Tag Archives: cookies

Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

I suppose it doesn’t need to be stated that we’ve had a lot of snow this winter.  Every time it has snowed, my Facebook feed has been taken over by posts about people cooking hearty stews and baking dozens of cookies, cinnamon rolls, and donuts.  And every time there has been a forecast for snow, and I’ve joined the crazed masses at the grocery store to stock up for the next Snowpocalypse, I have deliberately avoided buying supplies to bake.  As lazy and inactive as I have felt this winter, I’ve been trying – with varying success week-to-week – to been eating less, especially less sweets.

But a girl can only go through so many snowstorms in one winter before she has to give in to the urge to bake.  And I apparently reached my limit this weekend when word spread about the next storm to hit Maryland today.  I figured (perhaps wishful thinking) that this will be the last snowy excuse I have to bake this year.  And ever since I made these Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies at Christmas, I’ve been wanting to experiment a bit more with chocolate chip cookies.  Don’t get me wrong- those were great.  But I received Joy the Baker‘s cookbook for Christmas, and saw her recipe for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and thought, “What if I made those and just sprinkled a little Maldon sea salt on top?”

So while I watched the snowflakes fall outside today, I spent some time sprinkling flakes of sea salt on top of balls of cookie dough.  Nick and I are pretty sure the end product is the finest cookie I have baked to date.

chocchipcookies1

I was going to type up the recipe from the cookbook, but I just discovered that Joy has the recipe on her blog right here.  It’s a little different than the version in the book, but since she posted it after the book came out, I’m going to assume this version is new and improved.  She even added a step of topping them with sea salt.  Great minds think alike.  chocchipcookies2

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Christmas Recap, Part 1: The Cookies

And suddenly… it’s almost a week after Christmas. Everyone I know seems to share the same sentiments- there’s about a month of anticipation and preparation for the holidays, and then, it’s all over. I’ve been in some weird holiday-real world limbo for the last few days, where I’ve been making bargains and compromises with myself. Things like, “Let’s try to wait until after lunch to dig into the sugar cookies today” and “Put the new Kindle away for a couple hours and knock out the editing work you need to do.”

Speaking of the Kindle… Yes, I got one for Christmas. I told myself that even though I was mainly interested in it as a reading device, I should just ask for the fancy Kindle Fire so I’d have more flexibility and be able to read the colorful, glossy, digital version of Bon Appetit. However… so far, about 95% of my time with my Kindle has been playing games like Endless Escape (this involves puzzles and cleverness, so I’m not ashamed about this) and something ridiculous called Sky Burger (more ashamed about this).

Back to the cookies. As usual, I had lofty cookie aspirations this year. I bought ingredients for four types of cookies, but after making just two batches of dough, I found my cookie energy waning. After all, there were gifts to wrap and a tree that, as of December 22, was still not decorated. And I had to make these customized magnets for our friends (because they love their kitties as much as we love ours):

cat magnets

Hey, check out that Christmas card!

Thus, my Christmas to-do list required some prioritizing, and I had the freeing realization that I didn’t have to bake all the cookies before Christmas. And really, other than a tube of almond paste, all of the other ingredients could be used elsewhere if I decided I didn’t want to make the cookies at all.

013

Ultimately I ended up making the following:

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies.  These are the same cookies I made for our wedding. That time, I tripled the recipe and spent three days baking them. All the wedding excitement must have blocked out one key thing from my memory: I hate making sugar cookies. Don’t get me wrong- these are delicious and if you are a more patient person than I am, they are worth the effort. But what I discovered last weekend is that the process of rolling out dough, cutting out cookies only to have half of them get messed up because the dough is too soft, balling up the dough and re-chilling it, and then going through the process again was more than I felt like doing. So, sorry folks, it will probably be a while before you get more of these from me!*

Thumbprint Cookies. Made especially for my husband, who has a weakness for pretty much any sort of fruit filling when it is enclosed in a buttery, sugary womb, regardless of whether it is a homemade pie or a Pillsbury Toaster Strudel. These are not very different from the Trios I made last year, except they’re just single cookies rather than clusters of three with different fillings. In other words, these are way less tedious, which was apparently the major criterion in my cookie selection this year.

