Like just about everything else in this tumultuous year, baking in 2020 has felt like no other.
From ingredient shortages and reduced grocery runs to the crushing, simultaneous weight of a global pandemic and contentious election, so much has left so many of us unmoored, in the kitchen and otherwise. But we have also found ways to center ourselves amid the storm, standing at the counter with a bowl and a spatula, stirring, stirring, stirring.
Baking as an escape is a time-tested coping strategy, though if this year has taught us anything (and it has taught us many things), it is that baking can also be about more than what is happening within our own walls. Movements such as Bakers Against Racism, a worldwide bake sale devoted to raising money for social justice causes, show that pastry and politics are not mutually exclusive. We see that baking is both activity and action, an outlet and a way out. Bake for yourself, or bake for others. Baking is what you make – and what you make of it.
And this year, I have made a lot. I’ve baked hundreds of creative, delicious cookies, some of the best to have ever come out of my kitchen, thanks to having the responsibility and honor of curating The Washington Post Food section’s 16th annual cookie section. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had been looking forward to the project all year, and we’ve heard from readers who felt the same way. Despite the pressure of putting together a package that felt like so much was riding on it, this didn’t seem like the time to try to construct an overarching theme for all the recipes.
The prevailing sentiment that came out of our brainstorming meetings: We just wanted a bunch of really good cookies.
To help us get there, I called in the reinforcements: a dozen smart, talented bakers who blog, write cookbooks and work day in and day out in professional kitchens, where many in the hospitality industry this year have had their jobs upended or, worse, eliminated. We asked them to give us the best of what they had, whether it was inspired by an ingredient, a memory or this time we’re living in.
They certainly delivered (and so did I, shuttling dozens of samples to colleagues around the area). These 12 cookies are among the most colorful and diverse we’ve ever put in one place. There’s something for everyone, with treats that feature nuts, chocolate and fruit. We have chewy cookies, crunchy cookies, melt-in-your mouth cookies. Cookies to eat warm or cold. Gluten-free and vegan. None are complicated to make either, because this year, everyone, no matter your skill level or taste, deserves to make, eat and receive something truly excellent.
Amaretti Dipped in Ruby Ganache
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 18 regular or 36 mini cookies
As a pastry chef, I want everything I make to taste like your Nonna made it just for you: an instant classic in your mouth. That’s truer than ever around the holidays, which are all about comfort, joy and traditions. So during the holiday season of 2019, when I was in charge of the bread and pastry programs at Rossoblu in Los Angeles, I dove deep into the research of traditional Italian cookies.Coincidentally, I was watching movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. One night, while poring over scraps of recipes in Italian as “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” played in the background, Marilyn Monroe shimmied in a pink strapless dress singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and this cookie idea popped into my head: a sugar-dusted diamond of amaretti dipped in a ruby chocolate party dress.Marilyn’s best friends may have been diamonds, but mine have always been cookies – and, like diamonds, the greatest ones are stunning and rare. But that doesn’t mean they’re complicated. This amaretti recipe celebrates almonds, and it is simple, straightforward, crunchy on the outside, fluffy inside and gluten-free. Then there is that stunner of a pink party dress: ruby chocolate ganache.Ruby is the chocolate world’s newest bombshell, eliciting strong reactions, defying conventions and capturing everyone’s attention. And it’s where the cookie’s rarity comes in: Ruby is the expressive result of recessive genes in the tropical fruit of the cacao trees, a special fruit that keeps its pink color all the way through the chocolate-making process. Ruby also maintains its bright flavor of berries, mangoes and, of course, chocolate. Its color and flavor shine best in a ganache made with olive oil rather than the standard cream.Whip these up and bake till golden brown. When your diamonds are cool, dip them in their party dress for all your best friends. If you can’t find ruby chocolate, feel free to substitute another one, such as white or dark, if you prefer. Marilyn, after all, looked great in a party dress of any color.
Recipe notes: For the smaller amount of egg whites here, we found it easier to beat them using a hand mixer.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. (Freezing and thawing may dissolve the confectioners’ sugar and turn it sticky.)Bars of ruby chocolate are available at some grocery stores. We found Chocolove brand at Whole Foods. It is also available online. – Rose WildeINGREDIENTS:For the cookies:2½ cups almond meal/flour1½ cups granulated sugar2 teaspoons kosher salt2 large egg whites1 teaspoon almond extract1 tablespoon amaretto½ cup confectioners’ sugar, for rolling, plus more for your handsFor the ganache:4½ ounces ruby chocolate, coarsely chopped1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oilMethod:Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Make the cookies: In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, granulated sugar and salt, breaking up any clumps with your fingers.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer with whisk attachment, start on low speed and gradually increase to medium-high, beating until soft peaks form. Pull out the whisk attachment and see how the egg whites look in the bowl and on the whisk. For soft peaks, they should flop over a bit. Add the almond extract and amaretto, then whip on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form. This time, the whites should hold a stiff peak that doesn’t bend when the whisk is pulled out.
