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Posts Tagged ‘cookies’

Beyond the sugar, flour and butter of a good cookie, beyond the proper pan, the parchment or silpat on top and the tried and true recipes, even beyond the cookie jar on the counter, rubbed and worn from decades of hands reaching for it, cookies have become infused as a part of me from as far back as I can remember. Thanks to my mom, for certain.

Hey Everyone! You know what time of year it is, right????

Any amount of time in my little obscure corner of the blogging world and you know that my love of baking goes deep. And long. I’ve eaten all manners of cookie; any and all types have passed these cookie-loving lips, of all shapes and sizes and styles and colors and proportions. I’ve had chocolate chip a thousand different ways and oatmeal cookies to swoon over. I’ve had double chocolate rebels and chewy chocolate bites and thumbprints of all manners and madelines that melt in my mouth. I’ve had cakey chocolate drops covered in mocha frosting that nearly made me faint. Gingersnaps both chewy and crisp, macaroons both airy and dense and cheesecake cookies scented with lemon. I’ve had exotic varieties from other lands, sugar cookies of all kinds and shapes, cookies with seeds and nuts and sprinkles and colored sugars and tiny hard candy dots, out of bags, boxes and freezer cases. With one bite I know whether you’ve used butter or not, whether it was built from a recipe or cut from a pre-made log with a brand name on it. I know my cookies. And I think the one item missing from my life, my kitchen and eventually, from my son’s memory is a cookie jar standing on the counter, ready for the next best cookie to fall into it’s fathomless interior. For whatever reason, we don’t have a cookie jar. I love my kitchen, the room where magic occurs and genuine smiles are formed, but my counter does not hold that memorable item.

I’m imbued with the scent of baking cookies, brought on by a lifetime of saturating myself in the process of making them, the rhythmic scooping, the whir of a mixer, the flour covered countertops that result in a hot tray of tiny fragrant orbs that’s sole purpose is to coat and soothe an otherwise hectic life down to a manageable roar. I recall days as a child where the call of the cookie jar would pull me forward, the familiar squawk of the metal lid being pulled off our old worn canister as I eagerly plunged my hand in to bring forth Mom’s comfort and salve. I would indulge until spent, broken and weary from the sugar high but otherwise calmer than when I entered her kitchen, bent on seeking a balm for what ills I had endured. From my cookie coma, I often wished to simply slip to the floor and lay in the sunshine, brushing the crumbs from my face. Likely I just lay my head down on the formica tabletop. If I thought of anything at all, it was when I would feel ready to eat more. My Mom knew that her cookies were our Achilles heel; she knew what each of us liked and didn’t like. She knew how she could draw us to her by simply announcing that she was baking cookies. She just knew. Through chocolate chips and chopped dates and broken nuts and some old worn cookie sheets warped with age and use, she could reach to us across any barriers we tried to put up and give us a piece of her heart. Mom was not so demonstrative with her love, but she made us cookies, and in turn, it gave me the first of many glimpses into the divine dance that occurs when one cooks for someone they love. She taught me to bake cookies and it taught me how to take care of someone’s heart. I make cookies for my family, but what I might be trying to do, at least in spirit, is to awaken in me the memory of her, to keep her alive and beside me, along with grasping a moment where my own child runs to my side, eyes gleaming and smiling wide to take in the cooling rows of cookies. To watch him eagerly reach for a handful, to see him dip into the container that holds them, eyes shut in his delight as he takes a bite is to see pure love.

[[All right, want the mother-lode of Cookies?? More than you can imagine?]]

Christmas comes, and in my life there’s a cookie exchange each year. I always want to offer something new and different, more to stretch my own concept of a cookie than anything else. There are endless variations to be formed through a bowl and a tiny scoop, or sliced from a chilled log. All manner of ingredients can be used. What’s important is the memory and feeling behind pulling out the stand mixer, getting down the ingredients, the smell of the oven and a hot tray of blissful bites on the counter.  This year, just prior to my annual baking frenzy, my tiny cookie scoop was broken and my search for a suitable replacement was futile. These slice and bake cookies saved the day. And opened my eyes. Life’s little surprises, in the shape of a sweet morsel in your fingers, continue to roll forward.

Earl Grey Cookies (bottom left in the photo above)
(courtesy of Shannalee at Food Loves Writing, and everyone’s friend, Martha Stewart)

2 c. AP flour
2 T. finely ground Earl Grey tea (from about 4 teabags. Can be crushed in a baggie with a rolling pin, or in a blender or coffee grinder)
1/2 t. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. confectioners sugar
1 T. finely grated orange zest

Whisk flour, tea and salt in a large measuring cup.

