@nytimes Beyond Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes

December 5, 2011

Aromas of baking cookies orchestrate the seasonal memories of my childhood. The trace of spices and butter and chocolate and flour waft up from the oven, scents from the kitchen counter where racked cookies cool, all declare Christmas to me. My granny made homemade fudge (both chocolate and peanut butter varieties), rocky road treats and many batches of cookies. I remember pale, sprinkle saturated cookies in iconic shapes. And these days my aunt with a twinkle in her eye announces, “I’m making fudge” in early December as a code for “you are coming back home for Christmas this year, right?”

Although I am third generation Californian, the cookie tradition was as much a part of our family holiday celebration as the cookie table tradition at weddings is sacrosanct on the East Coast. A few years ago I found inspiration to launch into a baking adventure from a New York Times article on cookie recipes. It was a wonderful adventure and one I might consider repeating.

Perish the thought of pale sugary cookies with a fake glitter of sprinkles. Love you granny! These cookies were going to be unconventional, delicious, spice showcase and promised a baking design challenge to satisfy my creative mind. I baked eight batches of cookies, learned a lot, and gifted cookies to my extended family that year. With brownies or blondies, less is more. With recipes that sound like a fad, i.e., stained glass cookies, they really are just a concept, not a satisfying, enduring cookie delight.

Note: when you travel with ingredients in your carry-on bags, sticks of Crisco are not TSA approved. Be prepared to be searched, questioned, and puzzled at for the threat that lard poses to national security. I was just chuckling over the post-holiday TSA staff trying to be authoritative yet completely baffled by my luggage which contained something “detected” that they couldn’t uncover. I did use the Crisco I flew home with, later in New Year’s baking!

 

Here are a few of my favorite cookie recipes from that holiday cookie baking marathon. Thanks to New York Times editors and contributing bakers.

 Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkles

yield: Makes about 6 dozen cookies

active time: 35 min

total time: 1 1/2 hr

The zing of ginger and the sweetness of molasses combine in perfect proportions in this cookie, sent to us by Jane Booth Vollers of Chester, Connecticut. Her grandmother, Helen Dougherty, made batches and batches of them every holiday season.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)

About 1/3 cup sanding or granulated sugar* for tops of cookies

 

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt in a bowl until combined.
Beat together shortening, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 6 minutes with a handheld. Add egg and molasses, beating until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour mixture until combined.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll 1 heaping teaspoon of dough into a 1-inch ball with wet hands, then dip 1 end of ball in sanding sugar. Make more cookies in same manner, arranging them, sugared side up, 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets.
Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes total, then cool on sheets 1 minute. Transfer to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets.
*Available at Sweet Celebrations 800-328-6722.

Cooks’ note: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies

yield: Makes about fifty-five 3-inch cookies

These delicious cookies are decorated with a sprinkling of raw sugar.

 

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg, room temperature
Raw sugar

Whisk flour, cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in finely grated orange peel and vanilla. Add egg; beat to blend. Add 1/3 of flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Add remaining flour in 2 additions, beating on low speed just until blended. Refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.
Divide dough in half. Form each half into ball. Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm enough to roll out, about 45 minutes. DO AHEAD: Dough can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let chilled dough stand at room temperature until soft enough to roll out, about 15 minutes.
Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to generous 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out cookies using festive cookie cutters. Carefully transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Gather dough scraps into ball. Flatten, cover, and freeze dough until firm enough to roll out again, about 10 minutes.
Bake cookies until light golden brown, about 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking for even cooking. Carefully slide parchment paper with cookies onto racks to cool completely. Let baking sheets cool completely, then repeat process with remaining dough, lining sheets with fresh parchment between batches. DO AHEAD: Cookies can be made 3 days ahead. Store cookies in airtight containers at room temperature.
* Also called turbinado or demerara sugar; available at most supermarkets and at natural foods stores.

