Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies are the spicy, warming cookies we need this winter. I’ve never been a huge fan of overly spicy, hot foods. When something makes the sweat pour out and my eyes stream, all other flavors are subsumed – for days! However, give me something well-seasoned and you have my attention. I love the fiery bite that ginger adds to almost any dish. It could wake the dead but somehow never kills the tastebuds. And hand me a piece of crystallized ginger – spicy and sweet, making my tongue tingle and my tastebuds stand up and cheer – and I’ll be your friend. Make it ginger covered in dark chocolate – and I’ll give you a hug.

As if the taste of ginger alone weren’t sufficient, ginger is a wonderful digestif, the perfect end to any meal that might have proved a bit rich or heavy. It’s been known to be an effective antidote to seasickness and morning sickness or just an iffy tummy. For me – well, I just love the taste and mouth sensation that ginger produces.

So when I saw this recipe on the King Arthur website for Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies, I knew that I just had to try them. And the fact that it also helped me to use up some of that rye flour that I bought way too much of in a moment of madness with visions of rye breads and pumpernickel dancing in my head is an added bonus.

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

It’s another dreary winter Sunday. My husband is making pizza for dinner and while his dough is proofing, I decided to make these cookies for dessert. They take no time at all to put together and thankfully I had all of the ingredients on hand. I learned the trick many years ago about adding freshly cracked black pepper to spice cookies so I was pleased when I saw the pepper already in the recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly; however, I did use a cookie scoop that was a bit larger than the one listed. Is anyone going to complain because their cookie is a little larger? I mean REALLY??! So while the cookie yield is not huge, there are more than enough to satisfy any cravings. All I need is a cold glass of milk. But if your thing is tea or coffee, you won’t be disappointed.

Because these cookies stay soft and chewy, rather than growing hard, they are perfect for using in homemade ice cream sandwiches. Just use a good quality vanilla ice cream in the middle and get ready for a real treat.

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

A couple of notes before getting started. I got into weighing my ingredients over the past year whenever a recipe gave me that option. It really has been a game changer. No matter how you scoop or pack your flour or sugar or ricotta etc., 150 grams is 150 grams if you weigh it out. Now I know that Americans are not used to weighing ingredients and depending on what I am making, I still use cup measures. But whenever possible I now provide both options for you.

This recipe called for “medium” rye flour. Whether you use medium or dark or light, the cookie will be delicious. It also calls for “molasses” but doesn’t specify “light” or “full-flavored” or “robust.” I used full-flavored molasses because I happen to like that full-bodied taste. The only thing I wouldn’t use is “black-strap” molasses. And if you have treacle but no molasses, you could use that instead. They will all work.

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Do make sure that your spices are fresh. This recipe cries out for robust spices and tired cardamom or ginger that has been in your cabinet for years just won’t cut it. When a recipe calls for “vegetable oil” I almost always choose Canola Oil, but you could use corn or safflower oil if that is what you have. I would not use peanut, olive or any oil with a strong flavor for this recipe. They have their place in baking but this isn’t it. Okay, so now – bake!

Recipe

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Yield: About 18 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (212g) medium rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 cup (149g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (99g) vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (85g) molasses

Coating

  • 1/3 cup (76g) coarse sparkling sugar (sanding sugar) or 1/3 cup (66g) granulated sugar

Directions

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
  2. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, using either a hand whisk, an electric mixer, or a stand mixer, whisk the sugar and oil until combined.
  5. Add the egg and whisk until smooth. Stir in the molasses. Then add the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir until well combined.
  6. Use a spoon (or a tablespoon cookie scoop) to portion 1 1/4″ balls of dough. (My cookie scoop was 1.5 Tablespoons so I got fewer than the 22 cookies and my resulting cookies were larger.)
  7. Roll the dough balls in granulated or sparkling sugar to coat before placing onto the prepared baking sheets. (The dough will be somewhat sticky, but it’s fine.) Leave 2″ between them on all sides; they’ll spread as they bake.
  8. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re puffed and their edges are set and the tops look crackly.
  9. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool completely right on the pan.  
  10. Store cookies, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

German Chocolate Cookies

German Chocolate Cookies

German Chocolate Cookies are gooey dark chocolate, sweet toasted coconut and pecans. ‘Nuf said.

