The Void (or Purgatory Pin-up Girls)

  • Game: The Void (aka: Tension)
  • Publisher: ND Games, bitComposer
  • Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
  • Release Date: October 23, 2009 – International Version
  • Genre:  Single-Player First-Person Perspective Horror Adventure
  • Platform: Windows, PC
  • Price: around $1, via Steam Holiday Sale 2010
  • Summary:  A ferociously bewitching experience.

A Different Game Mechanic

I bought this game in the Indie Fright Pack (total cost around $5.00) along with 4 other games, and so far that’s been worth more than the price I got it at.

You play as a soul caught in The Void. The Void reminds me of grey and dankish purgatory or limbo. The goal of course is to escape The Void and become reincarnated, but to do that you must deal with the denizens of The Void: the half-naked pin-up-star Sisters, who are the keepers to the Chambers, and the monstrous Hellraiser-esque Brothers, who are like guardians. There are also Predators, mindless things that wonder the chambers looking for color to feed on. The key to life in The Void, the Sisters, and Brothers is Color, which is valued above anything else.

Color represents your life, armor, stats, and ammo. You gather color throughout The Void. You can also grow Color, or take Color from other beings. To use Color you have to convert it, and while processing Color in your “Hearts”, it becomes your stats which modify your ability to effectively use Color (read Color cost). There are 7 colors, each with their own properties and which can only be used by you if they are in your “Hearts”. You never stop processing Color, so you’re constantly moving and managing it.

As time passes, Color drains from your Hearts and into your Palette, where you can use that Color to manipulate the world. Color is ammo for Glyphs, which you draw on screen with your mouse. There are 21 Glyphs which are the manifestation of “artistic creation force”.  They are your weapons for attacking and tools for growing, finding, and gathering Color.

It’s this strange complex game mechanic that keeps me playing: Managing the Color, when and how to use it, seeing its effects on the outcome of the game. For example, Gold increases the Sisters’ trust while inside Hearts, lowering the amount of Color required in opening their Hearts. When Gold is used in the Void, it incites jealousy in the Brothers.

Pin-up Girls of the Void

The one thing I hate about this game is that every time I “give” Color to a Sister, she always writhes like some playboy pin-up girl in a photo shoot. I’m thinking that this game is aimed toward men, because as the girl wiggles about, you get the occasional “nipple shot” or “peek-a-boo-crotch shot.” Thankfully, I can skip those sequences by hitting the space bar. The Sisters are also demanding and keep asking you to do things for them and give them Color like your some kind of Color-Sugar-Daddy. I really want to slap dem bitches, and tell ‘em quit their whining! Damn ho’s!

Easy to Learn, Hard to Master

This game is kind of difficult, and takes a bit to master. I don’t mind this part and in fact, I like this kind of game play. This gives me something to learn, which is more than half the fun. This is bound to annoy other gamers, and I’ll I have to say is don’t be surprised when you have to go back and reload a save game. My advice is to save your game often.

Another case in point: when I first met a Predator, the Sister guided me through battering it with Color. As it died, she applauded me on and told me what a good little scout I was! AWESOME! So I’m killing any Predators I find, splashing Color on them. Later, a Brother reprimanded me, telling me throwing Color around is taboo. Then the Color itself starts whispering, “You’re wasting your soul.” Then from a conversion, I surmise that there’s relationship between Color spent in an area and the Predators that appear. Suddenly, I’m not sure if killing Predators is a mistake or not. ARGH!!!!

Summary

The Void is hauntingly beautiful, with a mysterious story, and even more mysterious game play. This game is most certainly not for everyone. I know people who would hate this game and others who would love it. It’s slow paced and sometimes unforgiving, which I can stomach in small bites. Too much time with The Void gave me nightmares or odd dreams. The Void’s rather inventive game play, coupled with a heck of a deal on Steam, make it worth playing.

-Anne @ annetrent.com

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #1 White & Chocolate Peppermint Chips

So melting butter creates a caramel flavor that really enhances the brown sugar flavor. I found that using a regular skillet works better because I could see when the butter was actually browned. You really don’t want the butter too hot, so to cool it down just combine the rest of the un-melted butter after you remove it from heat.

These cookies also love to spread out, so be careful about placement on the cookie sheet; each cookie ball needs to be placed about 2-inches apart.

Be sure to remove the cookies just as the edges are brown, and let them cook the rest of the way on the baking sheet for about 2 to 3 minutes before transferring them to the cooling rack.

If dough seems too soft, just place in the fridge and chill for about 15 minutes.

Software

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cups of white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup crushed peppermint candy

Hardware

  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • Electric stand mixer with paddle attachment
  • Medium Bowl
  • Small Bowl
  • Spatula
  • 10-inch skillet – not a non-stick one
  • Whisk

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees, then line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl and set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, for about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

Add both brown and white sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.

