Monday, December 26, 2011

Cookies are so 2011

I was in cookie mode much of December ..... oh, you had to go there, didn't you? .... I baked, gave away and, to the utter dismay of my ass, ate dozens of cookies this month. All of them were from new recipes--thank you, Pinterest. I also whipped up a couple of barks instead of making actual candy. It's fast, easy, and reliable. (Sorry, Grandma. It was too rainy to make divinity. Next year.)

I'm not including every recipe I tried. One, like the black raspberry galotte, made from the raspberries I picked while earning myself a nasty sunburn last summer, isn't ready to share yet. Why, you ask? It's simple, really. The galotte dripped as it cooked, in spite of the foil I put under the rack to catch drips. It dripped into the bottom of the oven and then as I was baking a boule (bread) soon after I took out the galotte, the juice caught on fire in the bottom of the oven. When I opened the oven door to deal with the fire, the parchment paper I was baking the boule on caught fire as well, making not one, but two fires in the oven. That's not a story about cookies though, so I'm not going to tell it. I will however share that I smacked the bread in anger right before I threw it away. One of my guests said, "It's just not Christmas if you don't spank the bread." Best quote of the day.

Here, as promised, are the recipes I tried this season, along with adaptations and notes,* because I rarely do it just like I'm told to.

A plate of cookies and bark ready to go to a community Christmas dinner put on by a local seafood restaurant.

2 2/3 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar for about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth. Mix in baking powder and salt, then the flour until it’s blended in.
3. Spread evenly in the prepared pan, smoothing with a knife. Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle the mixture over the top of the batter.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed.

Note: This was the most popular "cookie" I made this year. They're fast and easy, and they taste amazing. I baked three pans of them and passed the recipe on to friends who also made them. While the taste is similar to a traditional snickerdoodle, a thick bar like this can't mimic a cookie. No, the recipe doesn't call for cream of tartar. If you want to keep with tradition, use cream of tartar and baking soda instead of baking powder.

1/2  cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice.
3. Stir in all dry ingredients (except powdered sugar) slowly until just combined.
4. Pour powdered sugar on a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
5. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte (not melty or shiny). Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. 

Note: Proving those Mormon women can cook something besides Jello, these are my current favorite lemon cookie. Might as well just double the recipe. It's worth your time to use fresh lemon zest and juice. The dough will be too soft to roll into balls in your hands like a snickerdoodle. Just plop a spoonful into the powdered sugar and gently roll and coat it. Don't overbake. They will firm up as they sit on the hot cookie sheet and rest.

Lemon Crinkle cookies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use dark)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fleur de sel or ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.
3. Beat butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla extract; beat for 2 minutes.
4. With the mixer off, add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on and off low speed (pulse) for a second or two about 5 times so that the flour mixture gets incorporated. Then mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, just until the flour disappears into the dough (the dough will look crumbly).
5. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide it in two. Shape each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you don’t need to defrost before baking – just slice the logs into cookies and bake 1 minute longer.)
6. With a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into ½-inch thick rounds. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them. Sprinkle a small amount of extra salt on top of each.
7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 minutes – they won’t look done, and won’t be firm, but that’s how they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes: Hard to believe I didn't lead with chocolate, isn't it? These are trendy as hell, what with the salt and all ( have no idea what the fuck fleur de sel is and I don't care), and they're so yummy, as long as you don't over-bake them--unless you like them crunchy. They really should be doughy when they come out for the best texture though. They continue to cook on the sheet after you remove them from the oven. If you want to see a prettier photo, go to the website. I didn't try to make mine rectangular. Life is too short.

Elvira said these look like poop. Or coal. So that's what she got in her stocking Christmas morning--poop and coal. Santa loves you, Elvira, but don't mock Mommer's cookies.

½ cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Spread cherries on paper towels and drain well.
3. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
4. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1½ -inch rounds.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
6. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

Note: This is my least favorite of the cookies I tried this season. In fact, I don't intend to keep this recipe. However, other people loved them, so try them and see. I'm not a fan of the white chocolate, so that's a strike already. I also had trouble making the dough come together. I finally added some cherry juice to bind it. If I were going to tweak these, I might try them with dark or bittersweet to see how I like that combination. Drake and I also decided we liked them better without the dip. They're not as pretty, but the dip detracted from the cherry flavor. They are pretty though, and provide color balance against chocolate cookies on a plate.