Place butter, sugar and orange zest into bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrap the bowl occasionally to insure uniformity. Reduce speed to low and blend in flour, only until incorporated.

Divide dough in half and place each piece on parchment paper. Shape into logs and place in fridge until firm, 2-3 hours. Dough can be chilled overnight too, and frozen for up to a month.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and slice into 1/4″ slices. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until browned at the edges. Cool on sheets on wire racks. Store in airtight containers.

KATE’S NOTES: The Stash tea I used came very finely ground already. I did not have to crush it any further. I strongly recommend a good quality tea for this cookie. Don’t fear the tea leaves in this cookie; the flavor of these is fresh and lovely, chock full of orange essence. The tea is barely noticeable. I am certifiably crazy about this cookie. As soon as the last one was gone, I wanted to make another batch and I better hurry up and do it quickly before I drink up all the delicious tea.

Vanilla Spice Cookies (top right in the photo above)
(from Shannalee again)

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 t. vanilla extract
1-3/4 c. AP flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cardamom

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter at medium speed and gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla and blend. In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, salt and spices. Add this to the butter mixture on low speed and blend only until incorporated.

Shape the dough into two rolls, about 12 inches long. Wrap in parchment or wax paper and chill until firm, 2-4 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350° and line cookie sheets with parchment. Unwrap rolls and slice into 1/4″ slices. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks and keep in airtight containers.

KATE’S NOTES: I added extra cinnamon and cardamom to these to amp up the spice flavor. They tasted like Chai tea and were just lovely.

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I’m not surprised that baking is a soothing enterprise for me. It calms and centers me and usually it’s because I always feel my Mom’s presence when I bake. She gave me my baking gene and my love for all things flour and butter and it channels my inner child to get out my K5 and open the pantry. This time of year is especially hard for me, as Christmas was such a favorite of hers, but I find that the very act of cookie making can be like entering a zen mode and it takes some of the grief away to see all the delightful baked discs on my counter, and feel the spirit of my Mom’s beaming proud smile.

Plus, I just HAVE to get my cookie in to Susan!!

foodbloggacookielogoFor the second year in a row, Susan of Food Blogga is hosting this event and getting a mountain of responses in return. Last year I was ambitious and submitted three recipes, but this year I have only this one. But I have to warn you, this is a killer cookie recipe.

May I present the Lemon Ricotta Cookie.

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This cookie in it’s basic form, was a winner in the Holiday Cookie Contest held by our local paper. Although I love the idea of a cookie chock full of ricotta cheese, I imagined that by adding the tart and heady scent of lemon that it might just add something magical to this recipe.

Magic indeed! While the cookie itself was pillowy, moist, tender and rich, the added element of lemon and the tang of a little zest gave it so much more character. It’s like the cheesecake cookies I made last year for this same event, but lighter and fluffier, and lately I just can’t get enough of anything lemon. And although I might be asking for it by consuming ricotta cheese, the stomachache I get from the dairy in these would be well worth it. And so far, it hasn’t happened, but I also haven’t OD’d on them either.


LEMON RICOTTA CHEESE COOKIES

For cookie:
4 c. flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 (15.-oz) container ricotta cheese
1 tsp. lemon extract
2-3 t. fresh lemon juice + 1-2 t. fresh lemon zest
2 eggs

For icing:
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. milk
Red and green decorative sugars, optional

Directions

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and reserve. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat sugar and butter until creamy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add ricotta cheese, extract, juice, zest and eggs and beat until well-combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing just until dough forms. Drop dough in small mounds on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are very lightly golden, rotating trays halfway through, for about 15 minutes (cookies will be soft). Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

KATE’S NOTES:
I initially wanted to make these an Almond Ricotta cookie, with almond extract and finely chopped almonds, and sometime I do intend to try out that version, but my almond extract had evaporated so I went with lemon. Be sure to really whip the butter and sugar for a while- the loftiness you achieve makes the cookie very fluffy. Thoroughly scrape the bowl at least once during the mixing of the cheese and egg; you want to really blend the wet ingredients well. The dough, while not very stiff, should ONLY be mixed until the flour is just incorporated. Do not overmix at this point. Once the flour is mixed in,  turn it off and give the dough a few turns, gently, with a rubber spatula in case there is any flour in the bottom of the bowl. I made two batches of this, and inadvertantly let both of them sit after the dough was ready. Whether it made a difference, I have no idea, but that’s what happened with mine. I did not use the icing.

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Aaaaaaand I’m back! Miss me?

