Lemon Poppy Seed Sandwich Cookies

lemonpoppycookiesFlavor pairings always interest me, and lemon and poppy seed is probably one of my favorites. Today’s lemon poppy seed sandwich cookies are inspired by the fact that I had some lemons in my fridge I needed to use and that I wanted to make something vaguely black and gold, in honor of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and their miraculous presence in the playoffs. I’ll be waving my Terrible Towel this evening against Kansas City, for sure.

Black and gold baking can present a challenge if you’re not interested in using black food coloring, which I tend to shy away from for its propensity for staining one’s lips and tongue a rather ghastly color. While these are much more black and yellow (cue the Wiz Khalifa song!) than black and gold, they are absolutely delicious. Next time, I’d bake my cookies for a minute or so less so they’re just slightly softer and the filling won’t squish out quite as much when you take a bite. In any case, here we go Steelers!

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds

For the filling

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon (or use more zest to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Scrape down your bowl and add the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour and mix on low to combine completely. Stir in poppy seeds.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 9-10 minutes, until edges are set and tops no longer look shiny. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for about 1 minute, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make filling, combine butter and powdered sugar in a mixer and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add lemon zest, lemon extract, and milk and beat to fully combine. Place filling in a piping bag for easier cookie assembly.

To assemble, flip cookies over and pipe a dollop of filling into the center of half of the cookies, then top with a second cookie and press gently to spread the filling. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 17.

Super Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

honeyoatmealraisinMy cousin Barb and her family gave me a lovely baker’s gift set from Penzeys, including vanilla sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and a lovely surprise called baking spice, for Christmas this year. Baking spice is a combination of two types of cinnamon, anise, allspice, mace, and cardamom – it is a delicate flavor that I now know can be used a bit more generously in various baked goods, and I plan to mix it into various muffins, quick breads, and cakes in the future.

These treats are adapted from a “make-it-mine” recipe base in the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book, where you choose your ingredients and flavorings to create whatever you like. The honey in this recipe definitely gives it the ultra-soft, super-chewy texture, so if you’re looking for a crispier cookie I’d recommend using brown sugar or a combination of brown and white instead. Also, I used a combination of rolled and quick-cooking oats because that’s what I had on hand, but you could go with just one or the other if you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups old-fashioned/rolled oats
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • Optional: 1 cup golden raisins

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, honey, baking soda, baking spice, and salt until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl well. Add flour and mix on low to combine, then stir in oats.  If using, stir in raisins – alternatively, you can make a few batches of plain cookies, then add the raisins later, which is what I did.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, drop generous scoops of dough onto the baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until edges are just golden but centers still look puffy and slightly. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for about 4 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Makes about four dozen.

Blood Orange Bundt Cake

bloodorangebundtOnce again, blood orange season is upon us. Last week I picked up a bag of these little beauties at the grocery store, and today I whipped up a retro-looking blood orange Bundt cake for my dear friend Diana, along with a blood orange Madeira cake for Mike and me for New Year’s weekend. The original Bundt recipe comes from Cooking LSL, another blogger I found via Pinterest.

I debated about whether to glaze or drizzle the Bundt or just leave it plain, and I decided to go with a simple almond drizzle to complement the orange flavor. You could also use blood orange juice in your drizzle if you like, but it’ll be pink, rather than the beautiful rich red of blood orange. I had to adapt my recipe slightly because I didn’t have buttermilk, but sour milk – a combination of vinegar or lemon juice and milk, works just fine.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup blood orange juice (from 3 oranges)
  • Zest from 3 blood oranges
  • 3/4 cup sour milk* or buttermilk

For the drizzle

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • About 3-4 teaspoons water

*To make sour milk, combine 2 1/3 teaspoons vinegar and enough milk to equal a total 3/4 cup liquid. Stir, then let sit for about 5 minutes before using.

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour your Bundt tin.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping down your bowl between each. Add orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla and mix on low to combine. Add half the flour and milk, mixing on low to combine, then add remaining milk and flour and mix on low until completely combined.

Pour into Bundt tin and bake for 1 hour to 70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in tin for about 25 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make drizzle, combine powdered sugar, almond extract, and 2 teaspoons water; add enough additional water to make a drizzly icing. Spoon over the top of your cake or pipe from a piping bag (I piped mine from a bag to control it better). Allow icing to harden before storing; wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 3-4 days. Makes about 12 servings.

Vanilla Pumpkin Cupcakes

vanillapumpkincupcakePumpkin treats continue through Christmas, with many bakers serving pumpkin pies or pumpkin roll in addition to a host of holiday cookies. If you’re wondering what to do with leftover canned pumpkin, wonder no more. There are many recipes for whatever amount you have; in my case, I had 10 ounces left over from baking Tucker’s pumpkin peanut butter dog treats, so I took eight ounces of that and made it into these vanilla pumpkin cupcakes (which sounds a bit like a candle you may have received this holiday season). Pumpkin is a dog-safe food, so I gave Tucker the remaining two ounces; he lapped it up, then went to take a nap.