Gingery Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Are these ginger cookies masquerading as chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chip cookies disguised as ginger cookies? I think they are just the best of both worlds. I added a dash of ground ginger in addition to the candied ginger. And Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips are wonderful in these. I don’t think I can go back to Nestle.

*To be honest, not many people got cookies from me this year, and I feel guilty about that… There was some poor planning in terms of organization/storage containers/running late to family events and not having time to assemble containers to take with us. It was not my intent to bake five dozen cookies only to keep most of them for ourselves. In fact, that is exactly what I didn’t want to do. Which is why there will be another cleanse in January. More on that soon.

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Good Things Come in Threes: Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies, Triple Ginger Cookies, and Trios

So, as I mentioned previously, I was striving to make five different types of Christmas cookies this year.  The other night I revised this goal.

“I think four types of cookies might be my limit,” I told Nick as I was carefully spooning (approximately) 1/88 teaspoon of apricot preserves into the indentation of a teaspoon-sized ball of dough.

“Gee, so you were only able to make four super-fancy cookie recipes while you’re also studying for final exams in graduate school?”

They are fancy cookies. They also just happen to comprise a theme of number-oriented cookies.  Two recipes that are returning from last year’s cookie repertoire have to do with the number three: Trios and Triple Ginger Cookies. (Conveniently going along with the Seven Layer Cookies… I guess I really am a math person.) So it seemed appropriate to have the newcomer be Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies. I even branched out from my comfort zone- I usually refuse to acknowledge the existence of white chocolate (I mean, it’s not really chocolate, now is it??).  But I figure if Ghirardelli makes white chocolate chips, they must not be all evil.

I’m maintaining my December laziness, and I’m just going to refer you to the links to the recipes rather than reprinting them here. Because the cookie baking might finally be done (until Nick eats all of the Trios and wants more), but I still have more gift bows to make and presents to wrap.

Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies (from Bon Appetit, December 2004 via Epicurious)

These are yummy. A little sweeter than I usually like, but hey, it’s Christmas.

Drizzling chocolate is going on my list of things that do not come naturally to me. Rather than painstakingly drizzling each individual cookie in a zig-zag pattern, I adopted a Pollack-like approach.  There were a few casualties, but mostly, they turned out well.

Also, these cookies were thinner and more delicate than I expected. This may be the less-than-amazing cookie sheets I have- I think they cause things to spread too much. But they still tasted great… just be aware that they might be a little crumbly and are probably better stored in a tin or hard container, rather than ziplock bags. And worst-case scenario, you end up with some broken cookies to sprinkle on top of ice cream.

Triple Ginger Cookies (from Bon Appetit, December 2009 via Epicurious)


These are delicious and, according to the dietary considerations guide on Epicurous, low-calorie.  (At least as far as cookies go, I guess.) A few notes- don’t freak out if you can’t find light molasses.  I could only find blackstrap molasses, and they’re fine- just a shade darker.  Also, rolling them in raw sugar (aka turbinado sugar) instead of regular sugar gives them a sparkly, festive look.

Trios (from Gourmet, December 2007 via Epicurious)

Every time I make these I am surprised by how good they are.  The dough isn’t much beyond sugar, flour, and butter, but they’re wonderfully buttery and the fruit adds a bit of tang and chewiness. It’s a shame they’re so tedious to make, because they are Nick’s favorite and go quickly. If your kitchen is like mine, and your wooden (ahem, bamboo) spoons don’t have rounded handles, and you don’t happen to have a 1/2-inch wide wooden dowel hanging around, a round lipstick tube covered in plastic wrap works perfectly.

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Cookie Fail (and Some Success): Seven-Layer Cookies

Maybe it’s because I’m tired.  Maybe it’s because I’m preoccupied with the final paper I’m working on. Maybe it’s because the graduate school gods frowned upon my decision to take a break from paper-writing to bake cookies and they decided to punish me.  Maybe subconsciously I frowned upon my decision to take a break from paper-writing and sabotaged myself. I’m not sure what other explanation there could be for messing up a cookie recipe that I have successfully made in the past.

