Cast Iron Cookies

It’s no secret that I love my cast iron skillets. I use them about three times a week (sometimes more), and my copy of “Cook it in Cast Iron” spends more time on the counter than it does in the closet.

It’s also no secret that we love chocolate chip cookies around here. Out of all the cookies in the world, chocolate chip cookies are Andy’s favorite. So, when I saw the giant skillet cookie recipe in the dessert section of “Cook it in Cast Iron,” I figured it would be a hit.

Of course, it is a recipe from Cook’s Country / America’s Test Kitchen, which means it’s going to be different from your standard chocolate chip cookie recipe. There’s browned butter (be still my beating heart… all that extra flavor), and there’s also this process of whisking the ingredients for 30 seconds, then letting them rest for a few minutes, and then repeating the whole process a couple more times. And, unfortunately, the book doesn’t explain WHY this step is important. And who knows, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s ATK’s way of messing with us rule-followers. Maybe Jack Bishop is secretly laughing about all of us suckers who are whisking and resting, whisking and resting. Who knows. I don’t even care, actually. This cookie so good that I’ll keep whisking and resting, even if it doesn’t make sense.

In spite of the extra whisking steps, it’s not a hard recipe to make. It mixes up quickly, and it takes less than 30 minutes to bake. And if you use a kitchen scale, you won’t even have to get out your measuring cups. (Fewer dishes! Yay!) The hardest part is waiting for the cookie to cool slightly so you don’t burn your tongue on melted chocolate chips. The only change I make is to sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top of the cookie prior to baking for that sweet-salty flavor combination.


Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

12 tablespoons unsalted, butter, divided
5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup, packed) dark brown sugar
3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
8 3/4 ounces (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
flaky sea salt, for finishing, optional (but not really…) 

Preheat the oven to 375° and make sure the rack is adjusted to the upper-middle position.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking soda together, and then set it aside.

In a 12″ cast iron skillet, melt nine tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the butter is a deep golden brown and smells nutty. The butter will foam at first, but this should die down as the butter cooks.

Place the remaining three tablespoons of butter in a large mixing bowl and pour the browned butter over it. Stir the butter until the last three tablespoons melt completely.

Whisk the sugars, vanilla and salt into the butter until smooth, then whisk in the egg and egg yolk. Whisk this mixture for about 30 seconds, then all the mixture to rest for three minutes. Whisk the mixture for another 30 seconds, and then allow it to rest again for three minutes. Repeat this whisk-rest process two more times. By the end, the mixture will be thick, smooth and shiny.

Add your flour mixture to the egg-butter-sugar mixture, and stir until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips, making sure that no pockets of flour are left in the dough.

Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, and then spread the dough into the pan. Smooth the dough into an even layer and top with a pinch of sea salt, if using.

Bake the cookie until it is golden brown and the edges are set, about 20 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and allow cookie to cool slightly before serving. (Cook’s Country says to wait 30 minutes for this. If you can make it that long, you have more willpower than anyone I know.) Cut into slices and serve.

From Cook It In Cast Iron

Click here for a printable version.

Stepping Out of My Element

I’m pretty selective when it comes to recipe sources. I have my top tier sources (primarily Smitten Kitchen and America’s Test Kitchen / Cook’s Illustrated / Cook’s Country), and my line of solid back-ups (headlined by Elly Says Opa!, The Brewer and the Baker, Annie’s Eats and Farm Fresh Feasts), but, aside from a few other blogs and magazines, I generally don’t stray too far.

After all, a pretty Pinterest picture doesn’t mean the recipe will actually be successful. (Yes, I’m the only woman in the western hemisphere who hasn’t fallen down the Pinterest recipe rabbit hole, and I’m OK with that.) And even though I love spending time in the kitchen, I don’t want to waste my time there. If I’m cooking something, I want it to be worth the time and ingredients.

That’s why this recipe surprised me. Someone (my Grandma, maybe?) shared a link to it on Facebook, and since I was knee-deep in rhubarb at the time, I thought it was worth investigating.

These make a very soft, cakey cookie. They’re best in the first day or so, as the moisture causes the cookies to stick together in the container. The flavor is great, and they mixed up in no time – chopping the rhubarb took the most time! I found a science experiment growing in the sour cream tub when I opened it, so I subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream with no ill effects.

I realized afterwards, though, that my cookie scoop is about twice the size of the scoop called for in the recipe. Which explains why I got about two dozen cookies when the recipe yield said 40. I liked the size of the cookies from my 2-tablespoon scoop, so I’ll probably keep making them that way. No one ever complained about a bigger cookie, right?

I’m not sure if the recipe would work with frozen rhubarb, unless it was really, really well-drained. So, I might just save these for spring baking. It never hurts to have another seasonal dessert. And maybe I’ll try recipes from new places more often!


Rhubarb Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely diced rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 350°  and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the first four dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set them aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well-combined. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until well-combined.

Add about one-half of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Stir in the rhubarb and mix until the rhubarb is evenly distributed throughout the batter and no pockets of flour remain.

Use a cookie scoop to drop tablespoon-ish sized scoops of the batter on the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 2″ apart.

Bake until the cookies start to brown along the edges and just a little on the top, about 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies from the oven and let cool on pan for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

From the Today Show

Click here for a printable version.

Beer Cookies?

It took a long time for me to come around to beer. I want whatever I’m eating or drinking to taste good, and my early experiences with beer didn’t do anything to convince me that it was worth the calories. I’ll take an extra-dark, fudgy brownie instead.

However, I’m not opposed to trying new things, so when a friend offered me a sip of a craft beer, I gave it a try. And, to my surprise, I liked it. So much for just being a wine and margarita girl. 😉

Of course, discovering a new food (or drink) love opens up a whole world of new recipes, so when I saw this recipe come through my RSS reader, I was immediately intrigued. Cookies? Beer? Could this be good? Unfortunately, my “recipes to try” list grows faster than I can keep up with, so the recipe got lost in the clutter for two years a while.

I finally got around to trying them this past weekend, and wow. They were even better than I thought they’d be. In fact, Andy said they were as good as chocolate chip cookies, which is the pinnacle of greatness in his mind. We shared them with Arron and Karen, and they liked them just as much as we did. They’re perfectly soft and chewy, which is a non-negotiable for me.

I’m not a craft beer expert by any means, so I looked for something that said “brown ale” on the label, and Fat Squirrel fit the bill. And after finishing the bottle (you know, so it wouldn’t go to waste), I’m glad I picked it. At first, the flavor of the ale was very subtle in the batter, but the longer the batter sat in the fridge, the more pronounced it became. It’s not overpowering, but it definitely adds something special to the cookie. I think they’d be a great base for an ice cream sandwich too.

I doubled the recipe, since Erin said that I’d only get 12 cookies out of a single batch. I must have made them smaller than she did, since I had significantly more than 24 cookies when I was done. I’m including the double batch below, because more cookies are always better. Especially when they’re this good.

The real name of the recipe was “Chewy Brown Sugar and Brown Ale” cookies, but I shortened it to “Brown Sugar and Ale” cookies for the blog. Of course, that’s still a relatively long name for a cookie, so we’re just calling them “beer cookies.” Move over, milk and cookies; beer and cookies are here to stay. 🙂


Brown Sugar & Ale Cookies

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup brown ale
2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
granulated sugar, for rolling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar. When the butter and sugar are well combined, add the egg yolks and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy, then add the beer. Beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl (I used my 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup for this step, for easy pouring), whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cornstarch and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined. (Start with the mixer on low for this step. Trust me.)

Use a cookie scoop to roll the dough into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter, or slightly smaller than a golf ball. Roll the cookie dough balls in the granulated sugar and then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill the dough in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the chilled dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, being sure to leave plenty of space between the cookies, as they spread a lot during baking. (I was able to fit 8 cookies on a single large cookie sheet.)

Bake for 14 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the sheet from the oven and slide the parchment paper off of the cookie sheet and on to a wire rack. Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the parchment paper.

Store in an airtight container.

As seen on Erin’s Food Files, originally adapted from the Beeroness

Erin says that you can bake the cookies at a higher temperature for a shorter time, which will result in a puffier cookie. I didn’t try this, as we loved the cookies with the 325 degree/14 minute bake.

I rolled about half of the dough into balls and then froze them (as described above), but we decided to go cross-country skiing halfway into my cookie baking project, so I put the rest of the dough in the fridge to shape/roll when we returned. I didn’t notice a difference in the cookies that were rolled then chilled versus chilled then rolled, so I think it’s safe to say that you could do whatever works best for you.

Click here for a printable version.

Chai Snickerdoodles (for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!)

