Category Archives: Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C

Recipe Sharing!

Since Schnookie is very much the cook in our family, when recipes get shared they’re usually shared with her. But every once in a while, a recipe is passed along to Maple Hoo with the intention of me trying it out. Such was the scene last month when Sue from Liv ‘n Laf emailed me with several delicious spritz cookie recipes! Woo-hoo! My intention had been to try all three recipes out this Christmas season but then one thing led to another (i.e. I was lazy, everyone got cookie-ed out, and I got sucked into a new craft [more about that soon]) and in the end I can only report on one of them. But that one? Was awesome! (Well, sort of.)

One of the three recipes Sue sent was for “Christmas Trees”, almond-flavored spritz cookies using the tree shapes. What drew me in was the addition of green food coloring. How is one supposed to resist?!

Green Christmas Trees

Sue’s recipe was fabulous, and having had a bit of practice with the cookie press, I knew exactly how to attack the problem of pressing the cookies onto trays. Into the oven they went, and out of the oven they came perfectly baked and delicious. (Well, sort of.)

Schnookie's Perfect Cookie

The other day, Patty (in Dallas) complained in an email sent about recipe sharing, about when you give someone a recipe and then they go and change out ingredients and then complain that it didn’t taste good. I was like, “Yeah, that’s awful! Who would do that?!” Uh… Turns out, I would. You see, for some reason, I considered green Christmas cookies and thought, “They should be mint flavored!” So instead of using the almond extract that Sue’s recipe called for, I substituted some peppermint extract.

Finished Christmas Tree Cookies

You know what shouldn’t go in these cookies? Peppermint extract. Boomer and I both agreed they were edible but Schnookie declared them to be like eating toothpaste and wouldn’t go near them. Obviously, the almond extract was the way to go. Oops. Serves me right for substituting ingredients in a recipe that was sent to me! Next time, I will not be straying from the printed recipe, I promise! Sorry, Sue! (The dough, other than the wrong flavoring, was perfect. So I know this recipe, when done correctly, will be a keeper! Thanks for sending it along, and I promise not to screw up the others when I try them!)

Sue gave me permission to write up all three recipes here, so go forth and press cookies, Gentle Reader! And remember — follow the instructions! Or at the very least, don’t use peppermint!

Christmas Trees

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2 1/4c. sifted flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 c. shortening
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
green food coloring

Sift together the dry ingredients. Cream the shortening, and add the sugar gradually. Add the egg, sifted dry ingredients, almond extract and food coloring and beat until combined.

Fill cookie press. Form on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes

Chocolate Cookies for the Cookie Press

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

3/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened melted chocolate
2 tblsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 c. flour

Cream shortening; gradually add sugar and beat well. Beat in egg, chocolate, milk, vanilla and salt. Gently, but thoroughly stir in flour. Put through cookie press. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Norwegian Crowns
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/4c. sifted flour

Cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, then egg and almond extract. Add sifted flour.
Fill cookie press. Form cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

(Side note from Sue: “Beside the wreath form, I use this one for the ribbon attachment and press each cookie to about 3 inches long.”)

Thanks again, Sue, for passing your spritz cookies along!

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25 Days of Maple Hoo Christmas: Day 6

One of my fondest Christmas memories is from the first Christmas after our father passed away. The whole family headed down to Florida to spend time at our grandmother’s house. While we were there, Schnookie and I decided to make gingerbread cookies in hockey-appropriate shapes. We had players, Stanley Cups, even a very misshapen Conn Smythe trophy. I remember there was much giggling to be had. But for some reason, we never made this a yearly tradition. I guess one Conn Smythe Christmas cookie is enough for one lifetime. Anyway, last year I decided, “I want gingerbread cookies, danggit!” As far as I knew no one else even liked eating them, and I knew no one wanted to decorate them, but I wanted a plate full of gingerbread cookies and that was enough. I found a nice-looking recipe in The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball, and away I went.

The recipe was super easy, and super fun, and I had a blast rolling out the dough. But then I got to the cutting part and realized the only cutters in the house were circles of various sizes. Well, that’s boring! I ended up using a 2″ circle, and tried to convince myself it was festive because it was the shape of a traditional ball ornament. Bo-ring! Still, they were delicious and insanely Christmas-y. They got better with every day they sat, and they made the perfect accompaniment to the MacGyver marathon that filled the hockey-less 25th. There was much giggling to be had.

This summer I went on a cookie cutter buying binge, because as Santa is my witness, I would not go another Christmas with boring old circular gingerbread cookies! When yesterday afternoon rolled around, I decided it was time to make the kitchen smell like ginger, cloves, and nutmeg, and it was time for cake dome to be filled with cookies shaped like reindeer and trees and angels and bells.

