Stroopwafels!

stroop-break

I first had stroopwafels in Amsterdam– I wish I could say that I bought them from a street vendor and savored them, still warm, as I strolled the moonlit streets taking in the sights and sounds of the city… but in reality I bought a pre-packaged stroopwafel and ate it on the train as I went back to my hostel for the night. It was still really, really good, though.

Sadly, packaged stroopwafels in the US aren’t quite as good as the ones in Amsterdam, and are much more expensive. I hadn’t quite given up on the dream of having one fresh from the waffle iron, so I decided to enlist the help of my trusty pizzelle iron to try and make my own!

I saw a few different types of recipes– some with melted butter, some with only softened butter; some with yeast and some with baking powder; some with more eggs and some with fewer. And there were a bunch of different recipes for the “stroop” (syrup) filling, involving brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and “pancake syrup” in various proportions. Eventually I settled on a recipe and went full steam ahead!

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Ginger Molasses Cookies

ginger-cookies

This past holiday season I found myself in need of a treat to make for our neighbors, who were doing us the favor of cat-sitting while we were away in California. The only problem was that I’d already denuded my refrigerator of standard ingredients for baked goods– no butter, no eggs, and I didn’t even have much chocolate in the house! What to do?

Enter the molasses cookie. Spicy and subtly sweet, it sounded like a perfect holiday-themed treat. I found a recipe that eschewed eggs and used oil instead of butter, which also kept the cookies moist and chewy rather than cakey. (seriously, they stayed moist for over a week!) A hefty dose of ginger, both powdered and crystallized, paired with the dark molasses to keep the flavor profile interesting.

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Black Pepper Butter Cookies

pepper-cookies

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting holiday baking recipes– my favorites are desserts that are rich, gooey, highly decorated, or a combination of all three. However, sometimes you just want a break from the elaborate stuff and just need something deliciously simple… something you can idly nibble on between multiple courses of festive holiday food without overdoing things.

Enter the butter cookie. Basic butter cookies are amazingly versatile, and can be flavored with all sorts of things without losing their elegant simplicity. In this case I decided to go with a kick of black pepper to set them apart from the crowd. I know that black pepper isn’t exactly an original idea for holiday cookies– Swedish pepperakor are well-known– but most recipes combine pepper with other warm spices and flavors, like cinnamon and molasses. Here, the butter and vanilla background really lets the floral notes of the black pepper come through– it’s not immediately apparent, but after a moment the flavor fills your mouth and it’s nicely aromatic. The pepper flavor becomes a touch stronger as you store the cookies, so keep that in mind– I thought these were even better on the third day than when freshly baked!

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Maple Butter Birthday Cookies

maple-shortbread

If you look at the ingredient list it’s fairly obvious why I call these “maple butter” cookies, but the “birthday” part is more of an inside joke. Almost six years ago, I was eight months pregnant and craving cookies– so I made a batch of these one day and had a lovely evening devouring them with little regard to the consequences. However, the next morning I woke up with an upset stomach, and when I happened to look into the jug of leftover maple syrup I saw a huge circle of mold floating right on top! Convinced that I had food poisoning from moldy syrup, I promptly threw away the remainder of the syrup and the rest of the cookies.

Of course, about three hours later it became obvious that my “food poisoning” was actually early labor, and by the time I returned home from the hospital a few days later, adorable newborn daughter in tow, I sincerely regretted my clearly unnecessary disposal of these extremely delicious and not-at-all poisoned cookies. They’ll always be “birthday cookies” to me, since they’ll forever be associated with the day my girl was born!

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

pb-cookie

I have to admit that peanut butter cookies are generally not my first choice when it comes to desserts. However, my husband is a HUGE fan of peanut butter in anything, so when I saw an old Smitten Kitchen post about these cookies– supposedly the ultimate peanut butter treat– I had to try my hand at them.

Interestingly, while they’ve been billed as soft and creamy and almost peanut-butter-cup-like in texture, with a domed shape that lends itself to soft centers and crisp outsides, I didn’t get that result at all. Instead, mine were flat and chewy– still very tasty and still devoured quickly by both my husband and daughter, but not what I was expecting.

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Cocoa Nib and Pecan Shortbread

shortbread-done

Slice and bake cookies are some of my favorites for gift-giving or other occasions that require large quantities of portable desserts. You can plan ahead, make a bunch of dough, shape it into cylinders (or in this case, squared-off logs), and freeze them until you’re ready– then just slice and bake!

I actually made these for last year’s holiday season, but never got around to posting about them until now. Never fear, though– these really are delicious, and they only improve with age! I got the recipe from the incomparable Alice Medrich, and her book (a must-read for any real chocolate lover) Bittersweet. It’s one of my very favorite chocolate recipe books, particularly as it gives specific instructions as to how to modify a recipe for use with different-percentage dark chocolates.

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No-Mixer Sugar Cookies

oil-cookies

I’m not sure I’d ever made traditional sugar cookies before this week. It’s mostly because I prefer chocolate in my cookies, but also because there are so many more exciting types of cookie to make– cookies with chunks, cookies with fillings, cookies with neat decorations– it’s hard enough to choose from those, so how could I settle for plain old sugar cookies?

I also admit that my mental picture of “sugar cookies” is probably skewed by memories of dry, overly-sweet supermarket sugar cookies, inevitably the last things to remain on dessert tables at parties and usually tossed at the end of the day. But sometimes you just have to go with the classics. And when I came across a recipe that promised I could make perfect sugar cookies without softening butter OR using a mixer, I knew I had to try it. Instead of butter these cookies use vegetable oil, which is easier to mix and also keeps the cookies nice and chewy. Additionally, it occurrs to me that these would work perfectly for ice cream sandwiches– without any butter in them to firm up in the freezer, they should stay chewy and bite-able even when cold!

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