Posts Tagged ‘cookies’

I’ve got a drafty house with a high cathedral ceiling; when the nights are chilly, it sometimes takes more than just our little heater to get the living room to a livable temperature.  On evenings like that, one of which happened to be last night, I start thinking of a good reason to turn on the oven.  What better reason to whip up a batch of oatmeal cookies?  Not just any oatmeal cookies, but spicy, chewy, stuffed-full-of-fruit that I could pretend that would be a perfectly healthy breakfast kind of cookie (it’s got oatmeal!  And fruit!  Fruit is healthy, right?) I could chow down on with a big steaming cup of coffee the next morning. 

I hadn’t made oatmeal cookies in a long time, and I believe it was based on that the last time I made them, they were kind of uninteresting and bland.  I played around with a pretty standard recipe, adjusting the sugars to have more brown sugar, adding a blend of spices rather than just cinnamon, and adding two-and-a-half times the dried fruit than the original cookie recipe.   I also bumped up the salt–I’ve mentioned before my love of the sweet-and-salty combination, and I added more than some people would like.  With the increased brown sugar, it gives the cookie a flavor reminiscent of salted caramel, which I love, but I know is something of an acquired taste to others.  Of course, you don’t need to add the same amount of salt.

Over the years, I’ve learned some tricks to produce not only delicious, but attractive, bakery-style cookies made from drop cookie dough.  I’m feeling generous (and a little over-sugared), so I’ll share with you today: 

  • Everyone knows to let the butter get to room temperature, but also let the eggs come up to room temperature, too. 
  • When creaming the butter and sugars, beat them for a few minutes until light and fluffy.  This will help to beat in some air into the batter which will help the cookies rise.
  • Give it a rest!  The dough, that is–once all the ingredients are all incorporated, chill the dough for at least an hour.  This gives the flour a chance to absorb the moisture from the wet ingredients, and cold dough going into a hot oven will help create that ideal cookie texture–crunchy along the edges, chewy in the middle.
  • Invest in an ice cream scoop.  Scooping the dough into small balls will help create cookies of the same size and shape-it’s how bakeries are able to create their cookies looking so nice. 
  • In the vein of the last two tips, if all you want is just a few cookies out of a batch, drop cookie dough is easily frozen for future use.  On a sheet pan, line up scoops of dough and place the pan in the freezer until dough is solid–about 4 hours.  Fill up a Ziploc bag and stash those proto-cookies in the freezer.  Next time you have guests, all that needs to be done is preheat the oven and bake off just the amount needed.  Guests will think you’re the next Martha.  Or something like that. 

My precious stash of oatmeal cookie dough. 

Fruit-Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 heaping teaspoon coarse salt such as kosher salt (if you’re not into the extra salt, use a level teaspoon)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon clove

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 1/2 cups dried fruit (what makes this cookie special is using a mixture of fruit–I used cranberries, raisins, apricots and figs–use what you like, but use at least 3 different fruits)

  1. In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and spices, and add to mixer; beat until incorporated.
  4. Slowly add oats and fruits and mix until just blended.
  5. Scoop dough onto parchment-lined sheet pans, leaving 2″ between cookies.  Cover loosely with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350° while dough chills.
  7. When dough is set, place pans into preheated oven and bake for 14-16 minutes. 
  8. Cookies are done when the bottoms are golden brown, but the centers will still be a little soft.  Cool on sheet pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool. 

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You know, I have a surfeit of bacon fat in my fridge–I keep it every time we make bacon for breakfast, and with the exception of using a spoonful now and again when I sauté vegetables, I don’t really use it.  I wanted an interesting way to get rid of it as Lent is on its way and since I’ll be going meatless for 40 days, it wouldn’t be a very good idea to have it hanging around until April. 

