Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal raisin cookies are my #1 favorite cookie. I’m talking about homemade cookies, because if this were the store bought category, Oreos will forever remain #1. Overall, they’re both tied. To me, oatmeal raisin cookies are superior to chocolate chip or sugar. There’s just no way any other cookie is better. I know there are thousands of people who disagree but I will fight to the death for oatmeal raisin cookies. I think the best thing I’ve heard from an oatmeal raisin cookie hater is that they suck because the raisins are and taste like deception; they apparently could’ve been chocolate chips.

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Oatmeal raisin cookies: deceptively delicious

I honestly don’t understand the hate or why they’re compared to chocolate chip cookies. They’re both awesome in their own right but oatmeal raisin cookies are just better. I mean, think about it. An oatmeal raisin cookie could be excused for breakfast. How many people can say they have chocolate chip cookies for breakfast? None. You say you had an oatmeal raisin cookie and people will only half-heartedly disapprove.

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Like, just look at an oatmeal raisin cookie. There’s tons of oats in there, which are whole grains with tons of fiber to help keep you full for a while (ahem, if you eat enough of them). Then there’s the raisins; not only delicious but could also count as a fruit serving (or at least part of one). And the cinnamon in there? Helps speed up your metabolism (don’t quote me on that). Look, I’m not saying that it’s a complete breakfast but they definitely have the potential to be.

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Besides the main ingredients, an underlying characteristic of an oatmeal raisin cookie is its soft and chewy texture. Do not come to me with crunchy oatmeal cookies. I’d probably still eat it but I wouldn’t enjoy it too much. Oatmeal cookies of any kind should be soft, tender, and chewy. The oats have a lot to do with this, but I think it’s all the awesome brown sugar and the tiny bit of flour in there. The key to these cookies’ thick and chewiness is actually a trip to the fridge. Deb (the genius behind this recipe) says that chilling the dough for a bit before baking helps the cookies keep their composure during baking; allowing them to stay tall, thick, and chewy. This is important because it helps firm up the butter in the cookie, meaning they won’t spread out like crazy on the cookie sheet.

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I think my opinion is obviously biased but these cookies are several kinds of awesome. They were nice and thick, with the slightest crunch on the crust. Underneath that layer is the chewy haven that can only be found in oatmeal raisin cookies. The raisins add to that chew, lending their deep and fruity flavor. The hint of cinnamon rounds out the chew with a smidgen of warmth and then BAM, you just had the best oatmeal raisin cookie you’ve ever baked. So good, you’ll want another. SO GOOD, you’ll want to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Go ahead, I won’t judge. They’re almost a complete breakfast anyway.

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 23 cookies, 1 3/8″ in diameter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and the egg, mixing until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined. Stir in the oats and then the raisins.
  2. Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop out balls of dough onto the prepped sheets and place at least two inches apart. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Cooking times vary depending on how cold the dough is. Let cookies cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I added whole wheat flour and more cinnamon than the recipe called for. Feel free to reduce the cinnamon and use all AP flour
  • I like tossing the raisins in a bit of the flour before mixing them in, so that they won’t sink. Not sure if that happens in cookies but I do it anyway (really good to do for cakes and such for raisins and other heavy stir ins)
  • Deb has cookie dough freezing instructions in her original post, check that out if you’re interested
  • She also likes adding chocolate chips (gasp!) and nuts to her oatmeal raisin cookies. Add at your own discretion 
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Brown Sugar Cookies

I happen to be somewhat of a people pleaser. I made chocolate chip cookies again recently, since they were such a hit with my folks. My dad actually asked me after the first batch was all gone when I’d make them again, so I did; except they were now a problem. My mom came to me, holding a cookie, asking me why I didn’t make them without chocolate chips. I almost cried out in shock and dismay at that suggestion. If I’m making chocolate chip cookies, they’re gonna have chocolate chips (or chunks, in that case). They’re not called chocolate chip cookies by chance, you know. I explained this to her, to which she responded with an eye roll and then left the room, with cookie in tow. I started thinking about it, and decided to appease her the next time I hit the kitchen.

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Making chocolate chip cookies sans chocolate chips sounds easy enough, right? I mean, why not just make the recipe and leave out the chocolate chips? No, as that is not how I roll. What she wanted, essentially, was a soft sugar cookie. I’m not exactly fond of soft sugar cookies, as they taste like sugar coated butter to me (which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on the day and who you ask). I also thought about making snickerdoodles, because of their hint of spice, but opted out of those for the same reason. The main difference between chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies, besides the presence of chocolate chips, is that chocolate chip cookies require brown sugar. I wanted brown sugar cookies, and this was what I set out to make.

I love to use brown sugar in any recipe where it won’t be too noticeable. There’s just a certain warmth and chewiness you can’t get from regular white sugar. Brown sugar’s identifying characteristic is its brown color, which comes from the addition of molasses during processing. It’s also the reason why it’s soft. I had been burning thorough my brown sugar recently, so I took matters into my own hands. Brown sugar is actually really easy to make at home. All you need is white sugar, and molasses. Add 1 tablespoon of molasses to each cup of white sugar; more if you like a darker brown sugar, and mix. It’s really that simple! I started mixing it with my hand mixer, but hardware like that isn’t really required. I ended up blending in the rest of the molasses with a fork, which works a lot better and requires less clean up. Homemade brown sugar is a bit darker by comparison to the store bought stuff, so do not be alarmed.

