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Peanut Butter-Free Blossom Cookies

13 Feb

Y’all have seen the idea on Pinterest by now: You take a peanut butter blossom cookie recipe and make it with a heart-shaped Dove chocolate for Valentine’s Day. Cute, cute, cute.

Here’s the thing, though: peanut allergies are rampant, and if you want to send these little cuties in as a surprise in your kids’ lunchboxes, as I do, they can’t rightly have peanut butter in them. At least, I won’t send them that way. I know too many kids and one of my favorite people on earth who have nut allergies, and couldn’t live with myself if a cookie put them in harm’s way.

So today, I made up a batch of sugar cookie dough. Any one will do–choose your favorite. Only instead of rolling them out to cut with cookie cutters, use your palms to roll them into balls, with about a tablespoon of dough in each ball. Don’t squeeze them, or you’ll melt the butter inside and they’ll spread in the oven. You want a gentle roll. No heat.

Bake your dough balls as directed in your sugar cookie recipe. When they come out of the oven, gently press a Dove heart (or a Hershey Kiss) into the center of each cookie, and let them cool. My Dove hearts liquified (they held their heart shape, but they got soft and gooey), so I stuck them in the fridge after a few minutes to harden back up. And I have a perfect, nut-free treat to send in with my loves for lunch tomorrow (including the one I married–nobody tell!).

Happy, save, Valentine’s Day, gang!!

Perfect Little Lemon Cookies

23 Jan

The weather this weekend was nothing short of disgusting–cold and wet and bone-shivering and nothing I wanted to be out in, especially with the head cold that attacked me in the middle of the grocery store yesterday morning. I left the house exactly three times: once for church and dinner out with my family, once to go to the market, and once to go to a birthday celebration lunch. That was it.

Bring on spring. And bring on my Kitchen Aid, because something about baking up a yummy treat lifts the spirit when the weather outside is nasty. This recipe fit both cravings quite nicely.

This started out as a recipe I tore out of Bon Appetit magazine. The original called for not much lemon in the actual cookies, and slathering them with lemon icing. We’re not much for iced cookies around here, and so I just bumped up the lemon in the batter itself to make a plain lemon icebox cookie.

They are tiny–I’m not going to lie to you. Each cookie is about a bite. But they are perfect little lunchbox treats and wonderful after-meal mouth refreshers, and I am in love with them. They would also be wonderful for lunch or a party with the girlfriends–you know those gatherings where you knock yourself out making food that nobody actually eats? Tiny is good for those occasions, and these are delicious.

Spring in my mouth in a perfect, tiny bite. Yes.

I hope these will brighten up a dreary day for you. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

One lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large egg yolks

In your mixer bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until it’s light and fluffy (about 2 minutes on medium in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer; more for a hand mixer). Add in the vanilla, and then the zest from your lemon and its juice (zest it, cut it in half, and squeeze the juice in). Add the egg yolks and beat them in. Mix in the flour and salt on a low speed, and just until they’re blended in.

Divide the batter in half onto two sheets of wax paper. Use your hands to form each half into a log, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide and a foot or so long. Wrap the logs in the wax paper and stick them in the fridge for an hour or two.

Once your dough is chilled, heat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap one dough log and use a sharp knife to cut it into thin discs–mine were about 1/8 inch wide. The thinner you cut, the crisper your cookies will be. Lay them flat on your cookie sheet so they don’t touch (they don’t spread, but need some room to breathe in there). Bake them for 12-15 minutes, until they’re crisp and the bottoms have started to brown. Cool on the counter and smile.



Homemade Samoas Bars

16 Dec

Sorry for the silence this week, gang. I am in full-on Christmas prep mode, which translates into my running around like a crazy person from early in the morning until late at night. And that means we’ve been relying on family favorite recipes–old faithfuls I can toss together with my eyes closed from stuff I have in the house. So there’s not been much to chat about here.

Thankfully, last night was cookie party.

Cookie party is a longstanding tradition for a friend of mine, who hosts a couple dozen women in her house the week or so before Christmas for a friendly exchange of baked goods. We talk and laugh and enjoy fantastic food and drinks (chocolate martini, anyone?) and then go around the room to talk about our chosen cookie and hand out baggies for everyone to take home.

The kicker is that my friend’s husband spends the next morning judging the cookies, and the winner gets a very nice prize. Things get a wee bit competitive–y’all should see the trash talk in my email box. We take our sugar and flour and chocolate very seriously.