Transfer, butter mixture to mixing bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, on low setting stir flower mixture until combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips, white chips, and crushed candy cane.

Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet front to back halfway through baking.

Leave cookies on sheet for about 1 to 2 minutes, and then transfer cookies from baking sheet to wire rack and cool completely before serving.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #2 Shortbread Dippers

Shortbread is a classic Scottish dessert that consists of three basic ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter. This dessert resulted from medieval biscuit bread, which was a twice baked, enriched bread roll dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a soft and sweetened biscuit called a Rusk. Eventually, yeast from the original Rusk recipe was replaced by butter, which was becoming more of a staple in the British Isles. Despite the fact that shortbread was prepared during much of the 12th century, the refinement of shortbread into the modern recipe we know today was actually accredited to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century. This type of shortbread was baked, cut into triangular wedges, flavored with caraway seeds. Shortbread was expensive and reserved as a luxury for special occasions such as Christmas and weddings.

You can pretty much flavor your short bread with nuts and spices. I had a shortbread flavored with lavender.  I like mine plain with a bit of chocolate.

Software – Shortbread Base

  • 12 oz of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Software – Chocolate layer

  • 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Hardware

  • Electric stand mixer with paddle attachment
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Spatula

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and mix until well blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure sugar is well incorporated.

Mix on low speed and slowly add flower mixture until the dough starts to come together. Scraping the sides with a spatula ever so often.

Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

Remove from baking sheet and on to a cooling rack. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. (Don’t trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it’s completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Dip 1/2 of each cookie into melted chocolate, just enough to coat it.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cool the chocolate.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #3 Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are one of my favorite kinds of cookies. These are really super easy to make, the shortening makes for a chewier cookie. If you want crispier and buttery flavor, just replace the shortening with butter.

Software – Base Cookie

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Software – Layer 2

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Hardware

  • Medium Bowl
  • Electric Stand mixer with Paddle attachment
  • Flour sifter
  • Spatula
  • Cookie cooling rack

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

With standing mixer, beat together the shortening and butter. Add the 1 1/2 cups sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour mixture on low setting and blend until smooth.

Mix the 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.

Roll the dough, by hand, into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar. Flatten the balls into 1/2-inch thick disks, spacing them evenly on unlined cookie sheets.

Bake until light brown, but still moist in the center, about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #4 Chocolate Punishments

I have heard these cookies called “Punitions” which means “punishments” in French.  Apparently, grandmothers used to give them to their grandchildren for their “gouter” or “after-school snack” – luring them in by teasingly saying, “come and get your punishment!”

The more common name for this cookie is Sablé — a classic French cookie originating in Normandy France. The name ‘sablé’ is French for “sand”, which refers to the sandy texture of this delicate and crumbly shortbread-like cookie. The traditional shape is round with fluted edges and the tops of the cookies are usually brushed with an egg wash to give them a shiny appearance.

You really want to use a hardboiled egg yolk, it makes for a better “sandy” texture, just perfect with tea or coffee.

Another thing I’ve learned is to make sure the cookie dough is well chilled in six inch long cigar shape, this makes the dough firm so that it can be uniformly sliced.  When slicing, turn the dough roll after each slice, so it remains round and not miss-shaped by the cutting action.

Software

  • 1 large egg
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (2 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (1 ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon large egg white , lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar

Hardware

  • Saucepan
  • Small bowl
  • Fine meshed strainer
  • Medium bowl
  • Whisk
  • Electric Stand mixer with paddle attachment
  • Spatula
  • Parchment Paper
  • Baking Sheet
  • Flour sifter

Hard Boil the egg and prep the egg yolk — Place egg in small saucepan, cover with 1 inch water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill small bowl with ice water. Using slotted spoon, transfer egg to ice water and let stand 5 minutes. Crack egg and peel shell. Separate yolk from white; discard white. Press yolk through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl.

In a medium bowl, sift flour and whisk in cocoa until well incorporated.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, granulated sugar, salt, and cooked egg yolk on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl and beater with rubber spatula as needed.

Turn mixer to low, add vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Stop mixer; add flour and cocoa and mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, press dough into cohesive mass.

Divide dough in half; roll each piece into log about 6 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in 12-inch square of parchment paper and twist ends to seal and firmly compact dough into tight cylinder. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Oven rack to middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using chef’s knife, slice dough into ¼-inch-thick rounds, rotating dough so that it won’t become misshapen from weight of knife. Place cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Using pastry brush, gently brush cookies with egg white mixture and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.

