Happy Valentine’s Day!

[image: heart-shaped cardamom butter cookies]
[image: heart-shaped cardamom butter cookies]

I don’t really do pretty cookies. I’m all for cookies that just taste good, regardless of their appearance. So it’s mainly drop cookies for me. However, for Valentine’s Day, I wanted to send some holiday-appropriate cookies to my nephews, so I unearthed a rolled cookie recipe and found a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

The recipe for Cardamom Butter Cookies has you rest the dough for a half hour in the fridge. This is supposed to take the dough from a pile of crumbs into a cohesive mass that can then be rolled. Well, it wasn’t happening. Maybe it was too dry here that day, maybe I hadn’t let the butter warm enough, but—I was panicking, basically. Suddenly I remembered a tip from America’s Test Kitchen (or Good Eats or one of the many cooking shows I had been watching during the aughts). It was a tip for pie crust, to use a bit of vodka when you needed moisture in the dough without adding water (which would make the crust tough). I put my crumbled dough back in the mixer and added two tablespoons of vodka, one at a time, until the dough came together as needed. I was then able to roll and cut it as I wished. I think I could probably skip the whole resting stage entirely next time, to be honest.

And the cookies were great! Happy Valentine’s, everybody!

Almond Thins

[image: almond thin cookies and adorable owl mugs]
[image: almond thin cookies and adorable owl mugs]

I don’t actually know why I thought this, but I thought I needed a cookie that would stack easily for a gift. It’s not like I was mailing them, so I really didn’t, but that was my thought process. I gave them as gifts to my hair gal and an old pal of mine from work. Flo Braker’s original recipe didn’t include any salt, so I rectified that.

So the original yield is 80–90 cookies, but I only got about 55. I just couldn’t slice it thinly enough. You need a really thin, really sharp knife—which I thought I had, but apparently it wasn’t quite thin and sharp enough. Honestly, I think you need like a meat slicer for this.

What I did with my scraps and mis-cuts was to roll them out super-thin between some parchment and cut rectangles from there. You get a difference in how the almonds interact with the dough (they’ll be flat instead of cut across). They won’t look as interesting, in my opinion, but it is an option. I didn’t notice them getting tough because of the extra working of the dough, which is good.

You may notice after a few days that the cookies soften (and depending on the humidity, it could be the very next day). To crisp the cookies back up, I slid them into my toaster oven for a couple minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Excellent with tea! Aren’t those cute mugs?

1 stick butter, cubed
1 1/3 cup coarse golden sugar (demerara, washed raw sugar, or turbinado—I used Sugar in the Raw)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup water
2 1/3 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup sliced almonds

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat with the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water. Stir until the butter just melts and remove promptly from heat. Don’t let the sugar dissolve.

Mix the butter mixture with the flour, baking soda, and almonds until combined. Press the dough into the prepared loaf pan. Cover with additional plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the dough and smoothing the top. Chill until firm. (I found that a refrigerator chill was not enough to keep the shape while slicing, so I had to freeze it nearly solid.)

Line baking sheets with parchment (don’t use a silpat, they won’t get crisp enough). Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Using a very, very sharp and thin knife, carefully slice the loaf into pieces narrow as possible. Place on the baking sheets about 1/2–1″ apart (they will spread slightly due to the baking soda—I foolishly thought they wouldn’t and my first batch had a couple merge into each other). (Also see above for my solution to scraps.)

Bake for 10–15 minutes, then carefully flip the cookies over with a spatula and continue baking for an additional 10–15 minutes (the time will depend on how thin you were able to cut the slices). You want them to be a deep golden-brown. Cool completely on a rack.

Coconut Brown Butter Cookies

[image: coconut brown butter cookies]
[image: coconut brown butter cookies]

I snagged this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I don’t know if I thought it was quite the world-changer she did, but yeah, they’re pretty good. My brother puts them on par with my macaroons, and one of my friends said they were better than the potato chip cookies (huh, apparently I haven’t written about those yet). I think they’re both crazy. They are very good, though. I’m still enjoying eating them a lot. I put more actual salt in them than SK’s recipe, as well as using salted butter. They’re almost savory this way (which is how I like my cookies). I live in fear of burning butter, so I only took mine to “tanned” instead of “browned,” but the nutty butter taste is still present and very tasty.

