Maple Sandwich Cookies

It’s maple season. Yes, I know – pumpkin spice is all the rage in October. I have absolutely nothing against it, but it’s not the only fall flavor, right? Maple is one of my favorite flavors regardless of the month, especially when paired with pecans. But for a while I’ve been meaning to make a maple sandwich cookie, so here we are.

Mike’s colleagues loved these, but truth be told, I think they’re just a bit too sweet. I know! Me, thinking something is too sweet…but on occasion, it does happen. The cookies themselves are absolutely delicious, as is the maple cream filling. I think you could leave the cookies plain, and perhaps pair the filling with a different, slightly saltier cookie. Ah well. As long as someone enjoyed them, that’s all that matters.

Ingredients

Maple Cookies

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour

Maple Cream Filling

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla, then beat in flour.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough into balls and drop about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until edges are light brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make maple cream filling, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute; add maple syrup, 1 tablespoon heavy cream, and 1 cup powdered sugar and beat to combine completely. Add remaining powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and maple extract and beat until smooth.

To assemble, flip cookies over and spread filling on half the cookies, then top with the remaining cookies to make sandwiches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Makes 24 sandwiches.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Wedges

“Mom, do we have more of that little bread?” asked Alec Sutton, age five. His mom, my dear friend and colleague Anne, had no idea what he meant until she saw him reach for the bag of shortbread I’d given her for Christmas last year. I love this story for many reasons; first, Alec is one of the most adorable and observant kids you’ll ever meet, and second, I love how children’s minds process information. Shortbread and little bread make perfect sense as synonyms when you think about it. Since hearing this story, my shortbread has been referred to as little bread in our circle of friends.

Anne and Alec moved from Pittsburgh to Altoona to be closer to their family, and I sincerely miss working with her. During my visits to the Steel Tower, I’d always sit at the table behind Anne’s cube, and we had many great conversations and funny times. I’m hoping this chocolate chip “little bread” will make a nice housewarming gift for Anne and Alec in their new place. This batch makes 24 wedges, so I sent some to Anne and Alec and some to my nephew Roman as his back-to-school gift. Shortbread ships very well, so it’s easy to send wherever it needs to go.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Reserve about 2 tablespoons chocolate chips to sprinkle over the top of your dough.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add flour and beat to combine completely, then stir in chocolate chips.

Divide dough in half and press into the bottoms of the cake pans, using the palm of your hand to create an even surface. Prick all over with a fork, then sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. You can skip this step if you like – the chocolate chips do flatten out a bit when you turn the shortbread out of the pans later on.

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 each round into 12 wedges, then place wedges on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to about 5 days; if shipping, pack between layers of waxed paper.

Orange Crisps

Some treats happen by accident, like these orange crisps. I meant to make an orange cream version of my vanilla bean sandwich cookies, but I slightly over-baked the cookies themselves. They turned out too thin and crispy to sandwich, but that’s actually okay – they taste delicious, so they can stand on their own.

Very crispy on the edges, but also slightly chewy on the inside, these cookies have a great texture and wonderful orange flavor. Mike decided he’s keeping them for himself, rather than taking them to work. Don’t feel bad for his coworkers, though – I’m going to bake something else this afternoon for them. Likely something else involving orange zest, now that I have a semi-bald orange in my refrigerator.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • About 1 teaspoon orange zest (1/3 of the orange)

Preparation

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

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and kosher salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add egg, vanilla extract, orange extract, and orange zest and beat on medium speed until smooth.

With the mixer running on low, gradually add flour mixture.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart – they spread quite a bit.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until tops are very light golden and just set.

Cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Makes 40.

Wookies

Whenever people tell me they’ve never seen Star Wars, I’m shocked. This iconic cultural phenomenon was a staple in my childhood, and I simply can’t imagine living a life without knowledge of its details. I assume nearly everyone is aware of it from pop culture, but if you haven’t actually seen it, you really are missing out.

Tomorrow is May 4th, also known as Star Wars Day, and to celebrate I’ve baked some wookie cookies. While I don’t think they look much like Chewbacca and I already have plenty of ideas about how to improve them for next time, the cookies themselves are delicious. The gingerbread recipe comes from Sally’s Baking Addiction, though I chose to go with dark brown sugar in my dough, and the decoration is a combination of chocolate chips, royal icing, and a very thick glaze icing. Stay tuned for more wookie recipes in the future, and may the force be with you.

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
  • 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
  • Miniature chocolate chips, for eyes

For the royal icing

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-5 tablespoons water
  • Black food coloring

For the white icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 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 gingerbread man cutter. Place cookies on baking sheets and use a fork to make the impressions for the fur, then add miniature chocolate chips for eyes.

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 royal icing, combine meringue powder, powdered sugar, and water in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip at medium, then high speed, for 7-10 minutes until the mixture is glossy. Add black food coloring to your desired shade.

