Lemon Rosemary Shortbread

Eight years ago this fall, my sister, Chelsea, was living in San Francisco doing an externship through her architecture program. Chelsea thoughtfully sent me a package of local treasures including a few lemons and fresh rosemary. Apparently both were growing abundantly in the neighborhood where she lived, and as a passionate foodie, she figured I would appreciate the gifts, which of course I did. While searching for a use for them, I stumbled upon a recipe for lemon rosemary shortbread. I was intrigued by the idea of using a savory herb like rosemary in a dessert. I have to say that the combination of buttery cookie with the floral flavors of lemon and rosemary go together perfectly. The cookies were delicious!

Eight years later (last month) I found myself with a surplus of fresh rosemary – literally. I received some rosemary in my Imperfect Produce box, (they’re an awesome company that takes produce that is scarred, misshapen, or in excess – and which retailers won’t sell – and sends it to consumers in a weekly customized box.) I love fresh rosemary and so when I saw there was a surplus (and from California!) I happily added it to my order, without really knowing how I’d use it. So with an itch to bake, I decided to make those lemon rosemary shortbread cookies once again, if my almost 7 month old baby would let me of course.

Slight tangent here, but it’s funny how delusional about my life as a stay-at-home mom I can be. Sometimes I find myself waking up thinking about what I want to do that day and dreaming up all these recipes I want to make. Somehow I’m reminded that I am a mother and my young, not-yet-crawling baby is likely going to occupy most of my day. Today, however, she took a longer than usual nap so I threw together a batch of these cookies.

Unfortunately I never took a picture of the finished product but hopefully you get the idea. Picture perfectly buttery, golden cookies that go perfectly with a cup of tea on a rainy day (hello Seattle winter!) and you probably have the right image in your mind. And if you’re doubtful of the rosemary and cookies combination, let me tell you that my neighbor, who is not generally a fan of rosemary, loved them and said the flavor was not too strong.

Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

2 sticks (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1 lemon, zested

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 T. chopped, fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Cream together butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla now if using. Combine the flour, salt, and lemon zest, rubbing it into the flour to break up the pieces. Add to the butter, beating on low to incorporate or fold in with a spatula. Fold in fresh rosemary. Wrap dough in plastic and put in the fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

When dough is ready, preheat your oven to 375 F. Roll out your dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into squares or use your favorite cookie cutter. Space cookies about 2 inches apart and bake until golden brown – 10-12 minutes. I even almost burned a batch of mine (due to taking care of the baby) and they still tasted good!

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Halloween Cookies & Parenthood

Before my daughter was born, a part of me thought I would have more time to do things like write a blog post. I mean babies sleep a lot, right? So couldn’t I just whip up a blog post during one of her frequent naps? Well, sometimes babies fall asleep on you or sometimes you need to eat while she sleeps. Sometimes I have had time to write, but I was too tired to write anything. Or sometimes I haven’t had the time because my child takes mostly half hour naps, and by the time I put her down and go to the bathroom and brush my teeth and get dressed and whatever basic things I need to accomplish, five minutes are left. Continue reading

Saveur’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Most people won’t say no to chocolate chip cookies, whether overcooked or store-bought. Chocolate chip cookies are an American classic and definitely a recipe I have made and eaten thousands of times. Maybe the internet is to blame or maybe it’s just my curiosity for baking, but despite the number of times I’ve made the chewy, gooey hand-held dessert, I still sometimes feel the need to try a new recipe. Social media tends to make us feel pressured to constantly achieve bigger (or smaller) and better whether through our perfectly toned and tanned bodies, our flawlessly frosted cakes, or our carefully crafted home decor. Yes, your chocolate chip cookie recipe may already be amazing, but the lure of the internet will lead you to believe that this one is the best. Continue reading

Fall Cookies: Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Scotchies

IMG_1710Pumpkin gets a lot of hype this time of year. It’s orange to match the foliage, it’s in season at farmers’ markets and apple orchards, and it’s darn delicious when you whisk in some warm fall spices and sugar to sweeten the deal. This time of year we see recipes for everything pumpkin from pumpkin soup to pumpkin cookies to pumpkin cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong – I love pumpkin, but I wanted to distinguish myself here. I was hoping to stand out from the crowds of pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin donuts. (I guess I did make this pumpkin creme brulee once.)

Growing up, one of my sister’s favorite cookies was called an oatmeal scotchie. It started with a traditional cookie dough with some rolled oats but then you swirled in some butterscotch chips (scotchies!) baked them until crispy. I liked them well enough and I ate them, (I mean c’mon now, they are cookies) but I’ve always preferred my cookies on the softer side. Don’t you?

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While wandering the grocery store aisles for my regular shopping I passed by these butterscotch chips and I began to feel nostalgic for the days of oatmeal scotchies baked by my mom. It seemed like as good an excuse as any so I threw them in my cart along with the other regular cookie ingredients (stocking up my Seattle kitchen!). When I got home I wanted to get to work right away. No time to waste for cookie making! I decided to start with the recipe on the back of the bag with some alterations (when do I ever follow a recipe exactly these days?). I tasted a few chips before starting and was surprised by how sweet they were (things are never too sweet when you’re a kid). So I decided to tone down the sugar a bit. I threw in some toasted pecans to help counterbalance the sweetness. And just for fun I made half the batch with dried cranberries instead of butterscotch chips to see how that would go. Dried cranberries are part of the fall flavor collection it seems.