Now, let’s talk storage. Brown sugar is moist by nature and it needs to stay that way. There are tons of stuff on the market to help keep your brown sugar soft, but I have an even easier one that doesn’t require a special purchase; a slice of bread! Just place your brown sugar in an airtight container with a slice of bread, and it’ll stay soft and moist for a couple weeks. Brown sugar is like the vampire of the baking world, as it feeds off the moisture in the slice of bread; sucking it all out in order to stay soft and sparkly. After a while, the slice of bread gets super stiff and kind of feels like a slice of toast. Replace the slice of bread periodically so the sugar won’t harden. If it does, cover the sugar with a damp paper towel and microwave in 30 second intervals until soft.

Check it, a stiff slice of untoasted bread. The brown sugar vampires did their thing on this poor slice of white bread

Check it, a stiff slice of untoasted bread. The brown sugar vampires did their thing on this poor slice of white bread

Back to the cookies. These cookies, from the fabulous Joy at Joy the Baker, are like a cross between a chocolate chip cookie (without chips) and a snickerdoodle. It has the brown sugar taste and chew from the chocolate chip cookie, and the spice and softness of a snickerdoodle. It also reminded me a lot of gingerbread cookies, which is awesome considering I don’t want to wait another seven months for a ginger flavored cookie. Anyway, these are amazing. The brown sugar kept the cookies soft and chewy, and the addition of cinnamon added that bit of spice that made them feel extra warm and fuzzy. Then, there’s that little kick in the back of your throat from the hint of ginger that sort of creeps up on you. I ended up switching out half of the flour for some whole wheat flour, which added a little nuttiness (and health?) to the cookie. All in all, it’s a lovely and tasty rendition of a sugar cookie, with just the right amount of spice to shake things up a bit. As for my mom? I didn’t hear a word from her this time, and the cookies were gone within days. I’d say I did pretty well this time 😉

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Brown Sugar Cookies – adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, and place your oven racks un the center and upper third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.
  3. Place butter and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl and using a hand (or stand) mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed for one minute more.
  4. Add the dry ingredients, all at once, to the butter and sugar mixture.  Beat on low speed until the dough begins to come together  and the flour disappears.  Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula.  Once all the flour is thoroughly mixed in, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5.  Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, dollop balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cookies will last, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 5 days (if they last that long).

 Lucy’s Tips:

  • Not in the mood to make brown sugar by hand? Use your food processor! Just add the sugar and molasses, and blend!

Kitchen Experiments: Meringues

Meringues have always been one of my favorite mystery kitchen experiments. I never really understood how or what was required to make these yummy things, or how simple it actually is. My first tastes of meringue were courtesy of traditional Dominican desserts. Our birthday cakes are covered in meringue frosting, similar to seven minute icing. It is soft, fluffy, super sweet and resembles marshmallow fluff. When the cake is left out for a couple hours, the frosting begins to harden and form a bit of a crunchy shell. The longer it sat out, the crunchier it’d get. The thick layer of frosting helps preserve the cake layers underneath; keeping the cake relatively moist. As an adult, it’s still my favorite part of Dominican cakes. Sometimes, I collect my parents’ and sister’s leftover frosting off their pieces of cake and refrigerate it for a couple days so some of it would harden; giving me a mix of soft, fluffy frosting with tons of crunchy bits.

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These days, the only way I can get my meringue fix is if I make them myself. This was definitely a kitchen experiment to me. I’ve played around with meringue several times before but never made the actual meringue cookie. For this batch, I used Food52’s non-recipe to make my meringues. I had one egg white sitting around my fridge that needed to be made into something. This non-recipe uses ratios to figure out how much of each ingredient is needed to make consistent meringue cookies, depending on how many whites you have.

The ratios are: 1 part egg whites: 2 parts sugar: .5 parts (in tsps) cream of tartar

My amounts were:  1/4 cup of egg whites (from two whites): 1/2 cup sugar: 1/8 tsp cream of tartar.

Sounds simple and straightforward, right? Well, the difficulties (if any) lie in the method. The egg whites must be room temperature before whipping to soft peaks. Before you even do that, you have to make sure your bowl and beaters are completely grease free. Feeling skeptical? Wipe your tools down with a small amount of lemon juice before whipping.

Before beginning, preheat your oven to 225F, and arrange your oven racks in either the lower and upper thirds of the oven or place one rack in the center. Low temperatures are crucial for meringues; don’t try to hike it up so they’ll be done quicker. Your patience will be rewarded.

Pour your whites in your grease free bowl with the cream of tartar and whip away with your beaters. You’ll notice how bubbly the mixture gets as you whip. For this method, the whites need to be whipped to soft peaks. What does this mean? A soft peak means that when held up, the whites can’t hold the peak. Turn off your beaters and dip them straight down into the bowl. Lift them up and turn the beaters over. The egg whites on the tip of the beaters should be soft, airy, and begin to lose their form the longer you have the beaters facing up.

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Soft, bubbly peaks

At this stage, we’re ready to gradually add the sugar. Start by adding in the sugar, while beating, by the tablespoon. Incorporate the sugar for about 10 seconds before adding another tablespoon. Keep going until all the sugar is completely incorporated. Turn your beaters on high and beat the whites into submission. The whites will have turned into meringue, thanks to the addition of the sugar. You’ll notice the mixture is now glossy, thick and slightly heavy. Continue beating until you have stiff peaks; meaning the meringue holds the peak when held up.

