Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Duck Fat Cookies

I finally, finally got around to making David Lebovitz’s duck fat cookies for Christmas. They’re the kind of cookies where you roll the dough into cylinders, then chill it before slicing it into discs for baking. I sliced the first cylinder into 15 cookies, but unfortunately, they spread enormously on the baking sheet and looked like the sad ghosts of cookies-that-might-have-been. I was expecting *some* spread, especially since I had used margarine instead of butter, but not to the point that the cookies would be flat and burnt and very unappetizing (even though the thicker ones were really very good). So for the second batch, I let the dough come to room temperature and mixed it with additional flour and baking soda (the proportions being based on one of my mother’s recipes), then shaped it and chilled it again before slicing it. Now *those* cookies were fantastic, so that’s the version I’m giving you below. The yield should be around 3 dozen cookies, depending on how thinly you slice them – mine tend to be on the thicker side.

¼ cup (30 g.) dried currants or chopped dried cherries (I used the latter)
1 Tbsp. Armagnac, Cognac, or brandy (I used apple juice)
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) chilled duck fat
4 Tbsp. (2 oz./55 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used vegan margarine)
¾ cup (150 g.) granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups (175 g.) all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
½ tsp. baking soda

In a small saucepan, heat the currants over low heat with the liquor until the liquid is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a bowl, cream the duck fat, butter, and sugar on low speed just until well combined. Mix in the vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add it to the fat-butter-sugar mixture, stirring until the dough comes together. Then mix in the dried fruit pieces.

On a lightly floured countertop, knead the dough briefly until smooth. Shape it into a rectangle, and cut the dough in half lengthwise. Roll each piece of dough into a log 6 inches (15cm) long. (I did this differently because I started by separating the dough into two, then rolled each log until the diameter pleased me. My logs were roughly twice as long, so I’m assuming the diameter of my cookies was smaller.) If the dried fruit makes the dough crumble a bit, press the dough back together and continue to roll it into cylinders. Wrap each log in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 2 months.)

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 °F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Slice the dough into ¼-inch (0.75 cm) rounds and set them on the baking sheets, evenly spaced. Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheets midway through, for 12 minutes, until golden brown across the top. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheets until crisp. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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