There are many frostings you can choose for pumpkin cakes and cupcakes – cream cheese frostings are very popular – but since Mike will take these to work, I went with a buttercream, which doesn’t require refrigeration. You could go with cinnamon or another spiced frosting, but I chose a simple vanilla and it paired very well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about 3/4 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and beat on low until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla extract and beat for 1-2 minutes. Frost cupcakes as desired; I just used an offset spatula this time, rather than a piping tip. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Danish Butter Cookies

buttercookieMy grandma Zella, an excellent cook and baker, taught me most of the foundational aspects of baking when I was growing up. But she also appreciated the convenience of certain store-bought treats, including Little Debbie snack cakes and that iconic blue tin of Royal Dansk butter cookies. You know them well – your grandma had them, too. The cookies were a lovely mix of shapes; swirled like a wreath, round, rectangular, and my personal favorite, the pretzel. 

There are several copycat recipes out there; some use cake flour, while others use all-purpose. I went the all-purpose route and appreciated how simple they were to prepare. A note about the dough: nearly every recipe I found claimed that you could pipe this dough through a star tip, but I’m here to tell you that unless you’re a power lifter, you’re unlikely to be able to do so. I tried, and I failed…so I decided to go the easy route and just scoop out dough, roll it into balls, flatten them, and sprinkle them with sugar. They are absolutely, positively one of the best cookies I’ve ever made. Now if only I had a blue tin around here somewhere…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • Coarse sugar, for topping

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt, egg, and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Add flour a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well, scraping the bowl often. Once all the flour is added, stir with your spatula a few times to ensure that the flour is fully incorporated into the dough.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough and roll into balls; place on the baking sheets and flatten with your hand. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. Makes 26.

Gingerbread Snowflakes

gingerbreadsnowflakeWinter gets such a bad rap. People lament the dark, the cold, the snow. But I love this season; there’s something magical about winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and how we get just a bit more light each day that follows. We get to see the bones of the trees, and appreciate them all the more when they turn green in the springtime. As far as seasons go, I truly do enjoy them all. But if I had my choice of winter over summer, I’d take winter every single time.

In celebration of the season (both winter and holiday) I decided to bake these gingerbread snowflakes, and they turned out really well. I incorporated the zest from half a lemon into the dough, but I don’t think it really comes through, as they’d say on the Great British Baking Show. Next time, I’ll try more zest to see if it enhances the flavor, as ginger and lemon are good flavor friends.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • Zest from half a lemon

For the icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice or water

Preparation

To make the dough, in a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, dark brown sugar, and molasses on medium speed until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat on high speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times. With the mixer running on low, slowly beat in the flour mixture. Dough will be very thick and sticky. Divide into two portions and flatten into discs; wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap one disc of dough and place it on a floured surface; this dough is very sticky, so you need plenty of flour for your work surface, rolling pin, and hands. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut using a snowflake cutter.

Place cookies on baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, combine powdered sugar, milk, and corn syrup, then add enough lemon juice or water to make a fairly thick but still pipeable consistency. Fit a piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on snowflake details.

Allow icing to harden before storing between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container; store cookies at room temperature for about 3-4 days. Makes 36; my cutter is about 4 inches wide, and the quantity will vary depending on the size of the cutter.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats

pumpkinpbdogtreatMy soulmutt, Millie, passed away back in July. To say that her loss broke my heart is an understatement of epic proportions, but I’m also just incredibly grateful to have had such an amazing dog for as long as we had Millie. She lived to the astonishing age of 17, beyond ancient for a Rottweiler/lab.

Our house was far too quiet without a canine companion, and so this fall Mike and I adopted Tucker, a German shepherd/pit bull mutt. Tucker is about 20 months old; he is full of energy and kisses, believes he’s a lap dog despite being 64 pounds, and has provided us with a significant increase in activity. Tucker needs two to three walks a day, and so out into our neighborhood we’ve gone, meeting neighbors we’ve lived near for more than a decade and yet not met until now. These pumpkin peanut butter dog treats are gifts for Tucker’s neighborhood dog buddies, the local pups helping socialize him and learn his doggie manners.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, pumpkin, peanut butter, salt, and cinnamon. Add water about 1 tablespoon at a time, kneading the dough together with your hands – it will be very stiff and dry, but you don’t want to add too much. I think I added about 3 tablespoons, maybe 4, before it came together.

Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick and cut using your desired shape; we chose trees for the season in celebration of the second day of winter and soon-to-be Christmas. Re-roll any scraps and cut, using up all of your dough.