I don’t know exactly what led me to making shortbread, but I’m glad I did it.  My favorite recipe for shortbread happens to come from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery–I did a little tweak in that I replaced half of the butter with some of that bacon fat to add that smoky-savory flavoring to the cookies.  Bacon fat has a tendency to be softer than butter, so the dough was a bit soft to work with, but not so much that it wasn’t a real issue.  With a little glaze made of powdered sugar, maple syrup and a bit of milk, and a generous sprinkling of finely chopped candied bacon, I ended up with this:

I think the next time I do this cookie, I may add a bit of chopped cooked bacon to the dough and perhaps add a bit of maple extract to the glaze to punch up the maple flavor in the glaze–it’s just a thin bit of glaze so it’s really only a hint of maple here.   As for the candied bacon, I think I would bake them for another minute or two in the oven, as the bits are still a bit chewy, and I’d rather have the crunch–but they’re otherwise perfect taste-wise.  The texture is fantastic with the right amount of crumble like a good shortbread.  I used a 1″ round cutter for a wee little button of a cookie; the picture I had in my mind from the start was to have a little delicate bite-sized rounds, and I don’t think I could do them any other way.  But, I could see someone else going the thicker bar or wedge route–those, in my opinion, would definitely require the addition of chopped bacon in the dough. 

Bacon Maple Shortbread


1/2 cup cold bacon fat

1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  1. With an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat bacon fat, butter, and sugars together on medium for 3-4 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the flour in three batches, blending on low until flour is just combined with each batch, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  3. Turn out dough onto floured surface, press into a disc and wrap with plastic.  Chill until firm, for at least 2 hours (overnight is fine).
  4. Preheat oven to 350°
  5. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4″ thick.  Cut rounds with 1″ cookie cutter and place on parchment-lined sheet pans.  Pierce cookies with a fork (twice, parallel to each other–gives it a “button” look).
  6. Place sheet pans into refrigerator for about 20 minutes until dough is cold and firm.
  7. Place sheet pans into oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden. 
  8. Slide onto wire cooling rack and let cool completely before glazing.

Candied Bacon

6 slices bacon, cut into 1″ strips

1/4 cup brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 400° and line sheet pan with foil.
  2. Toss bacon pieces in brown sugar, coating both sides.  Place pieces on foil.
  3. Bake  12-15 minutes, turning over halfway through.
  4. When bacon is dark and glazed-looking, remove from sheet pan and drain on brown/butcher paper (it will stick to paper towels).
  5. When cool, chop finely and set aside. 

Maple Glaze

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons whole milk

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, syrup, and milk until smooth.
  2. Pour, spoon, or brush glaze onto cookies.
  3. While glaze is still wet, sprinkle finely chopped candied bacon on top, and let glaze set. 

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Ok, I lied.  Last post, I said it was the last of the baking.  Turns out tonight is my father-in-law’s birthday party, and he requested I bring up his favorite cookie to share.  I’ve made these many times before for the in-laws, as they’re fast and easy to make, and they love coconut (and to tell the truth, so do I).  

Back when I was a teenager (oh, it hurts to say that was in the 80’s) my mother had a recipe for a simple macaroon–a bag of coconut, a can of condensed milk, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, chopped macadamias–scooped into little balls and baked until golden.  They weren’t the lighter, fluffier macaroons that used egg whites; these were dense, chewy and caramelly–a cookie right up my alley.  The recipe was sadly lost until the day in 2001 when I was working at Border Grill as a pastry cook and I had to make a batch of their pajas (“straw” in Spanish, as they do resemble a pile of straw, or a haystack).  I laughed when I realized that it was essentially the same cookie, but their version was with chopped dried apricots, dark chocolate, and pecans.  I made hundreds of those pajas during my time at the restaurant, and the recipe is as natural as breathing. 

It’s an incredibly easy recipe–just five ingredients–and a cinch to adapt to your personal tastes.  Don’t like pecans?  Use almonds!  Can’t stand cranberries?  Swap them with dried cherries!  The possibilities are endless! 


adapted from Border Grill

1-7 ounce bag shredded, sweetened coconut

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup dried fruit–cranberries, cherries and apricots (chopped) are best

1 cup chopped nuts such as pecans, macadamias, or almonds

1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all 5 ingredients and stir until well coated with the condensed milk.
  3. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (I mean it, too–these will stick to an unlined pan!)
  4. Scoop dough into golf-ball sized pieces and place 1″ apart on lined sheet pan.
  5. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until coconut is a dark golden brown.
  6. Cool completely on pan, peel off from parchment paper. 

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Hey, Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends and good cheer!

