I decided the other day that I was going to bake something– not an uncommon occurrence, but this time I had a specific reason: to welcome new neighbors. The problem was, it was the middle of the week, which foreclosed the possibility of shopping for specialty ingredients, and I had to be careful to keep the recipe generally inoffensive. No nuts, in case of allergies. No really unusual spices or flavors (which foreclosed my peanut butter chili crisp cookies as an option). And they had to look at least marginally appetizing, since I couldn’t rely on my reputation for tasty baked goods to encourage people to try them.
I found a jar of raspberry jam in the pantry and decided to make thumbprint cookies– chocolate ones, since raspberry and chocolate is a fantastic combination. I did some digging into various chocolate thumbprint recipes, many of which seemed rather short on chocolate flavor, and finally found one with some unusual-seeming proportions, but which looked interesting. There’s relatively little butter, but the addition of melted chocolate makes up for it while adding a nice dose of chocolate flavor. While the dough starts off soft (and therefore requires thorough chilling before use), it shapes up nicely when cold and doesn’t crack too much when gently flattened onto the cookie sheet.
The finished cookies were really delicious– the cookie base was soft and tender, the jam added the perfect bit of tanginess and interest, and the chocolate garnish was a nice finishing tough. I will definitely add these to my recipe box!
Shortbread is such a classic cookie that I can’t believe I’ve never made it before– I mean, sure, I’ve made variations like pink peppercorn shortbread, or cocoa nib shortbread, but regular, simple shortbread has never made it onto my radar. Until now, of course.
I was looking for a cookie to make on short notice (meaning, no room-temperature butter allowed), with a minimum of fuss, so a basic, no-frills cookie was definitely called for. I didn’t want to have to deal with rolling and cutting, or even portioning into balls, so with those restrictions in mind shortbread seemed perfect. Add in the fact that this recipe calls for melted butter, and it was a no-brainer!
I will note that once you make the dough (which takes no time at all), you’re supposed to let it rest in the pan at least 2 hours, or overnight– however, I didn’t have a problem with this because I just mixed it up the night before and baked it the next morning. The only slightly tricky part was cutting the par-baked dough into even fingers, but I wouldn’t skip this step– it makes the cookies so much easier to separate once baked. I’m certain that if I’d tried to cut them after baking they’d have crumbled into pieces!
The finished cookies are elegant in their simplicity, with an added crunch from the raw sugar and salt sprinkled on top. Baked in a fluted tart pan, they look almost fancy, but still homemade in the best way possible. I think I may add this to my list of recipes for cookie trays– easy to make, easy to overlook, but addictive once you have the first bite!
It feels like everyone’s using chili crisp these days– the spicy, crunchy, garlicky condiment goes well with all different kinds of cuisines, adding punch to soups, sandwiches, pastas, and basically any other savory dish. But what about sweets? That’s what I asked myself when I spied some chili crisp peanut butter cookies in a Korean bakery the other day– could it really work?
Being, well, me, I opted not to buy a cookie, but to make one. Ever-so-slightly adapting a recipe from Zoe Kanan, I ended up with these– they’re soft, with slightly crisp edges (I may have underbaked mine, but better under than over), with a complex flavor profile that combines spice, umami, and the unmistakable echo of garlic that comes from the chili crisp. It totally works, though I’m glad I followed the instructions and made the cookies on the small side. I don’t think you’d want to eat a dozen of these in a sitting, but they are definitely interesting, tasty, and will earn you some points for creativity at your next cookie swap!
So, having made (and loved) my carrot cake jam, it was time to make macarons! They turned out absolutely delicious– the macaron shell was just “cakey” enough to really evoke carrot cake, with the almonds lending a nutty background. The filling combination– carrot jam and cream cheese frosting– was perfectly sweet and tangy at the same time. I know I say this a lot, but these may be a new favorite macaron recipe!
For Lunar New Year this year, I decided to try my hand at making some childhood favorite recipes– in this case, almond cookies. Honestly, store-bought almond cookies were never my favorite– I remember them mostly being vaguely sandy and shortbread-y and only slightly almond flavored– but nostalgia compelled me to try making my own. And I’m so glad I did!
These almond cookies are crisp and buttery, melting away in your mouth and leaving behind a distinctive almond flavor (okay, that’s almond extract). I think I might try an egg-yolk-only wash on top next time for an extra-golden color, but aside from that they’re perfect. Also in their favor is the fact that you don’t need to soften your butter ahead of time, though chilling the dough is still necessary. And the shaping and decorating process is something the whole family can get involved in!
