Pumpkin Spice Shortbread

I had to, you see. Less than 24 hours into fall, and I had to bake something pumpkin-themed. These pumpkin spice shortbread cookies, adapted from a recipe from The Cafe Sucre Farine, sounded too delicious to pass up.

While the original recipe called for adding a candy pumpkin (the delicious cousins of candy corn) to each baked cookie, I chose to leave mine plain, with just the recommended coating of Demerara sugar for a lovely, crunchy texture. You could use turbinado sugar if you don’t have Demerara, but I highly recommend Demerara for its large crystals. You can find it in most grocery stores in the baking aisle. I also highly recommend eating candy pumpkins!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Demerara sugar, for rolling

*You can make your own pumpkin spice by combining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon each ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. This makes more than 1 1/2 teaspoons, so just save whatever you have left in a small jar. 

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, pumpkin spice, and salt; set aside

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and beat until completely combined.

Chill dough for about 15 – 20 minutes, allowing it to firm up slightly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Place Demerara sugar in a small bowl.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, then dip each ball into Demerara sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets and bake for 14-16 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 30 cookies.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread

My friend Carrie has had a challenging time lately. And because I show love and support to the folks in my life through baked goods, I made her these lemon poppy seed shortbread cookies. As women of Eastern European descent, we have a mutual appreciation for poppy seeds. Carrie is also a fan of tea, and I thought these treats would make a comforting addition to her daily cup.

The base of this shortbread is simple; just five ingredients. Add some lemon zest, lemon extract, and poppy seeds, and you’ve got a fancier version of a basic treat. Next time, I’d like to add a zest lemon drizzle icing to these for an extra flavor kick.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 10 ounces (about 2 1/3 cups) flour
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round baking tins.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, salt, extracts, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add flour and beat until completely combined; the dough will pull away from the sides when it’s ready. Stir in poppy seeds.

Divide dough in half and press into the bottom of each cake pan, using the palm of your hand to create an even surface.

Bake for 32-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and gently loosen the sides, then allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Gently flip onto a cutting board and slice into 16 wedges, then place wedges on a wire rack to cool completely. Note: shortbread must be cut when it’s still warm, otherwise it will break.

Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Honey Cookies

Shanah tovah, friends! Rosh Hashannah begins tonight at sundown, and I’m getting ready with some honey cookies. Although I grew up Catholic, I love the belief that our fates for the next year are written at Rosh Hashannah and sealed in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur. Honey and other sweet foods play a big part in Rosh Hashannah, as we wish friends and family shahah tovah, or a sweet new year.

My friend Inbal, who grew up in Israel, shared her mother-in-law’s honey cookie recipe with me, and it turned out incredibly well. I cut the original recipe – which called for five cups of flour – in half, but now I wish I’d made the whole version. These treats are absolutely delicious, and I can see why the original recipe included a line that read “this makes a lot of cookies, but they go fast.”

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil*
  • 1/2 cup honey*
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon coffee
  • zest of half a small lemon

*Note: I poured my vegetable oil into a glass measuring cup, then added it to the bowl for the liquids, so that I could use the same measuring cup for the honey and have it slide out easily. This is a great trick. 

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves. In another bowl, stir together vegetable oil, honey, melted butter, eggs, coffee, and lemon zest; it works well if you use a fork instead of a spoon.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until completely combined and no dry streaks remain. The dough will be very soft, but that’s normal; don’t add more flour or the cookies will turn out hard. Chill dough for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 365 degrees. Remove dough from fridge and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Break off pieces of dough about the size of a walnut and roll into balls, then place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are just golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 3 dozen.

Apple Sugar Cut-Outs

It’s back to school time. Even those of us without children feel it, that change in rhythm from summer to fall, a time of promise and preparation. Each morning I see our neighborhood kids waiting for the bus, remembering what it was like when life revolved around the months of September throughMay.

