Chewy brownie amaretti cookies

amaretti cookies
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Happy new year! I thought I’d start out 2022 by sharing one of my favorite back pocket recipes, amaretti cookies. Amaretti are one of my favorite things to make when I have extra egg whites — they’re super simple to make, store well, and have a delightful chewy texture. If you love marzipan and/or almond-flavored bakes, you will love amaretti! They also happen to be naturally gluten and dairy free.

While classic amaretti never disappoint, here I’ve added a little cocoa and espresso powder for brownie-esque vibes. Go for a very good quality cocoa powder here — I like Cacao Barry Extra-Brute for its deep flavor. Likewise, make sure you use a pure almond extract that you love as its flavor is prominent in this cookie — I like Nielsen-Massey.

Amaretti get their signature crackles from a coating of icing sugar applied just before baking. As the cookie expands from the oven heat, the fissures that form contrast with the stark white of the icing sugar. I also like to toss the dough in a light layer of granulated sugar before the icing sugar, which gives the coating a little extra crunch.

I hope you enjoy these chewy brownie amaretti cookies. To me, they’re the perfect teatime treat and just the right size for satisfying a sweet craving. Enjoy!

amaretti with bite

Chewy brownie amaretti cookies

Makes 22-24 cookies

Ingredients:

For the brownie amaretti cookie dough:

  • 180g almond flour, preferably blanched and superfine
  • 15g good-quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I like Cacao Barry Extra-Brute), sifted if lumpy
  • 180g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 70g (about 2 large) egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar or 1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract

To finish:

  • 20g granulated sugar
  • 50g icing sugar, sifted

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325F with a rack in the middle. Line a large baking sheet (at least 1/2 sheet size) with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and espresso powder until very well combined. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar or lemon juice, if using, in a spotlessly clean medium bowl (preferably glass or metal, not plastic). Using an electric handheld mixer (or a whisk and some elbow grease), whip on medium speed until soft peaks. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and whisk just until combined.

Add the egg whites to the dry ingredients. Use a flexible spatula to fold the two mixtures together. The dough may seem crumbly at first, but keep folding until homogenous and all the dry ingredients are moistened. You may need to use your hands towards the end. The dough should be stiff but a bit sticky.

Place the 20g granulated sugar and the 50g icing sugar in separate small bowls.

Using lightly damp hands or a small cookie scoop, portion the dough into small balls (about 20g each). Roll each ball into a sphere. Toss each ball first in the granulated sugar followed by the icing sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about an inch apart. The amaretti won’t spread much — you should be able to fit all the cookies on a single sheet.

Bake until cookies are lightly puffed and the tops are cracked and firm, about 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before eating. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Make-ahead: You can freeze the unbaked dough balls before tossing in the finishing sugars. Place the dough balls in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze uncovered until firm, then transfer to a ziplock bag or airtight container. Bring to room temperature, then toss in the sugars before baking.

Mocha Oreos

mocha oreos

Introducing one of the new additions to this year’s holiday treat boxes: Mocha Oreos! While peppermint or matcha were also flavor contenders, I already had peppermint marshmallows and peppermint bark brownies and matcha shortbread. And although coffee is one of my favorite flavors ever, it was not yet represented in my edible box of happiness. So it was decided. I think they’re a winner and definitely contend for a permanent place in the year-round cookie jar.

Baker’s notes:

  • It’s important to roll the dough to 1/8″ thickness or your yield will be significantly less. The ratio of cookie to filling is ideal when the wafers are fairly thin. My favorite hack for uniform dough is to use brass dowels — I found them at the local hardware store, but they’re also online (1/4″, 3/16″, and 1/8″ are my most used thicknesses). You can watch a demonstration of the technique on my Instagram highlights.
  • Do NOT substitute natural or black cocoa for the Dutch-processed cocoa. I like Cacao Berry Extra Brute.
  • As with my pumpkin spice latte pie, the key to a rounded coffee flavor here is a mixture of infusion and espresso powder. For the filling, I infuse the butter with whole coffee beans then add a little espresso powder during mixing.
  • The filling must be used as soon as you’re done mixing — it sets quickly. It may seem slightly loose and warm but that’s ok.
mocha oreos top down

Mocha Oreos

Makes about 45 small sandwich cookies | Adapted from Bravetart

Ingredients:

For the chocolate wafers:

  • 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 55g golden or light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 165g all purpose flour
  • 35g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I like Cacao Berry Extra Brute)

For the coffee filling:

  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 30g whole coffee beans
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 240g icing sugar, sifted
  • 7g (1 Tbsp) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted

Method:

Make the chocolate wafers: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, golden syrup, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low until combined, then turn the speed up to medium and beat until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the the bowl and paddle a couple times during this process to ensure even mixing.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Continue mixing on low until a smooth dough forms. Turn off the mixer and use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, ensuring there are no patches of flour remaining.

Roll the dough: Split the dough in half (about 235g each). Flatten each half into a disc. Wrap one with plastic and keep at room temperature. Transfer the other half to a large piece of parchment. Place another piece of parchment or plastic wrap over the top and roll to 1/8″ thick. Lift the top piece of parchment/plastic occasionally to avoid forming creases in the dough.

When the dough has reached the desired thickness, transfer, still sandwiched between parchment/plastic, to a sheet tray. Refrigerate while you repeat with the other half of the dough. Slide the second piece on top of the first and continue chilling until both pieces of dough are firm, about half an hour.

Cut and bake the wafers: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one sheet of dough from the fridge (keep the other refrigerated). Flip the dough over so the bottom is on top. Peel off the parchment, then replace the parchment and flip the dough right side up (this will help prevent the dough from sticking to the parchment). Peel off the top layer of parchment/plastic.