Using a flexible spatula, gently fold in half of the almond mixture. Lift the egg whites from the bottom of the bowl over the top of the almond mixture, rotating the bowl as you work. Add the remaining almond mixture and keep folding until a sticky dough forms. It’s OK if you lose some of the volume of the egg whites; they will still puff during baking.
Place the 1/2 cup (65 grams) of confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and lightly dust your hands with some more. Use a No. 30 disher or a regular soup spoon to scoop 2-tablespoon (35 grams) portions. For mini cookies, use a No. 60 disher or scoop approximately 1-tablespoon (17 grams) portions. Roll the dough with your hands to form a smooth ball and then flatten to about 1/4-inch thick. Dip in the confectioners’ sugar and coat completely. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing them 1 to 2 inches apart (they won’t spread much). Bake, one sheet at a time, for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating from front to back halfway through, until the cookies are cracked and golden brown. (Smaller cookies may take less time.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the ganache: Fill a small saucepan with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the water is barely simmering. Place the chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl that fits over the pan without touching the water, and melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Dip the cooled cookies halfway into the ganache. Return to one of the lined baking sheets and transfer to the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to set, about 30 minutes.
Nutrition: (based on 36 cookies) Calories: 111; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 69 mg; Carbohydrates: 14 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 12 g; Protein: 2 g.
Source: Adapted from Rose Wilde, owner of Red Bread and pastry chef at Rossoblu in Los Angeles.
Caramelized Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Time: Active time: 35 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 29 cookies
If chocolate chip cookies and banana bread had a baby, this beauty would be it. Crisp on the outside, chewy in the center and filled with pockets of molten dark chocolate, this is the classic chocolate chip cookie you know and love – but reimagined with the dark, nuanced flavor of caramelized bananas and cinnamon.The key to achieving that rich caramel flavor comes down to cooking the bananas in a generous amount of butter slowly on the stovetop. As they fall apart in the heat and darken in color, they transform into a toffee-like mixture that lends these cookies their alluring, Bananas Foster flavor. That mixture then gets creamed with sugar and vegetable shortening to create a light and fluffy base, which is the key to that desirable crisp-yet-chewy texture. The shortening ensures that the centers of the cookies remain soft. A generous amount of chopped bittersweet chocolate is added, and a quick roll in sugar makes them shimmer. The result is something new, unexpected and undeniably delicious – perfect for banana lovers.When shopping for this recipe, don’t worry if your bananas aren’t completely ripe. In fact, unlike with banana bread, overripe bananas don’t work as well here because they cause the cookies to spread too much. With just-ripe bananas, the starch helps hold the cookies together, and the caramelization will bring out their natural sweetness.If you’re nervous about caramelizing the bananas, remember: The more caramelized the bananas are, the more flavor they will have. This dough is surprisingly forgiving thanks to the shortening, so don’t be nervous. Go slow, take your time – and let the bananas reach their full flavor potential.
Recipe notes: If you prefer to use chocolate chips in this recipe, you can use 1 3/4 cups in place of the chopped chocolate.
Cookie dough can be made and refrigerated up to 48 hours before baking. Cookies should be formed and chilled until firm before baking, about 1 hour.Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month. - Jesse SzewczykINGREDIENTS:1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes2 large bananas, peeled and roughly chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1-1/4 cups), see headnote3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon3 cups all-purpose flour3/4 teaspoon baking soda3/4 teaspoon kosher salt1/4 teaspoon baking powder1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar1/4 cup vegetable shortening2 large eggs, at room temperature2 teaspoons vanilla extract6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (about 1 3/4 cups), see headnoteMethod:Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bananas and cook, stirring frequently, until they fall apart and have the appearance of chunky applesauce. Continue cooking, scraping the bottoms and sides of the pot to prevent burning, until the butter and bananas are lightly browned and very fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the cinnamon, and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. (Bananas and butter will separate at this time.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and a handheld mixer, combine the cooked banana mixture, 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar, the brown sugar and shortening. Beat on medium speed until fully combined but still slightly gritty, 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off and add the eggs and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until light and ribbony, scraping down the sides as needed, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
Using a No. 50 disher, or 2 rounded tablespoons, portion out the dough and roll into balls about 1-1/2 ounces each. Roll each ball in the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Place the dough balls at least 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and chill until firm, 15 to 30 minutes.
