Cookies, Icing

Nuts About Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies on their own can be wonderful, but I have often found myself searching for a cookie recipe that allows for some more nuanced flavor combinations than the typical sugar cookie provides. It turns out the addition of ground nuts to the batter opens up a world of possibilities (and a more interesting texture too)!

In the recipe below, I use ground pistachios, cinnamon, and cardamom to flavor the cookie and pair them with a royal icing that’s flavored rose. However, this recipe is incredibly versatile: ground pecans or walnuts can be substituted for the pistachios, the spices are up for grabs too, and the milk in the recipe can be replaced with another liquid in a pinch (black coffee and walnuts or bourbon and pecans, for just a few ideas).

Regarding the royal icing, rose is a strong flavor that stands up beautifully to the high sugar content of the icing.

Nuts About Sugar Cookies

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup ground pistachios
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tbsp milk (or other liquid)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground pistachios, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the egg and milk. Gradually add in the flour mixture to create a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half, shape into disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This dough can be made ahead and chilled overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degree and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out one of portion of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut using cookie cutters in whatever shape you desire. For cookies that are roughly 3-inches in diameter, bake for 10-12 minutes on the prepared baking sheet. Smaller cookies will bake for less time.

You should get about 2 dozen cookies from one batch. The dough warps only slightly, but if you’re a perfectionist, cutting them again right as they come out of the oven works like a  charm to produce clean lines. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let them cool completely before icing.

Rose Royal Icing

  • 3 tbsp meringue powder (4oz)
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar (16 oz)
  • 5 tbsp warm water
  • 1/4 tsp rose water*

Combine all ingredients, whipping to form peaks, about 7 minutes. The frosting at this stage will be quite thick. From this stage, you have a couple options for piping: a top coat or a filled border.**

I had written a bit about icing techniques, but I’m obviously still quite a neophyte to royal icing decorating. In the picture below, I attempted a feathering technique as well as a marbling technique.

*Rose water by it’s nature can be a bit overpowering. Only 1/4 of a tsp for an entire batch for frosting might seem judicious, but trust me: it’s all you need.

**At this point, I would highly recommend watching a video on how to properly flood cookies with royal icing:

Sweet Amb’s Flooding Tutorial

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Chocolate, Cookies

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (revisited 5/2/2018)

I call myself the “futile” gourmet because cooking is something I am passionate about, but I’ve never had the option to study or work in the field professionally (outside of some high school experience and one tour of the CIA in New York). Also, I love to experiment and – quite frankly – those experiments can indeed be futile from time to time.

But sometimes, I like to revisit old recipes and improve them with new tricks I’ve learned. Now is one of those times…

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (revisited 5/2/2018)
yield: 12- 16 cookies

  • 2 cups King Arthur bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated*
  • 3/4 cup butter, browned and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 8 oz chopped semisweet chocolate
  • Sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cornstarch, and nutmeg. Whisk together and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, molasses, and vanilla together on medium speed for 3 minutes to combine thoroughly. The mixture won’t exactly be creamy; it will be similar in texture to wet sand. Depending on how cool the butter is, the texture may vary.

With the mixer running on medium-low speed, add in the egg and egg yolk. Increase speed to medium and cream for 30 seconds to 1 minute until homogeneous and lighter in color.

With the mixer running on low, add in the dry ingredients a large spoonful at a time until all of the dry goods are incorporated. Add in the chopped chocolate all at once and mix to distribute. Transfer dough to a container or a piece of plastic wrap laid out on a cutting board, patting it into a rectangle. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Divide the dough into roughly 16 cookies that weigh between 50 – 60 grams each. If you don’t have a scale, eyeballing it is perfectly fine. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 325 for 15 – 18 minutes. The cookies should still be slightly puffy in the center and just beginning to brown at the edges.

Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

*Nutmeg in a chocolate chip cookie?!?! Okay it’s totally optional, but thanks to BraveTart by Stella Parks, I tried this addition as a way to “increase the butterscotch notes of the cookie batter,” and I have to agree that I am a fan! I’d recommend trying this in your own favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Chocolate, Cookies, White Chocolate

Gluten-Free Triple Chocolate Cookies

I love baking for restricted diets in part because of the challenge. With gluten-free bakes, the challenge always seems to be creating a chewy texture without the presence of gluten. And thanks to cocoa powder, melted butter, and dark brown sugar, I think I have accomplished that feat here!

