Monday, March 4, 2013

Anise Cookies

Today's recipe is Anise Cookies!
These were a request by a friend of mine. When he sent me the recipe, the quantities startled me, because it makes a lot of cookies! Ruth, however, nodded approvingly. "This is a bakery recipe," he said. "I work with things in this quantity all the time at Baked Treasure back home."
"A whole dozen eggs for a single recipe?" I asked, still startled.
Ruth nodded. "I don't buy eggs by the dozen for the bakery, Miaka. I buy eggs by the case. Dozens are much too small a unit when you're making things to sell. I don't have time to keep running to the store for more eggs. Or flour, sugar, butter, and other staples."
"You never said anything about that before!"
"Well, the size difference does skew things a bit, so no one has thought to comment on it. Also, you're only baking at home, to feed a few people. Baked Treasure sees a couple thousand customers on a slow day."
"Ah, you have a point." I thought a moment, running the math in my head to cut the recipe in half. "Might be fun to make something the way you're used to for once. I don't have a big enough bowl, though."
"That could be a problem," Ruth agreed. "Your kitchen is too small to store the type of bowl you'd need anyway. I'd lend you one from my kitchen, but the trip through the Portal would shrink it the same way it shrinks us."
"I can probably borrow a bowl from my Mom." That solved the issue, and so I decided to go ahead and make the recipe as written.
That said, let's go!

"Is this a big enough bowl?" I set it on the counter, and all four dragons hurry to inspect it.
"Oo, a perch!" Black exclaims, claiming it.
"Nice and deep," Hi-chan says, climbing on the side.
"Wow, it looks so much bigger over here," Red says, positioning himself opposite his twin.
Ruth looks into the bowl and nods. "Yes, this should do nicely. Based on a size comparison between the bowl and yourself, Miaka, I would guess this is the same size bowl I usually use in the bakery."
"All of the bowls at Baked Treasure are a lot bigger than any of the ones Mom uses at home," Black remarks.
"Your mother is cooking for four, not hundreds." Ruth hops down from the edge of the bowl. "Let's start baking."

Here is everything we need for this recipe! There aren't very many ingredients, but we need quite a lot of each one. Black has perched herself on the baking powder, while Hi-chan has claimed the eggs. Ruth has lined up the sugar and flour, with the oil in front of them. Red is marveling at the pile of anise extract. "Six bottles?" he asks.
"Each bottle is only one ounce," I explain.
"How come it doesn't come in bigger bottles?" Black wants to know.
"Good question," Hi-chan answers.
"Most extracts only come in small bottles like this," I tell them. "I suppose a restaurant-supply store might sell bigger bottles, but I have to rely on what's available in the grocery store."

Cookie pans are waiting on the stove, where no one will trip on them. Black has perched herself on top of the cooling racks; we actually have all three tiers set up today, since this recipe makes about 9 to 10 dozen cookies. Hi-chan has a mixing spoon, and has positioned herself to give a good view of how big that bowl is. Red has the measuring spoons, as usual. Ruth has positioned himself between the liquid measuring cup and the sifter. We also have a whisk for beating the eggs, and a measuring cup for sugar and flour.

Ruth watches as I crack all 12 eggs into the bowl. We'll have a lot of high-angle shots this week, because the big bowl is a bit tall.

Hi-chan and the twins have decided that the top of the cooling racks makes a good spot to watch from as Ruth beats the eggs.

The recipe calls for a pound of sugar (about 2 cups) so I pulled out the scale. Black and Hi-chan keep an eye out so that we get the right amount. Red came over after we finished measuring and pushed the button to switch units, showing that we have 455g of sugar.

Ruth is keeping an eye on things as Hi-chan helps me add the sugar. The twins have gone back to the cooling rack perch to watch.

Red and Black help measure out the oil. We need 1 1/2 cups, which is 355mL. Always read a liquid measurement at the lower edge of the thick line on top (it's called the meniscus and is caused by surface tension). Make sure you put your eye level with the measuring cup you're trying to read, as different angles can give you an inaccurate measurement.
Black claims the task of actually pouring the oil into the mixture, while Red goes back up the cooling rack to watch. Hi-chan is trying to decide if she wants to climb back up there or not.

Ruth takes up the whisk again to mix the sugar and oil into the beaten eggs.

