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Posts Tagged ‘butter cookies’

My friend and I were talking about The Swiss Colony the other day. I wasn’t aware they were still around but she’d just received a catalog in the mail and we were discussing the nostalgia of the catalog, the items we’d pine over and never receive. I confessed that as a kid I used to go to their store in the mall and eat all their cheese and sausage samples. All of them. It’s where I discovered my love of hot pepper cheese and summer sausage and there was no turning back. But at Christmastime, there were two things in that catalog I obsessed over: The Towers of Treats and the petit fours. First off, of course I obsessed over a tower of boxes taller than me filled with delectable treats. Who wouldn’t? But those sweetly decorated little cake squares had my heart. I dreamt of elegant ladies at fancy tea parties delicately sipping from porcelain teacups and nibbling at teeny sweets. Deep down, I knew they were terrible; overly sweet and dry but damn I wanted them anyway.

So today for Day 2 of the 12 Days of Cookies, I’ve taken inspiration from those petit fours. And yes, this was a rather different cookie last week when I shot the whole collection but after my Swiss Colony discussion I had some ideas and baked a new batch this morning. With cookie dough in the fridge you can do these sort of last minute things. To the base dough, I’ve added a few bananas, some chocolate chips and a simple icing once they’d cooled. You can certainly leave them plainly iced or you can go fancy schmancy and dig out the special sprinkles or whip up a batch of royal icing and really decorate those little things. Then you can have that fancy tea party. Because when not do something fancy schmancy if not the holidays?

36 One Dough/Many Cookies from years past:

Fruity: Jam ThumbprintsJam Streusel TartsRaspberry Linzer SquaresLemon Poppyseed ButtonsOrange Sesame CrispsCranberry Pistachio CoinsAlmond Raspberry StripsOrange Sandwich CookiesApricot Rosemary ShortbreadCoconut Lime SticksBourbon Glazed Fruitcake ButtonsLemon Cornmeal BiscottiBlueberry Lime ButtonsDate Swirls

Nutty: Mexican Wedding CookiesRussian Tea CakesPecan TassiesMaple Black Walnut CookiesPB&J Sandwich CookiesPecan Triangles

Spiced: Cinnamon Sugar PinwheelsCandied Ginger Spice ButtonsCardamom Rose CoinsBrown Sugar Wafers with Lemon Lavender Glaze

Chocolate: Mexican Chocolate CrinklesChocolate Cocoa Nib WafersRaspberry Chocolate DropsChocolate Hazelnut ButtonsDark Mocha Sandwich CookiesEspresso Crinkles

Bars: Rum Butter BarsPeppermint Brownie BarsBanana Walnut Bars

Holiday Classics: Cream Cheese WreathsClassic Molasses CookiesPeppermint Candy Canes

2020 12 Days of Cookies line up to date:

Basic Chocolate Butter Cookie Dough

Day 1: Cranberry Cocoa Nib Wafers

DAY 2: CHOCOLATE BANANA PETIT FOUR

Start with the base chocolate dough – recipe here. For this one I used a natural cocoa powder but I think I’d prefer a dutched for the darker color.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line the desired pan with a criss-cross of aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a standing mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, combine room temperature cookie dough, mashed banana, brown sugar and baking soda and mix on medium until well blended.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and mix until just blended (at this point the dough can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months. Let come to room temperature before proceeding.)
  4. Spread dough evenly into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with no wet batter.  It’s better to slightly underbake than to overbake.
  6. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
  7. For the chocolate icing: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the melted butter and cocoa powder on medium speed for 30 seconds just to combine. 
  8. Add half the powdered sugar and half the milk and mix for 1 minute. 
  9. Add the remaining powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract and mix for another minute or two until smooth. 
  10. Use immediately or cover until ready to use.
  11. When the bars have cooled, smooth the icing over the top. If you like, decorate with sprinkles while the icing is still wet or leave plain. Or leave at room temperature to set (the icing will crust over nicely) or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  12. Cut the bars into neat little squares. If you like, decorate the squares with royal icing.
  13. For the royal icing: In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, whip together the sugar, egg white and lemon juice until thick and creamy. This is a small quantity and a bit of a pain but stick with it and scrape the bowl regularly. It’ll get there. Color small amounts and use paper cornets for piping. 

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We’re starting this round of 12 Days a Cookies with a simple one to get us going in the right direction. One of the most popular cookies of past 12 Days has been a round, thin crispy cookie flavored with cranberries, pistachios and orange zest. So of course I did a chocolate version but with cocoa nibs instead of pistachio. Delightful. Slice and bake cookies are the real workhorses of holiday baking. 