After the crazed consumerist orgy of the past 24 hours, I have some time to play with my new gift:  a little tabletop photo studio while Choo has a Three Stooges Marathon and Kiddo builds Xanadu out of Lego.  I can finally catch up here and write about the last of the Christmas baking.  Man, I don’t know about you guys, but I have put out a massive amount of baked goods and candies over the past two weeks and I think I’ve hit my sugar limit.  I know it’s bad when I’m craving a spinach salad and an unsweetened ice tea.  Still, I’ve had fun, stretched my skills a bit, and everyone who has been a lucky recipient has enjoyed their treats (so they say!). 

First up:  Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Snowflakes

I love gingerbread, and this is a great recipe, full of spice–I’d highly recommend using this if you like to decorate with gingerbread.  I had them sit out overnight after icing them, as royal icing needs a few hours to set, and I awoke to the best-smelling living room, ever.   If you’re using them for decorations, make sure to roll them thin and bake 4-5 minutes longer to dry out the cookie, and if you’re planning on hanging them, use a drinking straw to poke a hole to run a ribbon through. 

Just a note:  yes, this recipe has black pepper in it.  Don’t get all weirded out by it;  black pepper is a component in quatre épices (four spices), a traditional French spice blend used in everything from things such as pain d’epices to savory stews.  Don’t skip it.  You’ll miss the great bite that the pepper gives this cookie. 

Next up:  Frosted Chocolate Cookies

After a long conversation with Kiddo, we decided to make cookies for Santa.  I originally had ideas of sugar cookies and royal icing;  Kiddo said no way–Santa likes chocolate.  Who am I to argue this?  Of course Santa likes chocolate, and remembered an easy chocolate cookie recipe I had made last year that would be perfect. 

These Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies came from the December 2005 issue of Bon Appétit, and they were part of my cookie platter last year.  It’s a very non-fussy recipe and with the exception of resting the dough in the fridge for an hour, it all whips up in a snap.

(These were taken with my new “studio”–this is going to fun to figure out to take even better pictures!  Next year, I’ll have to ask Santa for a new camera.)

I did do a few small tweaks to the recipe–I didn’t make them into sandwiches, since I thought they would be more fun just topped with the filling and then decorated.  Yes, you’re seeing Kiddo’s work here–he thought sprinkles would be cooler than the crushed candy canes, so that’s what we went with.  Easy, fun, and tasty–these are very sweet, so one is pretty much it for me, but they’re fantastic with a cup of coffee.  Santa seemed to like them, too, as a few were missing from the plate we left out for him last night.

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These little guys came from the December 2007 issue Gourmet, and they were a part of my cookie platter that year.  The original recipe calls for a citrus icing, but I was feeling a bit experimental and drizzled them with dark chocolate.  It was a perfect combination, as the dark chocolate makes a nice highlight to the orange-cardamom punch these cookies hold. 

Oh, by the way, I don’t have a square cookie cutter.  I just used a ruler and pizza cutter after rolling out the dough.  It’s a fast way to make a bunch of these at one time, and they all come out nice and even.  This makes drizzing the chocolate easy, too, because I can just line them all up on the rack, and do it all in one go:

Orange-Cardamom Cookies

Gourmet  | December 2007 ◊ Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez and Lillian Chou

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, zest, cardamom, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Quarter dough and form each piece into a 6-inch disk, then chill, wrapped separately in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into an 11-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

Cut out as many cookies as possible with cookie cutter (chill dough again if necessary), reserving and chilling scraps. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then slide cookies, still on parchment, onto a rack to cool completely.

Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once) on cooled freshly lined baking sheets.

For the dark chocolate drizzle:  melt 3 ounces of a quality dark chocolate and pour into piping bag (or ziploc bag–just snip off the tip when you’re ready to go).  Drizzle chocolate onto cooled cookies and let set until firm.

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I remember tearing out this recipe from the December 2005 Gourmet, because I liked the idea of these–browned butter shortbread?  What’s not to love about that?  I never got around to making them because Kiddo was still a babe in arms and our house was being renovated–there was no way I could get my holiday baking jones on that year.  It was put off until the next year, when I was back working and had an excuse to make a platter of cookies to bring into the office. 