While I may enjoy a good piece of layer cake, it doesn’t make much sense to make one for only two people. And most cakes that I like have a buttercream frosting or a chocolate ganache and require refrigeration. This is TOTALLY unrealistic for me. Unlike TV cooking personalities, I don’t have an empty spare refrigerator only filled with the ingredients for a single dish. I live in the real world.

So when my husband and I are craving a delicious German Chocolate Cake, I will turn to these German Chocolate Cookies instead. I came across this recipe in the New York Times. Interesting piece of cooking trivia – German Chocolate Cake isn’t German at all. It’s named after an American chocolate maker, Samuel German. Okay, German Chocolate Cookies aren’t an exact substitute for the cake, but they are awfully satisfying. And with cookies, there is never any waste.

If I am making something sweet, I like to balance it out with either a tart citrus or a darker chocolate. You could buy a 64% to 70% chocolate and chop it up yourself or you could take the lazy way out like I did and simply use a dark chocolate chip. Once you could only buy semi-sweet chips, but now you can easily find milk chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, flavored chocolate and dark chocolate.

And while you can easily toast your own coconut, I bought already toasted, sweetened coconut from Nuts.com, my go-to store for nuts, dried fruits and all kinds of wonderful ingredients and hard-to-find items. If you want to cut the sweetness even further, swap out unsweetened coconut for the sweetened coconut.

I have never outgrown my love of milk – real dairy milk. To me, NOTHING beats cookies and milk. So you can have yours with coffee, tea or dessert wine, but I’ll be enjoying my German Chocolate Cookies with a cold glass of milk!

These cookies would make a lovely gift over the holidays, packaged in a nice tin.

For other great cookie treats to fill that tin:

Italian Polenta Cookies

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Who doesn’t LOVE cookies?

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies

Ma’Amoul – Moroccan Stuffed Tartlets

Recipe

German Chocolate Cookies

Yield: About 30 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup/128 grams all-purpose flour
½ cup/47 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
½ cup/101 grams granulated sugar
½ cup/110 grams packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups/128 grams lightly toasted, sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup/170 grams chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1 cup/119 grams chopped pecans

Directions

Step 1
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour,
cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter,
granulated sugar and brown sugar together with an electric mixer on
medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla
until smooth.

German Chocolate Cookies


Step 2
Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture. Add coconut,
chocolate and pecans and mix to just combine.

German Chocolate Cookies


Step 3
Portion the dough in 2 tablespoon scoops and roll them into balls.
Place them on parchment-lined baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies until dry on top but still soft in the center, about 10
minutes, turning once unless you have a convection oven. The cookies will not have spread much, so just go by how the surface looks. Remove from the oven and immediately tap the sheets against a work surface to deflate them slightly. Alternatively you could use a flat spatula to lightly press down on the cookies to flatten some. Allow the cookies to sit on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies

Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies are rich, moist and citrusy bright. These perfect cookies are easy to make and even better to eat. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I LOVE lemons. And for me, there is no better finale to a delicious (or even not so wonderful) meal than a good dessert. Of course, these cookies would also be a wonderful accompaniment to afternoon tea. These lovely morsels are really mini-cakes and oh, so satisfying.

One bite and you get the sweet, moistness of the cake with a burst of fresh lemon. If you look back on recent posts of mine, you might detect a trend. That’s right – ricotta! It’s a lovely, creamy cheese along the lines of a farmer’s cheese. While it comes in low-fat versions, I only like to use whole milk ricotta in desserts. If you are lucky enough to live where hand-packed ricotta is available, that only needs a little vanilla extract, honey and cinnamon to make a delicious and quick dessert. Add some fresh berries and/or drizzle with some melted chocolate to make it a bit more decadent and a perfect no-bake dessert.

This cookie comes together quickly and there is no chilling of dough. You simply make the batter and bake it up. The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis. I am not generally a fan of hers but after a couple of tweaks, I have made a few things that have turned out well. And this is one recipe that you definitely should give a try.

For more delicious lemony desserts, try these:

Tarte Citron Mama

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

For the Cookies

2.5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

15 oz. whole milk ricotta

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 large lemon

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze

1.5 cups of powdered or icing (Confectioner’s) sugar

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

For the Cookie

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a large bowl, combine the butter and granulated sugar. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (This can be done by hand as well.) Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. Now add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon juice and zest and beat well to combine.

Stir in the dry ingredients. Do not over beat. Mix until everything is incorporated.

Line 2 to 3 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Spoon about 2 Tablespoons of batter for each cookie. The cookies will spread some so leave about 2 inches of space between. Bake until the cookies are just becoming golden at the edges. The original recipe said 15 minutes, but mine were a bit bigger than Giada’s and all ovens are different. My cookies ultimately took about 23 minutes. So keep an eye on them after about 18 minutes. They are so moist that it is difficult to over bake them. You do want the bottom to be golden and just barely dry.

Allow the cookies to cool on wire racks. After they are cool, you can glaze the cookies.

For the Glaze

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon or spatula to gently spread.

While the cookies can be eaten almost immediately after glazing, I would not pack them away until the glaze is truly dry which takes about 2 hours. It’s best to pack them with waxed or parchment paper between layers. The cookie cakes will continue to get moister and you don’t want them to stick to one another.

Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries

I enjoy reading David Lebovitz’s blog and as soon as this recipe came through this morning, I knew that I had to try it. Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries (Cranzac Cookies) is the perfect Covid 19 treat. This sweet cookie which is popular in Australia and New Zealand doesn’t require any eggs or out-of-the-way ingredients. And if you don’t have cranberries or don’t like them, swap in raisins or other moist dried fruits. Don’t have Golden Syrup, use corn syrup. No dark brown sugar, use light brown sugar.

So what are Anzac Biscuits exactly? They are an oatmeal cookie that supposedly was sent by loving wives, mothers and sisters to their soldiers serving abroad during WWI. The cookies held up well to naval transportation. Some stories claim that the cookies were not sent to soldiers but instead were sold at home to raise funds for the war effort. Whatever the true story, everyone will agree that they are a lovely cookie, as we Americans would say, that are perfect for a lunchbox, afternoon tea or healthyish dessert. I love them with a glass of milk but they go equally well with tea or coffee.

Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries has a wonderful toasty, almost nutty flavor even though there are no actual nuts in the recipe. The cranberries lend just the slightest amount of tartness which plays off perfectly with the sweetness. Each flavor element is present with every bite. You have the coconut, the oatmeal, cranberry and that slight hint of molasses from the brown sugar. I would definitely recommend using the Golden Syrup if you can find it although Corn Syrup should work. Golden Syrup is made from pure cane sugar and has a wonderful, clean taste. Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those who thinks that Corn Syrup is nothing short of devil worship. I swear by it for my Bourbon Pecan Pie. But I have also come to appreciate Golden Syrup.

Aside from the fact that these cookies are absolutely delicious and don’t require any eggs, they also can easily be put together by hand. I even ended up using my hands (immaculately clean, of course) to do the final mixing and forming. There is not a lot of binder in this recipe and so in order for the cookies to form, I found that I needed to pack them a bit by hand. Children should love helping with this part. The resulting cookie is surprisingly moist, with just the right amount of chewiness.

Make these wonderful Anzac Cookies with Cranberries as a treat for your family (or just yourself) or as a special thank you for our soldiers on the front lines of the fight against Covid 19. Bake a batch tonight.