Bake the cookies 12 to 14 minutes, rotating from front to back about halfway through, until lightly browned and the tops crack. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Nutrition: Calories: 212; Total Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 29 mg; Sodium: 67 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 16 g; Protein: 2 g.
Source: Adapted from food writer and recipe developer Jesse Szewczyk, co-author with BuzzFeed’s Tasty of “Tasty Pride: 75 Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community” (Clarkson Potter, 2020).
Corn Linzer Cookies
Time: Active time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 12 to 15 cookie sandwiches
Linzer cookies typically describe a nut-based shortbread cookie sandwich, filled with berry jam. While classic European Linzer dough uses almonds or hazelnuts to add texture and flavor, this New World version calls on corn flour, whose sweetness of corn pairs well with such fruity fillings as strawberry-rhubarb jam, lemon curd and blood orange marmalade.In the summer, I opt for homemade raspberry jam, while in the winter, I often fill them with lemon or tangerine curd. But you can make the raspberry jam here with frozen berries – or feel free to swap in any homemade or store-bought variety you’d like.Don’t be tempted to raise that oven temperature above the specified 300 degrees. It might seem low, but corn flour caramelizes at a lower temperature than wheat.
Recipe notes: The jam can be refrigerated for up to 1 month. The cookies will soften within a few hours of being filled. If you don’t plan to serve them all at once, reserve the baked cookies in an airtight container and fill as needed – the baked cookies will stay crisp for 2 days unfilled.
Corn flour, the superfine relative of cornmeal, is available at specialty markets, health food stores and online from retailers such as Bob’s Red Mill. Check Indian markets as well. - Roxana JullapatINGREDIENTS:For the jam:1 cup granulated sugar1/2 cup water1/2 vanilla bean (optional)4 cups fresh or frozen raspberriesFor the cookies:8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature2 tablespoons granulated sugar2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting1 large egg white1/2 teaspoon kosher salt1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoons fine yellow corn flour (see headnote)Generous 3/4 cup all-purpose flour1/3 cup raspberry jam (may substitute other jam or curd; see headnote)Method:Make the jam: Place a small plate in the freezer for testing the jam later.
Add the sugar to a medium pot. Add the water to moisten the sugar, but do not stir. Split the vanilla bean, if using, lengthwise with a paring knife, scrape out the seeds with the back of the knife and add the seeds and pod to the pot. Cook over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and reduce to a thick syrup, about 25 minutes.
Add the raspberries and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes. Stirring is crucial, because it breaks down the berries while preventing over-caramelization, which may cause the jam to stick to the bottom of your pot. To test the jam’s readiness, spoon a bit of jam onto the chilled plate, and run your finger through it. If your finger leaves a trace on the plate, the jam is ready. Transfer to a separate bowl and let cool completely. Remove the vanilla bean and discard, or rinse, dry well and add to granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar.
Make the cookies: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and a hand mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar on medium speed, until thoroughly combined and somewhat lightened (you don’t need a lot of air to be incorporated), about 2 minutes. Add the egg white, salt and vanilla extract, and mix for another 2 minutes on medium. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the corn flour and all-purpose flour and mix on low until well combined.
Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper, about 12-by-16-inches each. Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and shape into a flattened disk about 6 inches in diameter. Place the other parchment sheet on top and, with a rolling pin, roll as evenly as possible until 1/8-inch thick. Carefully put the flattened dough on a tray, and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Transfer the cookie dough to your work surface and remove the top layer of parchment. Cut the cookies with a 2-inch round or fluted cutter (if the dough is too stiff to work with, wait 1 to 2 minutes, but it’s best to cut as soon as possible, as the dough softens quickly). Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Leave one sheet of cookies as is; these will be the bottoms. To make the tops, use a 1/2- to 1-inch round cookie cutter (the larger end of a piping tip works well here) to cut the center of each cookie to form doughnut-shaped tops. Gather the leftover scraps and reroll in between sheets of parchment, just like you did before, to get a few extra cookies. If the dough becomes too soft to work with, return to the freezer to chill.
Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the sheets and switch their positions in the oven, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies’ edges are golden. Rotating and switching the sheets halfway through the baking process will ensure the cookies bake evenly. Keep a watchful eye – these thin cookies can brown quickly. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough, if any remains.
To finish the cookies, dust the tops with sifted confectioners’ sugar. Drop about 1 teaspoon jam in the middle of each bottom cookie, and top with the dusted doughnut-shaped cookie, gently pressing down so the jam almost reaches the edges.
Nutrition: (based on 15 sandwich cookies) Calories: 111; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 16 mg; Sodium: 42 mg; Carbohydrates: 13 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 1 g.