I’m typing this waiting to hear the results of this year’s competition (I’ve never won but have come in second a few times–we have some fabulous bakers in the group!), but these cookies were a hit with my family. I found them on a few websites and adapted them a bit, but they’re basically bar versions of the Girl Scouts’ famous Samoa cookies, with a shortbread base, caramel and toasted coconut topping, and chocolate.

These were a little time-consuming and they’re messy in the kitchen: I’m not going to lie. But I’ll make them again because they’re very yummy. I tried to simplify the original recipe to get rid of individually dipping cookies in chocolate and a few extra steps, and they turned out really well (I think). You can also just make the caramel/coconut mixture, form it into balls on wax paper, and drizzle them with chocolate to make a candy and a gluten-free option if you want.

Let me know if you try these! You need:

Cookie base:

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup room-temperature butter

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Mix together your butter and sugar until they’re creamy. Beat in vanilla, and then mix in the dry goods. The dough will be crumbly–don’t worry. Dump it into your parchment-lined pan and use a piece of wax paper to spread it into a single layer (the wax paper will keep it from sticking to your hands). Bake for 20 minutes, or until its edges start to brown. Take it out of the oven and cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Base

1 1/2 cup dark chocolate candy discs (I got them at the craft store) or chocolate chips.

When the shortbread is totally cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave and spread it over the cookie base. I used candy discs because they don’t melt at room temperature like chocolate chips do, so it’s easier to eat the finished cookies.

Let that come to room temperature or put it in the refrigerator until it’s cold and totally hardened up. Once that happens, use the parchment paper to carefully lift your cookie out of the pan in one piece. Line the now-empty pan with wax paper, and very carefully peel the parchment off the cookie, turn it chocolate-side down, and place it back in the pan (this sounds harder than it is, but take your time). You now have chocolate on the bottom and cookie on top.


3 cups shredded sweetened coconut

12 oz caramel candies

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp milk

Line a cookie sheet (with a rim) with parchment paper. Spread the coconut onto it in an even layer and bake it at 350 degrees, stirring it every five minutes or so, until it’s toasted and brown and crunchy. Watch it carefully, gang–it burns in a heartbeat.

Once that’s done, put your unwrapped caramels, milk, and salt into a large Pyrex bowl. Microwave it in one-minute increments, stirring in between (with a spoon at first and then with a whisk as it melts) until it’s all liquid–two minutes was plenty in my microwave. Working quickly, stir in your coconut.

Spread this mixture on top of the cookie base with the back of a spoon. You want to do this while the coconut mixture is still pretty warm–once it hardens, there’s no spreading it. It’ll want to separate from the cookie at first, but have patience–it’ll work out in a few minutes.

Once that’s done, let it harden up. And when that’s done, melt another half-cup of chocolate and use a spoon to drizzle it over the top. Cool completely and slice your cookies with a large, heavy knife. A pan makes about four dozen Samoas.

Salted Dark Chocolate Rolo Cookies

17 Dec

The recipe I posted the other day?

I messed with it. And I think this one is better.

I melted the butter to better incorporated it through the dough–you can only do this with doughs you’re going to chill for awhile afterwards or it’ll spread too much, and this one lives in the fridge at least overnight. I also used bread flour instead of AP to make these chewier, upped the vanilla to play off the caramel a bit more, used dark process cocoa instead of regular (I found Hershey Special Dark cocoa in my Soviet supermarket so you shouldn’t have any problem), added espresso powder to give the cocoa a little pop, and salted the dough before wrapping up the cookies, echoing the hot trend in caramel candies this year.

My kids and husband loved these. The first batch was gone in a day and a half. I really liked them too.

If you try both varieties of this recipe, let me know which you liked better. ūüôā

You’ll need:

2 ¬Ĺ – 2 ¬ĺ cups bread flour — enough so dough is not sticky
¬ĺ cup dark chocolate cocoa¬†powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp instant espresso powder
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
48 Rolo brand chewy caramels
About a tablespoon of kosher salt
Melt the butter. Beat sugars and butter until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir together bread flour, baking soda, espresso powder, and cocoa. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and blend well. Cover and cool dough in fridge overnight.
Scoop cold dough out by heaping teaspoons. Flatten into discs. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over each disc, place a Rolo on top, and roll the dough around the candy, covering it completely. Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not overbake; they will look quite soft. 

Cool in pan slightly then move to a piece of waxed paper. Cool completely.

