Category Archives: Cookies

Pretzel Shortbread

Pretzel ShortbreadFor the third year in a row, my first Christmas cookies of the season are being posted as part of the Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange, in which food bloggers post festive goodies and donate money in support of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We believe in their mission to raise funds for pediatric cancer treatments and research through bake sales and cookie swaps. Many supporters (“Good Cookies”) do this throughout the year, and I always look forward to supporting them by participating in the Sweetest Season. Making cookies is my favorite thing in the world to do, and the fact that it might help someone this week makes it even better. I made my donation on Giving Tuesday, but if you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here.Pretzel ShortbreadLet’s talk about Pretzel Shortbread. Salty, sweet, crisp, pretzely (inside & out!) cookies, with or without a drizzle of dark chocolate. Oh my lord, y’all. These are absurdly good.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadToday’s cookies are inspired by Philadelphia-favorite Lost Bread Co.’s Pretzel Shortbread. I first saw them when my friend, Claire, who co-owns Philly’s Root Market, posted about how quickly they were selling out. After that, I went down an internet rabbit hole and found out that they are made out of ground up stale soft pretzels, then brushed with lye before baking for maximum pretzelization.*

*I’m twisting the word “pretzel” a lot today and I will not apologize.Pretzel ShortbreadInstead of being a normal person and ordering from Lost Bread Co. online, I decided to figure out a version for the home baker…but without the lye because who keeps food-grade lye around?Pretzel ShortbreadTaking a cue from Lost Bread Co., my Pretzel Shortbread dough is made with a mix of flour and ground pretzels, and sweetened with dark brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar for both flavor and texture. The rest of the ingredients are butter, vanilla, and salt. It’s all mixed together in the span of a few minutes, then rolled and cut into shapes. I went with stars because that’s what I like.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadNext up: the pretzeling! After the cookies are rolled and cut (and also briefly frozen a couple of times), they are dipped in a warm mix of water and baking soda, or as I call it, “pretzel wash.” This is simply a small batch of the solution traditional soft pretzels are boiled in to achieve their signature golden finish. It’s literally just water and baking soda (no lye!), but it’s the thing that takes these cookies over the top!Pretzel ShortbreadInstead of tossing the shortbread in boiling liquid, which would probably destroy them instantly, I let the pretzel wash cool until I can touch it, and then dip the frozen cookie dough stars into the mix. This is followed up by a swipe of egg wash and sprinkles of coarse salt and sugar before being baked to a brown, burnished, decidedly pretzelesque* finish.

*“Pretzelesque” is my new favorite made-up word.Pretzel ShortbreadFinish the Pretzel Shortbread off with a drizzle of chocolate, or not. I did a little of each—I like to have options.Pretzel ShortbreadSalty, sweet, pretzeled inside-and-out, chocolaty, Christmasy, delicious options.Pretzel Shortbread

Pretzel Shortbread
makes about 3.5 dozen cookies

Pretzel Wash:
2 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda

Shortbread Dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups ground pretzels (about 1 1/2 cups whole mini pretzels)

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Garnish:
coarse salt
coarse sugar (optional)

Chocolate Drizzle:
3 ounces pure dark chocolate, chopped
coarse salt, for garnish (optional)
coarse sugar, for garnish (optional)

Read this recipe in its entirety before beginning.

Make the pretzel wash. Pour water into a 3-4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Wearing an oven mitt (or other protective hand gear), whisk in baking soda. Mixture will bubble and expand violently. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Place softened butter in a medium-large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add dark brown and confectioners sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in flour and ground pretzels. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched. Divide dough in two parts.

Working with one half at a time, sandwich dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll until 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to the freezer (on a baking sheet, if desired) for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. It is okay to stack the sheets of dough in the freezer.

While the dough is freezing, place racks in the center positions. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Peel on of the pieces of parchment off. Use a lightly floured 2-inch cookie cutter to cut cookies. Place them close together on prepared pans. Freeze for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough sheet. Scraps can be re-rolled, frozen, and cut.

Dip cookies in pretzel wash. Remove frozen cut cookie dough from freezer. Wearing a latex glove (highly recommended), dip cookies into pretzel wash and place back on baking sheets. Freeze again for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining cut cooking dough.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl, and use a fork to whisk until combined. Brush egg wash over the tops of the cookies, then sprinkling with coarse salt & coarse sugar.

Bake cookies for 23-25 minutes, or until burnished and brown. Let cool on the pans for 7 minutes. Use a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

Line two baking sheets (or a large surface) with parchment. Place cooling racks over the top. Arrange cookies on racks.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (30 second increments, stirring in between). Use a fork to drizzle chocolate over cookies. Scatter coarse salt & coarse sugar over the tops, if desired. Repeat with remaining cookies. Chocolate will set after a couple of hours at room temperature, or a few minutes in the freezer.

Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel Shortbread

Monster Cookies

Monster CookiesIf you’re keeping track, this is my third Monster recipe in 18 months, but I took the long way around, posting two spin-offs of this recipe before posting the real deal. Logic isn’t always my bag. Monster CookiesIf you missed my Monster Blondies and Monster Carmelitas and are wondering why I’m talking about monsters and if this is another Halloween thing, the short answers are

  1. Monster Cookies are peanut butter oatmeal cookies with M&Ms and chocolate chips.
  2. Nobody seems to know exactly where the name came from, but it has something to do with them being loaded with so many good things. A “Monster mash”-up, if you will.
  3. Not traditionally, but the name works. It’s Halloween food if you say it is. Or if you steal your kids’ Halloween candy and use it to make Monster Cookies.Monster CookiesMonster Cookies

When going about trying to make the best Monster Cookies I could muster, I started with my recipes for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Monster Blondies and went from there. After a few tweaks, like finding the right amount of peanut butter, reducing the oats and adding a chill, I’m happy to report that the results are pretty stellar.Monster CookiesWe’re talking puffy, chewy, peanut buttery cookies that have just the right amounts of oats, M&Ms and chocolate chips. I had every intention of pawning these off on friends and acquaintances, but they’re so delicious that I kept them all for myself. #sorrynotsorryMonster CookiesTo that point, Monster Cookies stay good for a whole week! Day after day, I kept waiting to bite into one and be disappointed, but the batch came and went and nary a sad cookie was eaten.

But, I mean, when cookies are this colorful and delectable, how could they ever be anything but delightful?Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies
makes about 2.5 dozen cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup M&Ms candy
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Combine butter and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring between, until melted and smooth. Transfer mixture into a large mixing bowl.

Whisk brown sugar into the butter-peanut butter mixture. Add eggs one at a time, whisking to combine, followed by vanilla. Mix in flour mixture. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in oats, followed by M&Ms and chocolate chips. Cover cookie dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments and roll into balls. Set at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 10-11 minutes, rotating pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front at the 6 minute mark.

Let cookies cool on their pans for 7-10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat dough rolling and baking until all dough is used.

Cookies will keep very well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.Monster CookiesMonster Cookies

Maple Thumbprints

Maple ThumbprintsIt may have been 90 degrees in NYC this past Monday, but nobody is happier than I am that fall is finally here, not least because it means I have an excuse to make these Maple Thumbprints.Maple ThumbprintsAnd make them, I have—five test batches before getting them just right. I used the dough from my Maple Spice Stars as a starting place, and then adjusted the spice, sugars, and leavener until I achieved exactly what I wanted: a puffy, slightly soft maple cookie with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and a well of maple icing in the center. The ideal accompaniment to a cup of tea on a fall afternoon, you know?Maple ThumbprintsIf you love maple syrup like I do, these cookies are for you. The dough contains 2/3 cup and the icing has another 1/4 cup! I vastly prefer Grade A Dark Amber & Robust Taste (formerly known as Grade B) for its deep flavor, but any pure maple syrup you have will do the trick.Maple ThumbprintsMaple ThumbprintsMaple ThumbprintsMaple, like pumpkin, is a flavor that improves over time. Though these cookies will taste good immediately after they’re baked and filled, they won’t taste particularly maple-y until a few hours later. By the next day, you’ll have no problem finding the sweet nuances of maple syrup in both the cookies and the icing.Maple ThumbprintsYou’ll notice that many of the maple cookie recipes out there (including this one) call for maple extract for a richer flavor. This is because maple is a delicate flavor in baking, easily masked by its own sweetness. To that point, I tested both the dough and icing with 1/2 teaspoon each of maple extract (I like Boyajian), and while it works and certainly amplifies the flavor, I don’t think this recipe needs it. I did multiple taste tests and preferred the cookies made with only maple syrup every time. If you feel otherwise, feel free to add some extract. To each their own!Maple ThumbprintsThe point, as always, is to bake the cookies you want to eat. And to bake for the weather you want, not the weather you have. At least, that’s what I’m doing. If it means I’m eating autumnal cookies while sitting in front of a blasting air conditioner and praying for some crunchy leaves to step on, so be it.Maple Thumbprints

Maple Thumbprints
makes about 4.5 dozen cookies

Cookies:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pure maple syrup (I like Grade A dark amber & robust taste)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Icing:
3 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3-4 teaspoons water

Make the cookies. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in brown and granulated sugars, followed by the maple syrup. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low, and add the dry ingredients in three installments, stopping frequently to scrape the bowl.

Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Place oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Scoop dough by the tablespoon and roll each into a ball. Place dough balls at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Use the back of a very small spoon (like a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon) to slowly press a well into each dough ball. They may crack a bit—just smooth them with your fingers.

Bake cookies 12-13 minutes, rotating top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Cookies are done when puffed and no longer wet-looking. When you remove the cookies from the oven, press the back of a small spoon (I use a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon) into the centers again. Let cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes before carefully removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling and baking process with all remaining dough, letting the cookie sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Arrange cookies on a parchment or wax paper-lined surface for filling.

Make the icing. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, salt, maple syrup, and 3 teaspoons of water until smooth. Add more water by the 1/2 teaspoon, if needed, until the glaze is thick but pourable.

Transfer icing to a piping bag (or ziptop sandwich bag), twist it tight and snip off a very small corner. Fill wells in cookies as desired.

