Margaux says…

I’m not big on semi-homemade, at all, ever. Except for these cookies, so I guess I can’t say ever. But one taste, and you’ll agree. It’s one of those no-bake, super easy, make in minutes recipes like everyone seems to make around the holidays. And I usually steer clear of those. But I simply cannot stop eating these when they’re in front of me, and I have to have them once a year. It’s fudgy-peanut butter-crispy goodness. They’re one of my Aunt Gigi’s specialties, who is the original expert/ amateur baker in the family, and she always makes them for Christmas, along with several other perfect cookies, some of which I will post soon.

Scotcharoos

Butter a 9×13 pan.

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
6 cups Special K cereal

2 cups (one 12 oz. bag) semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups butterscotch chips

Heat the syrup and sugar just until it starts boil around the edges. Add the peanut butter and mix well. Add the Special K and spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together and spread over the Special K mixture. Let cool and cut into squares.

One 12-oz. box of Special K makes two recipes of bars.

Almond Shortbread Stars

December 12, 2011

Margaux says…

I saw this recipe in a Martha Stewart Living holiday issue ages ago…probably around 2000 or 2001, and I’ve been making them every single year since.  I think this is the best shortbread recipe I’ve ever had, probably because of the addition of almonds, which I love.  Plus, shortbread is my mom’s favorite cookie, and she loves almond, too, so even if I didn’t want to make these it wouldn’t matter because she requests them every year.  She just asked me tonight if I was planning on making “those shortbread stars,” while looking at me with eyes that said “you’re making those shortbread stars,” and it made me realize I should probably write a post about them with enough time for people to make them for themselves.  Trust me, your family will thank you.  Luckily, I happened to have photographed a plate of them last year!

I usually make a double recipe because they tend to disappear fast. And of course, you don’t have to make stars…you can make any shape you want!

Almond Shortbread Stars

2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup blanched almonds, pureed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk together flour and salt in bowl. Whisk together sugar and almonds in another bowl. Beat butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add sugar/almond combo and beat until combined. Add almond extract and beat again. Add flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Separate into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. Roll out into 1/4″ thickness. Cut out cookie shapes and place them on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden. Carefully remove cookies to cooling rack. When still warm, toss in powdered sugar. Toss again when cooled.

Margaux says…

You can’t have Halloween without sugar cookie cut-outs.  Actually, you can’t have Christmas or Valentine’s Day without them either, if you ask me.  This sugar cookie recipe is my absolute favorite.  Aunt Suzy gave it to me when I was 11 years old…it came along with a bunch of other “must have” recipes, a recipe box (that I still use, by the way), a large pot for steaming or cooking pasta (which I also still have, and still use), and “how to cook” tapes made by her.  Other than the pasta cooker and the recipe box, this recipe is what I have used the most out of that gift. I love that she was the first person to get me interested in cooking! It was like we were destined to have a blog together someday (although, that word didn’t even exist in 1988).

I think this recipe is my favorite because of the addition of sour cream and nutmeg.  The cookies turn out crisp, but not too crisp, and have great flavor.  They’re perfect with vanilla frosting, which is what I prefer to use over royal icing or a powdered sugar and milk glaze-type icing.  They may not look as perfect with the frosting over the icing that turns hard and smooth, but they sure taste better!

Sugar Cookies

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. Cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add flour alternately with sour cream. Form dough into ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 6 hours to overnight. Divide dough into 4 parts. Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or grease them. Roll out dough to 1/4″ thick. Cut with cookie cutter. Bake plain or with sugar on top (if you’re not icing), 10-12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on cooling rack. Frost.

Vanilla Frosting

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar, beat until mixture is starting to clump together in pea-sized clumps. Add vanilla and 2 tbsp milk, beat on high speed until creamy and uniform (scrape down sides of bowl as needed). Add more milk if needed, and food coloring if desired. Frost cookies, let sit for about an hour so that the frosting will set (but it won’t get completely hard because of the butter). If adding sanding sugar or sprinkles, do so right away before the frosting gets a hard crust on top.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

The recipe for these cookies caught my eye in the July issue of Bon Appetit.  I sent them to my blog partner, Margaux, but decided to make them myself today after over-buying basil at the farmer’s market yesterday.  I love shortbread and thought that the combination of lemon-lime and basil looked intriguing.  I was not disappointed!  So if it’s not too hot to bake where you are, these are a refreshing summer cookie option!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar plus more for pressing cookies
  • 1/2 cup (1stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Sanding sugar (optional

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

The original recipe said to put everything except the sanding sugar into a food processor and pulse until large, moist clumps form.  Since I don’t have a food processor, I placed the flour, half cup of powdered sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and blended with a whisk.  I used a pastry cutter to blend in the butter, then added the basil, citrus zest and lemon juice.  I then used a hand mixer to smooth the dough out a little, ending up with pea-size clumps.  Whichever method you use, now form the dough into walnut-size balls between your palms.  Place those on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Dip the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup into powdered sugar (so the dough won’t stick) and then press the dough to about 2-inch circles.  If you are using sanding sugar, sprinkle a little on top after cookies are pressed out.  I recommend this and used evaporated cane juice sugar sold in bulk at the coop – any large crystal sugar will work.  Bake for 14-17 minutes in the center of the oven until the edges of the cookies start to brown.  Cool completely on a baking rack before serving.  The recipe stated this would make about 16 cookies, but I ended up with 11 – no surprise since I’ve been known to make cookies larger than prescribed!

