Baking with Alessi cookie cutters~ 烤餅乾的新玩具!

I’ve always been an admirer of Alessi products, so I was so thrilled to receive these Alessi cookie cutters as a gift from my brothers.

 

 

Alessi Classics
In this set, there are six cookie cutters in total, and are all shapes of iconic Alessi products: the Espresso Jug, the Mami Pot, the Figure  (Girotondo) the Hot Bertaa Kettle, the Bombe Teapot, and the Alessandro M. Corkscrew.
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前幾個月, 我哥哥跟弟弟寄了一個surprise 給我~我打開包裹看到這套Alessi Cookie Cutters 的時候真的是開心的尖叫了一聲! 有空的時候 就會把盒子打開來欣賞一下這幾個可愛的形狀。 前幾天終於為了慶祝美國的 “National Siblings Day” 拿出來使用。一邊烤餅乾,邊想著我很幸運, 夾在一位可靠的哥哥跟一位有智慧的弟弟中。 讓我同時享受當妹妹跟姊姊的樂趣。
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For my first time using these cookie cutters, I used my absolute favorite sugar cookie recipe from the Kitchn. (Please see recipe towards the end of this post) I love this recipe and I make them whenever an occasion calls for a cookie. From experience, I find that these sugar cookies are sturdy enough to withstand the flights of your imagination, and yet are still melt in your mouth in texture.(Personally, I omit the almond extract, and use either vanilla extract or vanilla bean, depending on whatever I have handy at the moment. I think the addition of cream cheese is brilliant. It adds a slight tanginess to the cookie, that elevates it from being just an ordinary sugar cookie, to something memorable.  Depending on the occasion, I’ve topped them with chocolate ganache, sandwiched strawberry jam between them, or sprinkled with lemon zest and sea salt flakes).The cookie cutters are made from 18/10 polished stainless steel, and cut nice clean edges.
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I like to roll the dough out quite thickly, so the cookies are akin to shortbread, and are that much more of a satisfying treat.

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One of the minor mishaps is that the skinnier parts of the cookie, such as the handle of  the espresso jug, or the Bertaa kettle, or the neck on the Alessandro corkscrew are a bit fragile. So I used a plastic butter knife to gently ease the cookie dough from the cutter.

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve used cookie cutters, so I had forgotten how satisfying the process of rolling out sheets of dough, and pressing the cookie cutters into the dough is.  It’s such a simple and precise, and calming feeling.

 

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On a side note, I’m starting to notice that my oven is showing signs of age, it seems that the heat is no longer being distributed evenly. Considering that this oven is almost 30 years old, it might be time for a replacement soon.

 

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I’m loving the shapes of all these cookies! The Hot Bertaa Kettle is a distinctive Alessi shape, but I also love the friendly shapes of the Mami Pot and the Bombe Teapot. (Both shapes are I think I will include next year in my holiday cookie gifts).

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這次用的餅乾食譜是我最常用的, 覺得這個食譜真的是白搭~可以用來做各式各樣的形狀~上面還可以加不同的 toppings (例如巧克力, Nutella, 海鹽跟lemon zest, 或是變成夾心餅乾)現在有了這套 cookie cutters, 我明年送出的聖誕節餅乾會更精彩了! 大家可以期待一下喔 :)

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Enjoy!

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Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter and cream cheese with the sugar. Beat for several minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon zest.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl then gradually add to the butter and sugar mixture until fully incorporated and a soft dough is formed.

At this point the dough can, and should be, chilled or frozen. If making cookies in the near future, divide the dough into 2 balls and roll each out to 1/4 to 1/8-inch thickness between large pieces of parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Or freeze the dough balls, wrapped in plastic wrap and a freezer bag, for up to 1 month. To thaw, leave in the refrigerator overnight then proceed with the recipe.

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment or a Silpat. Cut cookies out of the rolled dough and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack.

Cool completely before icing or decorating, and store in a tightly covered container.

Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies (Large Batch)
8 to 12 dozen, depending on size
3 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest
9 cups flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter and cream cheese with the sugar. Beat for several minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon zest.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl then gradually add to the butter and sugar mixture until fully incorporated and a soft dough is formed.

At this point the dough can, and should be, chilled or frozen. If making cookies in the near future, divide the dough into 2 balls and roll each out to 1/4 to 1/8-inch thickness between large pieces of parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Or freeze the dough balls, wrapped in plastic wrap and a freezer bag, for up to 1 month. To thaw, leave in the refrigerator overnight then proceed with the recipe.

