My Favorite Cookie

mixing together the spices

I’ve been meaning to share these cookies with you for years. They’re actually my favorite cookie, which is saying a lot. It’s a great November cookie, full of warm spices and just the right amount of chew. Sure, you can use them next month if you do the whole Christmas cookie thing, but something about these cookies say November to me. They’re from the same cookbook that gave us those wedding cookies back in May, but unlike those, these are nut-free, so they’re perfect for school bake sales. And even though the recipe calls for butter, you can easily swap it out for Earth Balance making them parve and perfect for post-turkey snacking.

mixing

Lilli and I made these last night for my mom’s birthday. I was going to bake a banana bread like I’ve been doing for the past few years, but the fruits weren’t as ripe as I prefer them to be. So we baked these cookies instead, and I’m happy we did, because as I have mentioned, I love these cookies.

Don’t roll your eyes at measuring out the dough by teaspoon; it takes less than 10 minutes when all is said and done. I’ve baked them on both parchment paper and a greased baking sheet. Both will work, but definitely let the cookies set for a minute or two before using a spatula to move them onto a cooling rack. I often get too excited and end up wrinkling half the batch in the process. More for me, I guess.

examining the dough

I hope you’ll give these cookies a shot and enjoy them as much as I do.

Old-Fashioned Gingersnaps from Favorite Cookie Recipes by Lou Seibert Pappas

Ingredients

¾ cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

¼ cup molasses

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. ground ginger

Granulated sugar for coating

Directions

Preheat oven to 325F.

Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat in egg and molasses.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, soda and spices. Add to creamed mixture and beat until smooth. Batter will be soft.

Spoon out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into balls. Roll in sugar to coat lightly. Place on greased baking sheets 3 inches apart.

Bake in 325F oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

 

He Had a Hat

Let me begin this with a classic Jewish joke: A Jewish grandmother takes her baby grandson to the ocean for the first time. For the occasion, she has dressed him in a smart little sailor outfit. Without warning, a large wave folds over the young boy and swoops him out into the ocean. The grandmother looks up at the sky, “Please God, save my grandson. I will do anything if you return him to me. I will pray daily, I will volunteer weekly. Please God, I will do anything.” In a flash, another wave hits the beach, and the grandson washes up on the sand. The grandmother looks the boy over, then looks up at the sky and says, “He had a hat.”

gooey cinnamon bars

For Chanukah this year, my parents sent me The Smitten Kitchen cookbook. (My dad in Jerusalem sent me Jerusalem; more on that later.) Deb’s magnum opus really is fantastic. We’ve enjoyed the cranberry crumb bars with mulling spices, and the slow-cooker black bean ragout. And last Friday, I made the gooey cinnamon squares. These really are a revelation. They are part snickerdoodle, part gooey butter cake, with a cinnamon top that’s a bit like crème brûlée. As Deb explains, “The base is slightly more cake than cookie, the topping is a cross between a toasted marshmallow and cinnamon toast, and if you just read that and haven’t shut this book to make this happen in your kitchen immediately, I’ve failed.”

So I made them. They were fantastic. But I have one quibble. The way the recipe is laid out in the cookbook is, well, it’s frustrating. On the first page is Deb’s wonderful story about her love of snickerdoodles, and in a column running alongside the story are the ingredients for two parts of the recipe. But to see what to do with said ingredients, you have to turn the page for the actual recipe directions and the cooking notes. So, I found myself flipping back and forth to make sure I had all the right ingredients for each section.

So yes, these bars are a miracle. But Mr. Cookbook editor, he had a hat.

Notes: If you’re feeling a little queasy at the thought of using corn syrup, or if you’re in England (Hi, Bloom cousins!), both golden syrup and honey work equally well.

cat and bars

Gooey Cinnamon Squares from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Ingredients

Soft Cookie Base

8 tablespoons (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature. Plus more for the pan

1 ½ cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon baking soda

(Or, Deb says, substitute 2 teaspoons baking powder for the soda and the cream of tartar.)

¼ teaspoon table salt

¾ cup (150 grams) sugar

1 large egg

¼ cup (60 ml) milk

 Gooey Layer

¼ cup (60 ml) light corn syrup, golden syrup, or honey

¼ cup (60 ml) milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

12 Tablespoons (170 grams or 1 ½ sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar

¼ teaspoon table salt

1 large egg

1 ¼ cups (155 grams) all-purpose flour

 Topping

2 Tablespoons (25 grams) sugar

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch cake pan with at least 2-inch sides with parchment paper and either butter the paper and sides of the pan or coat them with a nonstick spray. Set aside.

