Whale Cookies

My beach/aquatic cookie cutter set that yielded last week’s octopus cookies also includes this adorable whale. It’s just such a fun, happy-looking cookie, I feel kind of bad eating them (but only for a second, because this recipe really is delicious).

I chose a light blue frosting for these cookies and frosted them by hand, then piped on the whiles of the eyes and water spouts, then the pupils and mouths. I decided to give these happy little whales smiles, but you could leave them without mouths if you like.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • dash of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Blue food coloring
  • Black food coloring

Preparation

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

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy; add eggs and beat well.

Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour.

Note: if your dough is too crumbly, you can add just a bit of water or another ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.

Divide dough in three portions and knead each just slightly until dough sticks together.  Form each portion into a disc and wrap in plastic.

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 1/8 inch thickness and cut with an octopus cookie cutter, placing cookies a few inches apart on your baking sheets; I fit 6 cookies on each sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden.

Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Combine shortening, egg whites, salt, and one cup powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium, then high, and beat for one minute.

Add additional cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for one minute.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat on high speed for one or two minutes, until very well combined.

Check the frosting’s texture; it should be like very, very soft peanut butter and very easily spreadable.  If necessary, add one to two teaspoons of water to thin the frosting and beat well to combine.

Reserve a small portion (about 1/2 cup) of white frosting for eyes and water spouts; set aside.

Reserve a very small portion (about 4-5 tablespoons) of frosting for pupils and mouths; tint black and set aside.

Tint the remaining frosting pale blue and frost the bodies of the whales first.

Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and fill with white frosting. Pipe on eyes, then switch to a star tip and pipe on water spouts.

Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and fill with black frosting. Pipe on pupils, then mouths.

Allow frosting to set before storing; store cookies in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature for up to 3 days. The eyes and suction cups may flatten a bit, but that’s okay.

Makes about 48.

Octopus Cookies

Starbucks has these adorable octopus cut-out sugar cookies right now. I posted a picture of one on Facebook a few weeks back, and a friend of mine commented that I should make them. And so, I did.

I have a set of beach/sea life cookie cutters, and they just happen to include an octopus. The next time I make these, I may pipe their little eyes further down on their heads so they look more like real octopuses (much to my surprise, the plural of octopus is not octopi), but I think these turned out really well. I used a combination of piping/hand frosting for these, as it’s much easier to pipe the frosting onto the tentacles and up onto the body than it is to frost the whole cookie by hand.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • dash of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Blue food coloring
  • Green food coloring
  • Black food coloring

 

Preparation

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

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy; add eggs and beat well.

Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour.

Note: if your dough is too crumbly, you can add just a bit of water or another ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.

Divide dough in three portions and knead each just slightly until dough sticks together.  Form each portion into a disc and wrap in plastic.

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 1/8 inch thickness and cut with an octopus cookie cutter, placing cookies a few inches apart on your baking sheets; I fit 6 cookies on each sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden.

Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Combine shortening, egg whites, salt, and one cup powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium, then high, and beat for one minute.

Add additional cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for one minute.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat on high speed for one or two minutes, until very well combined.

Check the frosting’s texture; it should be like very, very soft peanut butter and very easily spreadable.  If necessary, add one to two teaspoons of water to thin the frosting and beat well to combine.

Reserve a small portion (about 1/4 cup) of white frosting for eyes and suction cups; set aside.

Reserve a very small portion (just a few tablespoons) of frosting for pupils; tint black and set aside.

Tint remaining frosting using blue and green food coloring for a blue/green shade. Fit a large piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe frosting onto each cookie, filling in the tentacles first and piping up onto the rest of the body; use a small offset spatula to spread the frosting.

Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and fill with white frosting. Pipe on eyes, then pipe suction cups on tentacles.

Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and fill with black frosting. Pipe on pupils.

Allow frosting to set before storing; store cookies in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature for up to 3 days. The eyes and suction cups may flatten a bit, but that’s okay.

Makes about 36.

Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies

Some time ago I started thinking about a snickerdoodle sandwich cookie, based on the vanilla bean sandwich cookies that my dear friend Diana absolutely loves. I’m proud to say that I adapted that recipe with great success and created a wonderful treat with the perfect balance of cinnamon and vanilla, two of my favorite flavors.

The cookies themselves would be fine on their own, but sandwiching them with vanilla cream filling takes this recipe up a delicious notch. You’ll have plenty of filling left over (I’m making chocolate cupcakes and filling them with the remaining portion), so you can be generous with your portions. Someday I’ll need to figure out how to cut the filling recipe down!