Using a 1 1/2″ round cutter, cut as many rounds as possible out of the first sheet. Using an offset spatula, transfer the rounds to a prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1/2″ apart (they won’t spread much). Repeat with second half of dough. Gently press together scraps, reroll, and cut more rounds — you should end up with about 90.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the cookies are dry and firm to the touch, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Make the coffee filling: Prepare the cookies for filling by turning half of them upside down. The filling sets quickly and must be used right after mixing. Prepare a pastry bag fitting with a 1/2″ piping tip.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, stir in the whole coffee beans. Continue heating the coffee-butter mixture, stirring frequently. It will foam and sputter, then eventually fall silent. We’re not trying to brown the butter, so if you notice the milk solids starting to brown, turn the heat down. (We’re basically making coffee-infused ghee.)

Strain the coffee-butter into a clean, heatproof bowl; discard the beans and solids. Measure out 140g butter and place in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add the vanilla, salt, espresso powder, icing sugar, and cocoa powder. Mix on low to combine, then turn the speed up to medium. Beat until creamy and soft, about 5 minutes. It may still be a bit warm; that’s normal. Immediately scrape into the prepared pastry bag.

Pipe a dollop of frosting onto the upturned cookies (about 6-7 grams, if you want to be precise). Sandwich with the remaining cookies. Let cookies stand at room temperature until set, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

mocha oreos angled

Tips for creating beautiful holiday treat boxes

Christmas cookies selection
Note: this post contains affiliate links.

For the better half of the past decade, one of my favorite parts of the holiday season has been creating treat boxes for our friends, neighbors, and families. I don’t remember a lot of the gifts I received as a kid, but I do remember the couple annual homemade cookie packages we’d receive every Christmas. While I didn’t have a clue about baking then, I admired the care and time required to create something so special.

Once I started baking, I knew I wanted to start my own tradition of spreading cheer through edible gifts. If you want to do the same but don’t know where to start, have no fear! This post lays out all my best practices for creating beautiful treat boxes, stress-free. In this guide, you’ll find advise on:

  • Treat selection
  • Scheduling, including a suggested timeline
  • Packaging supplies
  • Storage
  • Shipping cookies
  • Bonus pro-tips
  • Recipes to get you started

Treat Selection

Variety

For the most interesting treat box, variety is king. I aim for 8-12 different treats; but even 4 to 6 varieties will dazzle. Variety can be visual — think different shapes, colors, and sizes. But also consider varieties of texture and flavor. For example, I aim for a range of chewy, crunchy, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery textures.

When it comes to flavors, I like including at least one treat in each of the following categories:

Think Beyond Cookies

In addition to cookies, I love adding chewy caramel candies, marshmallows, English toffee, peppermint bark, and even little packages of savoury crackers in my holiday treat boxes. An added bonus is that many confections last for several weeks when stored properly, so you can make these ahead of time.

Familiar vs. new recipes

I know how it is. Your favorite blogger or foodie magazine publishes a dozen new holiday recipes. You want to make All. The. Cookies.

If you are trying to make holiday treat boxes on a somewhat large scale (i.e. more than a dozen), I HIGHLY recommend making a test batch of any new recipe you want to include. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a flop right in the middle of production with no time, ingredients, or energy to replace it with something else. At the very least, bake one test cookie for new batches so you can determine the proper bake time and temperature for your oven. King Arthur Baking has an excellent article on how to effectively bake test cookies.

I usually make about 2/3 familiar favorites and 1/3 new recipes each year. If you do treat boxes year after year, eventually you’ll build up a varied repertoire of cookies that you can mix and match to keep things fresh for both you and your recipients.

Time and Energy

Are you swamped every December with barely any time to bake? That doesn’t mean you can’t pull off a beautiful treat box, but you’ll need to plan your baking schedule carefully and choose recipes that aren’t too time-consuming. For example, bar and drop cookies are faster to make than cutout or sandwich cookies.

Do you genuinely like decorating individual gingerbread men with royal icing or do you lose steam after the first cookie (*raises hand*). Go for treats that you actually enjoy making and add flair with simple flourishes like sparkling sugars, festive sprinkles, or dipped glazes.

In the end, creating these boxes is about bringing cheer to others. It’s hard to do that if you’re stressed and overcommitted, so take some time to plan a selection that’s appropriate given your time and skill. Have fun!

Scheduling

I give myself about a month to plan out and execute treat boxes. A slow and steady approach allows me to enjoy the process without getting stressed out. Here’s how I break it down:

  • 4 weeks out
    • Create recipient list
    • Make treat selection and calculate number of batches needed per recipe
    • Do test batches for new recipes
    • Inventory and shop for packaging supplies
    • Can start making and freezing cookie dough
  • 3 weeks out
    • Inventory and shop for ingredients
    • Continue making and freezing cookie dough
  • 2 weeks out
    • Make and package confections
    • Bake longer shelf-life cookies
    • Continue making and freezing cookie dough
  • 1 week out
    • Print any labels or lists to include inside boxes
    • Finish making all cookie dough (freeze or refrigerate per recipe instructions)
  • 1-2 days before delivery
    • Bake shorter shelf life cookies
  • 12-24 hours before delivery
    • Assemble packages

Storage

Once you’ve baked your treats, cool them completely before storing. Keep each type in a separate container. If you store everything together, dry-textured cookies will pull moisture from chewier cookies; and individual flavors will all start melding into each other (peppermint-flavored gingerbread, anyone?).

To keep everything as fresh as possible, I try to package treat boxes within 24 hours of delivery. Let your recipients know that the contents are best consumed ASAP!

treat boxes

Packaging

While there are a myriad ways to package your treats, I like using bakery-style window boxes. They’re professional-looking, budget-friendly, and available in various sizes. I buy mine from a local packaging company here in Toronto. Check your local baking supply store for options. If you go with any paper style box, lay down some tissue or parchment paper on the bottom to prevent grease stains.