Bake until centers of cookies are pale golden brown with edges slightly darker than centers, about 15 minutes.  Halfway through baking be sure to rote baking sheet front to back

Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using thin metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temp.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #5 Chewy Choco Choco Cherry

This was another request by Sig to make a cherry chocolate chocolate chip cookie. The hardest part with chocolate chocolate cookies is the can end up rather hard and too crispy. I thought a chewy kind of cookie would be far better. Cocoa  power really did the trick to get that chocolate cookie flavor. I highly recommend Dagoba Baking Cacao (yes, kinda sounds like Yoda’s planet). Really awesome stuff.

Don’t chop up the chocolate into tiny pieces. You want half-inch chunks, which will contribute chocolate flavor while staying intact.

Yeah, corn syrup is kinda bad, but it’s the holidays. Using dark corn syrup with the dark brown sugar boosts chewiness.

Warning:  DO NOT OVER BAKE! You’ll regret it. Seriously, 10 to 11 min is just fine. They’ll look a little gooey between the cracks; just leave them on the baking sheet for 5 min before transferring to a cooling rack. Too long in the oven and they will end up as rocks.

Software

  • 2 1/2 ounces of  granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar for coating cookies
  • 7 1/2 ounces of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt plus 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (70 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces of dried cherries

Hardware

  • Baking Sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • Electric Stand Mixer with paddle attachment
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Hand whisk
  • Kitchen scale for weighing ingredients

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.  Ready a ½ cup granulated sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.

In a small bowl, Whisk corn syrup, egg white, and vanilla together.

In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and 2.5 oz of granulated sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium-low, add corn syrup mixture, and beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bowl once with rubber spatula.

With mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture and chopped chocolate; mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom.

Chill dough 30 minutes to firm slightly.

Divide dough into 16 equal portions; roll between hands into balls about 11/2 inches in diameter.

Working in batches, drop 8 dough balls into baking dish with sugar and toss to coat. Set dough balls on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart; repeat with second batch of 8.

Bake, reversing position of the baking sheets halfway through baking (from top to bottom and front to back), until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), 10 to 11 minutes. Do not overbake.

Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack; cool cookies to room temperature.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #6 Butter Jams

I decided to make this cookie only because, I ended up with a free jar of raspberry jam from the grocery store. I think the bagger forgot to pack it in the previous customer’s bag and then put it in mine.  As karmic payment I will make cookies to give to the masses!

Software

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup raspberry, cherry or strawberry jam

Hardware

  • Baking Sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • Electric Stand Mixer with paddle attachment
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Hand whisk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the electric mixer, beat the butter and the sugar with a hand-held mixer until fluffy, at medium high speed for about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined.

Reduce speed to low and beat in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing just until incorporated. The dough should start clumping from the sides of the mixer bowl. You may want to use your hands to finish mixing.

Cool the dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop and roll in sugar.

Place about 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about 1/2-inch deep.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Half way through baking rotate the sheet for even cooking,

Cool cookies on the baking sheets for about 3 minutes. Remove from sheet and cool completely on a cooking rack.

Meanwhile, heat jam in a small saucepan, stirring, until loosened, about 30 seconds. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon into each indentation of cooled cookies

Cookies can be stored in a single layer for up to 1 week.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #7 Sugar Mods

Sugar cookies are silly easy to mod! You can add chocolate, peppermint, orange, hazel nut, or even almond, for flavoring. Add a bit of food coloring for a festive touch or add frost or a nice light glaze.

Software – Sugar Cookie Base

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Software – Peppermint Mod

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Software – Chocolate Mod

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted (30 seconds to 1 min in microwave on high)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Hardware

  • Electric stand mixer with paddle attachment
  • Medium bowl
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet

First make the Sugar Cookie Base Dough – Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine.

Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half.

Now mix in flavoring! Take the one half of the dough and mix in chocolate and vanilla by hand until chocolate is well incorporated.

Take the other half of the dough and mix in peppermint extract, egg yolk, and crushed peppermint candies.

Chill dough for 2 hours in fridge.

Mod 1:  Here you can do some fancy. Roll out the doughs separately to approximately 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper. Place peppermint dough on top of chocolate and press together around the edges. Using parchment paper or flexible cutting board underneath, roll dough into log.

Mod 2: You can also use each dough separately. I find sliced rounds easier to make than cookie cutters. If you go this route, form each dough into a log.

Wrap the logs in paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Mod 3: You can roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness and use cookie cutter shapes. Place out your shapes and press, but before removing the shape, use a spatula to transfer the cookie to a sheet.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

If you went with option 1 or 2:  remove dough from the refrigerator and cut into 1/2-inch slices

Place cookies 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat and bake for 12 to 13 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes, and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mod 4: Decorate with frosting! Or drizzle chocolate or white chocolate over the cookies for decoration.