One thing to keep in mind when baking chocolate cookies … it’s difficult to know when they’re done. Those visual cues you’d normally use – golden brown, etc. – aren’t an option due to the cocoa color so you have to go by feel. This one should bake up on the crisp side so at around 8 minutes, they should feel a little firm to the touch. If you like, bake a few to gage timing before baking a whole batch.

36 One Dough/Many Cookies from years past:

Fruity: Jam ThumbprintsJam Streusel TartsRaspberry Linzer SquaresLemon Poppyseed ButtonsOrange Sesame CrispsCranberry Pistachio CoinsAlmond Raspberry StripsOrange Sandwich CookiesApricot Rosemary ShortbreadCoconut Lime SticksBourbon Glazed Fruitcake ButtonsLemon Cornmeal BiscottiBlueberry Lime ButtonsDate Swirls

Nutty: Mexican Wedding CookiesRussian Tea CakesPecan TassiesMaple Black Walnut CookiesPB&J Sandwich CookiesPecan Triangles

Spiced: Cinnamon Sugar PinwheelsCandied Ginger Spice ButtonsCardamom Rose CoinsBrown Sugar Wafers with Lemon Lavender Glaze

Chocolate: Mexican Chocolate CrinklesChocolate Cocoa Nib WafersRaspberry Chocolate DropsChocolate Hazelnut ButtonsDark Mocha Sandwich CookiesEspresso Crinkles

Bars: Rum Butter BarsPeppermint Brownie BarsBanana Walnut Bars

Holiday Classics: Cream Cheese WreathsClassic Molasses CookiesPeppermint Candy Canes

2020 One Dough/12 Days of Cookies line up to date:

Basic Chocolate Butter Cookie Dough

DAY 1: CRANBERRY COCOA NIB WAFERS

Start with the base chocolate dough – recipe here; for this one I chose a dutched cocoa

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the room temperature cookie dough, cranberries, cocoa nibs, orange zest, baking soda, salt and water until well combined.
  2. Divide the dough in quarters for the largest batch (2 pieces for the medium and 1 for the smallest) and roll each piece on a piece of plastic wrap into a nice, tight, round log, around 5-5 ½” long.
  3. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight (or freeze up to 3 months).
  4. When ready to bake preheat the oven to 350°F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking liners.
  5. Place the dipping sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  6. With a sharp thin knife, cut the log into ¼” thick coins, rotating the log frequently to keep one side from flattening. If the dough is frozen, give it a few minutes to soften enough to cut cleanly.
  7. Dip one side of the cookie into the sugar and place, sugar side up, 1” apart on prepared pans.
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through until lightly golden brown.
  9. Do ahead: it’s best to make and freeze the dough and bake as needed rather than freeze baked cookies. Frozen dough will keep up to 3 months.

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For the last several years, I’ve done a series of 12 Days of Cookies posts built around a basic butter cookie dough. Divide that base dough up in two, four or eight pieces and flavor each a different way. With a minimal amount of extra effort, you’ll have a whole variety of delicious cookies in different flavors, textures and colors. It’s an easy and incredibly efficient way to approach your holiday baking. In these weird times, maybe you need a bit of normalcy so I’d encourage you to bake some cookies and gift them to friends and family. Particularly your single friends and those that live alone. They’ve spent 8 months quarantining solo and now are likely going to spend the holidays alone too. It’s rough. Bake them some cookies.

In three years’ worth of December posts, I’ve given you one basic butter cookie dough and 36 different variations; something for everyone – fruit, spice, nuts, holiday classics and new fangled recipes. Well, hold up … last year I did savory crackers – 3 doughs, 12 different crackers. Same idea, different application. With that, I thought I was done. After 36 cookie recipes and 12 more for crackers I didn’t think I had any ideas left in me. Until I went to make some cookies a few weeks ago and thought … chocolate. I’d made several chocolate variations of that basic butter dough. What if I started with a chocolate dough? Surely I had 12 more chocolate ideas in me? I sure did. 

So this year, in the midst of this pandemic shitstorm when we need stress baking more than ever, prepare yourselves for the 12 Days of Chocolate Cookies. Same basic butter dough we’ve been using all along but with the addition of cocoa and a few other things. Get ready. 