Here are some other packaging materials I use every year:

  • Clear candy bags for confections or anything that needs an extra layer of protection. These come in many sizes.
  • Twisting wax paper for individually wrapping caramels or other sticky candies. A huge time saver!
  • Cupcake liners of different sizes to separate different treats. Get them in festive patterns to add some color!

I also like to include a list of all the cookies included (noting any that contain nuts or other allergens) so that people have an idea of what they’re getting.

Execution

The freezer is your friend

Most cookie doughs freeze well for several months, so you can actually prep many recipes well in advance. You can freeze some fully baked cookies, though avoid any with a sugar coating or glazes — those elements don’t hold up well in the freezer. In general, I prefer freezing unbaked dough vs. already baked goods. I try to bake off dough within two months for optimal freshness.

Whether you freeze your cookies baked or unbaked, keep them well wrapped and sealed, and label everything clearly. The biggest enemies of frozen goods are freezer burn and unwanted scents.

Create a game plan

Once you’ve selected what treats to include, determine the approximate order of when items should be prepared. Many recipes include shelf life and make ahead information; if not, google is your friend. I like make all my confections (marshmallows, caramels, toffee) first, as they have a longer shelf-life than cookies. Next come sturdy/drier cookies, such as shortbread and biscotti. Bake drop-style cookies last as they usually are at their peak for 3-5 days.

Assembly line

If you’re packaging up more than a couple boxes at a time, have each item prepped before doing your final assembly. Confections should be sealed up, and cookies can be portioned out and placed in cupcake liners. Put together one sample box to make sure everything fits the way you like, then use that as your guide for packaging all the other boxes.

Shipping cookies

While I don’t mail cookies, I’ve often flown across the country with packages of baked goods. My best advice is to pack your baked goods in airtight, sturdy, non-crushable boxes — tins are great. Wrap pairs of cookies like sandwiches in plastic wrap and use plenty of padding material so they can’t move. If the cookies can rattle around, they’ll probably break. Stick to sturdy cookies and bars. Here are a few excellent articles for more information on shipping cookies successfully:

Bonus Pro-Tips

If you’re changing a recipe’s batch size, write out the new ingredient quantities.

If you’re halving, doubling, or tripling a recipe, calculate and write out the new ingredient quantities before starting. Do not depend on your mental math in the moment. At some point you will forget you’re not making the recipe as written and ruin your batch of cookies by not properly scaling the sugar, raising agent, or flour. I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE.

On big baking days, bake recipes starting from low oven temp to high oven temp.

To maximize efficiency when baking multiple types of cookies, take a minute to check the oven temperatures for each recipe. Start with the cookies that require the lowest temperature, then work up to those with the highest oven temperature. As always, I recommend an oven thermometer to make ensure your oven is running true to dial. My favorite is the ThermoWorks Dot coupled with a high temperature probe and clip.

Take notes during and after assembly.

If you want to make treat boxes an annual tradition, your future self will appreciate your taking good notes about the process each year. Beyond a basic thumbs up or down for each new recipe, I like to include logistical details (i.e. Only include x number of cookies per tray or they’ll spread into each other! Cut marshmallows into an 8×10 grid so you have enough for everyone!) and links to products I found especially useful. Every year I learn something new and the entire process feels more efficient.

christmas cookies on sheet tray

Recipes to get you started

Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

toasted milk powder cookies

Everyone has opinions about chocolate chip cookies. For me, it’s always been about the dough. If I’m going to the effort to make cookies, the cookie dough itself should be full of flavor and well-seasoned, worth eating with or without chocolate. I don’t like cookies that are more chocolate than cookie — if I want that much chocolate, I’ll just eat a chocolate bar.

My go-to base is in my cookbook, Baked to Order. I use brown butter, a mix of flours (including rye), and a hit of espresso powder for an extra flavorful cookie. I still make that recipe often, but lately I’ve been tinkering with it a little to really focus on one particular element: brown butter.

Brown butter has been the darling of the culinary world for…I don’t know, decades now? I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Browning butter is the process of heating butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids (which make up about 3-5% of the butter content) brown. In French, brown butter is called beurre noisette, or “hazelnut butter”, because the aroma resembles toasted hazelnuts. It’s a beautiful thing.

But what if you want to add more brown butter flavor? You can’t just add more brown butter, or the ratio of fat to everything else will result in a very end product. Enter: toasted milk powder.

Milk powder is essentially a concentrated powder of milk solids, made by preheating, evaporating, and reheating milk. It’s a staple in my baking kit; I use it most often in my enriched sourdoughs to make extra tall and soft loaves (by increasing the protein and lactose without adding extra liquid). I first came across the concept of toasting milk powder on Francisco Migoya’s blog, where he talks about adding it to financier batter. It’s brilliant — by toasting the milk powder, you’re adding more of the tasty brown bits that give brown butter its flavor and aroma!

There are a number of ways to toast milk powder. If you want to make a large batch to have on hand, try the microwave method or the pressure cooker method. For these cookies, I decided to just toast the milk powder directly in the browning butter.

Baker’s notes:

  • When toasting the milk powder, keep the heat down and whisk constantly to avoid clumping. Normally I crank the heat up once the butter has melted, but I got more consistent results with the milk powder keeping the temp around medium-low. If your milk powder is clumpy, definitely sift it / break up any lumps before adding to the butter.
  • You can make these cookies straight from the melted butter stage, but these days I prefer the texture of the final cookies when the butter is brought back to a spreadable consistency. Creaming the butter also helps break up any bits of clumpy toasted milk powder that may have formed during the browning process.
  • I’ve added in a touch of liquid (usually coffee) to make up for the moisture loss from browning the butter. It helps the cookies spread more predictably, especially if you’re refrigerating/freezing the dough for more than a day.
  • To get perfectly round cookies, you can scoot them with a round cookie cutter just larger than the baked cookie or use an offset spatula or spoon to nudge them into shape IMMEDIATELY after the cookies come out of the oven. Totally optional; it’s just for looks.

Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

Makes 12-14 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 45g nonfat milk powder
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3g (3/4 tsp) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 18g coffee or milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g all purpose flour
  • 140g good quality dark chocolate, chopped (I like a mix of 55% and 70%)
  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Make the extra-strength brown butter: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the milk powder. Continue cooking on medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the milk solids darken and the butter takes on a toasty, nutty smell. Remove from heat and scrape the butter and all the toasty bits into a heatproof container. Refrigerate until spreadable, about 45 minutes. (You can speed up the process by stirring the butter over an ice bath or sticking it in the freezer, stirring every 5-10 minutes.) You can make the extra-strength brown butter up to a week in advance; bring to room temperature before mixing cookie dough.

Make the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, combine the softened extra-strength brown butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. Using an electric hand-held mixer, mix on medium speed until well combined, 2-3 minutes (the mixture will be a bit crumbly). Scrape down the beaters and sides of the bowl. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until smooth, then add the coffee or milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is mostly mixed in, then add the chopped chocolate. Switch to a spatula and mix just until the chocolate is evenly distributed and no streaks of flour remain. Cover and refrigerate for BARE MINIMUM 1 hour, but preferably at least four hours (or up to 3 days).

Bake the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Portion the dough into golf-ball sized portions (weigh them if you want perfectly even cookies — I usually make mine around 55g each, which gives me a baker’s dozen). Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart and sprinkle the tops with flaky sea salt.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set and the centers no longer look wet, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

toasted milk powder cookies

Related recipes and resources:

Neapolitan Mallomars (chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies)

neapolitan mallomar
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Whether you call them Mallomars, whippets, krembos, Viva Puffs, mallowpuffs, pinwheels, or chocolate tea cakes, chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies are beloved childhood treats around the world. Today I’m sharing a homemade Neapolitan version, which fuses vanilla shortbread, strawberry marshmallow, and dark chocolate coating. These cookies are a blast to make and sure to delight the entire family!

These neapolitan mallomars are a little bit of a project, but none of the elements are too difficult. To divide the work I like to bake the shortbread bases one day, then make the marshmallow and dip the cookies in chocolate the next. However, you can make these in one afternoon — choose a time when you are relaxed and ready to have fun in the kitchen!

To temper or not to temper

Recently over on Instagram I asked how people felt about tempering chocolate. Most people said they’d rather not, with “I’ve never done it before” or “It takes too long” being the main reasons. I understand that working with chocolate can seem intimidating, especially if you don’t do it often — I’m definitely no expert!

But if unfamiliarity is the only thing holding you back, I encourage you to give tempering chocolate a shot for this recipe. It’s a fantastic skill to have, and nothing can truly replace the shine and snap of well-tempered chocolate. I used the cocoa butter silk tempering method this time (yes, I made my own silk because we’re still stay-at-home over here so why not). If you have the time and tools for this (sous vide machine, cocoa butter) give it a shot — I was really happy with how easy it was! But if not, this article on chocolate tempering from Sugar Geek Show walks you through a few options. Choose whichever makes the most sense for you!

However, if you’d really rather not temper you can cover the cookies with a mixture of chocolate and coconut oil, which will set nice and snappy in the fridge. If you go this route the chocolate shell will look a little less pristine and you will need to store the cookies in the fridge, but the end product will still taste wonderful.

Baker’s notes:

  • Freeze-dried strawberries are the key ingredient to making a vibrantly fruity marshmallow. I buy mine online, but check your grocery store or local specialty food store as well. Don’t grind the strawberries until you’re ready to make the marshmallow — the strawberry powder tends to clump with exposure to air. If you can’t find freeze-dried strawberries, you can leave it out for a plain marshmallow center.
  • Before dipping the cookies, I like to pour the melted chocolate into a tall, narrow vessel (like a deli quart container). Choose something microwave-safe so that if the chocolate starts to cool and thicken too much, you can reheat it gently (5 second bursts in the microwave, stirring well after each!).
neapolitan mallomars

Neapolitan Mallomars

Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

For the vanilla shortbread:
  • 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 50g icing (powdered) sugar
  • Scant 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Seeds from one vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 165g all-purpose flour
For the strawberry marshmallow:
  • 45g freeze-dried strawberries
  • 14g powdered gelatin
  • 76g water (for blooming the gelatin)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 76g water (for the sugar syrup)
  • 95g corn syrup
  • 227g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the chocolate coating:
  • 340g good-quality semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 54.5%), tempered
  • 34g refined coconut oil (optional, if not tempering the chocolate)

Method:

For the vanilla shortbread:

Make the shortbread dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld mixer), combine the butter, icing sugar, vanilla bean seeds (if using), and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth and well-combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat well to combine. Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour, mixing just to combine. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour. If the dough is very soft and sticky, cover and chill for about 10 minutes before proceeding.

Roll and chill the dough: Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper and pat into a square about 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick. Place another piece of parchment on top and roll dough to about ¼-inch (6-mm) thick, lifting the top piece of parchment occasionally to avoid creases in the dough. Slide dough onto a baking sheet (still sandwiched between pieces of parchment). Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Cut and bake the shortbread cookies: When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper (I reuse one of the sheets sandwiching the cookie dough). Use a 1 3/4″ round cookie cutter to cut circles, gathering and rerolling the scraps until the dough is used up. Place cookies on the prepared sheet, spacing about 1″ apart (they won’t spread much).

