Brown Sugar and Spice Shortbread

My interest in experimenting with stamped cookies began about two years ago when I saw a recipe in a Christmas magazine for a particular kind of German cookie called Springerle. The design came from intricately hand-carved wood molds that are only sold on select websites & sparse authorized retail dealers. As such, and because they are hand carved, they’re not cheap. I found this out pretty quick and this is the reason why my Springerle mold collection is currently at a grand total of…two. It’ll probably stay that way for a while.

For a while I accepted this.

Then after a little while longer, I…didn’t want accept it anymore. I’m just that stubborn (and cheap) So, I started looking up alternatives to wood molds and found that there are a number of options. They may not be as intricate or elaborate as some of the springerle wood molds, but they still can create a pretty nice product. You just have to know where to look and what to look for.

I had success in just looking up rubber cookie stamp sets, like the one I bought (very cheaply at that) and then used for these Vanilla Sugar Cookies.I also started looking outside of cookie cutters and stamps and into other baking gadgets & gizmos. Turns out that quite a few of the plunger fondant and pie crust cutters you can both online and in stores can double as cookie cutters & stamps. What’s more, since fondant is a decorative element to cakes, the designs that you can find the cutters in are virtually limitless.

Perhaps most importantly, as the majority of them are plastic, they are very inexpensive.

I found a set of four small plunger fondant crust cutters on Amazon. They were in the shape of leaves. They set me back $3.93. I decided to see if they could and work the same way as my springerle molds did. I was pretty sure they would, but if they didn’t, well…it was only a $4 risk.

Here’s a pro-tip I’ve come to notice/learn when wanting to make cookies that won’t spread or lose the intricacy of their design: cookies with very few, (if any) leavening in their dough turn out the best. The more leavening agents that are in them (like baking powder, baking soda, eggs) the more likely they are to puff up & rise which is bad news for cookies that you want to have a noticeable design.

Shortbread is a great choice for just about any printed cookie you’d want to make. It has no baking powder, baking soda or eggs in it and has a very tight crumb which will help to preserve the design as it bakes. Shortbread was the way I knew I wanted to go to test out my new leaf cutters and should you guys get some for yourselves, it’s where I suggest you start.

I think the warm, rich spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves work nicely for a cookie to eat in autumn. They’re certainly good for dunking in coffee, I can attest to that personally. Plus, how about the results of the fondant cutters; turned out pretty nice didn’t it? I think I may have started something here. Stay tuned for more.

Sharing at the Fiesta Friday #192, co-hosted this week by Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Brown Sugar & Spice Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1/2 packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

In a small bowl combine the flour and the dry spices together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.

Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disc. Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a cutting board, wax paper you tape down to the counter, or a pastry mat) with flour. Separate the disc into quarters. Flour a rolling pin and roll/pat each quarter out to about 1/2  inch thick. Use whatever desired shape cookie cutter you wish (I used leaf fondant cutters) to cut out shapes. Immediately place the shapes on a half sheet pan you line with parchment paper, and place the half sheet in the freezer as you cut out the remaining dough. If the dough becomes too soft to work/cut out, just place it in the freezer and let firm up until easily rolled again, about 10 minutes.

Let the finished, cut shape dough firm up in the freezer, about 10 minutes. (This will keep them from spreading.) Take out the tray.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 10-12 minutes, until they are just turning golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool for about 3 minutes on the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: You don’t HAVE to use cookie stamps for this recipe. I think it would work just as well without it. Use whatever cookie cutters you have, or shape the dough into a log, freeze for about 30 minutes, then cut into slices and bake as directed. Also,  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.)

Checkerboard Cookies

I’d be lying to you guys if I said I wasn’t kinda ready for the summer to end. In the first place, I don’t much care for extreme heat and as I’ve said in a couple of recent posts, the heat here has been unnecessarily extreme to the point where I’ve retreated to whole different cities for the day because this desert valley we’re in feels too much like a…desert valley. In the second place, the sooner the summer ends, the sooner we can get to the autumn which is my favorite season. The sooner autumn comes around, the sooner we can get to December and my favorite holiday of Christmas.

Because yes, my thoughts are definitely already drifting towards Christmas.

