cookies

President's Cookies

Before there was such a thing as President's Day or President's Week, there was Washington's birthday, which was a school holiday on his real birthday, February 22nd. If you lived in the North, like in New York and Connecticut, you also got a day off on Lincoln's birthday, which is February 12th (the poor kids in the South weren't so lucky, although maybe they got Jefferson Davis' birthday off).

On Washington's birthday, everybody celebrated with cherry pie or cherry something else because supposedly Washington chopped down a cherry tree and didn't lie about it when someone asked if he did it.

Lincoln's birthday didn't have any particular food because he supposedly was a fussy eater and didn't like much of anything in particular.

At some point Mondays became an official holiday for most holidays and Washington and Lincoln's birthdays were merged into one big celebration and an entire week vacation from school.

I suppose that's progress.

Along the way, I discovered that Lincoln actually did have some favorite foods. Like sorghum, which is a sweet syrup similar to molasses. And he liked ginger cookies.

And so, in honor of Lincoln's birthday (which was on February 12th but will be celebrated on the 19th), whenever you celebrate and for how long, here's some sorghum-based ginger cookies to celebrate with. And by the way, if you don't have sorghum, you can use molasses instead.

 

Sorghum Ginger Cookies

  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 laarge egg
  • 1/4 cup sorghum syrup
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the shortening, coconut oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well combined (about 2 minutes). Add the egg and sorghum syrup and beat until well blended. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and beat until the dough is well blended, smooth and uniform in color. Take off small pieces of dough and shape into small balls about one-inch in diameter. Roll the balls in the remaining sugar to coat the surface. Place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet, leaving an inch space between each ball. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until the cookies have spread and are flat and crispy, with lines on the surface.

Makes about 6 dozen

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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I have told my husband not to buy me chocolate candy for Valentine's Day.

Sure, I love the thought, not to mention the taste (he knows how much I love buttercrunch!!!!!!).

But really, I need to NOT EAT candy for a variety of reasons including the number I see on the scale when I weigh myself each morning.

For Valentine's Day I am going to make brownies, which will be sufficient for the two of us to celebrate with a piece or two, then give the rest away to a friend of mine who loves sweets.

Then it will all be gone, we will have had a delicious, but calorie-limited Valentine's Day and that will be that until the next occasion.

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge BROWNIES

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square baking pan.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. When the ingredients have melted, blend them thoroughly and remove the pan from the heat. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat them 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract and nuts, if used. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan. Cut them into 16 squares.

Makes 16

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

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I know it's latke season and doughnut season. But in the larger world out there it's also cookie season.

Well, actually, for me it is always cookie season. When I was a kid my Mom baked cookies all the time and when we got home from school we had milk and cookies every day. That was the snack -- before the days of chips (potato, kale or otherwise in little bags) and frozen pizza.

My brothers taught me how to dunk.

So when cookie season comes around I feel nostalgic. Sure, I make the old family favorites. Fannies. Peanut butter cookies. Chocolate Chunk Grand Finale cookies

But occasionally I try something new. I'm not always happy with the results and most often I discard the recipe.

But these were wonderful. And also perfect for dunking.

 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (8 ounces)
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)

In a food processor, pulse the chocolate until almost ground. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves and process on pulse to incorporate the ingredients until finely ground and well mixed. Place the mixture into a bowl, add the ground almonds and mix to blend the ingredients thoroughly.

In the bowl of an electric beater, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the extract and the chocolate-almond mixture.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll or press the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Let the unbaked cookies air dry for at least 1-1/2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut out circles or shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cut out cookies on the parchment paper, leaving room between each cookie for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies

 

 

Cookies That Taste Like Home

I don't celebrate Christmas, but I do celebrate cookies. And cookies are a big part of the Christmas season. 

And so -- cookies.

When it comes to cookies, Lebkuchen is a seasonal special, with the magical fragrance of spices that make you feel warm and cozy when the weather's cold. I have tasted many many versions over the years, the best on a trip to Germany a few years ago.

So I tried my hand at baking some, a few recipes that were just okay. Then I baked these. My Hungarian friend Eva says they taste like "home." I took that as a win.

Happy holidays, whatever one you celebrate.

Lebkuchen Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or shortening or butter)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice (or use lemon juice)
  • 1 large egg
  • all-purpose flour
  • candied ginger, dried cranberries, etc, optional

Combine the flour, orange peel, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl (or electric mixer bowl), whisk to distribute the ingredients evenly and set aside. Place the honey, molasses, brown sugar and coconut oil in a saucepan and cook over low-medium heat, stirring to blend the ingredients, until the coconut oil has melted and the liquid is smooth and evenly colored. Pour the liquid into the mixing bowl with the flour mixture. Add the orange juice and egg and mix ingredients thoroughly to make a smooth, evenly colored dough (about one minute at medium speed). The dough will be soft. Sprinkle the dough with some flour, wrap the dough or place it in a covered plastic container and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough (in portions) on a floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out shapes. Place the shapes on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving some space between the cookies. Garnish the center with optional ginger, etc., if desired. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove the cookies from the oven and brush with icing while they are still warm.

