Tag Archives: cookies

Smoky Bacon-Ginger Cookies

We had a cookie exchange/Secret Santa shindig with the girls at work. Everybody was asked to bring a dozen cookies, preferably something that reminded them of home. I guess I didn’t hear this last part because I went ahead and made cookies my mother never would have made growing up.

But times have changed. Bacon continues to ride the wave of food-trendiness. You won’t see me with a “Keep Calm and Eat Bacon” tee shirt, but I like bacon as much as the next red-blooded American. Leave it to Martha Stewart to turn something as low-country as bacon into a sophisticated cookie that will wow your guests.

The brilliant part is that you POUR THE BACON GREECE INTO THE BATTER. Don’t let your arteries get into a tizzy – this batter has way less butter to account for the bacon fat, so the resulting cookie is chewy and spicy like a ginger cookie, but with something extra – the smoky smell of the hickory-smoked sea salt you sprinkled on top, plus a savory bite that enhances the rest of the flavors.

I was most surprised to find that I couldn’t really taste the bacon. So don’t expect a mouthful of bacon bits. Instead, it’s more of a flavor enhancement…

Smoky Bacon-Ginger Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of good, thick-cut smoked bacon cut into 1/4-inch dice (this is not the time for off-brand bacon!)
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 c. raw sugar for rolling
  • smoked sea salt for sprinkling (I used hickory smoked sea salt from Williams-Sonoma, you can really smell the hickory!)

Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon bits are crisp and have released their fat entirely. Reserve the bacon fat (you want about ¾ cup, plus 2 tablespoons) and set aside the crisp bacon (about ¾ cup as well) on a paper towel. Let the bacon and fat cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and brown sugar and white sugar until they become fluffy together, about 3 minutes. Add the bacon fat and mix well, about 1 minute. Add the egg and mix until well blended. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour in the molasses and mix. On slow speed, slowly pour in the dry ingredients, mixing until just blended. Gently mix in the bacon bits.

Scoop 1 T of dough out and roll into a 1-inch ball, then roll in the raw sugar to coat entirely. Put the balls of dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Flatten the balls of dough with the palm of your hand, then top with a pinch of the smoked sea salt. Slide the sheet tray into the oven and bake until the edges of each cookie is starting to crisp, the tops start to crack, but the center is still soft, about 8 minutes. (Turn the baking sheet halfway through.) Do not be tempted to over-cook these. I would stick to 8 minutes at least for your first batch. These cookies do well when they are chewy in the middle.

Allow the cookies to cool completely on a rack, about 15 minutes.

Then plate up … with an Elf on a Shelf!

I never heard of the Elf on a Shelf tradition until I moved down here, but I love these little guys, hiding all over the house – Santa’s little snoops.

While I baked these cookies, Grant poured himself some Makers Mark, which goes well with the smoky nibbles.

And we enjoyed a silent night.

Here is the obligatory photo of my cat being forced to wear a reindeer outfit.

Happy Holidays, friends! xoxo

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Toasted Hazelnut Biscotti with Citrus and Black Pepper

Biscotti is a tricky treat because of the twice-baked method. You make a simple dough; you bake it; you slice it; you bake it again. I call this out only because it made me fumble in the baking exercise and resulted in a less-than-perfect biscotti. But it still tasted fine.

I like mine a bit chewy – not so crunchy that they’ll break your jaw if not dipped in coffee. So adjust the baking time to your desired crunch factor.

This recipe came from my friend Merissa. I made only a couple tweaks.

Toasted Hazelnut Bsicotti with Cirtus Zest and Pepper

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleanched all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3 cups hazelnuts, with skns, toasted, roughly chopped
  • 1 large egg, whisked for egg wash

Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the
bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie
sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt,
and pepper and whisk together.

In another bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the
sugar for 1 minute or until a sandy mixture has formed. Add the eggs,
zests, and extracts and mix until fluffy, about 1 minute.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine well. Add
the hazelnuts and fold in with a spatula to distribute the nuts
evenly. The dough will be very thick and hard to stir at this point.

Divide the dough into four equal portions, about 14.5 oz. each.
On a lightly floured counter, roll each portion into a log 9 inches
long by 2 inches wide by 1.5 inches high. Place 2 logs on each of the
prepared cookie sheets with several inches between the logs.

Here’s one big log, pre-portioning:

In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 tsp. of water to make an egg
wash. Brush each log with egg wash, coating them evenly on the top and
sides.

Bake for 22 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets from top to bottom
halfway through baking. Bake until lightly browned, puffy, and still
somewhat soft. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Cool for 30 minutes, then place one log at a time on a cutting
board. With a serrated knife, slice each log into individual biscotti
by cutting at a slight angle into 3/4-inch think pieces, keeping the
slices in a row. Slide the row of biscotti together, lift and place
them back onto the cookie sheets, then separate the slices, leaving 1/2
inch of space between each one.