My goddaughter Mo went back to school very recently, and her little sister Margo just began preschool. I know everyone says “oh, they grow up so fast,” but it seriously feels like about five minutes ago that Mo learned to crawl and that Marg wanted her mom, and only her mom, to hold her. These fun apple sugar cut-outs are on their way to my favorite little girls in Maryland; I hope they enjoy them, and that everyone has a good school year.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • Red sugar
  • Green sugar

Preparation

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour. Form dough into a ball, then flatten out into a square; refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment.

Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut into apple shapes; place cookies on baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Using a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop red sugar onto each cookie and fill in the apple part, then scoop green sugar onto the leaf part. Note: I left my stems plain, but you could use brown sanding sugar if you have it.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 2 dozen.

 

 

Butterscotch Crunch Cookies

Corn flakes in a cookie? Yes, and they are delicious. This week’s treats combine an almost thumbprint-like dough with butterscotch chips and crushed corn flakes, creating a delightfully crispy texture. While King Arthur Flour calls them golden crunch cookies, I found them to be so packed with butterscotch flavor that I couldn’t leave that out of their name after adapting the recipe just a bit.

KAF recommends 12 ounces of butterscotch, cinnamon, white chocolate, cherry, or peanut butter chips in the original version, along with a full 12 ounces of chips and “lightly” crushed flakes. I used an 11-ounce bag of chips and crushed my flakes to a finer texture so they’d be more evenly distributed throughout the dough. This is definitely a recipe worth repeating with other flavors; I look forward to trying a cinnamon version, perhaps with some nutmeg as well.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed corn flakes
  • 11 ounces butterscotch chips

Preparation

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

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add flour and beat to combine, then add crushed corn flakes and butterscotch chips. Use your hands to fully incorporate the flakes and chips into the dough.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop generous portions of dough and roll into balls, then place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and place immediately on wire racks to cool.

Makes 30 cookies.

Fairy Bites

One of the best parts of being a godmother/aunt is getting to spoil the daylights out of the kids in your life. Such spoiling can be accomplished through regular provision of baked goods.

Now before you freak out and say that I shouldn’t be plying children with sweets and teaching them to make poor nutritional choices, please remember that these are really active kids with balanced diets, whose treats are monitored by their parents (and whose parents also benefit from such treats). These fun fairy bites, which are just shortbread cookies rolled in colorful nonpareils, made their way to Mo and Margo in Maryland last week along with two adorable little wolf pup toys I found in Niagara Falls. I adapted the recipe from one I found at The Cards We Drew, using princess cake and cookie flavor instead of vanilla extract. They were a big hit, right along with the wolf pups.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons princess cake and cookie flavor
  • Multicolored nonpareil sprinkles

Preparation

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add princess cake and cookie flavor and beat well, then add flour about 1/2 cup at a time, beating to combine.

Chill dough until just easy to handle; the original recipe called for 1 hour of chill time, but I found that this made the dough much harder than necessary.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place sprinkles in a small bowl.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough and roll into balls, then roll balls in sprinkles, coating completely.

Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 11-13 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Allow to cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Tweed Cakes

What happens when you crush up toffee and stir it into shortbread dough? These amazing tweed cakes, a creation from King Arthur Flour. I sent these along to my dear friend Carrie in State College, Pa. last week, and hope she and her family enjoyed them.

To crush up my toffee bits, it put them in a zip-top bag, wrapped the bag in a towel, and pounded them with the flat side of my meat tenderizer. A rolling pin would also work, or you could use a food processor if you really wanted to. When you press your dough into your pans, you’ll understand why these are called tweed cakes; they definitely resemble tweed fabric. You’ll notice in the recipe below that I measured my flour and toffee bits by weight, as I always do with King Arthur Flour recipes. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can just measure by volume using regular measuring cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 ounces (2 1/3 cups) flour
  • 7 5/8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) crushed toffee bits

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat in flour and toffee bits.

Divide dough in half and press into the bottom of each cake pan, using the palm of your hand to create an even surface. Prick all over with a fork.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and gently loosen the sides, then allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Gently flip onto a cutting board and slice into 16 wedges, then place wedges on a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 32.