Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Gingerbread and I aren’t pals… Well, actually, true Gingerbread (the cake kind!) and I get along famously, but the tedious little Gingerbread man cookies are the ones I find obnoxious: a ton of work for something not all that tasty.  As such, I prefer to take in my gingery-molassesy yumminess in the form of these chewy EASY roll and bake cookies.

Chewy on the inside, crunchy sugar crystals on the outside, and gingery warmth make all kinds of sugar plums dance in my head – without the headache and mess of rolling, cutting, & decorating on a seemingly infinite loop!  In general I am not a lazy person, except when it comes to things that have a higher “yum” to “effort” ratio.  I am down for whatever will yield the most deliciousness and require the least amount of work.  In the land of all things holiday and gingery molasses, these have successfully mastered that magic ratio to super-cookie status.  Yes, even without the decorations and festive holiday shapes. 

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Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookie

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground  cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • scant 1/2 cup mild flavored molasses (I used Grandma’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup turbinado (or other coarse granule sugar) for rolling
  • 1/8 cup crystalized ginger

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor pulse crystalized ginger with 1/2 of turbinado.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in remaining turbinado with a spoon. Set aside for rolling cookies.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In the bowl of stand mixer, combine molasses, sugars, melted butter, and egg just until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture 1/3 at a time.  Mix until just combined (may need to scrape bottom of stand mixer’s bowl a few times to incorporate the sticky molasses).  Place mixture in fridge for a few minutes to make dough less soft and sticky (Approx 30 minutes, but not more, or else cookies will not bake evenly).

Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.  Roll dough into 1″ balls and roll in turbinado mixture.  Place balls 2″ apart on cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes for soft chewy results!!

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The BEST Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ok, I’m not usually a big chocolate chip cookie fan.  Never have been.  In the hierarchy of classic lunch box faves like peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, and chocolate chip.  Chocolate chip would come in last place.

I was pretty neutral to them in general.  They were either soft and “meh” on flavor, or flavorful but too crunchy and hard – which is the way my mom always made them.  I am a soft, chewy cookie fan; what can I say?

I am sure you know where this is headed, but my days of chocolate chip cookie neutrality are over!

Welcome to the most perfectly, perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe!!!  I toyed with it to see if there were any tweaks to be had, but nope, Monique from Ambitious Kitchen nailed it! Recipe credits all go to AmbitiousKitchen.com.
The secret ?  Browning the butter! Oh, and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt!  (Note: Our family prefers milk chocolate chips, so thats the only type I used.)

You can thank me later… As you are pouring your 2nd glass of milk and munching on your 3rd cookie.  If you are on a diet, you may want to ignore this post entirely because these will ruin it… and continue to ruin it as your crave them day after day.

I am speaking from experience here because I may or may not have made this recipe 6 or 7 times in the past month.

4th of July weekend, 9 people devoured around 8 dozen of these over the course of 2 days.  I am electing to live in the ignorance of how many cookies that was per person…

And, I may or may not have invited our friends over last night as an excuse to make this recipe again.  Maybe we can say its the cookies that bring people together?  Quite possibly all East and West Germany needed post WWII were these chocolate-chippy bad boys?  I’ll just throw that delicious peacemaking tactic out there for future generations’ use 😉

Even if you aren’t a chocolate chip fan, you are about to become one, like I did.  Enjoy!!    

The Shortbread Cookie Dough Base with endless possibilities

All right ya’ll, get ready for the most versatile cookie dough base ever. If you love tender buttery shortbread, then we will be great friends. Welcome, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

Coconut Lime Shortbread
Coconut Lime Shortbread

So a little bit of background… In college I used to study at this coffee shop in Seattle that had amazing lemon cranberry shortbread cookies. So I went on an Internet search for a similar recipe. None came up, but I did find a great chocolate chip shortbread cookie dough base that was an excellent start. As per my usual, its seen its fair share of tweaks throughout the years, but the result is the most amazing shortbread cookie dough base. Ever.