Bake cookies until set and the edges are lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before assembling.

For the strawberry marshmallow:

Make the freeze-dried strawberry powder and prep your tools: Place the freeze-dried strawberries in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until they form a fine powder. Set aside. Fit a piping bag with a 1/2″ round tip. Arrange all the cooled shortbread cookies on a parchment-lined sheet pan. (Once the marshmallow is whipped, you must immediately pipe it onto the cookies before it starts to set.)

Bloom the gelatin: In a small, wide bowl, mix the gelatin with 76g cool water and the vanilla extract. Stir to combine, making sure all the gelatin is saturated. Leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar syrup.

Cook the sugar syrup: In a medium (3-3.5L) heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the remaining 76g water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a heat-proof spatula or fork until the mixture starts bubbling, then stop stirring (stirring a boiling sugar syrup can encourage crystallization). Clip on a digital thermometer and continue cooking the syrup until it reaches 250F.

Cool the syrup: Once the syrup reaches temperature, carefully pour the hot syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer, using a flexible, heat-resistant spatula to scrape the pot. Let the syrup cool until it registers 212F on a digital thermometer, about 4-5 minutes.

Whip the marshmallow: Once the syrup has cooled to 212F, scrape the bloomed gelatin into the bowl. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium low until the gelatin has melted, then increase the speed to medium-high and whisk until the mixture is fluffy, thick, and roughly tripled in volume and the mixer bowl has cooled to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Turn off the mixer and add the strawberry powder. Mix for about 15-30 seconds, or until powder is evenly mixed in. Grease a flexible spatula or plastic bowl scraper and scrape the marshmallow into the prepared piping bag.

Pipe the marshmallow: To pipe the marshmallow, hold your piping bag at a 90-degree angle about half an inch above a cookie. Squeeze until a mound of marshmallow covers the entire base, then slowly pull up as you stop squeezing. Repeat with the remaining cookies. You can leave the marshmallows with little peaks, or use a damp finger to flatten them down. Let set at room temperature, uncovered, until set and no longer sticky — about 45-60 minutes. (If you have any remaining marshmallow, pipe it onto a piece of parchment and let it set overnight; then cut into cubes and toss with equal parts cornstarch and icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.)

For the chocolate coating:

Prepare the chocolate: When you’re ready to dip the cookies, temper chocolate using your preferred method. Alternatively, chop the chocolate into small, even pieces. Heat the chopped chocolate and coconut oil together in 20-second bursts in the microwave, stirring well in between, until just melted. Be careful not to overheat.

Dip the cookies: Place a piece of parchment under a large wire cooling rack. Holding a cookie by the base, dunk into the chocolate to completely coat marshmallow. Hold upside-down for a few seconds to let any excess chocolate drip off back into the bowl, then place cookie-side-down on the wire rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. If using tempered chocolate, let cookies set at cool room temperature for about an hour before enjoying. If using chocolate-coconut oil coating, refrigerate for about 15 minutes until set. Store leftover cookies in an airtight container for at least a week. Tempered chocolate cookies can be kept at room temperature; chocolate-coconut oil-coated cookies should be stored in the refrigerator.

mallomars on plate

Related articles and recipes:

Small batch brown butter sourdough snickerdoodles

brown butter sourdough snickerdoodles

Hi, hello, and happy spring! Just popping in with a fun little recipe to add to your sourdough discard repertoire: brown butter sourdough snickerdoodles.

I love riffing on the classic snickerdoodle — previously, we’ve done gingerbread latte snickerdoodles, graham cracker snickerdoodles, raspberry lemonade snickerdoodles, and there’s a whole recipe on snickerdoodle variations in my book! Today we’re veering into new territory by adding some sourdough discard to the mix, which (along with a healthy dose of brown butter) give these treats a big boost of flavor. Add in crisp edges, soft centers, cinnamon sugar goodness — these cookies don’t last long in our house!

brown butter sourdough snickerdoodles

Baker’s notes:

  • Sourdough discard is the portion of your starter that you would normally throw away when doing a feeding. I usually store my discard for up to a week in the fridge, using it to make anything from granola to pie crust to chocolate cake. For this recipe, you can use discard that’s at room temperature or straight from the fridge, as long as it’s not overly acidic-smelling or has formed any liquid “hooch” on top.
  • I prefer to bake these cookies after a short chill, just long enough to make the dough easier to portion. Since this dough does have discard in it, it will continue to ferment if left in the fridge. If you’re not planning to bake off all the cookies at once, I would recommend freezing unbaked dough balls (without the sugar sprinkle) in an airtight bag/container. Bring to room temperature and reroll each portion between your hands (this slightly warms the dough, helping the sugar sprinkle stick) before rolling in sugar and baking.

