Vanilla Bean Spritz Cookies

Classic butter cookies are my husband’s absolute favorite, so I had to try this vanilla bean version. He loved them! They are dangerously easy to make too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the ground cinnamon option, varied the shapes, and topped the cookies with festive colored sugars prior to baking.

Because the cookies are quite fragile, the original recipe suggests making them into sandwich cookies, filled with chocolate, Nutella, or thick jam, to increase their stability for shipping. We ate them as is!

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), preferably cultured, softened
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, OR 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 2 1/4 cups/290 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • decorative sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla and the zest, spices or almond extract (if using), and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Load dough into a cookie press. Following the directions that came with your cookie press (models can vary), push the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch between cookies.
  6. Sprinkle cookies with decorative sugar.
  7. Bake until firm to touch and golden brown at edges, about 8 to 9 minutes, or longer (up to 17 minutes) depending upon the size of your cookie press.
  8. Transfer cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Our festive 2020 “Gingerbread Mansion” (photo above). 🙂

Belgian Spice Cookies (Speculoos)

I am mildly obsessed with Biscoff cookies. They are my absolute favorite store-bought cookies (Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies are a close second…) When my friend shared this version from America’s Test Kitchen, I knew that I had to include them in my Christmas cookie assortment this year. I doubled the recipe. 😉

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen via wskg.org.  I rolled out the dough and placed it in the refrigerator overnight. I also froze the cut dough prior to baking to help it maintain its cut shape. I weighed the flour and sugar and used freshly ground spices.

These cookies have the ultimate crispy texture. My husband thought that they had more cardamom than the store-bought version, possibly because I used freshly ground cardamom, but I thought that they were perfect. 🙂 Yum!

Yield: 32 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) turbinado sugar (see note)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 1 large egg
  1. Separately, grind cloves and cardamom in a spice grinder.
  2. Whisk flour, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.
  3. Using pencil and ruler, draw 10 by 12-inch rectangle in center of each of 2 large sheets of parchment paper, crisscrossing lines at corners. (Use crisscrosses to help line up top and bottom sheets as dough is rolled.)
  4. Process sugar in food processor for 30 seconds (some grains will be smaller than granulated sugar; others will be larger).
  5. Add butter and process until uniform mass forms and no large pieces of butter are visible, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Add egg and process until smooth and paste-like, about 10 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  7. Add flour mixture and process until no dry flour remains but mixture remains crumbly, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  8. Transfer dough to bowl and knead gently with spatula until uniform and smooth, about 10 seconds.
  9. Place 1 piece of parchment on counter with pencil side facing down (you should be able to see rectangle through paper).
  10. Place dough in center of marked rectangle and press into 6 by 9-inch rectangle. Place second sheet of parchment over dough, with pencil side facing up, so dough is in center of marked rectangle. Using pencil marks as guide, use rolling pin and bench scraper to shape dough into 10 by 12-inch rectangle of even thickness, about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. (If the dough spreads beyond the rectangle, trim it and use the scraps to fill in the corners; then, replace the parchment and continue to roll.)
  11. Transfer dough with parchment to rimmed baking sheet.
  12. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 1 1/2 hours (or freeze for 30 minutes). (Rolled dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days.)(I refrigerated it overnight.)
  13. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lowermiddle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees, preferably on convection.
  14. Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment. Transfer chilled dough to counter. Gently peel off top layer of parchment from dough.
  15. Using fluted pastry wheel (or sharp knife or pizza cutter) and ruler, trim off rounded edges of dough that extend over marked edges of 10 by 12-inch rectangle.
  16. Cut dough lengthwise into 8 equal strips about 1¼ inches wide. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 equal pieces about 3 inches long.
  17. Freeze cut dough until firm, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  18. Transfer cookies to prepared sheets, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart.
  19. Bake until cookies are lightly and evenly browned, 30 to 32 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.
  20. Let cookies cool completely on sheets, about 20 minutes. Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Note: If you can’t find Sugar in the Raw, use 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 ounces) of packed light brown sugar and skip the sugar grinding step.

