Category Archives: Cookie of the Month

2013 “Cookie of the Month” Year-end Round-up

Those who regularly follow my blog will recall that I made the commitment back in January 2013 to post one cookie recipe a month for the entire year.  So, for ease of retrieval, I thought I would do a year-end round-up of all 12 cookies.

In January, just in time for Robbie Burns Day, I shared my recipe for Shortbread.

Shortbread

In February, with sweet Valentine’s Day, old-fashioned Sugar Cookies topped the list.

Sugar Cookies
Sugar Cookies

In March, Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies, made with a hint of stout, were ready for St. Patrick’s Day.

Chocolate Drop Cookies Made with Stout
Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

In April, thoughts turned to lighter, more spring-like, fare like these Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies.

Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies
Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies

In May, old-fashioned Cherry Winks proved they are still a perennial favorite.

Cherry Wink Cookie
Cherry Wink Cookie

In June, the no-bake Spider Cookies proved they are just as much a favorite today as they were when I was growing up!

Spider Cookies
Spider Cookies

In July, as we celebrated “Christmas in July”, the Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies brought back memories of the kinds of cookies often found in grandma’s cookie jar.

Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies
Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies

In August, Chocolate Drop Cookies, were a hit with the chocolate lovers!

Chocolate Drop Cookies
Chocolate Drop Cookies

In September, crisp and light-textured Peanut Butter Cookies made it on to the cookie of the month roster.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies

In October, the substantial and tasty raisin-filled Plum Puff Cookies heralded the fall season.

Plum Puff Cookies
Plum Puff Cookies

In November, when the days turned cooler and thoughts turned to the sweet smell of cooking with spices, the old-fashioned icebox Gingersnaps made their debut.

Gingersnaps
Gingersnaps

In December, these Coconut Cherry Macaroons made a fine addition to trays of sweets and to gift boxes.

Coconut Cherry Macaroons
Coconut Cherry Macaroons

I hope you have enjoyed some of my favorite cookie recipes.  Do you have a favorite cookie?

Barbara

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December 2013 Cookie of the Month: Coconut Cherry Macaroons

This is the final cookie of the month for 2013.  I have selected to share Coconut Cherry Macaroons, a favorite recipe that has been in our family for decades.

There are so many recipes for coconut macaroons with ingredients and methods for making them that vary.  This is a variation of the traditional coconut macaroon cookie.  Macaroons are not difficult to make and don’t take a lot of ingredients.  The addition of the candied cherries makes these macaroons tasty.  They are also showy on a plate of sweets.  I hope you enjoy them.

Coconut Cherry Macaroons

4 extra-large eggs (at room temperature), separated (reserve the yolks)

¼ tsp salt

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp almond extract

½ tsp vanilla

3 cups coconut*

1½ cups flour

¾ cup red candied cherries, chopped

¾ cup green candied cherries, chopped

 

Assemble ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In large bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on high speed just until frothy.  Gradually, and very slowly, add the sugar while continuing to beat on high speed.  Whisk the egg whites and sugar until mixture forms stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, in separate large bowl, with a hand mixer or a whisk, beat the four egg yolks along with the almond and vanilla flavorings.

Stir in coconut.  Add flour and candied cherries.  Mix well.

Fold the stiff egg white mixture into the coconut mixture.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

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Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cookies are set.   Let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

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* Any kind of coconut — flaked, shredded, or macaroon — and either sweetened or unsweetened (or a mixture of both), can be used.  In the photographs that accompany this recipe, I used macaroon coconut, a shorter variety of coconut.

Happy Holidays!

Attractively package these macaroons and they make a great hostess gift or a remembrance for a teacher, colleague, neighbor, or anyone who has a sweet tooth!

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November 2013 Cookie of the Month: Gingersnaps

Gingersnaps
Gingersnaps

November brings days with shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures.  If you are like me, when late fall arrives, your thoughts turn to comfort foods that include spicy cookies.  My choice of cookie of the month for November is the old-fashioned gingersnap.  These wafer-thin, crisp cookies are flavoured with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, all scents that make the kitchen smell divine when they are baking.

Gingersnaps are not difficult to make but they do take some time since this recipe requires the dough to be shaped into logs and then refrigerated for 24 hours.  While these cookies are tasty any time of the year, they make a great addition to holiday sweet trays and gift boxes.  The dough can also be frozen, then thawed, sliced, and baked when desired.

