Making cookies is more joyous than eating them? Sometimes, but definitely not in the Christmas season. As Susan said about a true meaning of Christmas -- eating, Christmas never be the same Christmas if we don't nibble (or gobble for me) some cookies, they are a teaser for Santa coming, an essence of summer harvest, and gem of artisanship! Please go check out the special Eat Christmas Cookies, created by Susan at Food Blogga, who is also one of the writers I admire.
In the meantime, I'd like to thank my buddy Callipygia who sent me Nick Malgieri's "X cookies" recipe, which is published in Baking with Julia. Calli her posts and artworks are always stunningly stupendous! Artistic people know (and eat) good food in order to nurish their creative juice, so I know her pick on recipe is the best :)
I quite often had this type of cookies during Christmas when I lived in NJ of America. It was probably because most people there were Italian or Italian descent. And myself had made this kind of cookies twice, in different weather and in different environment, so please allow me to add a few of my own interpretations to the recipe:
- The people in my old town made different shapes of fig cookies, some even looked like mini baguette with three slashes on. Anyway, thinner the dough, the more elegant the look, but naturally, higher skill.
- only use the dries figs with good quality. The author suggests Calimyrna or Mission, I don't know what mine is from, but what I know is, if it doesn't tastes good as-is, it wouldn't improve any even after baking. Making these cookies involve time and labourship, no point to ruin it by the end: inferior taste.
- Same as the above, butter is another shinning-star-ingredient. Land O' Lakes is a big brand in the States, but in my opinion it is still not good enough. Try Irish import, good stuff!
- The original author said making the dough is "foolproof", and "almost impossible to overwork". I'm afraid I disagree. Most doughs are sensitive to temperature. The winter in Barcelona isn't too cold; the warmer the weather, the softer and sticker dough, the more difficult the work, again, higher the skill. So later in my recipe, I always highlight the time for chilling, so that resting; resting has a bonus of yielding tender crust.
- The recipe involves many different tasks: kneading, rolling, sealing, shaping, cutting. I've picked up an excellent tip from Flo Braker (her book) to ease the process: finishing up one action first before moving on to another actually can complete the whole job quicker; repeating the same maneuver enable you to master it so you work faster. Now I take this approach and rewrite the recipe.
Recipe of Fig Christmas Wreaths (yield: 24 - 30 wreaths, about 6 cm in diameter)
(courtesy Nick Malgier's X Cookies from Baking with Julia)
- 300 g mixture of: figs *, orange peel from good marmalade (and let the jam sticking on as it's needed too), plump golden raisins, 1 ounce of dark chocolate, a small handful of toasted almond, more marmalade if necessary, a pinch of fennel seeds (toasted, ground). Figs should take up the most proportion, mine is about 80%, the rest according to own taste.
- 300 g plain flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- a good pinch of baking powder
- a good pinch of salt
- 110 g butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 2 + 1 eggs (latter for egg wash)
- Powder sugar, or some sprinkles for deco
- *Before you chop/process the figs, to ensure they are moist and plump. If not, simmer for 5 minutes or so. Combine all the filling ingredients, finely chop or process in food processor until it turns to be paste.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, use a pastry blender to cut butter cubes into the flour mixture until it has the texture of small bean. Add 2 eggs and combine the whole thing, knead a little bit if necessary. Wrap, and chill in fridge for at least an hour.
- In the following I want you to complete one step before move on to the others. But you can pinch out a bit of fig filling and dough, try rolling and assembling a cookie or 2 first, so you can have a better idea on how thin/big your fig log and dough log you should aim for.
- First, prepare the fig log (photo follows). With a help of a piece cling wrap, roll the fig mixture into many thin logs, mine is about 1 cm in diameter. Cover when you move on to the next step.
- Second, prepare the dough log. Dust a bit flour on work table. Divide the dough into smaller portions and roll into thin logs, mine is slightly bigger than the fig's. Whenever you feel it's difficult to work with, wrap and chill the dough for 10 minutes. Anyway, every log once done should send to fridge (cover) to chill and rest; harder dough is easier to manipulate.
- Flatten the dough log by rolling pin or hand, place in the fig log, seal the dough. You can further roll the logs a bit in order to make them thinner (additional chilling time probably necessary).
- Depending the design, cut the log to your desirable length, mine for the wreath is about 12 cm. Test with one piece first, if the assemble looks good, finish cutting the rest of the logs.
- To create "X" shape, slit the both ends with a very sharp razor. Spread the ends apart.
- To create the wreath, join the two ends, slit the side all the way down to the bottom.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F (mine needs higher), grease the baking tray, place the cookie doughs, egg wash. Bake them until slightly golden brown. The author suggests 15 - 20 minutes, again, depending what size you make.
- After the cookies cool off, dust with powder sugar. Or to further decorate, mix some powder sugar with a few drops of lemon juice, it is the "glue" to stick the decos on. Have fun!
If you make the wreath, please use a sharp razor and slash the side all the way down.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------