Classic Chewy Sugar Cookies

The classic bakery style chewy sugar cookie can be hard to replicate. Quite often they come out too hard and crispy and not chewy. The folks at Cooks Illustrated once again have figured this out and have a stellar recipe for a soft chewy cookie with a crispy edge that is really tasty. At first glance the recipe may sound a little daunting and complicated, but it’s really quite simple and easy. Just follow the steps and it comes together really easy. You don’t even need a stand mixer. Just a nice big bowl, plus a couple extra-one for sugar rolling, and another for mixing your dry ingredients.

This cookie was part of a care package for a young man who used to live in our neighborhood who is in basic training in the Army who sent us a letter, (he admitted he was a little lonely) and so my husband wrote him a letter back and I whipped up some goodies which also included some fudgy brownies which I will post at a later date as I’m tweaking that recipe slightly. The brownies were amazing, but I felt they could have used just a couple more tablespoons of sugar.

There’s nothing like being surprised getting a package when you’re not expecting it (I remember that feeling when I was at camp once while everyone around me was getting care packages except me and it was not a good feeling-but I digress…). The key to shipping cookies is to pack them snugly.  To retain moisture its best to place them into cellophane bags in small quantities of 3-4 with a twisty tie so they don’t jostle around in the box. I put 4 sugar cookies each in cellophane bags.  I wrapped the brownies individually in plastic wrap to keep their moisture as well. I then packed the cookies and brownies in an airtight plastic container separately that went inside the cardboard box. Any free space in the box, I used paper and scrunched it up and rolled it into the space so the cookies could not budge. You don’t want to go to all that trouble baking knowing that someone could be tossing your precious box all around to have your cookies reduced to crumbs.

Chewy Sugar Cookies

recipe: Cooks Illustrated via Food.com

yield: 24-30 cookies

2  1/4 C all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1  1/2 C sugar, plus more for rolling

2 oz. cream cheese (kept cold), cut into 8 pieces

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter melted, still warm

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 Tbsp. milk

2 tsp. vanilla

 

• Preheat oven to 350° F. Have oven rack set to middle position. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Note original recipe states the yield is 24 cookies but I got 30.

• Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

• In a large bowl place the 1 1/2 Cups sugar and the cold cream cheese and pour over the melted butter and whisk to combine; some small pieces of the cream cheese will remain, but will smooth out later.

• Whisk in oil to combine. Add in egg, milk and vanilla and continue to use the whisk until batter is smooth.

• Switch over to a rubber spatula and fold in the flour mixture until homogenous mixture is achieved.

• Place about 1/2 Cup sugar in a shallow pie plate for rolling cookie dough.

• Use a 2 Tbsp. size cookie scoop to portion out even size scoops, then roll between your palms to form balls and roll balls in sugar to completely coat. Place balls on prepared lined parchment pans; no more than 12 cookies per each sheet pan; 3 across in 4 rows, as they will spread. Press down on balls with bottom of a drinking glass or (I like to use a 1/3 C metal measuring cup) until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the top of each unbaked cookie with a pinch more little sugar. Bake one cookie sheet at a time. Bake in 350° F preheated oven for 11-13 minutes until edges are set. Don’t over-bake as you still want them to be chewy, and keep in mind they will firm up a bit as they cool.  I found that for my oven the right time was 12 minutes, but each oven is different.

• Place cookie sheet over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove cookies to continue to cool onto the rack itself until cookies are completely cool.


Chocolate Cookies for Ice Cream Sandwiches

Chocolate Cookies Bake From Scratch 2

Are you ready for Summer and Ice Cream Sandwiches?

When I was just a kid (about 100 years ago) I used to ride my bike up to our favorite diner and we would buy an ice cream sandwich for (I swear 50 cents). A group of us would jump on our bikes and make the trek into town. By the time we got there on our mile journey we would be hot and sweaty, but it was so worth it. Of course you can buy a good ice cream sandwich anywhere now a days, but with making your own cookies, the combination is endless with a quick scoop of your favorite ice cream. You can even go that extra mile and make your own ice cream if you like. My new favorite magazine is Bake From Scratch from the people of Hoffman Media Publications and every one of their recipes are simple but scrumptious. This recipe is from their current Summer issue. Whip up a batch and channel your inner 10 year old!

Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies 2

chocolate cookies for ice cream sandwiches

 

Do you know how hard it is to get a good picture of ice cream  in a hot Arizona kitchen?!

Ice Cream Sandwiches Cookies For

 

Chocolate Cookies (for Ice Cream Sandwiches)

Recipe from Summer 2016 issue of “Bake From Scratch”

yield: 14-16 cookies

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 Cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 Cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

1  1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

1/3 Cup Dutch process cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

 

Beat the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla bean paste, beating until combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and the next 3 ingredients. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until combined. Shape the dough into a rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or more.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into 2 pieces and roll out between sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper. Cut with desired cutter (I used a 3 inch cutter). Reroll scraps of dough as necessary and chill the dough if it gets too soft to work with. I found that it was easier to remove the cut cookies after chilling the dough for about 10 minutes. Place the cut cookies on prepared sheets, spacing them about an inch apart (they don’t really spread much) and dock the cookies with the blunt end of a wooden skewer. Bake in a preheated 350° F oven for about 7-8 minutes or until slightly puffed. Let cool completely on wire racks.

Store the cookies in an airtight container.

To make ice cream sandwiches take a scoop of your favorite ice cream and sandwich between two cookies and wrap sandwiches in wax paper and store in the freezer.


Happy Chinese New Year 2015: Chinese Almond Cookies

Happy Chinese New Year 2015. The year of the sheep or as some say; the goat. These cookies are simple and perfect any time of year with a little bit of tea, but very popular during Lunar New Year. May the year bring you prosperity, good health, and above all-happiness.

Chinese Almond Cookies

 almond cookies sliced

almond cookies unbaked

Chinese Almond Cookies for Chinese New Year

Chinese Almond Cookies

yield: about 4 1/2 dozen small cookies

1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp

1 Cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

3/4 Cup almond meal (almond flour)

1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 egg (for egg wash)

2 tsp. milk (for egg wash)

blanched almonds for tops of cookies*

* (If you don’t have blanched almonds-you can take whole almonds with the skin on-and soak them in water for 1 hour. After one hour drain the almonds and gently push the skins off by pressing with your first two fingers. Blot almonds with paper towels to absorb any excess water).

 

1. Cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy; about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and almond extract. Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture and combine on medium speed until almost combined. With clean hands mix together gently until rest of dough is combined. Divide dough into 2 equal portions and roll each into a 1.5 inch wide by 14 inch long log; wrap in parchment paper and chill for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 325° F. In a small bowl; make the egg wash by whisking the egg and milk until combined. Cut logs into scant 1/2 inch slices and press an almond onto each cookie. Place cookies 2 inches apart. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 17-19 minutes until cookies are light golden brown. Let cool on sheets over a wire rack until cooled. Serve with tea.


Strawberry-Lavender Valentine Hearts

In honor of upcoming Valentines Day- I decided to post a few (or many) thoughts about love- with a side of cookie.

Love is complicated. Love is necessary.

Love is food. Love is a kiss.

Love is making the time. Love is communication.

Love is admitting you screwed up. Love is taking care of someone.

Love is not making it ABOUT you. Love is making it about YOU.

Love is forgiveness. Love is an exhilarating rush.

Love is a warm hug. Love is loving yourself- ALWAYS.

Love is walking 10 blocks in the rain on Halloween with tired feet-when you really want to be on the couch eating a snickers in your jammies.

Love is a commitment. Love is not supposed to be perfect.

Love is not talking during Real Housewives; unless there is an apocalypse of course.

Love is camping-even if you’re not really a happy camper.

Love is understanding, even when perhaps you don’t understand.

Love is folding the laundry. Love is DOING the laundry.

Love is seeing and holding your child for the first time.

Love is everything.