Bake again for 16-20 minutes, rotating once during the baking until
the biscotti are slightly firm and light brown in color.

Cool and eat, or pack in an airtight container to store for up to 6 weeks (they also freeze well!).

I love the combination of flavors – all the citrus with the hazelnut and black pepper that kicks in at the end. A wonderful little breakfast or tea-time snack.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Clementine Meltaways

Happy first day of winter, everyone! I will be celebrating with a wintery walk around Spokane Falls, then a lovely dinner at Wild Sage and a brass-quintet Christmas concert in St. John’s cathedral. And in between will be even more holiday baking.

I don’t know what army my mother and I expect to feed, but we sure are prepared. One batch of cookies are those that I baked for a recent dinner party at my friend Tonya’s house. Called a lime meltaway and featured on Closet Cooking, it is a simple shortbread juiced up with lots of lime zest and juice. Tossed in powdered sugar, the cookies really do melt in your mouth – little chewing required.

My own twist is the substitution of clementines. If you can’t find this citrus, regular oranges will work. I tried with satsuma tangerines, but the rind was too soft to get a good zest out of it. The citrus is such a wonderful addition to the buttery shortbread – these are perfect with tea or as a light dessert after a heavy meal (like Tonya’s lamb chops with mashed potatoes, spinach and roasted tomatoes).

Clementine Meltaways

Ingredients:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • Zest of two clementines (roughly 3 T)
  • 2 tablespoons clementine juice (1-1 1/2 clementines)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Beat in the zest, juice and vanilla.
Mix the flour, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl.
Beat the dry ingredients into the wet.
Roll the dough out into a 1 1/4 inch log. Wrap in parchment, wax or plastic and let chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Slice the dough into 1/4 in thick slices and place them on a baking sheet, 1 inch apart from each other. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until just lightly golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
Let cool on a wire rack for 4 minutes, then dredge cookies in powdered sugar to coat. The powdered sugar will melt a little bit when it hits the steam of the cookie, creating a sticky sheath that will dry into a wonderful glaze.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Almond-scented cream cheese sugar cookies

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t crave a certain nostalgic sweet this time of year. My mom always turns Martha Stewart during the holidays, but of all her confections, these festive cookies remain my favorite, year after year.

I never knew why I liked them so much until I grew up and realized that it was the addition of cream cheese in the dough. Then I got even older, and wanted to keep the tradition alive thousands of miles from home, finding that almond extract plus vanilla extract provides the unique flavor.

And there was one other thing: margarine. And no salt. When questioned, my mother said she found that butter makes the cookies too crumbly for the cut-outs, and margarine and cream cheese have all the salt you’ll need. So, okay, I trusted her.

The result was a soft and creamy dough that produced perfect cookie cut-outs, ready for a little sugar-crystal sparkle. This is a truly unique and wonderful twist on the classic Christmas sugar cookie. I dare you to dislike it!

Almond-scented cream cheese sugar cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3.5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c. margarine, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl or your mixer, beat margarine and cream cheese until combined. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and almond extracts; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight (or make ahead and freeze).

Preheat oven to 375. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to as thin as you like. Maybe a quarter inch? Thicker will be chewier. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and place on a nongreased cookie sheet. These won’t spread much, so you can really fit a bunch. Chill the dough in between batches, so it doesn’t get too soft.

Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar, or any decorations you like (or use frosting when baked and cooled!).

Bake for 6-8 minutes until just lightly browned at the edges – they will still be quite white. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to finish.

Go on, create your own Christmas cookie tradition with the loved ones in your life. I know I’ve been making all sorts of new traditions this year!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Christmastime is Here

We didn’t have any chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but we did have this warm and cozy scene in which to sit with cozy socks and a bottle of pinot noir. I felt straight out of a Martha Stewart Living holiday edition – all we needed was a little more snow on the frozen ground outside.

The mantle holds vintage wax Santas, nutcrackers and instead of a nativity scene…a “Rudolph” scene!

As Grant fussed around the tree, I made a batch of mom’s festive cookies for a party on Friday. I’m calling them almond-scented cream cheese sugar cookies (recipe to come). The dough was so creamy and supple, sprinkled with sugar crystals and absolutely delicious.

It’s silent nights like these, where you’re with the ones who love you, that remind me why I shamelessly love Christmastime. Because it makes it okay for me to be a sentimentalist who is happy on a comfy couch with a brightly lit tree and old Christmas tunes in the background. Because it’s okay to wax poetic about children’s cartoon characters. Because it’s okay to be OCD about the tree standing straight or the ornaments being hung evenly.

Hope you all are having a peaceful holiday so far … I’ll be back with more recipes from the various parties I know we all will be overdosed on.

xoxo

Snickerdoodles

I like chocolate just as much as the next female, but in my heart, I would choose a sugar cookie over a cocoa cookie any day. Snickerdoodles are big sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon and sugar – like my favorite childhood treat: cinnamon toast.