Small batch brown butter sourdough snickerdoodles

Makes 10 cookies

Ingredients:

For the brown butter sourdough snickerdoodle base:

  • 115g unsalted butter, cubed (cold is fine)
  • 25g milk, cold
  • 140g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use a scant 1/2 tsp for other brands or 1/4 tsp table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g 100% hydration sourdough discard

For the cinnamon sugar sprinkle:

  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon (to taste)

Method:

  • Brown the butter: Place the cubed butter in a small, light-colored saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir frequently with a heatproof spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed. The butter will crackle, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning. It’s done when the crackling subsides and you smell toasted nuts. This process takes about 10 minutes total, but the butter can go from browned to burnt in a flash—so keep an eye on it. Pour the butter and all the toasty bits into a medium bowl. (You should have ~92g brown butter.) Stir in the cold milk and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Combine the dry ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk for a good 30-45 seconds to ensure the leaveners and spices are evenly distributed.
  • Combine the wet ingredients: Whisk the sugars into the butter-milk mixture until combined. Whisk in the egg yolk and vanilla until smooth. Add the sourdough discard and whisk until totally smooth.
  • Add the dry ingredients and chill the dough: Add the dry ingredients to the wet and use a flexible spatula to mix just until no streaks of flour remain. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is cool but still scoopable (it will be fairly soft).
  • Preheat the oven and prepare pans and cinnamon-sugar: While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare the sugar coating by whisking together the granulated sugar and cinnamon.
  • Portion the dough: Portion the cookie dough into 10 equal golf-sized balls, about 47 grams each. Roll between hands into a smooth ball, then toss in sugar coating. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each with a bit more sugar coating.
  • Bake the cookies: Bake sheets one at a time for about 9 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Cookies should be puffed and the tops starting to crack, but the centers should still look a little soft. After removing the pan, bang it a couple of times on the counter to help deflate the cookies and get that classic crinkled top. Cool cookies on the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
brown butter sourdough snickerdoodles

Related recipes and resources:

Caramelized White Chocolate and Walnut Cookies

caramelized white chocolate and walnut cookies

Hello! Just dropping in here with a new cookie recipe for you all: caramelized white chocolate and walnut! These are a quick-and-easy, must-have-cookies-ASAP recipe — it uses melted butter and cold eggs, so you can whip them up on a whim.

These cookies are a variation on the triple chocolate peppermint cookies I posted in December, but here we’re highlighting caramelized white chocolate (or blonde chocolate) — some melted straight into the dough, and more folded in at the end for maximum impact. Caramelized white chocolate has been a trending flavor in the dessert world for about a decade now — while plain white chocolate tends to taste overly sweet and one-note, roasting it produces more complex and toasty flavors. You can make your own caramelized white chocolate by simply chopping up high quality white chocolate and baking it (stirring often) at a 250F until golden and toasty (see this tutorial from David Lebovitz). Or you can buy something like Valrhona Dulcey.

To complement the caramelly sweetness of the chocolate, I added toasted walnuts and a generous pinch of flaky salt. If you don’t have walnuts, I think either toasted hazelnuts or pecans would work nicely here — or even macadamia nuts if you’re a fan of the white chocolate macadamia nut pairing! And while flaky salt is normally an optional garnish, I highly HIGHLY recommend it here. It really helps balance out the cookie and veer it ever so slightly into the salty-sweet category.

After mixing the dough, just a short chill (30 minutes in the fridge, or even 10 minutes in the freezer) helps control spread and produces cookies with a thick, blondie-ish centers. If you bake them straight after mixing, the cookies will spread more and not be quite as soft overall. In the photo below, the top cookie was baked from dough that was chilled for half an hour; the bottom cookie was baked straight after mixing.

These cookies don’t brown much, so just keep an eye on them and bake just until the edges are set but the centers still look soft. They’ll continue to cook and set up on the pan. Enjoy slightly warm with a cup of black coffee (or milk)!

Baker’s notes:

  • For perfectly round cookies, use a round cookie cutter slightly larger than your cookie or even a spoon or offset spatula to nudge the cookies into shape right after baking. You must do this right when the cookies come out of the oven when they are still a bit malleable.
  • Don’t want to bake all the cookies off at once? You can keep unbaked dough balls in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage. For cookies chilled longer than half an hour, I find they spread best if you bring them to room temperature before baking (just pull them out while the oven is preheating).

Caramelized White Chocolate and Walnut Cookies

Makes about 15 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 150g chopped caramelized white or blonde chocolate (such as Valrhona Dulcey), divided
  • 175g (1 1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • Flaky salt, for garnish

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job.
  2. While the butter is melting, place the espresso powder and 50g of the chopped caramelized white chocolate in a large bowl. Once the butter has melted, pour it over the espresso-chocolate mixture. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the sugars into the butter until smooth and combined, followed by the egg and egg yolk. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together until just combined. When just a few streaks of flour remain, add the remaining 100g caramelized white chocolate and walnuts. Mix just until evenly distributed. Cover and chill for half an hour, or until firm but not solid.
  5. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Portion the dough into 15 ping-pong sized balls, about 50 grams each. (At this point, the dough balls can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for longer storage. For best results, bring dough to room temperature before baking — see notes above.) Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart and sprinkle the tops generously with flaky salt.
  6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and barely set, 10-11 minutes (the cookies will not brown much). Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Six years of blogging, and a madeleine recipe

citrus and honey madeleines
Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

We will get to madeleines, I promise. But first, please humor me for a trip down memory lane. Six years ago, I bought the cooktildelicious.com domain and published my first recipe blog post. This blog is older than all my children, and has certainly lived longer than any of my previous blogs (which date back to the days of Geocities and LiveJournal; am I dating myself?). Historically I haven’t done much to celebrate blog birthdays. It’s right on the heels of the holidays and we’re usually unpacking from trips and resetting from vacation eating. But after a quiet staycation with a few extra days to just sit and reflect/navel gaze/catch up on cheesy holiday rom-coms, I spent a few moments gathering my thoughts on what this little corner of the web has meant for me.

The face of this blog hasn’t changed a whole lot since its inception. No redesigns, no fancy recipe plugins. (I would love to give it a refresh but there are many items in my house higher on the “need to clean” priority list.) I don’t have an editorial calendar for posts, though I have a running list of recipe ideas and the occasional scheduled sponsored post/partnership. The scope of this blog has shifted slightly — as the name suggests, I originally intended to post more cooking/savory recipes. But baking quickly took over, and this blog became a love letter to that.

