Cookies For Grown-Ups

Caardamom and Cognac, lemon zest and pepper: subtle ingredients like these add up to sophisticated holiday cookies

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Cardamom Pepper Cookies

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Makes 24 cookies

2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 sticks), room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. With a mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in one egg at a time. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture. Mix until just combined and no flour pockets remain.

3. Roll rounded tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; place on a parchment- lined cookie sheet 1 inches apart. Bake 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the pan after 5 minutes, until edges are just set and middles are puffed.

4. Transfer cookies to a rack, and cool thoroughly. Meanwhile, mix confectioners’ sugar, cognac and cream in a bowl. When cookies are cool, drizzle the glaze over them with a spoon.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MEREDITH

Espresso Shortbread

Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Makes 26 cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground espresso teaspoon
1/2 instant espresso
1/2 teaspoon salt teaspoon
1/2 vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 300. With a mixer, cream together butter, sugars, ground espresso, instant espresso and salt until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Slowly add flour. Mix until no flour pockets remain.

2. Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

3. Place dough between two pieces of parchment or waxed paper. Roll out into an even thickness of a quarter inch. Cut out cookies with a 2-inch decorative cookie cutter. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, and chill again until firm.

4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until edges are set and just turning golden. Transfer to a rack to cool.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MEREDITH

Salted Caramel Cookies

Prep time: 40 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Makes 28 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup jarred dulce de leche or other thick caramel filling Coarse or flake sea salt, (preferably Maldon Salt), for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350. With a mixer, cream together butter, sugar and salt until fluffy and light, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour, and mix until just incorporated. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

3. Generously flour a sheet of parchment paper. Place one disk in center, and dust the top and a rolling pin with flour. Working quickly, roll dough into a thickness just shy of a quarter inch. Slide onto baking sheet, and chill again. Repeat process with second ball of dough.

4. Flour two fluted, round cookie cutters: 1 larger (about 1 inches) and 1 smaller (about 1 inch). Using the larger cutter, cut half of the dough for the bottoms of the cookies. Lift off excess dough to chill, and reroll for more cookies. Re-chill cut cookie bottoms.

5. For cookie tops, use the large cutter on the second half of dough. Then, using the smaller cutter, place in the center of each top to form a hole for the caramel to show through. Re-chill.

6. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and place cookies 1 inch apart. Bake 9 to 11 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes, until just set. Do not brown.

7. Transfer cookies to a rack, and let cool completely. Spread bottom cookies with caramel. Cover with tops. Sprinkle the caramel with sea salt.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MEREDITH

Double-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Makes 30 cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 sticks), room temperature
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus cup for rolling)
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup coarsely chopped candied ginger
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (chop a gourmet chocolate bar for the best results)

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, spices and cocoa in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. With a mixer, cream together butter and 1/3 cup dark brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Beat in egg yolk. Add molasses and vanilla. Add flour mixture. Mix until no flour pockets remain. Stir in chocolate and ginger. Chill dough until firm.

4. Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. Roll tablespoonfuls of cookie dough into balls; roll in sugar.

5. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, rotating pan after 5 minutes, until cookies are beginning to crack and edges are just set. Do not overbake.

6. Let cookies cool briefly on baking sheet, and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MEREDITH

Chocolate Graham Cracker Sandwiches

Prep time: 45 minutes
Baking time: 15 minutes
Makes 40 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cold water

Ganache filling
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely choppe
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350. In a food processor, pulse together flours, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add honey, vanilla and 3 tablespoons of water; mix until dough comes together in a ball, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary.

2. Between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.

3. Lightly flour a knife or a square cookie cutter. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Prick each cracker decoratively with a floured fork. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, and chill again until firm.

4. Bake 15 minutes, until edges just turn golden. Transfer to a rack, and cool.

5. Meanwhile, place chopped chocolate and butter in a small bowl. Bring cream to a boil, and pour over chocolate and butter, stirring until all chocolate has melted. Stir in corn syrup.

6. Spread ganache over cooled sandwich halves; top with other halves.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MEREDITH

Lemon Poppy Thins

Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Makes 60 cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons (1 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. With a mixer, beat lemon zest and sugar on medium speed. Add butter. Cream with sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, another 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in lemon juice. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined and no flour pockets remain. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.

3. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into ¾-inch balls; place 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes, until edges are just set. Transfer to a rack to cool.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MEREDITH

Cornmeal Thumbprints

Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Makes 28 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
10 tablespoons (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons black currant jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk together flour, cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. With a mixer, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks. Add vanilla. Add flour and cornmeal mixture. Mix until no flour pockets remain.

3. Shape rounded tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Bake 5 minutes. If the cookies are not too hot to touch, use a thumb to make a deep indentation in each cookie (switching thumbs or dipping in ice water before each press makes it easier). You can use the end of a wooden spoon handle instead. The edges will crack when you do this. Rotate baking sheet, and return to oven for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the bottoms are golden.

4. While the cookies are still warm, fill centers with jam. Transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

Next: Healthy Holiday Desserts

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MEREDITH

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