After you’ve reached this point, add your flavorings. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to this batch but the sky’s the limit. You can add zest to make lemon, lime, or orange meringues. Mint, almond, or coconut extracts to make flavored meringues. You can also add melted semisweet chocolate to make chocolate meringues! The options are endless.

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Now that you have your meringue, it’s time to portion them out on a lined baking sheet. You can portion out your cookies with two spoons, a piping bag, or attempt to use a disher, like I did. It went pretty well but after a few cookies, the meringue didn’t want to come out of the disher.  I coaxed them out of the disher with a spatula and continued to portion them out. I topped mine with some sprinkles but it’s totally optional.

Once all portioned out, place your baking sheet in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Yes, you read that right. This is by far, the hardest part of the recipe. I know it’s such a LONG TIME but the wait is worth it. The oven’s low temperature gently coaxes out the meringues’ moisture, leaving a crunchy, melt in your mouth cookie.

You’ll notice that the finished meringues’ shine has dulled and that they are super light in weight. That dull exterior is hiding a crunchy and sweet interior that tastes like vanilla flavored air. Weird description but I feel like meringues are what marshmallows would be if they ever got completely hard.

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Now that I know how easy it is to make these, my favorite cookies won’t be out of reach anymore. I can now experiment with different flavors and make as many or as little as I want!

Meringues Without A Recipe – adapted from Food52

Makes approximately 19 meringues

  • 1/4 cup of egg whites (from two whites), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 225F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your oven racks in either the lower or upper thirds of the oven (for multiple sheets) or in the center of the oven (for one sheet).
  2. In a dry, clean, medium sized mixing bowl, beat the whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until foamy and can form soft peaks.
  3. Gradually add the sugar, by the tablespoon, waiting about 10 seconds before adding another spoonful. Continue beating until all the sugar has been incorporated and the whites are stiff and glossy.
  4. Add the vanilla (or other flavorings) and beat to incorporate. Drop the meringues onto the prepared sheet either with a piping bag, a set of spoons, or a disher.
  5. Bake your meringues for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, rotating the pan(s) halfway through baking.
  6. Turn the oven off and cool the meringues inside the oven until completely cool. Meringues should come off the parchment cleanly. Place in an airtight container to prevent softening.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Egg whites are best separated cold but whip better when warm. Separate your eggs straight out of the fridge but leave them on the counter for an hour or so, until it’s room temp. In a hurry? Place your cold whites in an airtight container and sit the container in a bowl with warm water. Swirl the container in the water for a couple minutes or until the whites no longer feel cold. 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am not a big fan of making cookies. I love eating cookies but making them has always been a chore to me. I don’t know, but there’s something about the process being longer than the actual baking times that has always messed me up. That, and my adversity to butter didn’t really help. Now, this blog is no stranger to cookies; which I have maybe forced myself to make. Not only do I love cookies, but my family are cookie heads (is that even a term? It is now). My dad, who seems to have somewhat of a fierce sweet tooth (just not as fierce as mine) loves to have something sweet with his coffee. When it isn’t a muffin, he looks to cookies. I get on his case ALL THE TIME because he likes to buy cookies. Not just any cookies, but supermarket cookies that are dry, flavorless, and maybe even stale. I shudder at the thought, to be honest. Like, why would he buy cookies when he could ask me to make them? I bet I’d like making cookies if I made them more often and that’s what sparked this recipe/post.

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My sister was the one that actually nagged me about making these. She’s no stranger to nagging, and I’m sort of immune to it at this point but what can I say? I’m a people pleaser. We went to Trader Joe’s a while back and I picked up a bag of their semi-sweet chocolate chips. Have I told y’all how much I love Trader Joe’s? I love the fact that everything in there is affordable and of really good quality; its chocolate is no exception. These chocolate chips were pretty huge but they are really good, and even better in these cookies.

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Anyway, these cookies. I wanted a recipe that was chewy but also has some structure. Way way back, when I was young, naive, and did not do the groceries, my favorite chocolate chip cookies were those Keebler SoftBatch cookies. I barely ate them but when I did, it was an experience. To me, they were top notch. How can a packaged cookie be this good, I’d think to myself. So chewy, soft and plenty of chocolate chips; it was heaven (again, I was young and naive. Forgive me). I wasn’t aiming for cookies like those exactly but I wanted the ~experience~ with whichever recipe I chose.

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I obviously went to Deb (my recipe savior as of late) and chose one of her recipes. These are super simple and can almost be a one bowl deal. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for butter to soften because it needs to be melted for this recipe. I made these cookies on a Sunday and they were all gone by Tuesday. They are THAT good. The cookies are chock full of chocolate chips that were just pools of awesomeness against the sweetness of the cookie. The texture was definitely crispy but chewy; reminding me of a meringue cookie because of its crackly and crunchy top. They get crispier as they cool but they stay absolutely delicious. I have already gotten several requests from my dad to make these again, and will soon. Just when I thought I hated making cookies 😉

Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

makes 32 3 1/2″ cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.
  3. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Add in the sifted ingredients until just blended.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Drop cookie dough using a cookie scoop or two spoons onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  5. Bake cookies for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until edges are lightly toasted. Watch them as baking times will vary by size or preference. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a #50 cookie scoop and got 32 cookies about 3 1/2″ in diameter. Cookie amounts will vary depending on the size of your scoop. 
  • Refrigerating the dough for several minutes produced cookies that were slightly darker in appearance. No change in taste, but worth noting. 
  • These babies are best when warm but are still awesome cold. I think they’d be even better with some ice cream!

