Even though the weather already feels like a oven, I would turn on my oven for this cookie.
My love of cheese has already been established.
Saganaki is one of my all time favorite dishes.
I can eat it as an appetizer-OR-Consume it as a main course with plenty of warm pita.
Now, I can have it for dessert!
The brilliance that is Baker Beth, is at it again.
I pondered another cookie with cheese.
July has become "cheese cookie month" on Angelo's blog and I recently had an encounter with browned, melty cheese. So, with that serving as part of my inspiration, along with Angelo's Greekness and his fondness for one cookie of mine in particular, I struck upon the potentially insane idea of saganaki sablés.
I love saganaki. I do not love it because some people set it on fire, I love it because it is warm and melty cheese. But it is often set on fire (apparently, the practice began right here in Chicago) and brandy is the flammable liquid of choice and it is extinguished with lemon. All of which made me wonder if I could combine all of those flavors into a cookie. Well, I knew I could combine them; the question was whether I could combine them successfully.
I tinkered around in the kitchen, mad-scientist style, and pulled together a dough. Then I waited, as patiently as possible, for it to chill. And then I baked it off. And then I waited, as patiently as possible, for the cookies to cool so that I could try one in its intended state.
I broke off a piece of cooled cookie and noted that the texture was good. I popped the cookie bit into my mouth, unsure as to whether what initially made sense in my head would ultimately make sense on my tongue.
And? I am happy to report that I let out a little squeal!
The texture is just as sandy as any good sablé should be and the brandy and lemon are subtle but present. But the best part of all? The little bits of browned cheese add a texture like tiny toffee chips, cheesy toffee chips. Not that the cheese is very pronounced, but it lends a nice complexity.
In concert, the flavors and textures play really well together. This is my favorite Angelo cookie yet.
Some of the technique is a little strange, I grant you. But these cookies are worth the effort. Do give 'em a try.
(Adapted frrom Cook's Illustrated, November & December 2008)
1/2 cup grated, very lightly packed kefalotyri cheese
1 large egg
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (2 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (i.e. the zest of an average lemon)
1 1/2 cups minus two tablespoons (7 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high, sprinkle the cheese in the pan in a thin, even layer, lower the heat a smidge and let the cheese melt and cook until it's apparent that the underside is beginning to brown. Turn off the heat, tilt the pan and blot away the fat with a paper towel, and let the cheese cool in the pan. When cool, gently scoot a spatula underneath the cheese to loosen it. Remove it from the pan, blot it with a paper towel, tear it into pieces, toss it into a food processor along with a couple of tablespoons of flour and process the mixture until the cheese is ground into small bits. Some of the mixture may be powdery at this point. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place egg in small saucepan, cover with 1 inch water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a small bowl with ice water. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the egg to ice water and let stand 5 minutes. Crack the egg and peel the shell. Separate the yolk from white; discard the white. Press the yolk through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl.
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the butter, granulated sugar, and cooked egg yolk on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl and the beater with a rubber spatula as needed. Turn the mixer to low, add the brandy, and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer; add the flour, the cheese mixture, and the lemon zest, and mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into a cohesive mass.
Divide the dough in half; roll each piece into a log about 6 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in a 12-inch square of waxed paper and twist the ends to seal and firmly compact the dough into a tight cylinder. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a chef's knife, slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, rotating dough so that it won't become misshapen from the weight of the knife. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the cookies with the egg-white mixture.
Bake until centers of the cookies are pale golden brown with edges slightly darker than the centers, about 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet 5 minutes; using a thin metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
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