Icing:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the icing while the cookies are baking. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Brush on the cookies while they are still warm.

Makes about 3-1/2 dozen 2-inch cookies

 

 

 

How to Substitute Ingredients: a Lesson for Kids and Everyone Else

Children learn a lot when they cook, and not just about food. You can ask the youngest ones to hand over the red pepper, not the green one. You can show them that a pie tin is round, a loaf pan is a rectangle.

Older kids can hone their measuring skills. Some begin to understand the difference between 1/4 cup and 1/2, what a dozen means, why a cake rises.

Recently my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, learned another important cooking lesson: when and how to substitute ingredients. 

We happened to be baking Jam Cookies. 

I didn't have the chopped dates called for in my recipe. So we changed those to dark raisins.

I didn't have dried apricots, figs or cherries, so we used dried cranberries instead.

They wondered whether they could include chocolate chips.

Of course! Just throw some into the bowl.

Finally, we used a mixture of orange marmalade, rhubarb and apricot jam because I didn't have enough of any one kind except raspberry, which I couldn't use because of allergies.

The recipe worked.

But more than that, the cookies were absolutely delicious. Even the adults gobbled them. The children were happy, they learned more than they realized.

They want to cook with me again. I love that.

Jam Bars

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 14 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup golden or dark raisins or chopped dates or a mixture
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries or other chopped dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups jam

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9"x13" cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add the oats and brown sugar and mix the ingredients thoroughly to distribute them evenly. Cut the butter into chunks and work into the dry ingredients (with fingers or process on pulse in a food processor) until the butter is completely mixed in and the mixture looks crumbly. Mix in the raisins, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Press the mixture evenly inside the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan. Cut into bars or squares. 

Makes about 24

 

 

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The Birthday Dinner Dilemma

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It's my daughter Gillian's birthday today. A round numbered one. And she asked if, instead of going out to dinner at some fancy shmancy joint to celebrate, whether I would make a special dinner at home.

Of course!

With the fancy shmancy china and silverware and different size wine glasses for different wines for different courses.

Of course!

So, okay, I have the china and silverware and wine glasses. All I have to do there is make sure I have candles for the candlesticks, iron the napkins, fill the salt cellars, set the table and so on. Ed will take care of the wine.

It's all good.

BUT WHAT SHOULD I COOK?

Something new and glamorous? Fancy shmancy?

Or old favorites like Pearly Meatballs? Fried Chicken Wings? Sticky Spicy Chicken Wings? with pre-dinner cocktails.

Should I make a soup? Like Beet Soup with Orange and Mint (even the name sounds fancy doesn't it?).

For the main course I'm thinking maybe lamb. Everyone in the family eats that. But she really does like turkey. Unfortunately turkey is not the universal family favorite, so maybe no? Plus -- Gillian is our family carver, so could I really ask her to do all that slicing and deboning for her birthday dinner?

Another dilemma is that Gillian is not such a big dessert person. Or at least what people consider the usual kinds of dessert. This dessert thing would be easy if the birthday person was my son-in-law Greg. He likes chocolate cake.

Ed would always welcome chef Raymond Oliver's Normandy Ice Cream (coffee with Grand Marnier).

For me, birthday dessert is always apple pie

We are celebrating in a few weeks, so I have some time to finalize the menu plus make sure I buy those candles. 

If anyone has suggestions -- I am all ears.

In the meantime, should I also make some candy? Like chocolate dipped dried fruit?

Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit

  • 2-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored brandy or rum
  • 50 pieces (approximately) dried fruit such as crystallized ginger, apricot halves, candied orange peel (about 6 ounces)

Melt the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Let the ingredients melt, remove the top part of the pan from the heat, pour in the brandy and stir to make a smooth, uniform mixture. Dip each piece of fruit in the chocolate mixture, shake off the excess and place on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.

Makes approximately 50 pieces

Our Favorite Cookies

Aunt Fanny's Cookies

Aunt Fanny's Cookies

It wouldn't be my house if there weren't some of these in the freezer for the holidays. During Rosh Hashanah and of course, for my Break-the-Fast. These are my Mom's famous butter cookies. They are probably the most-loved, most-baked cookies in my (and once, my Mom's) repertoire.

When I was growing up I didn't know they were butter cookies because my Mom made them with shortening. After I got interested in cooking I asked her why she called them butter cookies and she explained that during WWII she couldn't get butter, but everyone wanted the cookies, and so -- 

We tried them with real butter and never looked back. Except for when I need something dairy-free, and then, of course, I go back to the shortening. These cookies are fabulous, either way, though, to confess, I like the butter ones much better.

Here they are, fresh from the oven.

In our family we never actually called them butter cookies, not because of the shortening but because the recipe came from my father's Aunt Fanny. So everyone in the family called them Fanny's (recipe), which is scrawled out as "Fannies" in all the old family recipe collections.

I don't know if anyone in my family is named for Aunt Fanny, but these cookies give her kind of the same immortality.

