Limoncello and Poppy Seed Cookies

I am excited to once again be back in baking mode this holiday season and share all the cookies, biscuits, tarts, and other winter deliciousness from my kitchen. This has been the longest hiatus I have had from blogging – turns out planning a wedding, finishing a PhD, and trying to get a job takes a lot of time (or at least mental effort), which kept me away from blogging! But I’m hoping to remedy that this winter, and I would like to begin with some of the cookies I made this weekend for my friends and colleagues at work.

Limoncello is one of my favorite liqueurs, especially from the time when my partner made a bottle for me from scratch a few years ago. And with so many cookies being heavy on the chocolate or nuts this season, a cookie with lemon seemed like a great, light antidote. These cookies are also not too sweet, and are just sweet enough to curb cravings for a light post-meal snack. If you do not have limoncello on hand, you can probably add the zest from another half a lemon or so – you can always taste your dough to figure out if you want a stronger flavor. The dough for these cookies can also be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. I love to freeze my cookie dough – it lasts fresher much longer, and it is so easy to slice off a few and get fresh baked cookies in 10 minutes!

Peanut butter and dark chocolate cookies (L) limoncello and poppy seeds cookies (R)

Peanut butter and dark chocolate cookies (L) limoncello and poppy seeds cookies (R)

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces; 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons limoncello

Directions

  1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract and limoncello, followed by the salt and poppy seeds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  3. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log. Wrap the logs in plastic and freeze for half an hour. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies. (See photo below – you can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.

    Slicing the cookie dough logs

    Slicing the cookie dough log

  6. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. These cookies will start browning from the bottom much sooner than the top, so you want to keep an eye. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

I cannot wait to share the recipes of the other cookies I have been baking. What are your favorite cookies?

Mexican Wedding Cookies

This year’s December issue of Bon Appetit got me really excited – while I am more a of pie or tart person, their ideas for 25 days of Christmas, each with a different cookie got me really excited about baking cookies. And even though I did not end up using any of their 2015 recipes (instead using one in their 2003 edition), I ended up settling on Mexican wedding cookies – butter-rich confections, that are often confused with Russian tea cakes. Unlike Russian tea cakes, which are made with walnuts or hazelnuts, Mexican wedding cookies use pecans. They are tender, buttery, crumbly, full of coarsely ground pecans, that are finally dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Too late to try them for you Christmas cookie exchange? Bake them anyway for the holidays – these are not sweet, which means that it’s easy to wipe them out post-dinner!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

The main thing to watch out for in this recipe is the temperature of the butter. When beating the butter at the beginning, make sure it is at room temperature, otherwise it will not mix properly. On the other hand, if the butter is too warm, it may start separating and may not become fluffy. For mixing and creaming, butter should be about 65 degrees F. The best way to get frozen or refrigerated butter ready for creaming is to cut it into chunks. Avoid using the microwave. When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed.

Further, once the dough is prepared, make sure to chill the dough. This will ensure that the cookie does not start separating and/or spreading once in the oven. If the butter is cold, the cookies will hold their fairly circular texture.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit (May 2003 issue)

Makes around 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Using a mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans.
  3. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes to an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Working with half of the chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls (I used a melon baller). Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart.
  6. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 14 minutes.
  7. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let them cool 15-20 minutes. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough.
  8. Once cooled, gently toss  cookies in remaining powdered sugar to coat completely. You may need to dip the cookies in the powdered sugar again before serving!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

What are your favorite cookies to bake for Christmas cookie exchanges?

Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Sables

Having had a really busy summer, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from this blog. One of the things that makes a busy summer easier is food that does not take much time to cook, and I was fortunate to discover some pre-made cookie dough that I had made earlier this summer in my freezer! After having lugged my furniture and belongings down three flights of stairs as I moved apartments this summer, these cookies, among others, turned out to be perfect 10 minute desserts that I literally had to take out of the freezer and bake – both to reinvigorate me and whichever friends were helping!

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Sables

With a hint of sea salt, these dark chocolate sables are a light and delicate dessert, perfect for both an after-dinner snack or a pick-me-up during dreary afternoons. Like all cookie dough, I stored this one in the freezer in the form of two logs, making it really easy to bake a few at a time, so that you always have soft, warm cookies straight from the oven. In case the dough is too hard, defrost it for 10 minutes, which should make it much easier to cut away cookies of the desired thickness.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutched cocoa powder (ordinary cocoa powder will do if you do not have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking sod
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt + extra to sprinkle on top of cookie
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped until almost powdery (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar)

Directions

  1. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda together into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined, then scraping down sides. Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate together and mix until just combined.
  3. Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge until just firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. No need to get it fully hard, or it will be harder to roll out.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough gently — it will still be on the crumbly side, so only attempt to flatten it slightly with each roll — until it is  1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and space them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle some extra sea salt on top of cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for thinner cookies) or 10 to 12 minutes (for thicker ones). Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before gently, carefully transferring them to cooling racks, as they’ll be fragile until they cool.
  5. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Alternatively, you can store the logs of unbaked cookie dough for months in the freezer, cutting away chunks to quickly bake some as and when you need them.

And in case you’re in the mood for similar flavors and happen to be visiting/living in New Haven, don’t forget to try out Ordinary’s dark chocolate cookies with sea salt served with some warm milk! Priced at $7, these 2 huge cookies are more than enough to feed at least a few people!