Source: Adapted from the upcoming “Mother Grains” (W.W. Norton, April 2021), by Los Angeles pastry chef Roxana Jullapat, co-owner of Friends & Family.
Food for the Gods
Time: Active time: 45 minutes | Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes, plus optional 30-minute chill time
Servings: 24 bars
Buttery and chewy, rich and decadent is how I describe this classic Philippine dessert. It’s similar to blondies, but Medjool dates and walnuts lend a deep caramel flavor and toasty crunch with a nice hint of salt. These are especially popular during the holidays, wrapped in colorful red, blue, green and gold cellophane, making them a delectable dessert that is opened like a gift. You will find these at parties passed around the table, kids and adults having tucked them away in pockets and saved for later.Then there’s the name: I’ve asked around and done some research, and can’t find anybody who knows how these came to be known as Food for the Gods. But I have some ideas. First of all, the recipe most likely comes from a Spanish bread called pan de datiles, or date bread. Philippine cuisine was heavily influenced by American, Spanish and Chinese cooks before the dishes were “Filipinized” for use of our native terroir and palate. Dates and walnuts were considered luxurious, and the taste is certainly heavenly, so that could be the connection.As for making them, you can use a stand mixer, but this recipe is easily done by hand. Medjool dates are soft, moist and yield the most fruit. Chilling them in the freezer before chopping keeps them from sticking to your knife and fingers. Don’t overchop; larger pieces help keep the batter moist. Toasting the walnuts brings out a nuttier flavor and makes them crunchier. Find gluten-free flour at most supermarkets, or use unbleached organic all-purpose flour. Coconut sugar is a low-glycemic food and a great substitute for granulated white sugar. Don’t overbake or they won’t be chewy.Find colored cellophane sheets at craft stores or online. Wrapping Food for the Gods can be a fun project for the kids – unless they (or you) eat them all first.
Recipe note: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month. - Isa Fabro
INGREDIENTS:1½ cups chopped walnuts
2 cups measure-for-measure gluten-free flour blend, such as King Arthur Baking brand (may substitute unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organic)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound Medjool dates, chilled in the freezer, then pitted and chopped (each date cut into four pieces)
3 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup coconut sugar (may substitute granulated sugar)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Method:Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant, shaking halfway through. Let cool completely.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan (or two 8-inch square pans) with nonstick cooking spray, then line with parchment paper or aluminum foil (no need to spray if using foil), leaving a generous overhang on the two long sides. Coat the bottom and sides of the parchment or foil with the nonstick spray as well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt until fully incorporated.
In a medium bowl, combine ¼ cup of the flour mixture with the dates and walnuts. Toss together, making sure the date and walnut pieces are coated and separated.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar and coconut sugar until the sugars are dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking each until thoroughly combined before adding the next egg. Whisk in the vanilla extract and then the flour mixture in two additions. Add the coated dates and walnuts in two batches, folding together with a spatula.
Pour the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared pan and evenly smooth the top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating from front to back halfway through, until the edges and top have a golden crust but the middle remains slightly underdone, with a toothpick inserted in the center pulling up moist crumbs. Sprinkle with the sea salt.
Transfer the baking pan to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour.
Using the excess parchment or foil like a sling, remove the slab from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Using a long serrated knife, trim the edges and cut the slab into 2-inch squares; you should get 24 pieces. Transfer the cut pieces to an airtight container and freeze for 30 minutes.
Wrap each piece in a 6-inch colored cellophane square (like a small present), twisting the ends tightly to close.
Nutrition: (per bar) Calories: 310; Total Fat: 16 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 61 mg; Sodium: 166 mg; Carbohydrates: 42 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 31 g; Protein: 3 g.
Source: Adapted from Los Angeles chef and writer Isa Fabro. Fabro is the owner of IsaMADE, which showcases a varied repertoire of projects with creative industries, fostering an ongoing dialogue of community service and cross-cultural exchange.
Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies
Time: Active time: 50 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time
Servings: 26 cookies
Ginger cookies are a holiday staple in my family, and these crinkle cookies remix the traditional version. They are incredibly soft and chewy, with the perfect balance of spice that we know and love. Cardamom adds a citrusy yet fragrant complement to the classic ginger and molasses flavors, but it’s the hint of lemon that really sets them apart.Serve these with hot cocoa or a warm mug of apple cider, sit around the fireplace and enjoy the beauty of the holidays.
Recipe notes: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days; they do not freeze well. The confectioners’ sugar coating may get sticky after a few days. - Jocelyn Delk Adams
INGREDIENTS:2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom1/2 teaspoon kosher salt3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature but still firm to touch1/3 cup granulated sugar1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar1 large egg yolk5 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)1 teaspoon vanilla extract1/2 cup unsulfured molasses (do not use blackstrap)1 cup unsifted confectioners’ sugarMethod:In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom and salt until combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Decrease the speed to medium and add the egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.