Red helps me add about 2 cups (300g) of flour. We'll add more later.

Now it's time to add the flavoring. Six bottles means each of us (four dragons, myself, and Archi) gets to add a bottle, so I've passed them out. Hi-chan and the twins look so cute, excited about pouring in their bottles.

Ruth adds the first bottle, and Black waits until last to add hers. Wow, that is a powerful and distinctive scent. "Time to swap the whisk out for the spoon," Ruth declares. "I want to stir this all in before we add more."

With everything stirred in, it's time to add the baking powder. Red is pleased to take up the spoon! We're using the tablespoon instead of the teaspoon, because it will fit in the can of baking powder and 4 tablespoons is less work for the same measurement than 12 teaspoons. (There are 3 teaspoons in 1 tablespoon.)

Ruth stirs the baking powder into the mix. It doesn't look much like cookie dough yet. We're about to change that.

Now we need to go from the soupy batter we have (above) to something we can actually shape (at right). This is going to take quite a bit of flour! The recipe calls for about 12 cups total, as needed for the consistency. I'm not sure how useful the estimate is, because I just added flour until I got the dough where I wanted it. Be prepared to use most of a 5lb (2.27kg) bag of flour. The recipe's estimate comes out to about 4lbs (~2kg).

Ruth holds the sifter while Red turns the crank to work it. The flour needs to be added a little at a time through the sifter and then mixed in. Our flimsy plastic mixing spoon quickly proved not to be up to the task, so I got my hands into the dough. Once the dough is thick enough to be shaped by hand, cover it and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Now is a good time to preheat the oven. Black sets it to 375°F (190°C), then wanders off investigating the spilled flour and the lights.

While the dough is resting, everyone pitches in to spread parchment paper over the cookie sheets so they'll be ready to put cookies on.

Now we're ready to shape up the cookies and set them on the sheet! Shape the dough into smallish balls, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2-3cm) in size. Try to keep them all about the same size so they'll cook evenly. Smaller balls will give you more cookies, but they'll be smaller. Red is making sure there's enough space (about 1 1/2 inches/3cm) between each cookie on the tray, because they will expand a little. You can make funny shapes if you like. I did mostly just balls because I had a lot to make.
I have medical gloves on because I didn't want to have to keep washing my hands, and it gives me a surface the dough isn't quite as apt to stick to.

Ruth helps put the tray of cookies into the oven.

Black sets the timer for 10 minutes. Each sheet of cookies should cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the tops are light golden brown.

The first sheet of cookies just came out of the oven! The twins are debating sneaking a bite. "Wait until they're frosted," Hi-chan suggests.
Of course, we have to make the frosting first.

So, here is everything we need for the frosting! We'll make it in the stand mixer because it mixes fast. Ruth has perched himself between the kettle and the sifter. Hi-chan brought the powdered sugar. Since this is a 1lb (453g) box, we need all of it. Black has brought the tiny round sprinkles, while Red has the teaspoon and the vanilla. (If you made larger cookies, you might be able to use jimmies on them instead of the round things.)

Ruth holds the sifter while I pour powdered sugar in. Crank it up!
Now we have a pound of sifted powdered sugar, the base for our frosting.

Red adds a teaspoon of vanilla extract for flavoring. You can make this glaze-like frosting in any flavor you like. I've chosen vanilla because it goes well with anything. (The recipe actually requests lemon flavoring.)

Ruth adds hot water from the not-quite-boiling kettle. Use just enough hot water to achieve a spreadable consistency in the frosting; it will probably take less than 1/2 cup (118mL). Once the water's in, it's time to turn on the stand mixer!

This is the consistency we're looking for. It's a bit runny at the moment, but it will thicken as the water cools. You can make it thicker if you like, but this will make frosting the cookies pretty easy.

This is why I made it a little runny--easy to dip the cookies into the frosting! This way I don't have to spend forever with a knife trying to frost my cookies.

Red is supervising the addition of sprinkles to decorate the finished cookies. The frosting will dry very fast, and the sprinkles won't stick to dried frosting, so shake them on right away!

Now we box up the cookies! "These boxes are rather deep for this type of cookie, Miaka," Ruth comments as Red and Hi-chan arrange cookies in the bottom of the box.
"Sorry," I tell him. "These are all I have at the moment."


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