Cookies with Sea Salt @ Ordinary, New Haven, CT

Cookies with Sea Salt @ Ordinary, New Haven, CT

 

S’mores Cookie Bars

It’s the perfect weather for making s’mores in New England as summer draws to an end, and if you’re looking to have that combination of flavors on-the-go or take to a party where you won’t have a fire available to make them, then this is the perfect recipe.

Combining the same ingredients and more, these cookie bars quite a flavor. However, these are also quite heavy, and the next time, I’d spread this same amount of crust listed below on a larger 13 x 9 pan (I used a 9 x 9 pan for these), because I think I’d prefer a thinner cookie bar. I made this batch to take to a movie at a friend’s place, but it would also be a great dessert to carry to a picnic.

S'mores Cookie Bars

S’mores Cookie Bars

Recipe from Joan Hayes over at Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows plus a few extra for the top
  • 1 regular sized milk chocolate Hershey Bar

Directions

  1. Line a square baking pan with parchment paper (I used a 9 x 9 pan, but I recommend a 9 x 13 pan in order to make a thinner cookie bar). Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Place in bottom of prepared pan and press down to form a crust.
  2. Cream 1/2 cup softened butter, add in sugars and cream again till fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla. Mix again. Combine Flour, baking soda and salt, then add to butter mixture. Once all combined, fold in chocolate chips and marshmallows. Spoon Cookie dough on top of cookie crust as evenly as possible. Don’t worry about spreading perfectly. Dough will spread as it cooks to fill in any gaps. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
  3. While bars are cooking, break candy bar into sections and place in freezer. 8-10 minutes before bar is done cooking, sprinkle remaining marshmallows on top, just to decorate. Return to baking for remaining time. Remove pan from oven and carefully place broken candy bar pieces on top. Let cool completely before cutting.

Wondering how else to recreate the taste of s’mores in ways other than this? Try this sinful-looking s’mores ice-cream from The Brown-Eyed Baker!

M & M Cookie Pie

I’ve been seeing a lot of interesting recipes on Pinterest lately, and while some have been quite underwhelming, this M & M Cookie Pie is a huge winner. M & Ms and a cake-like texture, what’s not to like?  Much lighter, more chewy (and perhaps) more delicious than M & M cookies, this dessert is perfect for entertaining. I’ve made this twice now and it’s very easy to ruin the dough by adding even slightly more flour than is written in the recipe. So do check My Baking Addiction’s tutorial on How to Measure Flour if you’re even slightly doubtful about how to measure flour correctly!

M & M Cookie Pie

M & M Cookie Pie

Recipe from Susan’s Adventures in My Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup M & Ms

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Add in egg and extract and blend.
  4. The combine flour and baking soda- mix until completely incorporated.
  5. Fold in the M&M’s. Dump into a greased 9.5 inch pie pan and bake for 25-30 mins.
  6. When a toothpick or a knife comes out clean, it’s done! Let cool for half an hour or so, and then cut into the pie slices and serve.

 

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

I’ve always been suspicious of foods with dye, but I decided to give it a shot yesterday. It was a friend’s informal wedding reception (they got married this summer and have had 2 receptions already in Brazil where both of them are from). So this was just a final get-together for their New Haven friends. Besides some good old-fashioned chocolate cake, one of the things I decided to bring along were these heart-shaped red velvet cookies. They’re pretty straightforward and with some additions, can turn out pretty great. This time I only used lemon zest, but maybe next time some wintery spices might be a good touch as well.

Recipe adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients

  • 1 18.25 oz box red velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (use 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour if you do not have corn starch)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for rolling the cookies
  • Heart shaped cookie cutter, optional

Directions

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

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and cornstarch. Whisk until clumps disappear. Add in the eggs, oil and lemon zest. Mix.

3. For round cookies, take about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough and form into a ball. Roll the ball in powdered sugar until fully coated. Place cookie dough balls on prepared baking sheet. For heart shaped cookies, roll the dough flat onto a non-stick surface like parchment paper (use some flour to dust the surface if the dough sticks to the surface too much). Cut out cookies with a cookie cutter, or with a knife.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies begin to crack.

5. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Lemon Cookies

After baking lemon bars a few weeks ago, I’ve been waiting to bake other stuff with lemon as well. Getting done with an 8-hour comprehensive examination this Thursday meant that I can once again bake without feeling guilty about not constantly working! So I decided to start off with something light for a picnic/kayaking/canoeing day out today. Who knew Connecticut had pretty lakes?

These are incredibly easy to make and make use of a cake mix, so the dough is made in 7-10 minutes. The only precursor is that the dough should ideally be refrigerated for a few hours before you decide to bake the cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 box (18.25 ounce) lemon cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Directions

1. Whisk two eggs in a bowl. Add the cake mix, vegetable oil, lemon extract, lemon zest and lemon juice in the same bowl. Mix thoroughly.

2. Once you’re done mixing, you’ll realize that the dough is pretty sticky. Refrigerate it for a few hours so that it’s easier to scoop out cookies.

3. After taking out the dough from the refrigerator, scoop out the dough in balls and drop them in the confectioner’s sugar. Once they’ve been lightly coated, arrange them on a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough, drop it in some confectioner’s sugar and place on the baking sheet

4. Bake at 375 F/190 C for around 8-10 minutes. The cookies are done when the bottoms start turning light brown and the upper edges of the cookie get slightly cracked. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes so that the cookies don’t get soggy.

5. Sift some additional confectioner’s sugar on top once the cookies are done if you want, but I personally prefer them for the citrusy taste 🙂