With the mixer running, add the molasses and mix thoroughly; you may need to stop the mixer a few times and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula.
Stop the mixer and add the flour mixture in three parts, mixing on low until just combined, and pausing the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. The dough will be very soft and pliable. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake, position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
While the oven is heating, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl.
Using a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop (No. 30 disher) or measuring spoon, scoop out the dough and, with cold hands, roll it into a ball between your palms. Thoroughly roll the ball in the confectioners’ sugar and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls 2 inches apart.
Bake one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffy and cracked but the centers remain soft.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheet until set, 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
Nutrition: Calories: 155; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 21 mg; Sodium: 73 mg; Carbohydrates: 26 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 14 g; Protein: 2 g.
Source: Adapted from food blogger Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes and author of “Grandbaby Cakes” (Agate Surrey, 2015).
Lemon and Cream Cheese Cookies
Time: Active time: 55 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes, plus cooling time
Servings: 50 cookies
My bakes are inspired by whatever we have a lot of in the friary where I live. One day, we had a ton of citrus. Since my fellow brothers love to munch on cookies throughout the day, I decided to bake cookies. I wanted a cookie that used the juice and the zest, that was lemony and tangy, and that was crunchy and soft.I first beat the zest with the sugars; the sugar crystals act like shards, cutting through the zest and expelling their fragrant lemony oils. To add subtle tangy and creamy notes, I added a little cream cheese. Finally, I didn’t want to waste the lemon juice, so I decided to make a simple icing. The brothers loved it.However, my results were inconsistent. Sometimes the lemon flavor was weak or the cookies came out too doughy. Revisiting this recipe, I’ve added lemon extract to fortify the lemon flavor, I bake them smaller and at higher temperature, and I coat them with sugar to create a crispy exterior. I also dip them in a very thin and tangy glaze. The result is crispy, buttery, tangy – and, perhaps most important, lemony.
Recipe note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature and frozen for up to 1 month. - Brother Andrew Corriente
INGREDIENTS:For the cookies:2 cups granulated sugar, divided1/4 cup lemon zest (from about 4 medium lemons)16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch1 teaspoon fine sea salt3/4 teaspoon baking soda2 large eggs, at room temperature1 tablespoon lemon extract2 drops yellow food gel coloring (optional)3 cups all-purpose flourFor the icing:3 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)Method:Make the cookies: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line at least two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar and lemon zest on medium speed until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. Beat on medium until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat for an additional 30 seconds on medium.
In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs and pour in a stream down the side of the mixer bowl while beating on medium speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the lemon extract and food coloring, if using, and beat again on medium for about 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl again. Add the flour and mix on low speed until it is no longer visible and the mixture is homogenous. Give it a few turns with a flexible spatula to make sure there is no dry flour left. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and let the dough chill for at least 30 minutes (it’s quite sticky and is much easier to roll when cold).
Place 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a bowl or shallow dish for rolling. Using a No. 60 disher or measuring spoon, scoop the dough into 1-tablespoon portions, shape into a smooth ball with your fingers and gently roll them in the granulated sugar until evenly coated. Transfer to the lined baking sheets, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart.
Bake one sheet at a time for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies should be brown along the edges, puffed and golden on top and have cracks all over. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, gently flatten the cookies to about 1/2-inch thickness. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Let each baking sheet cool completely before reusing for subsequent batches, or run under cool water and dry to speed up the process.
Make the icing: While cookies are cooling, sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and whisk in the salt. Pour the lemon juice in a stream down the side of the bowl and gradually start working it into the sugar with a whisk. The icing should be loose and very tangy. You may add more confectioners’ sugar if you prefer a thicker icing.
You have a few options for applying the icing. Dip half the cookie into the icing, then use a small offset spatula or the flat side of dinner knife to scrape the bottom of any excess. You also can pour the glaze over the top of cookies sitting on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, scraping off the excess. Or simply drizzle using a spoon or by filling a zip-top bag and cutting off the corner to create a makeshift piping bag. Allow the glaze to set, about 10 minutes.
Nutrition: Calories: 133; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 19 mg; Sodium: 88 mg; Carbohydrates: 22 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 16 g; Protein: 1 g.
Servings: Adapted from Washington friar Brother Andrew Corriente, past winner of “The Great American Baking Show.”
