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Confessions of a Failed Baker

Ottolenghi's Spice Cookies

Ottolenghi’s spice cookies

To say baking is not my specialty would be an understatement.  Maybe the understatement of the year.  While I adore most everything domestic, I’ve never quite succeeded in the world of cookies and cakes.  My mother can whip up a pie blind-folded (which my husband has no shame reminding me), while I can’t even make chocolate chip cookies.  Thank God for my friend’s almost-2-year-old daughter who dutifully chows down on all of my creations while the rest of our friends quietly avoid them.  Emmy has a way of always making me feel better.  Such was the case at the McDonnell’s annual Christmas party this past weekend, where I brought yet another batch of burnt goodness.

I found the recipe on a blog called The Wednesday Chef.  Ottolenghi’s Spice Cookies from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s new cookbook, Jerusalem.  “So very glorious” and “nearly obsessed,” readers raved.  Surely I can’t mess these up.  I macerated my currants, mixed my spices and even measured my half-egg.  All was going well…that is…until all started going wrong (I’ll go ahead and admit my Bailey’s-spiked coffee may have been a contributor).  My first mistake was buying dark chocolate chips.  How the hell do you grate chocolate chips, you ask?  That’s a damn good question.  If I had bothered to read The Wednesday Chef’s blog post, however, I would have known to just put them in the food processor.  My chip fiasco was followed by a broken wine glass that had been sitting on the counter to dry.  Once the kitchen was free of glass shards, my Kitchen Aid started spewing flour.  Apparently ol’ faithful just isn’t cut out for a triple batch of Ottolenghi.

Miraculously, my batter came together despite the setbacks.  After an hour cooling in the fridge and a couple more swigs of Bailey’s to cool my temper, my cookies were ready for the oven.  15 minutes seemed just enough time for a quick blow-out in the bathroom.  25 minutes later my hair was done.  So were the cookies.  With no time to spare I brought them, tail between my legs, to the McDonnell’s annual Christmas party and alas, the aforementioned Emmy knew just how to cheer me up.  As guests shoveled them into napkins and Emmy shoveled them into her mouth, I swore to myself I’d make things right.  The flavor was fine…they were just a little…let’s say…crunchy.  So Sunday morning (hangover and all), I faced my baking fears head-on and set my oven to 375.  I placed two sheets inside and set the timer for 15 minutes, swearing not to leave the kitchen.  Not even for a second.  At EXACTLY 15 minutes, I pulled out my cookies, cooled those babies down and brushed on the glaze.

Then something amazing happened.

I tried one and it was good.  No, it was great.  Actually, it was the best freaking cookie I’ve ever eaten.  Maybe it was the pride of overcoming my previous pitfalls or the lingering Bailey’s from the day before, but it was absolutely delicious.

Yes, those are chocolate chips and no, they're not supposed to be there

Yes, those are chocolate chips and no, they’re not supposed to be there

Ottolenghi’s Spice Cookies
From Jerusalem: A Cookbook

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons currants
2 tablespoons brandy
Scant 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons best-quality cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 large egg
1 tablespoon diced candied citrus peel

3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1. Soak the currants in the brandy for 10 minutes.
2. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and dark chocolate.
3. Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon and orange zest to combine but don’t aerate much, about 1 minute. With the mixer or beater running, slowly add the egg and mix for about 1 minute.
4. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the currants and brandy. Mix until everything comes together.
5. Gently knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it is uniform. Roll into 1″ balls and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about ¾ inch apart.  Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes and remove from the oven.  DO NOT BLOW DRY YOUR HAIR.  Once the cookies are out of the oven, allow to cool and transfer to a wire rack.
7. While the cookies are still warm, whisk together the glaze ingredients until a thin and smooth icing forms.  Pour onto the cookies and repeat once or twice until glaze is gone.  Top each cookie with 3 pieces of candied peel placed at the center. Leave to set and then enjoy!

My number one cookie fan

My number one cookie fan

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