Fit a piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on noses (I also did some black mouths, but didn’t like those as much), then swap out your tip for a flat or fluted tip and pipe on the sashes.

To make the white icing, combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a thick icing that you can still pipe. Place in a piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on mouths, then add the white decorations to the sashes.

Allow icing to harden before storing between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container; store cookies for up to 2-3 days. Makes about 40 cookies.

Orange Blossoms

Last week I bought some Cara Cara oranges for Mike’s favorite orange almond cake, a sweeter, seedless variety of the navel orange. I’d really wanted Valencia oranges but couldn’t find them, and figured the Cara Cara would make a good substitute. The leftover oranges (well, their juice and zest) went into these orange blossom cookies, a wonderful recipe from King Arthur Flour.

You’ve likely had cookies like this before, perhaps from the cookie table at a Pittsburgh-area wedding. They’re soft and cakey, with just enough icing on top to enhance the flavor. I chose to bake smaller cookies than the recipe originally called for and used a one-inch cookie scoop, and also increased my icing quantity just a bit to make sure I had enough to cover them all. The end result is absolutely delicious, and one that could be easily adapted for other citrus flavors, like lemon or lime.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest from 2 oranges*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
  • 2 cups flour

For the icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • zest from 1 orange*
  • 4-5 tablespoons orange juice

*Cara Cara oranges are smaller than regular navel oranges; you can get about 1 tablespoon of zest from each one. If you’re using regular navel oranges in this recipe, you’ll have a bit more zest than you need. Zest yields a stronger flavor, so you can adjust how much you use based on your own tastes. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, then orange juice and zest, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and fiori di Sicilia. The dough will look clumpy and kind of curdled, but that’s okay – add the flour and beat to combine, and the dough will smooth out. The end result will be kind of fluffy dough.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet about halfway through baking, until the edges are just golden. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 1-2 minutes, then place on wire racks to cool completely.

Once cookies are cool, make the icing: beat butter, powdered sugar, and orange zest on low, then medium speed, for 1-2 minutes. Add orange juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach a spreadable consistency. Frost cookies and allow them to set before serving. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Sparkling Easter Sugar Cookies

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor coronavirus will keep a baker from sending her favorite Maryland girls treats for Easter. These sparkling cut-out cookies, made simply from sugar cookie dough and colored sugar, are on their way to Mo and Margo as I write this along with a few other Easter favorites.

Colored sugar is a great alternative for sugar cookie decoration, especially when you’ll be sending such cookies through the mail. In addition to the pink and purple eggs in the photo at left, I also made some yellow and blue eggs, along with these adorable ducklings. You’ll need some miniature chocolate chips and very thick powdered sugar icing for the beaks, or you could use royal icing for the beaks if you prefer. Because I needed such a tiny amount, I just mixed a tablespoon of powdered sugar with enough water – about a drop at a time – to get the consistency I wanted.

Ingredients

  • 1 batch sugar cut-outs made with 2 extra teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Pink, purple, yellow, and blue decorating sugar
  • Miniature chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • Water
  • Orange food coloring

Preparation

Prepare cookie dough and allow to chill for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut with egg and duckling cutters. Place cookies onto prepared sheets and decorate with colored sugar; for the ducklings, I placed a miniature chocolate chip for the eye after covering the cookie with yellow sugar.

Bake for 9-10 minutes, until edges are very light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks for about 3 minutes, then place on wire racks to cool completely.

When cookies are cool, combine powdered sugar with enough water – about 1 drop at a time – and orange food coloring to make a very thick icing. Use a small spatula to frost the duckling beaks and allow to set completely before storing. Store cookies in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.

My batch made about 24 eggs and 9 ducklings, so just shy of three dozen cookies.

Honey Walnut Hamantaschen

As much as I love poppy seed hamantaschen, I wanted a new filling for Purim this year. Fortunately the internet is full of recipes, with all manner of suggestions for fruit, nuts, and even chocolate or Nutella. I found a few nut-based filling ideas on different websites and came up with the recipe below based on those, plus my own addition of cinnamon. The end result, a honey cinnamon walnut encased in buttery orange-flavored dough, is absolutely delicious.

While I did a rough chop on my walnuts for this filling, I recommend chopping more finely and will do that the next time I make these. The filling is delicious, but it would have been easier to work with had the walnuts been chopped finely.

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the dough

  • 1 cup butter, cut into small pieces, softened
  • 2 egg yolks*
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups flour, plus a few more tablespoons for kneading
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • About 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice

Preparation

Combine walnuts, honey, water, salt, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture boils. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens enough for your spatula to leave a clean trail behind it on the bottom of the pan, about 6-8 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool completely before using; I chilled mine overnight.

To make the dough, combine butter, egg yolks, orange zest, flour, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until dough comes together; it will be crumbly.

Add orange juice, about 1/2 tablespoon at a time, and pulse as best you can until the dough becomes smoother – at this point it will probably become difficult to pulse because it will have bunched up on one side of your food processor. That’s okay.