I did treat you to a few posts, shelved prior to ‘the week without tastebuds’ in my house so I wasn’t superbly absent. Interestingly enough, while I recuperated, my blog was inundated with hits, mostly searching for pictures of funny cats. I suppose I’m not so remiss in that area, but this is a food blog!

So it’s December, and the month of Christmas, which means it’s time to bake cookies. Baking for me is highly nostalgic; my mother was a champion baker, if only just for our family. She prided herself on never having store-bought cookies, cakes or anything like that in our home, she baked, and she baked really darn well. If she had one prominent love language to show us, it was in her Baking. She only had to call out “Who wants to help me make cookies?” and I would often drop everything I was doing and race to the kitchen. It was our time to bond, hang out and laugh, not to mention, nibble on warm cookies. Each recipe I have of hers brings me waves of nostalgia whenever I make them- Gingersnaps, Peanut Butter Fingers, Coffee Toffee Bars, Three Layer Bars; they all spelled L-O-V-E in our house. I love to bake but don’t have the benefit of five kids to take away the tempting treats, so I don’t do it too often unless it’s for a crowd, or a special occasion.

Onto the cookies!!!

One of Griffin’s favorites is what our family, and likely plenty of others, always calls ‘Church Window Cookies’. It’s a simple chocolate and colored mini-marshmallow cookie, that when cut (and if you squint and engage enough imagination), can resemble stained glass.

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RECIPES:

Church Window Cookies:

Melt one stick of butter and one bag of chocolate chips of your choice, stir gently until smooth, then cool. Pour over one bag of colored mini marshmallows, stir to combine. Either roll into logs, or scoop into plastic drink cups, chill until firm, then slice.

Date-Nut Pinwheels

8 ounce package dates
1 cup hot water
1 cup very finely chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
3-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine dates, sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and hot water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened – about 6 – 8 minutes. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Set date mixture aside to cool. Combine brown sugar and butter. Cream until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, soda, cream of tartar, salt and cinnamon. Stir into creamed mixture. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Divide dough into thirds. Roll each portion into a 12″ square on waxed paper. Spread with 1/3 of date mixture. Lifting up edge of waxed paper, gently peel off dough and roll jelly roll fashion. Wrap rolls in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. Cut dough into 1/4″ slices and place two inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 (3 ounces) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups cake flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat hard. Stir in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add flour, mixing well. Stir in nuts. Push small amount from spoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until delicate brown. While hot, roll in powdered sugar.

RECIPE NOTES:

On the Date-Nut Pinwheels, I doubled the filling mixture, using half dates and half dried sweet cherries. This mixture took a lot longer than 6-8 minutes to thicken, likely from the extra bulk. Cook until it resembles a thick paste, almost jam-like, and allow it too cool completely. I also subbed in some wheat flour, and used a little extra cinnamon. The dough was tacky, I treated it somewhat like pie dough, tossing a little flour over it to keep the rolling pin from sticking. Chill the logs thoroughly and keep them chilled while baking. Any extra filling is wonderful spread on toast.

In our version of the Window cookies, we used Ghiradhelli dark chocolate pieces. If you’re going to eat chocolate, why not make it dark?? Don’t sub the fake stuff for butter; trust me, it tastes so much better to use the real thing. We keep these chilled for a better texture. Cool down the chocolate mix before pouring over the marshmallows or they will melt. Using plastic drink cups is super easy; make sure to press the mixture well into the cup for the best effect. When chilled, cut a slit in the side of the cup and break it apart, pushing the solids onto a cutting board. Use a serrated knife and just a little pressure to slice. *Hint* The bottom slice from the cup is the best part!

For the Cheesecake cookies, I added in about 3/4 of a teaspoon of pure lemon extract to give the cookies more pizazz. It’s been my experience with using just zest and juice that it needs a little added something to really make that lemon flavor shine. Instead of adding in the nuts to the batter, I dipped the cookies into the nuts prior to baking, then finished them with a glaze made of lemon juice and powdered sugar.

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Chewy Chocolate Bites

4 squares Bakers unsweetened baking chocolate

1 1/2 sticks butter (no subs or all of the above mentioned will fail, trust me)

2 c. sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 t. vanilla

2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat (or use double boiler) until only small pieces remain. Remove from heat and stir gently to melt completely. Stir in sugar, blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, mix well. Chill for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle. Shape into 1″ balls and place on greased cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Bake 8 minutes or until just set. Do not overbake. (again, trust me, don’t make ’em crispy ‘cuz all that stuff I said earlier? Yeah, ain’t gonna happen) Allow to cool on baking sheet about a minute then transfer to wire racks.

