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Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

As a kid, I loved pirouette cookies by Pepperidge Farm. Light and delicate, the tube shape also makes them fun to eat. Over the holidays, a neighbor made some cat’s tongues, for which I am still awaiting the recipe, and the cookies reminded me of flattened pirouettes—shaped like a cat’s tongue, of course. Once I get the recipe from her, I will be sure to share it here. While waiting for the recipe, I got to thinking about making pirouettes, especially since they go really well with gelato (see photo from my last post about gianduja gelato). When I noticed that this recipe calls for just egg whites and the gianduja gelato needed the yolks, I knew I had to make them together.

When I first made these cookies, I followed the original instructions, which said to spread the dough with a spatula. That turned out a lot easier said than done, and I just ended up with some messy blobs. I thought about ways to get the dough to spread more, and figured that since these cook so quickly already, why not just add the dough to hot cookie sheets?

I placed the silpat-lined cookie sheet in the oven and let it get nice and hot. I then removed the sheets from the oven and spooned on the dough. It definitely spread better, especially around the edges, where the dough was a little runnier. Finally, I thought I would heat a little dough in the microwave for just a few seconds. Just 8 seconds for 1/2 cup of dough resulted in a thick batter I could coax into pouring without losing any volume. Combined with the hot cookie sheets, this worked really well. After pouring 4 equal dollops on the hot cookie sheet, I tilted the sheet at all angles to help the dough spread into thinner, larger circles.

Handling hot cookies
These cookies come out of the oven hot, but if you work quickly and utilize the spatula and wooden spoon handle enough, you don’t need to wear any kind of gloves while rolling the cookies. The finished cookies are very similar to Pepperidge Farm’s pirouettes, though I think these are a little more buttery. The original recipe instructions advised against browning anything but the very edges, but I found that minimal browning resulted in a cookie that wasn’t very crunchy. We liked the over-browned ones more for this reason, so definitely err on the side of too dark than too light since they are more forgiving for over-browning. I made these two weeks ago and they are still crunchy.

Ingredients for making Pirouette Cookies.

Beat 1 cup of room temperature butter, 1 cup of sugar and 4 egg whites together until fluffy.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Slowly mix in 1 cup of flour until just blended.

Scoop out 1/2 cup of dough and heat for 8 seconds in microwave to thin and warm.

Pour a tablespoon of dough onto preheated, silpat-lined cookie sheet. Once dough for 4 cookies is poured, tilt cookie sheet at all angles to spread dough.

Bake for 4 – 6 minutes in 400° F oven until edges brown. Use spatula to lift hot cookie from cookie sheet and place over handle of wooden spoon.

Drag one hanging edge of cookie under wooden spoon and then lower wooden spoon to begin rolling, pressing on seam when finished.

Place rolled pirouettes on lowered cooling rack to cool and help prevent unrolling.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Pirouette Cookies recipe page.

A Bit Nutty: Gianduja Gelato

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Pictured above is a bowl of Gianduja Gelato. Until I started making candies a decade ago, I had never heard of gianduja. In case you have never heard of it, gianduja is a chocolate product made from chocolate, hazelnuts and almonds. It has a similar texture to milk chocolate, although slightly less firm. I have been using gianduja every year to make gianduja truffles, but I always ended up with about half a pound of gianduja left over. This year was no exception, so I found myself thinking of ways I could prevent it from going to waste. With the weather being nice this last week, it seemed like a good excuse to make some gelato. I poked around looking for some recipes, but most seemed to call for milk chocolate and hazelnuts, so I just sort of made this recipe up.

The first time I made this I used whole milk—common for many gelatos—but the finished gelato was a little icy. The first batch also had issues with appearance since the gianduja didn’t full incorporate with the hot custard base. The custard was more than hot enough to melt the gianduja, but there were still little flecks that no amount of stirring would remedy; it looked like diet ice cream. It is worth noting that whole milk alone wasn’t an issue when I did the same process with dark chocolate in the dark chocolate gelato. I still had some gianduja left, so I made another batch later in the day. This time, I first melted the gianduja in a double boiler and then slowly tempered it with small amounts of the hot custard. This resulted in a silky smooth gelato free of the flecks of gianduja in the first batch. I remedied the icy texture by substituting half & half for the milk.

The resulting gelato has a wonderfully smooth texture with nutty overtones. The addition of a couple tablespoons of Frangelico liqueur helps promote the hazelnut flavor while keeping the gelato texture nice and soft.

Ingredients for making Gianduja Gelato.

Heat 2 1/2 cups of half & half over medium heat until simmering, stirring frequently.

Mix 3/4 cup of sugar with 5 egg yolks until light and fluffy.

With the mixer on medium-low, slowly pour the hot half & half into the egg and sugar mixture.

Heat the eggs, sugar and half & half until it reaches 165 °F to form a custard base. Remove from heat.

Chop 6 ounces of gianduja and melt in a double boiler over very hot (not simmering) water.

Mix in about 1/4 cup of the custard base into the melted gianduja. Stir until blended. Repeat with gradually larger amounts of the custard base until smooth.

Transfer the gelato base to an ice bath and chill until less than 45 °F. Add 2 tablespoons of Frangelico liqueur.

Freeze according to your maker’s instructions and transfer to a dedicated, odor-free container to ripen in the freezer for several hours.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Gianduja Gelato recipe page.