The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of What the Fruitcake?! Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.
The recipes Mandy provided for the different elements of the challenge can be found here.
What I made looks different from what you see on the Daring Bakers web site due to our household's dietary needs. Before I move on to describe what I did and why, I'd like to say a few words about icing. The Italian expression that corresponds to the English "the icing on the cake" is la ciliegina sulla torta (literally, the glacé cherry on the cake). To me, this is emblematic of the differences between English and Italian pastry traditions. One day, I will explain my thought in more details: for now, I will concentrate on my frollini.
A frollino is a biscotto di pasta frolla, a cookie made with sweet shortcrust pastry (or sweet tart dough). Frollini are popular in Italy, one of the kind of biscotti that Italian eat for breakfast or a snack, as I explained in this post. I usually make pasta frolla to make a crust for a tart and use the leftover dough to make cookies. This time, I made only cookies, and had fun cutting them in various shapes. The recipe for my variation on the pasta frolla theme is in this recent post.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, prepare a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper (carta da forno). You will have enough cookies to make two baking shifts, so take a bit more than half the dough and put the rest back into the fridge. Roll the dough to 4 mm thickness (a bit more than 1/8 inch) and cut as desired. Put the baking sheet with the first batch of cookies into the fridge for 10-15 minutes, while you heat the oven to 350 F.
Put the cookies in the oven. I check the cookies after 15 minutes and then carefully monitor them, as they can easily become overbaked. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Repeat with the second batch of cookies. If you have two baking sheets, you can cut and chill the second batch of cookies while the first one is in the oven.
The challenge required us to decorate the cookies with the theme of September, "whatever that means to you." September is when my husband and I celebrate the anniversary of the day we met. So, I started by making heart-shaped cookies (biscotti a forma di cuore). I then made turtle-shaped cookie. As I recounted in a previous post, my husband loves turtles, especially the sea turtles (tartarughe marine) that we are fortunate enough to have seen many times in their natural habitat (swimming, eating, or taking a nap). I also made cat-shaped cookies, since my husband is a cat lover and he taught me to love cats (gatti).
I recognize the great qualities icing has for decorating, but iced cookies are not eaten in our household. I therefore decided to use some white chocolate to add a touch of decoration to some of the cookies. I melted a small amount of white chocolate in a small bowl over a pot of steaming water, making sure the bowl did not touch the water, as explained in the book "Chocolate" by Linda Collister (a gift from a friend).
I didn't want to dip the cookies into the chocolate, and my attempts at creating some sort of design by spreading the melted chocolate did not go well. Still, one can interpret the small dot in the middle of the heart-shaped cookie in the photo as a stylized ciliegina sulla torta. I really like my frollini plain. You can eat them as a snack, or dip them into tea or caffelatte. Grab one or two, sit down, relax and concentrate on every bite: it's a celebration of the present moment.
A special thank you goes to our host for her choice and her efforts. It was a nice challenge. I hope you will take the time to go around and look at the creative output of my talented fellow Daring Bakers.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words and expressions mentioned in the post:
or launch the frollino audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]