Old-fashioned Gingersnaps

Ingredients:

1/3 cup molasses

2 tbsp brown sugar

½ cup margarine

 

1 tsp soda

 

1 egg yolk

 

1½ cups flour

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp salt

 

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Into medium-sized saucepan, combine molasses, brown sugar, and margarine.  Over medium-low heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring regularly to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat once mixture has started to boil.  Add soda and stir well.  Cool mixture to room temperature.

Add egg yolk to cooled mixture.  Stir well.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients into wet ingredients to make a stiff dough.  Stir well to combine.

Turn dough onto wax paper and roll and shape into two logs each about 2½” – 3” in diameter – either round or rectangular-shaped.  Wrap each roll individually in plastic wrap.  Chill for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Remove cookie logs from refrigerator and unwrap.  Using a very sharp knife, slice each log into 1/8” slices.

Place cookies about 1” apart on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Let cookies cool on pan for 2-3 minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

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October 2013 Cookie of the Month: Plum Puff Cookies

Plum Puff Cookies

 

Plum Puff Cookies are my October 2013 Cookie of the Month.  These are hearty cookies because each one is actually two cookies sandwiched together with a tasty raisin filling.  These cookies can also be filled with your favorite jam, date , or even lemon, filling.

Cookie Ingredients:

¼ cup butter

½ tbsp lard

½ cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp milk

½ tsp vanilla

1¼ cups flour

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp soda

1/8 tsp cardamon

 

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat butter and lard together.  Add sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla.

Sift flour, salt, soda, and cardamom together.  Stir into wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated.

Knead dough into ball.  If dough is soft, place in refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to about 1/8” thickness.  Divide dough in half.  Using a 2 – 2½” linzer round crinkle cookie cutter, cut out one half of the dough into solid circles.  Cut remaining dough into the same size circles but fit the linzer cookie cutter with desired cut-out for cookie centers. (Note:  If you don’t have a linzer cookie cutter, simply use any cookie cutter shape you have and then use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the centers of half of the cookies.)

Place cookies, about 1½” – 2” apart, on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake on center rack in oven for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on rack for 2-3 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.

When cookies have cooled completely, spread raisin filling (recipe follows) on flat side of each solid cookie, then top with the flat side of a cookie that has center cut out.

Yield:  2-dozen sandwich cookies

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup raisins

1 tbsp flour

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

½ tsp vanilla

Pinch of cinnamon

Smidgeon of salt

 

Combine all ingredients in saucepan.  Over medium-low heat, cook raisin mixture until thickened.

An old-fashioned wholesome cookie.

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September 2013 Cookie of the Month: Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies

My September Cookie of the Month is an old favourite – peanut butter cookies.  These cookies take very few ingredients and nothing out of the ordinary that would not be in most cupboards.  They have been found in many lunchboxes for decades.  Either smooth or crunchy peanut butter may be used – whichever is your preference – in the cookies.  In order to keep the cookies a bit soft, watch the baking time, checking them at the 10-minute point.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

¼ cup shortening

¼ cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

½ cup peanut butter

1 egg, well-beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1 tsp soda

1/8 tsp salt

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream shortening, and butter together.  Beat in brown and white sugars until fluffy.

Mix in peanut butter.

Add egg and vanilla.

Sift flour, soda, and salt together.  Add to wet ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

If dough is very soft, refrigerate for 30-40 minutes.  Shape dough into small balls about 1” in diameter.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 ½” – 3” apart as these cookies spread.

With fork dipped in sugar, press down cookies in a traditional criss-cross pattern with the tines of the fork.

Bake on center rack in oven for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.

Yield:  3½ – 4 dozen

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August 2013 Cookie of the Month: Chocolate Drop Cookies

I have always been a chocolate lover.  These chocolate cookies were ones my Mother often made when I was a child.  I like the rich chocolate flavour and somewhat chewy center they have.  These cookies don’t take any uncommon ingredients or ones most bakers wouldn’t have in their cupboards.  Of course, using the best cocoa you can find will make for a richer, more flavourful cookie.

They are very easy to make and, being drop cookies, there is no rolling the dough and cutting out shapes and no need for any icing.  Simply scoop up some dough with a teaspoon and use another to slide the dough off the spoon and on to the cookie sheet.  These cookies can be dressed up with 1/2 cup of either chopped nuts, dates, raisins, or even chocolate chips.  However, I don’t add any extras to them as I like the smooth texture and flavour they have on their own without any further additions.