One thing about my favorite cookie recipes: they require refrigeration. Even if you use a different recipe, try chilling the dough for a few hours out; I find it helps to produce more consistent cookies, plus there’s less pressure to go start to finish in a recipe because batching out and baking off cookies can take a while!

Gluten-Free Triple Chocolate Cookies

yield: 16-18 rather large cookies

  • 1 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp instant espresso, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 4oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine the gluten-free all-purpose flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the melted butter and instant espresso, if using, whisking to dissolve the espresso. Add in the dark brown sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Expect a wet sandy mixture to develop. Add in the eggs and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds which will help lighten and emulsify the mixture.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the flour until incorporated. Finally, add in the chopped chocolate all at once, mixing to distribute. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break apart the dough and roll into balls; the recipe should make about 16 -18 rather large cookies. Bake the cookies 6 to a sheet for 18-20 minutes until they’ve flattened but they still appear puffy all around.

*In terms of gluten-free all-purpose flour blends for this recipe, I’ve had excellent luck with both Bob’s Red Mill as well as Krusteaz brands.

 

Coconut, Cookies

Coconut Shortbread

I saw a recent post on Smitten Kitchen that featured coconut shortbread, and I thought that would be perfect for a belated birthday present for a dear friend of mine, Anne, who is coo-coo for coconut.

Whereas Smitten Kitchen used a Bon Apetit recipe to get things started, my go-to shortbread comes from a wonderful cookbook by Jennifer McLagan unabashedly called Fat. Her book is worth a read and can be found here. In it, she details one delightful trick for crispy, buttery shortbread: a bit of rice flour mixed in with all-purpose. Flecked with sea salt, her shortbread is buttery and crumbly but also salty and crisp.

I used her recipe as a base for my version of Coconut Shortbread.

Coconut Shortbread

yield: one 8 or 9-inch square pan of shortbread batons or a similar round pan of wedges

  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, plus additional for buttering the pan
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • pinch of salt
  • granulated sugar for sprinkling, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut over a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring every couple minutes, until evenly browned, about 10-12 minutes total. Set aside to cool. Once cool, pulse in a food processor, coffee grinder, or with a mortar and pestle to crush. The result shouldn’t be a fine powder, but it should resemble coarse crumbs. Toasted coconut can be made well in advance and kept in a covered container.

Lightly butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch square or round baking tin, ideally with a removable bottom.

Combine the chilled butter and sugar and mix in the bowl of a stand mixer to combine, about 15 seconds. Add in both flours, salt, and the coarsely crushed coconut. Mix on low until the dough comes together, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and, on a floured surface, roll to roughly the size of the pan. Place the dough in the pan, pressing it to the sides. Using a fork, prick the dough all over, right through to the bottom of the tin.

Refrigerate the dough for one hour.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little granulated sugar if you like, and bake until the shortbread is just firm in the center and beginning to color, about one hour. In a dark pan like mine, I kept the temperature the same since it was relatively low, but the cooking time was only about 50-52 minutes.

While it’s still warm – and using a sharp knife – score the shortbread into batons or wedges, and transfer the shortbread still in the pan to a wire rack to cool. When cold, remove the shortbread from the tin and cut into the previously-scored shapes.

Personally, I enjoyed these treats, but I thought they could use even more coconut… and why not a little chocolate too?

 

Apple, Cookies

Apple Pie Cookies

Edit: Since I posted this recipe, I tweaked a couple things (though the original recipe is still great):

  • In place of the 1 tbsp vanilla, I use 1 tbsp bourbon
  • I also rehydrate the dried apples in 2 generous tbsp of bourbon

The result is a lightly bourbon-apple flavored cookie that is super tasty and just barely boozy.

For some people, autumn means “pumpkin everything!!!” but for me it’s always been about apples. Here, I incorporate dried apples into a slightly tweaked version of my chocolate chip cookie base to make a delicious, chewy apple pie cookie.