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The first batch - too crunchy!

The first batch – too crunchy!

Nonetheless I was disappointed with these cookies. (I mean, again, I ate them because they’re cookies for goodness sake, but I wanted them to be better.) These were too crispy and flat and the pecans hardly made a difference. So I ditched the pecans and ditched the recipe on the bag and started over. I turned to my great grandma’s recipe box, a beautiful heirloom handed down to me from my grandmother. I pulled out her recipe for oatmeal drop cookies and I made it (followed it exactly!) – half with raisins as the recipe states, half with butterscotch chips. They were soft and chewy and had just the right flavor of fall.

Are you sick of pumpkin yet? Okay, maybe not, but give these a try if you want something different. Maybe I’ll spark a new fall flavor tradition!

As a side note: these butterscotch chips are super sweet and a little fakey. My next project would be to figure out how to make better HOMEMADE butterscotch chips. Please leave a comment if you know any great butterscotch recipes!

Grandma’s Oatmeal Scotchies (or Oatmeal Raisin cookies)

1/2 cup shortening*

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

5 T. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. allspice

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup butterscotch chips (or raisins)

1/2 cup toasted pecans (optional)

*You can try substituting butter for the shortening in this cookie, but you will sacrifice the texture! Using all shortening makes for softer cookies. I have not tried doing half butter and half shortening, but I imagine that would be pretty good.

Start by creaming your shortening and sugar for a few minutes with an electric beater. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add milk and mix to incorporate. Don’t worry if it looks too curdled. Add in your flour, salt, baking powder, and spices and stir with a spatula to incorporate. Lastly add your oats and butterscotch chips and mix.

My great grandma’s recipe says to bake these in a moderate oven, which I interpreted as 350 or 375. Scoop onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350. It should be a shorter baking time in a 375 degree oven and they may brown a little more. These came out a little pale in the end. Remove from pans and allow to cool.

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Enjoy warm with a glass of milk and a cozy blanket while you watch the fall foliage. Mmm fall!

Better-than-Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

IMG_1597These are not oreos.

These are buttery chocolate shortbreads smashed together with a sweetened thick icing.

IMG_1582The ingredient list is short (and sweet!) You probably already have everything at home to make them. Well, except the cake flour, but I didn’t let that stop me!

IMG_1585Sticky chocolate dough. Don’t add more flour to make it better. Stick it in the fridge. Let that softened butter firm up again.

IMG_1586I used a wedding gift champagne glass as my cookie cutter. That’s because I’m creative. Also I do not own a round cookie cutter. Doesn’t a round cookie cutter just seem unnecessary and boring?

IMG_1589Freshly baked below! (No rising involved so they don’t look that different from the unbaked above)IMG_1591Sandwich them together. Eat a few. Dip in milk if desired.

IMG_1598Wrap up for a friend.

IMG_1599Stamp it with your seal. Let them know: I made these, people!

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Better-than-Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

adapted from the Totally Chocolate Cookbook

Chocolate Shortbread

2 sticks butter, softened (I used one salted, one unsalted and it was perfect)

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 tsp. vanilla

1+1/2 cups cake flour OR 1 cup + 2 T. all purpose flour AND 2 T. cornstarch (I used the cornstarch)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1/4 tsp. salt

Filling

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1+2/3 cup powdered sugar

2 T. milk or heavy cream

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cookies, beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla and mix in. In a separate bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until there are no streaks of white. Do not over mix. If it is sticky (which it should be) wrap in plastic wrap in a flattened disc and refrigerate until somewhat firm – 30 minutes to an hour.

Divide the dough in half and keep one half in the fridge while you roll out the other. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and roll until 1/4 inch thick. Be sure to check the dough as you are rolling it out to make sure it isn’t sticking. Flip over and re-flour as necessary. Cut out rounds of dough (about 2 inches) using a cookie cutter, drinking glass, or champagne glass (if you’re feeling fancy). It is very helpful to flour your cookie cutter every few cookies so the dough doesn’t get stuck. Space the cookies apart about a 1/2 inch on an unlined, ungreased cookie sheet. Be careful transferring them as the dough is fragile. I used a thin metal spatula to keep from crushing the edges. Refrigerate the cookies on the sheet until firm again, while you finish rolling out the rest of the dough (10 minutes should be about right). Re-roll scraps and use as much as possible without overworking the dough.

With the cookie sheets of cookie rounds still in the fridge, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When preheated, remove the cookie sheets from the fridge and bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes, switching racks and rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Cookies should be slightly firm to the touch. Be careful not to over cook them. Since they are already dark, it can be hard to see if they’re done by their color. Let cool and prepare the filling.

For the filling beat the shortening with an electric mixer to loosen it up. Add sugar and half the milk, beating to incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.

