Cookie Plate

Cookie Assortment

Gisslen’s Professional Baking recipe was the winner, with some tweaking, of course – more butter, more sugar and ¼ of the sugar switched to brown sugar. Two weeks after the initial batch, I’ve created six different cookie recipes using the same base – each passed my taste test and I’ve gained two pounds to prove it. I also shared them with the masses – coworkers and neighbors. Starting from the top of the plate:

  • Cardamom Caramel Triangles (one of my favorites, but the cardamom scares some people)
  • Almond crescents (very similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies)
  • Hungarian Apricot Disks (easy and popular) – needed a drizzle of glaze
  • Key Lime drops (also easy, but not so popular) – may try lemon next time
  • Cherry Streusel Bars (very popular with the neighbors, but the last cookies on the plate in the office)
  • Walnut Derby Cups – in center (delish, but labor intensive)

I’ve made each of these recipes at least twice, plus three additional recipes that didn’t make the cut (Coriander, Curry  & Coconut anyone?), plus more versions of butter cookie base than I can remember. I submitted the photo and descriptions to the steakhouse and suggested we a schedule a tasting.  This was the answer:

“looks delicious.. how about a choc chip??”

Really, that easy? Chocolate chip?! Ugh – back to the drawing board.

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Tart – Round 2

It’s all in the crust.  I changed it to a pressed shortbread a’ la lemon bars and it worked perfectly.  I played with three versions – ginger shortbread, ginger cardamom shortbread (I don’t like this combo, but it DID place #2 so I thought I’d try it again) and ginger shortbread with a white chocolate layer between crust and custard. 

I also whipped up a lemon swirl cheesecake with a gingersnap crumb crust. 

My tasters narrowed it down to the cheesecake and the tart with the layer of white chocolate.  Now the tricky part – the final decision:

Them:             They’re both good.

Me:                  But which one do you like better

Them:              I don’t know, they are both good and completely different

Me:                  OK, but if you were going to order one of them for dessert…

Them:              I’d order crème brulee. I always order crème brulee.

Me:                  Crème brulee is not a choice.  If there are only two desserts on the
menu – the tart and the cheesecake, which one would you order?

Them:              I wouldn’t order a lemon dessert. But if someone gave me either I would be happy.

Me:                  If you had to ORDER one…

Them:              So, you’re saying  the dessert CAME with the meal and I had to order…then I’d ask the server which one they liked better.

Me:                  OK, let’s say the server said both of them were good.

Them:              I would ask the server if the cheesecake was New York style. I don’t like York Style cheesecake, it’s too dry.

Me:                  I don’t like New York style either.  So the server says, “no”.

Them:              I’d order the cheesecake.

Ugh!

Tart

The results are in…and I disagree

Winner:          White Chocolate Lemon Tart
2nd place:       Cardamom Ginger Crust
3rd place:        Lemon Tart Brulee
4th place:        Ginger-Crystalized Ginger Crust
Loser:              Vanilla Lemon Tart

I’ve been testing lemon tarts with ginger snap crust today – using my co-workers as guinea pigs.  These were their results.  The white chocolate lemon tart is good, but it’s not lemony enough.  The Cardamom Ginger Crust was just odd – the cardamom overwhelmed the lemon and the ginger.  For me, it’s O-U-T.  The brulee was the most classic – and, oddly, as many people loved it as hated it. 

For the next permutation, I’m going to continue with the White Chocolate lemon tart theme but add additional lemon zest to bring up the lemon flavor.  Filling is decided.

The crusts, on the other hand, were a disaster and I almost didn’t have any tarts to taste.  My first issue was the pans.  They were inexpensive $1.50 numbers from Sur la Table with ill-fitting removable bottoms.  “Sur la Table” and “inexpensive” are dichotomies – that should have been my first clue.  The crust was a combination of ginger snap crumbs, sugar and butter.  I’ve used this crust for cheesecake with great results.  Lesson #1 – what’s good for a springform isn’t good for a removable bottom tart pan.  The butter oozed and the sugar crumb crust imbedded around the bottom.  Once cooled, I could barely pry tart from pans and I needed a pairing and filet knife to do so.  One tart died this morning during the process.  By the time I brought the tarts to work, the bottoms were soggy and disintegrating. 

So, Step 2 (most likely taking up my Saturday) is to try a graham cracker crust with ginger (and line the pans with foil or parchment).  I’m also going to try a pressed shortbread ginger crust (lemon bar style) as well as a Phyllo dough crust (sprinkled with ginger sugar).  The last option will be to pour a layer of white chocolate between the filling and crust in an attempt to thwart a soggy bottom. 

And I wanted to play with a lemon curd cheesecake, too?  No time, no time.