Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finite Incan-childhood:A Harry Potter week (and some Almond-or peanut- Butter cookies!)

     Contrary to popular belief (and, perhaps, hope) I have not, in fact, fallen off of the face of the planet. Hooraaaaaay!  Last week I was unable to get creative in the kitchen for a small myriad of reasons.
  1. I had a take home exam for my summer class that was due by Wednesday.  Yes, it was take home, but for that reason it was extra-long and had nitty-gritty specific questions that required a lot of fact-checking and time consumption.
  2. As last week saw the release of the final installment to the Harry Potter film series, I spent any free time I had re-reading the books. \
  3. This also meant that I was going to go home on Thursday for the midnight premiere/following weekend, and as such, I opted to NOT go grocery shopping for the last week and a half and simply use up all the food I had.  This resulted in a lack of things with which to cook.
     But, now all that's over, and since I DID actually manage to bake a *little* something while I was at home, here's a reward recipe for the long wait-Almond Butter Cookies!
     So, in honor of the Harry Potter Finale and the End of My Childhood and the Post-Potter Depression that I am now experiencing, I had grand plans last week to make a whole slew of Harry Potter goodies (either straight from or inspired by the books) such as pumpkin pasties, pumpkin juice, chocolate truffles made to look like snitches, chocolate covered frogs, etc etc.  However, once I had finally packed and arrived home (it was a longer stay, which required more preparation) I found that I was simply a bit tired and didn't quite feel like baking.  (I was still gung-ho to do the chocolate frogs, which aren't particularly complicated, but alas, couldn't get my hands on a frog-shaped mold in time!)
Mixture before adding corn syrup & milk
Mixture post-corn syrup/milk--should be crumbly still, but in clumps!
     I was however, attending a Harry Potter party (and yes, I dressed the lovely Lily Potter, with baby Harry in tow! Shameful proof-photo at the end for your amusement) at a friend's house that evening.  She asked anyone to bring goodies if they felt like it, and I decided it was a sure sign that I needed to act. But alas, alas, time was growing short at that point, and pumpkin pasties and chocolate truffles and all the other things I had planned seemed a bit of an impossible goal to reach if I wanted to be able to spend any time AT the actual party before the movie.  So, I turned to creative idea-tossing with my mother.  What we came up with was little witch & wizard hats made of cookies and chocolate kisses!
    Cute, right? Well, as can be seen from the photos, things didn't *quite* go as planned--the cookies, which I probably sliced larger than I should have, also spread more than I anticipated, throwing the proportions so wildly off that they didn't really look like hats anymore.  However, I was a big fan of the taste all the same!  The chocolate icing was placed as a decoration (obviously it was supposed to be the hat brim, and before I realized it wasn't working anyway I was GOING to make little ribbons in house colors around the chocolate kiss bottoms out of colored gel icing) and while it tasted good with the cookies, I found it to not really be necessary--these cookies are plenty delicious on their own, although in the future I might dip half of them in Nutella, as I think the flavors would go well together...
     The original recipe was actually for peanut butter cookies (peanut butter SANDWICH cookies with peanut butter in the middle, to be exact), however, one of my good friends attending the party is allergic not only to eggs/poultry (which made this eggless recipe a huge relief) but also to peanuts, so I simply switched out the peanut butter with almond butter, and I was quite satisfied with the results!
Fresh out of the oven!
     Edits I might make in the future? Substituting honey for the corn syrup (because really, the corn syrup was ungodly sticky and just seems a little gross to be eating, though I know it's in all kinds of things I consume) and the whole 'no icing' thing.  The cookies have about the same sweetness/texture of a shortbread cookie, so in other words...sweet, but still a little more on the savory side. (Not a pure blast of sugar like chocolate chip cookies, for example.)  In any case, enjoy!

For baking beginners:  Almond butter is usually organic rather than factory processed, and if you've never dealt with organic nut butters before you may be surprised & a little grossed out to find a layer of icky-liquid covering your almond butter when you open the jar. Don't pour it out; this is simply some of the oil from the nut butter that separates over time.  Instead, take a knife and stir the whole thing up until the oil is re-mixed into the nut butter.  Also, once opened, almond butter needs to be REFRIGERATED.
For baking experts:  If you skipped the large text-chunks above, I mentioned that I wanted to try to replace the corn syrup in this recipe with honey.  I think it would add a nice layer of sweetness and flavor to complement the almond, while still holding the dough together.  But really, since I'm unsure as to the nitty gritty specifics of corn syrup's purpose (something about keeping sugar from crystallizing?) I have no idea if this is actually feasible.  Can one replace corn syrup with honey? Or is there some other possibility there?

Almond Butter Cookies adapted from the Double Peanut Butter Cookies recipe from The Southern Living Cookbook, 1987

1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup Almond butter (OR creamy Peanut butter, if you're looking for a pb recipe instead!)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbls milk
  1. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium/large bowl, cut in shortening and 1/2 cup peanut butter with pastry blender (or fork, if you don't have one) until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  2. Stir in corn syrup & milk.  Shape dough into 1 ft roll, wrap up in saran wrap and refrigerate 2+ hours. (If running short on time like I was, put them in the freezer for 20-30 minutes, and just know that they might spread a bit more when baking.)
  3. Unwrap and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices, well-spaced on a cookie sheet. (**See notes at the bottom if you're making the peanut butter originals)
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes depending on how thickly you cut your cookies. :)

Notes: The original recipe says to slice the cookie dough 1/4 in thick, place some peanut butter on top (adding about another 1/4 cup to the recipe overall) and place ANOTHER cookie slice on top of that.  Sounds delicious, but for my version I wasn't layering, obviously, and so I cut them a bit thicker and had to cook them a bit longer.
The Lily Potter Ensemble...complete with
pre-scarred/glasses-wearing Harry.

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