Orange Tutti Frutti Cookies
Time: Active time: 15 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 20 cookies
This recipe is my take on Indian karachi biscuits, beloved shortbread cookies studded with tutti frutti, that are usually served as an accompaniment to chai.In India, tutti frutti – a confection made of candied papaya or watermelon rind dyed red, green, orange or yellow – is used for as a filling in paan (betelnut leaf mouth refresher) and as an ice cream topping, cake decoration and more. It’s also used in desserts in Italy, England and all over the world.Since it’s candied, I find tutti frutti to be super sweet, so for these cookies I add orange zest to cut the sweetness slightly. My Orange Tutti Frutti Cookies smell amazing and, with their gem-like bits of tutti frutti, they look even prettier.
Recipe notes: The shaped cookie dough can be stored in the freezer for up to a month until you’re ready to bake.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.Tutti frutti, a colored dried fruit blend, can be found online or at Indian markets. You can swap in candied orange peel, or any standard candied fruit mix. - Hetal VasavadaINGREDIENTS:1 cup all-purpose flour3 tablespoons almond meal/flour4 tablespoons cornstarch¼ teaspoon fine sea salt¼ cup granulated sugar1 tablespoon orange zest, from 1 large orange8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature½ cup tutti frutti (mixed colors; may substitute candied orange peel)½ cup demerara sugar or sparkling sugar, for rolling (optional)Method:In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond meal or flour, cornstarch and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl that can accommodate a hand mixer, combine the granulated sugar and orange zest, using your fingers to rub the orange zest into the sugar until the sugar is pale orange. Using the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or the hand mixer, beat together the butter and granulated sugar together on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the tutti frutti, still on low.
Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and roll until the dough is a log 2 inches wide. Flatten the sides of the roll into a rectangle shape by gently pressing the plastic-wrapped dough against the table and turning it; it should be 1 inch tall and 10 inches long. Spread the demerara sugar or sparkling sugar, if using, onto a baking sheet. Unwrap the dough and gently press the sides of the cookie dough in the sugar so that the log is completely coated. Re-wrap the dough in plastic wrap and freeze it for 20 to 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice the cookie dough into ½-inch-thick slices using a sharp knife. Place the sliced cookies on the baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
Nutrition: Calories: 112; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 12 mg; Sodium: 31 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 9 g; Protein: 1 g.
Source: Adapted from food blogger Hetal Vasavada of Milk and Cardamom and author of “Milk & Cardamom” (Page Street Publishing, 2019).
Peppermint Chocolate Slices
Time: Active time: 1 hour 15 minutes | Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 50 bars, plus scraps from cutting
I am not quite sure why or when peppermint became such a popular, festive flavor, but it’s a holiday favorite. Candy canes are fine and all, but we all know that peppermint is best when paired with chocolate. Peppermint isn’t fussy, either; it’s perfectly happy when combined with milk, white or bittersweet chocolate (or with caramelized white chocolate for a buttermint-like flavor).For those of you with a nose for culinary inspirations, this bar cookie has two origins: Canada and New Zealand. The cookie borrows mostly from the Nanaimo bar, a Canadian classic I learned about from a family in Vancouver, not far from its namesake town. It consists of a no-bake chocolate cookie base traditionally made with coconut and nuts, not too dissimilar from the British tiffin. This layer is then topped with a custard buttercream and finished with more chocolate. The buttercream filling is made with a traditional British ingredient, custard powder (really just a flavored and colored form of cornstarch) that isn’t widely available in a lot of countries, so I created a version that would be easy to make anywhere in the world. A memory of New Zealand peppermint slices helped me settle on a mint version.These peppermint bars are definitely on the sweeter, richer side, but that just means a batch can happily serve a whole bunch of people. I’ll be boxing them up and dropping them off (at a safe distance, of course) to friends and neighbors, trying to hold on to some traditions where possible in a holiday season like no other.If you’re not a fan of mint, these can be flavored a whole host of ways: spiked with Irish cream, infused with orange or spiced with gingerbread flavors. There is also the question of the coconut, which can be divisive. For those in the hate camp, you could simply replace with more graham crackers, but where is the fun in that? Instead go for something else textural, such as cocoa nibs, toasted oats, nuts or even crushed pretzels.
Recipe notes: You might enjoy these eaten straight out of the refrigerator, or better yet, the freezer, for a kind of icy peppermint patty experience. They’re definitely messier to eat – though no less delicious – if allowed to get soft.
Cutting the slab into diamonds makes the pieces particularly eye-catching, but rectangles or squares are fine, too.The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for several months. - Edd KimberINGREDIENTS:For the base:10-1/2 ounces graham crackers (about 20) or digestive biscuits12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced1/2 cup cocoa powder1/3 cup packed light brown sugar2 large eggs1 teaspoon vanilla extract1-1/2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut1/2 teaspoon flaky sea saltFor the peppermint layer:6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature2-2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar1/3 cup heavy cream1 teaspoon peppermint extractGreen food coloring (optional)For the chocolate topping:8 ounces dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao), roughly chopped3 tablespoons unsalted butter1 tablespoon golden syrup or honeyMethod:Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch pan, then line with enough parchment paper to leave a generous overhang on the two long sides. Secure the paper in place with 2 to 4 metal clips.