First up, and this may seem obvious, you need cocoa powder. This is not as simple as it initially seems as there are a few different types out there. There are three general options:

  • Natural/Unalkalized: The most commonly found natural cocoa is your standard Hershey’s cocoa powder. Best used when there’s some type of acidic leavener in your recipe, such as baking soda. Some think natural cocoa tastes more “chocolatey” but I often find the results, when tasted side by side, to be neglible. For me, it’s more of a color consideration as it tends to bake up a bit lighter than a dutched cocoa.
  • Dutch Process/Dutched/Alkalized: sometimes also referred to “European style”. A lower acidity than natural cocoa, dutched cocoa tends to give baked goods a richer, darker color. It is my standard cocoa powder. The Hershey’s version is called “Special Dark”, Droste has won a Cooks Illustrated taste test or two and Cocoa Barry Plein d’Arome is a pastry chef standard. 
  • Black/Super Dark: an almost black dutch-processed cocoa with an intense, dark color. Think Oreo dark. This one is a little harder to come by but is available via various online sources. Makes gorgeous cookies though I like to combine it, about 60/40, with a dutched cocoa for best flavor. King Arthur has both dark and “double dutched”, a black/dutch blend. 

So … which one should you use? That depends on both the recipe and frankly, you. Dutch-processed cocoa is natural cocoa that’s been treated with an alkalizing agent to lower its acidity, thus allowing more of its pure chocolate flavor to shine through. It has been my go-to cocoa for years and I’ve used it in all kinds of recipes to great success but if you want to get technical, here’s the deal: if you’re preparing a recipe that uses baking soda as a leavener and there’s nothing else acidic in the recipe, then natural/undutched cocoa is ideal. Its acidity neutralizes baking soda’s potentially strong, “soapy” flavor; and because natural cocoa is acidic, and baking soda is a “base”, when the two get together they produce a reaction – CO2 – which makes cakes, brownies and cookies rise in the oven. For every recipe I’m posting, there’s some added baking soda or baking powder so a natural cocoa would be great. I just happen to like the deeper, richer colors that dutched cocoa brings to the table. For some cookies, particularly a sandwich cookie, that extra dark is quite spectacular. If you like dark Oreo-like cookies, black cocoa is an excellent choice. I’m currently sitting on a lot of samples of all three types, I used them all so you can see the difference. All the cookies were delicious so I think the decision comes down to how you’d like your cookies to look and/or what cocoas you can get your hands on.

The rest of the recipe is very straight forward – the usual butter, sugar, flour, eggs with the addition of a little espresso powder to boost that deep chocolate flavor. Make the dough and divide into pieces – 2, 4 or 8. Then decide how soon you’ll use it. If the same or next day, leave at room temperature. If within the next 3 days, refrigerate and let come to room temperature before proceeding. If within the next 2-3 months, freeze and let come to room temperature before proceeding. I like to break up the tasks so I’ll flavor the dough then freeze it in whatever shape my cookie will be – logs for slice and bake, rolled into balls or rolled into sheets and cut into rounds or squares and frozen between sheets of parchment paper. When I need a few cookies, I can bake off as many as I need; two or twenty.

So round up your ingredients. Decide what cocoa you want to use. Find some instant espresso or coffee. Make your base dough, maybe peruse the past recipes and get ready. I’ll post a new recipe every other day starting tomorrow.

12 Days of Cookies from years past:

FruityJam ThumbprintsJam Streusel TartsRaspberry Linzer SquaresLemon Poppyseed ButtonsOrange Sesame CrispsCranberry Pistachio CoinsAlmond Raspberry StripsOrange Sandwich CookiesApricot Rosemary ShortbreadCoconut Lime SticksBourbon Glazed Fruitcake ButtonsLemon Cornmeal BiscottiBlueberry Lime ButtonsDate Swirls

NuttyMexican Wedding CookiesRussian Tea CakesPecan TassiesMaple Black Walnut CookiesPB&J Sandwich CookiesPecan Triangles

SpicedCinnamon Sugar PinwheelsCandied Ginger Spice ButtonsCardamom Rose CoinsBrown Sugar Wafers with Lemon Lavender Glaze

ChocolateMexican Chocolate CrinklesChocolate Cocoa Nib WafersRaspberry Chocolate DropsChocolate Hazelnut ButtonsDark Mocha Sandwich CookiesEspresso Crinkles

BarsRum Butter BarsPeppermint Brownie BarsBanana Walnut Bars

Holiday Classics: Cream Cheese WreathsClassic Molasses CookiesPeppermint Candy Canes

BASIC CHOCOLATE BUTTER COOKIE DOUGH

Makes dough for 2 or 4 or 8 batches of cookies and will be the base dough for the next twelve posts

If vanilla is out of your price range right now, bourbon or dark rum makes a nice if not quite as flavorful substitution.

  1. In a standing mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Scrape the bowl and with the mixer running on medium-low, add the yolks one at a time, then vanilla and espresso mixture and beat until incorporated.  Scrape the bowl.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually mix in the flour and cocoa until combined.  Scrape a final time and turn the dough onto a work surface and gently knead to incorporate all remaining flour.
  4. Divide the dough into two, four or eight equal pieces and use as is for a delicious butter cookie or proceed with one or several of the variations that will follow in the next twelve posts (or the twelve posts from last year). If you have a scale, use it to divide the dough into precise measures.