I say, treat this base like traditional chocolate chip cookie dough. Roll it into balls and allow it to spread out as it bakes. But unlike its traditional cousin, chocolate chips and nuts are just the beginning. This base is THE most versatile that I have ever tried. It has a tender, mellow, buttery flavor that is dying to be accented by additions of your choosing! Here are some of my favorite additions:

  • Lemon zest and dried cranberries
  • Dried shredded coconut and lime zest
  • White chocolate chunks, walnuts, and cranberries
  • Macadamia nuts and shredded coconut (even try adding some lemon or lime zest)
  • Any sort of finely chopped flavorful nut (I am partial to hazelnuts)
  • Toffee and Hazelnuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Or just about any delicious combination you can think of…

I posted the magic recipe for Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies using this base earlier in the week, but in case you missed it, the dough base recipe is below along with suggested measurements for your flavor additions.

Shortbread Cookie Base

  • 1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1.5 cup of additions of your choice (unless citrus zest)**

**For chopped nuts, chocolate, coconut, dried fruit etc add about 1-1.5 cups total additions.  For citrus zest, about 1 tblspn. is plenty!

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then in 3 additions, mix in the dry ingredients. This will seem like a lot of flour for not a lot of butter.  So it may require craping down the sides and bottom of the bowl in order to fully incorporate the flour mixture.

Once fully incorporated, mix in your choice of additions.

Roll the dough into about 1 and a half inch balls and place on baking sheet.  Leave about 2 inches of space between them so that you don’t end up with one giant cookie – albeit, one giant, delicious cookie.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until just cooked through but before the color starts to turn golden brown.

Get ready to be asked for the recipe a lot.  I love that I always have something in the cupboard that can be thrown into this dough for a delicious combination.  Enjoy!  Let me know what combinations you come up with.  I am always up for trying something new – when it comes to cookies at least!

Why Shortbread Chocolate Chunk are the best kind of cookie….

I am going to attempt to convince you that Shortbread Chocolate Chunk Cookies are better than any other type of the chocolate chip/chunk variety.

Not counting the chocolate chunks, these cookies have a whopping 5 ingredients.  Five.  Thats it.  And these “five ingredients” are things that, barring a natural disaster, I always have in my kitchen.

They are easy to make, and nearly impossible to mess up.  There aren’t even eggs in the dough, and you don’t have to worry about over-mixing these at all.  This combination of factors makes them the perfect recipe to whip up with helpers of the child variety.  Sure, you can taste the dough, but let me test it first.  

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These cookies are almost impossible to eat only one of and are a true diet ruiner.  You’re welcome.

These cookies are tender and buttery like short bread, but look more like a pale chocolate chip cookie.  These are the favorite cookie of all favorite cookies in our house.  The recipe below is for a single batch (about 20-24 cookies), however I always end up doubling it.  I’m not sure, but there may be some sort of magical magnetic field in these cookies that makes friends, neighbors, husbands, etc. keep coming back for more.  Hence the double batch.

**This weekend I will reveal some equally amazing variations to this recipe that are yet another reason why this shortbread cookie dough base is the best and most versatile one around.  Stay tuned for that!**

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Shortbread Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • 1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped milk chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then in 3 additions, mix in the dry ingredients. This will seem like a lot of flour for not a lot of butter.  So it may require craping down the sides and bottom of the bowl in order to fully incorporate the flour mixture.

Once fully incorporated, mix in the chocolate chunks.

Roll the dough into about 1 and a half inch balls and place on baking sheet.  Leave about 2 inches of space between them so that you don’t end up with one giant cookie – albeit, one giant, delicious cookie.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until just cooked through but before the color starts to turn golden brown.

These cookies make me understand Cookie Monster a little bit better.  Nom, nom, nom… Enjoy!