Chocolate Drop Cookies

1/2 cup shortening, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 375F.

With electric mixer, beat shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy (1-2 minutes).  Beat in egg, vanilla, and milk.

Into separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Add to wet ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 10-11 minutes.  Do not overbake or cookies will be dry.

Yield:  Apx. 3 dozen

These cookies are good any time and make good lunch box treats as well as picnic basket fare.  They are especially good with a dish of vanilla ice cream!

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July 2013 Cookie of the Month: Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies (It’s Christmas in July!)

Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies
Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies

Happy Christmas in July!  I know, I know, I know!  It’s only July but it’s never too early to think about Christmas cookies!  So, as I continue on with my Cookie of the Month series in 2013, I am sharing an old family favourite – Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies – as the July cookie.

This recipe was shared with me by a neighbour lady 36 years ago.  It has long been a favourite cookie in our household.  It is not too sweet but is very tasty….bite into one of these cookies and you’ll find that one will not be enough!

You can also vary the flavour by using different jams and jellies in the center, although red jam is always the most showy.  I have used some of my fresh batch of strawberry jam as the filler in the cookies in these photos.

When my neighbour made the cookies, she never added cherries or nuts; however, I think these additions make the cookies a bit more special, particularly around holiday time.

I do a lot of special baking around the holidays but have discovered that not everyone wants gooey squares and rich decadent cookies, balls, and candy that always seem to adorn sweet trays during the holiday season.  For some, they are just too rich and sweet.  These cookies are the perfect alternative.  They are what I would class as a ‘substantial’ cookie yet the nuts and cherries still keep them within the Christmas ‘zone’.

But don’t reserve them just for the holidays!  They are good any time of the year and are especially good picnic fare and lunch box treats.  They also make a great tea-time snack (yes, I took my Christmas China to the beach for a mid-evening tea and had to watch out for the seagulls who were eying the cookies pretty well!).

The Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies are easy to make and don’t take uncommon ingredients.  They also freeze well so are great to have on hand.

Brown Sugar Jam-Filled Cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp milk

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cardamom

½ cup chopped macadamia nuts

¼ cup chopped maraschino cherries

Favorite jam or jelly

Method:

Preheat oven to 350C.

Assemble ingredients.

In medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and cardamom.  Set aside.

Chop well-drained cherries. I drain them on, and dry them with, paper towel.  The cherries need to be very well-drained and dried as, otherwise, they will color the dough pink.  Chop macadamia nuts.  Set both the cherries and nuts aside.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla.

page 2 - Wet Ingredients

On slow “stir” speed, stir in dry ingredients just until combined.  Do not overmix.

page 3 - Adding Flour

Stir in cherries and nuts by hand.

On parchment-lined baking sheet, drop dough by teaspoonfuls.  With thumb, press indent into center of each cookie.  Fill with ¼ – ½ tsp of favorite jam or jelly.

Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield:  Apx. 30 cookies (depending on the size you choose to make)

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June 2013 Cookie of the Month: Spider Cookies

 

Oh, these bring back sweet childhood memories!  I grew up knowing these as “Spider Cookies”.  However, they are often simply called “Uncooked Chocolate Cookies”.  Regardless their name, they are simple to make and very tasty; in fact, I’d say they are a close neighbour to candy.

These are indeed a vintage cookie.  I don’t know their origins but do know they were popular in the 1960s and since.  They have often been found at picnics and, whenever there was an event at school, inevitably somebody’s mom showed up with these treats in tow.

The great thing about these cookies is that you don’t have to bake them, they don’t take uncommon or a long list of ingredients, and they are relatively quick and easy to make, even for novice bakers.

Here is what you will need to make these special treats:

Ingredients:

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup margarine, butter, or shortening

pinch of salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 cups quick cooking rolled oats (not instant)

1/2 cup coconut

6 tbsp cocoa

Method:

In medium-sized saucepan, combine sugar, milk, margarine, and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Stir.

In large bowl, combine rolled oats, coconut, and cocoa.  Stir well to combine.

Pour liquid ingredients over dry ingredients in bowl.  Stir to combine.  Mixture may seem soft but resist the urge to add more rolled oats which will make the cookies hard and chippy.  Let mixture stand, undisturbed, for 15-20 minutes and it will begin to firm up.

Drop by spoonfuls onto wax-paper lined baking sheet.  Place in refrigerator for apx. 1 hour to firm up cookies.

Yield:  apx. 36 cookies

Store in airtight container.  These cookies also freeze well.

Make sure you use a good quality cocoa to get the best, richest taste in these cookies.

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Spider Cookies
Spider Cookies

 

May Cookie of the Month: Cherry Winks

Cherry Wink Cookie
Cherry Wink Cookie

For the May “Cookie of the Month”, I am sharing our family recipe for the vintage cookie, Cherry Winks.  My Mother often made these cookies when I was a small child so they have been a family favorite for many years.  They are not difficult to make and don’t take any hard-to-find or unusual ingredients.  These tasty cookies are very versatile – they can be served on a sweet tray at an afternoon tea or they can be lunchbox cookies.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup shortening or butter

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs, unbeaten

4 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chopped dates

3/4 cup chopped pecans

apx. 2 1/2 – 3 cups cornflakes

apx. 15 maraschino cherries, blotted dry in paper towel, and cut into quarters

Method:

Preheat oven to 375F.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream shortening or butter.  Add sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.  Beat in milk and vanilla.

page 1 -butter mixture

In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Whisk together to blend.  Mix in the dates and pecans. Add to creamed mixture and stir until well combined.

Crush cornflakes crumbs by placing in a sealed ziplock bag and crushing with a rolling pin.

Transfer crumbs to shallow bowl.  Shape dough into small balls. Roll each cookie ball in the crumbs to coat.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Top each cookie with piece of cherry.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

These cookies go especially well with a glass of cold milk!

…and one is never enough!

A box of these cookies makes a wonderful, tasty gift!

What are your memories of cherry winks?

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April Cookie of the Month: Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies
Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies

Spritz cookies are dainty-shaped cookies that are crisp and buttery.  They are made by pushing soft cookie dough through a cookie press which is a cylinder fitted with a decorative disk that has patterned holes through which the dough is “squirted” or pressed into shapes.  Typically, cookie presses come with many different decorative disks – mine has probably 20 or more.

These cookies are popular at Christmas, special occasions, and are very suitable for afternoon teas as they can be made in so many different shapes and colors and can be further embellished with icing, colored sugar, miniature gumdrops, or dragées.

My recipe for Lemon Spritz Cookies is buttery rich and delicate.  I like the flavour burst of lemon juice and zest in these petite cookies.

This recipe does best when the dough is chilled for 24 hours to allow the egg yolk to get fully incorporated and absorbed into the other ingredients.  Unlike most liquids, such as water or milk, for example, eggs take a lot more time to become incorporated into the dry ingredients.  When the dough comes out of the refrigerator, it will be too hard to push through the cookie press so let the dough sit at room temperature for about an hour or so until it becomes pliable enough that it can be formed into a roll that can be inserted into the cookie press cylinder.  You’ll notice this recipe has no baking powder or soda.  This is because that would cause the cookies to raise which, in turn, would result in them losing their shape and design that makes them spritz cookies.

Lemon Spritz Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

½ cup icing sugar

½ cup cornstarch

1 egg yolk

½ tsp lemon juice

½ tsp vanilla

¼ tsp almond flavouring

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 2/3 cup flour

smidgeon salt

pinch cardamom

 

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Cream butter and icing sugar.

Blend in cornstarch.

Add egg yolk, lemon juice, vanilla, almond flavouring, and lemon zest.

page 2 -Egg yolk, lemon juice, vanilla

Add the flour, salt, and cardamom to creamed mixture, stirring until well combined.

Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for apx. 1 hour.  Form dough into a roll that will fit inside the cookie press cylinder.  Insert dough roll into the cookie press.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Follow manufacturer’s directions for your cookie press to form the cookies into decorative shapes.  Decorate with colored sugar, if desired.  Bake at 400F for 7-8 minutes.  Watch the cookies closely as their high butter content and small size means they will burn easily and quickly.  Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes then transfer them to wire racks to finish cooling.

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March 2013 Cookie of the Month: Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

Chocolate Drop Cookies Made with Stout
Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies Made with Stout

Well, for my Cookie of the Month for March, I tried to find out if there is a cookie recipe that traces its origins to Ireland or, alternatively, a cookie that is particularly popular on the Emerald Isle.  However, I had no luck in tracking down any (maybe it was lack of Irish luck!).  If any of you know of a traditional Irish cookie, please do share the information.