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This is a weird recipe that uses a couple extra steps and ingredients you might not think to use. It calls for “pie crust crumbles” which was something I threw together with leftover pie crust, rolled in cinnamon sugar, baked, and crumbled. Feel free to omit them, but if you’re feeling experimental, here is what they wind up looking like (and they add a buttery crunch to the cookie too):

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For the dried apples, I find tossing them in a food processor is about as easy as anything, though you can certainly chop them by hand.

Apple Pie Cookies

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups dried apples, chopped
  • 1 cup pie crust crumbles, optional

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the melted butter, molasses, and vanilla.

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Mix until homogeneous and the texture of wet sand, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg and egg yolk, creaming until lighter in color and smooth, about a minute. Gradually add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Finally, mix in the chopped apples and pie crumbles, if using.

Turn dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Shape into a rectangle, cover, and refrigerate dough for 3 hours or overnight. I tend to place my dough on a cutting board for ease.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Divide dough into 16 even portions. Flatten into disks and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until slightly puffy and just beginning to brown at the edges: 15-18 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cookies, Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter Cookies

I. Love. This. Recipe.

I have for you, dear reader, a gift in the form of the simplest, easiest, and most versatile peanut butter cookie recipe ever:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg

Isn’t that beautiful? And they make absolutely delicious cookies that just happen to be gluten-free. Now, there are a couple caveats of course. This recipe makes a pretty workable dough. If you bake the cookies as is, they’ll come out thin but still chewy. That makes them perfect for sandwich cookies. If you add a tablespoon of peanut butter powder (flour can work too, but then they wouldn’t be gluten-free) the dough stiffens a bit and you get a delicious, chewy, more traditional peanut butter cookie.

Oh, and you can also throw in some chopped chocolate. Or chocolate chips. Or chopped peanuts.

The Best Ever Peanut Butter Cookies

yield: about 8-10 sandwiches

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • extra granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter powder or flour, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degree and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir together with a big wooden spoon until a homogenous, workable dough is made. You should be able to roll a tablespoon of the dough into a ball that will be a bit soft but hold it’s shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roll the dough into balls, spacing them evenly apart on the baking sheets. Press each cookie with a fork dipped in sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes. The cookies should be puffy and appear under-baked when you remove them from the oven. Let them cool completely on the baking sheets before removing them.

 

Sandwich with any filling you like: chocolate ganache, marshmallow fluff,  more peanut butter, and jam are a couple of my favorites. Enjoy!

 

Cookies, Macaron

A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

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There will be no recipe for this post, primarily because I don’t consider myself an expert enough to share a recipe for macarons. They are finicky little cookies. However, I would love to provide resources I’ve found useful and flavor combinations I’ve found tasty:

It helps me to watch a video tutorial so I can get a better sense of the texture of the meringue. The most common analogy you come across in recipes is that the batter has the consistency of “molten lava.” I don’t know about you but I don’t personally handle molten lava all that much, so the analogy is a bit lost on me.

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Practice. Makes. Perfect. Here are my tips to add to the sources above:

  • Be prepared to make at least two separate batches if this is your first go. They’re easy enough to throw together, but if you want consistency, making multiple batches will go a long way towards getting you comfortable with the process. To get the two batches above, I made a total of four (I have a tendency to undermix the batter producing domed shells that crack and are too delicate).
  • Dry flavors should be added to the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour:
    • Ground, dried herbs and spices like cinnamon, lavender, and cardamom are all great additions
  • Wet flavors and food colors should be added sparingly to the egg whites:
    • Use only gel-based food dye to avoid too much moisture
    • About a teaspoon of flavoring is a good place to start: vanilla, rose water, strong liqueurs all provide good flavor
    • Instant espresso and tea leaves, while technically dry, can be dissolved into the egg whites for a coffee or tea flavored macaron shell. Earl Grey works well.
  • The golden rule: even malformed, cracked, flat, imperfect macarons are perfectly delicious, so don’t discard them. Use them as experiments for different fillings (or for other baking/decorating purposes).
  • Macarons keep well. Unfilled macaron shells freeze BEAUTIFULLY. Filled macarons will even last a few days in the refrigerator.

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I’m very proud of my own recipes, but I use a variation on Pop Sugar’s basic recipe for these beauties, so I’ll let you find your own macaron way.