To frost, dab a spoonful of the filling on the bottom of a cooled cookie. Top with another cookie and gently wiggle and smoosh it to distribute the frosting evenly or just spread it on one cookie evenly before putting the second cookie on top. Repeat with remaining cookies. Enjoy with milk. I found this made just the right amount of filling for my cookies, but it depends how much you put on and how many cookies you end up with. You can always measure out the filling and divide it exactly between the cookies.

Makes about 36 sandwichesIMG_1595

As a side note: I decided to get rid of the post numbering. Does anyone really care how many “posts” I’ve written? Probably not. If you do, let me know 🙂 Thanks for reading as always.

Post 123 – Frosted Peanut Butter Bars and Jam Crescent Cookies

Do you ever have cookie expectations? You know, you see this delicious recipe in a magazine or a cookbook (or let’s face it – these days it’s on Pinterest!) and you have a certain idea of what it will taste like and look like. And then you make it and it’s not quite what you wanted, but it’s still a cookie.

IMG_1545That’s kind of what happened with these peanut butter cookie bars. I mean they were sweetened peanut butter cookies with peanut butter frosting, BUT they were soft and cakey instead of hard and chewy like I was expecting. Expectations can ruin everything. I made these cookies, excited to see the results and then when I took a bite, it just wasn’t what I expected! I will admit I may have halved the recipe (though not all ingredients) and probably didn’t bake them quite long enough, so maybe I have no one to blame but myself.

IMG_1528Nonetheless these cookies check another cookbook off my Cookbook Challenge. Who knows where I got this recipe booklet called Bar Cookie BONANZA! but I certainly had a hard time picking out which recipe to make. It’s an older book, the kind without all the pretty food photos enticing you to try a recipe. Instead it has simple instructions and titles that require you to actually read the pages as you’re flipping. Oh reading recipes… who does that?

Just kidding – I do 🙂

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IMG_1541While I was making peanut butter cookies I figured why not make a jam cookie as well to go alongside it. These simple Jam Crescent Cookies come from another similar cookie booklet simply called Cookies! I’m assuming these two booklets were stuck into my collection at some point in my move to Boston by my mother. Just what I need – more cookie recipes!

IMG_1532These cookies start with what is essentially a cream cheese pie dough. It has a tiny bit of liquid and you will think no way this recipe is right, but if you use your hands you can bring this dough together. The dough is then chilled, like pie dough, to allow the fat to get cold again and then rolled out, filled with jam and sprinkled with sugar. Essentially you have simple (and mini) cookie-pies or even Pop-Tarts!

IMG_1542IMG_1544These guys can hold a lot less jam than you think. It oozes out with just a hint too much!

IMG_1549Bake them, sprinkle with powdered sugar, let cool slightly (that jam can burn your tongue – don’t say I didn’t warn you!) and enjoy! Pair with a Frosted Peanut Butter Bar and it’s like a really sweet (in both senses of the word, Sam) PB&J sandwich.

Bon appetit!

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Frosted Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 cup peanut butter, (at room temperature if you keep yours in the fridge)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Combine peanut butter and butter until creamy. Add sugars, beating well. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Spread in a greased, 13x9x2 inch pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and frost with the recipe below.

Frosting

1/2 cup peanut butter

2+1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup milk

Beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread on cooled bars.

Jam Crescent Cookies

2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted (plus some for dusting)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup salted butter (or unsalted plus 1/4 tsp. salt) – COLD

1 T. milk (yes that’s it!)

your choice of fruit preserves in some unknown quantity

In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar and cut in the cream cheese and butter until you have coarse looking crumbs. Add the milk, mix well though do not over mix. Press the dough into a smooth ball (with your hands is best). Flatten dough slightly, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate it for several hours or longer, though you make need to leave it out at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before rolling it out if you do.

Preheat oven to 350. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll each half out carefully into a rectangle. Cut the dough into roughly similar size squares (the recipe recommends 3-inch). Put 1 tsp. (or less!) of preserves slightly off center. Fold over the dough to enclose the preserves and form a triangle (see photos above). Roll dough toward the point and smooth and seal the edges. Bend in ends of dough to give a crescent effect.*

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until light brown. Remove and cool. Dust lightly with more powdered sugar.

*Without a final photo, some of these instructions were lost on me, but I’m including them for your benefit, in case you’re smarter than I am!

Post 121 – Maida Heatter’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Remember that ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie topped with vanilla ice cream at Blue Dragon?

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Well it was heavenly. Divine. I was tempted to come home and make one myself. Nonetheless I don’t have a personal cookie sized cast iron pan (and I know I would eat way too much of a 10″ pan myself!) so I made regular chocolate chip cookies instead. Well, not entirely regular I’ll admit, but nothing crazy. As part of the continuation of my Cookbook Challenge I decided to try a new technique in making chocolate chip cookies. My godmother gifted me Maida Heatter’s Chocolate Dessert cookbook long ago and I have made some recipes out of there – such as these beautiful checkerboard cookies – though I still hadn’t ticked it off my list for my Cookbook Challenge. Continue reading