December 5 2008

Of all the new cutters, I think I like the angels and reindeer the best, because they remind me of the 12-months of cutters set I used as a kid.

Cookie Cutter

One thing I learned from making the cookies last year is that they taste better with sprinkles. But I’m super-duper lazy about decorating them. As you can tell from these finished products.

Gingerbread Cookies and Santa

I think the plan now is to try them again, but this time, to frost them and then apply the sprinkle to the frosting, so they might stick more, er, attractively. Until then, I’m happy with my ridiculously half-assed be-sprinkled cookies, because at least they’re shaped like mittens and presents and snowmen and candy canes, and because there was much giggling to be had over how half-assed they look. Although, oddly enough, no Conn Smythes. I should remedy that next time.

Recipe from The Dessert Bible

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
8 tbl spoons (1 stick) butter, softened but still firm
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 large egg

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and set aside. Beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes. Add molasses and beat for another 30 seconds. Add egg and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredient mixture on low speed until just combined.

Divide dough in half and shape into 8 inch disks. Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into fun and festive shapes! Transfer to a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake for about 7 minutes. The cookies overbake quickly, so keep an eye on the. Kimball says they should still be soft when you take them out of the cookie, because they will harden as they cool. Revel in the fact that your kitchen smells as Christmasy as a tree lot!

Posted by Pookie

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Christmas Cookie Test Drive

When I was a kid, making spritz cookies with the ancient cookie press seemed so special. I mean, cookies that required a little machine with all kinds of moving parts? How awesome is that? Somewhere along the line the ancient press kicked the bucket, leaving us without spritz cookies for years and years. So when Williams-Sonoma starting selling a fancy new version, we couldn’t resist giving one to Boomer for her birthday. I decided to take it for a test drive today, just to make sure it was in working order for when KtG comes to visit for Thanksgiving.

KtG had a press that we used a few years ago that was new and easy and foolproof. I figured this one would be similar so it would just be a hop, skip, and jump from no cookies to a kitchen full of Christmas-smelling cookies. I… was wrong.

Spritz Shapes

The dough was a snap to make and tasted delicious. That was no problem at all. The press, however, was a much bigger jerk than I was expecting! It was remarkably hard to fully depress the trigger, particularly with my hands covered it greasy butter cookie dough. The dough wouldn’t stick enough to the parchment paper sheets I usually use to make clean-up easier, so I had to ditch them and put the dough directly on the sheets. The process wasn’t working at all, and there was much swearing and tossing about of mishapen blobs that were supposed to be making wreaths and snowflakes. It was a bad scene. Finally Boomer stepped in and held the cookie tray in place while I pulled the trigger, and voila! Success!

Spritz Flower

Tray of Trees

After 12 minutes or so in the oven, out came some delicious-looking, delicious-smelling pre-Thanksgiving Christmas cookies. They’re not the world’s most delicious-tasting cookies (they really require one to be drinking tea by the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree), and they’re a totally pain in the ass to make, but as Boomer pointed out, they just look so much cuter than regular cookies, so it’s worth the trouble!

Baked Spritz

And now I know for the next time I make them:
1. Have someone hold the tray while I press the cookies
2. Put the tray on a table instead of the counter so I get better leverage on the trigger
3. While the straight-up butter/vanilla flavor is good, it might be fun to try mixing in some peppermint oil or almond extract
4. Don’t forget to try the star shape

Let the Christmas cookie season begin!

P.S. I put some red sprinkles on some of the snowflake shapes to represent the danger of using a DSLR to take pictures of light-up Christmas decorations. After a week of letting the General dry out, we have established he is well and truly dead.

[Posted by Pookie]

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September’s Cookie of the Month

It’s time for another installment of IPB Living’s Cookie of the Month! I’ve been toying with the idea of making frosted sugar cookies in fun Fall shapes since… well, since summer started. I felt like it needed to be at least a tiny bit close to Fall before making them, but then this week two things happened. One, nhl.com started publishing NHL team-by-team season previews. Two, Elizabeth posted about making the cutest little frosted butter cookies in adorable football shapes. Hockey and football = close enough to Fall for frosted sugar cookies cut into pumpkin and leaf shapes!

I used Dorie Greenspan’s sugar cookie recipe from “Baking From My Home To Yours”. Dorie makes some fun-sounding suggestions for adding ginger, cinnamon, or cardamom to make the cookies more interesting (and intriguingly mentions that her grandmother would sometimes top them with poppy seeds), and I knew that any of our fun extracts would work beautifully here, but in the end I decided I should start with something plain and simple. If I liked the recipe, I could make it again with ground ginger or with lemon extract. Of course, my commitment to keeping them plain ended when I realized that, after adding the correct amount of vanilla, I was left with only about 1/3 of a teaspoon in the bottle. I’d chosen the Tahitian vanilla since it’s my favorite and leaving 1/3 of a teaspoon of Tahitian vanilla in the bottle seemed stupid. So I dumped the remainder in and declared the cookies “Tahitian Vanilla Sugar Cookies”.