I decided to create a special recipe and give it a distinctly Irish flavour using stout in honour of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th.  As you know, whenever possible, I like to feature Island products in my cooking and baking.  PEI does have one brewing company that produces stout – The Island Brewing Company produces Gahan Sydney Street Stout.  However, it is apparently a limited edition and is not available in local liquor stores year-round — at least I couldn’t track down any.  So, instead, I opted to use Montreal-brewed St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout because it boasts hints of espresso and chocolate.  I knew I was going to be making a chocolate cookie with a hint of coffee flavour so a stout with both chocolate and coffee flavour could only enhance the cookie’s taste.  Like any ingredient, moderation is the trick.  My goal was to flavour the cookie with the stout and bring out the chocolate flavour – I wasn’t aiming for a beer-tasting cookie.  Therefore, I used only 1 1/2 tablespoons of stout as part of the liquid ingredients.

For the chocolate, I chose to use semi-sweet squares of chocolate because I find their flavour a bit more intense than powdered cocoa.  Using some brewed coffee gives these cookies a distinct mocha flavour.  For interest, color, and texture, I used swirled milk and white chocolate chips.

This dough does well when it is chilled and allowed to “rest” for 24 hours after mixing and before baking the cookies.  The purpose of letting the dough “rest” is to allow the liquid ingredients, including the egg, to get fully incorporated and absorbed into the other ingredients.  The “resting” period makes for a drier and firmer cookie dough and this controls its spread while baking so you don’t end up with a really flat cookie.

The chilled dough, though, will be really hard making it next to impossible to use a cookie scoop (I know as I have already gone through two of them!) to form the cookies into shapes for baking.  Cookie scoops are great to make uniform-sized and shaped cookies; however, dropping the cookies by teaspoons on to the baking sheet also works well.

I like the drop cookies to be soft and somewhat chewy and, of course, the key to that texture is to slightly underbake the cookies – bake these no more than 10-12 minutes at 350F and let them cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1 egg

2 tbsp. cold brewed coffee

1 1/2 tbsp stout

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 squares of semi-sweet chocolate, melted

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup chocolate chips

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Cream butter and shortening.

Add brown and white sugars.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat until blended.

 In separate bowl, or large measuring cup, mix coffee, stout, milk, and vanilla.  Stir to combine.  Add to mixture.  Mix well.

Add melted chocolate and mix to blend.

Combine dry ingredients.  Add to mixture and stir just until flour is incorporated.

 

Stir in chocolate chips.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 24 hours.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between the cookies.  Bake at 350F oven for 10-12 minutes.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 

 

 

 

 

These make a fine treat for St. Patrick’s Day (but are just as good any time of the year!)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

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February 2013 Cookie of the Month – Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies
Sugar Cookies

My choice of Cookie of the Month for February 2013 is the old-fashioned sugar cookie.  These are one of the plainest cookies yet they have endured throughout time and are often counted amongst the favorites in many families.  These cookies are aptly named given the amount of sugar in them in proportion to the amounts of other ingredients.  Despite the amount of sugar in most sugar cookie recipes, they are not really an overly sweet or rich cookie. 

Growing up on PEI, sugar and molasses cookies were a standard staple in many Island homes.  My grandmothers always had them on hand yet their cookies varied significantly because, of course, they used different recipes and probably some different ingredients or proportions.  One grandmother always made round cookies while the other always cut her cookies into squares.  One made soft cookies while the other made cookies that were quite hard.

I remember visiting one grandmother and, as soon as I’d get in the door, I’d always ask for cookies to which the response was ‘you don’t have to ask, just go and help yourself’.  I’d trot into her pantry and there were always two large cookie tins on the counter – one for molasses cookies and the other for sugar cookies.  I’d return to the kitchen to find Gramma, with a big, happy smile on her face, having taken up her position in her Boston rocker beside the stove, waiting for me to occupy the companion rocker and have a visit.  I’d rock away munching on the cookies — a sugar in one hand and a molasses cookie in the other — and we’d chat about this and that and nothing in particular.  I think it made her day to have me pop in for a visit and to see little fingers fishing cookies out of the tins!  I never remember visiting that there weren’t cookies in those tins!  Gramma really was a cookie-type grandmother!  Great memories!

