Tag Archives: cookies

Eat butter, preferably as shortbread

One of my sisters celebrated a birthday this week…a big birthday. I won’t say which one, but – to make this all about me for a second – it made me feel really old that I have a younger sister that is this age.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were driving to high school together through the gray Alaska mornings and singing along to the radio to keep each other awake? It seems like it couldn’t have been more than a couple weeks ago that we were crawling through six inches of snow in our new yard looking for a place to build our first snow fort. Or more than a couple years ago that we spent our afternoons after school tramping around the fields of our childhood home scanning the ground, looking for arrowheads and looking to avoid cow pies.

sisters

Where, oh where does the time go?

sisters

Since this was such a big birthday, we all chipped in and got her a present she’s been wanting for a while and that was equal to the occasion: a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. When I got my own stand mixer it totally changed my cooking/baking life, and I was so excited to give that gift to my sis. As a little extra treat for her day, I whipped up one of the recipes that makes me oh-so-thankful I have a stand mixer of my own.

zest and herbs

These are a basic shortbread cookie, with some additions that make them special enough for a birthday present. Shortbread cookies have a lot of butter, and as such, there is a lot of whipping together of sugar and butter. This is exactly the type of task that you want a stand mixer for (not to mention making bread and whipping egg whites).

Sure, you could do it with an electric hand mixer, but with a stand mixer you can turn the thing on and go about your business prepping the other ingredients. Then, a few minutes later, you can turn back to the mixer and find perfectly whipped sugar-butter. (Or butter-sugar, in the case of this recipe.)

creaming butter and sugar

It really is a thing of beauty. And the great thing about being in the decade we are both in now (you and I, little sis) is that you tend to care less about things that once seemed so important. Like eating too much butter.

sparkly shortbread

Meyer Lemon & Thyme Sparkly Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
Makes about 36 cookies

These cookies keep fabulously well, and can be reliably sent across the country to a birthday girl (or boy). If you’re not sending half the batch away, you may also like to know that the uncooked dough can be frozen for later.

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • zest of two Meyer lemons, divided
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons…!) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks (save one of the whites)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Dump the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Zest one of the Meyer lemons on top of the sugar, and then rub the zest into the sugar. (This is an important step, trust Joy the Baker).

Beat butter, 1/2 cup of zested granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt together on medium speed until creamy and fluffy (about 3 minutes).

With the mixer on low speed, add in the egg yolks one at a time and beat until incorporated.  Then, still on low speed (the lowest you can go), add in the flour and thyme and blend until just incorporated – do not over mix. The dough will be very soft and pliant.

Divide the dough in half and dump onto two pieces of plastic wrap. Shape dough into logs about the size of a paper towel roll. Wrap each log up in the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to three days. (If you are freezing any, you can just put it in the freezer at this point.)

While waiting for the dough to chill, make more zested sugar with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and the zest from the second Meyer lemon. Do this on a piece of parchment paper or foil so that you can roll the logs in it to give them their sparkly crust. Set aside.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Brush the logs with the leftover egg white and roll in the reserved zested sugar. Then, cut the dough into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 17-20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden around the edges, but still pale on the top.

Keep for yourself or send to someone you love. ❤

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Bake sale bestseller: Snickerdoodles

It’s 1986. It’s my first solo shopping trip. I’m walking through aisles of canned foods, boxes, bags, filling my basket with the makings of a wonderful feast.

This particular shopping trip, and many more that followed it, was on the floor of the kitchen in my childhood home. The wares I was choosing from consisted of nearly every single dry food item from our cabinets, which my mom had taken out at my request and neatly organized in rows. My mom was a very patient woman.

me at 8

As I got older, in addition to “shopping” for food, I liked to help cook it. Well, actually my particular interest was in baking. Around age eight I had also developed my entrepreneurial streak and decided I wanted to have a bake sale. So, my mom and I set about making half a dozen different treats (again, I’d like to mention the patience) that I then bagged up and sold from behind an orange and yellow plastic table in front of the town post office.

Most of the bake sale items came from a thin, tattered (even then) cookie cookbook. I’ve never forgotten that cookbook – the look of the pictures and drawings, the way the pages felt, even the few oft-made recipes whose pages were dotted with grease and chocolate stains.

