Pebernodder Cookies

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So here’s my full disclosure on the subject of today’s post: it was my original intention to make Pebernodder cookies apart of 2015’s 12 Days of Christmas.  I first heard of them through this baking recipe card collection I had and because I thought they looked and sounded delicious, I decided to give it a whirl.

It didn’t work out very well.

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To this day, I have no idea what the heck was wrong with that stupid cookie dough. The problems started showing themselves with the very first test cookie. It spread too much. The edges were coming out weird. The consistency of the finished cookie wasn’t even close to what one should’ve been.

And Believe me, I tried everything I could to fix it. I altered how I rolled out and cut the dough. I froze the dough for a while. Baked it more. Baked it less. Changed the position in the oven. Nothing worked. It was just…off.

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I finally remembered the other batches of cookies I had to bake and decided to write the Pebernodder off as the L that I was just gonna have to take for that year’s Christmas baking. I binned the remaining failed dough (of which there was unfortunately quite a bit), shook off the irritation, and just kept it moving.

In the back of my mind however, I resolved that for the next go around in 2016, I was absolutely *going* to get it right.

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I should probably go into just what is ‘right’ for a Pebernodder for you guys, huh?

Well the word ‘Pebernodder’ is actually Danish for Pepper Nuts (I think so anyway. I also don’t speak a syllable of Danish, so don’t quote me on that one). They’re traditionally very tiny cookies strongly flavored with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and even pepper. Some variations use black pepper, while others even use the even more potent white pepper that give them an extra ‘kick’ that juuuuust toes the line between sweet and spicy.

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Aside from the combination of the spices, the main appeal of the cookie to me was the tiny, portable size. They just look like cookies that are meant to be piled in a big Christmas tin, wrapped in bow and presented as a gift or brought to an office party to share.  There’s plenty to go around with this batch, that much I can assure you.

Now remember, these are called Peppernuts for a reason. They’re supposed to be round and tiny so that they kinda resemble nuggets. So keeping that in mind, here are a few tips for handling this dough that should give you the results you want:

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The dough should be rolled into long and thin logs, then cut into very tiny pieces, like balls. Provided the dough is cold enough AND that you follow the tip of crinkling up the parchment paper, the cookies should have VERY minimal spreading. The tiny size of the cookies and high temperature of the oven also makes them bake very quickly despite the recipe yielding such a huge batch. You won’t be in the kitchen forever, promise.

Spice, spice and more spice: that’s the best way I can describe the taste of these. There’s just enough sugar to balance the bite of the spices. I know that other variations of these come out crisp, but my cookies came out rather soft and chewy–not that I’m complaining mind you. I heard nothing but praise from these and I’m very happy with my redo of the Pebernodder.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

Day 11: Pebernodder Cookies

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Pebernodder Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Rikke Gryberg

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/10 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • A few shakes of black pepper (optional, use if you prefer a ‘bite’ to the cookie, leave out if you prefer it on the sweeter side)

Directions

In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking power, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the bottom of a standing mixer bow, use the wire attachment (or a handheld mixer) to mix the butter, white sugar and heavy cream.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time. It should form a smooth dough. Separate into 4 portions and place in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, until dough holds together firmly.

Take each individual portion and divide it into about 3 to 4 balls. Roll each ball into long strips/ropes, about 8-10 inches long. Place the ropes on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer for another 10-15 minutes

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a sheet of parchment paper and crumple it up in your hands thoroughly. Smooth it back out onto a baking sheet. (Repeat this process for as many sheets of cookies you plan on baking. The ridges and bumps made in the paper will keep the cookies from spreading too much.)

Remove the cookie logs from the freezer. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut each log into little pieces, about 1/3 inch thick. You can line the logs up next to each other and cut them all at once if you wish to save time. Place each piece about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other on the sheet (these cookies don’t spread much, so don’t feel the need to place a lot of space between them)

Take one baking sheet and bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes until the cookies have just started to turn golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough, keeping what you’re not currently baking inside the freezer or the refrigerator so as not to let it get too soft (which will cause them to spread).

Note: No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Sugared Shortbread

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Good things don’t always have to come in big packages. Baking doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process to yield delicious, worthwhile packages. Christmas treats shouldn’t have to always take you a few days to crank out of the kitchen.

And this is coming from someone who will dedicate entire weekends to her baking endeavors if the recipe so calls for it.