So, the Seven-Layer Cookies from featured in the December 2005 issue of Gourmet are supposed to look like  this:

Photo from Epicurious

Mine looked like this:

Fail.

Lesson learned: there is a fine line between undercooked and raw.  (Note: the wax paper is crumbled because I actually had already thrown this in the trashcan.  Then I decided it was worth documenting.)

Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  Only about half of the cookies looked like that.  The rest looked like this:

That’s better.

I hope I haven’t scared you away from making these cookies.  They are time-consuming, but they really are not difficult (and the majority of the time is inactive).  And, they are delicious.  The almond-flavored cookies, with chocolate, apricot, and raspberry, are a wonderful blend of flavors. And assuming that you don’t mess up and have to throw away half of them, it yields a ton, so the time investment is completely worth it.

I’m not going to take the time to write out the whole recipe here. It’s rather lengthy, since there are a lot of steps, and I trust that my readers are bright enough to understand clicking on this link, which will take you to the original recipe. Plus, I don’t want to take more time away from my term paper and risk further angering the graduate school gods.

Before I go write about plans for data analyses, I will leave you with these suggestions, based on my own experience:

  • The recipe calls for an 8 oz can of almond paste.  Every time I have made this, I have only been able to find 7 oz tubes.  This works just fine.  If you’re concerned it won’t be almond-y enough, you could always add a tiny splash of extra almond extract, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
  • Instead of using apricot preserves for both fruit layers, I used apricot for one layer and raspberry jam (seedless) for the other.  Just cut back to a half of a 12 oz jar for each. I like to use the raspberry between the red and white layers and the apricot between the white and green, but that’s just my weird thing with matching colors.
  • If you have three, or even two, 9 x 13 baking pans, you can cut down on the time, since you don’t have to wait for the pan to cool between baking the layers.
  • Undercooked means it should be set (as in, if you touch it, batter should not come off on your finger), but not firm.  This was the mistake I made this time.  I thought the red layer maybe could have stayed in for another minute or two, and it became evident that was true when I inverted it onto the white and the underside was totally raw.  I tried sticking the assembled cake and fruit layers in the oven to bake the red more, but it didn’t seem to work.  After letting it sit in the fridge overnight and applying the chocolate layers, I cut into the middle and it was a gloopy, gooey mess.  Disappointing. Fortunately the outside was fine, so it wasn’t a total waste.
  • Wait to trim the edges until after you’ve added the chocolate layers.  That way you don’t need to worry about chocolate dripping over the edge.
  • I know they say to use a serrated knife, but that makes it difficult to clean the knife between cuts (towel fibers getting caught in the teeth). I’ve found that running a Santoku knife under hot water and wiping it off between every cut gives me clean lines and minimizes the chocolate cracking.

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“Let the Great Experiment Begin!”

That title is misleading.  And rather irrelevant.  It just popped in my head and made me laugh, so I went with it.  The first person to tell me where that quote is from gets a prize.  And by prize, I mean my admiration and the warm feeling of knowing you’re an awesome person. Come on, you know you want it….

Anyway, I was looking for a title more along the lines of “And the Overly Ambitious Christmas Cookie Baking Begins!”  But that sounded stupid.  It would be accurate though.  Two years ago I made three types of cookies for Christmas, and then last year I added a fourth.  So it seemed only logical that I should aim to make five types of cookies this year.  I know if I keep following this pattern it’s going to get out of hand, but I’m hoping that eventually some favorites will rise to the top and I can stick with those.  The problem is that so far they are all favorites.

It occurred to me that I could streamline the process a bit by making several types of cookie dough one day, and refrigerating/freezing them, and then getting around to the baking part sometime in the next week.  So, that’s what I’m doing today.  I’ll be sharing recipes with you in the next week or two as I actually bake them.  But in the mean time, here are my steps for preparing to make three batches of different types of cookie dough in one sitting.  (And by one sitting I mean taking breaks in between writing and reading and studying.)