To be honest, I usually start getting the ‘itch’ for Christmas in July. It’s like a Christmas in July effect takes over and suddenly I’m listening to my holiday playlist again and planning what new stuff I’m gonna try to cook and bake for my family and the blog. As some of my followers know, I do a yearly Christmas series of recipes and although it’s a heavy undertaking, it is one that I still look forward to doing. I’ve already got a few pegged in my mind for the series, but one of them in particular was one that I thought would be a good idea to practice with first, as it is one I’ve never done before and would require a little bit more effort.

When I was little, I loved checkerboard cookies. I thought they just had to be some kind of food wizardry that could only be done in a huge Keebler-Elf style factory with a fancy machine.How else could they arrange those two different colors/flavors in such perfect patterns? I also may as well as admit that until only recently I had no idea how it was done or that it COULD be done by a home cook/baker in their own kitchen.

But I learned. And then after studying the technique a bit, thought “Well, might as well try it out. What’s the worst that can happen?”

(Waste of dough and ingredients was the answer, but that’s kind of obvious.)

I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be necessarily easy and I will keep it one hundred with you guys: I wouldn’t recommend trying this recipe if you don’t genuinely like to bake, have some experience with working with cookie dough and are willing to be patient with yourself and the process. I’m a decent baker with quite a bit of experience working with cookie dough, I love doing it and (as you can see) my first try at checkerboard cookies still wasn’t exactly perfect.  Nevertheless, I’m still pleased with how these turned out and that I decided to do a test run before trying to make a ‘Christmas-themed’ version for the 12 Days of Christmas series.

I tried to make the directions for these as clear and detailed as possible. So, should you want to make these for yourself (and I do think you should), a few pointers: a ruler is a must here. You’re making two different cookies doughs and when you cut them, you want the portions to be as straight as possible so that when you arrange the strips, they actually look like squares. It doesn’t have to be fancy invested in a regular old blue plastic ruler that measures inches/centimeters that I bought from Target and use strictly for baking; it does the job just fine. Also, when you’re putting the doughs together to create the pattern, don’t beat yourself up if your squares don’t line up perfectly in a row. Mine don’t and I still think the integrity of the ‘checkerboard’ is preserved in the overall aesthetic of the cookie. I plan to get better the more I practice this and I’m sure you will too.

You don’t have to make the two outer ‘wrappings’ for the cookies. I just thought it looked prettier so I decided to go ahead and make some. All you’ll need to do after making the cookie recipe is halve the base recipe and use the two different doughs from the halved recipe to wrap the cookies. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Just read the recipe closely ahead of time and you’ll do fine.

Finally, don’t you dare throw out those scraps after you trim your dough logs! Cut them into mini pieces like I did and bake them off so that you get ‘bite sized checkerboards’ like the ones you see in the picture above. Aren’t they just as cute?

The labor alone involved in making these cookies make the finished product worth it–but I gotta say, the taste wasn’t a letdown either. Checkerboards have a close texture that’s slightly crisp on the outside, then buttery melt-in-the-mouth tender on the inside. The real dilemma here is going to be deciding which flavor you like better: the one where the vanilla dough is dominant or the one where the chocolate one is. I think I’m partial to vanilla, but that could very well change by Christmas time. We’ll have to see.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #186, co-hosted this week by Colleen @ Faith, Hope, Love & Luck and Alex @ Turks Who Eat.

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Checkerboard Cookies

Recipe Adapted from “Classic German Baking” by Luisa Weiss

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Ingredients

  • 20 plus 1 tablespoons (300g) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 18 tablespoons (150g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups, minus 2 tablespoons (400g) all purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat butter until it is light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar and salt and continue to beat about 1 minute more until creamy again. Add the vanilla extract and beat until just combined. Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments, until just combined. (Use a rubber spatula throughout mixing, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing)
Scrape out half of the dough, form into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining dough in the bowl and mix until combined. Form the dough into another flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place both in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove dough from the fridge. Unwrap one of the discs, then place in between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll out into a rectangle, about 8 x 5 inches long. Repeat with the second dough. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the bottom rectangle of dough. Place one rectangle on top of the other. Press to adhere them to each other. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and save the striped strips in the fridge. Divide the rectangle lengthwise in half. Refrigerate the halves for about 15-30 minutes to allow to get firm.
Divide each of the halves into fourths, lengthwise. (A ruler or bench scraper works GREAT for ensuring straight lines) Use the four layers to make TWO checkerboard logs: Brush the tops of two of the layers with the egg wash, then place the other two on top of them. Make sure that you flip the top layers upside down before adhering so as to create the checkerboard pattern. Use your fingers or a spatula to press the logs together and smooth out the edges/corners, try to make them as square as possible. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°.

