Sunday, April 5, 2009

Half-moon Cookies, aka Mezzalunas

Ahhhh, sigh of relief. I've just turned in a big story, one that I put a lot of pressure on myself to make good (lord, I hope no copyeditors read this blog or at least that sentence). I spent hours driving all over Omaha, interviewing people and pulling my hair out when the right words wouldn't come. And now I'm taking a break, for a moment, and writing the blog. Then it's back to work. Someday this week I'll finish that story that is already a week past deadline ... But right now, I want to think about rolling out dough on my kitchen counter and folding jelly-filled pastries into cute little pockets of sweetness. And don't forget, sprinkled with almonds. I'm relaxed already. Cue the Jose Gonzalez "Heartbeats."
I didn't break anything or injure myself in the process of making these pastries, which is saying a lot considering the past week. Though I did carelessly roll the dough too thin. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, but the jelly melted in the oven and burned. The crust was still light and flaky, but the pastries with jelly still inside them were so much more delicious. This really was such a nice dessert to make, not too sweet. And rolling is so therapeutic. Time and again I come back to Italian recipes. They're always the best. Maybe it's my palate, but there's got to be a reason why we all love spaghetti.
To cut out the dough in circles, you're supposed to use a biscuit cutter. I don't own one of those, so I used the jar of jelly as a guide. Not to toot my own horn, but I am so good at improvising, not so great on the details. Someday I'll tell you the story of how I escaped from my stairwell later. This post is about mezzaluna cookies filled with strawberry jam.
Mezzaluna Cookies: adapted from Food and Wine
1 1/2 cup flour 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 12 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract 1 egg white strawberry jam 1/2 cup blanched almonds, pulsed in food processor powdered sugar for dusting To blanch almonds, boil a cup or so of water on the stove. Drop in almonds for about 1 minute. Drain water and let almonds cool. The skins will sort of slip off if you squeeze the almonds. It's kind of fun, but be careful not to drop them on the floor.
Preheat oven to 350. For the dough, mix flour and sugar. Cut in butter and blend with a pastry blender. Add vanilla 1 tablespoon at a time. Food and Wine only recommended 1 tablespoon of vanilla. This was absolutley not enough for me, so I added more, kneading the dough until it all stuck together. Wrap dough in Saran and refrigerate for an hour. Cut off 1/4 of the dough and lie on flat, well-floured work surface. If you're nervous about the dough, follow the directions on this blog. Amazing. Roll until the dough is 1/8-inch thickness. Use biscuit cutter or large mug to cut out 4-inch circles from the dough. Repeat, recycling the dough until it's all cut out.
Arrange dough on baking sheet. Using a pastry brush (or barbecue brush, whatever), brush egg white on the circumfrance of the dough rounds. Spoon a teaspoon of jam onto the middle of the dough. Close and pinch shut with your fingers or with the edge of a fork. Arrange the pastries about two inches apart on the sheet. Once your finished spooning, brush the tops of the pastries with egg white, sprinkle with powdered sugar and almonds. Refrigerate the pastries for 10 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes for 4-inch pastries.


Maria said...

I'm drooling. And I have everything I need to make these. I think I see a homework distraction in the near future!

Jess said...

oh wow those look good. those cookies plus jose gonzales "heartbeats". nothing's better.

lindsey baker said...

these look super-delicious.