 

Sugar Cookies and Hot Cocoa
Sugar Cookies and Hot Cocoa

Both molasses and sugar cookies were considered wholesome and substantial cookies that didn’t take ingredients homemakers would not be likely to have in their pantries.  So, they were quite an economical cookie to make.  No matter the recipe, sugar cookies have common ingredients – some kind of fat (butter, shortening, or lard), sugar (white or brown or a combination), eggs, flour, leavening agent (baking soda, cream of tartar, and/or baking powder), vanilla, and often a small quantity of milk.  Sugar cookies can be rolled and cut into desired shapes or they can be drop cookies, depending on the recipe used.

The recipe I use is for rolled sugar cookies.  They are neither soft nor hard.  The  batter is quite dense.  These cookies hold their shape well.  I chill the dough for a couple of hours before rolling it out and then chill the cut cookies on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes before baking them.  This helps to contain their shape and keep them from spreading.  I add just small amounts of two spices – cardamom and nutmeg —  not enough to change them from sugar to spice cookies but sufficient to give the flavour a bit of complexity for the taste buds.  I also add the seeds from one-half of a vanilla bean as well as 1 tsp pure vanilla.  I like the flavour from the vanilla bean seeds and I especially like the little black specks in the appearance of the cookie.  My recipe calls for butter but some will use half shortening and half butter.  Butter, of course, will make a richer cookie.

The key to baking cookies that will determine if they are soft or hard is the baking time.  For softer, more chewy cookies, remove them from the oven when they are ever-so-slightly undercooked.

So, on this blustery and stormy day when PEI is getting pummeled with a good old-fashioned “Nor-easter” snow storm, and the Island is virtually shut down, I introduce you to my old-fashioned sugar cookies.

 

Old-fashioned Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened at room temperature

1 cup white sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cardamom

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

 

Preheat oven to 375F

Using the tip of a sharp knife, split open the vanilla bean lengthwise.  Using the edge of the knife blade , scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean.  Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and beat well.  Add milk, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds.  Beat just until combined.

In separate bowl, combine and stir flour, cream of tartar, soda, salt, cardamon, and nutmeg.  Add to liquid ingredients and stir just until flour mixture is combined with liquid ingredients.

Chill dough for 1-2 hours.

On floured surface, gather dough together and roll out dough to a scant 1/4″ thickness.  Cut into desired shapes.

Decorate with raisins and/or sprinkle of sugar, if desired.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheets about 1 1/2″ apart.  Chill cookies in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.  Remove and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Immediately transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 3 dozen – 2 5/8″ cookies.  Yield will vary depending on size of cookie cutters used.

Store cookies in an airtight container and keep at room temperature or store in freezer.

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Sugar Cookies
Sugar Cookies

January 2013 Cookie of the Month – Shortbread

Today, I begin my new 2013 monthly series on my food blog.  Once a month, I will be posting a recipe and photographs of a favourite cookie. 

Shortbread "Petticoat Tails"
Shortbread “Petticoat Tails”

To start, I will share my recipe for shortbread.  There are so many recipes and versions of shortbread.  This perfectly plain, delicate cookie attributes its origin to Scotland so it is fitting that I should choose this cookie for my inaugural “Cookie of the Month” series given that today is Robert Burns Day.  Robbie Burns is often referred to as Scotland’s national poet and many of Scottish ancestry, including those on PEI, celebrate his birthday on January 25th.  It’s a time to bring out the tartan apparel and, at least on PEI, there are Scottish concerts and dinners in honour of the poet.

Sometimes called Scotch cookies, these sweets have always been a Christmas tradition in my family.  Cut into petite squares or decorative dainty shapes and finished with a small dob of icing and a smidgeon of a red cherry or a silver dragée, Scotch cookies have been found on many a sweet tray over the holidays for years.  I think they may have traditionally been associated with Christmas because they were considered a luxury treat with their butter and sugar content.  Today, I make them various times throughout the year in different shapes and sizes.  In fact, they are almost always a staple on hand in my freezer.

Shortbread is relatively easy to make and does not take a lot of ingredients or ones not likely to be found in most kitchens.  Recipe ingredients do vary, however.  You will find that, in addition to some kind of fat, sugar, and flour, some shortbread recipes call for the addition of cornstarch, confectioner’s or brown sugar, salt, egg yolk, and/or vanilla.  Other recipes call for a 50/50 mix of butter and shortening.  I have even seen some recipes list cream of tartar and/or baking soda as ingredients.  Shortbread purists, however, are likely to argue that, technically, there are only supposed to be three ingredients in traditional shortbread – 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour and no leavening agent or other flavourings. 