When I signed up for this year’s Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I had no idea what to make. In previous years, I’ve at least had an idea of the flavor I was going for, but this year, nothing was coming to me. How is this possible? Especially when Google comes back with 105,000,000 results for “cookie recipe.” 😛

Then, one day, my coworker shared an almond cookie with me, and it hit me! Almond! I love almond! And do you know what goes perfectly with almond? Cherries! I love cherries! Plus, Andy and I picked cherries in Door County this summer, which meant I had a nice little stockpile for baking. Since I’m a big fan of eating local food, the idea of incorporating a local ingredient really appealed to me, especially since sour cherries aren’t something that’s readily available everywhere. It would be a little taste of Wisconsin for my food blogger buddies. I’d simply convert my lemon-cranberry cookie into a cherry-almond cookie. What could possibly go wrong with this?

Well… cherries, even when frozen, have a LOT more juice than cranberries, which meant that the cookies spread a lot more when they baked, and they didn’t look pretty AT ALL. And while I’ve shared plenty of ugly pictures/food on here, I wanted to send people something that looked somewhat appetizing. I was also concerned with how they’d hold up in the mail, since they didn’t seem quite as sturdy as the original recipe. So, even though the flavor was everything I’d hoped for, I went in a different direction. If I’d had more time, I’d have tracked down some dried Door County cherries and tried a batch with them. However, between Thanksgiving travel and the cookie swap deadline, I knew I wouldn’t have the time to go that route. Time for plan B. (I did end up sending a few of the “failure cookies” in each package so my recipients could taste them, and Andy gladly ate the rest of the failure cookies. The sacrifices he makes…) 

The inspiration for my second batch of cookies actually came from another work moment. We were talking about snickerdoodles, and I started thinking that it had been a while since I’d made them. And with their warm, fall spices, they seemed like the perfect cookie to bridge the gap between fall/Thanksgiving and winter/Christmas. I added ginger and cardamon to take the cookies from “standard snickerdoodle” to “Chai snickerdoodle.”

Let me introduce you to my cookie recipients, and then I’ll share who sent cookies my way!

I sent cookies to Nina at Crazy for Cookies & More (She’s from Ohio! I was so excited to send stuff to my home state); Jennifer at Girl on the Range (I was blown away by the pictures on her blog! So pretty!);  and Matt at Kitchen Man Cooks (The man has an apple crisp recipe from and center on his blog – yum!!).

The only thing more exciting than sending cookies is receiving them, and as the shipping deadline approached, I was more and more excited to check the mail when I came home from work. I mean, boxes of cookies are so much more exciting than the electric bill.

The first package to land on my doorstep was from Jessica at Citrus Blossom Bliss. A girl after my own heart, she sent snickerdoodles to me! Only, she stepped it up and added white chocolate chips to the cookies. Yum yum yum. She included a cute cookie cutter as well. Oh, and you know the trick where they say that a piece of bread will keep your cookies soft? Jessica put a slice of bread in with the cookies, and it totally worked! I’d never tried that before, but I think I will next time. So smart. 🙂

Krista at Destination Delish sent box number two! They were (are you ready for this?) Dark Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Rosemary Shortbread Cookies. So… kind of weird-sounding, right? I LOVED them. Andy wasn’t sure at first, but they had the same addicting properties that my apricot shortbread cookies seemed to have. Maybe it’s the butter in shortbread. Who knows. Either way, I am heading over to her site to snag the recipe ASAP. (Thanks to our crazy warm weather, my rosemary plant is still going strong.) I loved the cute tin that she sent as well! Paying it forward and using the tin for another food gift!

My last box contained some of the cutest bear cookies ever from Amanda at From Me to Vuu. Thanks!!

Finally, thanks to Julie and Lindsay for organizing / hosting the swap! I really enjoy it and appreciate all of your hard work! (Psst! Want to be involved next year? You get great cookies!) 

Chai Snickerdoodles 2

Chai Snickerdoodles

For the cookie dough:
2 3/4 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs

For the cinnamon-sugar mixture: 
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until well-combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture.

In a small, shallow bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.

Roll the cookie dough into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and then place them on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake cookies until they are light golden brown on the edges (1oish minutes in my oven, 12-15 according to Martha). Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Side note: Snickerdoodles make EXCELLENT ice cream sandwich cookies, if you happen to have some vanilla bean ice cream floating around. Just throwing that one out there. 😉 

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s “Cookies

Click here for a printable version.

A New Favorite

As far as Andy is concerned, there are two types of cookies in the world: chocolate chip cookies and everything else. And while I have yet to see him turn down almost any baked good, his first choice is always the tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie. After all, it goes well with his other favorite, vanilla bean ice cream.