Chocolate Cookies

May 22, 2011

Margaux says . . .

These cookies are delicious, and very simple to make! They also are a good option when wanting to make a sweet on a whim, as the ingredients are usually on-hand in most kitchens. I’m sure you could use regular cocoa powder instead of Dutch processed, and they would be just as delicious. The texture is crispy and chewy, and the sanding sugar makes them sparkly and pretty!

The flavor instantly reminded me of Oreo’s…it’s a rich, dark chocolate that isn’t too overly sweet and would pair really well with vanilla frosting. So I will definitely be making them again as homemade Oreo’s, using the vanilla frosting recipe below. I also am thinking these would be great for ice cream sandwiches, using any of your favorite ice cream flavors. I’m going to use Bobtail’s Merlot chocolate chip…I think it will be the perfect pairing!

Grammy’s Chocolate Cookies

from Martha Stewart’s Cookies cookbook

2 cups plus 2 tbsp all- purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
sanding sugar, for rolling

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture; beat to combine. Form dough into a flattened disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill until firm, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Roll each ball in sanding sugar. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until set, 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies from baking sheet to wire rack. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.


Vanilla Frosting (for filling)
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch table salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar

Stir the cream, vanilla, and salt together in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed until smooth, 30-60 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly add sugar, and beat until smooth, 2-5 minutes. Beat in the cream mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 4-8 minutes (the time depends on the strength of the mixer…with my KitchenAid it takes about 5 minutes or so).

Aunt Suzy says . . .

These cookies are a “must bake” for me every holiday season.  This year was no exception, although I made them very late – right before New Year’s Eve.  But then I heard on this radio spot about lucky New Year food traditions that some eat these for good luck on New Year’s Day thinking that the cookies are coin-like to represent money.   Although I heard this after New Year’s Day,  I was glad to have eaten them as part of our lucky New Year’s Day menu!

These cookies are called many different names – Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian Tea Cakes, Snowballs, Butter Balls and others.  I’ve made a version of them for years from a recipe that was purportedly the one that Jackie Kennedy used which used powdered sugar as the dough sweetener.  Whenever I would tell my Mom (aka Granny) that I’d made these cookies, she’d ask “Did you make Grandma Teegarden’s (my Dad’s Mom) recipe – the one with honey?”  I would confess each year that I did not, having been enamored at a young age by Jackie Kennedy.  Last Christmas, I made both recipes and conducted taste tests, asking friends to say which they liked best.  The votes, including mine, were in overwhelming favor of Grandma T’s, so I think I have dumped Jackie O in favor of Grandma forever!

Margaux says…

I almost never make these cookies for Christmas because everyone else in my family does!  But this year I had a girls’ cookie baking get-together at my house, and my friend Jen wanted to make the Joy of Cooking version of these (which is exactly like the Jackie Kennedy recipe), and I swayed her to Grandma’s recipe instead.  They turned out perfectly, as usual!  This is definitely my favorite version of this recipe, and the times I have made them, this is the one I use.  It was actually one of the first recipes ever given to me (by my dad), when I was in grade school and first learning to bake!

Grandma’s Butter Balls – makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 tablespoons mild honey

2 cups sifted flour

½ teaspoon salt (omit if using toasted and salted pecans)

2 cups ground toasted pecans*

Powdered sugar for rolling

Instructions

Cream the butter, salt and vanilla with a electric mixer.  Add the honey and the flour and continue to beat on medium until thoroughly blended.  This will be a fairly stiff dough.  Stir in the nuts by hand.  Pinch off small amounts of dough and roll by hand into balls the size of walnuts.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes until the cookies are just starting to turn golden brown in spots.  Place the cookie sheet on a rack and let sit for a few minutes to set.  Place the powdered sugar in a pie plate or round cake pan.  Roll the cookies in the powdered sugar while cookies are still warm.  (Make sure you let them set or they can fall apart if too hot.)  You can roll them in powdered sugar again after a couple of minutes.

*A note on the pecans:  This year I bought a bag of toasted pecan pieces from Trader Joe’s and used those.  I had never used toasted pecans before in this recipe and they made a delicious cookie even better – toasted pecans are the way to go!  The pecans need to be chopped or ground fairly finely, but be careful not to overdo it or they will become powdery or oily which will not result in a good cookie.  These low-tech vintage nut grinders are perfect for the job and, I just discovered, available on eBay from $3 to $20.  The one I use is on the left.

Margaux says…

I made these cookies a few weeks ago, while Aunt Suzy was visiting, and forgot an essential ingredient, the molasses. I should never bake while distracted, and without prepping all ingredients first! I’ve learned this lesson many times.

Needless to say, they were pretty terrible. But once I figured out what had happened (at first we thought it was just a bad recipe), I vowed to make them again because I love ginger cookies, and ginger with chocolate sounded so delicious.

So this time I remembered all the ingredients, and they were as delicious as I thought they would be! I may just be working these into my Christmas cookie repertoire, because they’re pretty easy, too.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
from Martha Stewart’s Cookies Cookbook

Makes 2 dozen.

  • 7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
    2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
    3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
    4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely