I was up before 5 a.m. this morning. The papers were being delivered, I started thinking about a cappuccino, and I just plain couldn't sleep any longer. The problem with that... it was Sunday morning! All week I anxiously look forward to Sundays and being a bit lazy, and laziness to me includes sleeping a little longer. By the time it was 10 a.m. I felt the urge to go back to bed, but instead, I made myself a second cappuccino, grabbed a few magazines, and headed outdoors for the patio.
One of the magazines, a 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine titled, PARIS ON A BUDGET, has an article on "Every Parisian's Favorite Cookie". No surprise, the favorite cookie is considered to be a French macaron. Oh yes, a display case full of colorful macarons can take your breath away when you enter a French patisserie; a macaron's taste, plus the texture of the crisp meringue and flavorful, chewy center can again, take your breath away... but my favorite French cookie, or maybe overall favorite cookie, sans French, happens to be this Sablé à l'Orange et Raisins (currants, in this case).
I have been making this orange and raisin cookie for several years, but it did not immediately steal my heart. The cookie can be made two ways -- either with the grated zest of one orange, or, with candied orange peel. It is much easier when making them on the spur-of-the-moment to grab an orange and simply grate the rind. This was what I had always done. Making candied orange peel is not at all difficult, but you do need to plan ahead if you intend to use it when making this cookie. The candied orange peel, however, is what finally won me over. Sablés à l'Orange et Raisins is not an overly sweet cookie (another reason I love it... my tastes have changed), and when you bite into the candied orange peel and get that intense jolt of pure orange flavor... well, for me, there's nothing better.
Sablés à l'Orange et Raisins
adapted from Paris Boulangerie Patisserie by Linda Dannenberg
• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 large egg yolk
• 2 tablespoons ground almonds
• 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 cup raisins or currants (I always use currants)
• 1/4 cup chopped, candied orange peel (recipe follows)
• 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for glaze
1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until light. Add the egg, egg yolk, and almonds in turn, mixing after each addition until well blended. Sift the flour with the baking powder and add to the butter mixture, mixing just until partially incorporated. Add the currants and orange peel and finish mixing the dough with a large rubber spatula just until blended. Be careful not to overmix. Divide dough in half, and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll each piece of dough into a log 1-inch in diameter. Wrap entirely in the plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice each log in 1/8 to 1/4-inch pieces; place on prepared sheets. Brush the cookies lightly with the egg wash. Bake until light golden, about 13 minutes. Watch carefully so the cookies do not overbake.
3. Cool the pan briefly, then carefully transfer the cookies from the pan to the rack with a spatula. Cool completely. These cookies keep well, stored in an airtight container, up to 2 weeks, or frozen.
• I think the cookies taste better a day after baking, after the orange peel has time to infuse its flavor in the cookie.
Candied Orange Peels
adapted from Four-Star Desserts by Emily Luchetti
• 3 organic navel oranges
• 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Thinly slice both ends from the oranges, and starting at one end, take a sharp knife and slice the entire length of the orange, taking off a piece that includes some of the white pith (about 1/4-inch thick). Continue, until all of the oranges have been peeled. Lay the pieces on a cutting board and slice them lengthwise into 1/4-inch pieces
2. Fill a medium saucepan with water. Over high heat bring the water to a boil. Add the orange peels and boil for 5 minutes. Strain the peels and discard the water. Fill the saucepan with fresh water and again bring it to a boil. Add the peels and boil for 5 minutes. Strain. Repeat this process of boiling the orange peels 2 more times, each time with fresh water. This will remove the bitter flavor from the peels.
3. In a clean medium saucepan dissolve 2 cups of the sugar in the 1 1/2 cups water and the lemon juice over medium-low heat. Add the orange peels and cook until all the peels are translucent, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
4. Strain the orange peels and place them, so they are not touching, on a wire rack. Let sit overnight to air-dry.
5. Toss the citrus peels in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, coating them thoroughly.
• Store peels in an airtight container at room temperature.
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