However, making the same cookie all the time makes for a boring food blog. (So does infrequent posting, but let’s not get bogged down in the details.) I love trying new recipes, and when I stumbled on a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie in the Smitten Kitchen archives, I knew that I had to give it a whirl. I mean, peanut butter and chocolate? It’s practically the pinnacle of dessert greatness, at least in my world.

Well, it turns out that these cookies are also practically the pinnacle of greatness for Andy too. They disappeared in record time, both at home and at my company picnic. When I asked Andy how they compared to his gold chocolate standard, he said that they might even be a little better than the classic. “These have chocolate chips AND peanut butter chips in them,” he said. There you go. New recipe success. 😀

PB Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup chunky peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup for rolling the dough
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter and peanut butter together until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and brown sugar to the mixing bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and beat until well-combined, and then add the milk and vanilla.

Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder to the bowl. Mix until combined, and then add the chocolate and peanut butter chips. Once the chips are mixed into the dough, roll the cookies into 1 1/2″ balls. Roll the balls in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Place the cookie dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving about 3″ of space between each cookie. Use a fork to flatten the cookies a little.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a minute before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

Too Good to Bake… Almost…

So, back in March, I bought a bottle of Irish cream. You know, so I could make a Bailey’s cheesecake chocolate Guiness cake (similar to this cake, only with cream cheese frosting and a Bailey’s cheesecake center).  I made the cake (And it was good. Very good.), but it didn’t come anywhere close to using up the bottle. So I made brownies. And when I still had Irish cream left in the bottle, I did what any rational person would do. I made cookies. 😀

Of course, once I got started, I discovered that the recipe said to chill the dough for at least two hours. Who has time for that? Not me. (At least, not on a work night. After all, I didn’t get the butter in the mixing bowl until after 7pm.) Really though, how important could that step be?

Umm… fairly important when you have a sticky dough, I discovered. Still, two hours is a long time… especially when you want cookies. So I improvised. 20 minutes in the freezer is just as good as 2 hours in the fridge, right?

Close enough. Especially when you discover that frozen Irish cream cookie dough is even better than baked cookies. (Seriously amazing. I mean… chocolate, Irish cream and white chocolate chips. What’s not to love?) We did bake some, and they disappeared in no time. And since the bottle of Irish cream still isn’t empty, I just might make some more cookies. Or maybe I’ll just make the dough… and then put it in some ice cream… 😀




Irish Cream Chocolate Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup Irish cream
1 cup white chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder together in a medium-sized bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Gradually add the Irish cream to the butter-sugar-egg-vanilla mixture, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. When the Irish cream is all mixed in to the batter, add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough for two hours in the refrigerator. (I used my cookie scoop to portion out the dough into one-inch sized balls and placed them on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. I then chilled the cookie sheet with the dough for about 20 minutes in the freezer. This seemed to work relatively well, especially with my reduced timetable.) 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and when you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

From Gimme Some Oven, who adapted it from How Sweet Eats 

Click here for a printable version.

This One’s a Keeper!

So, out of all of the cookies that I made this past Christmas, these were my favorite. I realize that seems like a backhanded compliment, since I only made a couple batches of cookies, but it’s not. I promise. What I’m trying to say is that these were good enough to make the cut on an incredibly short list of baked goods during a hectic December. 🙂

I had a stockpile of fresh cranberries in the freezer and a lemon in the fridge, and the recipe looked simple enough for my crazy schedule. The only change I made was to use my KA mixer to combine the lemon zest and the sugar – it does a better job than I ever could do by hand! I used my small cookie scoop, which meant I ended up with one-to-two-bite cookies (one bite for Andy, two for me).

They’re the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and the cranberries give them such a festive look. Of course, there’s no reason to save these guys for Christmas (good thing too, since I’m sharing this at the end of January). They’re the perfect cookie for lots of occasions: Ohio State parties, Valentine’s Day… they’d even be a good addition to a Super Bowl spread – on the New England side of the table, of course. 😉

LemonCranberryCookiesCranberry Lemon Cookies 

For the cookies: 
2 1/4 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

For the glaze: 
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and the lemon zest. Turn the mixer on to medium and beat the sugar and lemon zest until well combined and fragrant. (Alternatively, you could put the sugar and zest in a bowl and rub it together with your fingers until it’s fragrant, but that takes a lot longer.) Add the butter to the lemon sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the chopped cranberries. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill for about 30 minutes. (This is when I get caught up on my dishes.) 

