Sunday, June 12, 2011

cookie o' the month...

Baker Beth is back for the Month of June with her Travel Fantasy in Cookie Form!


My travel fantasy is to make my way to a Greek island — not one of the tourist destinations but one that Greeks call home — find a quaint taverna near the water, and sit at a table in the shade with a jug of Roditis, a loaf of Greek bread, a plateful of taramasalata and just be.

That's it. Maybe I'd read. Maybe I'd write. Maybe I'd talk to someone who might know English because I surely don't know Greek. Unless we're talking about food, in which case, I could chew their ear off, one dish at a time.

Alas, travel to a Greek taverna is not in my future any time soon, but with the arrival of summer (Chicago has no spring or fall), my deck becomes the next best thing.

And my travel fantasy becomes the inspiration for this month's cookie.

Sesame seed rings make adorable little stand-ins for rounds of Greek bread. The "taramasalata" in this scenario is a cream cheese frosting thinned into a dip. And the wine component? The frosting contains a wee bit of Roditis (for those who don't know, a Greek rosé).

The cookies are crunchy and barely sweet, so they pair well with the creamy, sweetened dip. For further enjoyment, pair the cookies and dip with a glass of the chilled wine. If you try this, after all, you'll have it on hand.

Go forth and bake and enjoy the summer days!
— Beth

Sesame Seed Rings
(Adapted from A Baker's Tour by Nick Malgieri, Published by Harper Collins, 2005)

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg

2 large eggs, well beaten with a pinch of salt
1 cup sesame seeds

3 cookies sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

For the dough, stir the flour with the baking powder and salt and set aside.

Pour the melted butter into a large bowl and whisk in the milk, sugar, and egg one at a time. Add the flour mixture and use a large rubber spatula to stir the ingredients together to make a soft dough.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Roll the dough into an 18-inch cylinder, then cut it every 1/2 inch to make 36 pieces of dough.

Roll each piece of dough under the palms of your hands to make a 4- to 5-inch strand. Connect the ends to make a circle and set aside on the work surface until all the cookies have been formed.

Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds in a small bowl.

One at a time, paint the outside of the cookie all over with the egg wash and gently press the top of the cookie into the small bowl of sesame seeds. Arrange the cookie, seeded side up, on the prepared pan, keeping the cookies about 1 in apart all around.

Repeat with the remaining cookies, adding sesame seeds to the bowl a little at a time as you use them up, so that the seeds don't get all sticky from the egg wash.

Bake two sheets of the cookies for 15 minutes at 350, then lower the oven to 325 and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until they are just barely golden and dry. Change the position of the pans from upper to lower and vice versa, also turning them back to front at least once during baking. If your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack 2 pans together for baking on the lower rack, to provide insulation.

Cool on the pans on racks. Reposition the upper rack to the middle of the oven and bake the third sheet of cookies. If the cookies are not completely crisp after they have cooled, return them to the turned-off oven for 30 minutes, then cool.

Storage: Keep the cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Roditis Cream Cheese Dip
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1-3 tablespoons Roditis
1 drop red food coloring, optional

Cream together cream cheese and butter until well-blended. [I used my KitchenAid with the whip attachment.] Whip in the confectioners' sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Whip in the Roditis, one tablespoon at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency. [I used 3 tablespoons, both to achieve a looser mixture that is easier to dip as well as to make the flavor of the Roditis slightly more pronounced.] If desired, whip in one drop of red food coloring to achieve a pale pink hue. Refrigerate until serving.

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