I’ve always loved the old-timey look of envelopes sealed with wax and stamped with a crest– they just look so important and mysterious at the same time. And while I’ve never had a reason to send a letter in such an envelope, an opportunity arose when my daughter decided to have a Harry Potter-themed birthday party.
As you may remember, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry receives a letter (many letters) from Hogwarts regarding his acceptance, and in the movie those letters are sealed with red wax.
While our party invitations weren’t paper invitations, we did have a Hogwarts seal (included in a fancy quill pen set she got for Christmas), and I was determined to use it. The solution: Cookies!
Shortbread is one of those cookies that (if you’re anything like me) you grow up thinking of as a basic, boring cookie– one that will do in a pinch, but which can be abandoned at will in favor of something more exciting. Something with chocolate, or nuts, or really anything other than plain old shortbread.
I was so wrong.
A good shortbread is a masterpiece of simplicity, showcasing butter and sugar and (if you have it) really good vanilla extract. It can be easily made in a 1-2-3 ratio of sugar-butter-flour (by weight), and it keeps nicely for what seems like forever.
But you know me, I can never help but gild the lily. I do appreciate a plain shortbread now, I promise, but can you blame me for wanting to give people a little surprise when they bite into it? Enter the pink peppercorn. You may remember my using it in a raspberry-rose-peppercorn layer cake (which was excellent), but the first time I ever used it was in pink peppercorn shortbread, and that was when I fell in love. The floral spiciness is just unbeatable, and the simplicity of shortbread is ideal for showing it off.
A few Christmases ago, my family and I spent an amazing week in Germany to take advantage of the outdoor Christmas markets– we had a fantastic time, indulging in innumerable sausages and mugs of mulled wine, and of course the traditional lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies). That being said, the traditional recipe wasn’t my favorite– the cookies were somewhat dry, and the flavor profile seemed to be missing something, at least to my American palate. I much preferred the less traditional confection that was being billed by one seller as “lebkuchen,” but which had a lot more “oomph” to it, being sandwiched with jam and marzipan, and coated in chocolate. I found out later that these were not technically lebkuchen, but were actually “Dominosteine,” which were popularized in the 1930s and which are basically gingerbread petits fours.
In any event, whatever they’re called they’re delicious– this recipe keeps the slightly dry lebkuchen layer (it moistens over time), but instead of sandwiching the jam and marzipan between two cookie layers, they’re both layered on top. I also simplified the process by dispensing with the whole “dipping in chocolate” step and simply using the chocolate as a thin top layer. The finished product is spicy, sweet, and Christmas-y– just tasting it takes me back to that lovely Christmas in Germany!
The recipe makes an entire 13×17″ half-sheet pan worth of cookies, which is a LOT when you’re cutting them into small squares, but which makes these perfect for gift-giving!
It’s no secret that my favorite muffin recipe is this pumpkin white chocolate muffin— I make them regularly for my daughter to take to school for afternoon snacks, and given that she’s been taking snacks daily for almost six years now, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve made many, many batches of those muffins. That being said, unless I want to make a double batch (which I don’t always have room for in my freezer), I end up with half a can of pumpkin leftover. What to do with the extra?
Enter the Pumpkin White Chocolate Snickerdoodle. All the delicious fall flavors of the muffin, but with just a bit more decadence and flair. They may not be as pretty as some cookies– mine refused to puff and thus also refused to crack nicely on top as they cooled– but they’re moist and chewy (unlike some cakey pumpkin cookies), full of flavor, and with a nice crackly outside that contrasts with the creamy white chocolate. As an added bonus, there’s no softening or creaming of butter necessary, though you do have to chill the dough for half an hour.
Definitely adding these to my list of cookies to make on a regular basis, especially if I’ve got leftover pumpkin!
I had a bunch of ricotta left over from making lasagna the other day, and since I can never let things like that go to waste, I decided to try to make cookies out of it. Lemon-flavored cookies, since lemon is always the flavor of spring for me, and we’re finally starting to get some nice weather here! These cookies mainly get their lemon flavor from the glaze, as the lemon zest in the cookie itself is pretty subtle, but the ricotta makes them almost like tiny soft cakes, rather than cookies. They also freeze well (unglazed) if you find yourself with extra ricotta but no immediate need for dessert.