When David and I visited my family a few weeks ago I asked my mom if she still had that cookbook, fully expecting she had tossed it years ago. But she thought she did indeed still have it, and after digging out a pile of cookbooks that filled the dining room table she had retrieved it for me (the patience is still there). She also gave me a couple other cookbooks that she said I used to like to cook from as a kid and said I could have them all, including the well-loved cookie book.

kid cookbooks

I don’t know what this cookie cookbook is called or where it’s from – the front and back covers are gone, along with most of the introduction and index, and the spine is barely holding. But to me, it is a treasure.

Once I got home and had a day where I could actually bake something from it, I knew immediately what cookie I wanted to make first. The Snickerdoodles. The Snickerdoodle is the cookie that stands out in my memory of my bake sale days. I’m not quite sure why, because when flipping through the cookbook I found other recipes that looked more popular with my child-baked-goods-selling self.

The Cocoa Brownies page is particularly grimy and covered in stars, check marks, and other marginalia that leads me to believe it was a favorite. The recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies is furiously circled and includes meticulous notes, in my mom’s handwriting, on measurements for a double batch. I’m assuming these were for the benefit of an ambitious eight-year-old who didn’t know her multiplication tables yet.

But maybe, just maybe, the humble Snickerdoodle was the bake sale bestseller, because it is the one I remember most distinctly. There’s something about it – it seems simple, just a plain sugar cookie dough rolled in cinnamon-sugar. It’s really so much more than just the sum of its parts though, isn’t it? At least it is to me.

Snickerdoodles

First, there’s the magic that every kid knows as cinnamon-sugar. It can make even the plainest foods delicious (read: sweet). I loved to eat it on buttered toast, which now that I think about it has a very similar flavor profile to Snickerdoodles. And then there’s the texture of the Snickerdoodles: wonderfully soft and chewy, with just the slightest crust on the outside from the cinnamon-sugar.

cinnamon-sugar

There’s something else about Snickerdoodles though, at least this version from my youth. They have a distinct savory, umami-like taste to them that is really what makes them memorable for me. I ate a lot of cookies in order to be able to describe this taste (oh the things I do for you!)…and the best I could come up with is that it is almost metallic in quality. Ha! So much for that research. But I promise it’s not unpleasant. Please for the love of god, someone tell me you know what I’m talking about!

cream of tartar

Anyways, in the course of eating a couple (dozen!) of these cookies, I decided that the source of this unidentified taste had to come from either the cream of tartar or the shortening – or the combination of the two, plus the dash of salt? I drew this semi-conclusion because they are the only two ingredients in this recipe that are not in the other cookie recipes I’ve made in the recent past.

Cream of tartar is in there to act as an acid that helps the baking soda do its thing, which I assume is what causes them to puff up into thick little burgers instead of spreading out into a flat cookie. And, as we all know from the dilemma of pie crust, the shortening makes the cookie tender. Luckily though, there’s still enough butter to make sure they taste good.

creamed

Whatever this specific combination of ingredients is doing, when added all together they equal my childhood. One bite of one of these soft, savory-sweet cookies and I am back in the kitchen of our little trailer in Colorado.

I can feel the cold, hard countertop under my hands. I can see the sink underneath the kitchen’s only window that looks out into the street. I can see my mom there, doing dishes, watching my sister and brother play through that window. I want to walk up to her there, her past-self, and give her a big hug – for the patience she had already showed me at that point, and for all the patience that was to come. Thank you mom, I love you!

childhood cookie

Childhood Snickerdoodles

Adapted from the name-unknown cookie cookbook of my childhood
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

I hemmed and hawed a bit about posting these cookies. I mean, there’s shortening in them! What kind of hip foodie uses shortening?! Well, it turns out that a) I am not really a hip foodie and b) these cookies are just too nostalgically good for me not to share. That being said, if you have a Snickerdoodle recipe that is a bit more modern, but still retains that nostalgic taste, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. In the meantime, I will be enjoying these and maybe tinkering with them to create such a recipe myself.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400°.

Cream 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, shortening, and eggs together in a stand mixer, or with a handheld mixer, until light yellow and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Then add dry ingredients to wet, mixing until just incorporated.

Mix remaining sugar and ground cinnamon together in a shallow dish.

Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then place about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until set, 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

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Cookies that make even flying better

I hate flying. This is not news to anyone who knows me, but for those of you who don’t, I can’t reiterate enough how much I hate flying. I actually border on having a phobia of it – I have panic attacks sometimes and take “calm-you-down” medicine whenever it’s ok for me to be sleepy on the other end of the flight.

In any case, I went on a trip to New York recently and had a great flight – free of any dramatics on my part, and that always makes me proud of myself.