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If you’re sitting down at the moment and thinking, “Boy, I’d really love to have a really yummy Christmas cookie right about now but I sure don’t feel like spending a bunch of time in the kitchen.”, then rest easy. There is indeed a solution to this problem.

The solution is shortbread. Sugared Shortbread to be exact.

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I really don’t know how I’ve been baking for as long as I have and *just* now got around to baking shortbread but I suppose Christmas is as good a time as any to start. This recipe is so easy, there really was no excuse for me to try and hide behind anymore. From the time I made the decision to take a stab at the shortbread to mixing the ingredients, baking, then finish was really no more than one hour, TOPS.

It was just SO simple. And the results.

I was skeptical that a cookie with so few and ‘standard’ ingredients could be something worth writing home about at all. But fortunately,even skeptics like me get proven wrong at times. I don’t know what it is about the combination of these few, simple ingredients, but they create a cookie that is really, really REALLY addictive.

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The smell as it’s baking is…wow. I was excited before I even took it out of the oven. Does it *need* the extra sprinkling of sugar on top? Not necessarily. On it’s own, it’s a pretty darn tasty stick of buttery shortbread, but the added sugar does give it that extra sweetness and an added crunchy texture on top. The texture of the shortbread itself is sandy and tender; think a thick sandie cookie that melts in your mouth. Because I prefer the flavor, I used two teaspoons of vanilla extract but this shortbread is so versatile that I could easily see using ANY other extract with excellent results: lemon, lime, coconut, anise, almond, orange. If you wanted to add in citrus zest, that too would be awesome.

Bottom line, if you’ve got about 10 minutes to spare, then you should whip together this shortbread. It’s a perfect bite of Christmas cheer if ever I took one–and I took several.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

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Sugared Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from New York Times

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour*
  • 1/2 cup sugar, and more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

*You can make your own rice flour by pulverizing plain long grain rice in a high power blender  (like a Ninja or Nutribullet) on the highest setting until grains are very fine and powdery.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with parchment paper.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, sugar and salt) together with a fork or wire whisk. Pour in the melted butter and vanilla extract. Stir together until evenly combined.

Press into the bottom of the pan evenly with your hands or  rubber spatula. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar. Bake for 5 more minutes.

Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut shortbread into slices while still warm and sprinkle more sugar on top if desired. Allow to cool completely.

Almond Stamped Cookies

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It was around this time last year that I really started getting into making stamped/imprinted cookies. My first try was with the Cardamom Wafers I made for the series two years ago. I liked the results and knew I wanted to keep experimenting with the method. It’s a far less laborious alternative to making your Christmas cookies pretty, especially for someone who isn’t that artfully inclined like yours truly. I’m so totally not the type that can take a tube of colored gel or icing and pipe on elaborate designs. Not at all. The extent of my cookie decorating skills is to spread icing on top, then drop some sprinkles on top and call it a day. With cookie stamps, all you do is press a tool into the dough, and the work is practically done for you.

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Probably the best, most extreme form of stamp/imprint cookies is the Springerle cookie. It’s a thick German-based cookie dough that is imprinted using VERY intricate, beautiful wood molds, then left out for the dough to be able to ‘dry’ for hours before being baked. I first heard about them last fall and after hunting down two springerle molds of my own, made my first attempt in the first post of the 12 Days of Christmas series for 2015. The results blew me away. If you treat that dough right, give it enough time to dry out and bake gently, it’ll result in a cookie that impresses everyone.

Thing about Springerle is, the hand-carved wood molds used to make them don’t come cheap. I’d love to get my hands on some more but at $40-$60 a pop (and depending on the size and intricacy of the mold, possibly even more than that), buying more has taken a far back seat to my financial priorities.

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The good news is, making beautiful stamped/imprinted cookies doesn’t have to be a pricey process. There are plenty of molds that although made out of plastic, still feature intricate designs. The Cardamom print wafers and these Speculaas cookies were both made with a set of plastic cookie stamps from my grandmother’s 30+ year old Christmas baking collection and they made some of the prettiest cookies to come out of my kitchen. After multiple recipes, different doughs and using different kinds of molds, I think I can say pretty confidently that the real secret to making printed cookies lies in how you treat the dough, not so much the mold itself.