These are fabulous all by themselves, a dense chewy and rich cookie with amazing chocolate taste. However, you could up the Christmas love by embellishing them any and all ways. Crush some candy canes and sprinkle over the top before baking; press pieces of peanut butter cups in them after they come out of the oven; drizzle them with melted white chocolate (or my fav….melted cappucino chips….this, I swear, could solve world peace) or how about spreading them with a thick layer of mocha icing?? The possibilities are endless and as long and varied as everyone’s imagination. Bottom line…..MAKE them! Do yourself a favor if the omnipresent and ridiculous commercialism of Christmas is in any way getting to you and making you want to hibernate, go into hiding with a container of these and let the rest of the world just fall away. I don’t doubt it would do you wonders.

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Coconut Tempters

2 c. sugar
½ c. cocoa
½ c. milk
½ c. butter
½ c. peanut butter
1 t. vanilla
3 c. quick cooking oatmeal
½ c. coconut (optional, but yummy)

Place sugar, cocoa, milk and butter in a medium saucepan and cook to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Add peanut butter and vanilla, stir until dissolved. Pour over oatmeal and coconut and mix thoroughly, then beat until mixture begins to thicken. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment paper or silpat and let cool.
A decadent and delicious recipe for Three Layer Bars (also called Nainamo Bars in other parts of the country/world) can be found here on my site . My mother made these bars every Christmas and they are a wonderful treat. I make them at Christmas time for the family still. We all just love them. Another treat from my childhood is Coffee Toffee Bars. I am not sure why they have ‘Toffee’ in the title, as there is nothing even remotely like toffee in them. They are a delightful chocolate/almond/mocha flavored shortbread with a thin and delicate almond glaze over the top. My mom had a specific jelly roll pan that she made them in, and we never referred to it any other way than “the Coffee Toffee bar pan”. It was a heavy steel pan, worn and well used with ornate curved handles. I wish with everything that I am that I still had that pan.

Coffee Toffee Bars

2 ¼ c. sifted flour
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
1 c. butter
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 t. almond extract
1 T. instant coffee
1 pkg. chocolate chips

Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Cream butter. Add brown sugar and cream well. Blend in almond extract and instant coffee. Add dry ingredients, then chocolate chips. Press into cake pan and bake 20 minutes at 350 degree.

Almond Glaze (double all ingredients)

Combine 1 T soft butter, ¾ c. powdered sugar, 1/8 t. almond extract. Add 1 T. milk until frosting is of spreading consistency. Frost bars while still warm.

Here’s a refrigerator dough cookie, delicately flavored and just fabulous. They would be delicious using real lemon juice instead of extract, and possibly a little lemon zest as well.

Lemon Crisps

½ c. butter
½ c. shortening
1 ½ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ t. lemon extract
3 c. sifted flour
3 t. baking powder
½ t. salt

Cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in each egg, then flavoring. Stir in sifted dry ingredients. Form dough into rolls, 2 “ in diameter, wrap in wax paper then chill overnight. Using a sharp knife, slice dough into thin wafers and bake approximately 8 minutes at 375 degrees. Keep dough chilled between baking.
Some call them Molasses Cookies, others call them Gingersnaps. We used the latter, and this recipe is wonderful. It was one of my Mom’s favorites. We always made a double batch. Gingersnaps: Combine 3/4 c. shortening, 1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed and 1 egg until fluffy. Add ¼ c molasses and beat well. Mix together 2 c. sifted flour, ¼ t. salt, 2 t. baking soda, 1 t. each ginger and cinnamon and ½ t. cloves. Add to wet ingredients and mix well. Chill dough for several hours or overnight. Shape dough into 1” balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake 12-15 minutes at 350° F.

One more…..another of our favorites growing up. I could eat a whole pan of these.

Peanut Butter Fingers (double all ingredients for a 9×13 pan): Cream together: ½ c butter, ½ c sugar, ½ c brown sugar, firmly packed. Blend in: 1 unbeaten egg, 1/3 c. peanut butter, ½ t. baking soda , ¼ t. salt. Stir in: 1 c. flour, 1 c. quick cooking oatmeal. Spread mix in 8″ cake pan and bake 20-25 minutes at 350° F. Sprinkle with chocolate chips when hot and spread evenly when melted.

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Chewy Cheesecake Cookies (NOT a low fat recipe)

Blend together one stick of room temperature butter (no subs!), with one 3-oz package of softened cream cheese until creamy. Gradually add in one cup of white sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in one cup of AP flour until incorporated. Do not overmix. Scoop by tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets and bake at 375 until slightly browned around the edges, about 10-12 minutes. Allow them to cool for several minutes before removing them from the sheets.

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