My recipe does follow the 1-2-3 parts rule for sugar, butter, and flour.  For example, start with ½ cup of sugar, double it to determine how much butter is needed (1 cup) and double the amount of butter to arrive at how much flour is required (2 cups) and you essentially have a recipe for shortbread.  Everything about quality shortbread focuses on high quality ingredients so that you get that melt-in-your-mouth sensation with just one bite into a shortbread cookie.  I use pure creamery butter and, today, my featured Island product is Wiltshire butter produced in North Wiltshire, PEI.  For shortbread, I find it is important that the butter be at room temperature so it will cream easily.  Do not soften the butter in the microwave as it breaks it down too quickly and it becomes liquefied which may alter the texture of the dough.  My recipe calls for brown sugar so the cookies made from this recipe will be a little darker in color than if white sugar or confectioner’s sugar is used.  I do add an egg yolk because I find it helps to bind the ingredients together and gives the shortbread a nice texture.  I also add a pinch of salt and sometimes – but not always — some vanilla.  If using vanilla, make sure it is pure and not artificially flavoured.   

What determines the quality of a good shortbread is how “short” it is.  When you bite into a shortbread, the cookie should crumble easily and you should be able to taste the butter flavour as the cookie slowly melts in your mouth.  You won’t get that if you use a mixture of butter and shortening or all margarine, for example. 

I like the dough in this recipe – it holds together well, does not take a lot of kneading to incorporate all the ingredients and prepare it for rolling, rolls out without cracking or breaking apart, and almost has a satin-like feel to it.  Shortbread dough should only be minimally kneaded – just enough for it to stick together and allow it to be rolled out for cutting.  Some recipes indicate the dough should be chilled before rolling and the cookies, once cut into their shapes, should be put in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set before baking so that they won’t spread out of shape during the baking process.  With the dough in my recipe, I don’t find chilling either the dough or the unbaked cookies is necessary because, with no leavening agent, they will not spread out of shape.  That factor makes shortbread the ideal choice when maintaining a consistent and uniform shape of cookies is important.  If, however, for some reason you find the dough is too soft to work with then, by all means, chill it for several minutes as this will not harm the product.  

I don’t like super-thick shortbread so I roll the dough to a scant ¼” thickness.  Of course, I always use parchment paper for cookie baking and the cookies should be baked in a slow (300F) oven so they don’t burn.  With the high butter content, baking them in a hot oven will run the risk of them burning or turning too dark in color.  Today, I have divided the dough, making part of the recipe into shortbread fingers using a traditional rectangular-shaped shortbread cookie cutter 1” wide by 3” long.  For the remainder of the dough, I rolled it into about a 7” circle and, using the tip of a sharp knife, scored the dough into 8 wedges.  Don’t cut all the way through; just score it lightly on the cookie top.  You can use the tines of a fork to press lightly the outside edge of the circle and also to prick the surface of the dough into a decorative pattern.  Once the shortbread is removed from the oven, immediately cut all the way through the score marks and separate the wedges which are often called “petticoat tails”.   

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Favourite Shortbread

1 cup butter (no substitutes)

½ cup brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla (optional)

2 cups flour

Pinch salt (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 300F.

Ingredients for Shortbread
Ingredients for Shortbread

In bowl of stand mixer, beat the butter on high speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Add the sugar and beat until smooth, scraping the bowl as necessary.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla.  Beat until incorporated.  With mixer on slow speed, stir in the flour and salt just until mixed.

 

Turn dough onto lightly-floured surface.  Gently knead dough just until it holds together.  Do not over-knead.  Shape dough into a round mound.  Roll to approximately ¼” thickness.  Cut into desired shapes. 

 

Place cookies about 1” apart on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cookies rest on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool.  Makes approximately 30 cookies (1” x 3” rectangles)

If desired, dough may be rolled into small 6” or 7” circles and scored with the tip of a sharp knife into wedges.  When cookies are removed from the oven, immediately cut through scored lines to separate the wedges.

Making Shortbread "Petticoat Tails"
Making Shortbread “Petticoat Tails”

 

These cookies will keep for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature.  They also freeze well.

 

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