Sunday, September 20, 2015

Nut Hugging Teddy Bear Cookies

A few weeks ago my sister sent me a link showing these ridiculously adorable bears tightly clutching almonds. The cute was too much for me to handle. Clearly I had to make them. And so should you! Lucky for you, I will show you how I made mine.

Some very lucky friends were hand delivered these adorable surprises. 
The original recipe comes from Maa-San. She is obviously a genius and her French culinary training and cute-oriented Japanese mind birthed these bears. I love the concept but I had the hardest time tracking down the items she used. First, the cookie cutter. I went to Hobby Lobby, Michaels, JoAnn's and AGS Cake Supplies and had no luck finding these cutters. I even considered making my own cutter but didn't want to risk wasting time with disappointing DIY results. Some people have used these bear clay cutters but they aren't the same. Their arms are too short and their legs too round. You definitely need a bear with longer arms. Her cutter can be ordered on Amazon but the estimated delivery time from China was a little over a month and I had to have them now (so I could gift them to a friend who was taking a Major Exam). So, I settled for the next best thing, this particular cutter from Patisse I could get with Amazon Prime (oh the glory of 2-day delivery). These bears look similar to Maa-San's but their heads aren't quite as round and their feet are shaped differently. But, when  I received mine, I was very happy with it. The quality is similar to other cutters, albeit a little pricey for what it is. Usually, cutters are $1 - $3 so at $8... this was robbery. Still, I am happy with my purchase and know I will get a lot of use out of it.

Secondly, the recipe calls for beet sugar syrup, which I could not find. I think it may be available at some specialty stores and it is definitely available on Amazon. But, I was too lazy so I went ahead and made my own sugar cookie recipe. The beet sugar makes the bears a darker brown color so if you want to replicate that look, you might be able to substitute it with molasses but I am wary of making those kinds of substitutions since baking is a science and I did not have time to experiment.

And now the moment you have been waiting for - the recipe. With this recipe, I made about 65 bears. Just enough to share with some seriously lucky friends.

3 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Cup Butter (2 sticks)
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 1/4 Tsp Almond Extract
1/4 Tsp Vanilla Extract
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, M&Ms)

1. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl.

2. Cream butter and sugar until smoothly blended.

3. Lightly whisk the egg and add it to the butter and sugar. Add the almond and vanilla extract.

4. Incorporate the flour into the butter and sugar mixture. I like to fold in the flour before turning on the stand mixer to prevent the flour from flying out. Make sure it is incorporated evenly. Your dough should be dense and not sticky.

5. Separate the dough into 2 balls and let it chill for 15 minutes or up to 1 day. You can also stop here and roll out the dough another day.

6. To roll out the dough, put it between 2 parchment sheets. Roll cookies from 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. The thicker the dough, the chubbier the bears. Personally, I prefer 3/8 of an inch.

7. Cut out bears and carefully line them on parchment paper. Carefully place a nut on the chest of each bear. Here, you ca be creative. In the People article, their author suggested M&Ms so I used them. Unfortunately, they broke apart in the oven so it did look like the bears smashed them. My favorite variety in terms of taste was a honey roasted pecan. So, so delicious. But in terms of appearance, the almonds I think, look best.

8. Gently cross the bears arms over so that they are clutching the nut. You want to press down on the dough. The previous instructions I saw only had the arms folded over without pushing on the dough. It made the arms look flat. I think if you use your thumb and index finger to create a puffed arm, it secures the nut and also creates the illusion of a more 3-D arm. Does that make sense? If it doesn't, I recommend watching Maa-San's video. It highlights how she places the arms and makes the bears look better in my mind.

9. Using a toothpick, create eyes and a nose. Extra dough can be rolled to create a little tail.

10. Cover the bears and chill them for at least 30 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If you skip this step, your bears will be puffier than intended.

11. Now bake for 8 - 10 minutes.

12. Take them out when their little paws are browned and try not to consume them until they cool down.

13. Enjoy!

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