For cookies with a more classic holiday look, make a quick glaze by mixing powdered sugar with a bit of milk. Spread the glaze on the cookies, then sprinkle with colored sugar or top with small candies. To add even more color, tint the glaze with food coloring.

Five-Spice Gingersnaps

Five-Spice Gingersnaps

yield: Makes about 3 dozen cookies

active time: 1 hr

total time: 10 hr

Typical gingersnaps lean toward the soothingly plain; these are the opposite of that, spicy with chewy crystallized ginger and aromatic with Chinese five-spice powder. Left unadorned, the cookies will continue to crisp over time; iced, they become softer and more cakey.

 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup*

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

 

Special equipment: parchment paper; a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter; a piping tip with a 1/4-inch plain round opening (if making cookies into ornaments); pastry bags or several small heavy-duty sealable plastic bags (optional). Garnish: decorative icing (optional).

Whisk together flour, five-spice powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
Pulse ginger with 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor until finely ground.
Add syrup, butter, egg, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar to processor and blend until mixture is thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add flour mixture and pulse just until a dough forms. Form dough into a disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 8 hours to allow flavors to develop.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Quarter dough. Keeping remaining 3 pieces wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled, roll out 1 piece of dough on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper with a lightly floured rolling pin to 3/4 inch thick. (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, chill on wax paper until firm.) Cut out rounds with cutter and transfer to 1 lined baking sheet, arranging cookies about 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until slightly puffed and a shade darker, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on sheet. If desired, make holes with piping tip near edges to hang cookies, then transfer cookies (still on parchment) to a rack to cool completely. (Cookies will flatten slightly as they cool.)
While first batch is baking, roll out and cut another batch, arranging cookies on second lined sheet. Bake in same manner, then gather scraps and chill until dough is firm enough to reroll, 15 to 20 minutes. Make more cookies with scraps (reroll scraps only once) and remaining pieces of dough, cooling sheets and lining them with fresh parchment before using.
If using icing and coloring it, transfer small batches of icing to small bowls, 1 for each color, and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color of icing into a separate pastry bag, pressing out excess air. Twist bag firmly just above icing, then decoratively pipe icing onto cookies. Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour, depending on humidity) before serving or storing cookies.

Cooks’ notes: Cookies are best when dough is chilled 8 hours to allow flavors to develop, but if you’re in a hurry, dough can be chilled just 2 hours. Dough can be chilled up to 3 days.
•Using a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip results in cleaner lines of icing, but you can use small sealable plastic bags. Spoon each color of icing into a separate sealable bag, pressing out excess air, and snip an 3/4-inch opening in 1 bottom corner of each bag.
•Cookies keep, layered between sheets of parchment if iced, in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days. For Lyle’s Golden Syrup, see http://www.lylesgoldensyrup.com

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

yield: Makes about 7 dozen cookies

active time: 30 min

total time: 4 hr

These classic rich, chewy cookies crack — or, yes, crinkle — as they bake. Hazelnuts, cocoa, and chocolate come together to make them particularly potent.

 

2/3 cup hazelnuts

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 oz fine-quality bittersweet

chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Special equipment: parchment paper

 

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Toast hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan in oven until skins split and nuts are pale golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven (turn oven off), then wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins. Cool nuts completely. Pulse nuts with granulated sugar in a food processor until finely chopped.
Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set aside.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in melted chocolate until combined. Add milk and vanilla, beating to incorporate. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in nut mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough until firm, 2 to 3 hours.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl. Halve dough and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll remaining half into 1-inch balls, placing them on a sheet of wax paper as rolled. Roll balls, 3 or 4 at a time, in confectioners sugar to coat generously and arrange 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets.
Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges feel dry (but centers are still slightly soft), 12 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies (still on parchment) to racks to cool completely.
While first batch is baking, roll remaining dough into balls. Line cooled cookie sheets with fresh parchment, then coat balls with confectioners sugar and bake in same manner.

Cooks’ note: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

 

 

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