Place on cookie sheets and bake for about 40 minutes, until treats are hard. Remove from oven and cool; store in an airtight container. Treats will keep for a few weeks according to various internet sources – being homemade, they don’t have as long of a shelf life as store-bought biscuits. Makes about 28, depending on your cutter.

Meet Tucker

tuckerTucker is a German shepherd/pit bull mutt we adopted from Every Dog Matters, a rescue in Ohio. He enjoys walks in our neighborhood, hikes at North Park, playing tug-of-war and keep-away, snuggling, and barking at random things in the middle of the night. He has beautiful golden eyes and vampire-like fangs that appear whenever he lies on his back, is fascinated by deer, and wants to be a park ranger when he grows up.

Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

hotcocoacupcakes

I swear by recipes that come on the back of a package, because you know they’re tried and true. This recipe, while not from a package, was featured on the Dixie Crystals sugar website, submitted by a member of their baking community. And you a product maker isn’t going to just slap any old recipe on their website and have it associated with their sugar, so I figured this one would be good – and I was right.

Quantity-wise, the original recipe said it would yield 24 cupcakes, so I cut it in half intending to make just a dozen. My halved recipe still made 24, but amazingly the frosting yielded exactly enough for my total two dozen cupcakes. I altered the frosting recipe to include more vanilla and a teaspoon of milk, because it seemed a bit thick to me. You can top these cupcakes however you like, but I went with mini marshmallows and peppermint sticks, even though there’s no peppermint in the batter.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup hot cocoa mix
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme (aka fluff)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 1 teaspoon milk 
  • Miniature marshmallows
  • Peppermint sticks

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa mix. Add egg, milk, and vegetable oil and stir to combine; slowly add boiling water and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Fill cupcake wells half full and bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from tins; cool completely on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add marshmallow creme and beat to combine, then add powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat on medium speed to combine. Add 2 additional teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon milk to thin the frosting slightly.

Fit a piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Add miniature marshmallows and peppermint sticks to the tops if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.

Makes 24.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

gingerbread cupcakesGingerbread is one of my favorite things about Christmas, and I’ve baked some decent gingerbread treats in previous years. This time I wanted to make a gingerbread cupcake, so I turned to a gingerbread cake recipe I had from several Christmases ago and it turned out really well.

The cinnamon vanilla buttercream I paired with these treats is delicious, but it almost overshadows the gingerbread flavor for me. Next time, I might not frost these at all, but instead dust them with powdered sugar, or just do a drizzle icing with powdered sugar and water to glaze the cupcake tops. 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water

For the cinnamon buttercream 

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon milk 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 17 cupcakes. 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add molasses and egg and beat well to combine. Add flour mixture and water alternatively in three batches, starting and ending with the flour and mixing to combine between each.

Fill cupcake wells about half-full with batter and bake for 16 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean – just be careful not to over-bake these cupcakes, and gingerbread mixtures can burn easily. Remove from oven and immediately remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely.

For frosting, beat butter and powdered sugar on low speed until the sugar completely incorporates into the butter. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and milk and beat to combine completely.

Fit a large piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake; I had literally just enough for my 17 cupcakes, which was amazing. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. 

Whoville Cookies

grinch cookiesI once saw a meme that read “Even the Grinch had a dog, so if you don’t like dogs, that says a lot about you.” Wisdom from the internet, indeed. I just love How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, because I adore the Grinch. There he is, alone in his cave in the mountains with his dog. Swap out a cave for a cabin, and you’ve pretty much got my dream life. I mean sure, I enjoy spending time with others, but if I had my way, I’d live in a cute little mountain house outside Whoville (distanced enough from the village to still have my space) without batting an eye.

Anyway, these cookies are inspired by the alpine nature of Whoville, and also the Grinch’s “too small” heart, which grows once he realizes that the townsfolk of Whoville will celebrate Christmas even without presents and decorations. The recipe is my Grandma Zella’s almond cookie recipe, which can be baked spritz-style using a cookie press or just rolled into balls. Whatever you choose, this is an easy and fun way to celebrate the season.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons almond flavor (the imitation kind actually works best, if you can believe it)
  • Green food coloring
  • Powdered sugar
  • Water
  • Red food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and shortening. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add half the flour, along with the almond flavoring, and beat to combine. Add the remaining flour and beat until well combined.

For spritz-style cookies, fit a cookie press with your desired shape; I used the tree shape. Press onto an unlined, ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 6 minutes, until just golden brown on the bottom. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

For Grinch heart cookies, use a 1-inch cookie scoop and roll the dough into balls. Place on foil-lined cookie sheets and bake for about 13-15 minutes, until bottoms are just golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

For heart icing, mix a few tablespoons powdered sugar with just enough water to make a thick but pipeable consistency and tint red. Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe hearts onto each cookie.

Store cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for several days – they also freeze well if you haven’t iced them. Makes several dozen, depending on your shapes; my batch made about 5 dozen.