Prepare the cookie base

Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the 8 tablespoons butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the milk, and beat until combined, scraping down bowl and then beating for 10 seconds more. Beat in dry ingredients until just combined.

Dollop cookie base over the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula. Set pan aside.

Prepare the gooey layer

Whisk liquid sweetener, milk and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, scrape down the sides of bowl, and mix for 10 seconds more. Add 1/3 of flour and mix, then ½ of vanilla mixture and mix. Repeat again, twice, until all of the flour has been mixed until just combined. Dollop over the cookie base and spread carefully with an offset spatula or butter knife.

Make the topping

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a tiny dish and sprinkle it over the entire gooey layer. It will be thick but will come out of the oven almost like a crème brûlée lid, i.e.m awesomely.

To bake and serve

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cookies have bronzed on top. The gooey layer will rise and fall in the oven but will still be a bit liquidy under the cinnamon crust when the squares are done. Let cool completely on a rack, then cut into 1-inch squares.

These square keep at room temperature for at least a week.

Campaign Cookies: Why I started baking.

Cookies for volunteers.

I never considered myself much of a baker. But when I captained a phone bank in last year’s special election (don’t get me started), I thought the least I could do for my volunteers was to reward them with some good cookies. I came across this recipe and took a liking to it.

After mastering this simple recipe, I realized there was nothing stopping me from baking all sorts of things, from lemon bars to macarons to challah to apple cake.  But today, I found myself wanting to bake these cookies again.

This is a pantry recipe. It involves butter, which should just live in your freezer, so you’ll always have it at hand. You should have eggs in the fridge, and everything else you’d have on hand in your pantry. Chocolate chips and dried fruit? In your pantry. Or, you might have to store chips in your freezer if your pantry gets too warm in the summer.

I actually had a bit of trouble with some of my batches of cookies today. The recipe wasn’t off. My oven was. So the cookies in the pics you have here are not my best work. But I promise you it makes a good cookie. If you’re into chewy with lots of good bits of stuff, this recipe is for you. Side note: I actually like the way these cookies taste the next day more than a few hours out of the oven.

The recipe I like to use is from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which has the same ingredients as Toll House, but in different measurements.  They also differ on greasing the pans: Fanny is pro and Toll House is con.

The cookies in these pictures are a mixture of the newly invented Cherry Garcia, chocolate and peanut butter chips, chocolate chip and heath crunch. (I intentionally leave nuts out of my cookies when I don’t know who I’m baking for; it’s just safer that way. But if you know who you’re baking for, have fun with the nuts.)

The amount you want to pay attention to is 1 cup of chips to half a cup something else, say dried fruit or nuts. Make sure to chop up whatever that is, be it dried fruit, or nuts, or both. The Cherry Garcia cookies, for instance, were 1 cup of chips to half a cup chopped dried cherries — which Ocean State Job Lot always has on hand. The Heath Bar Chip? A cup of chips to a half cup Heath Bar bits; the Heath English Toffee Bits, “Bits O’ Brickle Toffee Bits” were actually a pantry addition by Rich and Mike.

Whatever “side” your on, if you want to help out on a campaign but feel weird about talking to strangers, you can pitch in by baking a batch of cookies for the volunteers.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

As you can see, the recipe doubles easily

1/4 pound butter

1/2 dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup and two tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup chopped nuts or chopped dried fruit, or both

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease some cookie sheets. Cream the butter, then gradually add the two sugars, beating until light and smooth. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Mix the flour, salt and  baking soda and add it to the first mixture blending well. Stir in the nuts/dried fruit and the chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls* onto the cookie sheets about 1 inch apart and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

*Please read below for more on this cookie scoop.

Both recipes say you can make an average of 55 cookies with this recipe. It’s more like 2 dozen.

*I don’t usually complain about products, but feel I must in this case. Two weeks ago I had attempted to make cookies for the campaign, but my cookie scoop lost one of its rivets that held the sweeper in place. I couldn’t bring those to the campaign; what if someone bit on that rivet? I brought it back to Crate and Barrel, and they replaced it immediately. This is what happened during today’s baking.

This product is garbage.