Tips:

  • Dough can be made ahead and refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.  Let return to room temperature before continuing.
  • If using salted butter rather than unsalted, decrease the salt in the recipe to ¾ teaspoon.

So, OK. I’m going to throw a little wrinkle in here. Maybe you don’t want to make all your cookies chocolate this year. So here’s what you do: make a full batch of butter cookie dough, like we’ve done in years past, and make half or even a quarter chocolate. Then you can make any of the recipes from the past years that use plain dough and/or any of the chocolate recipes this month. Options. The holidays are about options.

BASIC BUTTER COOKIE DOUGHMakes dough for 2 or 4 or 8 batches of cookies

BASIC CHOCOLATE BUTTER COOKIE DOUGH VARIATION

  1. For the base dough: In a standing mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Scrape the bowl and with the mixer running on medium-low, add the yolks one at a time, then vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Scrape the bowl.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually mix in the flour until combined.  Scrape a final time and turn the dough onto a work surface and gently knead to incorporate all remaining flour.
  4. Divide the dough into two, four or eight equal pieces and use as is for a delicious butter cookie or proceed with one or several of the variations that will follow in the next twelve posts (or the twelve posts from last year). If you have a scale, use it to divide the dough into precise measures.
  5. For the chocolate dough: choose your dough piece (½ or ¼ batch), break it up and place in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment along with the sugar and baking soda.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the espresso and water and stir until dissolved. Then add to the mixing bowl.
  7. Mix on medium-low – medium until well combined. Divide into smaller pieces and wrap tightly until needed. If making other recipes, proceed with room temperature dough; if not refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months. Let come to room temperature before proceeding.

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So this is it. Day 12. We did it. We now have a full 36 different cookies made from a single simple butter dough in our holiday – or anytime – repertoire. Nicely done folks! Today as the capper for the final day of the 12 Days of Cookies, a very simple, easy and rather Christmasy one too … Classic Molasses Cookies. (more…)

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I tripped over all the crap in my entryway. Bags and bags of stuff – work stuff, Christmas stuff, wrapping stuff, stuff stuff. My home is officially a hazard course and I’ve have reached critical meltdown point. So it’s probably a good time for a shot of caffeine, right? How about getting that from a cookie? The sugar has got to help too. Put a pot of to brew, grab a handful of cookies and exhale. Today for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Cookies … Espresso Crinkles. And not a day too soon. (more…)

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I like to throw a curveball into the mix every once in a while and today, as we near the end of the 12 Days of Cookies, that is a floral flavor. Last year I included a really nice Cardamom Rose cookie in the mix, using dried rose petals and a hint of rose water. It was an interesting and rather pretty flavor to disrupt the expected holiday combinations of spice and fruit and it was lovely too. I was happy with the new addition so this year, I’ve got a lavender entry. Why not? For Day 10 of the 12 Days of Cookies, a.k.a. One Dough/Many Cookies, we have a Brown Sugar Wafer with Lemon Lavender Glaze.

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One week people. One week until Christmas Eve. I am nowhere near ready but that’s neither here nor there because we are officially ¾ of the way through this year’s 12 Days of Cookies and that is cause for celebration. To date, if you count previous years, we have 33 completely different cookies made from one basic cookie dough, and 33 is a very lucky number in my world. So huzzah to us all! Even better, today’s cookie has one of my favorite ingredients AND a glaze. I do so love a glaze. For Day 9 … Black Walnut Cookies with Maple Glaze.

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Day 8 people. We’ve come around the bend and are heading home. Sure, there are five more to go but we’re making good time. Today, for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Cookies, we have another classic: Date Nut Swirls. It’s an old fashioned flavor with a new fangled twist. (more…)

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You know what we haven’t had in 3 years worth of 12 Days of Cookies? Biscotti. Right? Let’s fix that today. To the basic butter cookie dough add cornmeal for crunch, egg whites for structure, a little honey, some additional leaveners and for flavor, lemon and black pepper (because why not?) For Day 7 … Lemon Cornmeal Biscotti.

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We’ve always been a big cookie baking family and the holidays had a very specific list. Cream cheese spritz for sure, with an abundance of sprinkles and those mercury loaded silver balls. Windowpane cookies which to the delight of the kids and the horror of my mother, we’d crush hard candies with hammers to sprinkle inside the cutouts. Candy bits scattered everywhere. And how much easier would it have been if we’d had silicone baking mats back then?? Kolacky. Twisty peppermint candy canes. And pecan tassies, little miniature pecan pies. So today for Day 6 of the 12 Days of Cookies, a holiday classic … Pecan Tassies. We’re at the halfway mark folks!

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