I wish the original blurb written by Celia Barbour that came with the recipe (my torn page is long gone) was on the Epicurious website, because I recall her feelings about these cookies–how frustrating it would be to make these deceptively simple cookies, but how wonderful these cookies were, especially after they sat for a few days.    I’m not going to lie:  the dough comes together in a cinch, but it’s the shaping of the cookies that will cause you mutter under your breath the entire time.  You’ll be tempted to add some cream or an egg to the dough, to force it to hold together, but the texture that makes these cookies so entirely scrumptious will be compromised.  The dough is rather sandy, and it takes a bit of time and letting it soften a bit in the warmth of your hand while pressing it into the spoon.  It’s a time consuming process, that’s for sure.

Not only that–GET THIS:  you have to wait after baking and assembling them, if you want the best cookie experience.  Go ahead, eat a few the day they’re baked, but put the rest into an air-tight container and let them sit for at least 3 days.  Don’t even peek.  Then, have one, and see the difference–it’s rich and melty and nutty, and then it’s like childbirth, where you kind of forget about all that hard labor because what you’ve created is rather miraculous and doing it all over again doesn’t sound that bad.

And that’s why, since 2006, I’ve made these cookies every year.  But never more than a double batch–I’m not that crazy. 

Spoon Cookies

Gourmet  | December 2005  ◊  Adapted from Celia Barbour

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt, slightly rounded

1/3 cup fruit preserves (your choice)

Special equipment: a deep-bowled teaspoon (not a measuring spoon)

Make dough:
Fill kitchen sink with about 2 inches of cold water. Melt butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a rich caramel brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (Butter will initially foam, then dissipate. A thicker foam will appear and cover the surface just before butter begins to brown; stir more frequently toward end of cooking.) Place pan in sink to stop cooking, then cool, stirring frequently, until butter starts to look opaque, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from sink and stir in sugar and vanilla.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and stir into butter mixture until a dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and let stand at cool room temperature 1 to 2 hours (to allow flavors to develop).

Form and bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Press a piece of dough into bowl of teaspoon, flattening top, then slide out and place, flat side down, on an ungreased baking sheet. (Dough will feel crumbly, but will become cohesive when pressed.) Continue forming cookies and arranging on sheet. Bake cookies until just pale golden, 8 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on sheet on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Assemble cookies:
While cookies cool, heat preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until just runny, then pour through a sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on solids, and cool completely.

Spread the flat side of a cookie with a thin layer of preserves. Sandwich with flat side of another cookie. Continue with remaining cookies and preserves, then let stand until set, about 45 minutes. Transfer cookies to an airtight container and wait 2 days before eating.

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This is really the offical start of the holiday season, when I set aside a weekend to start cranking out the cookies and candies that will land into the hands of friends and co-workers in the coming weeks.  Half of the fun is the week before, as I go through cookie recipes and start planning:  do I make some old favorites?  Do I try to make few new ones?  I know I always like to try out one new recipe over the holidays, and my friend, Laurel pointed out this recipe from my former employers.  I’m a fan of these types of cookies, and with the combination of pistachios and cranberries (yes, I know the original recipe calls for cherries, but it’s an acceptable substitute), there would be a nice green-red-white color combination happening. 

Other than the cranberries, the only thing different I did was to make the cookies larger–I’m doing two batches, and to make the process a bit easier, I used my small ice cream scoop, which produces balls of dough approximately the size of a golf ball.  This does increase the baking time to about 20-22 minutes.  I personally like them larger–they’re cookies of substance.  Also, the recipe calls for buttered cookie sheets–save your butter and just line your pans with parchment–less hassle, less mess. 

Don’t forget to be generous while coating these with powdered sugar.  Like a good beignet, a Mexican Wedding cookie should leave you with a good dusting of powder after indulging. 

Pistachio and Cranberry Mexican Wedding Cakes (adapted)

Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill  ◊  Bon Appétit  | December 2006

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar plus more for coating
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios (about 4 ounces), chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups sifted all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 3 heavy large baking sheets. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt, then pistachios and cranberries. Using spatula, stir in all flour (do not overmix dough).

Shape dough by generous tablespoonfuls into football-shaped ovals. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until bottoms just begin to color, about 16 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 10 minutes before coating.

Pour generous amount of powdered sugar into medium bowl. Working with 5 or 6 warm cookies at a time, add cookies to bowl of sugar; gently turn to coat thickly. Transfer cookies to sheet of waxed paper. Repeat to coat cookies with sugar again; cool completely. do ahead Can be made 4 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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