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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Alpha Bakers: The Ischler

There is no better smell than the smell of freshly-baked cookies.

This is the third recipe in our baking adventure, The Ischler are not on the quick and easy list. I suspect mainly because there are 3 components to it and the recipe is 4 pages long. But they are really pretty quick and easy, especially considering  you can make some of the components in advance. The lekvar can be made ahead of time and last indefinitely in the fridge. The cookie dough itself can be made 2 days in advance.

These cookies are one of the recipes that I was looking forward to make when I got the book. I have made the Sugar Cookies recipe from Rose's Christmas cookies several times - it is one of my favorites, so naturally I was curious about the Ischler. Add that to the fact that the Ishler's photo is so beautiful. The styling is simple, there is no prop really, just the cookies themselves. The close up shot really did the job - I want to reach into the pages and grab a cookie (or three!).

All the steps for the Ischler are easy enough and I enjoyed putting the dough together in the food processor. And then I got to the roll and cut cookie part. I find this part a bit annoying. The dough is stickier than the sugar cookie. And towards the end of rolling, they have a hard time to stay together and wants to crumble. At some point I thought that these were not worth all the efforts, and I was glad I only made 1/2 a recipe or I would have spent a lot more time rolling and cutting. It took 10 minutes to bake them and I tried a couple as they are still warm. They were so good that I forgot my annoyance from earlier. They are totally worth the efforts. I find them way too sweet with the ganache and lekvar though. I like the cookies itself without any filling so next time (yes there is a next time), I will skip the lekvar and ganache.

I really like Ben Fink's photography of The Ischler, so these photos are my interpretations of his beautiful shot.

I have a whole box of cookie cutters - got a little carried away a few years ago at a cake supply store. It was so hard to decide on what to use, so I used 3 of them: 2 inch scallop, Linzer, and holly leaf.

For the lekvar, I remembered from Rose's Heavenly Cakes that Rose don't use the whole recipe of the lekvar, so this time I paid more close attention to how much is used in the recipe. This is where my baking math gets complicated. I only want to make as much as what the recipe required. And since I'm only making half recipe, my math gives me 12%, that is 12% of the lekvar recipe (are you reading this Marie?). That is 8 apricots. Yes I know it is nuts. But I did it and I get a nice little container of lekvar at the end. There really is no way to use 12% of 1 teaspoon of brandy (or 12% of the lemon zest for that matter), so I end up using more brandy and lemon zest than what the recipe calls for. Maybe if Rose or Woody are here they would give me disapproving looks to split recipes like this. But I hate throwing things away (which was what happened with the leftover lekvar from Rose's Heavenly Cakes). Making only what's needed makes me happy.

Cookie dough.

8 soaking apricots.

Peach brandy doesn't go bad, does it? This is still the same bottle I bought for Rose's Heavenly Cakes!

Almost lekvar - needs to be cooked for a bit.

Roll, roll, goes the cookies.

I made smaller quantity of the ganache as well. And used leftover heavy cream that I froze from Thanksgiving.

Cookie decorating. My favorite part. The holly leaf cookies got baked a couple of minutes too long so they are more brown around the edges.

I really like how the linzer one look. I think I need to get a linzer Christmas cookie cutter.

Hubby ate a few as they came out of the oven and then some with lekvar. He said they are excellent.

And if you're wondering, even with making 12% of the lekvar, there's still 1/2 quantity left....

Alpha Bakers is a group of bakers who are baking through The Baking Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum's latest cookbook. Come check out the rest of the group at Rose's Alpha Bakers.


  1. Such beautiful photos! Wow, your maths really good.. and i admire that you can cook just 8! Well, my lekva was from very long time!

  2. Beautiful photos of your gorgeous cookies!

  3. Jenn: I most decidedly do NOT do math! You are way over my head!! Great pictures and a great post! Love the shapes. I stuck with the (boring) scalloped circle but will get brave next time. Michele at GIVEAWAY THIS WEEK!

  4. Hi Jenn, I too admired Ben Finks photo. The cookies are so accessible. You just want to take one or two, but I think your cookies are equally as beautiful. Your choice of cookie cutter was perfect.. And kudos on the math!

  5. Super great pics Jenn! I can't believe how dark your apricots were. LOVE your linzer take on these - so cute!

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  6. Yes! Sticky and crumbly and altogether aggravating. Luckily for me, I liked the total combo better than you did. Yours are so beautiful that I really think you must make them again--soon you'll be known for them far and wide and you won't be able to get through the holiday season without making them. (I'm sorry if I just put a curse on you).

  7. ב''ה

    You'll be happy to know that brandy does not go bad. :)

    Like your take on these.

    I think a lot of us are saying that the cookies were good but the fillings left us wanting.

  8. Jenn, I so love your photos! They are inspiring and almost make me feel like making these again... Did you use organic apricots? I really like how dark yours are.

    The linger cookie cutter is cute - on my wish list now!

    Great post.

    1. Nicola, thank you. Yes I use organic apricots. They are really dark, almost black. I wonder what's the difference on how it's processed that makes them so much darker than the non organic kind?

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  10. Hi Jenn, I must have missed your blog any ways your cookies look wonderful I love your step by step and the pictures are just great they look so delicious I used peach liqueur , I did not have any brandy with peach or apricot but they still taste great and when you have time can you come see my post thank you so much Jenn.

  11. Your photos are so gorgeous! And the cookies look amazing too. I love the little cutout on the top cookie.

    I also like the slightly browner cookie from your holy leaf cutter. Because my rolling wasn't perfectly even, a few of my cookies were more brown than the others too and I actually liked the deeper flavor and color better. My lighter ones looked so pale.

    Your lekvar looks really delicious too. I am determined to make it soon because the recipe looked so yummy.


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