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The most important tip I can give with imprinted cookies is this: you’ve gotta chill the dough. THOROUGHLY. I mean, to the point where they’re almost rock solid. With the exception of Springerle that become rock hard by themselves in the regular open air, I’ve put every other standard cookie dough I’m stamping/imprinting not in the refrigerator but in the actual freezer for a minimum of half an hour before I bake it. It does sometimes result in me needing to bake them a tad bit longer than the recipe states, (although not that much), but it’s the coldness of the dough when it goes in that will preserve the intricacy of the design from the stamp or mold, regardless of what kind you’re using. If the butter or other fat in the dough is too warm, it expands during baking, causing the cookies to spread, which will blur the design. If the butter is frozen when it goes into the hot oven, it has less time to expand: got it?

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These cookies from today’s recipe are my latest attempt at imprinting. Aren’t they pretty? As I said, you don’t have to go expensive to get pretty cookies. The stamps I used for these came from Target and they came in a set of three for $20.00. (See here if you’re interested). They’re *really* nice, quality stamps too. Like most bakeware, they came with a recipe with which to try them out and since it looked like the dough came together in a matter of minutes, I figured what the heck and tried it out for myself.

These have a no frills, simple flavor profile which I think is appropriate for a print cookie: think along the lines of that trademark almond flavor that reminds you of the thick cookies you can get from bakeries. Because the dough uses powdered sugar rather than regular white, the crumb of the cookies is much finer and delicate. It melts in your mouth, and it’s just divine. As I said, the making of the dough is really simple, the most crucial step is how you treat the dough after stamping/imprinting.

Just remember: freezer, not fridge. Long time. Solid dough. Less spreading. Sharper design. You can do this. What’s more you *should*.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

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Almond Stamped Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Nordic Ware

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for flouring
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Special Equipment: Nordic Ware Cookie Stamps, or any other cookie stamps, cutters you want to use

 

Directions

In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together the flour and salt.

In a large bowl, use the whisk attachment or a handheld mixer to cream together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and almond extract. Gradually add in the flour in about 1/2 cup increments until the dough comes together.

Shape dough into balls, using about 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons for each cookie. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using your hand, press each dough ball to form a disk about 1/4 inch thick.

Dip your cookie stamps into flour, then lightly tap them to free excess. Firmly press the stamp into the cookie disk until dough reaches the edges of the stamp. Remove carefully and repeat with the remaining dough balls, flouring stamps before each use to prevent them from sticking to the dough.

Freeze the cookies for about 35-40 minutes to allow to firm up. (This will help protect the design and keep them from spreading in the oven)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove cookies from freezer and bake for 12-14 minutes, until just beginning to brown on edges. Allow to set for about 1-2 minutes on baking sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

 Note: No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

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Its funny; I’ve made hundreds of holiday cookies, but I don’t think I’ve ever participated in an actual cookie swap. Not a single one.

You guys know what those are, right? Cookie swaps are sugar overload get-togethers where each of the attendants bakes up a large batch of cookies and brings them to share & ‘swap’ everyone else who’s brought their own recipe of cookies to the party. Everyone is supposed to bring a different type so that there’s as much variety as possible. Sometimes there will be recipe exchanges along with the cookies. Sometimes people will vote on which cookie at the swap is the best tasting.

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It’s probably just in my competitive nature but if I did actually go to a cookie swap, I would want MY cookies to be the favorite. If all of the cookies were laid out together on a platter, I’d want MINE to look the prettiest. I’d definitely have to win, which means that the cookies I took with me would A) Not only have to be delicious, but B) also be just as great to look at.

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Having said all of that, I can guarantee that of all the cookies I’ve baked–and there have been many–if I had to choose one recipe to bake and bring to a cookie swap, this one right here would be it. No question.

It more than delivers in the taste department, the details of which we’ll get to in a second. But first, can we talk about the presentation?

I mean, come on. They just LOOK like the perfect Christmas cookie, right?

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What we have here is a cream cheese buttery cookie dough that gets rolled out flat, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar then rolled up in a tight cylinder, cinnamon-roll style. Individual cookies are cut from the cylinders then baked until golden brown. The cookie’s texture is tender and slightly crisp; think somewhere in between a sandie and one of those butter cookies that come out of the blue tins. The orange zest in the dough gives a slight but pleasant citrusy after-taste to them that complements the cinnamon inside beautifully.