Brownies

Brownies are one of my favorite chocolate desserts. We go way back, but they have been forgotten recently as my sister and I have been on a blondie kick for the past couple of years. Yes, it has been years since I made a batch of brownies! Crazy, but true. When my sister and I were teenagers, we’d make brownies regularly. So much so, we knew the recipe by heart. There was always a box of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate in my pantry, ready for when the craving would strike. Contrary to what I might’ve stated in the carrot cake post, brownies were really one of the first things I learned to bake on my own. The carrot cake was just a resurrection of my inner baker years later.

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Back in the day, we had a family PC. It was supposedly for the family but really, it was just for me and my sister as we were the only ones who even knew how to use a computer. We still have one but laptops rule the house now. The PC came with a small binder of CD-ROMs that included a variety of programs; one of which was a virtual cookbook. Mind you, this was before I realized that the internet had food related websites, so I stuck to this CD-ROM dearly. It was called MasterCook 5, and it was no doubt my favorite CD to use on the computer. I’d sit there and flip through the various recipes, looking for ones with pictures and video demos. The very first dessert I made by myself was from that CD, but that’s another story for another post ;).

Anyway, the brownies were an instant fave between my sister and I. We were the only ones who ate anything chocolate in our house (still are, actually), so whenever we made these, it was just for the both of us. We’d eat them piping hot out of the oven with spoons, or room temperature and cut into squares. It was our everything.

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Over the years, we stopped baking brownies and at one point, I stopped baking period. These days, that isn’t the case but I had yet to bring back my sister and mine’s first love. When I mentioned brownies to my sister, she instantly agreed and had about as much excitement as she did back in those days. As soon as the chocolate started melting over the double boiler, I got smacked with nostalgia. It took me right back and just overwhelmed me with excitement, too.

Now, these aren’t the exact brownies my sister and I used to make but they are pretty darn close. Deb came to my rescue, again, with her brilliant recipe. This one bowl wonder uses semisweet chocolate, giving these brownies a mellow chocolate taste.  They are low on flour and sugar, which produces a dense and slightly squishy brownie. I swear, I was transported to my teenage years after taking the first bite. They were chewy, fudgey and moderately sweet. It was definitely chocolatey but not overwhelmingly so. The top was crackly and slightly crunchy; adding that little bit of texture to an otherwise soft but dense brownie. These babies were a delicious hit with everyone we shared them with; raving that they were “the best” brownie they’d ever had.  Even the non-chocolate lovers thought they were amazing! I am so happy I decided to revive my love for brownies, and for the trip down memory lane. I’m sure these will become a regular occurrence, like they used to be.

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Brownies – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one 8×8″ pan; cut into 16 2″ squares

  • 3 ounces (85 grams) semisweet chunks
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted.
  3. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even.
  4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free. Let cool and cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a bit of cognac in place of the vanilla because I had run out. It was undetectable!
  • Stickler for accuracy? Use a ruler to make sure each square is even. 
  • Make sure that water does not get into the chocolate when melting over a double boiler; any water will seize the chocolate! Since you’re melting the butter and chocolate together, there’s a chance it may not happen but still, be careful!

Homemade Samoas

Tis the season — for Girl Scout cookies! It’s that time of year again; when adorable little girls peddle their green boxes of awesome, in exchange for some cash for their troop. Many of you probably grew up with these cookies, or were even a Girl Scout! I did not.

I was born and raised in New York City, in a neighborhood all the way uptown. The Girl Scouts were something I only heard about on TV. I almost thought they were just some made up thing that didn’t exist, as I had never seen a Scout in real life. When I was in high school, I became aware of their existence through teachers, friends and the Internet. All everyone ever mentioned about the Girl Scouts were the cookies; the Thin Mints in particular. The way people talked about Thin Mints, I thought they were the only cookie they sold. After a little bit of my own research; because really, when someone mentions cookies or any kind of popular sweet treat, I NEED TO KNOW MORE. Anyway, I found that there were several different kinds and flavors of cookies. All of them sounded absolutely delicious, but sadness set in when I realized that there were never any being sold near me.

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I didn’t get to taste a Girl Scout cookie until a couple of years ago. One of my mom’s friends somehow got a box of Samoas (or Caramel deLites) and offered us some. OH MY GOD, it was amazing. That was the first and last time I had a Girl Scout cookie. Sad, right? Well, no. I kept hearing about the cookies year after year but it never occurred to me that I could possibly make them myself. I saw a few knock offs online, and just decided to take the plunge. The only caveat was that I had to figure out how to make the cookie as close to dairy free as I possibly could.

I used this recipe as a guide. The shortbread cookie recipe was fantastically easy, so I didn’t change that. The caramel/coconut topping in the recipe was semi-homemade; using packaged caramels. I looked online for a homemade, dairy free replacement and just decided to sub the coconut milk for the heavy cream. This was both a good and bad idea. It was the first time I attempted that caramel candy recipe, as well as a coconut caramel so I had no idea what to expect or if it was even going to turn out. Despite the uncertainty, I think they came out pretty well.