4.5 oz shelled salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2.5 oz dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
7 oz dark chocolate bar (I used Hershey's Special Dark)

1. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe measuring cup; microwave on high 1 minute or until chocolate melts, stirring every 15 seconds.
2. Add nut mixture to melted chocolate, stirring until just combined. Spread mixture evenly on a jelly-roll pan or cookie sheet lined with foil; freeze 1 hour. Break into pieces.

Note: This "candy" is super easy. I doubled the recipe to fit an entire cookie sheet, so don't expect 7 ounces of chocolate to make a panful. The recipe doesn't specify what kind of cranberries to use, so I used unsweetened from the heath food store. Next time, I'll try Craisins. They're sweetened, but they also have a brighter flavor. I ran out of pistachios, so I chopped up some salted almonds for about 1/4 of the recipe. They tasted fine.

1 pound high-quality bittersweet chocolate,  chopped
1 cup chopped/crushed candy canes, divided
½ cup chocolate wafer cookies (such as  Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers), lightly crushed
1 ounce high-quality white chocolate, melted

1. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Stir bittersweet chocolate in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Or melt in a glass bowl or measuring cup in the microwave. Stir in ¾ cup chopped candy and the crushed cookies.
3. Spread over foil. Sprinkle ¼ cup candy over mixture. Drizzle with melted white chocolate. Chill in freezer until set, about 30 minutes.  Break into shards.

Notes: This recipe originally came from a much more complicated dessert on the Bon Appetit website, where they call this candy cane brittle. I don't know what they're thinking, but it's not a brittle (think peanut brittle.) It's a simple bark. Crush the candy canes in a plastic bag so they don't go all over the place. Drake smashed them with a meat mallet. Or you could use your food processor. I didn't have plain chocolate cookies, so I used Girl Scout Thin Mints. I crushed them between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin, and then removed most of the frosting that stuck to the paper. If you want to be lazy, don't drizzle the white chocolate. It's purely aesthetic. I also ran out of bittersweet chocolate, so about I used about 1/4 dark chocolate. Either will work.

Candy Cane Bark

That's it. You are unlikely to set your kitchen on fire with these recipes, so go ahead and start making cookies for the new year. They're all relatively easy, and they make a nice variety together on a plate. I took some to a friend's birthday party, to our final performance of Scrooge!, and to a caroling party. I also gave some as gifts and donated a tray to a community dinner for a friend who can't bake, but wanted to give to the dinner. And then I served them at my own Christmas dinner.

Cookies. You know I love cookies, right? (Still waiting. Patient, I am.) Seriously, if I could make a living baking cookies, I would be all up in the cookies all day every day. Mmmm hmmmm.

* The website for the original recipe is linked in the title.


  1. I just made regular ol' snickerdoodles - but it's a recipe my mom used in the past so yay tradition.

    These all sound pretty damn good.

  2. The salted chocolate cookies were yummy indeed, and the snickerdoodle bars I made from your recipe were so popular that I only had a chance to taste one! While you were posting this blog, I was actually making real snickerdoodles. Found that my holidays weren't quite complete without them. I would have tried your lemon cookie recipe instead if I'd had it (also, if I'd had a lemon to zest) as that's what I was craving earlier today. BTW, the peppermint bark looks very enticing. I would probably reach for that first!

  3. Welcome, Roujo. My grandma used to make snickerdoodles for me, so the traditional recipe has a special place in my heart too. Makes me wonder what my kids and grandkids will remember me by someday.

  4. MsS, you should definitely try the lemon cookies. They would be perfect for an afternoon tea party. Or just as good with a bottle of wine.

    I've got some bark left. I'll try to save some for next time I see you--which might be this weekend.

  5. Those cookies sure brightened my birthday! Thank you SO much for sharing your culinary awesomeness.

  6. fleur de sel is a wonderfully light and flaky salt that has no purpose being mixed into a cookie mix. (kind of like you!) You were right to use just plain salt.

  7. Like me? Light? Flaky? Salty?

    I knew somebody would tell me if I waited long enough. So it might look pretty on top of the cookie (or on a salted caramel), but there's no reason to waste it in the dough. Kind of like salt snowflakes.