The dough was crazy easy to make (I doubled the recipe) and I only had one mishap with separating the yolks from the eggs unsupervised for the first time in my life. I wrapped the halves of the cookie dough in plastic wrap, and traipsed off for a long lunch. The recipe said to cool the dough for three hours but after my last experience with rolled dough, I knew Gene the Wonder Fridge cools dough fast. The last time I had a bitch of a time rolling the rock-hard dough. This time? Not so much. Even though the recipe warned me that the dough would be very soft, I was still shocked when after cutting my beautifully rolled dough into wonderful shapes I could not move the cut dough or peel off the excess at all.

The recipe said to put the cut dough back into the fridge for 15 minutes or so. Of course, because I’d doubled the recipe, half of the dough made a disk too large to fit on a sheet in the fridge. So I had to junk everything I’d done and then split the halves into half and start again. A mild annoyance, surely, but after 15 minutes I discovered the chilling system did indeed work.

Chilled, the dough peeled like a dream! I had the excess removed, the cookies transferred to a tray, and the tray in the oven without too much trouble at all. After just 11 minutes in the oven, the cookies came out looking gorgeous!

As well as that first tray went, though, I found myself switching into “don’t waste a day off from work” mode and somehow devised the least efficient system for chilling, cutting, and baking the cookies. Roll the dough, cut the dough, chill it for 15, bake it for 11, and repeat, one tray at a time. For some reason figuring out how to streamline this process seemed like way to much work. But the time the sixth tray came around, I had finally figured it out and it wasn’t taking 90 minutes to prep and bake nine cookies. Woo-hoo!

Before I knew it, I had stacks and stacks of cookies just waiting for frosting.

After dinner, Schnookie whipped up some simple confectioner’s-sugar-and-milk frosting. With the help of some food coloring, we soon had a Fall palate of pumpkin orange, pumpkin-stem green, maple-syrup-candy brown, and… well… bright pink. We needed more Rutgers-red like the football cookies, but ended up with noxious Barbie-from-the-80’s pink. Still, we had a blast frosting them.

The end result is a very nice, simple sugar cookie. I think it would be nice with some extra spice or flavor, but even without, the cookies are delicious. They also have the perfect balance of crisp and chewy that every sugar cookie should. And the time and trouble it took to cut and frost them was worth having…

Three different kinds of pumpkins…

… Two different shapes of oak leaf…

… And a back-to-school apple!

A very, very tasty back-to-school apple.

The months of anticipating fabulous frosted Fall cookies were totally worth it; this cookie-making-and-decorating-and-eating experience was awesome!

Recipe:
From “Baking From My Home To Yours” by Dorie Greenspan”

Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick and 2 tbs butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

Beat butter on medium speed until smooth. Beat in sugar and mix for two minutes or so until light and creamy. Add egg and yolk and beat. Add vanilla and beat some more. Gradually add the flour, mixing on low speed, until flour is just incorporated. Dorie suggests stopping the mixer just before the flour is completely incorporated and finishing the remaining mixing with a rubber spatula. The dough with be “soft, creamy and malleable”.

Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. These cookies can be treated as roll-out or slice-and-bake. Either way, you’re looking for cookies 1/4″ thick. If you’re doing roll-out cookies, roll the dough between sheets of parchment paper and remember the dough will be very soft. Consider chilling the dough after cutting it for 15 minutes or so to make peeling away the excess and transferring the cookies to tray easier.

Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes. The cookies will not turn colors, but will by firm when finished. If you’d like, dust the cookies with sugar after removing from the oven. Let cool for a minute before transferring the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

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And I Get To Take All The Credit!

Within the last week I’ve had two separate people suggest cookie recipes to me (Patty suggested lemon-clove sandwich cookies, and Sarah wrote a post about chocolate cookies) but I’m still months behind on my cookie plans! Ages ago I saw a recipe for something called Pine Nut Tassies. I’d never made tassies before. I had, come to think of it, never even heard of tassies before. But they sounded so cool I couldn’t resist. I hacked into Schnookie’s epicurious recipe box and saved the link. And then I sat back and waited for the perfect day.

Today was that perfect day — just over halfway through a nice long vacation, a lazy summer Friday, everything is feeling like Autumn is really just around the corner. The active prep time on the recipe (which is from Gourmet magazine) said 1 1/4 hours but the instructions seemed really easy. Just make a simple butter cookie dough and line mini-muffin trays with this pastry-crust-like-material.

Whip up a caramel-ish filling with brown sugar, butter, and an egg then stir in pine nuts. Make sure, though, that you get the right amount of pine nuts. I forgot to remind my personal grocery shopper to read the recipe before getting the nuts, so I was missing 1 3/4 ounces of the little buggers and my personal errand runner had to zip back out for more.