Mt. Rainier

On this trip I was also reminded of a little piece of joy, amidst a sea of discomfort and fear, that I find in flying a certain airline (*ahem* I’m not going to name them specifically). This airline serves these lovely little crispy, spicy, holiday-y cookies instead of the standard peanuts or pretzels and I just love them! (the cookies, I am ambivalent about the airline).

They are sort of like ginger snaps, but there’s no molasses and they are much more buttery-tasting. They are called Biscoff cookies, and as soon as I got home from my trip I set about trying to replicate them in my own kitchen. I saved the wrapper from my flight, but its list of ingredients was not much help – containing (as does most packaged food) barely anything that one could actually use in a home kitchen…or would want to for that matter.

Luckily, almost immediately upon my return I saw an as yet unread blog post in my Google Reader from Dorie Greenspan about a cookie she calls Speculoos. In her post she mentioned that these cookies are called Biscoffs in the U.S.
Hello, serendipity!

I remembered the recipe for Speculoos from when I first poured through my newly arrived copy of Around My French Table, Dorie’s latest cookbook. So I pulled the tome off the top shelf and started flipping through it to find the recipe again. Now, let me just digress a little to gush about this book.

Around My French Table

This book, people! It is magical. Again, those who know me and know that I am a bit of a Francophile will not be surprised that I am enamored with a book (a substantial one at that!) that is all about French cooking. There are so many other reasons to love Dorie’s book though. It is just the right amount of modern and traditional to make it both accessible and decidedly un-stuffy. It is a book you could cook from for a month without getting bored – and without needing a heart surgeon (which is more than I can say for other beloved French cookbooks…sorry Julia). It is also chock-full of interesting tidbits of information about food and eating in France that I found just delightful.

When I first bought it I cooked from it constantly – I think we had some type of French soup for dinner 5 out of 7 nights a week for a while there. I had also gotten an immersion blender for Christmas, so that contributed to the soup craze too. And well, upon pulling it out to look for the Speculoos I become obsessed with it once more and have been cooking from it ever since. I will share some of those dishes with you in the coming days – including a lovely, seasonal celery root and apple soup. But for now: the Speculoos.

cookie dough

I fussed with the recipe a bit and ended up getting pretty darn close to recreating the Biscoffs I had on my flight. Close enough for my liking anyway. The egg I added to the recipe means that my version won’t keep as long as Dorie’s, but that wasn’t a problem in this house!

cookie cutter

These cookies smell like fall and the holidays and everything good about this time of year. We ate some of them warm, like you do when cookies first come out of the oven. But I must admit to liking them more once they cooled down because they got crisp and crunchy, just like my airline favorites. Enjoy with coffee, tea or a mug of warm apple cider.

cookies

Biscoff-Style Spice Cookies

Adapted from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 25-50 cookies (depending on what size cookie cutter you use – I used a big one and it made 25)

Before you start making these, be aware that the rolled out dough needs to be chilled for 3 hours before it is solid enough for you to cut the cookies out. Also be prepared for the dough to be really crumbly – I mean really crumbly – when you finish mixing it. But have faith! You just have to work with it a bit and it will come together.

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg (you could probably substitute 1 tbsp of water here if you want them to keep longer)

First, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl: flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

Beat the butter at medium speed (with a stand mixer or hand mixer) until creamy, then add the sugars to that and beat until well-blended (2-3 minutes).

Add the veg oil and egg to the sugar mixture and mix until combined.

With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing only until the flour disappears.

Once you incorporate all the flour, the dough will be crumbly. There might also be some flour left on the bottom of the bowl. Using your hands or a spatula, reach into the bowl and knead/squish the dough together enough to eliminate dry spots and to bring the dough together.

Divide the dough in half and working one half at a time, pat and press the dough (remember: crumbly!) together into a thick circle. Then roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap until you have a circle that is about 1/4 inch thick.

Refrigerate the rolled out rounds of dough for at least 3 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove one circle of dough from the refrigerator and, using a cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can, carefully lifting the cookies onto the lined baking sheet as you go.

Round up the scraps when you are done, roll them out again quickly into a 1/4 inch round and cut out more cookies. Only do this once or twice for this first batch (if you do it more the dough will get too warm and start being sticky). If you have more dough left, put it back in the fridge and use it with the second batch.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and slightly browned around the edges. Allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Repeat with the second round of dough. For best results, wait until the cookies are completely cool to enjoy (trust me!)

eat me!

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