Peppermint Spiral Cookies

Peppermint is one of my favorite flavors, and this time of year is a great time for peppermint-themed baking. These peppermint spirals, which I found at Taste of Home, are delicious, even if they didn’t quite turn out how I was hoping.

As you can see in this photo, there are cracks and holes in the center of my cookies. How does this happen? Rolling spiral-style cookies is a delicate business; you’re usually working with two thin sheets of dough and trying to roll them together tightly enough without tearing them. My spirals definitely left something to be desired looks-wise, but they have a wonderful peppermint vanilla flavor and great texture. Maybe next time they’ll be pretty!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon red liquid food coloring

Preparation

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

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat to combine, then add flour mixture in two batches, beating on low speed, then on medium, until dough comes together.

Divide dough in half and add peppermint extract and red food coloring to one portion. Roll out each portion of dough between two sheets of waxed paper into a rectangle about 16 by 11 inches. Remove top sheet of waxed paper from each rectangle, then carefully flip the red rectangle on top of the plain rectangle and remove the waxed paper from the red. Roll up on the long side making as tight a log as possible; wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour, until firm.

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

Remove dough from freezer and unwrap, then cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 3-4 dozen, depending on the thickness of your slices.

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Brown Sugar Crinkles

I’ve rarely met a cookie I didn’t like, but these brown sugar crinkles combine some of my favorite ingredients. Dark brown sugar, toasted pecans, and butterscotch extract combine to give these treats wonderful depth of flavor without being too rich. And the powdered sugar coating is absolutely genius. Not that I’m surprised – this recipe is adapted from one in the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, and those bakers really know their stuff.

My adaptation of this recipe involves unsalted, toasted pecans rather than the salted version, and I also used 12 drops of butterscotch extract instead of vanilla extract or just a few drops of a strong butterscotch or butter rum flavoring. You could certainly use salted pecans if you like; before toasting, just spritz your pecans with water and sprinkle them with fine table salt. I don’t think you can go wrong either way.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 12 drops butterscotch extract*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

*I use a dropper for this (and for fiori di sicilia) so I have better control of how much flavoring actually goes into my dough.

Preparation

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

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, butter, and butterscotch extract until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl.

Add flour mixture in two batches, beating to combine, then stir in the pecans. Cover the bowl and chill for 1 hour.

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

Break off generous tablespoon-sized chunks of dough and roll into balls, then toss in powdered sugar to coat. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 11-12 minutes, until they’ve cracked on top but still look puffy between the cracks. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin whoopie pies? Yes. Pumpkin. Whoopie. Pies. Delicious, pumpkin spicy treats with cream cheese filling. What can I really say other than that?

This recipe is a hybrid, using the cookie recipe from King Arthur Flour and the filling recipe from Martha Stewart. I adapted the recipe only in the size of the cookies I scooped – rather than using a 1/4 cup scoop, I used a two-inch scoop to yield slightly smaller treats. Next time, I think I’ll use a one-inch scoop for mini treats.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 15 ounces canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons molasses

For the filling

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Preparation

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

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, vegetable oil, and molasses*. Beat until completely combined, then scrape down the bowl and add flour mixture in three batches, mixing well between each.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until they feel firm to the touch; a slight indentation will remain when you press your finger in the middle. Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, then add vanilla extract and 1 cup powdered sugar and beat to combine. Add remaining powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well between each addition.

Flip cookies over and drop a 1-inch scoop of filling onto half; spread with an offset spatula, then top with another cookie.

Store in an airtight container, individually wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

My batch made 19 whoopie pies and one extra cookie without a partner, which I topped with some filling.

Maple Cookies

Fall is a great time for maple-themed baking, especially when you’re able to use real maple syrup. To me, real maple syrup is absolutely worth the price – which can be a bit steep – from a flavor perspective. The good news is that maple syrup can last for up to a year in the refrigerator, so you can definitely get your money’s worth and use it in many recipes.

I found this recipe over at Genius Kitchen, after an extensive search for a basic maple cookie recipe. When baked, they resemble peanut butter cookies and have a nice subtle maple flavor and one of the best cookie textures I’ve ever found. They’re very soft and chewy without being fragile or crumbling to pieces, and they keep very well for a few days after baking. This recipe also makes a very large batch, at 5 dozen!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Preparation

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

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

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add egg, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and beat until very well combined.

Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing well and scraping the bowl between each addition, until completely combined.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, then roll in sugar. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart and flatten with a fork.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set; you don’t want the cookies to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Makes 5 dozen.

