Friday, September 17, 2010

Reasons to Think About Holiday Baking

Although the Halloween candy has just started to trickle in at the IGA and the Variety Store (45 Main Street; 725-9706), I already have a couple of reasons to start thinking about holiday baking. Cookie Swap! officially debuts on October 4, and as soon as books are available I'll embark on a publicity tour, giving radio interviews (Martha Stewart Living on Sirius XM on October 1), signing books (first stop, Books by the Banks in Cincinnati on October 2), and demonstrating recipes (at The Big Read Festival in St. Louis on October 9) all over the place. In between trips, I'm throwing a cookie swap (for which I ordered these custom bakery labels--eat your heart out, Watermill Cupcake Company!) with some local friends. Keep an eye out and you might see some photos from my party in a pretty food magazine some day soon. And to wind things up on December 6, I'll be hosting a live webcast sponsored by McCormick Spices, from right here in my Sag Harbor kitchen, during which I'll answer questions about holiday baking in general and cookie swaps in particular. The nice people at McCormick sent me this care package a few days ago. For further inspiration, they pointed me to their just-posted Flavor Forecast, in which they suggest some interesting flavor pairings to consider in the coming weeks, such as sage and citrus, almond and caramel, and coconut and pumpkin pie spice. I liked this last one so much that I developed a cookie recipe using it, and then I froze most of the cookie dough so I'll be ready for my cookie swap. Here is the recipe:

Coconut-Spice Ice Box Cookies
Makes about 48 cookies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 large egg white
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the coconut.
3. Divide the dough into two portions. Turn one portion onto a pice of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside the paper, into a log about 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerat it for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with the remaining dough. (Dough logs may be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month. Slice and bake directly from the freezer.)
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
10. Arrange the nuts in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush each log with the egg white and roll in the nuts to coat. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick rounds, rotating the dough often so it doesn't become flattened as you cut.
5. Place the cookies on ungreased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until they are pale golden around the edges and still soft on top, 13 to 15 minutes. Let them stand on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove them with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. Coconut-Spice Icebox Cookies will keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

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