Blogging in this space has changed my life. It’s provided opportunities to connect with and learn from bakers around the world. Without this blog there would be no book. Most importantly, though, it’s reminded me of the importance and joy of learning and cultivating a creative hobby.

We live in a strange time when, at least here in North America, it’s hard to resist turning a hobby into a side hustle. The moment we show some skill at baking/photography/basketweaving/insert-creative-venture-here, the voices — internal and external — start suggesting, “You should sell that.”

But there’s also nothing wrong with just letting a hobby be a hobby, with making things simply for the joy of making them, with learning new skills just to learn. There’s nothing wrong with making and decorating a cake just because you want to eat cake on a Tuesday, and decorating makes you happy. You don’t have to make a profit to legitimize your passion.

This doesn’t you shouldn’t earn money from a hobby or that you should work for free “just because you do this for fun.” Absolutely not! But making the switch from hobby to business shouldn’t be done lightly. If you run a business, you’ll have less time to devote to creative projects that actually interest you because it’s hard work and time-consuming to run a business!

Occasionally I’ve wondered if I should “take this thing to the next level” but a quick reality check always confirms that I’m right where I’m happiest right now, chasing kiddos and baking for fun. And if I have a little time at the end of the day — lucky me, here’s this place write about it and share with you.

I know I am extremely blessed that I’m able to spend time on this blog and pursue baking as a hobby. Time, energy, health, and finances are all privileges I recognize daily; and I’m especially grateful for a husband who provides honest, level-headed perspective when I’m tempted to take on more than I should.

I’m not sure where baking and blogging will take me next, but I hope to continue curating this space for years to come. As my children get older I’m even more invested in trying to preserve recipes and create food memories (the original impetus behind starting this blog). I’m grateful to all of you who have read and tried recipes here — your feedback has made me a better baker and writer. Thank you for spending time with me.

Citrus and honey madeleines: simple is best

madeleines tea

If you made it this far: congrats, your reward is a madeleine recipe! Last year the lovely people over at USA Pan kindly gifted me a madeleine pan, something I’d been keen on adding to my bakeware collection. Madeleines are essentially mini cakes, delightfully light but buttery and perfect with tea. I hadn’t actually eaten many madeleines before last year, but had often admired their iconic shape: shell-like on one side, and humped on the other. Receiving the pan was just the excuse I needed to nerd out on madeleines. I spent a few weekends reading and analyzing dozens of madeleine recipes and baking off different batches to compare methods. I tried flavors like brown butter, apple cider, jasmine, and espresso; I glazed and didn’t glaze.

Many madeleines and sticks of butter later, I’ve concluded that I like unglazed, classic citrus and honey madeleines the best. I also think madeleines are ideally enjoyed about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven: at this point they’re still just a little warm and the contrast between the crisp, shell-like side and soft, buttery interior is most pronounced. “Fancy” flavors often don’t fully develop until a baked good is completely cooled; so with madeleines I just keep it simple.

Madeleine recipe ratios and mixing methods

Above: I tried coffee, apple cider, and brown butter madeleines but in the end I kept going back to a simple citrus flavor.

In terms of ratios, madeleine recipes are pretty similar across the board: roughly equal parts melted butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. The batter is usually mixed using either the classic genoise technique (whisking eggs and sugar until tripled/ribbon stage, then folding in flour and butter) or by simply whisking all the ingredients together.

While the genoise method does yield airier madeleines, I don’t think the difference is good enough to warrant the more finicky technique. I did find that briefly warming the eggs and sugar over a bain-marie (pot of simmering water) helped create a beautifully glossy emulsified batter with minimal mixing, so I recommend that extra step.

The coveted madeleine hump

madeleine humps

One of the endearing characteristics of a madeleine is the hump. It’s just aesthetics, and non-humped madeleines are just as tasty. But if you’re going to make madeleines you might as well shoot for the ideal shape! The main trick to getting a voluptuous hump is temperature: specifically, cold pan and cold batter + hot oven. I recommend chilling your batter and pan overnight for best results. I also found baking madeleines in the top third of my oven produced the most pronounced humps.

Using just the right amount of batter per well is also key to a good hump. You need enough batter so that when the cake rises there will be enough batter to produce the hump; but not so much that it will overflow the well. Madeleine pans come in all shapes and sizes so it may take a couple tests to figure out the ideal amount for yours.

Baker’s Notes:

  • I consulted many madeleine recipes while working on this one — notably recipes by David Lebovitz, Stephanie Duong, Dominique Ansel, Daniel Boulud, and Baking Like a Chef.
  • I place the madeleine pan on a preheated sheet pan to make it easier to rotate during baking.
  • Pure citrus oil is one of my secret weapons for getting a punchy citrus flavor into baked goods — a little goes a long way. I use Boyajian lemon oil and orange oil most often.
  • You can store the madeleine batter in the fridge for a couple of days and bake them off in batches. Re-butter and chill the pan between batches (15-20 minutes in the freezer is sufficient).