The shortbread was really simple and easy. The dough comes together in a flash, and is easy to roll out; so long as it’s not too soft! The cookies held their shape pretty well after baking and didn’t crumble under the coconut caramel’s pressure. I used a biscuit cutter and the plastic cap off the soy milk container to make my cookies into the doughnut shape. It was fairly easy but a doughnut cutter is even easier if you own one. Once all the cookies were done, I moved on to the caramel.

For the caramel recipe, I went to TheKitchn. I’ve made caramel sauce before but since I needed a chewier consistency that held its shape; I had to get a new recipe. I followed it pretty much verbatim, except that I used full fat coconut milk in place of the heavy cream. Everything was going fabulously until I poured the caramel into a bowl. There was an oily film that rested on the caramel’s surface. I had heard of separation but I thought I’d get lucky. I didn’t but because I didn’t want to waste any ingredients, I tipped the bowl and got rid of the excess oil. It sounds gross but the caramel itself was still tasty!

After that was ready, my sister and I assembled the cookies. I got more cookie bases than anticipated, so I left a few without any topping. My parents were pleased. After topping with coconut, we dipped a few in melted semisweet chocolate, and used the rest of the chocolate for the drizzle. Despite the fact that I forgot to toast the coconut, these cookies came out tasting amazing. The coconut flavor in the caramel gives that deep nutty taste. The cookie wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet and didn’t interfere with the coconut caramel. All together, the cookie is a crispy, chewy and extra coconutty. They may not look like the real Samoas but they are still fantastic. Even though there still aren’t any Girl Scouts near me, it’s good to know that I can still enjoy the season (and the cookies) at home!

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Homemade Samoas – adapted from Just a Taste

Makes about 40 2-1/2″ cookies

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a medium sized bowl with a hand mixer; cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In three increments, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the milk and vanilla extract, blending until combined and the dough begins to come together in large pieces.
  3. Use your hands to divide the dough in half, pressing it together to compact it into two disks. Wrap the disks securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. Once the dough has chilled, roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as possible using doughnut-shaped cookie cutter, or a circular cookie/biscuit cutter and a smaller cookie cutter (or the plastic cap off a carton of milk). Place the cut-out cookies on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through, until the cookies are pale golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire wrack to cool completely.

Coconut Caramel Topping – adapted from TheKitchn

  • 1 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups shredded coconut, toasted

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in the coconut milk. Over medium heat, warm the cream, butter, and salt in the 2-quart saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat, but keep the pan close by. Make sure your coconut is toasted and set aside before you begin. NO MULTITASKING.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. In the larger 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is evenly moistened and you form a thick grainy paste. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip the instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir the sugar after this point.
  3. Cook the sugar syrup. Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. At first, you will see small bubbles around the edge of the pan, which will eventually move inward. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. Around 320°F, the syrup will darken slightly and smell caramel-like. You can proceed to the next step any time after the syrup reaches 250°F and before it reaches 325°F.
  4. Whisk in the cream and butter (WEAR AN OVEN MITT WHILE STIRRING! The steam is REALLY hot). Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking the sugar syrup gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk and butter mixture has been added.
  5. Heat the caramel to 245°F – 250°F. Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245°F to 250°F.
  6. Quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel. Pour the caramel over the coconut and stir until coconut is completely coated.

Assembling the Samoas:

  • about 8oz dark or semisweet chocolate, melted
  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Set aside.
  2. Carefully spread on a small amount of the coconut caramel on each cookie, taking care not to press down too hard onto the cookie. Continue until all the cookies are topped or until you run out of coconut caramel. If caramel is getting too hard to spread, you can try to reheat it a bit in the microwave to soften.
  3. Let set for about 15 minutes; the caramel should begin to harden pretty quickly.  Dip each cookie bottom into the melted chocolate; scrape off some of the excess if desired. Place dipped cookies onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat with all of the cookies.
  4. Drizzle the remaining chocolate over the cookies in a striped pattern. Original samoas have equally spaced and organized stripes. Feel free to freestyle your drizzle!
  5. Place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes, or until chocolate is set. Alternatively, you can leave them out to set at room temperature. To store the cookies, I’d recommend placing them in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also store them in the fridge but make sure they sit out for a couple minutes to soften before eating!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • For a detailed explanation on how to make the caramel (with pictures!), please visit TheKitchn by clicking the link above. 
  • If you don’t have a lactose intolerant family member, use the packaged caramels or make the caramel using heavy cream. 
  • I also added 1/3 more coconut milk than the recipe asked for because I wanted the caramel to be soft and chewy instead of firm, like the original recipe describes. Up to 1/2 cup more cream/milk can be added to the caramel (1 1/2 cups of liquid total) but any more and it’ll become a caramel sauce. Not what you’re aiming for!
  • Just to reiterate, please wear an oven mitt to stir in the milk (or cream) into the sugar syrup. The steam that comes off of the pot is ridiculously hot and you may burn yourself. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
  • I made over 40 cookies using a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter. Sizes obviously vary, depending on the size of your cutter. 
  • USE WAX PAPER! For the love of God, use wax paper. I only had parchment and a few of the ones I dipped in chocolate got stuck to the parchment. When I finally lifted the cookie, almost all the chocolate stayed on the paper. 
  • Also, don’t forget to toast the darn coconut. 