Happy Valentines Day~

Strawberry Valentine Hearts 2015

Linzer Heart Cutouts

heart cutter

Strawberry-Lavender Hearts

yield: about 2 dozen

1 Cup unsalted butter, softened

5 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

1/3 Cup honey

3/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste

1 1/2  tsp. dried lavender

2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Seedless strawberry preserves

sanding sugar or coarse sugar

rainbow edible glitter (optional)

1. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the honey in a slow stream and mix until combined. Add the vanilla bean paste and dried lavender and mix. Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl with a fork. Reduce the mixer to low and add the flour in two additions and mix until combined. Remove the dough from the bowl and press into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface into 1/8 inch thick. Cut into heart shapes with a 2 1/4  inch cutter. Reroll scrapes until all the dough is used. Remove half of the cutouts with a smaller heart shape for the tops. Sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar or coarse sugar. Bake cookies in a preheated 350° F oven one tray at a time for 14-15 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Allow cookies to cool completely. Sandwich cookies with seedless strawberry preserves. Sprinkle with rainbow edible glitter (optional) to top half of cookies before sandwiching.


Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

What do you do when you can’t decide between raisins and chocolate chips in your oatmeal cookie? You stir in raisinets. To ensure the cookies are moist and chewy I added a lit bit of desiccated unsweetened coconut. You don’t really taste the coconut but the moisture from the coconut ensures the cookie is chewy. The cookies are crisp on the edges with a nice chewy bite. If you like walnuts in your cookies you can also stir in a bit of chopped walnuts for extra texture.

oatmeal raisinet cookies

oatmeal raisinet cookies 3

oatmeal raisinet cookies 2

Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

yield: about 3 dozen cookies

1 Cup unsalted butter, room temp

1 Cup granulated sugar

1/2 Cup Lt. brown sugar, packed + 1/2 Cup dark brown sugar, packed (I eyeballed this and used a 1 cup measuring cup to pack it as one).

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 Cup all purpose flour

1/2 Cup (scant) unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. cinnamon

3 Cups old fashioned (rolled oats)

1 Cup raisinets (chocolate covered raisins)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Cream the butter and sugars (I used the stand mixer) until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and combine. In a medium bowl with a fork, whisk the flour and the next 4 ingredients. Add the flour mixture all at once and stir to combine. Add the oats and mix well. add the raisinets and stir gently to combine.

2. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop the cookie dough with a scoop or spoon full; I used 1 1/2 Tablespoon size scoop. Flatten the top of each scoop of dough slightly with your fingertips. Allow 2 inches space between each cookie Bake for 15-16 minutes or until edges are set but centers are still very soft. Don’t overbake as the cookies will firm up once they cool. Allow cookies to cool completely on the warm tray over a wire rack until cool.


Glazed Meyer Lemon Shortbread

 

There are days I really miss San Francisco. I miss all the wonderful restaurants.  I miss all the eccentric, diverse weirdos, people. I miss hearing the clang-clang of a distant cable car rolling down a steep hill.  I miss the faint orange of the Golden Gate bridge peeking through the dense fog.  I miss being able to drive up to the wine country at a moments notice. I could go on for hours with all the reasons.

Most of all, I miss my dear friends. Especially my friends with Meyer lemon trees….

and you know who you are… 

I used to get BAGS of them for free willingly dropped off onto my work desk.

Oh, the amazing meyer lemon. How I love thee…

I don’t even know how to describe the scent of a meyer lemon. Sure the taste is amazing- but it’s the smell that borders on exotic. You just have to smell one to experience it- One cannot simply describe how it smells (but I’ll try- It’s sweet, it’s distinctly floral, but at the same time lemony).

I recently found a bag of meyer lemons at the market (albeit-expensive)-insert appropriate child like weeping here)- so I just had to splurge and buy them. I was down right giddy when I spotted them. I admit I sat in my kitchen and snorted the scent coming off of those lemons for several minutes. Some of them I sliced thin and macerated them with sugar for a few hours at room temp until a natural syrup formed and then I added the syrup to my iced tea.

The rest I used to make shortbread. These little gems are packed with flavor- but I didn’t want to stop there- so I used some of the juice to mix with confectioners sugar to make a glaze.

Cheers to the meyer lemon, and more importantly to my friends who I miss. Even without your lemon trees you are forever dear in my heart.

meyer lemon shortbread 1

meyer lemon shortbread 2

glazed meyer lemon shortbread

Glazed Meyer-Lemon Shortbread

 

2 sticks (1 Cup) unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 Cup confectioners sugar

zest (finely grated) of 3 meyer lemons (reserve juice for glaze)

2 Cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp. fine (table salt)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1. Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy; about 3 minutes, stopping often to scrape bottom and sides of mixer bowl. Stir in zest and combine. Add extracts and combine well. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Add flour mixture to ingredients and mix on low until combined. Place cookie dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and flatten out into a disk. Wrap well and place in refrigerator to chill for one hour.

2. Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper to about 1/4 inch thickness. Peel off top sheet of paper. Dip desired cookie cutter in flour and cut cookies. (I used a 1 inch x 3 inch long cutter). If dough becomes soft while working- place back in the refrigerator to chill; before attempting to remove cut out cookies; cookies release much easier if dough is very cold. Re-roll any scraps and cut out remaining cookies. Place cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 325° F for about 14-15 minutes or until edges are just turning light brown. Allow cookies to cool on sheets then remove to a wire rack. Once completely cool, glaze with lemon glaze.

 

Lemon Glaze

1 Cup confectioners sugar

2 1/2-3 tsp. meyer lemon juice

In a small bowl whisk together sugar and lemon juice. You are looking for a fairly thick glaze; you don’t want it too runny. Spread glaze onto cookies with a small off set spatula. Let cookies sit for glaze to set; about one hour. Store cookies in an air tight container.

 


Homemade Oreos

Oreos are the quintessential American cookie. Who in their lifetime has not either split open or dunked a good Oreo or two…or five. I swear they taste even better at 2 am in the morning when you can’t sleep and your stomach is growling. Just sayin’…

I hardly ever buy Oreos though because my son will devour half a package in no time; and I don’t have much constraint when it comes to stopping at just one. For some reason I was compelled to try my hand at making them, but only after reading several comments from patrons who have visited the famed bakery in Boston named Flour. Their Oreos are known to be quite special. This recipe is from that baker, and is super easy. The recipe can be found in Joanne’s cookbook Flour. I found the recipe online from the Boston Globe. I only changed one minor thing- I used equal parts of regular and “black cocoa” which you can find online from King Arthur. The addition of black cocoa makes these the perfect dark black cookie the original Oreo is known for.

 

Homemade Oreos

 

Oreos 2

Oreos 3

Oreos 4

Homemade Oreos

recipe: adapted from Flour Bakery

Here is the link for the original recipe found in the Boston Globe

 

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used half black cocoa and half regular)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and the sugar until combined. Whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate. Add the egg and stir until well blended.

2. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder(s), baking soda, and salt. Stir to blend them. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. The finished dough should feel like Play-Doh. Cover the dough with plastic, and set aside for 1 hour or until firm.

3. Place the dough on a long sheet of parchment paper. Use your hands to shape it into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Note: I split mine into two logs of equal length: which I then “nestle” each log into a split paper towel roll, which I use to ensure the dough stays round while chilling. Each log was the length of the paper towel roll. I always use this method when making slice and bake cookies. Each log ends up being about 2 inches in diameter.

Place the log at the edge of the parchment. Roll the parchment around the log. With your hands on the paper, roll the dough into a tighter log, keeping the diameter the same.

4. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or until it is firm enough to slice without crumbling.

5. Set the oven at 325° F . Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Remove the dough from the paper. Cut the logs into 1/4 inch slices. Set them on the baking sheets 1- 1 1/2 inches apart. They spread quite a bit.

7. Bake the cookies for 15 -20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes, or until they are firm when touched in the center. Mine were done exactly at 15 minutes.

8. Cool completely on the sheets.

Vanilla filling

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon milk

Pinch salt

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on low speed for half a minute. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.

2. Beat in the milk and salt. The filling will look and feel like spackle.

3. Place 1-2 tsp. of filling on the flat side of one cookie. Press the remaining cookies on the filling, flat sides against the cream, to evenly distribute the filling. Note: I found it quite easier to put the filling into a pastry bag and portion out the filling by squeezing directly onto one of the cookie halves- it also gives a cleaner looking product.

4. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.