Filling the shells with the sticky, gooey mixture made me feel like I was Sandra Lee making some ridiculously fussy recipe made from 99% crappy ingredients like pancake batter in a can and cherry pie filling and 1% stupidly expensive, hard-to-find items like rose soda. All I needed was the Semi-Homemade theme song, a bushel full of fake apples, and an over-the-top window treatment.

The funny thing about this, though, was that it wasn’t fussy. At all. It was fun and easy throughout the entire process. I never felt like I was tired of bending over muffin tins or tired of having sticky fingers from the filling.

The butter cookies were insanely easy to make and divide (helpfully leaving us with just the right amount of snacking dough, to boot).

The filling was simple and quick, and super-fun. I’d never made anything like it before and probably could have swirled it around for hours because the texture was fascinating.

And the cookies came out of the oven perfectly bubbly and golden brown after just 10 minutes.

The potential to be scalded with burning hot caramel was enough to scare us into doing the unthinkable — letting the cookies cool completely before trying them. Of course, that did force us to stop and smell the roses, or rather stop and arrange the cookies on the gorgeous new tray Boomer and Schnookie gave me for my birthday.

Sandra Lee would mostly layer the tray with silk flower petals first, and maybe a few pillar candles, and probably a giant faux-chandelier would be involved somewhere. But for me, it’s perfect.

Speaking of perfect, the cookies? Are delicious. The butter cookie crusts are, well, buttery! Buttery, and smooth, and bright. The filling is phenomenal. The caramel darkens the brightness of the crust, balancing it out beautifully. The pine nuts provide a nut-ish flavor but without the traditional nut-ish crunch and chunkiness. They also round out of the overall flavor with a finish that hints at something totally outside the realm of The Cookie Usual, but which manages to also be comfortable and warm

Recipe

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For Butter Cookie Pastry Shells:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, on medium speed. Add egg and vanilla and beat. On low speed, add the flour until it is just incorporated. Split dough into halves and cool in fridge while making the filling.

Filling:
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbl butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups pine nuts (1/2 lb)

Whisk together sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and salt. Add pine nuts and stir.

Split one half of the dough into 12 1 1/2 tsp-sized chunks. Roll each chunk into a 1-inch ball and place in muffin tin. Using your thumb, press the dough along the bottom and sides of the muffin tin cups. (You will not need to grease the muffin tin.) Fill each shell with about a tsp of filling.

Bake until bubbly and golden brown. In my oven, this took exactly 10 minutes, although the recipe calls for 12-15. Place the tins on trays to cool for 10 minutes, first running a sharp knife around the edges of each cookie. After 10 minutes, remove the cookies from the tins and allow to cool completely on the rack.

The recipe says this will make 4 dozen cookies, but I only had enough filling for 3.

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Unicorn Kisses, Or Adventures In Cookie Baking

To celebrate that the final piece of the Unicorn Kitchen was put into place on Friday morning — only 14 months after the actual work on the project started — we decided to make something special. Something special that could also serve to kick-off a new series that we’re very excited about here at stately IPB Living manor: Cookie of the Month! We’re going to not take the beautiful kitchen for granted and not get stuck in a peanut butter cookie rut by trying out a new cookie recipe every month. Kicking off this project is August’s cookie, Baci di Dama, or Chocolate-Filled Hazelnut Cookies.

These little sandwich cookies had everything a special baking event requires. Fancy ingredients? Check!

New techniques? Check!

Potentially disastrously annoying fussy steps? Check!

FAN-tastic! We couldn’t wait to try them!

Schnookie kicked things of by toasting the hazelnuts. We had directions that said to toast them for 12-14 minutes or until lightly toasted. What exactly constituted “lightly toasted” was a little unclear. Were the nuts going to be slurring their speech? Perhaps they’d knock over a priceless Ming vase when stumbling through the living room. Or maybe they’d make an awkward pass at a co-worker they’d regret in the morning. It was tough to tell, since when we looked in on the oven, they were all just sitting around. Finally when they got fairly aromatic we decided they were done. Schnookie tucked them in between some paper towels and closed them in a sealable plastic baggie to steam. Meanwhile, I decided to get a head start on the rest of the recipe.

While the nuts were cooling I mixed 1 cup of flour, 1/8 of a tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of lemon zest in a bowl. Then I read the recipe. Heh. Starting over, I mixed the softened butter, the salt, and the zest, and then filled a cup measure with cake flour. I then saw my hand lifting the measuring cup and moving it towards the bowl. I apparently could not handle the fact that the flour didn’t get mixed in with the salt. Cookie of the Month is a necessary thing for me — I’m obviously brainwashed by Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies! I’m a disaster! Fortunately, I stopped myself and things could proceed.