Infinitely Adaptable Blondies

What happens when you throw in almost every single ingredient from your pantry into a bowl of batter? You get these blondies. For those not familiar with blondies, they are the chocolatey brownie’s cousin. Or its hot sister, depending on who you ask. It’s basically an amalgamation of butter, brown sugar, flour, and anything you could possibly mix in there. And no matter what you do decide to throw in, they come out unbelievable.

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Inspired by some of my leftover ingredients from Christmas, I decided to throw them all into one dessert. My sister is the blondie fan in my house, and together, we brainstormed the rest of our add-ins. I knew it had to have sprinkles and mini white chocolate chips, so that was a given. We love coffee flavored anything, so we threw some of that in there. Finally, we threw in some leftover sweetened shredded coconut I had from making macaroons. Our add-ins were set, all we had to do was get a recipe.

I went to my standby, Smitten Kitchen, for this recipe. Deb was absolutely right in naming these “infinitely adaptable” because they just are. If you think the batter can withstand it, I’m sure you can throw in all of the add-ins for a magical dessert that’s less blondie and more chunky. The recipe is ridiculously easy and can come together last minute. The best part? You don’t even need to wait for butter to soften! What makes this recipe even easier (as if that’s even possible): setting up your mise-en-place. That super fancy French term literally means “everything in its place.” For cooking and baking, it means having all of your necessary ingredients pre-measured and organized at your work station; ready to be used at will. It helps things go by way faster since everything is within reach, and helps keep things less stressful. I love having a little set up because not only does it make me feel like a real baker, but I like the whole “dump-and-ditch” of the bowls into the sink. And because having all the ingredients laid out looks super cute.

After melting the butter, everything is basically a free for all. I think you don’t even need any help from a hand/stand mixer! The only difficult time was waiting for them to bake and cool. I wanted to wait until they were completely cool because I have patience like that, but my sister thought otherwise. They were still a little warm when I cut them but they were TO DIE FOR. These blondies were chewy and fudgy; despite not being its darker and well known cousin (sister?) The top crust gets crunchy when cool, which adds dimension to this cookie; because you knew blondies were cookies, right? Despite the crazy amount of add-ins, these blondies kept their composure; even if they weren’t that photogenic. The coffee was ever present, adding a hint of bitterness to an otherwise sweet piece of heaven. With every bite, you’d get tiny hits of white chocolate and a surprise bite of shredded coconut. The sprinkles were mostly for color 🙂

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I have to say, for a whim dessert, these sold alarmingly quickly. With the success of these blondies, there’s no telling what other combinations we could possibly think of next.

Infinitely Adaptable Blondies – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 9 large bars 16 tiny squares

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Add-ins:

For these blondies, I added:

  • about 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup mini white chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder, mixed with the vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of sprinkles (mixed in with the flour so they wouldn’t sink)

Deb’s list of add-ins include:

  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts, toasting them first for even better flavor
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract in addition to or in place of the vanilla
  • 1/2 cup mashed bananas
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, scotch or other whiskey (increase the flour by one tablespoon)
  • Stir 1/2 cup dried fruit, especially dried cherries, into the prepared batter
  • Top with a vanilla butter cream or chocolate peanut butter cream frosting

Directions:

  1. Butter an 8×8 pan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, or in the microwave. Bonus if you melt it in the mixing bowl (only if your bowl isn’t metal and is microwave safe!)
  2. Mix the melted butter with the brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
  3. Add salt, stir in flour. Mix in any additions.
  4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle.  Cool on rack before cutting them.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I like to add most of my add-ins with the flour, so they won’t sink to the bottom. This works well with chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruit.
  •  For easier removal, you can place a piece of parchment in your pan before buttering the pan. Just make sure the edges are a bit longer than the rim of the pan for easy lifting.
  • These make a great game day dessert! Make different variations, cut into tiny squares for easy pickup!

Gingerbread Cookies and Rookie Mistakes

Gingerbread cookies are definitely my favorite Christmas cookie. I remember my mom used to buy us those boxes of Little Debbie Gingerbread Men when my sister and I were kids. They were my very favorite, besides the Oatmeal Creme Pies. The box used to bring about eight, and my sister and I would tear into those gingies within minutes. They were always pillowy soft, sweet, and just a tad spicy. After enjoying those cookies for years, I wanted to learn how to make them.

I started trying to bake cookies ever since I started baking. I always failed because of my fear of butter. Since allowing the sticks of golden, and sweet fat into my life, cookies have gotten easier. However, I made a lot of cookie rookie mistakes and learned some lessons along the way.

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Butter is of the utmost importance. Like I mentioned in my sugar cookies post, I didn’t use butter to bake because I was used to using vegetable oil spread, aka margarine, in my cakes. I learned the error of my ways soon enough. Butter is crucial for cookies to even happen. Unsalted unless specified in the recipe, please. If you can, use the best quality too, as it definitely makes a difference.

The refrigerator is your best friend. Ideally, dough is supposed to chill before rolling out, cutting and baking. All cookie recipes require this, except for some drop cookie recipes. The longer it chills, the easier it will be to handle. It will also give the ingredients a chance to develop a deeper, more delicious flavor. The freezer is also your new BFF if your dough softens on you. Dough that has gotten too soft can be popped in the freezer for a couple minutes to harden up for easier handling. It also helps to pop in your cutouts before baking, to ensure they keep their shape. I can’t tell you how much the freezer has saved me in a moment of cookie despair.