Fannies

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks (or one cup cold shortening)

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • lekvar, jam, nut butter, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat them in an electric mixer set at medium speed for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix another 1-2 minutes, or until the ingredients are almost blended. Add the egg yolks, salt and vanilla extract. Mix the ingredients 1-2 minutes, or until a uniform dough forms. Scoop pieces of dough and shape them into balls about 1" in diameter. Flatten the balls between your palms. Press each circle with your thumb to make an indentation in the center. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet, leaving an inch of space between them. Fill the thumb print spaces with a small amount of lekvar, jam, etc. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. You can freeze these cookies for 6 months.

Makes about 60

 

 

S'mores for all Seasons

S'mores Chocolate Chip Cookies

S'mores Chocolate Chip Cookies

Summer may be almost over and with it the picnics and going to the beach.

And s'mores over the campfire.

But I had this eureka moment the other day when I thought about incorporating the s'mores ingredients into a chocolate chip cookie. 

I made several versions, some stacked, some stuffed, some with cut up marshmallows, some with shaved chocolate.

But they were all too thick, too soft, too just not right.

This one is exactly what I had hoped: crispy, chocolate-y, marshmallow-y and just the right amount of graham cracker crumbs to give it extra sweetness and a gorgeous golden glow.

 

S'mores Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1 cup mini-marshmallows 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Beat the butter, coconut oil, brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Add the eggs and beat the mixture until well blended. Add the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, baking powder and salt and blend them in thoroughly. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough and place each scoop on the cookie sheet, leaving room for the cookies to spread. Tuck the marshmallows beneath the dough as much as possible. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining dough.

 

Makes about 48 cookies

Cream Cheese Cookies

While cleaning out/purging my files recently, I rediscovered this recipe for these Cream Cheese Cookies. It was on an old index card, in my mother's handwriting. I'd always wanted to try these, but never did because after the list of ingredients there was this instruction: "bake and freeze."

I don't remember watching my Mom bake these cookies and I had no clue what "bake and freeze" meant other than that I had to chill the dough before doing anything with it. She also never wrote down the oven temperature.

So I tried several versions. I rolled clumps of dough into 1-inch balls and baked them. I made some crescent shaped. The best ones were when I rolled the dough into two long logs, refrigerated them overnight and cut the logs into 1/4-inch slices, baked at 325 degrees.

My mother never said to dust the baked cookies with confectioners' sugar. I tried them with and without and think the cookies taste better and look nicer with that final garnish.

Glad I finally tried the recipe! The cookies are rich and tender, lightly sweet (only 2 tablespoons of sugar!), a perfect snack for a coffee or tea break.

Here's the recipe, with instructions.

MY MOTHER'S CREAM CHEESE COOKIES

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • confectioners' sugar

Beat the butter and cream cheese together in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium (or use a hand mixer) for 2-3 minutes, until softened and completely blended. Add the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour gradually, beating it in until a smooth, uniform dough has formed. Cut the dough in half and roll each half into a long log about 1-inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours, or until firm and cold. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Slice the logs into 1/4-inch slices and place the slices on cookie sheets. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Dust with confectioners sugar (best if sifted over the cookies).

Makes about 60 cookies

 

 

 

 

Cheesecake Cookies

I usually bake the same cookie recipes over and over. Butter cookies. Grand Finale (chocolate chip) cookies. Peanut Butter cookies

But recently I decided to branch out with some Chinese cookies. And a few other recipes I'll post about here soon.

I got my inspiration straight from the "cookies" folder in my file cabinet on one of those days when I decided to do a purge of unnecessary stuff. This particular folder includes recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers. I should have known as I collected them that I would probably never actually make most of them.

But there were a few handwritten recipes that I just couldn't resist. A few from my Mom and my Aunt Beck. A few recipe cards that are sentimental for me because they are from friends and relatives that have passed away.

There was also this recipe for Cheesecake cookies from someone named Rose. I have no idea who she is, or was. My Mom had a friend Rose. Maybe it was hers. I don't recognize the handwriting on the index card. It isn't my Mom's handwriting. Or my Aunt's. 

Unlike most of the hand written recipes from women of my mother's generation, this one was complete with a list of ingredients (though not in the right order) and instructions on how to make the cookies. I've edited the recipe to conform to our more modern style of recipe writing. But below is the recipe for the most fabulous, tender, salty-and-sweet, tangy with cheese, creamy centered but crusty sandwiched cookies you can imagine.

Nice idea for Mother's Day.

Thanks Rose, whoever you are. These are great! 

Rose's Cheesecake Cookies

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and set it aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, nuts and brown sugar and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the melted butter and mix until the mixture is crumbly. Remove one cup of this mixture and set it aside. Place the remaining mixture inside an 8-inch square baking pan. Press the crumbs down firmly to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until firm. Remove the pan from the oven and set it aside. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until well blended. Add the egg, lemon juice, milk and vanilla and beat the ingredients for another minute or until thoroughly blended. Spoon the cheese mixture evenly over the baked crumbs. Top with the remaining, reserved unbaked crumbs. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut into small squares (16 pieces).

 

Makes 16 cookies