The nuts were cool at this point, so we each took half of them and placed them in a kitchen towel. I had been assuming that this step would take forever and would involve lots of hazelnuts being thrown violently across the room out of frustration. Turns out, once they’ve been toasted and steamed, hazelnuts are remarkably eager to molt. There were a staggered few that were a tad ornery, but skinning the hazelnuts was considerably easier than it sounds. So into the food processor they went! Once again, the directions were a tad vague. Very nervous about over-working the ingredients, Schnookie veered on the side of caution with the food processor. We were both convinced the mixture would turn to the dreaded paste in the blink of a an eye. So as soon as it looked powdery, we added the mixture to the butter, salt, and zest. (That’s butter, salt, and zest. Pookie.)

The directions said to mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. I went for the old school wooden spoon and waved it around a bit ineffectually. Schnookie, Miss CIA Baking Boot Camp Graduate, stepped in with the spatula and two seconds later the dough was perfectly combined. I tried to console myself with the knowledge that Schnookie hates the process of actually baking cookies, and thus couldn’t banish me completely from the kitchen. We added the flour and it was time to load up the trays. The directions said to make dough balls that were 1/2 tsp big, aka “the size of a marble”. A few moments later it was established someone (it rhymes with “Blnookie”) seems to think marbles are huge. My tray was lined with delicate marble-sized balls, while hers was groaning under the weight of, well, slightly larger-marble-sized balls. There was much bickering over whose would be better.

This bickering was most likely born out of the anticipation that filling the trays with miniature cookies would take forever. Once again, though, we discovered the teaspoons clattering against the empty mixing bowl considerably earlier than we expected. It was time for Miss Never Been To The CIA Except For That Failed Fruit And Vegetable Carving Class to step in to do the baking. The directions said 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden. How eerily familiar. It turned out it was almost as hard to judge when the cookies were done as it was the nuts. Still, after about 10 or 11 minutes, the cookies looked to be lightly brown on the bottoms. They weren’t, however, the adorably puffy cookies in the picture that accompanied the recipe on Epicurious. Rats.

We decided it was either that the nuts weren’t mixed enough or the humidity of New Jersey in August was too much for the dough. Yeah, we’ll go with the latter. After the cookies had thoroughly cooled, it was time for the last step we were both secretly fearing. Filling them with melted chocolate. Schnookie had a recipe ages ago for chocolate-espresso sandwich cookies, filled with ganache. Possibly one of Earth’s tastiest cookies, they were also the single most annoying kitchen experience ever. Filling sandwich cookies sucks, no ifs, ands or buts about it. But this was a celebratory event, so filled cookies it was! I took control of the piping bag, and Schnookie signed up for sandwiching duty. Between the two of us, it took… you guessed it, considerably less time than we were expecting!

It’s a new kitchen miracle! Everything about making these cookies was a blast! But how do they taste, you ask. Delicious! Crisp, crunchy, nutty and sweet, these little cookies pack a huge punch. They taste a little like the most delicious Pepperidge Farm Brussels cookie you’ll ever have.

The recipe suggested serving them with coffee, so out came the coffee grinder, the French press, and the Small World House Blend beans. As delicious as the cookies are on their own, with coffee? They’re phenomenal. Even in their lumpy, misshapen, non-puffy state, these cookies had a perfect ratio of fancy-looking to easy-prep. In short, they were a delightfully different and refreshing way to celebrate the completed kitchen.

Recipe:

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, any loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel, and cooled
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, well softened
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened; preferably 70% cacao), chopped

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Grind nuts with confectioners sugar in a food processor until powdery (be careful not to process to a paste).

Beat together butter, zest, salt, and nut mixture in a large bowl with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until creamy, then add flour, stirring until just incorporated (do not overwork).

Roll level 1/2 teaspoons of dough into tiny balls (the size of marbles) and arrange 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until very pale golden, 12 to 14 minutes, then slide parchment with cookies onto a rack to cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a small plastic bag and seal bag, forcing out excess air. Snip off 1 bottom corner of bag with scissors to form a small hole.

Pipe a small mound (about 1/8 teaspoon) of melted chocolate onto flat sides of cookies, then top with matching cookies, pressing flat sides together to help adhere.

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Revisting the Chewy Ginger Oatmeal Cookie

It’s no secret that around here that we’re all getting more than a little antsy for Autumn. I decided to contribute to that Fall-longing by baking one of the most “Fall-y” cookies in my (limited) repertoire — Chewy Ginger Oatmeal cookies. The oatmeal makes for a wholesome touch, the taste equivalent of buying new school supplies, and the ginger gives a hint of “enjoy Fall now, because Winter is right around the corner!” When a stolen evening was granted to us last week (some much-anticipated plans fell through), it seemed the perfect opportunity to revisit the first item I baked in the kitchen when it was mostly complete last August.

