Monday, October 4, 2010

a cookie for Bobbie Sue

I'm not much of a specialty baker.

For all my meddling and reluctance to follow a recipe directly, I don't do much in the way of adaptations for dietary restrictions. Tinkering with seasonings and proportions is one thing, but making wholesale substitutions is quite another. I know where I am with whole eggs versus egg whites. When it comes to egg replacer, all bets are off.

I play it safe, seeking out recipes for given restrictions that don't use (or need) the problem ingredients in the first place. Gluten-free cookie? Try a delinquent macaron. Vegan tea treat? Have a slice of banana bread. Sugar-free baked good?

Er. Did you try Googling for "nearest specialty bakery?"

I carried out a few experiments in sugar-free baking during college. There was a lot of Splenda involved, and the results were terrible. (File under "youthful stupidity, in the name of." Blame the Atkins diet. Lesson learned: don't date anyone who doesn't eat pasta.)

Even after I gained more experience in the kitchen, I had no need for sugar-free baked goods in my repertoire, and so I never bothered revisiting that particular dark chapter of my culinary endeavors.

Then I met Bobbie Sue.

Bobbie Sue, Bella's mother, is a spectacular baker. From rich, moist blueberry buckle, to flaky snickerdoodles, to tangy rhubarb pie, her creations defy guests to not go back for seconds. Unfortunately, Bobbie Sue can't eat sugar for health reasons, and while she looks on with good grace during the dessert course at holiday gatherings (and urges guests to take seconds), it still seems unfair.

My chance to remedy that came at a Fourth of July potluck. Short on time, I decided to bake shortbread. Casting about for seasonings, I came across a package of Trader Joe's cranberry, pecan and rosemary snack mix. Lining up all my ingredients on the counter, it struck me: sugar isn't essential to the structure of shortbread.

The rest was easy: skip the sugar. Throw in an egg yolk for extra binding. Add vanilla to enhance the sweetness of the dried cranberries.

The result? Delicate, buttery cranberry-pecan rosemary sandies. Cookies that Bobbie Sue could eat. A decent sugar-free recipe for my repertoire.

And not a Splenda packet in sight.

Cranberry-Pecan Rosemary Sandies

If you live near a Trader Joe's, you can use one package of their rosemary cranberry pecans in this recipe, instead of buying the ingredients separately.

These work well as part of a cookie assortment, and also make an interesting addition to a cheese tray.

Appended note: These are technically sugar-free, in that the recipe doesn't call for sugar, but as one of my commenters points out, dried cranberries are sweetened. Double-check with your dietary restrictions as necessary.

(Makes two dozen. Dough may be frozen.)

In a mixing bowl, combine one stick of softened unsalted butter with one egg yolk, a half-teaspoon of salt, a half-teaspoon of vanilla, and a half-teaspoon of dried rosemary. Work in one cup of flour, a quarter-cup at a time, until you have a sandy dough. Mix in half a cup of toasted salted pecans and half a cup of dried cranberries.

Turn the dough (it will be quite crumbly) out on a sheet of wax paper. Form the dough into a one-and-a-half-inch log, roll it up in the wax paper, and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Cut the log into two halves. Cut each half into a dozen slices, and arrange the slices on the baking trays. (Dough may be frozen at this point.)

Bake for fourteen to fifteen minutes, or until browned at the edges. Allow to cool for five minutes on baking trays before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool fully before serving.


Bobbie Sue said...

Adele--You have no idea how wonderful it was to be able to eat these delectable treats. And eat them I did--with and without a cup of tea. Which resulted in the weight gain of several lbs! Bobbie Sue

Cakelaw said...

Very clever - "sugar free" is a tough one, and Splenda does not cut it. Filed away for when sugar free is good (my Mum's diabetic, so I am sure that she might like these).

Bitsy said...

It's not that I want to be contrary.

Don't dried cranberries have an awful to of sugar in them?

adele said...

Bobbie Sue - I'm glad you enjoyed them!

Bitsy - I have no idea, to tell you the truth. I was working with the guidelines I had - dried fruit okay, sugar not.

Cakelaw - As Bitsy points out, dried cranberries are sweetened. Don't know if that'll be okay for your mother. (I was working with a medication issue rather than diabetes.)

Bobbie Sue said...

Yes, dried cranberries are generally sweetened. My need to avoid sugar is not diabetes related, so exchanges are not something I have to deal with. But, I do need to pay attention to sugar intake and must be quite diligent about it. Adele's generosity and thoughtfulness was deeply touching. I miss her desire to learn what I can teach and the sponge-like way in which she does it! (Splenda is to be used with extreme caution. The science on this product is not encouraging, and at some point will actually become common knowledge.)