(If you would like to create the ‘outer wrapping’ for the cookies: halve the original cookie recipe and follow the same instructions, dividing the two colors, wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator. After you’ve finished creating the two checkerboard logs, roll one of the reserved dough discs out between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper into a long rectangle. Place one of the chilled logs on the rectangle, on the edge closest to you. Wrap the dough around the log, press lightly on the bottom to seal and trim any excess. Repeat with the other color and log. Refrigerate both for about another 30 minutes to allow to firm up.)

Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the log cross-wise into slices. Place sliced cookies on prepared baking sheets lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes, until just light golden brown. Allow to sit on baking sheet for about 60 seconds removing to wire racks to cool completely. Cut the reserved trimmings into bite sized nuggets and bake for about 13 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

(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.)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

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When I first started baking cookies, I used to get frustrated a lot. I really wasn’t that good at it for a while. I hit a lot of…speed bumps that would get in the way of me getting the results that I wanted.

These speed bumps varied from recipe to recipe but if I had to rank them, I’d say that the number one issue I would have MOST frequently is spreading.

Just about all of my cookies would spread into flat, thin pancakes. I absolutely HATED it.  To this day the memory is triggering.

For some recipes, flat cookies (although not aesthetically pleasing) aren’t so bad and will pass. However, when it comes to others, a flat disk just won’t do for looks or taste.

If you look up practically any cookie recipe on this blog, I’m just about positive that the directions will direct you to chill the dough in the fridge for at least one hour before baking. I’ve intentionally modified recipes I’ve read elsewhere and chilled my dough even when they do not direct to just because from my experience, most traditional drop, cutout or rolled cookie doughs DO need to be chilled at least a little while to minimize spreading and give them the right height and lift.  They just do. Trust me on this, guys. If your cookies frequently spread in the oven, start chilling the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, bake, then get back to me and tell me that it didn’t help your results.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of maybe…two or three instances where I made cookies that I didn’t refrigerate the dough and still got the results I wanted. The subject of today’s recipe is one of those exceptions: biscotti. Why doesn’t biscotti need to be chilled? Well for one, the dough isn’t nearly as wet as other cookie doughs. Wet/moist cookie dough makes cookies that spread in the oven. (Remember that for other recipes; this why chilling them in the fridge helps.)

Biscotti dough is usually first shaped into an oblong mass on a sheet pan, then baked as a whole in the oven until just set. After that, it’s removed and given some time to cool. From there, what would be a giant soft cookie is then sliced into straight or diagonal sticks that are then baked a second time. During this second bake, all of the residual moisture is dried out of the biscotti, giving them that traditional crisp, crunchy texture.

So far as I’m concerned, I think there is but one downside to making chocolate chip cookies from scratch: the resting period in the fridge, which also means that whenever I make them, I’ll have to plan ahead a day in advance to satisfy my craving. This isn’t always ideal. That’s one of the reasons why this recipe is so awesome: it’s a CCC recipe where there’s absolutely no chilling time required and there’s also no need to worry about that pesky spreading problem.

Like traditional biscotti, this dough is first baked in one mass. I spread it in a glass square baking dish, which did help to give the outer edges more definition–if/when you try this, just make sure you line your pan with aluminum foil so that when you have to take it out to slice, it’s one easy lift. After the slicing, the individual biscotti are arrayed onto a sheet pan and baked off for a second time. They won’t spread. Promise. The first bake took care of that problem. This second one is just to take them out of that realm of ‘soft chocolate chip cookies’ to crispy, crunchy chocolate chip flavored biscotti.