I’d feel bad writing another post about these cookies, but a) they’re really good, b) I didn’t include the recipe the first time around, and c) the picture was all wonky the first time and it drives me batty.

I remembered that these cookies were easy, but I forgot exactly how easy. Process-wise, these cookies are a perfect last-minute, impulse-bake choice (provided you have rolled oats on hand). They taste better when they’re completely and utterly cooled, though; so if you have a picnic to go to in six hours but forgot to make something, these are the cookies for you! Or, if you’re like me, and you’ve got a stolen evening and are planning to spend six hours watching “Murder, She Wrote”, these are the cookies for you!

The recipe comes from Baking Illustrated; it’s written as Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies, but there are several variations for adding dates, ginger, chocolate, nuts, or orange and almond. (Hm. Orange-Almond. That sounds really, really good… I might need to give those a go someday, if I can ever tear myself away from the ginger recipe.) I’m only writing out the Ginger variation here, because no one should ever put raisins in cookies. That’s just wrong.

Recipe:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger
2 sticks butter (softened but cool)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups old-fashioned roll oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and ginger in a small bowl. In a mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add and beat eggs, one at a time. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture by hand. Add the oats and stir some more.

Roll or scoop the dough into 2 inch balls.

Bake for 22-25 minutes*. Let cool completely and utterly.

*Not really. The recipe says 22-25 minutes. It’s WRONG! Pretty much every other cookie recipe I’ve made with our ovens have needed the exact time specified by the recipe or more. So I set the timer for 22 minutes and wandered off. Oops. The cookies didn’t burn, per se, but they were darker than they should have been, and they were less Chewy Ginger Oatmeal cookies and more Crispy Ginger Oatmeal cookies. So I set the next pans for 15 minutes, and they turned out much better.

Regardless of the varying states of chewy and crispy, these cookies fulfilled all their Autumnlonging promise. Toothy, spicy, hearty, and sweet — what more could I ask for to bring Fall into the kitchen a few months early?

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Cookies by Martha Stewart… or Craig Biggio?

Last Christmas I went on a gingerbread cookie binge after finding a surprisingly good recipe in Baking Illustrated. The only problem was the only cookie cutters I had were circles and hearts. There are few sights sadder than a tray of gingerbread cookies cut into circles and hearts, believe you me. Adding insult to injury was the memory of the awesome cutter set we had when I was a kid. It had at least one cutter for every season, including shamrocks, turkeys, pumpkins, flowers, and… a hatchet. I didn’t put the hatchet together with President’s Day until much later in life, so to me it always seemed so delightfully absurd. Circles and hearts? Are no hatchet. The time had come (some six months later) to remedy this by investing in some more exciting cookie cutter shapes. Several trips to Wilton later, this was what I ended up with:

That’s four or five (I lost count) sets of seasonal cookie cutters crammed into one plastic tub. No more circles and hearts for me! I’ve got gingerbread men, snowflakes, angels and bells for Christmas; pumpkins, turkeys, schoolhouses and leaves for Autumn; witches, ghosts, haunted houses and spiders for Halloween; sheep, flowers, chicks and watering cans for Spring. Sadly, there’s no hatchet, but I can’t win them all. These cookie cutters had been burning a hole through that plastic bucket, just waiting for me to take them for a spin. The perfect opportunity afforded itself in the form of the latest Martha Stewart Magazine: Red, White, and Blue Stars.

The jam-filled butter cookies looked so beautiful in the magazine, I couldn’t resist.

Photo: MarthaStewart.com

Not only would I get to try a new kind of cookie, but I could use my new cutters. The result would surely be as beautiful as Martha’s!

Making the dough was easy enough (and I learned a new skill — separating yolks from whites) which was good because the rest of the recipe sounded fussy. (Schnookie reminded me about four hours too late that Martha’s recipes are always notoriously fussy. Information that would have been useful yesterday!) I was to refrigerate it for three hours, then roll it, freeze it for 30 minutes, layer the dough with jam, freeze it for 30 more minutes, cut the shapes out, brush with cream and sanding sugar, then freeze it again for 15 minutes, then bake. To me this just seemed like a few steps mixed into an otherwise restful afternoon of doing needlework and watching MacGyver DVDs. Not so.

Thing started to fall apart (literally) when I took the dough out of the fridge for it’s first rolling. The dough was impossible to roll. When I finally did manage to make some headway, huge chunks would crack completely off. I had wanted to roll it on the granite countertop, but it stuck too much, so I had to roll it directly on parchment paper which moved around too much while I was rolling. The whole thing was a disaster. The dough was supposed to be rolled into rectangles that I could layer them and have them line up perfectly so as to offer me enough surface area to get 40 sandwich cookies. HA! I was just happy to have four misshapen blobs when I finished. I will say I was pretty impressed with how uniformly 1/8″ thick the misshapen blobs were. I won’t, however, lie and say I didn’t have a pretty ugly meltdown over how frustrating the experience was. I believe the phrase, “I don’t care how good these are, I’m never making them again” might have been uttered.