They’re really very delicious guys. They remind me of something that the Keebler company would mass produce and sell at Christmas.

Except Keebler didn’t make them. I did. And now you can too.

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Before I even made this recipe, I knew that I was going to have a trial-error experience with it. They were just too pretty NOT to run into some technical difficulties. Fortunately for you guys, you get to find out how to make them without having to make the same mistakes I did. Following my clear and pretty straight forward instructions should make it so that there’s no reason why your cinnamon roll cookies won’t turn out exactly like the ones you see in the pictures.

I’d say that the most important step to nailing this recipe is making sure that your dough is the right temperature, especially before rolling it up into the cylinders that you cut into the individual cookies. When I first made these, my dough was still too soft; I didn’t give it enough time to chill in the freezer so it tore and broke apart AFTER I had already sprinkled with the cinnamon sugar and was attempting to roll it.

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Not pretty. Not fun.

Don’t do that.

Let your dough chill out in the freezer long enough so that it can be rolled up just as easily as cinnamon roll dough can. If you use the freezer rather than the refrigerator, it shouldn’t take too long. Roll the cylinders up as tightly as you can; loose rolls make the swirls in the cookies spread wide and cause some of the filling to spill out. Let the rolled up cylinders chill out in the freezer long enough so that when you cut them into individual cookies, the rolls don’t deflate.

If you keep this dough as chilled and firm as possible, it’ll be good to you. Promise. And, you’ll be the star of any cookie swap party, that’s for sure.

(Still more to come in our 12 Days of Christmas baking series. Stay tuned.)

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

 

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Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

In a  medium bowl or container, mix the flour together with the baking powder, yeast and salt.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, use the whisk attachment to cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and grated orange peel.

Gently add the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula periodically to ensure it’s mixed thoroughly.

Divide the dough into four portions. Freeze them for about 2o-minutes, until they are relatively firm.

Sprinkle a sheet of wax or parchment paper with flour. Using a rolling pin (or your hands) roll or pat each dough portion into an 8 x 6 rectangle. Sprinkle with two heaping tablespoons of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up as tightly as you can, jelly-roll style (it was easier for me to roll it up by the short side rather than the long one). Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the dough crosswise in about 3/8 inch slices. Place them about 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets (or lined with parchment paper). Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown on the bottoms. Allow to set on the baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

(Note: No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

S’mores Sandwich Cookies

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There are suffice to say, more than a few people in the US who enjoy camping. During the summer and even into the late autumn they love packing up their RVs and/or trailers and making long drives to remote campsites or cabins in towns located on lakes or rivers and spending weekends or even long weeks just chilling in the great outdoors. They love swimming, fishing, kayaking, water skiing, hiking and all those other outdoorsy activities.

Let me just state one thing right up front:

I’m not one of them.

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Have I ever been camping before?

No. And that’s exactly how I would like to keep it, thanks.

Why? A lot of reasons. First, I hate extreme heat. The idea of having to stay in the outdoors where it’s probably going to be extremely hot or muggy or humid or even all the above is pure torture. I need my a/c or I’m going to get grouchy. My hair just wouldn’t make it through that trauma, fam. Can’t even do it.

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I can’t swim a stroke. I hate bugs. I’ll eat a cornmeal crusted crappy or bluegill, but don’t ask me to fish for one. Not having Wi-fi anywhere makes me anxious (I wish this weren’t true, but it is).  I’m perfectly willing to go on a hike or jog through the woods for the exercise; just as long as *after* the hike is over, I can go to a place with a/c and shower and be back in my comfy space. If I just have to go back to a non-air conditioned tent or RV, well…you get the point.

I’m pretty much like Wicked Stepmother Vicky from “The Parent Trap”. Don’t try and take me camping.

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It’s actually kinda ironic that despite my aversion to it, my sweet tooth is captive to one of the more iconic “camping desserts” out there: the S’more.

I absolutely love any food, ANY-FOOD, that is S’mores flavored. The combination of chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow is my kryptonite. God knows it’s no good for me, but I just can’t say no.

I’ve already shared recipes on this blog that feature that Holy Trinity of ingredients: (S’mores Brownies and S’mores Popcorn), and today I’m glad to announce that I’ve found yet another dessert featuring the irresistible S’more: the sandwich cookie.