They are easy to make, don’t require any butter and have a tasty combination of sweetness, spice and a hint of salt from the dough. I whipped these up while waiting for Jesse to rise one morning.

Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. shortening
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 c. sifted flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 T sugar

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix shortening, 1 1/2 c. sugar and eggs until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt. Stir into shortening mixture until well mixed. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in a mixture of cinnamon and 3 T sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on a nongreased cooking sheet. Bake 8-10 min and cool on wire rack.

If you notice the cookies aren’t completely cooked in the middle, feel free to put them back in the oven until they finish. They might get a bit browned on the edges, but they will taste great.

Enjoy with a glass of milk, friends! xoxo

Orange-scented Madeleines

Starbucks used to sell these spongy tea cookies and I absolutely loved them. In fact, I’ve always wanted to make them since I discovered them at The Bucks. It was just a matter of buying that special shell-shaped pan that serves no other use than to make Madeleines (Alton Brown would be mad).

I have to admit that the first time I made these, I used a Nigella Lawson recipe that included rose water. It was basically a massive, burned fail. Jesse declared that he “hated” Madeleines. Alas, I had this pan. So I had to make them again.

Jesse’s mom gave me a Williams-Sonoma cookbook on all baked goods. The pictures are beautifully styled and I’ve needed to crack it open. So I turned to these orange-scented Madeleines with vanilla and almond.

They turned out perfectly. Spongy cookie with that nice orange flavor mingling with the almond extract. I like the crunchy corners that were browned in the butter wash in the pan..

Ingredients:

2 large eggs

1/3 c. sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/2 c. flour, sifted

1 tsp orange zest

1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375, put rack in middle. Brush the melted butter inside the 12 molds. Dust with flour and tap out excess.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt. Whisk until pale and thick, 5 min. Beat in vanilla and almond. Sprinkle in flour and stir to incorporate.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the orange zest and half the melted butter. Fold in remaining butter. You’ll hear the little air bubbles snapping in the dough.

Divide the cookies in the pan, about 1 T per shell. Bake until the center springs back when touched and they are lightly golden on edges, about 8-12 min.

Cool on wire rack.

Best when served warm, with a dusting of powdered sugar. I’m really into Earl Gray tea right now and these would match well. With a touch of cream and sugar.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pumpkin ice cream sandwiches

Like a pumpkin-spice latte in dessert form!

Like a pumpkin-spice latte in dessert form!

So far on the pumpkin challenge (my one-person challenge to make a new pumpkin recipe each week from now until Halloween), I’ve made the chocolate-pumpkin tart. Recipe No. 2, also courtesy of Martha, is her pumpkin ice cream sandwiches.

I must say that I’m continually impressed by my ice cream-making skills since I moved to The South. I don’t know if I’m just choosing better recipes or the milk is creamier here, but the ice cream always comes out thicker, almost frothy, and so, so smooth.

However, I did have some hiccups. Let me chart out this multi-day baking experience:

Day one: I made the ginger-molasses cookies. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I made the dough one night when I had the time. They needed to chill overnight.

Day two: I got up early after a late night at The Opera House (dive bar in W-S) so I could bake the cookies and make the dulce de leche, which you need for the ice cream. Dulce de leche takes two hours to cook (sweetened condensced milk stirred over a double-boiler).

My rental oven bit back by burning the entire bottom sheet of cookies = trash. Luckily, I had 12 perfect cookies on the top sheet. I just love that gingerbread smell…

IMG_4257

Finally, I decided that the dulce de leche was done. It had been cooking about 160 minutes.

IMG_4261

Next, and this is still day 2, I made the ice cream custard, which included heating, cooling, reheating, then mixing milk, cream, cinnamon, eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and cloves. And the dulce de leche. I poured the custard into what I would soon realize was only a partially-frozen ice cream bowl (fail). I poured the custard out of it and put the ice-cream thing back in the freezer.

Later that night and after another five-hour experience (pot roast), I thought the ice cream thing would be ready….it got part of the way there, but then melted again. Fail! For those who don’t have an ice cream machine, here’s what: you need to freeze the mixing container that you pour the custard into. When it spins, the custard freezes evenly. But you need to freeze that thing at least 24 hours, especially if you live in a hot, humid climate.

Day three: After work, I attacked the ice cream situation again. This time: success! After the ice cream firmed up in the freezer, I scooped it, sandwiched it between the ginger cookies and froze everything again.

The ginger cookies taste like a gingersnap crust for a pumpkin pie or something. I like that crunchy texture with the creaminess of the ice cream. Watching Top Chef has taught me that dishes should have complimentary textures, so I think this is a win.

Until I noticed that the container holding my ice cream was covered in cat hair. How does she do it??!?

Kitty, eyeing the rainbows on the wall

Kitty, eyeing the rainbows on the wall