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
up to 2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp (aka 5/8 cup) white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp AP flour (aka 1 7/16 cup, but that’s a really unhelpful calculation)
1 tsp baking soda
Highly rounded 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (I used the nice stuff instead of just going for the kosher salt as I usually do)
240 grams flaked coconut (it’s around 4 cups, but definitely weigh it, especially if you’re using shredded instead of flaked)
kosher salt

Melt butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Butter will melt and foam before it starts browning. Keep stirring and keep an eye on that foam to see when the color change starts to happen. It will take 5+ minutes. Butter will continue to cook after you take it off the heat, so pull it a little sooner than “dark brown” or you might end up with “black.” Pour butter and scrape all browned bits into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add up to 2 Tbsp water to get the level back up to 1 cup. (The extra room in the cup is to accommodate the fizzing that will occur when you add the water.) Chill the butter in the fridge until solid, 1–2 hours.

With a stand or hand mixer, cream browned butter with the white and brown sugars until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix together, scraping down sides when necessary. Add salt, baking soda, and flour in two or three batches, mixing together (and scraping). Add the coconut flakes a cup at a time, mixing in evenly (you may have to do the last cup by hand—make sure if you have a smaller mixer that the flakes don’t overwhelm the capacity and climb up into the mechanism).

Prep baking sheets with parchment paper (people reported spreading problems with silpats) and heat oven to 350. I was able to fit 10 1-Tbsp size cookies to a sheet without them running into each other. Dish the cookies onto the sheet, then flatten slightly with your fingers. Sprinkle a tiny bit of kosher salt on top of each cookie.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, rotating trays at the halfway point. Cool for a couple minutes on the sheets, then remove to cooling racks. I got about 5 1/2 dozen cookies using a 1-Tbsp scoop.

[image: 65 coconut brown butter cookies on cooling racks]
[image: 65 coconut brown butter cookies on cooling racks]

Self-Frosting Spice Cookies

[image: self-frosting spice cookies cooling on a rack]
[image: self-frosting spice cookies cooling on a rack]

I found this recipe while researching traditional Dutch and German cookies. These are called Anise Platzchen or Self-Frosting Anise Drops, and traditionally they’re made with anise (er, obviously). I found this spice variation along with a vanilla one on Gin’s Kitchen. I found the concept SO WEIRD that I had to try it. But while the recipe worked (which honestly I was really not expecting), I didn’t actually like the taste? But I brought them to a party today, and my friends seemed to enjoy them, so here is the recipe.

Self-Frosting Spice Cookies
recipe adapted from Gin’s Kitchen
3 large eggs
1 1/8 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 3/4 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt

Using a stand mixer (or electric hand mixer—trust me, you will not want to do this by hand), beat the eggs together until they have lightened in color. Slowly add the sugar. Once the sugar is in, beat the mixture on medium speed for 20 minutes.

While the mixer is running, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients.

Also do this while the mixer is running: line 5 baking sheets* with parchment paper (or prepare 5 pieces of parchment to go into baking sheets if you have fewer than 5 sheets) (I read a couple recipes that said you can’t use parchment for this, but I didn’t have any problem with sticking). If you don’t have parchment, prepare the pans with butter and flour or Baker’s Joy spray.

Once the 20 minutes is up, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Continue beating for another 3 minutes.

Use two teaspoons and scoop about a teaspoon of dough at a time. Use the other spoon to shove the dough off the first spoon onto the parchment. It’s very sticky. Try to get the dollops as circular as you can. Space them about 1.5 inches apart.

Let the cookies sit out overnight. Yes. Do that.

[image: before baking, how the self-frosting spice cookies look on the pan]
[image: before baking, how the self-frosting spice cookies look on the pan]

The next morning, heat your oven to 325. Bake each sheet for 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, and then move to a cooling rack. If your cookies stick, let them cool a bit more before removing them. I didn’t need a spatula, just a little twist and they released from the parchment. I recommend baking one sheet at a time, if you can. I couldn’t get both sheets to get to the same level of doneness when I baked two at once.

As the cookies bake, they will lift up from the bottom slightly, as shown in the top picture. Voila, self-frosting cookies!

* I fit 12 cookies onto a sheet, and the recipe provides dough for 60 cookies. If you can fit more than 12 cookies onto a sheet, good for you. Make your calculations for how many sheets you’ll need. 12:5, 15:4, 20:3 or whatever.

Coconut Macaroons

(adapted from David Leibovitz)

coconut macaroons
[Image: 43 golden-toasty coconut macaroons on a wire cooling rack on a green tablecloth.]

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/4 cup flour (see note)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

If you’re making these for Passover, grind up matzoh in a spice/coffee grinder instead.

Mix all ingredients except vanilla in a large nonstick skillet over low to medium heat. Stir, and do not stop stirring. Things will look a little dire at first, but they’ll coalesce soon enough. Keep stirring.