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My idea for this recipe came with a recipe on The Kitchn website for a “Graham Cookie”, where the ‘flour’ element for the dough actually comes from very fine and pulverized graham cracker crumbs. I thought that was very clever and my instincts got me to thinking on what more could be done with that cookie to….elevate it. At first I considered just frosting them with a marshmallow creme icing, but then I thought I could take it a step further.

If you’ve got an elevated graham cracker ‘base’ already, why not just make an elevated s’more out of it, right?

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So what I essentially ended up with, is an elevated version of the almighty S’more, guys. I swapped out the recipe’s regular honey graham crackers for Cinnamon-flavored ones because I thought the flavors were hold up more after baking. Then after the cookies were done, I smeared the insides with semisweet chocolate and crafted a VERY simple marshmallow filling from marshmallow creme/fluff to sandwich them between. More chocolate no top because, why the heck not?

Do these taste good at room temp and even cold? You bet your ass they do.

But listen. Listen:

Love yourself and heat these up for about 10-15 seconds in the microwave. That’s all it’ll take. 15 seconds. Take a bite. Let that gooey marshmallow and chocolate greet your tongue/tastebuds the way they actually want to.

OMGAAAAAAWD.

Long live S’mores. Amen.

(As always, I’m linking my post to the week’s Fiesta Friday #137, co-hosted this week by Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Natalie @ Kitchen, Uncorked.)

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S'mores Sandwich Cookies

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 28 sheets cinnamon-flavored graham crackers (Honey flavored will work fine too)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Marshmallow/Chocolate Filling:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow crème, such as Marshmallow Fluff
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

 

Directions

Process the graham crackers in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment until they are completely broken down into crumbs and have a sandy texture. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine. Add the butter, egg, and vanilla, then stir together with a rubber spatula until just combined into a soft dough. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour, or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange rack in the middle of the oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, measure 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough from the bowl. Roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball, then place on the baking sheet. Repeat with forming the remaining dough, spacing the dough balls about 2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies have spread and the edges are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a flat spatula to transfer to them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, place the chocolate chips in a glass measuring cup or other microwave-safe bowl. Microwa1 tsp ve and heat through until chocolate is smooth and melted, in about 25 second intervals and stirring in between. Using a small spoon or spatula, spread about  1 to 1 1/2 tsp of melted chocolate on the flat bottom inside of each cookie, spreading all the way to the ends and turning upside down and allowing to set on wire racks until chocolate hardens. (You can speed this process up by popping them into the refrigerator or freezer as well). You’re also going to have extra chocolate left over; set it aside, you’ll use it later.

While chocolate on cookies is setting, make the marshmallow filling: In a medium bowl, beat butter and marshmallow crème at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.

Once chocolate on inside of cookies has set, take the cookies and pair them up in twos. Using a tablespoon as your scoop, portion out a generous spoonful of the marshmallow creme and place in the center of your bottom cookie. Take the top on and gently press it down so that the filling distributes itself evenly between the two. Place the cookie sandwich on  wire rack. Repeat until all of your cookies are filled.

Taking a small spoon or fork, dip it into the reserved melted chocolate and drizzle it on the tops of your cookie sandwiches into decorative designs and/or scribbles. Allow the chocolate on top to set before serving.  Note: these cookies are best kept refrigerated when not being eaten.   

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Like many other folks,  there’s a list of things in life that I’ve always REALLY wanted to do, but just haven’t  been able to for various reasons.

Living in a big city (at least for a short period of time). Skating in Rockefeller Center at Christmas.  Flying first class on an air plane. Going zip-lining and living to tell the tale afterwards. Having a book on the NYT Best-Seller list. Remodel and live in a three to four story brownstone house.

Those are some of my more “extreme” ones that are proooobably going to have to wait until circumstances in my life adjust– most notably the financial ones.

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On the other hand, I’ve got other less major ones that would probably be extremely do-able and realistic.

Attend an All-White Party AND a Black Tie Gala. Sing Karaoke (in public). Slow-dance to “The Way You Look Tonight” in the dark. Become completely fluent in conversational Arabic and Spanish. Take a salsa dancing class. Get tatted.

Those are all things I COULD do, but… procrastination+nervousness+introversion= unaccomplished goals for Jess.