A Dozen Things You Should Do Before You Start Baking Cookies (oh… maybe I should have used that as the title….)

1. Prepare an Excel spreadsheet with columns for Recipe, Ingredient, Quantity, and Category (e.g., baking needs, dairy), and rows for each ingredient you need for each recipe.  Explain to your husband that then you can sort by ingredient to see how much flour you’ll need for all five recipes AND sort by category to organize a shopping list.  Have him accuse you of pleasuring yourself with a data software program.

2. Go shopping for ingredients and expect to make at least two stops because inevitably the first store will be sold out of almond paste or crystallized ginger.

3. Wash pile of dishes in the sink so you can create a new pile from scratch.

4. Change into a t-shirt to avoid sweater sleeves covered in flour.

5. Attack t-shirt with a lint roller to avoid cookies covered in cat fur.

6. Go to turn on iPod. Realize you told your husband he could take it with him today. Locate Christmas station on Slacker radio.  Wonder why there is a Blue Oyster Cult station under the seasonal category. (Because nothing says Merry Christmas like “Don’t Fear the Reaper”.)

7. Rinse dust out of stand mixer.

8. Print out recipes.

9. Pull out butter to reach room temperature.

10. Eat an apple to prevent snacking on cookie dough.  Correction: to reduce snacking on cookie dough.

11. Check email while you’re still waiting for butter to soften.

12. Finally, assemble ingredients and get going!

Stay tuned for lots of yummy cookie recipes!

 

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Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies

Some of my favorite desserts have orange and cardamom in them.  These cookies are no exception.  I made them for Christmas last year, and decided they’d make an excellent wedding favor.

(The non-star is a dog bone.)

I should warn you.  These have a TON of butter in them.  Well, 3 sticks of butter in a batch of 55 or so cookies.  But it’s worth it, trust me.  The only downside is that the dough is very sensitive to heat.  If you make them in the summer, like I did, I recommend dividing the dough into quarters rather than half before chilling, and work quickly.  I made two or three batches for our wedding, and it took me two or three days to bake all of them.  But again, it’s sooo worth it.  (The photos, by the way, are from Christmas….  I did not give out tree-shaped cookies at our July wedding.)

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies (from the December 2009 issue Bon Appetit)

makes about 55 3-inch cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), room temperature

1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg, room temperature

Raw sugar

Whisk flour, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes.  Gradually add sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in finely grated orange peel and vanilla.  Add egg; beat to blend.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture; beat on low speed to blend.  Add remaining flour mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed to blend.  Refrigerate until firm enough to hold shape, about 1 hour.

Divide dough in half (or, if you’re working in a warm kitchen, divide into quarters).   Form each half (or quarter) into a ball and flatten into disk.  Wrap each in plastic and chill until firm enough to roll out, about 45 minutes.*

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to generous 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut out cookies with cookie cutters.  Carefully transfer cookies to baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.  Sprinkle with raw sugar.  Gather dough scraps into a ball, flatten, and freeze for about 10 minutes until it is firm enough to roll out again.

Bake cookies until light golden brown, about 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking.  Slide parchment paper and cookies onto a cooling rack.  Let baking sheets cool, and repeat process with remaining dough.

Cookies can be stored for 3 days in an airtight container.  (I also found that they freeze well for a couple weeks.)

*You can make the dough 1 day ahead and refrigerate.  Let the chilled dough stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes so that it is soft enough to roll out.

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(Almost Vegan) Chocolate, Cherry, & Almond Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes I think I would make an awesome housewife.  Like today, when, after spending the morning running to the bank and the grocery store, I decided to spend the early afternoon baking cookies while listening to The Young & the Restless and The Bold & the Beautiful in the background.

Recently when I was paging through my copy of The Food Matters Cookbook (by Mark Bittman), I realized that the way he presented recipes made me actually open to trying to bake vegan desserts.  I’ve become pretty comfortable with preparing meals that are vegetarian or vegan, but I’ve shied away from vegan baking.  I was always suspicious of what weird type of tofu* or soy product must go into cookies if there will be no eggs or butter.

