The onset of Spring usually means time to make carrot cake. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to make my favorite traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (hoping to get the recipe up here soon). So in a pinch, I made these quick carrot cake cookie bites. They aren’t exactly the same as the cake but still have the familiar carrot and cinnamon flavors and an icing drizzle adds a similar cream cheese frosting sweetness.
I’m not usually the DIY type but how cute are these?! They have little to do with classic recipes (or the focus of my blog) but I couldn’t help sharing these stroopwafel non-gingerbread gingerbread house mug toppers. The name isn’t the only mouthful – these little houses are made from stroopwafel, the caramel cookie often used as a hot beverage accompaniment (learn more about stroopwafels in this cool Huffpost article). These round dutch cookies sit on top of your tea or coffee mug. The steam softens the caramel center, creating an ooey gooey sweet treat. Alone, they are a tasty complement to hot coffee, tea, or even hot cocoa. As a stroopwafel mini mug topper house, they just might be the cutest (yet functional) holiday mug topper ever. Yes, ever. Even the chimney works – if you look closely at the photo you can see the steam coming out.
Homemade chocolate chip cookies are one of the easiest yet tastiest sweets to make. They satisfy almost any chocolate cookie craving. I’m always looking for ways to put a twist on classic treats or maybe just an excuse to make them more often. Oatmeal is one of my favorite variations of this popular go-to cookie. It adds an interesting chewy texture and makes it easier to pretend that chocolate chip cookies are good for you. Raisins and cinnamon are common and natural pairings with oatmeal, especially for a cookie. However, I find it hard to pass on chocolate in a chewy cookie. Also, raisins seem too healthy for a dessert that still contains butter and sugar. The chocolate with the chewy oatmeal and the zip from the cinnamon are worth cheating on that spring beach body diet.
There is no shortage of cookie recipes this time of year. Everyone seems to have a favorite type of cookie or baking tradition that they don’t normally stray from during the holidays. I am no different. I have few really good cookie recipes that I repeat for special occasions. A recipe has to be both special and scrumptious to make it into that repeat category. But this year, I used a familiar good cookie recipe and promoted it to an amazing one by creating these sandwich cookies. These are delicious cookies. Seriously. After taking just one bite, a friend commented “you should sell these,” and he doesn’t even like dessert.
Ginger is an obvious go to flavor this time of year and I’ve been making these tasty almond cookies from “The Art of Fine Baking” for a few holidays now. I even shared the popular recipe in culinary school when we were required to make a gourmet buffet of sorts. Molasses, cinnamon, cloves, and ground ginger provide these buttery cookies with a rich spicy kick. Sliced almonds add a tender crunch to the soft (but not gooey or crumbly) finished cookies. Since the dough (if you don’t eat most of it first) is formed into a log, chilled, and then sliced into even symmetrical rounds, these are easy candidates for sandwiches. Lemony butter cream was the logical choice to help balance the strong spices that accent the deep molasses flavor. Piping this sweet cream onto the cookies proved surprisingly quick. I had to stop myself from eating each cookie sandwich as I made them.
It’s easy to fall back into the same habits and bake the same desserts every holiday season but without trying anything different, you may never establish your next favorite baking tradition. This is the lesson I’m learning…as I gobble down another gingery lemon scented sandwich cookie.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sliced almonds
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, molasses, spices, baking soda, and almonds. Mix in flour. Form dough into two logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice dough logs 1/4 inch thick and place slices on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just lightly browned.
While cookies cool, make the lemon cream:
Beat butter with sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.
When cookies are cool, fill a piping bag with lemon cream and pipe an even layer of cream on half the cookies. Top each cream filled cookie with a plain one to create sandwiches.
Yield approximately 30
I like to think of these as cut-out cookies for adults. They can be for kids too (perhaps the cookie shapes seem more childlike) but the buttery flavor is what differentiates these from those regular sugar cookies, often topped with bright colored sprinkles. It’s also the hardboiled egg yolks that bring out the richness in these sweet bites. My grandmother used this technique in many of her recipes for cookies and tarts. It may sound odd at first, to push a hardboiled egg through a sieve, but it adds a depth of flavor to the dough that is unlike anything else.
This recipe was originally brought to my attention by a reader who previously owned my grandmothers book, “The Art of Fine Baking.” Hidden in the cookie section, I had scanned over this recipe a number of times but wasn’t particularly inspired to try it. I’m glad I finally did. It is a versatile recipe that is so simple and basic, it can be used for a number of different occasions. The shapes of the cookies can vary from cutout stars and crescents, to Holiday specific ones such as witch’s hats for Halloween or gingerbread boys for Christmas. I chose these cute little fall shapes because they seemed appropriate for the chilly autumn weather and falling leaves.
The toppings are also up to you. My grandmother recommends cinnamon sugar or poppy seeds. I will eat cinnamon sugar on almost anything so this was a natural choice for me but poppy seeds, chopped nuts, or even those different colored sprinkles (if making them with kids) would be tasty as well. You will be surprised how something as simple as little butter cookie cut-outs will disappear so quickly from the kitchen counter (especially if you accidentally toss half of them on the floor like I did – oops). Good thing it’s a large recipe!
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
5 hardboiled egg yolks, pushed through a sieve
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg mixed with
1 teaspoon milk
finely chopped nuts
Cream butter and sugar. Stir in sieved hardboiled egg yolks, vanilla, and then flour mixed with salt. Chill dough for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Flour counter top or work surface. Roll out cookie dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut cookies with cookie cutters into small crescents, stars, or other shapes. Transfer to a cookie sheet, leaving about an inch between cookies. Brush with beaten egg and milk mixture. Sprinkle with toppings of your choice. Bake about 8-10 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.
Yield approximately 48 cookies
Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” by Paula Peck