How to make simple Toffee Hazelnut Cookies the really long way…

One of the local coffee shops that I frequent has the most amazing toffee hazelnut cookies. So delicious! I crave these puppies.   So I decided it was high time that I took a stab at making them myself. The first time I decided to try my hand at it. It was an unsuccessful mission. I headed off to the grocery store for toffee and hazelnuts. DSCN1954 Hazelnuts: no problem.  Have I mentioned my recent food-love affair with hazelnuts?  How did God manage to pack such a rich and full flavor in a tiny little nut?!

Locating toffee however proved to be a problem.

The little secret that most major American chocolate companies prefer we all turn a blind eye to is their use of child labor and child trafficking in cocoa harvesting. If you want to learn more about this check out the expose done by a BBC reporter. No child should be deprived of the opportunity for an education, childhood, and family. Likewise, no child should be required to perform long hours of dangerous and painstaking work. As a result, I choose be a discerning and conscious consumer. Our purchasing decisions increase the demand of products. I don’t want my craving for cookies to be to the detriment of children or anyone. This made my hunt for toffee challenging. The baking section of the traditional grocery store only had the crushed up Heath bar kind. And the toffee in a Heath bar is covered by – all together now – chocolate. Hershey’s Chocolate. Ugh! Maybe if they had the toffee bits only without the chocolate I could make an exception, but alas, they didn’t carry that kind.

Undeterred, I crossed the street to our Whole-Foods-esque but better (because its local!) store: PCC. They are always on top of socially (and environmentally) responsible options for just about everything, right? Apparently that “everything” excludes toffee of any kind. No candy bars to crush up. No toffee bits. None period. Seattle grocery stores, why do you crush my cookie dreams?

This is definitely a great example of a “first-world problem.” I did eventually track down toffee bits from whole foods. But how many people are really going to go to the hassle of locating fair-trade toffee bits? If more ethically sourced and traded items were demanded by consumers, more would be offered and thus it would be easier for consumers to make the responsible choices.

Here is my plea to grocery stores everywhere: please, offer more items that are made by companies with a conscience.  Just to name a few: I don’t appreciate the tastes of child trafficking in my chocolate, deforestation in my chocolate-hazelnut spread, and the endangerment of multiple species in my coconut oil. Just to name a few.

Alas, I digress. Be prepared for toffee hazelnutty cookie deliciousness. Get your glass of milk ready, ya’ll. First of all, why has it taken me so long to learn to add cornstarch to the dough for extra tenderness? As far as I am concerned, it is the best cookie related discovery since the chocolate chip.

Toffee Hazelnut Cookies
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbl. Flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup toffee bits
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cornstarch together in a bowl.

With a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix just until combined.

Add flour mixture in three additions. Don’t over mix at this stage. Then mix in hazelnuts and toffee.

Preheat oven to 325 and stick dough in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

After a while in the fridge, prep your cookie sheets and roll the dough into 1.5” balls. Leave about 3 inches of space between each dough ball. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

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Enjoy the yumminess with a cold glass of milk. Mmmmmmmmmmm….

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Happy-New-Year-Amazing Amaretti Cookies

As I sit here drinking an amazing apple spinach banana smoothie on day one of my smoothie cleanse, I have to say that it kind of tastes amazing. I am starting this whole “cleanse by body from holiday junk food” thing a day later than planned due to the embarrassing number of times I rescheduled the dinner we had last night with our good friends – who also happen to be our next door neighbors.

Our menu last night consisted of traditional Italian dinner fare. The main course was old school Sicilian style lasagna that is always a crowd pleaser. After simmering that sauce for the better part of yesterday, my house is still smelling like the Italian version of amazing.

We enjoyed some crusty baguette, cheese, pancetta, balsamic, olive oil, and dates as appetizers to launch us into the festive mood. And a simple salad of roasted beets julienned on top of a bed of spinach sprinkled with a few pecans and some goat cheese.