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Read the ENTIRE recipe before beginning. I feel embarrassed even typing this one out. This shouldn’t even be here, but sometimes we I forget. I chose Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Cookies recipe because, well it’s Martha. I only read through the ingredients because I needed to know how much molasses I was going to need. I made a quick run to the supermarket to replenish my stock, and then skimmed the recipe. If I had read the recipe in its entirety before beginning, I would not have needed to be saved by the freezer, and the process would’ve gone a lot smoother. Do as I say, folks and not as I do; it’s a timesaver.

Keep a ruler on standby. I try my hardest when I’m rolling out any sort of dough to stay consistent with thickness. I have issues every time but a ruler helps. Even with the assistance of a ruler, I sometimes end up with cookies that are too thin. Make sure that the dough is the same thickness all around.

Always have essential tools nearby. For cutouts, my essentials are: the cutters, a bowl of flour for dipping the cookie cutters, a rolling pin, a small spatula (offset works too), a bench scraper, a rubber spatula, parchment paper, plastic wrap, and the cookie sheets. I also keep a ceramic plate in the freezer on standby, in case I need to chill a hunk of dough between roll outs. I also have a rolling mat because I don’t have a clean, flat surface or counter to roll stuff on. Having all this stuff nearby helps because there is minimal movement and the cutout process will go by quicker.

With all these tips in mind, your cookie cutting process should go by a bit smoother. These gingies came out great, despite the bit of trouble I had with the dough. I played around with the recipe a bit, and got deliciously spicy cookies. It’s a subtle spice at first but the ginger kicks in towards the end, in the back of your throat. It’s a nice surprise that reminds you that you’re eating a gingerbread cookie. The cookies can be soft or crunchy, depending on how thick they’re rolled out. I also made a rather feeble attempt at a gingerbread house. It looks more like a tenement, to be completely honest. I’ll probably do more planning to produce a well structured house next year.

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Gingerbread Cookies – adapted from Martha Stewart

makes about 24-36 cookies, depending on cutout size

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling and dipping
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients; mix just until a dough forms. Place dough on floured plastic wrap; pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap well; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time (rewrap and refrigerate other half), place dough on floured parchment or waxed paper; roll out 1/8 inch thick, turning, lifting, and flouring dough (and rolling pin) as needed. Freeze dough (on paper) until firm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes, and transfer to baking sheets. Decorate with sugar or sprinkles, as desired.
  4. Bake until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes, depending on size. Cool completely on baking sheets before decorating with Royal Icing.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If you neglected to read the recipe in full, like I did, you can still make this dough workable. Pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes prior to rolling out. 
  • Keep plenty of flour on hand to flour the rolling surface, rolling pin, and cookie cutters. 
  • I only had extra large eggs on hand, so I beat the egg in a small bowl and removed about a tablespoon’s worth before incorporating into the batter. 
  • Don’t have dark brown sugar? Increase the molasses to about a 1/2 cup. Alternatively, you can make your own dark brown sugar by blending molasses into your light brown sugar or white sugar in a food processor. Add in the molasses in tablespoons, until it reaches the desired color. 

Coconut Macaroons

During my December cookie planning, I knew I had to make something that included coconut. My family is basically made up of coconut fiends. We’re Dominican, so we love us some coconut however we can get it. When my family and I travel to the Dominican Republic, one of my favorite places, we eat it regularly. There actually used to be a few coconut trees next to my Mami’s house, but they have dried up over the years. Now, we enjoy them either through the generosity of our neighbors or we buy them.

The most common way we eat it when we’re there is from a young coconut. The top gets hacked off with a machete, and the water is harvested to drink (SO GOOD). Then, they break it open into two halves, where the soft and gelatinous meat can easily be scraped out with a spoon. My Mami used to scrape out the young coconut and put it in a pitcher with the water,  ice, and sugar. It is the most delicious, refreshing drink you can have! Of course, the water doesn’t really need the sugar but it’s still yummy.

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Another way we enjoy coconut is when it’s dried. The dried coconut is actually what’s most commonly found here in the States; the little brown, hairy orb that is impossible to open without a little hardware. In D.R., you have to break off the green outer shell, with the aforementioned machete to get to the brown shell, to finally get to the actual fruit. At this point, the coconut is completely developed and has a thick white flesh, and is also impossible to break out of it’s shell. I swear, for all the trouble you have to go through just to even eat this thing, it better be delicious. From this dried coconut, you can shred it (or scrape with a spoon, like we do back at Mami’s) using a box grater and dry it out to make desiccated coconut. Toss the shredded stuff with powdered sugar, and possibly small amounts of cornstarch and/or preservatives, and you’ve got the sweetened shredded coconut flakes you see in stores.

With a house full of coconut fiends, this was a given. We have enjoyed many different kinds of coconut desserts but I hadn’t made any real, traditional coconut macaroons. These were fun, and easy to make. Can pouring a can of sweetened condensed milk over a bag of sweetened shredded coconut, and then folding stiffly beaten egg whites, be any easier?! Seriously, if you have the necessary four ingredients, you can pull these together in less than an hour. Now, these babies actually require a chocolate layer. My folks aren’t fans of chocolate (blasphemy, I say!) so I left it out. Either way, these macaroons were exactly what I wanted. They weren’t overly sweet, despite the sweetened coconut and the addition of the sweetened condensed milk, and were amazingly chewy. The slight toasting of the coconut on top provided the perfect caramelized crunch. My Mami loved them, so I bet you will too.

