I got a little carried away and baked about 2,000 cookies. It was fun, it was for a good cause and I was into it. Until about the last hundred. Around the last 100 I hit a lightly floured wall and just got so sick of my recipes. I was making mostly Chewy Molasses, Mexican Hot Chocolate and Eggnog Snickerdoodles. And Orange-Cardamom Snowflakes. Those are all so good, and so pretty. So I got to dreaming about a way I could put a twist on one of my most dependable recipes. And these Chewy Chocolate-Espresso are the result.
These have the wonderful, chewy texture and chocolatey flavor of my most-requested Mexican Hot Chocolate cookies. Plus, the deep flavor of espresso. They’re a perfect companion for morning coffee or after dinner drinks. To get a nice, dark coffee flavor I used a packet of Starbucks Via instant coffee. But I think you could use any instant coffee or espresso powder. I just happened to have some VIA and know it’s widely available.
But did I mention how easy they are? No special equipment, just two bowls and a fork. You do not even need a mixer. Sometimes I just dump everything in one bowl. You can whip up this dough, stick it in the fridge for up to three days, and then bake them whenever. If you have a cookie scoop they will all be the EXACT SAME SIZE, which is great if you like to intimidate others with your baking powers, but a teaspoon works too. These will store on the counter in an airtight container for two weeks or in the freezer for 3-6 months.
Chewy Chocolate-Espresso Cookies
This is my most-requested recipe, no contest. These have the texture of a traditional chewy molasses cookie plus deep chocolate and espresso flavor. You can mix it up in one or two bowls, no mixer needed. These are great for make-ahead and store, freeze and ship well.
In a large bowl, stir the cocoa and molasses into the warm butter. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add 1 c. sugar, egg, vanilla extract and Via (or espresso powder) to the butter mixture. Stir dry ingredients into the wet. Cover and chill dough for as little as an hour or up to 3 days.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll 1 tablespoon of dough into balls (a cookie scoop is great for this), and roll them in the remaining white sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, for 12-14 minutes, until cookies are puffed, centers are set and they are beginning to form cracks. Do not overbake.
Leave on sheets until they are cool enough to transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
I love homemade peanut butter cookies with the little fork marks on top. And those puffy ones with the hershey kiss plopped in the center. Those are the best honestly. But when I bake I’m always looking for ways to make classic flavors and recipes conform to my rather strict visual standards. I like things to have a consistent, clean shape and tidy edges. I especially like to make things one level fancier than is necessary. These yummy peanut butter sandwich cookies do just that.
To get tidy edges I decided to roll out and cut my dough with a square cutter. I like using square cutters because you can really fit a lot of cookies in without wasted space and a lot of re-rolling, which can make the dough tough and dry. The crowning touch here was the pumpkin seed pattern embossed on the top with my special rolling pin. (there are some really cool designs in this Etsy shop, so many designs to choose from!). I was concerned when the cookies came out looking very puffed and the pattern had disappeared. But after cooling on the tray for a few minutes it reappeared like magic. I experimented a bit and found that the colder the cookies are when you put them in the oven, the more distinct the pattern will be.
The cookies themselves are soft and a little chewy. If your cookie is too crunchy, the soft filling gets squished out the sides. No bueno. The filling is the same chocolate ganache used in classic french macarons. I used semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Nestle for budget and availability), but you could substitute any fancy chocolate you want.
The ganache has to cool for awhile so I usually make the filling the day before I need the cookies. I like breaking up baking tasks over a few days, it makes it feel less like a chore and more like a little retreat. But if you’re in a hurry you could also pop the filling into the fridge. Just make sure to check it every 15 minutes because if it gets too hard, it’s difficult to go back. The finished cookies should be refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve to keep the filling nice and firm.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
These soft peanut butter cookies are embossed with a pattern on top and filled with rich chocolate ganache. The perfect cookie for chocolate-peanut butter lovers. If you don't have an embossing rolling pin, a regular pin will do just fine.
