I’m jealous of all your stunning landscapes with changing leaves, your picturesque apple orchards, your warming scarves and coats.
We’re still wearing shorts here in mid-November while biking to the beach, spotting tables full of colorful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market, and sleeping with the windows open. San Diegans love their year-round mild weather, and sure, there are some great things about it, especially when walking the pup, but, I really do miss the familiar fall back East.
A Saturday afternoon hike up Black Mountain; and beautiful views of sunsets from our neighborhood.
To bridge the gap, I’m trying to make up for the lack of season changes by still cooking seasonally: Hot apple cider at night, butternut squash in soups and salad, planning for my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
And plenty of baking.
My mom, sister Emma, and I decided we’d try to participate in the new Baking with Julia challenge, as we’re able. Dorie Greenspan’s new Baking Chez Moi is a beautiful mix of French desserts that are elegantly simple. While some of the past recipes that we made with the blogging group from Greenspan’s “Baking with Julia” were delicious, many were difficult and not all that special. We stopped way long ago, but have high hopes this time around though.
First up were these Palets de Dames, a little vanilla cake-ish cookie with a sweet icing. They were a simple treat to start off our baking challenge, a standard cookie recipe that calls for creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs, then vanilla (and lemon zest, if you want!), and finally flour. A chill in the fridge and then this cookie is ready to scoop and bake til they’re just golden on the edges. Powdered sugar, milk and a few drops of lemon juice make for a simple icing to dip the cookies in. Sanding sugar made the cookies sparkle.
The tender cookies are perfect for nibbling throughout the day, or enjoying with a mug of tea. The three of us, and our boys, thought they were delicious in their simplicity.
(This recipe has been posted many places online, including here, but for the most part, we’re not supposed to post the recipes in the future as a way to encourage bakers to buy the book.)
My mom’s version, above; Emily’s cookies are below.
Palets de Dames, Lille Style
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi
Note: I added lemon zest to the butter and sugar as it was creaming, on the suggestion or my mom, who baked them first. They were delicious with the citrus notes.
For the cookies:
9 tablespoons (4½ ounces;128 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (132 grams) sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
For the icing:
1 cup (120 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
About 1½ tablespoons whole milk
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and salt and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is again smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Don’t be discouraged if the mixture curdles; it will be fine as soon as you add the flour.
Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour in 3 additions, mixing only until it disappears after each addition. You’ll have a very soft dough that might look more like a cake batter than a cookie dough.
Scrape the dough into a bowl, press a piece of plastic film against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the dough for at least 1 hour, or until it is firm. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
You need about 2 teaspoons of dough for each cookie. You can use a small (2-teaspoon capacity) cookie scoop—my favorite tool for this job—or you can use a spoon to scoop out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough, in which case it’s best to roll the dough gently between your palms to form balls. Place the scoops or balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cookies are set and just slightly brown around the edges. Carefully transfer the cookies to a rack and allow them to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheet between batches.
To make the icing: Put the confectioners’ sugar in a wide bowl and add 1 tablespoon milk and the lemon juice. Using a small whisk or a fork, stir until you have a smooth icing that forms a ribbon when the whisk or fork is lifted. If the icing is too thick to flow smoothly, add more milk; you might need even more than 1½ tablespoons milk total, in which case it’s best to add the additional milk in nano-driplets.
One by one, pick up the cookies and dip one side into the icing, then lift the cookie up and give it a little twirl, so that the excess icing falls back into the bowl. Put the cookie icing side up on a rack and let the icing dry and firm at room temperature.
Serving: A cup of coffee, a palet de dames and la vie est belle.
Storing: Once the icing is dry, the cookies can be put in a covered container; they’ll keep for up to 3 days at room temperature. Because of the icing, the finished cookies can’t be frozen. However, if you’d like, you can pack the undipped cookies airtight and freeze them for up to 2 months; defrost and then ice them.