Alton Brown’s Vanilla Wafers

11 Dec

Starting off today with a warm welcome to any NDP girls who are here as a result of today’s mail! It’s been a long time since seeing my name in print took me aback–thank you, Shawn! ūüėČ Glad you’ve come visit, and hope you’ll stick around. XOXO – Kim

I’m in this cookie competition this week. Everybody bakes and brings a cookie, we talk about why we’ve chosen that particular recipe, and then a judge picks his favorite. It’s mostly for fun and we always have a blast–great company, a flawless hostess who makes everyone smile, and a bag full o’ cookies and fun loot to take home.

I’ve been testing cookies this week. I’m pretty sure we have a winner based on my kids’ reaction to one last night. This one wasn’t that.

I’ve been intrigued by this recipe for a few months, to be honest. Vanilla wafers are so good out of the box, that homemade, I imagined, must be divine. So I hauled out my food scale and stocked up on good vanilla, and followed the directions to a T. The result?


I almost never say this, but I’m going to stick with the kind in the yellow box. These were good, don’t get me wrong, albeit salty (I’d substitute regular salt for kosher next time). But they lacked the satisfying crunch of the commercial cookies, and were more like slightly vanilla-ey butter cookies. And butter cookies don’t need that much effort, you know?

I will say that I made vanilla sugar for the first time during this process (whisk together 2 cups of sugar with a teaspoon of vanilla extract, spread it on a cookie sheet to dry for 5 hours, store in a tightly-lidded container) and that is divine. Well worth the time and I’ll use it all up, no doubt. So that’s a plus.

If you’re trying to avoid the chemicals and such in commercial cookies, it’s worth giving this recipe a shot. But if you’re competing for year-long honors anytime soon (*grin*), these aren’t your entry.

To give them a whirl, you’ll need:

7 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a standmixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan

Rolo Cookies

8 Dec

If you’ve known me for a holiday season or two, chances are you have this recipe. Because this makes a delicious chocolate cookie with a chewy caramel center and is one of my very favorites.

I don’t remember where this recipe came from, but it’s not easy to find on a Google search (if it comes up, it’ll be with my name on it–I submitted it to the Washington Post once and they declared it one of their top 12 Christmas cookies that year) and you really should have it. It’s a huge crowd-pleaser and pretty easy, tho it does make a mess of the kitchen.

Be sure you don’t over-bake these. They’re still going to look very soft when you pull them out of the oven, but they’ll firm up as they cool. And do NOT eat them warm! That caramel center is like hot lava, dear readers, and you will burn your tongue right off. Let them cool. Oh, and be sure your dough is good and cold before you start rolling (I stick mine back in the fridge between batches) or you’ll end up with flat cookies with ugly lumps in the middle. Cold dough = puffy and gorgeous cookies.

Keep and serve these at room temp. Just like hot will burn you, cold caramel will break your teeth off.

All that said, try these and enjoy! You’ll need:

2 ¬Ĺ – 2 ¬ĺ cups flour — enough so dough is not sticky
¬ĺ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
48 Rolo brand chewy caramels

Beat sugars and butter until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture and blend well. Cover and cool dough in fridge for about ¬Ĺ hour. Shape into1-inch ball around caramel, covering it completely. Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Do not overbake; they will look quite soft.

Cool in pan slightly then move to a piece of waxed paper. Cool completely. You can melt white chocolate and drizzle over top or eat as is.

Improving the Perfect

29 Nov

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Mine is…over. And we’ll leave it there.

I messed with the greatest chocolate chip cookie recipe of all time over the weekend. There’s this restaurant in DC–Teaism–that’s famous for its salted oatmeal cookies. I made those a few years back and they were really good, but not everybody is into oatmeal.

So this week, I took that chocolate chip cookie recipe, reduced the vanilla to a teaspoon, and sprinkled the dough oh-so-sparingly with kosher salt once it was scooped onto the cookie sheet, right before it went into the oven.

My friends, if you like sweet-salty, you will die. Heaven. These are heaven.

I’m going to try it with another cookie recipe later this week. Thinking of those spendy fleur-de-sel caramels in a cookie form. I’ll let you know what happens…

Super Easy Butter Cookies

19 Oct

You know those really yummy butter cookies that come in the fancy-schmancy tins at the grocery store?

Ditch the tins. You can make amazing, melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies at home. Ten minutes, tops, to make the dough, and 10 minutes in the oven per dozen. And you will not believe how good they are.

This is a Mark Bittman recipe. Mark Bittman is the man as far as I’m concerned, and if you don’t have a copy of his How To Cook Everything, you need to race right out and get one. Because if it’s not in there, you probably don’t need to make it.

I fiddled with it, just a touch. I used half bread flour, just because I wanted my cookies a little chewier. A little more bite. But you can use all AP flour and they’ll be amazing too.

You’re going to want to bake these on a cookie sheet that’s lined with parchment paper, and you’re going to want to spray the business side of that paper with butter cooking spray. That’ll help these brown and get all golden delicious on their bottoms. And as soon as you see a little golden delicious underneath, on the bottom edges, pull these out and cool them. Trust me–you’ll get soft and slightly chewy and mmm mmm good.

These keep for several days in an airtight container. They’ve never lasted that long around here, but in theory, that’s true.

To make these, you’ll need:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1/4 cup milk (water works if you have an allergy)

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a heavy cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray that with butter spray.

In a bowl, gently stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In your mixer bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla and egg. Mix well.

Gently–oh so gently–stir in half of the flour mixture. Do not overmix this–you’ll toughen up these sweet cookies. As soon as the flour is mixed in, mix in the milk, and then the rest of the flour.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the cookie sheet–these don’t spread much so you don’t need a lot of room. Bake 10 minutes or until the bottoms start to brown. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, and then off the baking sheet until room temperature. Store in a sealed container.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

5 Oct

Remember back when I told you about the most amazing chocolate chip cookies in the world? And I said I’d never liked Toll House cookies because they only turned out for me if I made them into bars, and how that was cheating?


Yesterday, I made oatmeal chocolate chip bars to keep myself from cheating.

This started as a recipe for cookies. Simple enough. The problem with me, though, is that I cannot resist cookie dough. Me and dough and a spoon, well, it’s bad news. But if I make cookie bars, then I can dump the whole batch into a pan and it’s gone. No more dough between batches. Thus, no dietary disaster.

I made these to take to an evening with the ladies from my church group. It was easy to whip them up in the morning, cover the whole pan all afternoon, and slice them and put them on a plate on my way out the door. And they were really good. I feel slightly virtuous because they are oatmeal and I made a few changes to them to health them up–I cut the amount of butter and sugar, substituted some all-purpose flour with wheat, cut the chocolate in half, and didn’t eat any dough (ha!).

These are thick and chewy and really good. I didn’t think until after they were baked that a handful of shredded coconut would have made them even better, but I do think that now and plan to add that next time around. The ladies seemed to enjoy them anyway.

To make these, you’ll need:
3/4 cup of unsalted butter (that’s 1 1/2 sticks)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the real stuff, thankyouverymuch)

3/4 cup whole wheat or white-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla and mix to combine. Add flours, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined. Stir in oats and chocolate.

Spray your hands with nonstick spray and pat the dough into a 9 x 13″ pan that’s also been coated with it. ¬†Bake about 35 minutes or until lightly browned and set all the way through. I bake in Pyrex; if you’re using metal, you’ll want to decrease the time a bit.

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Real Blondies

28 Jul

To those of you who make chocolate chip cookie bars and call them blondies, I love you, but knock it off. Chocolate chip cookie recipes make delicious bars, but they’re not blondies, which are their own little bits of sweet heaven.

The difference between the two is simple: brown sugar. Blondies are made only with brown sugar, so they have a wonderful molasses taste and fantastic tooth feel to them. Just like a really good brownie, blondies are chewy. You get that both from the brown sugar and from melting together the sugar and butter before you mix everything else in. Don’t skip the melt, or you’ll get grainy bars.

I’ve had this recipe since college sometime. As I recall from way back when, the only real change I made was to ditch the nuts in the original and up the vanilla as we’ve chatted about before.

Do not, not, not overbake these. If you lose the chewy, you lose what makes these great blondies. I’d go about 22 minutes in metal and about 30 in Pyrex (assuming your oven temperature is true or you’ve compensated for an off-thermostat), but no longer.


2 cups packed light brown sugar

2/3 cup unsalted butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease a 13 x 9 pan and heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt together sugar and butter until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently.

Cool butter/sugar mixture slightly (you don’t want scrambled eggs) and then with a mixer, stir in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

Pour mixture into baking pan and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 22 – 30 minutes and let cool. Easiest to slice while still slightly warm.

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