Cream butter, peanut butter and the sugars together. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Mix in the baking soda, baking powder and the vanilla. Stir in the flour until just combined.
On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness, being sure to use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. If using, roll the embossing pin gently over the top, leaving a pattern behind. Cut out into 1 3/4" squares and put on a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes. Bake in a 350 degree oven to 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are puffed.
Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack.
To Make Ganache:
Heat cream in a small saucepan until the edges are bubbling but it is not boiling. Turn off heat and pour in chocolate chips adjusting to make sure the cream is covering the chips. Put the lid on and wait 5 minutes.
Stir the mixture until smooth and then allow it to cool for approximately 3 hours, or until it is a spreadable consistency.
To Assemble Cookies:
Place ganache in a ziplock bag. Snip off a corner and pipe concentric squares onto one of the cookies, starting at the outside and moving in. Place a second cookie on top, gently pressing until the filling just reaches the edge of the cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies.
Store in fridge until ready to serve. They will keep up to one week.
Over the next month I will be on a mission to post every cookie that’s ever been a standard in my Christmas cookie boxes. I try each year to send a box of cookies to our relatives that we won’t be seeing during the season. It’s a special tradition for me because deep down, way way deep down, I’m sort of a softy. And nothing says Merry Christmas From Your Secretly Sentimental (emphasis on mental) Relative like a box of cookies.
Cookie box cookies need to check a few boxes. Of course they’ve got to be delicious. And they should be seasonally appropriate. They’ve got to be sturdy enough for shipping and stay fresh long enough to arrive in good condition. They also need to be freezable because I’m not, except every once in a while, going to make 8 different kinds of cookies in one day. Because that’s MADNESS. Unless that’s your way of doing things, in which case it’s a lovely tradition that makes you special. And a little crazy.
These Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies are always on that list. So are these Chewy Molasses Cookies. And rounding out the holiday triumvirate are these amazing Eggnog Snickerdoodles. Snickerdoodles and eggnog are a great pairing. The eggy color of snickerdoodles, the creamy flavor of eggnog with a hint of nutmeg. For my eggnog snickerdoodles I stick with a basic snickerdoodle recipe and simply add 1/4 teaspoon of eggnog extract, available here, and sub out the traditional cinnamon in the rolling sugar for a bit of nutmeg. They are perfect and easy and just right for the holidays.
Classic snickerdoodles with spot-on eggnog flavor. The perfect holiday cookie. They will store in an airtight container for two weeks on the counter, a few months in the freezer.
Cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, vanilla extract and eggnog extract. Beat to combine thoroughly.
In a separate bowl combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Chill dough overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1/3 cup sugar and ground nutmeg in a small bowl. Roll 1 tablespoon of dough into balls (a cookie scoop is great for this), and roll them in the sugar/nutmeg mixture. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 10-11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Sometimes I like to overly complicate things. For instance, I once based an entire dessert around a Caramelized Spruce Syrup that gets brushed onto the cake layers and is made by collecting spruce tips in the spring and tenderly caramelizing them. Then I coordinated the rest of the cake around an IPA palate, frosted it twice and covered it in gold leaf, oversized gold-plated sprinkles and chocolate work. I’m low-key like that.
Here are some tips for success:
Use fresh spices if you can. These make your whole house smell like Christmas died and went to heaven then came back to life as a cookie. The more potent the spices, the better your Christmas afterlife of a cookie will be.
Let the dough chill overnight. Cold dough is essential to getting these rolled out easily and having the woodgrain mat release cleanly. You can buy a mat here.
After rolling out the dough, cut out your birdhouses. You can buy a cutter like the one I use here. I used a small fondant cutter to cut out the hole but you could use a drinking straw or a round piping tip to cut your hole. I like to have the grain run top to bottom but if you run out of space and cut a few at odd angles, they still look cute.