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But it wouldn’t be a New Years dinner party without dessert? And after a heavy meal filled with starches, cheeses, and rich sauce, it needed to be something light. Amaretti cookies anyone? If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting these delicious biscotti alternatives, they are a crispy, crunchy little almond cookie that goes wonderfully with after dinner tea or espresso.  Also, they are naturally gluten free, since they use ground almonds in lieu of flour. I am not one to love dishes that have been altered to be gluten free, infact I tend to avoid them. I have even been known to put things back in pastry cabinets at Whole Foods after discovering that said item was gluten free.  No need to be skeptical of these cookies’ delicious integrity as a suitable dessert for all levels of gluten tolerance.  They are crunchy little almond bites of yumminess that have been gluten free since the first little Italian Nonni ever whipped them up.

The process is similar to making a French macaroon – but much less fickle. These have a coarser crumb and are not supposed to be soft in the middle like the French version.  In Italy, they are traditionally used like biscotti – to soak up espresso.  But in our house, we love that they give you a little nibble of something sweet with your after dinner cup of coffee or tea.

 Amaretti Cookies
  • 2 ½ cups whole raw almonds
  • 2/3 cup sugar divided
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • Coarse sugar for tops of cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Parchment is a MUST with this recipe!

Using a food processor, process almonds and 1/3 cup of sugar until finely ground. I had to scrape down the sides a couple of times.

Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form and then add remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until the shiny soft peak stage.

In a large bowl, fold the almond mixture into the whipped egg whites. Once combined roll into 1 inch size balls and dip tops into coarse sugar before placing on baking sheet.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 or until golden brown. At this stage although the exterior of the cookie may be crunchy, the centers will still be relatively soft. So reduce heat to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 10 more minutes. Without opening the oven door, turn off heat and allow cookies to sit in warm oven for 30-40 minutes more. This will help crisp up the insides without over-baking the exteriors.

Just in case you doubted me, I do see the irony in doing a smoothie cleanse and blogging about cookies, but this is a recipe I just had to share. (Dang it, now I’m hungry for an Amaretti!)

Enjoy!

Nonna’s Italian Anise Seed Cookies

Family traditions are the best, especially around the holidays.

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 My Great Grandmother made these.   My Grandmother still makes these. And now, because I love their subtle licorice-y taste, I make them too.

These cookies are not for everyone. Tim for example states that they are not real Christmas cookies. Why not? Probably because they aren’t slathered with thick butter cream frosting and doused in sprinkles, which is basically his prerequisite for any holiday cookie. But I say, who died and made him Buddy the Elf?

These little cuties are not overly sweet. They are not overly buttery or crisp. They are not overly anything really. They have a mellow and subtlely licorice flavor. They are almost a cross between a cookie and a biscuit and make a great accompaniment for coffee or tea.

One batch makes a lot, but they freeze like a dream! These are as fun to make, as they are to eat. They are perfect for making with kids or at a party.  Who doesn’t love a cookie where playing with the dough is part of the process?   Twisty ropes, knots, spirals, braids, etc… You choose!

The original recipe calls for lard (no, thanks). My Grandmother sometimes substitutes shortening, which will work just fine, but I just can’t bring myself to add something so processed to the mix. So, I use good old butter. Butter makes everything better, anyhow.

Here are the details:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 tbl. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 3 tsp. anise seeds
  • Water (enough to form a workable dough)

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

Mix butter and sugar with stand mixer.   Slowly add dry ingredients to mixer.

With a potato masher or something similar, mix in the beaten egg.

Then slowly mix in enough water to form cohesive and workable dough. Knead the dough until is it elastic. You may need to add some sprinklings of flour during this process.

Keep your flour handy. You may need it while twisting and tying the dough into little shapes.

Bake for around 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

After the cookies are baked and cooled, dip the tops in a simple icing made of powdered sugar, milk, and a dash of vanilla extract. I don’t use an exact formula for this because the humidity in the air seems to affect the ratios quite a bit. I just add a tiny bit of milk and vanilla to about ¾ cup of powdered sugar and mix it all together. You can always add more milk or powdered sugar to get the right consistency.

Make a hot cup of tea, coffee, cocoa, or cider and cozy up on the couch to enjoy these little Italian cookies.

Ciao!