The layering of the jam was pretty easy, although it did look very much like something out of “Semi-Homemade”. Cutting the cookies was a blast. I used as many cutters as I thought seemed seasonally appropriate (or fun to try); I made some flowers, some half-moons, some sheep, some umbrellas. Everything seemed to be fine except for the fact that there was no way this was making even close to 40 cookies. There was so much wasted dough. So much. I put some scraps on the tray to bake up but for the most part, they were too small and thin and the jam was too oozy to make transfering them worth it. Moreover, some of the cookies cracked when I moved them, letting jam seep onto the face of the cookie. I didn’t help things at all by leaving the second dough sandwich out while cutting the first. Lessons learned, as they say. (Another lesson learned? Gene the Wonder Fridge runs really, really cold. If a recipe asks for dough to be frozen for 30 minutes, the fridge will do. If it asks for dough to be refrigerated for any amount of time — I need to cut that amount of time in half.)

Anyway, once they were all cut and cream-washed I sprinkled them with sanding sugar. Martha’s look so glossy and sparkly in her picture. I knew I couldn’t get that same look because Schnookie couldn’t locate the clear sanding sugar, meaning I had to use the fun-fetti colored sanding crystals. A good craftsman never blames their tools unless they’re stuck with just fun-fetti crystals.

Finally, into the oven they went! They baked up like a charm (with some extra time than the recipe asked for; like Gene, the oven runs a little cold, I guess). I had succeeded in creating a lovely, Martha Stewart-esque cookie:

See that pretty cookie there! What cookie, where?

Look at it, all sparkly and fun, and perfectly star-shaped! Look at it’s neat little layer of raspberry jam! Look at it’s perfectly browned edges! It’s a thing of beauty!

Could I keep up this extraordinary show of baking prowess?

Uh… no.

Dear God, what is that thing?!

OK, so plated up, they’re not exactly magazine material. We have a joke here at Maple Hoo that when something is adorably imperfect (for example, a wrapped present that’s more than a little rumpled) we say that it’s what would happen if Craig Biggio, the famously dishevled ex-Astro, made it. These were clearly cookies that Bidge would make.

Looks aside though, these cookies taste delicious! They are rich and buttery with a nice saltiness in the dough that’s balanced by the sweetness of the jam. In the end, they were worth the effort! And I got to try out my fun cookie cutters. Christmas is going to be so much better this year, freed from the shackles of boring circles and hearts!

Recipe for Red, White, and Blue Stars
Source: Martha Stewart Living July 2008

5 cups of flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 sticks of softened butter
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons heavy cream (plus some extra for brushing on the cookies before baking)
3/4 raspberry jam
3/4 blueberry jam (I used blueberry/currant)
2 tablespoons sanding sugar

Stir flour, power and salt together. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the tablespoons of cream. Split the dough into four hunks and shape into disks. Refridgerate for three hours or up to 3 days (or less depending on how cold your fridge runs).

Roll into 1/8″ rectangles. You may need to let dough warm up a bit before attempting to roll. Refridgerate for one hour or freeze for 30 minutes.

Spread the raspberry jam on one layer and blueberry on the other. Cover each with the remaining dough so you have to jam-dough sandwiches. Refridgerate for one hour or freeze for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into shapes and lay on trays 1″ apart. Brush with heavy cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Refridgerate for 15 minutes.

Bake 16-20 minutes. The edges will brown, but the tops won’t so be careful not to burn them. Plate attractively and admire Bidge’s work.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C

Does The World Need A Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie?

Welcome to IPB Living Investigates, a hard-hitting series where we tackle the most burning of questions. Today’s edition finds us exploring the age-old question: is a chocolate peanut butter cookie really necessary. This question was first drawn to our attention… um… well… sorta just yesterday. You see, Gentle Reader, in a spur of the moment “what shall we have to celebrate this weekend’s string of S-Days?” it was decided we should make peanut butter cookies with M&Ms using the recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours. We have had much success with this recipe before so we thought we knew what we were getting into. That was, until we noticed the “Playing Around” sidebar that suggested replacing some of the flour with cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder?!?

This needed to be tried. We whipped up one batch of plain peanut butter cookies, following the original recipe to a tee, except for the omission of nuts and the addition of plain M&Ms. We then whipped up a batch using the chocolate variation, again with M&Ms instead of nuts. While mixing the second batch up, I posited the chocolate cookies had the potential to be either awesome or wholly unnecessary since the original version is so tasty on its own.