Then there was the day when my lunch consisted of a giant vegan oatmeal cookie.  It was towards the end of the semester and I was stressed and having a weird day where I had no interest in eating any foods.  Except baked goods.  So I figured I’d give this vegan cookie a try.  If I’m going to have a cookie for lunch, it might as well be a healthy one.  As I was finishing the cookie, and marveling at how good it was, I turned over the package to see what actually went into it.  Turns out, the one cookie was actually two servings, and I had just eaten almost 500 calories-worth of cookie.  So my notion of vegan = healthy, low-calorie food went down the drain.  In fact, that seemed worse than a lot of the non-vegan baked goods I usually eat.  I mean, three sea salt brownie “petites” from Trader Joe’s is less than 200 calories.  Thus my suspicion of vegan cookies was replaced with a general bitterness towards the deceitful cookie and the food co-op where I purchased it.

But back to the other day when I was looking through the Food Matters book… I love the idea of being flexible, and having options and choices about the amount of animal products put into your food.  So when a recipe calls for vegetable oil or butter or a combination of the two, or gives me the option of using eggs or applesauce, I feel less cornered into veganism.  I understand true vegans probably have more of an all-or-nothing approach, but for someone who simply trying to reduce her consumption of animal products, the flexibility is great.

I was striving to make these cookies as close to vegan as possible (just out of curiosity), but I did stick to cow’s milk (I happen to have a lot of milk in the fridge right now, and want to use it up before it goes bad) and I’m sure the Ghirardelli chocolate had some additional milk in it.  But I did use vegetable oil instead of butter and unsweetened applesauce in place of eggs.  “Creaming” sugar with oil doesn’t look quite the same as it does when you’re using butter:

I also substituted sliced almonds for the chopped walnuts or pecans, as someone in our household (not me) does not like walnuts and pecans.  Oatmeal cookies without raisins sounded wrong to me**, so I was going to add those in, but when I came across dried cherries at the store, the thought of chocolate, cherry, and almond together was too good to pass up.

The final change between my recipe and Bittman’s is that he called for teaspoon-size mounds of dough, but with all of the cherries and chocolate chunks, a teaspoon was barely enough to include chocolate, cherry, and enough dough to hold them together.  So mine ended up being more like two teaspoons, and by the end, generous tablespoon-size mounds.  (Does anyone else find that as they bake cookies, the cookies get progressively bigger from the first baking sheet to the next?)  I almost wonder if the teaspoon is a typo, because despite making larger cookies, I ended up with 44 cookies, rather than the 36 the recipes estimates.

In the end, these semi-vegan cookies turned out to be quite yummy.

Mmm… chocolate:

Chocolate Chunk & Cherry Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook)

1/2 cup of vegetable oil or 8 tbsp (1 stick) of unsalted butter or combination of the two

1/2 cup of sugar (as in regular white sugar)

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/4 cup of applesauce or 2 eggs

3/4 cup of whole wheat flour

3/4 cup of all-purpose flour

2 cups of rolled oats (I don’t really know what “rolled oats” means… I just used regular old-fashioned Quaker oats)

1/2 cup of sliced almonds (or 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans as the original recipe calls for)

Pinch of salt

2 tsp of baking powder

1/2 cup of almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, or cow’s milk (I used 2% cow milk)

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, broken into small chunks

about a 1/3 cup of dried cherries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat oil and both sugars together until blended.  Stir in applesauce (or eggs).

In a separate bowl, mix both flours, oats, nuts, salt, and baking powder.  Alternating between milk and the dry ingredients, add a little at a time to the sugar mixture, stirring to blend.  Then stir in the vanilla, and then the chocolate chunks and cherries.

Put tablespoon-sized mounds of dough on an ungreased baking sheet, about 3 inches apart.  Bake until lightly browned, about 14 minutes.  Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in a sealed container for several days.

*I keep trying tofu in various forms, but unless it’s in miso or hot & sour soup, I just don’t enjoy it.

**If you’ve known me for most of my life, this is probably a shocking statement, given my general dislike for raisins.  But I’ve actually grown to tolerate them, and sometimes, like them.

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