When the mixture starts to scorch (I take this to mean darken a bit in color and make schlorpy noises when you move it around the pan), remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. I recommend a narrow container with as little exposed surface area as possible. Press some plastic wrap down on it to minimize air contact. (At this point, the mixture can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months. Bring it back to room temperature before baking if you do this.)

Heat oven to 350 and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Form dough into 1-inch mounds with your hands and space evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Do not be tempted to pull them early, the darker they get, the better they taste! I sometimes use the convection setting for the second half of baking in order to get the edges dark and crispy. Cool completely before serving.

(These get better in the days following baking, so if you have the time, make them early. I store them in an unsealed zip-top bag in order to preserve their texture. Sealing it will soften them.)

Checkerboard Cookies

Canadian Living

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, then let cool to room temperature.

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 of the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; stir into butter mixture in 3 additions, using hands if too stiff to stir.

Remove half of the dough for vanilla dough. Stir chocolate into remaining dough in bowl, using hands to blend thoroughly.

Divide vanilla dough in half, and shape into flat squares. Place dough, one square at a time, between 2 sheets of waxed paper; roll into two 7-inch squares. Chill for about 30 minutes or until firm. Using ruler and sharp knife, cut each square into nine 3/4-inch wide strips. Repeat with chocolate dough.

Place about 1-foot long piece of plastic wrap on work surface. Alternating vanilla and chocolate strips, place 3 strips of dough directly on plastic wrap, close but not touching. Whisk remaining egg; brush over sides and tops of strips. Gently press strips together to adhere. Repeat, forming second and third layers and alternating placement of strips, to create checkerboard effect. Gather plastic wrap up to cover log; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days. Repeat for second log, reversing colour pattern.

Heat oven to 350.

With sharp knife, trim ends and cut each log into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange 1-inch apart on parchment paper-lined rimless baking sheet. Bake in centre of oven, rotating trays halfway through, for about 12 minutes or until set and very light golden. Let cool on pan on rack for 3 minutes. Transfer to racks to let cool completely.

Molasses Spice Cookies

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 cup chopped raisins (optional, I didn’t use them but my mom said they would have been a good idea, and The Joy agrees)

Heat oven to 350. Beat the butter until soft, then add the sugar and blend until light and creamy. Beat in the egg and molasses.

Sift the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Alternate adding in thirds the sifted ingredients and the buttermilk to the mixture in the bowl, beating smooth after each addition. (Er, that wasn’t terribly clear. Sift those things together. Add a third of the buttermilk to the butter/sugar/egg/molasses mixture. Beat smooth. Add a third of the sifted flour/soda/spices/salt to the bowl. Beat smooth. Add another third of the buttermilk, etc.)

Drop the batter in teaspoons onto a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes.

(Note: these baked up as soft little puffy cookies. I have a feeling if I made them in warmer weather, they might have coalesced into an large amorphous cookie. This happened with the Pfeffernüsse. So just be careful, and if you feel like the dough is way too loose [this may be hard to tell, as it’s a pretty loose dough anyway], put it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so before baking.)

Baraziq (sesame cookies)

from Mediterranean Street Food by Anissa Helou

4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
pinch salt
1/3 teaspoon baking powder

For the garnish:
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 cup quartered pistachio nuts
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted in a nonstick pan until lightly golden

Put the sugar and softened butter in a mixing bowl and work together with a wooden spoon until completely blended. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend with your hands until you have a soft dough. If the dough is too soft to work with immediately, refrigerate it for 1 hour. Divide the dough into 18-20 pieces to make small baraziq or 6 pieces to make the larger size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Shape each ball of dough with your hands until you have quite a thin disk, about 2 1/2 inches wide, and place on a large platter. When you have shaped all the disks, dip each in the egg white, then in the pistachios on one side and the toasted sesame seeds on the other. Make sure you coat them well with the seeds. Arrange on the lined baking sheet with the pistachio side down.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown. Let cool before serving. Baraziq will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Gialetti (Sultana Cornmeal Cookies)

1/2 cup sultanas (I use good quality golden raisins)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cup AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter (I use salted- if you unsalted, then add a pinch of salt)
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp marsala

Soak the sultanas/raisins in a small bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. Drain. Preheat oven to 350.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the marsala.

Add the baking powder, cornmeal, and flour to the batter, beating until well-blended. Stir in the sultanas/raisins.

Drop heaped teaspoons of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment in rows about two inches apart (they spread quite a bit). Back for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies appear golden brown at the edges. Remove to a rack to cool.