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop, form the dough into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Place the balls on the prepared sheets and bake until lightly golden brown. (Mine took about 10 minutes; the original recipe recommends 13.) Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool slightly before removing them from the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cookies have cooled completely, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice for the glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies. When the glaze has hardened, store the cookies in an airtight container.

From What Megan’s Making

Click here for a printable version.


Spiced Brown Sugar Cookies with Maple Glaze (for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!)

“The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things –  of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.” – Lewis Carroll

OK, so we’re not talking about any of those things (although there is still a giant head of cabbage in my fridge, so we will be talking about cabbages at some point). 😉 Today, we are talking about cookies. After all, it’s reveal day!

I did a lot of thinking about what cookies I wanted to send this year. When I signed up for the swap, I knew that I wasn’t going to have time to get my cookies in the mail after Thanksgiving. So rather than go for a Christmas cookie, I chose a fall cookie and sent them before Thanksgiving. Good thing too, since we’ve spent the last 3 weeks working with drywall, thinset, tile and paint.

It was great, though, in the middle of construction and chaos, to get boxes of delicious cookies in the mail! We made quick work of all three batches, and Andy declared that all of them could become regulars in our house. We received chocolate mint crinkle cookies from Stacy at the Baking Bandit, chocolate peppermint patty cookies from Carla at Alyssa and Carla, and snowball cookies from Terri at Love and Confections. We loved them all. It’s no secret that the chocolate-mint combo is near and dear to our hearts (right after the chocolate-peanut butter combo), and those snowball cookies, well, there was definitely an almond flavor to them, and I LOVE almond extract. And the super cute tin? Totally using that to pack up a food gift this Christmas. So, a big thank you to my “secret Santa” bakers – you fueled us through many late nights!

2014 Swap Cookies copy


Like I said, I chose a fall cookie. Brown sugar, spices and maple. I love maple syrup, and I’ve had Annie’s spiced brown sugar cutout cookies bookmarked for a while. I decided that they’d be the perfect with a little maple extract and a simple maple glaze/icing. They weren’t fancy – especially since I cut them into simple circles, rather than cute shapes. (I thought circles would be less likely to crumble in shipping.)  I’d like to think, though, that what they lacked in looks, they made up for in flavor. I also hoped that the glaze would keep the cookies softer on their trip across the country! I didn’t get around to taking a picture of my packaging, but I decided to use some of my chalkboard painted tins for shipping. I thought they turned out well! Here’s hoping that they traveled just as well and that everyone liked them! I sent cookies to:

Cindy at Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Erin at Erin Cooks
Kaitlin at I Can Cook That

Maple Sugar Cookies

Spiced Brown Sugar Cookies with Maple Glaze

For the cookies: 
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple extract

For the glaze: 
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon maple extract
pinch of salt

To make the cookies, whisk the dry ingredients (flour through allspice) together in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and the extracts until well-combined. Gently mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Place the dough on a large sheet of plastic wrap and press it into a flat disc. Wrap the dough and chill in the refrigerator until firm. (I let mine go overnight.)

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, line baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thickness. Cut cookies out of the dough with cookie cutters, rerolling and cutting scraps as needed. Place cookies about 1 1/2″ apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are just lightly brown, about 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before removing cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

While cookies are cooling, whisk the glaze ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste, and adjust with sugar/maple syrup/milk until the glaze reaches your desired consistency/sweetness. (I’ll be the first to admit that I made up the glaze as I went along. I was looking for a consistency that was thin enough to drizzle, but not so thin that it would all run off the cookie immediately.) Cover the cooled cookies with the glaze. (I prefer to dip them in a shallow dish and then return them to the cooling rack to “dry.”)

Store in an airtight container. Cookies keep for at least a week (that’s how long we had the extras) and soften slightly as time goes on.

Cookies from Annie’s Eats, who found them at Bake at 350. Glaze is Beth’s Blue Plate original.

Click here for a printable version.

Apricots for Andy

As soon as I saw these cookies, I knew I had to make them for Andy. After all, he is a self-proclaimed fruit junkie. If you give him a choice between a piece of fruit or cookies/cake/other snack food, he will choose the fruit, nine times out of ten. Of course, he’ll probably go back for the cookie once the fruit is gone, but still. I can’t buy the stuff fast enough. So when I saw a cookie studded with chunks of dried apricots (one of Andy’s favorite snacks), I was pretty sure that I’d stumbled upon his cookie utopia.