Definitely put these in the freezer for at least 5 minutes in between cutting out and baking. If the dough is too warm, the woodgrain pattern on the top will disappear. Boo! You want a nice crisp pattern on top, it’s what makes these cookies special. Plus, you bought that woodgrain mat and you definitely cannot justify that non-essential baking equipment purchase if you can’t even see the pattern.
After these are baked and cooled, the fun part starts. Icing these should be quick and easy. Don’t fuss too much, they don’t all need to be the same. Once you see them all lined up, they will be so adorable you’ll forget about criticizing your work.
Let these dry for four hours before stacking or storing. They should last for a few months in the freezer in an airtight container. Just be sure to let the container come to room temperature before opening it up so that condensation doesn’t ruin the shiny finish of the icing or make your cookies soggy
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and orange extract and beat until combined. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until you have a smooth dough. Divide the dough into thirds and wrap each third in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove one third of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch (1 cm). (Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the counter.) Lay your woodgrain mat over your dough and then roll your rolling pin over the mat. Use enough pressure to leave a pattern but not enough to significantly thin the dough. Remove the mat. Cut out your birdhouses and transfer cookies to baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the freezer for about 5 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.
Bake cookies for about 9-10 minutes or until the edges are just starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Decorate the birdhouses with the white icing as shown above. Be sure to let the icing dry at least 4 hours before storing.
These beauties always pop into my mind as I wait for the first snow of the year to fall. They’re sweet and crisp, crunchy and buttery, with just the right amount of orange and cardamom. And they are EASY. My friends like to say, “Oh, maybe for you that’s easy! Mine wouldn’t look like that.” But I swear to sweet baby carrots, these are the most straightforward sugar cookies you are ever going to meet. And because no snowflake is alike, variations and “mistakes” just make them more charming. Continue reading “Orange-Cardamom Snowflake Cookies”→
I have drop-cookie issues. I know they’re tasty and easy and much beloved. But I really can’t handle the uncertainty inherent in a cookie that just gets plopped onto a cookie sheet with a spoon. I need cookies to be precisely scooped or rolled or cut out, not “dropped”. Making chocolate chip cookies leaves me deeply unsatisfied. I’ve been thinking about a cookie with dried fruit and nuts but all my internet research led straight to drop cookies. So I got to work cooking up some delicious fruit-nut cookies that could be rolled out and cut into precise circles. No blobs allowed!
I don’t usually dress up for halloween. There was a Bridezilla costume in 2014 that involved a thrift-store wedding dress, blond wig and a t-rex mask, but that’s the exception, not the rule. But I love making Halloween cookies. The kids always get really into it and it’s the project that reminds me that all the fun holiday baking is just around the corner. I usually try to keep things simple, using the same basic sugar cookie recipe I use for all of my holiday-themed cookies (like these bunnies). These don’t require any piping tips or fancy techniques, you can make them with supplies from your grocery store’s baking aisle. Continue reading “Black and White Halloween Cookies”→
I used to work for a wedding photographer back in the day, before digital photography was a thing. He was very eccentric, had a lot of odd habits and some very strong opinions. He once leapt from a moving train that had gone express mid-route to avoid being late to class. He woke up the next day in the hospital with a nasty head injury then ran a marathon 3 days later. To save time while eating he would mash entire slices of bread into dense balls he called “cowboy bread” which he washed down with as much milk as he could safely drink in one sitting. He was unapologetically hostile towards new trends in photography, such as color film. He was fond of saying, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” I thought he was a curmudgeon and a bit daft at the time but it turns out that’s exactly how I feel when it comes to the almighty PUMPKIN SPICE. Continue reading “Soft Chai Snickerdoodles”→
I know I said that the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies were my baby. But now I have a new baby and it’s these Chewy Molasses Cookies. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t love the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies as much once I posted these, but it turns out there’s enough love in my heart for both. My heart grew, as did my waistline. Continue reading “Chewy Molasses Cookies”→