* Do not use cookie molds or an embossed rolling pin for the speculoos; they will not hold decorations.*

Christmas Cookies 2020

Happy Holidays!

Although this holiday season has been very different, I was still happy to be able to share our Christmas cookies with family and friends. The assortment included our usual favorites, listed below. I added a Christmas version of our special linzer cookies, a vanilla bean version of my husband’s favorite- spritz cookies, and a new speculoos cookie.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2021!

Cookies Clockwise from Top:

Ravneet Gill’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have one more sweet treat to share. I could not resist a new chocolate chip cookie recipe claiming to be perfect and the best. When split in half, these cookies were described as having a “wet-sand crumb surrounding a glossy pull of viscous molten chocolate.” Wow.

It is very rare that I follow a recipe to a “t,” but I did exactly that in this case. The NYT article explains that the reason these cookies are exceptional is the meticulous attention to detail in the recipe. I did use granulated sugar instead of superfine. 😉 The original recipe controversially omits vanilla extract. We didn’t notice! They were absolutely FABULOUS.

The recipe was adapted from The Pastry Chef’s Guide by British pastry chef Ravneet Gill, via the New York Times, contributed by Charlotte Druckman. I used chopped 71% cacao Valrhona chocolate.

Yield: 14 to 15 cookies

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/140 grams unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), softened
  • Scant 3/4 cup/140 grams dark brown sugar
  • cup/110 grams superfine sugar (I used granulated sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons/250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (or kosher salt)
  • 6 ounces/170 grams dark (bittersweet) chocolate, chopped into large chunks (I used 71% cacao Valrhona)
  1. Put the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Cream together using a paddle attachment on medium speed, a handheld electric whisk or a wooden spoon for 1 to 2 minutes until paler but not fluffy. (Do not mix for too long; if you beat the mixture until super light and fluffy, that will cause the cookie to deflate later when cooking.)
  2. Add the egg and beat over medium speed until evenly combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (all the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt), then fold into the butter mixture using a rubber spatula until combined.
  4. Add the chopped chocolate and fold into the dough until evenly distributed.
  5. Immediately scoop out heaping 1/4-cup portions (about 60 grams), roll into balls and place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours. (If space is tight, you can condense them on one sheet before refrigerating then redistribute among two sheets before baking.)(I used one sheet.)
  6. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  7. Make sure the dough balls are evenly spaced out among 2 baking sheets, as they will spread. ( I placed 5 cookies per sheet on 3 baking sheets.)
  8. Bake the cookies for 13 minutes (or 15 minutes if baking from frozen), until the cookies are puffed and golden at the edges. You want the middle to be ever so slightly not-quite set.
  9. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet; they will continue firming up as they cool. Once cooled, eat!

Note: These cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The balls of dough will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge or 2 weeks in the freezer.

Soft-Baked Oreo Blondies

Inspired by my husband’s (seemingly) week long birthday celebration, my daughter had a few requests for her “week” of birthday meals. 🙂

The first meal included her favorite penne alla vodka with blondies for dessert. We had plans to incorporate Oreos into her birthday cake, so it seemed natural to make Oreo blondies!

This recipe was adapted from Delish.com via TogetherasaFamily.com. I used mini Oreos and added a little bit more to sprinkle over the top prior to baking. They had the perfect balance of a crispy top and soft center.