If stored in an airtight container, they can last for up to 1 week.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #8 Pecan Crescents

You need superfine sugar for this recipe, but if you can’t find store bought kind you can make your own by food processing regular granulated sugar by pulsing for 30 seconds. I guess you could try confectioners’ sugar, but that maybe too fine for these cookies and you won’t get a cookie that melts in your mouth as with superfine sugar.

If you decide to bake with more than one baking sheet of cookies, be sure to turn cookie sheets from front to back and switching from top to bottom racks halfway through the baking process – this is for even baking as more than one rack of cookies tends to block heat.

Oh yes, if you wait too long while shaping your cookies, the butter starts to soften further and they start falling apart when you form them. Work fast, maybe putting them into the fridge before you handle them will give you more handling time. Try other kinds of shapes for fun! ^_^

Software

  • 2 cups whole pecans, chopped fine
  • 2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar for rolling cooled cookies

Hardware

  • Food processor with a steel blade
  • Electric stand mixer with paddle attachment
  • Baking sheets
  • Spatula

Adjust oven to middle rack if you are baking with one sheet at a time; with two sheets, adjust racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix 1 cup chopped nuts, flour, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

In workbowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process remaining chopped nuts until the texture of coarse cornmeal, 10 to 15 seconds (do not overprocess); stir into flour mixture and set aside. (To finely grind chopped nuts by hand, roll them between two large sheets plastic wrap with rolling pin, applying moderate pressure, until broken down to coarse cornmeal-like texture).

In bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed or by hand, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 1 1/2 minutes with an electric mixer or 4 minutes by hand; beat in vanilla. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula; add flour mixture and beat at low speed until dough just begins to come together but still looks scrappy, about 15 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl again with rubber spatula; continue beating at low speed until dough is cohesive, 6 to 9 seconds longer. Do not overbeat.

Working with about one tablespoon dough at a time, roll and shape cookies into balls, crescents, rings, or cigar shapes as desired. Bake until tops are pale golden and bottoms are just beginning to brown baking, 17 to 19 minutes.

Cool cookies on sheets about 2 minutes; remove with metal spatula to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Working with three or four cookies at a time, roll cookies in confectioners’ sugar to coat them thoroughly. Gently shake off excess. (They can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days.)

Before serving, roll cookies in confectioners’ sugar a second time to ensure a thick coating, and tap off excess.

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #9 Jelly Walnut Tea Squares

Since the previous cookies were so fairly sweet, I wanted to try something subtle but with a bit of a kick. I love tea, so having a biscuit or shortbread like cookie is what I was looking for. This is a slight variation on a Czechoslovakian Shortbread, also called a cukrovi or susenky. Best to store these tasty morsels under a tight lid, else they may lose moisture and become too dry. Don’t worry if they come out ugly looking, I think they happen that way because the dough ends up so soft. If I were to do this over, would have cooled the dough down even more in the fridge, and included it in the instructions below.

Software – Level 1, Shortbread

  • 1 cup walnuts or almonds
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, diced and slightly chilled
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or vanilla

Software – Level 2, Jelly Filling

  • 1 cup cherry jam or your favorite
  • 1/2 lemon, zest finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg white, for brushing

Hardware

  • 9×12 ½ – inch baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Food Processor

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.

Butter a 9×12 ½ – inch baking sheet pan, and then cover bottom with parchment paper.

Pulse the walnuts with the sugar, in a food processor until fine and powdery, about 2 minutes.

Slowly add the flour, spices, and salt, pulsing until evenly combined.

Add the butter, yolks, and brandy and pulse until the mixture starts to come together. Stop mixing and pull the dough together by hand, press and roll into a thick log about 8 inches long.

Often the dough end up very sticky, so refrigerate it until easier to work with, about 30 minutes.

Cut the log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Lay 8 pieces of the dough on the bottom of the pan. Press and spread the pieces together with your fingertips to cover the pan evenly.

Stir the cherry jam, lemon zest and juice together in a bowl. Spread the mixture evenly over the surface of the dough with the back of a spoon.

Roll the remaining dough out on a well-floured surface about 1/8-inch thick. Use a small decorative cutter, such as a leaf, tree, or star, to cut the dough into 24 pieces. Evenly place the pieces on top of the filling in 6 rows of 4.

Alternatively, you cut the dough into long strips with a pizza wheel or knife, and place them on the filling in a lattice pattern or even cut the dough into ovals and lay them on the filling in a decorative pattern.

Brush decorative layer of dough with egg white.

Bake the squares until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Cool completely in the pan on a rack. Cut with a serrated knife into 2-inch squares.