Creature Cookies

Here’s another great cake mix-based recipe for busy bakers. I found this recipe on several other blogs, so it’s difficult to give credit to whoever came up with it – I imagine it was an inventive test kitchen baker at a cake mix company.

I chose to add princess cake and cookie flavor to the dough, an amazing product available at King Arthur Flour that promises – and delivers – that classic “from the bakery” flavor. It’s kind of similar to the flavor of an animal cookie and makes a subtle yet wonderful addition to this dough. If you don’t have it, you can substitute vanilla extract if you like, or just leave the dough as-is.

Just a few notes about handling the dough: it’s incredibly sticky, so when you stir in your food coloring, you’ll want to use a mixer. I started out with three separate colors, then realized after some orange dough got into the green dough from my cookie scoop that mixing the colors would also be fun. Lastly, I used two different methods for placing the eyeballs; on the first two batches, I baked the cookies first, then pressed in the eyes when they came out of the oven (resulting in the look of the orange and purple cookies above). On the last batch, I pressed them into the dough before baking, and you can see the difference in the green/orange cookie above. Either method would be fine – you’ll just end up with a slightly different look based on what you choose.

Ingredients

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon princess cake & cookie flavor
  • Purple, orange, green, and yellow food coloring
  • Candy eyeballs

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, and flavoring; stir very well to completely combine. Divide dough into three portions. Tint one purple, one orange, and one green (I found that using both green and yellow yields a Frankenstein-like color, which is what I wanted); I used my stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, to really work the food coloring into the dough. Chill dough for 30-60 minutes, until easier to handle; it will remain quite sticky, but the chilling process does help.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough, then divide each portion in half – you want your portions to be about the size of a gumball. Roll into balls, combining colors if you like.

Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets and press in candy eyeballs if you like, or wait until after baking and press eyeballs in then, whatever you prefer.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 40.

 

Scout’s Honor Peanut Butter Sandwiches

If you looked through my cookbooks, you’d be able to tell which ones I use the most by the condition of their pages. The books with the best, most reliable recipes have pages that have gotten splattered with batter, sprayed with water, dusted with flour, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and all other manner of baking-related slips and spills.

My King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion is now such a cookbook, its pages warping with good use. Today’s scout’s honor peanut butter sandwich cookies come from the peanut butter chapter, a wonderful collection of classic peanut butter cookies and delicious adaptations. These treats are a home-baked version of Girl Scout peanut butter sandwich cookies, and this recipe yields hearty, peanut buttery treats with a delightful mellow flavor and great texture from the rolled oats that get mixed into the dough. These would also be delicious with a chocolate filling, but the classic peanut butter – which I adapted to include some vanilla extract – is just perfect.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 5 1/3 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (rolled) oats

For the filling

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

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

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Cream together, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times. Add egg and beat until fluffy.

Add flour and oats mixing (or stirring, if you prefer) until combined.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Gently flatten with the heel of your hand to 1/4 inch thickness (the original recipe said to do this with the bottom of a drinking glass, but mine kept sticking, even after I greased it). Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are very light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cookies are completely cool, make filling. Combine peanut butter, honey, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract and beat to combine; filling will be fairly thick, almost like the center of a buckeye, and this is the texture you want – don’t thin it out.

Use a 1-inch cookie scoop to scoop filling onto half the cookies; gently press filling down with your fingers and top with another cookie, pressing very, very gently to bring the cookies together but not tear them.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 17 sandwiches.

Confetti Cookies

As a busy working mother, my mom had little time for scratch baking, relying on mixes for many of our home-baked treats. Her peanut butter cookies involve a box of yellow cake mix, eggs, oil, and Jif peanut butter, and they are just as delicious to me as ones made completely from scratch.

Whether you bake completely from scratch or from mixes, what really matters is that you make things for the people you love. These cookies, adapted from a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens to include some vanilla extract, are bound for my goddaughter Maureen and her little sister Margo. I suspect they’ll enjoy them just as much as they would cookies made completely from scratch.

Ingredients

  • 1 box white cake mix*
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles

*I used Duncan Hines cake mix; your dough may take longer to chill depending on which brand of mix you use. 

Preparation

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix, egg, melted butter, and sprinkles. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.

On a very lightly floured surface, roll dough into a log about 2 inches wide. Wrap in plastic and chill until completely firm, about 30 minutes in the freezer or 1 hour in the fridge.

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

Remove plastic wrap from dough and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Place cookies on prepared sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie, as they spread when baking.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 3 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 30.