The initial review thirty minutes out of the oven was that the chocolate ones were good but not great. I decided to withhold judgment until the cookies had time to cool completely. 12 hours later the concensus is: good but not great. They have a really nice chocolately flavor with a subtle hint of peanut butter underneath, ending with a nice peanut buttery aftertaste. The M&Ms don’t really pop at all in this version, whereas the original features a huge peanut butter pow with little explosions of crunchy, sweet candy fun. The problem with the chocolate version is two-fold. One, the original recipe is so phenomenally good, it’s hard not to be disappointed to be eating a cookie so close to them but not exactly them. Two, there are so many other really great chocolate cookie recipes out there, why make a chocolate cookie that’s not out-of-this-world good?

I don’t mean to cut these cookies down too much, as they really are delicious and a very nice twist on a classic. In fact, in discussing the cookie’s merits, Schnookie and I had this exchange:

Me: I think if I made peanut butter cookies often, every three times or so, I’d change it up and make the chocolate versions.

Schnookie: Yeah, if this were your go-to cookie, that’d be great. I mean, if we made these instead of the Tollhouse chocolate chip as a fall-back cookie…

[Long, thoughtful pause of behalf of both parties.]

Me: Yeeeahhh….

This is bad news for our Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies! The world doesn’t really need a chocolate peanut butter cookie, but every so often, it certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Recipe:
Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Source: Baking From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/2 cups flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup peanut , crunchy or smooth (not natural) [I use smooth Skippy]
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts [I use 1/2 a small bag of plain M&Ms instead because who wants nuts in their cookies?!]

*For chocolate variation, use 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, soda, powder, salt and nutmeg. Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add peanut butter and mix for another minute. [Make sure to try the cookie pudding at this point because peanut butter butter is extraordinary.] Add sugar and brown sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for a minute each. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the dry ingredients and mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Mix in the nuts or M&Ms.

Put some sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon sized scoops of the dough into balls and roll in sugar. Using a greased fork dipped in sugar, make crisscrosses in the tops of the cookies (or, grease the bottom of a glass and dip it in the sugar, then flatten the cookie with the glass).

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies are light colored and cracked on top. (The cookies will be a little soft). Cool before eating, as they don’t taste as good when warm.

Makes a lot of cookies.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C, Taste Test

Stepping Out of the Cookie Comfort Zone

Last July I wrote a post about what cookies I wanted to try out when the Unicorn kitchen was completed. I’ve checked off the Molasses Spice Cookies with Rum Glaze, the Chewy Ginger Oatmeal cookies, and the Gingerbread cookies, all of which were A+, keeper recipes. I knew I wanted to make cookies for this weekend, but nothing in that post was singing to me. Then I ended up bored at work with nothing to read except cookie recipes on Epicurious. I came across this recipe for Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.

They sounded so different from anything I’d made before. I mean, they called for no eggs! And steel-cut oats! I’m so used to making Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies, this could only be a fun experiment. But just in case they didn’t work out I needed to know ahead of time to plan for the weekend, right? The cookies just had to be tried tonight.

The most exciting part of the recipe was the oats.

The user reviews on the recipe suggested that the steel-cut oats might be too al dente to be tasty. They sure look like a cool, new, unusual ingredient, though! That had to count for something. Still, as the dough was being mixed, contingency plans were drawn up for purchasing rolled oats for a replacement batch.

The second most exciting part was kneading the chips into the dough.

The dough was just butter, flour, sugar, and cocoa, really, so it was really dry. Mixing the chips in was easier via kneading. It was so satisfying to pick up a giant chunk of cookie dough and play around with it like I was in 3rd grade art class. Also, by this point in the process we discovered if the cookies were even half as good as the dough, we had a winner on our hands. Literally!

The third most exciting part of the process (this was an exciting cookie-making experience for me, apparently!) was flattening the rolled dough balls. Someone left a tip on Epicurious to grease the bottom of a glass then dip it in sugar before using it to flatten the cookies.

This tip worked like a charm!

Next up the cookies were baked for 14 minutes until the tops were nice and cracked. The second tray burned, leading me to conclude that the dough should be refrigerated while waiting to be trayed up. I think being left out on the counter didn’t help it. The non-burned cookies, however, were gorgeous.

In the end, the plans for procuring rolled oats was dismissed for being ridiculous. The steel-cut oats bring a delightfully different crunch to these cookies. The cookies are dry and crumbly, but in a delicious biscuity kind of way. The chocolate flavor is deep and dark and insanely satisfying. These cookies have the potential to be a canvas for further adventures in flavored extract fun. Best of all the cookies were insanely easy to make and don’t require eggs, making them an ideal slightly-fancier-than-cookie-pudding impulse dessert.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C