Vanilla Snickerdoodle Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

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

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, kosher salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and remaining 1 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

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

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

Shape dough into 1/2 teaspoon-sized balls, about the size of a gumball, and roll in cinnamon sugar.

Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart and bake for 10-11 minutes, until tops are very light golden and just set.

Cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes, then transfer on the parchment to wire racks to cool completely before filling.

Vanilla Cream Filling

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and shortening.

Add powdered sugar in small batches, beating until combined.  Once all sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for two minutes

Add vanilla and beat to combine.

Place about 1 teaspoon of filling onto half of the cookies, spreading to the edges. Top with another cookie; store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 28 sandwiches.

Chocolate Chip Meringues

What do you do with a leftover egg white? You make a small batch of meringue cookies. I had a leftover egg white from this weekend’s M&M cookies and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I cut down a standard meringue recipe, stirred in some miniature chocolate chips, and pow: chocolate chip meringues.

Meringues are both easy and tricky at the same time. They require few ingredients, but a very long mixing time. And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to make them by hand; get yourself a mixer so you can put it on high speed and tidy up your kitchen while the egg whites whip themselves into a cloud of deliciousness. When folding in chocolate chips or coconut or whatever strikes your fancy, do so very gently to preserve the volume of air in the batter.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon cream of tartar*
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips

*One-sixteenth? Yep, just fill your 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon 1/4 full. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, combine egg white, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form (soft peaks curl over). Slowly add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form (stiff peaks stand straight up). Gently fold in miniature chocolate chips.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag without a tip, or place in a large zip-top bag and snip off one corner. Pipe meringue in circles, making them as large or as small as you like. My batch yielded 8 medium-small cookies.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until meringues are set and bottoms are very light brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

M&M Cookies

Easter is just around the corner, and I’m sending a little treat package to my goddaughter Maureen and her family. In it are these M&M cookies, a classic recipe that’s probably been made for many a school bake sale, church picnic, and holiday.

How does one get the M&Ms to look so perfect on the top of each cookie? One places them there immediately after removing the baked cookies from the oven, that’s how. You can certainly add a few to the top before the bake (notice the cracks in the purple and yellow M&Ms in the photo at left- those were ones I’d placed on the raw dough before baking), but to get that pretty food stylist look, you need to press them gently into the tops of the cookies the moment they come out of the oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pastel M&M candies, plus another handful for decorating

Preparation

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat to combine.

With the mixer running on low, slowly add flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until dough is completely combined. Stir in M&Ms.

Cover and chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325. Line several baking sheets with parchment.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart; press a few M&Ms into the top of each cookie.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press more M&Ms into the top of each cookie. Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Store at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes 26.

 

 

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Shortbread

How does one improve upon chocolate shortbread? One adds miniature chocolate chips, that’s how.

These treats are also bound for my dear friend Amanda out in California. In a recent Facebook exchange about my intent to bake for her, her husband Yannick requested chocolate. And so, along with Amanda’s Lemon Shortbread, the Lizé family will also receive Yannick’s Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Shortbread. I hope they enjoy the treats!

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Dutch process cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch round baking pan.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla, then add cocoa, baking powder, and flour and beat until well-combined. The dough will pull away from the sides of the pan when it’s ready; once it does, stir in the chocolate chips.

Press dough into the bottom of the baking pan, using the palm of your hand to flatten the dough as much as possible, then prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top appears set. Remove from oven and loosen the sides with a knife, then cool in pans for 5 minutes.

Carefully turn one shortbread round out onto a cutting board and cut into 16 wedges; place wedges on a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Amanda’s Lemon Shortbread

These lemon shortbread cookies are a new creation, made especially for my very dear friend Amanda out in California. You may remember Amanda from my post on Lady Liberty Cookies – we’ve been friends forever, and I hope these treats brighten her day. Her birthday is this month, and she’s having surgery soon – she has rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that’s way more complex than most people might imagine.

To create Amanda’s Lemon Shortbread, I took a basic shortbread recipe and added lemon in every way possible; zest and extract get mixed into the batter, then you roll the dough in lemon sugar (which is just sugar mixed with lemon zest). I hope she loves them!

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest of 1 medium lemon, divided
  • 5 ounces flour (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons)

Preparation

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

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar and half the lemon zest. Stir with a fork to combine very well.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, 6 tablespoons sugar, salt, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and the remaining half of the lemon zest. Add flour and beat to combine; the dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl when it’s ready.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop generous portions and roll into balls, then dip in the lemon sugar. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart and flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until edges and bottoms are golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for about 10 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or mail them to one of your very best friends in the whole world.