PS: My husband said to be sure to tell you that these cookies taste way better than they even look!

NOTE: While David didn’t mention it and I didn’t try it this way, I really don’t see why the cookies couldn’t be made with a good quality non-dairy buttery product to keep them vegan.

Recipe

Yield: 26 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup (95g) old-fashioned (rolled) oats, not quick-cooking

1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cups (175g) all-purpose flour

1 cup (90g) unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup (60g) dried cranberries

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted or salted butter, melted

1/4 cup (60ml) golden syrup

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC.) Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you want to bake them all off at once, you can using two baking sheets, although there will likely be enough dough left to bake more. Since I was able to fit 1 dozen cookies/pan, my last batch was only 2 cookies.)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, flour, coconut, dried cranberries, baking soda, and salt. Add the water, melted butter, and golden syrup and stir until everything is well combined. (I ended up using my hands to fully combine things since there isn’t a lot of binder here. It will come together but the dough is a bit crumbly.)

Using your very clean hands, or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, shape the dough into 1 1/4-inch (3cm) balls. Place them evenly spaced apart (about 1- inch/3cm) on the prepared baking sheet(s) and use your hand to flatten each mound of dough so they are about half as high as they originally were. (About 2- inches/5cm.) (As mentioned above, I ended up packing the dough firmly with my hands and then slightly flattening the cookies. They do not spread a great deal.)

Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheet(s) in the oven, until they are lightly browned across the top, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.

Storage: The cookies will keep for up to five days in an airtight container at room temperature. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to three months.

Italian Polenta Cookies

Everyone is looking for comfort right now, as well as ways to fill unaccustomed time at home. Baking makes your house smell absolutely safe, warm and inviting. But even after the aromas have dissipated, the delight of eating something delicious that you made lingers on. These Italian Polenta Cookies fit that description perfectly.

Grocery shopping has become challenging in the Time of Coronavirus. Many items are out of stock and getting deliveries scheduled can now take days (if at all) instead of hours. And who knows what will actually arrive when the delivery comes? I admit it. My pantry could probably survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but even I need to buy certain fresh staples like eggs, milk and produce.

In looking for some treat to make for my husband and me (because don’t we all need a little sweetness in our lives?) I came back to this recipe from David Lebovitz that I had seen about 18 months ago. I really love the not-overly-sweet variety of Italian cookies and I especially like cookies made from cornmeal or polenta. They just have this extra somethin’ somethin’. There is the zing of lemon with that slight crunch and flavor of the polenta. These Italian Polenta Cookies are perfect for afternoon tea, with a glass of Vin Santo or a cup of coffee.

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

3 tablespoons water

3/4 cup (90g) dried currant or another dried fruit, such as chopped cranberries or cherries

3 tablespoons eau-de-vie or grappa (I used Amaretto since I had neither grappa nor eau-de-vie)

1 3/4 cups (250g) flour

1 cup (160g) fine (or instant) polenta

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

8 tablespoons (4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Directions

Heat the water in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Turn off the heat and add the currants, or other dried fruit, and liqueur. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (They can be plumped a day or two in advance.)


In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and baking powder. (You can also make this dough in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.)

In a medium bowl, mix together the egg and the egg yolks, then stir in the melted butter and lemon zest.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir together for about a minute, until they’re well-combined. Add the currants and any liquid, and beat them in at medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk, and chill until firm, about an hour. (The dough can be made 2-3 days in advance, and baked later.)

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

On a lightly floured counter top, pinch off tablespoon-sized pieces of dough, roll them into little logs (you may need to flour your hands as the dough can be slightly sticky), then press the logs gently to flatten them a bit, and pinch the ends to taper them. Place them on the baking sheet about an inch (3cm) apart, to allow for some spreading. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar.

Bake the cookies until golden brown across the top, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during baking. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Storage: The cookies can be kept up to one week in an airtight container at room temperature.

