December 22, 2010

lend me an ear and i'll sing you a song...

Inundated. That is a good way to describe how I feel at this time of year. I wasn't feeling super cheerful due to the endless list of things I wanted/needed (I'm very OCD, they are practically the same thing to me) to do this season. However, I found myself exclaiming "I LOVE CHRISTMAS!" after several sweet fourth graders deposited presents on my desk. Now, that sounds materialistic but the stuff had nothing to do with it. These sweet children thought of me when I am not even their teacher. I am merely an adult in their classroom that helps take care of one of their friends on a daily basis. Over seventy percent of children in this city live in the "low-income" or below bracket. Many receive free school lunch. The fact that they took time and family money to show they cared is beyond comprehension. Several more students started lamenting that they needed to run out and get me a gift after seeing a few peers do so. Over an over I pleaded that they save their money and just the thought to care was more than a present to me. So thankfully, some agreed and cute little handmade cards made their way to my desk and I will treasure them always. How can working in an elementary school not be the most fulfilling thing ever? I am already plotting my end-of-school-year present to them in hopes of showing them a fraction of how they make me feel. I have never felt more "holiday cheer" than at this school this week.

Thank you for letting me chat your ear off. Now I will share my ears, these yummy-scrumbo Elephant Ears, with you. Hopefully you can take a minute to savor and enjoy and let the rush melt around you.

Almond Elephant Ears

adapted from Big Fat Cookies
Yield: 24

2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pcs
1/2 C sour cream

7 oz almond paste, broken into pieces
2 T unsalted butter, softened
3/4 C confectioner's sugar
2 t heavy cream or milk
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 t almond extract
1 C granulated sugar, for rolling
1/2 C dried fruit optional

1. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer on low speed until the largest of the butter pieces are the size of peas. The butter pieces will be different sizes and there will still be some loose flour.
2. A the sour cream and mix until large clumps of dough form that pull away from the sides of the bowl.about 15 seconds(or use a pastry blender to combine the flour mixture and butter.
3. Form the dough into a smooth ball and flatten it into an 8x15-inch rectangle. Small pieces of butter will remain in the dough, contributing to the flaky texture.
4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerator for 30-60 minutes to rest and firm the dough.

1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the almond paste and butter until smooth.
2. Mix in the confectioner's sugar, cream or milk, vanilla and almond extract until blended to a smooth soft mixture. Stir in dried fruit if desired.
3. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, cover and set aside at room temperature for up to 1 hour or refrigerate if leaving overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare to roll the dough by sprinkling flour and sugar on a work surface and rolling pin.
1. Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap and roll the dough to a 14x12-inch rectangle. Don't flip the dough over while rolling, but lift and turn it several times as you roll it to prevent it from sticking to the rolling surface, sprinkling sugar generously on the rolling surface.
2. Use a thin spatula to spread the filling in a thin layer over the dough.
3. Turn the dough if necessary so a short side faces you. Measuring along the 14-inch sides, mark the center of the dough. Rolling from the shorter 12-inch edge that is closer to you, roll up the dough like a jelly roll just to the marked center then roll the far side toward the center until the two rolls meet. You will have a double log of filled dough that is smoothly attached on the bottom side.
4. Turn the double log over for easier cutting and press in the ends of the log to smooth them. Use a large sharp knife to cut the log into 12 1" thick slices.
5. Dip both sides of each slice in sugar, sprinkle the rolling pin with sugar. Roll out each slice of dough to a large butterfly shape about 2x4-inches and about 1/16 of an inch thick, sprinkling the rolling pin as necessary with sugar. The cookies will not all be exactly the same size.
6. Use a large spatula to place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with about 1/2 t sugar.
7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops are evenly light brown, about 15 minutes. The cookies will spread about 1 inch and rise slightly and the filling may bubble up on some of the cookies and have a few darker spots. Cool the cookies for about 5 minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Nutrition: 184 cal, 11g fat, 114mg sod, 36g carb, 23g sugar, 1g fiber, 7g protein


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