Easter weekend I got around to baking cookies and taking pictures; cozywalls, I have not forgotten you! For my first batch I made my grandma’s favorite soft carrot cookie recipe. I have never known my grandma to make crispy cookies, crusts or any hard-to-chew dessert, for that matter. The baked goods that come from her kitchen are always cozy and soft. A few years ago I brought up the fact to her and she replied, “say, Amy, I like recipes that are easy on my false teeth.” It makes perfect sense!
I am not exactly sure why it is the only recipe in my mom’s cookie book that I hadn’t attempted on my own until that morning. It’s not difficult to put together (I obsessively sift dry ingredients now for added fluffiness, but it’s not necessary), and the ingredients are fairly standard. I remember my mom making them along with brown sugar or chocolate bit cookies. I rarely ate the carrot cookies, because I was more than satisfied with the others. Back then I also thought it was sort of weird to put oranges and carrots in cookies. Today, the weirdness is endearing, and I am drawn to their sunny orange color and lively citrus glaze. They evoke memories of being a child in my own mother’s kitchen where I played on the floor with bowls and spoons indoors while looking forward to the days when our front door opened to reveal optimistic tulips blooming outside.
My grandma’s older sisters used to call her Maddie, so that’s what I am calling these cookies.
Maddie’s Soft Carrot Cookies
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 cup baby food carrots (about 2 jars or 6-7 pureed carrots)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Drop and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until brown around the edges.
Juice and zest of one small orange
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup confectioner’s sugar + more if needed
Whip 4 oz. cream cheese into glaze, adding confectioner’s sugar to reach desired thickness.
I’ll admit that I was not thrilled with the idea that my niece chose a prefab Cinderella castle kit from the store for our annual gingerbread session this year. She loves to bake and is now old enough to see the project through from scratch. I was looking forward to designing our own charming chalet or creative candy cottage a la Hansel and Gretel. In the end, the gingerbread castle we put together from the kit still allowed for unique touches. My favorite parts are the mice dancing on the roof and the alien-looking snowmen with the blue eyes (all from the brain of the sweet five-year-old). I need to remember that these activities are, above all, about togetherness and that the outcome will inevitably be as unique and fabulous as the individuals involved.
Chocolate & peanut butter: one of the great &s of all time. Earlier this week I whipped up a variation on two decadent (gluten free) dessert recipes. These recipes are suspicious alone but wonderfully dangerous when combined. I took a couple of the dense treats over to a neighbor who shares my affinity for peanut butter. He later told me, judging by the weight of the 2 “cookies” I knew it was serious business! So there you have it, this recipe mash-up is not for the faint of heart. Can you handle it?
Flourless Double Chocolate Peanut Cookies Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Recipe
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cups chopped peanuts
4 large egg whites at room temperature
Preheat oven to 325-degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and salt (I like to use a mesh colander to sift the dry ingredients). Stir in chocolate and peanuts (I pulverized half of the nuts in my blender). Add egg whites and stir just until incorporated (looks like thick brownie batter).
Drop dough balls (cookie scoop works wonders) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until tops are dry to the touch, about 23 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely. (To store, keep in an airtight container, up to 3 days.)
Peanut Butter CreamAdapted from Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing Recipe
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. Stores well in the fridge but spreads best at room temperature.
My niece and I warmed up a traditional sugar cookie dough recipe with pumpkin pie spice over the weekend. Inspired by the pumpkin pie fragrance, we decided to cut out little slices of dough in the shape of pocket-sized pie slices. Once the cookies were baked, we melted some butterscotch chips to spread on the cookies to look like pumpkin pie filling. Lastly, I made a fluffy meringue icing to pipe on for a whipped cream look on top. “Little pumpkin pies for my dollies,” my niece exclaimed! “Spicy butterscotch cookies are surprisingly tasty,” I thought.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Cut-Out Cookies Sift together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
(In a separate bowl) beat together:
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Add wet ingredients to the rest of the mix until combined. Roll out dough with flour. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 6 minutes. Cool on baking rack.
Melt 1/2 cup butterscotch chips with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or peanut butter. Stir until combined and glossy, then spread over the tops of the cookies.
Fluffy White Frosting from allrecipes.com In a saucepan, stir together 1 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly.
In a medium bowl, whip 2 egg whites and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar mixture while whipping constantly until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Among the tea time snack treats I enjoy this time of year are Anna’s Ginger Thins and Caramel Bugles. Bugles used to be a special after-school treat at my babysitter’s house (when you could still buy them in boxes!). All of us kids would put them on the ends of our fingers and pretend that we had creepy pointed fingers like the Wicked Witch of the West. Bugles are also the perfect shape for making little witch hat desserts, usually stuck on chocolate cookies and dipped in chocolate. I decided to make a more earth-toned witch hat with my favorite snack treats using sunflower butter as the glue. The flavor combo is salty, sweet, spicy, nutty, and crunchy like fall leaves.
I am bringing these buttery cocktail cookies to the cookie mountain! Did I mention that the bride is a letterpress lady? Subtle in bourbon and perky with lime, these are slightly crumbly cookies that melt in your mouth. Can’t wait to celebrate with Jarrid & Emily!
Bourbon Lime Butter Cookies
4 oz. (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bourbon
zest & juice of 2 limes
1/2 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Beat the butter, sugar, salt, bourbon, lime zest and lime juice together until creamy.
Mix in the egg yolk completely.
Add the flour and mix just until incorporated.
If you want to cut out shapes:
Roll dough into patties and place between two large pieces of plastic wrap. I use this method to keep the cookies from becoming too dried out.
Roll over top of the plastic wrap until the dough is thin.
If dough is difficult to cut out, chill it until it hardens a little and use a little flour or confectioner’s sugar with your cutters.
If you want to slice cookies:
Roll dough into a log, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge (freezer if you can’t wait), and slice when ready to bake.
Before baking, preheat the oven to 325°F.
Line your baking sheets with parchment.
Bake 8-10 minutes. About 2 dozen cookies.