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I think I’ve mentioned it before on the blog but apart from my general Bucket List, I’ve also created a separate one that’s solely dedicated to recipes, techniques and ingredients in the kitchen that I’ve yet to practice and try. That list is actually getting gradually shorter and shorter as cooking is not something that I’m particularly limited in by lack of cash, or something that I have to swallow huge amounts of fear or anxiety to do. Cooking and baking are my form of personal therapy so I actually try to do them as much as possible, even when it’s trying out new things.

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It’s  pretty wonderful feeling when you actually get to accomplish something you’ve always wondered, thought or dreamed about, and an even better one when it’s every bit as satisfying as you always hoped it would be. Today’s post is actually me ticking off one of the things on my baking Bucket List: making something with browned butter.

Browned butter baked goods is one of those things I’ve heard RAVE reviews about, but just never got around to trying for myself. I think I did have a small paranoia that in the process of trying to ‘brown’ the butter I would accidentally burn it. However, that was a silly fear. Browning butter is very simple, and so long as you don’t leave it alone on the stove to go take a shower or clean the house, then it’s pretty safe to say, you’re not going to let it burn. This is my first and only time using it, and prior to now I didn’t think there was anything else you could do to elevate the simple but classic chocolate chip cookie.

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Guys.

I WAS WRONG.

If there is anyway to make a chocolate chip cookie reach the level of pure nirvana, it isn’t nuts. It isn’t coconut. It’s isn’t dark chocolate chips or caramel. Nuh uh.

It’s brown friggin butter.

What makes browned butter different from regular? Well the first thing you’re going to notice after you’ve prepared it here, is that it has a particular smell. A nutty, ‘caramely’ rich aroma that almost reminds you of what the Nestle Tollhouse booths in the mall give off when they’re baking fresh batches of goodies. Or even, what the Keebler  Elf Treehouse would smell like inside if it were a real thing. At least that’s what came to MY mind when I took the saucepan off the stove to let the butter cool and stuck my nose down into it to get a whiff.

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Chocolate chip cookies usually come down to two things when it comes to stand out flavors: the chocolate chips and the texture of  the cookie itself. Some people prefer dark chocolate as opposed to milk, while others want chocolate along with other mix-ins like nuts and coconut. Some people prefer cakey chocolate chip cookies while others prefer them thin and crispy. I think what the browned butter mainly does to elevate these cookies is that, it makes the actual flavor of the COOKIE DOUGH itself the star of the cookie. It has a unmistakably rich, nutty flavor that marries well with the flavor of the chocolate, balancing out the sweetness.

I wouldn’t call the texture of the cookie cakey, but it’s also not crispy either. It’s a perfect balance between the two; crisp edges and soft chewy centers (provided you stick with a middling bake time, of course.)

Also, Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Just throwing that out there.

Happy Fiesta Friday #131, co-hosted this week by Su @ Su’s Healthy Living and Laura @ Feast Wisely.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 standard ice cube (about 2 tablespoons of frozen water)
  • 10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 5 ounces granulated sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces dark brown sugar (about 1/2 tightly packed cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped with a knife into 1/2- to 1/4-inch chunks

Directions

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, gently swirling pan constantly, until particles begin to turn golden brown and butter smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue swirling the pan until the butter is a rich brown, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer to a medium bowl, whisk in ice cube, transfer to refrigerator, and allow to cool completely, about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. (Alternatively, whisk over an ice bath to hasten the process.)

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Place granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until mixture is pale brownish-yellow and falls off the whisk in thick ribbons when lifted, about 5 minutes.

Fit paddle attachment onto mixer. When brown butter mixture has cooled (it should be just starting to turn opaque again and firm around the edges), add brown sugar and cooled brown butter to egg mixture in stand mixer. Mix on medium speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just barely combined, with some dry flour still remaining, about 15 seconds. Add chocolate and mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate dough at least overnight and up to 3 days.

When ready to bake, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 325°F. Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or a spoon, place scoops of cookie dough onto a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Tear each ball in half to reveal a rougher surface, then stick them back together with the rough sides facing outward. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown around edges but still soft, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through baking.

Remove baking sheets from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat steps 3 through 5 for remaining cookie dough. Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container, plastic bag, or cookie jar at room temperature for up to 5 days.

My Favorite Thick, Soft Cut Out Cookies

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I’m the kind of person who likes to learn to run before she learns to walk. I like trying the complicated way before trying the simpler way. I like doing more rather than doing less.