Traditional Italian biscotti is intentionally made so crispy that it HAS to be dunked in a cup of coffee or tea just to soften the tight, crunchy crumb enough to bite. These biscotti are certainly not as tough as all that. However, with this recipe I’ve now given you an excuse to essentially, eat a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast alongside your morning cup of Joe or Earl Grey.

You’re welcome.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #175, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Suzanne @ A Pug in the Kitchen.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cup) coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

 

Directions

Line a 13 x 9 square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and shortening for about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and baking soda and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, all while scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the flour in batches, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate as best you can.

Spray your spatula with cooking spray, or sprinkle and rub both sides with flour. Spread and press the cookie dough in an even layer in the pan. Bake in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes, until set and the edges are golden brown.

Cool in the pan for one hour. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Use the edges of the foil or parchment paper to lift out of the pan. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the baked dough into strips/logs. Place them, cut side down, on an ungreased or lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and edges are crispy. (They may still be a little soft in the middles. That’s ok.)

Carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely; they will harden and crispen fully as they cool.

Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

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When I was a little girl, there was no food, (and I mean absolutely NO FOOD) that I loved more than sugar cookies.

Not french fries. Not chicken nuggets. Not chocolate. Not mac n cheese (which I never liked and still don’t actually…hush). Not even chocolate chip flavored cookies.

Sugar. Cookies.

To me they were just… the best thing ever.

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If I’m being completely honest, there’s a part of me that still thinks they are. The ingredients of the typical sugar cookie are deceptively simple, yet the recipe itself is still easy to miss the mark on. A poorly made sugar cookie can come in the form of one that’s dry, too crisp, bland, too thick, too crumbly and dozens of other ways that things can go wrong. To date, the worst excuse for a sugar cookie I’ve ever had came from those abominable premade break and bake refrigerated cookie dough. The cookie is just barely palatable in a precious window of time of about….10 minutes after you take them out of the oven. Then, well…they cool/dry into pretty much inedible, bland sawdust.

Blegh.

Stay away. Far, far away from break and bake dough when making sugar cookies, I implore you. Scratch really is the only way to go. I will take a well made, from-scratch sugar cookie over say, creme brulee or a slice of cake any day. I will fight you for the last sugar cookie on a dessert tray. (You think I’m playing. Heh. Go ahead and try me, Buttercup.)

A well made sugar cookie is a perfect dessert, whether eaten all on its own or say, dipped in ice cream or whipping cream or chocolate (try it sometime if you haven’t). Once you know how to make a good one all on its own, it might be a good idea to start branching out and experimenting with creative twists to it…like this one.

I made these as a result of still having an excess of ginger from my homemade ginger tea I was making to ease my stomach issues. I took the leftover ginger from the syrup I made and candied it by rolling the pieces in white sugar and letting them cool until they’d crystallized. It’s a MUCH easier alternative to buying the premade stuff in the spice aisle and it’s quite easy to do. I was VERY curious to see what the spicy, slightly sweet ginger would add to the base of a sugar cookie.

Textures abound in this here recipe. The cookie itself is slightly crisp at the edges, with just the right amount of softness in the center so that biting into it, you get a slight crunch & a chew at the same time that’s intensified by the texture of the candied ginger. I won’t lie, the ginger REALLY does pack a punch; there is both crystallized and ground ginger in the dough and it’s definitely noticeable. The cookies are both sweet and spicy, but I enjoyed the contrast of flavors. Sometimes sugar cookies are stuck between either being too sweet or too bland; the doubled use of ginger here ensures that these are neither. They’re the perfect balance.

As usual, I’m linking this post to the Fiesta Friday for this week, #166, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugalhausfrau and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Food and Wine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (3 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, crystallized ginger, ground ginger, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand held mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to evenly combine. Fold in the dry ingredients, about 1/3 a cup at a time. Mix just until dough comes together.

Shape dough into a long log and freeze log for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a bench scraper, cut off cookies about 1/8 inch thick and place them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar if desired.

Bake the cookies in batches until golden and just barely set on top, 8-10 minutes.  Switch the top and bottom racks midway through baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on pan before moving 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.)

PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

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I can’t think back to a time when there hasn’t been a big jar of chunky peanut butter in one of my cabinets or pantry. I’m crazy about the stuff.