Citrus & Honey Madeleines

Makes about 16 medium madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tsp lemon or orange zest
  • 100g all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 100g (about 2 large) eggs, at room temperature
  • 80g granulated sugar
  • 20g honey
  • 1/8 tsp lemon or orange oil (optional)

Method:

  1. Melt the butter: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job. Once melted, measure out 100g for the batter and add the citrus zest. Transfer the remaining butter to a small bowl and refrigerate to solidify slightly while you finish preparing the rest of the batter (you will use this extra butter to brush the madeleine pan).
  2. Set up a bain-marie and prep dry ingredients: Fill a medium saucepan with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together thoroughly.
  3. Warm the eggs and sugar: Once the water is at a gentle simmer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and honey in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water) and whisk over the heat constantly for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and just slightly warmed, about 95F. Turn off the heat and remove the bowl.
  4. Mix the madeleine batter: Sift the dry ingredients into the egg-sugar mixture in two additions, using a whisk to gently but thoroughly combine. Add the butter-zest mixture in three additions, whisking gently to fully combine after each addition. Whisk in the citrus oil, if using. The batter should be shiny and smooth, with no visible streaks of flour or butter. Use a flexible spatula to fold the batter several times to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
  5. Transfer the batter to a piping bag (or press a piece of plastic wrap against the batter). Refrigerate at least four hours, or up to 2 days.
  6. Prepare the madeleine pan: Use the reserved softened butter to brush each well of the madeleine tin. Freeze until ready to bake the madeleines.
  7. Preheat the oven and fill the molds: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the upper third. Place a large baking sheet on the rack while the oven is preheating.
  8. When the oven is ready, remove the prepared madeleine pan from the freezer. Fill each well about 3/4 full (24-25 grams in my madeleine pan). Don’t spread the batter to the edges; it will spread on its own in the oven.
  9. Bake the madeleines: Place the filled pan on the preheated sheet pan and immediately turn down the oven temperature to 400F. Bake until the madeleines are well risen and firm and the edges are golden, about 11-12 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a couple minutes, then gently pry madeleines out of the tin. Madeleines are absolutely best enjoyed while still warm, about 5-10 minutes after baking; but leftovers will keep in an airtight containers for a couple of days.

Cookies! Cookies! Cookies! (Plus a Christmas confetti cookie recipe)

We spent the past weekend packing up white bakery boxes filled with sweet treats. Dropping boxes off on doorsteps, ringing the doorbell, and waving enthusiastically from the car when the recipients opened the door — it was heartwarming to continue a holiday tradition with a 2020 twist.

We gift about two dozen of these boxes each year, so I’m always looking for simple, non-time-intensive ways to add sparkle, texture, and color to our treat selection. Christmas confetti cookies fit the job perfectly — they’re a humble sugar/snickerdoodle at heart, but are loaded with festive flair (aka sprinkles). I make sure to whip up an extra batch of this dough because my family can’t get enough of these cookies — they’re just so good! (I’ve included a list of all the other treats we included at the bottom of this post, with recipe links where available.)

A couple other tidbits:
Tips for baking Christmas confetti cookies:
  • You can prep Christmas confetti cookie dough in advance and refrigerate it for up to 5 days (or freeze for longer storage). I like to bring the dough out to room temperature while the oven is preheating, then roll in sugar right before baking.
  • I like to use jimmies, or the long rod-shaped sprinkles, in this recipe. The color doesn’t bleed, unlike non-pareils and other sprinkle shapes. Feel free to sub in rainbow jimmies for non-holiday-themed confetti cookies!

Christmas Confetti Cookies

Makes about 12 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 175g all-purpose flour
  • 50g red and green sprinkles (I use jimmies — the rod-shaped kind)

To finish:

  • 40g granulated sugar

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugars, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a couple times during this process to ensure even mixing.
  2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg and vanilla. Increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the flour. Mix just until a few streaks of flour remain, then add the sprinkles. Use a flexible spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour. Cover and chill until firm but still scoopable, about 45 minutes.
  4. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Portion the dough into twelve ping-pong sized balls, about 45 grams (3 tbsp) each. Toss each in granulated sugar, coating completely. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches (6 cm) apart.
  6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and pale, about 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
treat boxes

Other treats included in our boxes:

Caramel-stuffed ginger molasses cookies

Ginger molasses cookies are always at the top of my holiday must-bake list. My favorite recipe is generously spiced, chewy, and instantly makes the house smell like Christmas. On a whim I stuffed a batch with some salted butter caramels I had leftover from some recipe testing. Best/worst idea ever: best because the caramel levels up a cookie I thought couldn’t be improved — the caramel adds another level of chew in addition to a surprise hit of sweetness. Worst because these have sort of ruined me for the “regular” version.

A couple of notes:

  • You can use any kind of chewy caramel candy for stuffing, though I like to an extra dark one that has just a hint of bitterness.
  • You can refrigerate the dough (stuffed or unstuffed) for up to 5 days. I like to bring the dough to room temperature while the oven is preheating and toss in sugar right before baking. I haven’t yet tried freezing this dough with the caramel stuffing but will update this post when I do.

Caramel-stuffed Ginger Molasses Cookies

Makes about 13 large cookies | Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

  • 125g all purpose flour
  • 75g bread flour
  • 50g rye flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 113g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 113g fancy molasses (not blackstrap)

To finish:

  • 40g turbinado sugar
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 13 chewy caramel candies, storebought or homemade (mine were roughly 3/4″ squares)

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, spices (except for the fresh ginger), and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and dark brown sugar. Add the grated ginger and rub it into the sugar with your fingers to distribute.
  3. Whisk in the melted butter, molasses, and egg to combine.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the dough up slightly to make it easier roll. (If refrigerated longer than an hour, let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften slightly.)
  5. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375F with a rack in the center, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the turbinado and granulated sugar in a small bowl.
  6. Divide the chilled dough into 26 equal portions (25g each).
  7. To stuff the cookies, take two portions of dough and flatten each into a thick disc. Take a caramel and press it gently into the middle of one piece of dough (trim or squish the caramel to fit, if needed), then place the other piece of dough on top. Pinch the edges of the two pieces of dough together to seal in the caramel, then roll gently between your hands to form a ball. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
  8. Roll each ball in sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2.5 inches apart. (Cookies will spread a bit so leave plenty of room!)
  9. Bake sheets one at a time for about 9-11 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cookies are puffed and starting to crack and the edges are set. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.