I didn’t get around to trying these cookies right away, and they kind of fell off my radar until a couple weeks ago. Andy was spending some quality time in the garage with his truck, fixing something with the leaf spring bracket. (I think, anyway. I tried to pay attention to what exactly was going on, but a lot of it went over my head. He fixed it though! Yay for handy husbands!) I felt bad for him (especially since our garage isn’t heated) and decided to make a “you’re-the-best-for-fixing-the-truck” treat. What better way to show my appreciation than with cookies, right? Especially cookies with one of his favorite fruits!

Well… they weren’t chocolate chip cookies. And when you’re expecting a chewy, melty chocolate chip cookie, shortbread is a little bit of a disappointment, apparently. Even if it is stuffed with apricots. That’s fine. Nothing said he had to be wowed by them (even though these were the best shortbread cookies I’d ever tried). I’d just eat them myself.

A funny thing happened though. Andy kept going back for “just one more cookie.” I don’t know if it was the butter, the apricots, or the appetite he worked up out in the garage, but these things had some sort of magnetic pull. We could not quit eating them. In fact, they disappeared in record time, which is pretty amazing when you consider that they weren’t chocolate chip cookies.

apricot shortbread cookies

This was my first time making a shortbread cookie, and while I knew they were going to be crumbly, I was a little surprised at how hard it was for the dough to come together. The recipe said to mix it by hand, and I think that was part of my problem. Next time, I’ll try it with my mixer and see if that works better. I was also unsure about a cookie recipe without any baking powder or soda, but since these worked out just fine, it must not be necessary for shortbread! I ended up adding some extra vanilla, and I think that almond extract would be great in them as well. I’m not including those changes in the recipe below, because I didn’t have a chance to try most of them out. Next time. 🙂

Apricot Shortbread Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Combine all of the ingredients except the apricots together in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. (I ended up using my hands to work it together.) Gently stir in the chopped apricots.

Cut a large piece of plastic wrap and turn the dough out onto the plastic. Shape the dough into a 2″ wide log. Roll the log in the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (Or, 20 minutes in the freezer if you’re impatient like me.) 

Remove the dough from the freezer and slice into rounds that are about 1/4″ thick. Place cookies about 1/2″ apart on the prepared sheet and bake until they are barely golden brown, about 13-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the cookie sheet for a minute before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

As seen on Branny Boils Over, originally adapted from Martha Stewart

Click here for a printable version.

Triple Vanilla Goodness

The first time I made meringues, I made an epic mess. Filling a pastry bag with sticky, oozy batter was a recipe for disaster, and my piping skills left a lot to be desired. Thankfully, Andy’s never been picky about how food looks, only about how it tastes. And because I’m stubborn persistent, I didn’t let that first experience slow me down.

I invested in an icing gun and started practicing my piping skills. And then, for the final piece of the puzzle, I bought an ice cream maker. (This is the part of the story where you’re sure that I’m mixing up my metaphors, or at least my recipes, right? Stay with me – I promise I’m going somewhere with this.) 

I make a lot of ice cream, and ice cream calls for a lot of egg yolks. Which means that I have a freezer full of egg whites, just waiting for greatness. Some of the egg whites end up in my favorite frosting, but it’s been a while since I’ve made cake. And since I’m on a mission to clear out some space in the freezer, I knew I’d need to do something with these egg whites.

The solution = meringues. They’re relatively easy cookies, and they’re completely hands-off once you get them in the oven. They do take at least 2 hours to bake, and I ended up shutting off the oven and leaving them in the oven overnight.

I made these cookies for a bachelorette party for a friend. Normally, I made cake (or cheesecake) for parties, but I needed the dessert to be both gluten and dairy-free. I used vanilla sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds for three times the vanilla flavor. I was happy with the way they turned out, and everyone loved them.


Triple Vanilla Meringues 

5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar*
pinch of cream of tartar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 175 degrees.

Place the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heat-proof bowl of an electric stand mixer. Set the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is warm. (This takes me about 5 minutes.) 

Remove the bowl from the pan and place on the mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture until stiff, glossy peaks form. Be sure to begin on a low speed and gradually increase the mixer speed as you go. Add in the vanilla bean seeds and the vanilla extract.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag (or icing gun!) fitted with a large star tip. Pipe batter into 1 1/2″ swirls about 1/2″ apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until cookies are dry and can be easily lifted from the baking sheets, about 2 hours. Store in a single layer in an airtight container.

*To make vanilla sugar, place a split, scraped vanilla bean pod in an airtight container with granulated sugar. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes – longer is better – I let mine sit all day. 

Makes about 60 cookies, depending on how large you pipe them.

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies

Click here for a printable version.