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment or a Silpat. Cut cookies out of the rolled dough and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack.

Cool completely before icing or decorating, and store in a tightly covered container.

(Original recipe posted at: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-best-cutout-cookies-38629
)

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Field Trip: VVG Thinking

My first experience at the  VVG (which stands for Very, Very, Good)  group of restaurants was brunch at VVG Bistro.  I remember being charmed by the eclectic flea-market finds atmosphere, and I was inspired by the creative presentation of the food.  I recently found out that they had added quite a few new restaurants, including one called VVG Thinking.  I decided to visit on a Friday afternoon, after suffering from a particularly severe case of writers block (and job fatigue).   My usual cure for such malaises is to use coffee and dessert as treatment options.

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VVG Thinking is tucked into a quiet corner of Hua-Shan Creative Park, away from the general hustle and bustle.  I got a little lost trying to find the “brick building” area of the park, and in between being jostled by excited elementary school children wearing matching T-shirts, (also on a field trip) and the suffocating humidity, my nerves were more than a bit frazzled by the time I happened upon the brick building that housed VVG Thinking.

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The cavernous brick interior is adorned with wacky chandeliers, and mismatched wooden furniture, and fronds of greenery.  I was led to a window  table in a quiet corner. The generously sized tables at VVG Thinking are spaced just the right distance apart:  close enough for unobtrusive  people watching and far enough so you can hear just murmurs of their conversation. Based on my previous experience at VVG Bistro, I was tempted to order a few different desserts just to see the presentation.  My rationality returned after a few minutes away, and I settled on just one dessert, a the mixed berry compote cheesecake, accompanied by a berry flavored tea. The tea arrived first, served in a mason jar mug, atop a brown leather coaster.  The tea’s flavor was just the right balance of sweet and sour.

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The cheesecake arrived a few minutes later, and I was surprised to find that it came in a glass, instead of a plate. I was expecting the usual triangle of cheese + crust+ berry compote topping combination.

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Instead, the cheesecake arrived in short, squat oval glass container, accompanied by a cute silver shovel-shaped spoon.                                                                           

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Mixed Berry Cheesecake Anatomy

After digging into the dessert, I discovered that it was sort of like an inverted cheesecake.  Instead of the usually buttery crust on the bottom, this crust was reinterpreted into a crunchy topping, slightly tinged with the flavor of cinnamon and perhaps a touch of ginger.  The mascarpone filling had a light lemon flavor, and went well with both the berry compote and topping. In addition to being a  visually cute shape, it turns out the spoon was the perfect implement for eating this dessert. The spoon neck is the perfect length to dig through all three layers of the cake, and the bowl of the spoon fits just the right size mouthful of crunchy, velvety, sweet and sour filling.

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After finishing my dessert, I wandered to the shop upstairs, where I was excited to find an entire floor of  books, kitchenware, clothing and stationery supplies.

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All the merchandise is interspersed with fun knickknacks, like hippos, polar bears, felt animals and vintage typewriters.

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There were so many items that I never knew that I wanted until seeing them there. Suddenly,  it seemed like I really needed some gorgeous white enamel flatware and matching canisters…

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Or just a few pieces of Japanese ceramics and a shiny green teapot.

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In the end, after about an hour of undisturbed browsing, I couldn’t resist buying  two miniature cake tins.

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The sales assistant was lively and engaging, and she was well-informed about all the origins and details of the products on the floor. She even asked me about  what kind of cakes I was planning on baking (vanilla bean bundt cake!) while she was carefully wrapping up my purchases into a dark brown paper bag, sealed with a matching piece of Washi Tape. Overall,  VVG Thinking was a delightful place for a field trip.  First and foremost, it’s a place that’s visually interesting.  The high ceilings and pleasant lighting make it one of the more serene places to be on a Friday afternoon in Taipei.  The staff were friendly and attentive, but mostly left me alone to eat and daydream and browse in peace.  So if your brain is feeling tired and overworked, allow it to wander over to VVG table for some inspiration.

Information: VVG Thinking   Address: Huashan 1914 Cultural & Creative Park |MRT: Zhongxiao Xingsheng Station|Phone:  (02) 2322-5573 | 華山文創產業區   紅磚六合院 C 棟 (杭州北路 X 北平東路口)

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