Make the base: Place the graham crackers or digestives into a large freezer bag and crush into crumbs using a rolling pin (a few small chunks are fine). Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl.
Place the butter, cocoa and brown sugar into a heatproof bowl set over a pan with a few inches of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water and stir until the butter is melted and everything is smooth. Add the eggs and whisk for a few minutes, or until the mixture thickens. It will look and feel like chocolate pudding. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut and salt. Transfer to the bowl with the graham cracker crumbs, stirring until combined. Scrape into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate while you make the peppermint layer.
Make the peppermint layer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar in three additions, alternating with the cream, then raise the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the peppermint extract, plus a drop or two of food coloring, if using, and beat until evenly combined. Scrape into the pan, spreading over the base in an even layer. Refrigerate for 1 hour before making the topping.
Make the chocolate topping: Place the chocolate, butter and golden syrup or honey in a heatproof bowl set over a pan with a few inches of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and stir occasionally until everything is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and pour the chocolate mixture over the peppermint filling, spreading into an even layer. Refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour.
To serve, use the parchment paper to lift the mixture from the pan, then cut into pieces using a sharp knife. To create the diamonds, cut a series of vertical lines along the long side of the slab spaced about 1 inch apart. Then, cut a series of diagonal lines running across the vertical cuts, spaced about 1-1/2 inches apart along the short side, carrying the pattern all the way through the slab. For the cleanest slices, use a knife that’s been heated in hot water, then dried, for each cut.
Nutrition: Calories: 152; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 22 mg; Sodium: 67 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 11 g; Protein: 1 g.
Source: Adapted from “One Tin Bakes” (Kyle Books, 2020), by food writer Edd Kimber, the first winner of “The Great British Baking Show.”
Quadruple Chocolate Cookies
Time: Active time: 40 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 22 cookies
I am asked on a fairly regular basis if I can ship my creations to friends and family by mail. A lot of the goodies that I make would not survive, so I don’t typically like to ship them. I have made an exception the past few years, though, sending boxes of cookies to a few of my closest family members for the holidays. I always include these cookies in the assortment.They are such a comforting treat to the soul of any chocolate lover. Even the few people I know who swear they don’t like chocolate like to sneak in a few bites. The chocolate dough is filled with semisweet chocolate chips and chunks of milk chocolate, white chocolate and Dulcey, Valrhona’s caramelized white chocolate. I like to use Valrhona chocolates if possible, but you can substitute your favorite brand of chocolate and use butterscotch or caramel chips in place of Dulcey. The cookies are so soft that they almost melt in your mouth, and they have just the right amount of salt. If I can get my hands on crunchy chocolate pearls (you can find them on Amazon or order from Valrhona directly), I add them to the dough for a nice crunch.
Recipe notes: The cookies need to be shaped and chilled for 1 hour before baking.
The baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or in the freezer for 1 month. - Jonni ScottINGREDIENTS:12 tablespoons European unsalted butter, such as Plugra or Kerrygold, at soft room temperature2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar1/4 cup granulated sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extractScant 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flourScant 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, preferably Maldon, plus more for sprinkling1-1/4 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped1-1/4 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped1-1/4 ounces Valrhona Dulcey chocolate (may substitute butterscotch chips or caramel chips; see headnote)1-1/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips1-1/4 ounces crisped white chocolate pearls (optional)Method:In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter, dark brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla and beat again on medium-high. Scrape down the bowl again.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Break up any large clumps of cocoa powder as needed.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture along with the white, milk and Dulcey chocolates, chocolate chips and white chocolate pearls, if using. Mix on low speed just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix, because that will make the cookies tough. If you’re concerned, turn off the mixer a little early and finish stirring by hand.
Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a No. 30 disher or a large tableware spoon, scoop the dough into 2-tablespoon portions and roll into smooth balls. Each ball should weigh about 40 grams. Place the balls on one of the baking sheets (you’ll want to divide them up when it comes time to bake) and refrigerate for 1 hour.
When ready to bake, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Divide the dough balls between the baking sheets, spacing them at least 3 to 4 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 8 minutes. Do not panic when they do not spread in the oven. Upon taking the cookies out of the oven, gently press with a round, flat object – like the bottom of a measuring cup – wiping any chocolate off in between cookies. Sprinkle the cookies with the flaky sea salt while still warm.
Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets.
Nutrition: Calories: 148; Total Fat: 9 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 17 mg; Sodium: 153 mg; Carbohydrates: 19 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 12 g; Protein: 2 g.
Source: Adapted from Jonni Scott, corporate pastry chef at Itaberco, Inc., in Baltimore.
Raspberry Rye Cookies
Time: Active time: 25 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes, plus at least 2 hours of chilling
Servings: 36 cookies
These unique cookies are slightly chewy, with a deep, earthy flavor from the rye – and then you get a burst of fresh tart fruit that makes you want to take another bite. Rolling them in red sanding sugar gives them a festive color (and sprinkling more on the raspberries makes them sparkle), but you can use granulated white sugar instead if you prefer.
Recipe notes: The dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or rolled and refrigerated overnight.
Store in an airtight container, using parchment paper between the layers of cookies if you stack them, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Freezing is not recommended.INGREDIENTS:2/3 cup freeze-dried raspberries2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour1/2 cup light rye flour3/4 teaspoon baking soda3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature1 cup packed light brown sugar3/4 cup granulated sugar1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract1/2 cup red sanding sugar (may substitute additional granulated sugar)6 ounces large fresh raspberriesMethod:
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the freeze-dried raspberries until they are reduced to a powder.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and rye flours, baking soda, salt and raspberry powder.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a handheld mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and beat on medium until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Switch to low speed and beat in the flour mixture in three additions, mixing each in until barely combined.
Transfer the dough to the refrigerator, cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight, until stiff.
Using a No. 40 disher or a 1-1/2-tablespoon measure, form the dough into 1-ounce balls and roll them in the red sanding sugar. Transfer them to plates, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight, until firm.
Place 9 cookie balls on each baking sheet. Lightly press into the top of each cookie with your thumb or a teaspoon, making a very shallow indentation, then mash a raspberry between your fingers and gently set it into the indentation, smearing the raspberry a little without flattening the cookie.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 7 minutes, then use a small spoon to sprinkle a pinch of sanding sugar onto each raspberry. Rotate the sheet, return it to the oven, and bake another 7 minutes, or until the sides are set.
Let the cookies cool completely on the pan before transferring them to a rack or platter. Repeat with remaining dough balls, ensuring the pans are completely cool before reusing.
Nutrition: Calories: 134; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 24 mg; Sodium: 78 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 12 g; Protein: 1 g.
Source: Adapted from “100 Cookies,” by Sarah Kieffer (Chronicle, 2020), who also writes the Vanilla Bean Blog.
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 38 cookies
Back when ugly Christmas sweaters and high-waisted jeans were still worn without a hint of irony, every December my mom and her friends would dress up in both to gather for a holiday cookie exchange. No matter how many perfect kolaches and iced sugar cookies she brought home, the cookies we kids waited up for were Pam’s peanut butter blossoms. They were rolled in sugar, chewy on the inside, crunchy around the edges, and studded with gooey chocolate kisses.These sesame blossoms are inspired by that classic, as well as Syrian barazek, which you can find in many Middle Eastern bakeries, especially ones specializing in western Mediterranean cuisine. Instead of peanut butter, my sesame blossoms get their chew and nuttiness from tahini, and like barazek, they’re coated in a crackly layer of sesame seeds. Both cookies make a lovely addition to a cookie box or virtual cookie exchange. For a maximally nostalgic cookie-exchange experience, make sure you let them sit in an enclosed space with a peppermint-flavored cookie for a few hours. Or just bake up a batch and enjoy them while they’re absolutely perfect.
Recipe notes: Chocolate kisses are not always available internationally, but feel free to use milk chocolate buttons instead: Find buttons that are about 1 inch in diameter (from one 8-ounce bag), stack two together so their flat sides are touching, then use one pair for each cookie. (If one button is slightly bigger, make sure the bigger side shows). They will fuse together from the heat of the oven.
This recipe’s timing results in a very chewy cookie with crunchy edges. If you want your cookies to be extra golden brown, with more toasted sesame flavor, less chewiness and more crunch, add 1 to 2 minutes to their bake time before topping with chocolate (11 to 12 minutes without chocolate, then 2 minutes with chocolate).The rolled and coated cookie dough can be frozen on a sheet pan and then stored in a plastic bag. Bake from frozen, but they will take about an extra 2 minutes to bake, and tend to be a little puffier.The baked cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. You can also freeze them for up to 1 month, though you may lose a few more sesame seeds. Wait for the chocolate to set completely before storing. - Kathryn PaulineINGREDIENTS:Generous 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature2/3 cup packed light brown sugar1/4 cup granulated sugar1/2 teaspoon salt