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Neapolitan Cookies

Neapolitan Cookies
The oval, brown seed of a soft fruit, nutmeg has a warm, sweet, spicy flavor. Inside the fruit, the nutmeg seed is enclosed in a lacy red cage that, when lifted away and ground, is known as the spice mace. In small amounts, nutmeg acts as a subtle flavor booster in savory dishes, but it is most frequently used to flavor sweet treats, including custards, cakes and cookies. Whole nutmeg keeps its flavor much longer than ground nutmeg. Always grate nutmeg just before using. Use the finest rasps on a box grater, or a specialized nutmeg grater.

Ingredients:

  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
     temperature
  • 1 1⁄4 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped, melted
     and slightly cooled
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 or 2 drops red food coloring
  • 1⁄4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your finger and thumb. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the egg, vanilla and salt until well blended.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour and baking powder. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until blended.

Divide the dough evenly among 3 bowls. Stir and knead the chocolate and pecans into the first bowl, the food coloring into the second bowl and the nutmeg into the third bowl.

Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a sheet of waxed paper, overlapping the long sides by about 3 inches. Scrape the nutmeg dough into the pan and, with a small offset spatula, press to the edges in an even layer. Smooth out the dough with your fingertips. Drop the pink-tinted dough by teaspoons onto the nutmeg layer and press into an even layer. Smooth with your fingertips. Repeat with the chocolate dough. Fold the waxed paper over the top and press to smooth and compress the layers. Refrigerate until firm, at least 24 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Use the paper to lift the dough out of the pan. Invert onto a wooden board and remove the paper. Using a long, thin knife, cut it in half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into slices 1⁄4 inch thick to make striped cookies.

Place the slices at least 1 1⁄2 inches apart on the prepared pans. Bake the cookies until set and pale gold on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for a few minutes, then transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely.
Makes about 72 cookies.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Cookies, by Marie Simmons (Simon & Schuster, 2002).