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, melted & slightly cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped Oreo cookies, divided (I used mini Oreos, cut in half)
  • 3 (1.55oz each) Hershey Cookies ‘n’ Cream candy bars, chopped (about 1 cup)
  1. Heat oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. Prepare a 9×13 baking pan (preferably metal) by spraying with cooking spray and lining with parchment paper. Spray parchment with cooking spray.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  4. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a bowl using a hand mixer, add melted butter and brown sugar. Beat together for 1-2 minutes until lighter in color and fluffy looking.
  5. Add in 1 egg and beat together until combined.
  6. Add the other egg and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
  7. Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until combined and no flour pockets remain.
  8. Gently stir in 3/4 cup of the chopped Oreo cookies and all of the chopped Cookies ‘n’ cream candy bars.
  9. Place large dollops of the batter in the prepared baking dish. Using an offset spatula, evenly spread out the batter.
  10. Sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup of chopped Oreos on top of the bars and gently press down.
  11. Bake for 24-26 minutes. The edges will be light golden brown and look “wrinkly” and the middle will look pale and puffy.
  12. Let the bars cool completely. Using the parchment to lift bars out of the pan, place on a cutting board and cut into squares.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

This is another Smitten Kitchen recipe that I couldn’t resist trying. I love baked goods that incorporate whole wheat flour and this one also includes oat bran and old-fashioned rolled oats. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. I modified the size and baking time and refrigerated the rationed dough overnight.

Yield: about 20 (1 1/2 tablespoon) cookies or 10 (3 tablespoon) cookies

  • 4 T (50 g) raw or turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup (95 g) dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour) or medium rye flour
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) oat bran, wheat germ, wheat bran, or finely chopped nuts (such as walnuts)
  • 1 1/2 cups (120 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • flaky sea salt, optional
  1. In a large bowl, beat sugars, butter, and salt together until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add egg and vanilla; beat until mixed.
  3. Sprinkle baking powder and baking soda over the batter and beat until very well-combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat again.
  4. Scrape the bowl down and add the flour, oat bran (or another option), oats, and chocolate; mix just until the flour disappears.
  5. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon or 3 tablespoon cookie scoop, ration the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to bake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Arrange the mounds of dough 2 inches apart for smaller scoops or 3 inches apart for larger scoops on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with a couple flakes of sea salt.
  8. Bake 1 1/2 tablespoon cookies for about 10 minutes and 3 tablespoon cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time, or until golden brown all over.
  9. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Note: Extra dough will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days and longer in the freezer. Freeze rationed scoops of dough on a tray and transfer to a freezer bag when solid. If baking frozen scoops of dough, add 1 to 2 minutes to the baking time.

Shortbread Jammers

Over the summer, I brought these fabulous cookies to the beach when we went to enjoy the sunset. They transported very well and everyone loved them. 🙂 Any type of thick fruit jam or marmalade can be spread over the top of the cookie base. By using raspberry jam, I thought that they could be renamed “Easy Linzer Cookies.”

The recipe was adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion via The New York Times, contributed by Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan. I baked the cookies in a 9×13-inch pan, per the original recipe; The NYT recently modified the recipe to bake in an 8×8-inch pan. I thought that they were perfect as is, but may “have to” try the thicker version to compare. 😉

Rice flour is suggested to make the cookies more tender. I used all-purpose flour instead and was pleased with the results.

Yield: 24 cookies (9×13-inch pan) or 16 cookies (8×8-inch pan)

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rice flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted)
  • 1 cup thick fruit jam, preserves or marmalade (I used raspberry preserves)
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter a 9×13-inch or 8×8-inch baking dish. Line with parchment and butter the parchment. (I used a lined, metal 9×13-inch baking pan.)
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the salt and vanilla and continue to beat until well combined.
  5. Add the flours and continue to beat until the dough comes together.
  6. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface. Prick it with a fork in about 20 places.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, or until golden around the edges. Slide a dull knife along the edges. Cool for 5 minutes. (an 8×8-inch pan may require a longer baking time)
  8. Using the parchment, lift the slab of shortbread out onto a clean surface.
  9. With a knife, trim 1 inch from one of the sides. Crumble the trimmings into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  10. Cut the rest of the shortbread into 24 squares (9×13-inch pan) or 16 squares (8×8-inch pan) and allow to cool.
  11. Spread a thick layer of jam on each square. (I kept the cut cookies together and spread the jam over the top of the entire surface.)
  12. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the top.

Note: Layered between plastic wrap or wax paper in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for 3 to 4 days.

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