I’m not hugely picky on the brand; Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan have ALL passed the test of my tastebuds–just so long as there’s some there whenever I want it. Even when I went through a ‘health nut’ phase, do you think I turned my back on peanut butter? Tuh. I just spend the extra buck or two and bought the natural chunky pb without the extra hydrogenated oils that you have to stir every once in a while. Wasn’t that much of a difference in taste (albeit it a little less sweet) and it did the trick until I finally caved & went back to the really good stuff. I was NOT going to live my life without peanut butter. No way, no how.

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Can I let you guys in on a little secret?

I never could, and still haven’t grown to like peanut butter and jelly as a combination on a sandwich. Who *needs* jelly when you could just slather more peanut butter on two slices of toasted bread? Jelly can take a hike so far as I’m concerned.

Just shut up, pass me the Skippy Chunky and a spoon, and no one will get hurt.

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Apart from just loving the stuff all on it’s own, I remember that I went through a phase as a kid when I was ka-razy about peanut butter cookies–especially the Nutter Butter sandwiches. I just wanted them all the time. I craved them: ALL.THE.TIME.

You know how when you went to the grocery store with your mom and if you were good (or if she was in a good mood and there was a little extra money) she’d let you pick something out to get? For a while, the ‘thing’ that I would always pick out were Nutter Butters.

At the time it didn’t matter because I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete, but looking back (now that I definitely do not), I can admit that it was embarrassing how many I could put away.

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However. These are not Nutter Butters.

They are…dare I say it? Yeah, I will.

They’re better than Nutter Butters. Got your attention yet? Good.

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I decided to make these on a random whim, since #1, I felt like baking, #2, I had all the ingredients in the house at the time and #3, I was feeling guilty for not using my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook more often and this was in it. It’s a fabulous recipe that’s fairly easy to put together, and with my personal modifications, it just tasted even better.

I swapped out the recommended regular dry roasted peanuts for honey roasted ones that are lightly coated in sugar. I prefer the taste of honey roasteds, and I also think the ‘roasted’ flavor just comes out stronger in them for some reason. The cookies themselves remind me of the peanut butter cookies that can often be found in the bakery sections on cookie platters sold in Sam’s Club or Costco. They’re soft and chewy with the perfect contrast of texture from the crunch of the honey roasted peanuts that are chopped inside the dough.

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The filling was another modification. Whereas Nutter Butter cookies are just filled with a stiff peanut butter frosting, the filling in these cookies is smoother in texture. Second, the combination of peanut butter, honey and cinnamon makes it so that the overall sandwich isn’t too ‘one-note’ in flavor. Spoiler alert: it works. Really well.

I don’t know if there are words that can adequately describe what this tastes like when it’s warmed up in the microwave. You know, where the cookies are just on the verge of falling apart from softness of the crumb, and the filling is gooey and sticky so that the whole thing just kinda melts together in your mouth and–

Yeah, let me just stop now.

My twin sister pronounced these as some of “the best PB cookies” she’s ever had, and I really can’t say that she’s too far off on that assesment.

Guess that means I’ve got Nutter Butters beat, huh? Rah rah sis boom bah.

Linking up this post to Fiesta Friday #156.

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PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 large egg

For the Filling

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse peanuts in food processor until finely chopped, about 8 pulses.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Whisk melted butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk and egg together in second bowl. Stir flour mixture into peanut butter mixture with rubber spatula until combined. Stir in peanuts until evenly distributed.

Using a tablespoon measure, place 12 mounds, evenly spaced on each prepared baking sheet. Using dampened hand, flatten mounds until about 2 inches in diameter.

Bake until deep golden brown and firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Repeat portioning and baking remaining dough.

For the Filling:

Microwave peanut butter until melted and warm, about 40 seconds. Stir honey and ground cinnamon into the warm peanut butter before using a rubber spatula to stir in the confectioner’s sugar.

Place 24 cookies upside down on counter. Place 1 level tablespoon of warm filling in the center of each cookie. Place second cookie on top of filling, right side up, pressing gently until filling spreads to edges. Allow filling to set for 1 hour before serving. Assembled cookies can be stored at room temp for up to 3 days.

   

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.