Icing will set after a few hours. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. Place wax paper between layers for easiest storage.Maple ThumbprintsMaple Thumbprints

M&Ms Cookies

M&Ms CookiesHere’s a little midweek cheer! I mean, is it possible to be anything but cheerful when there are M&Ms Cookies around? I think not!M&Ms CookiesThese are simply a homemade version of my favorite bakery cookie. They’re super easy to make and oh-so-colorful and the happiest thing to come out of my kitchen in months. I can’t look at them without smiling. I can’t eat one without smiling either!M&Ms CookiesM&Ms CookiesButtery and heavier on granulated sugar than brown, these cookies have crispy edges and puffy, tender centers that melt in your mouth. And that’s to say nothing of the glut of M&Ms scattered throughout! Soft cookie + melty candy-coated chocolate—YUM.M&Ms CookiesM&Ms Cookies hold up extremely well for days. I’m a bit of a diva about leftover cookies, but I was still reaching for these four days post-bake!M&Ms CookiesM&Ms CookiesThe rest of the batch were taken to an event and placed alongside a coffee pot and a box of Oreos. It’ll come as no surprise that these went first. I suppose homemade cookies almost always go first, but I think M&Ms Cookies are especially hard to resist. Their appeal could be chalked up to a lot of things (homemade, filled with candy, etc.) but I’m choosing to believe it’s the cheer.M&Ms Cookies

M&Ms Cookies
makes about 18 medium cookies

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup M&Ms candy

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment, set aside.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy. Add granulated and light brown sugars, and beat to combine. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing to combine. Is Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in M&Ms.

Scoop dough by in 2 tablespoon increments, roll into balls, and set 3-inches apart on prepared pans.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes, rotating pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back at the 5 minute mark. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, crosshatching, and baking with remaining dough, letting the pans return to room temperature between batches.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.M&Ms CookiesM&Ms CookiesM&Ms Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin CookiesI have baked with oats a fair amount over the last few years. Granola, baked oatmeal, gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookies, graham crackers, oatmeal creme pies, jam squares—I’ve made them all, but the most iconic oat dessert of all, the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, has eluded me.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOh, I’ve tried. Of course I have. But, prior to this, every oatmeal cookie that has come out of my kitchen has been disappointingly flat in both appearance and flavor, and I’ve had a bit of a complex about it. I mean, is it so wrong to want a thick, chewy cinnamon-scented cookie with toasty oats and raisins with actual flavor and texture???

Well, no. No, it is not.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesEnter my dream Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, the results of years of boredom and frustration and some concentrated testing. They take a little longer to prepare than your average oatmeal cookie, but that’s because you’re adding big flavor and texture you just can’t get otherwise.

  • I toast my oats because toasted oats have an incredible nutty flavor and crispness that regular oats do not. The process takes all of five minutes and makes a huge difference in the final product. Oatmeal cookies should have big oat flavor!
  • Nothing is worse than a tough, waxy raisin in an otherwise great cookie. I like to ensure that my cookies will be studded with plump, flavorful raisins by giving them a quick soak in boiling water. This step is hands-off, but makes the final cookies extra chewy and delicious and has the added benefit of keeping them from drying out after a day or two.
  • Most oatmeal cookie recipes call for creamed softened butter to aerate the dough, but melted butter generally produces chewier results. We want chewy cookies, do we not?! You could just use plain melted butter here, but I like to take it a step further—brown butter, y’all. That depth of flavor cannot be matched!Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • This dough is sweetened with only dark brown sugar for both flavor and texture. The molasses in brown sugar helps these cookies stay soft and chewy for days.
  • I swapped some of the usual baking soda for baking powder, which is 4x weaker. Using equal volumes of both leaveners means that we get results that spread out less and puff up more.
  • I chill this cookie dough (and most of my others) because cold dough spreads less in the oven. We want thick cookies, not flat ones!Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin Cookies

The cold dough is scooped and rolled in two-tablespoon increments before being baked for 11-13 minutes, or until they look just slightly underdone. They’ll finish cooking as they cool, and the centers will stay soft and chewy.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesY’all! Are those not the most delicious-looking Oatmeal Raisin Cookies you’ve ever seen? Because those are the most delicious-looking Oatmeal Raisin Cookie I’ve ever seen. The best I’ve ever eaten, too–thick, rich and chewy with big hits of molasses and cinnamon, and all those toasty, buttery oats and raisins, of course!Oatmeal Raisin CookiesLike I said, they’re the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies of my dreams. (And maybe now your dreams, too.)Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups raisins
water
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Plump the raisins. Place raisins in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat over medium-high heat until it simmers, then remove from heat and set aside.

Toast the oats. Heat a large dry skillet over medium heat. Add oats and toast, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant with some darker pieces. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl. Let cool a few minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Whisk dark brown sugar into brown butter. Add eggs one at a time, whisking to combine, followed by vanilla. Mix in flour mixture. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in toasted oats, followed by raisins. Cover cookie dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments and roll into balls. Set at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 11-13 minutes, rotating pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front at the 6 minute mark.

Let cookies cool on their pans for 7-10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat dough rolling and baking until all dough is used.

Cookies may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin Cookies