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Coconut Macaroons – barely adapted from Food and Wine

Makes about 30-40 cookies, depending on size

Ingredients

  • One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut
  • One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Fold the beaten whites into the coconut mixture.
  2. Scoop tablespoon-size mounds of the mixture onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool completely.
  3. If using the chocolate: dip the bottoms of the macaroons into the melted chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Return the cookies to the lined baking sheets. Drizzle any remaining chocolate on top and refrigerate for about 5 minutes, until set.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • You should use large egg whites in this recipe, as it’s the standard for baking. I only had extra large eggs and used the two, when I probably could’ve gotten away with one. 
  • I’m thinking some booze would work well in this recipe, like a splash of brandy or something. Hmm….

Sugar Cookies

December is the month of cookies. I have been patiently waiting for this month, even with the unwanted onslaught of all things Christmas since November 1st. Cookies are a traditionally a December thing, and I wanted to get in on the action.

When I started baking, I mainly stuck to cakes. Cookies looked so easy and alluring; it was something I had always wanted to conquer. I would fawn over perfectly frosted cut outs, garnished with shiny sprinkles of colored sugar, desperately wanting to make some gems of my own. What took me so long to finally take the plunge? Butter.

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Now, let me explain. In my house, we don’t use real butter. My family swears off of margarine, and it is and always has been the “butter.” I knew about the real stuff, but didn’t think it made a difference. Whenever I made a cake that called for butter, I just used the margarine. It would still come out good, so I never really gave it much thought. I had somehow formed a bit of fear over butter. I mean, it’s a stick of fat that’s solid when cold, and not when warm. Don’t even get me started on shortening; that’s a fear I am just NOT ready to conquer.

I recently decided to overcome my fears and began to bake with butter. I started out slow, and quickly realized that there is a huge difference. Butter is made out of the milk fats found in milk or cream, as opposed to margarine’s oil. The key factor to this stuff, besides the fact that it’s not all vegetable oil, is that its solid when cold and spreadable when warm characteristics are crucial to baking. Especially with cookies, you need the butter to be cold so that the cookies can hold their shape; something I never realized when using the always soft margarine. I don’t know how I got through many years of baking without it, but I quickly saw the error of my ways and am glad I let butter into my life. I sound crazy saying it, but believe me; the difference is that big. So now that I have real butter stocked in my fridge regularly, I was ready to take on some cookies.

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These sugar cookies are Bon Appétit’s “ultimate.” What makes them ultimate? In BA’s own words: the cookies are “crisp yet tender, keep their shape when baked, and taste great too.” With that description, I knew this one was a good start. I mean, a recipe that has not one, but two and a half sticks of butter in it has to be good.

Making the dough was tricky for me because as most of you know, I do not own a stand mixer. Now, you don’t necessarily need one but this process will be eons easier if you have one. I tried to use my trusty old  hand mixer for this, and ended up messing up one of the functions. I’m not ready for my only mixer to kick the bucket, so I proceeded with the rest of the recipe by hand. It takes a bit longer but it does come together.

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My sister and I had fun decorating and eating these cookies. Even though we may not be artistically inclined, we had a blast channelling our inner Picasso. The cookies definitely held their shape when baking, and were exactly as described; crisp and tender. Even when iced with royal icing, the cookies weren’t overwhelmingly sweet. I baked off half the batch, and am already looking forward to baking off the rest in the coming weeks.

Ultimate Sugar Cookies – slightly adapted from Bon Appétit

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on size

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus
  • more for rolling
  • 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 325°. Whisk salt, baking powder, and 3 cups flour in a small bowl.
  2. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until well combined (butter does not need to be fluffy), about 3 minutes. Alternatively, you can whisk the butter and sugar with a whisk. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla; beat just to combine. Reduce speed to low, or switch to wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine. Form dough into two ¾”-thick disks; wrap in plastic. Chill at least 2 hours.
  3. Let 1 disk of dough sit at room temperature until softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper until about ¼” thick, dusting with flour as needed (if dough gets soft or sticky, chill on parchment until firm). Cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters; transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Pop your cut outs in the fridge between batches, so cookies won’t spread when baked.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets (switch sheets from top to bottom racks, and rotate 180 degrees) halfway through, until edges are golden, 12–16 minutes, depending on size.
  5. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Repeat with scraps and remaining dough. Decorate cooled cookies as desired.

Royal Icing – adapted from Bon Appétit

Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 1/4 cups (or more) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon strained fresh lemon juice
  • Assorted food colorings (optional)

Directions:

  1. Using electric mixer, beat 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar and egg whites until thick and shiny, adding more powdered sugar by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too thin to spread, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice.
  2. Divide icing into portions, if desired, and add different food coloring to each. Cover until ready to use.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I added about two teaspoons of lemon zest to my dough, for added freshness. The taste is subtle and brightens up the cookies. It’s totally optional but if you want more of a lemon punch, add in a couple teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice along with the zest.
  • When cutting the cookies out, it’s important to keep the dough cold or they’ll spread out. If you’re waiting to put in two complete trays in the oven at the same time, put your cut outs in the fridge until ready to bake. I learned this one the hard way.
  • If your dough gets too soft when rolling and cutting, pop it in the freezer for a couple of minutes for a quick chill.
  • For the icing, make sure it’s not too thin or it’ll run off your cookies.