Scrape out the dough from your food processor bowl and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead very gently, adding a few more tablespoons of flour, just until the dough comes together and is no longer sticky. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes before using.

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

Roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut into 3-inch circles using a cookie cutter or drinking glass.

Place circles on your cookie sheet, and using the tip of your finger, lightly brush the edge of each circle with water; this will help the dough stick when you form the triangle.

Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold the bottom up, then fold in the two sides to make the triangle, gently pressing the corners of the triangle to close them and leaving just a bit of filling exposed.

Bake for 15-17  minutes, until cookies are a light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes on the baking sheets, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Makes about 36 cookies, depending on your cutter size.

Chocolate Charms

My nephew Roman is a big fan of store-bought chocolate cookies like Oreos. While he loves my chocolate cake, these chocolate charms – essentially like a chocolate shortbread, weren’t his favorite. I sent this shipment to North Carolina for his Valentine’s Day gift, and he apparently ate one and said, eh, I don’t like this. Fortunately my brother and sister-in-law both loved them, so it’s not a loss.

The original recipe for these treats comes from the Martha Stewart Living Cookie book and calls for a dusting of cocoa powder before serving. As I shipped these, I left them un-dusted, but I actually thought the next time I make them I’d like to dip them in a cocoa icing. We’ll see how that goes.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add sugar and beat on medium for 3-4 minutes more, then add vanilla extract. Beat in flour/cocoa mixture until dough is just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times. The dough may be just a bit crumbly, but should hold together when you squeeze it.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a rough disc, then chill for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Break off 1-inch pieces of dough and roll into balls, then place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheet about halfway through. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for about 1 week. If desired (and not shipping), dust with cocoa powder before serving. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Frozen-Inspired Almond Spritz

My goddaughter Maureen will turn 10 this week, and she and her sister Margo love all things Frozen. For her birthday, I wanted to bake a Frozen-inspired treat, but most options – like snowflake sugar cookies frosted with intricate details – weren’t good candidates for shipping. But spritz-style cookies, made with a cookie press, could certainly hold their own in shipping and would look enough like snowflakes to hopefully bring a smile to Mo’s adorable face.

My Grandma Zella always made her famous almond cookies in spritz fashion each Christmas, churning out tree and wreath shapes from her cookie press without batting an eyelash. But for me, the cookie press presented great challenges. Today though, I was determined to master it, and master it I did. Whether this dough counts as actual spritz dough, I’m not sure, but it worked very well for my purpose. Happy birthday, Mo!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • Purple gel food coloring
  • Blue gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream shortening and sugar until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Scrape down your bowl, then add flour and almond extract, beating to combine into a smooth dough.

Divide dough in half; tint one portion purple and the other portion blue.

For purple wreath-shaped snowflakes, fit a cookie press with a wreath disc and fill with purple dough; press shapes onto an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Bake for 3 minutes, then rotate the pan halfway and bake for another 3 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 30 seconds, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For blue swirl snowflakes, fit a cookie press with a sunburst/swirl disc and fill with blue dough. Press shapes onto an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Bake for 3-4 minutes, then rotate the pan halfway and bake for another 3-4 minutes, being careful not to let the edges brown (which, in full disclosure, mine did). Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 30 seconds, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days; their flavor becomes stronger after a few days and they do last a while. These are a drier cookie, almost like a biscotti, and are best enjoyed with a nice cup of tea or coffee or glass of milk.

Makes several dozen, depending on which shapes you choose – the recipe can make about 5-6 dozen.

 

Hazelnut Cookies

My dear friend Amanda gave me an awesome cookbook a few weeks back called The Boozy Baker. Each recipe involves alcohol of some kind; cakes made with rum or bourbon, pies spiked with brandy, icings flavored with a range of liqueurs. One recipe that’s suitable for shipping across the country is these hazelnut cookies, which actually featured chocolate chips in their original iteration. But Amanda also gave me a recipe notebook, titled I’m A Whisk Taker, in which to record my own concoctions. And so, I adapted the original recipe to feature more hazelnuts (because can you really ever have too many?) and some salted caramel chips.

The end result is a delightfully delicious hazelnutty creation, and the next time I bake these, I’ll add another cup of salted caramel chips to the dough to pump up the sweetness just a bit. At present these treats are en route to California, where Amanda and her family will hopefully enjoy them.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped*
  • 1 cup salted caramel baking chips

*To toast hazelnuts, place them on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350 degree oven and toast for 5-10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from oven and place in a kitchen towel, then rub so the skins fall off – don’t worry if you don’t get every last bit of skin from the nuts, as this will add to their flavor. 

Preparation

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

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl a few times. Beat in hazelnut liqueur.

Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing just until combined. Stir in hazelnuts and caramel chips.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake another 3-4 minutes; these cookies brown very quickly, so keep an eye on them. You want set edges, but a puffy middle.

Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 30 cookies.