans and place the terrines back into the pans. There will be room on the sides where the pork belly or bacon used to be. Fill in the gaps with gelatin up to about 1/2 inch and place in the freezer again. Once set, remove from freezer and add more garnishes. Pour in another 1/2 inch of gelatin, repeat freezing, garnishing and filling in with gelatin until you have reached the edge of the pans. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pour the rest of the gelatin onto a square pan (to about 1/2 inch deep) and refrigerate until set. With a knife, slice the gelatin into cubes to use for decoration around the terrines.

To serve: Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water and dip the loaf pans in to help release the gelatin. Turn out onto a serving platter and slide the loaf pans up. Scatter gelatin cubes around the sides of the terrine. Serve with a flourish and wow your guests! (The pork blood will be our little secret).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Holiday Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

The Holidays are officially upon us! One thing I really appreciate are the little pre-Christmas holidays that are celebrated in some European countries. Take, for example, Saint Lucia (December 13th) in Sweden where the oldest daughter wakes up before dawn to prepare an elaborate breakfast for her parents then dons a crown of candles and serves them breakfast in bed. A lovely family-oriented (and potentially pyrotechnic!) celebration. Or the feast of Saint Ambrose (December 7th, this Friday!) where the Milanese stroll the downtown holiday arts and crafts market drinking "vin brulee". Or December 6th, Saint Nicholas' Day where my Mom back in Chicago would have us kids put our shoes on the back porch and over night Saint Nick would come and fill the shoes with little treats. It was a prelude to Christmas stocking stuffers. Let's not forget Hannukah starts December 5th this year. Kwanzaa starts on December 26th, a.k.a. Boxing Day. Winter solstice is December 22nd and if you plan some pagan dancing 'round a bonfire, I do suggest the vin brulee to keep you warm.

Whatever holiday you'll be celebrating, here are some easy and dramatic-looking chocolate crinkle cookies that you can make quickly to help celebrate.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
granulated sugar powdered sugar, separate for double dusting.

Combine the dry ingredients (the first 6) in a large bowl. Add the softened butter and mix with one hand until the butter has been incorporated fully. Add the eggs and mix until it all just comes together. The dough should be barely wet enough to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Refrigerate until the dough is very stiff, about 1/2 hour. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, set up a small bowl full of the powdered sugar, and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Take the stiff dough out of the freezer and scoop out the dough scant tablespoonful by scant tablespoonful rolling each through the granulated sugar and then the powdered sugar. No dark should show through the white sugar coating. Music to manipulate stiff Christmas cookie dough by: "White Christmas" by N. Irish punk band, Stiff Little Fingers". Enjoy! Place balls of dough 2 inches apart. If the balls of dough fade from stark white to gray (due to the thawing of the dough) roll in extra powdered sugar. You're going for black and white crinkly contrast and black and gray just doesn't have the same striking effect.

Place immediately into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.

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