It’s a character flaw. But it’s just the way I am.

I remember before cooking became my sport, when just the effort of scrambling eggs and browning breakfast sausage in a skillet was a HUGE accomplishment for me, and I made the decision to begin to try to improve my cooking skills. There were a number of reasons why I wanted to give it a go and get better at the whole thing.

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One of the main ones was that I actually wanted to be able to bake my own desserts. I was under the HUGELY incorrect assumption that cooking was akin to baking. Cnce I figured out one, I would of course have the other one on lock as well. Tomato-Tomahto, right?

Heh.

Oh Jess. Sweet, simple, untried Jess. I had SO much to learn about the world and its ways. But honestly, that really was it. My mom had a pretty lit cookbook collection and I would peruse through them bookmarking a whole bunch of different dessert recipes that I would fantasize about being able to bake for and all by myself.

This was before I figured out that baking is a science and beginners in the kitchen should prooooobably try to become decent cooks before they dip heir toes in the baking pool. I actually know several outstanding cooks who are pretty “challenged” as bakers.

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But anyways, I started practicing my baking around the same time as I started cooking. It was a difficult learning curve with a LOT of trial and error but through it all I knew right from the beginning that if it was the last thing I did, there was if nothing else, one thing I was absolutely going to force myself to learn how to knock out of the park:

A bakery-style cut out cookie.

The cut out cookie is right at the top of my Favorite Foods of All Time. I mean, it’s even right up there with pizza, ice cream and pancakes (which are pretty much my Holy Trinity). Now when I say a cut out cookie, I’m NOT talking about something akin to the ones in clear plastic containers you can buy at Walmart with the pink frosting that tastes like sugary wax. Those are blegh and you deserve better things in your life. I’m talking about a real cut out cookie with a soft and tender crumb, a faint flavor of vanilla/almond and a smooth glossy icing on top that rounds out the mild sweetness of the cookie dough.

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Y’know…these.

Cookie baking is a learning process in and of itself that I’m totally willing to admit I’m still getting the hang of. You gotta practice. You gotta let your dough chill in the fridge. You MUST test-bake one cookie before the entire batch. And then, you can’t be afraid of sometimes just screwing up.  Because sooner or later you just will.

There is one recipe that I’ve become pretty awesome at though, and it’s this one.  I make absolutely DELICIOUS cut out cookies. These are probably some of the best cookies I’ve ever made/had, in general.

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These are a necessity for me and familiy now every year at Christmas but recently I also went ahead and made a huge batch to take to a baby shower, which is why they’re pretty in pink. The cookie itself is thick, soft and with a tender crumb on the inside. It’s versatile enough to where if you wanted these to have a different flavor than standard vanilla, you could easily swap in lemon, orange, lime or even cherry extract instead with wonderful results. I will strongly advise that you don’t swap out or exclude the almond extract; it’s the almond that gives the cookies that trademark “bakery-style” flavor in cut outs that you love but can’t ever quite pinpoint where it comes from.

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These would be just FANTASTIC for a kid’s birthday party where you have the cookies pre-baked and allow the kids to decorate them however they want. They’re also pretty thick and sturdy so they’ll travel VERY well. This recipe does bake a pretty huge batch, so if you’re wanting a smaller one you can feel free to cut it in half. But, I never do. Somehow, for some reason…the ones I make always end up being put to “good use”.

I’ll be taking my cookies to Fiesta Friday #125, co-hosted this week by Quinn @ dadwhats4dinner and Elaine @ Foodbod.

My Favorite Thick, Soft Cut Out Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/8 cups white sugar
  • 7 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

For Icing

  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon hot water, or more as needed
  • Food coloring, optional
  • Sprinkles, optional

Directions

For Cookies:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs yolks, then the whole eggs, one at a time and mixing well after each.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Cover dough and chill for at least one hour. I usually let this dough sit overnight for best results.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on to the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate the cut out cookies on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. (My ‘magic’ number is 8 minutes, 35 seconds.) Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Icing

Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, oil, vanilla and corn syrup until smooth. Add a few drops of food coloring to your desired hue. Gradually add enough hot water to achieve a spreadable consistency, but keep it thick enough so that it sticks on the spoon. Spread icing over tops of cookies, then decorate with sprinkles.

Allow cookies to remain uncovered on wire racks until icing it completely set and dried.