For other wonderful cookie options:

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Tahini Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Hamantaschen and Purim

It’s almost Purim! Bring on the noisemakers, costumes and treats! And Purim wouldn’t be a celebration without Hamantaschen. Imagine a flavorful dough, shaped like a triangle and stuffed with all kinds of delicious fillings. Traditionally, these sweet treats were filled with poppy seeds or lekvar (prune paste). But now, anything goes. Growing up, my son’s favorite filling was (and remains) Nutella. I also love apricot, almond paste, or even blueberry with lemon zest. Whatever you choose to fill your hamantaschen with, just enjoy them.

I’m not usually boastful, but these are simply THE BEST Hamantaschen that you will ever eat.

Why Hamantaschen?

The name, Hamantaschen, which is Yiddish, translates as Haman’s Pockets. It’s not really known why these treats came to be associated with Purim. But one story is that Hamantaschen resemble the tri-cornered hat Haman wore. Or maybe his pockets filled with bribes to spies. In Hebrew these delectable sweets are referred to as Haman’s “Ears.” But who was Haman and why do we remember him? The evil Haman was the royal vizier in the court of the Persian King Ahasuerus. He was out to exterminate the Jewish People.

When Do We Celebrate Purim?

Purim is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (this year on March 9-10). This is the day following our deliverance from the evil decree. It is a time of merriment and satire much like April Fool’s Day. There is often a carnival and both adults and children dress up in costumes and swing noisemakers to scare off our enemies. In addition, the Book of Esther (Megillah) is recited publicly and we all boo every time Haman’s name is mentioned.

The Purim Story in Brief

Why does the Purim story resonate today? The Megillah is perhaps, the first written story about classic anti-Semitism. In the 4th century B.C.E., Ahasuerus, chooses the beautiful and brave Esther, a Jew, for his wife and queen. Haman, arrogant and egotistical, starts whispering in the king’s ear that because the Jews are different, they must be suspect and should be killed. Thankfully, Haman’s plans are foiled by Mordecai, an advisor to the king and Esther‘s cousin and adopted father. The day of deliverance was celebrated with a day of feasting and rejoicing for Jews.

So in addition to eating many special treats and reading the Megillah, Jews are commanded (Esther 9:18) to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. 

While my son never wanted to dress up for Halloween, he always donned costumes for Purim as did I. And like so many Jewish girls, I always wanted to be Queen Esther, the brave and smart savior of our people.

Relevance today

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism was not wiped out along with Haman. Even after 6 million Jews were butchered during the Shoah, our enemies are still whispering lies and committing acts of violence and hatred against our people. So while Jews everywhere will celebrate Purim this year, we will also remain vigilant against the Hamans of this world.

Recipe

I always look first to Gloria Kaufer Greene for my Jewish Holiday recipes. I have tweaked the original recipe and those changes are reflected below.

Yield: About 2 dozen (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or non-dairy buttery sticks, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Zest and juice of one medium navel orange (Up to 3 Tablespoons of juice, as needed)

1.5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Do-Ahead

Cream the butter (non-dairy sticks) with the sugar using a food processor or electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, zest and vanilla until well combined.

Add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking sugar and mix until mixed through. Add orange juice, as needed. (If the dough seems really dry and won’t form, I add the juice to get a smooth dough.)

Form the dough into a thick disk, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. (You can make the dough up to 3 days ahead.)

Baking

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. (I like to roll out 1/2 of the dough at a time to make it easier to handle.)

Cut out circles that are 3-inches in diameter. You can use a clean, empty tuna can or a glass if you don’t have a cookie cutter. Re-use scraps until almost all of the dough is used up. I wouldn’t re-roll more than once.

Scoop a generous teaspoon of whatever filling you are using into the center of each circle. (I like to set things up like an assembly line, with my fillings all lined up and ready to go to make this go more quickly.)

Fold up the edges of each circle in thirds to form an open triangle with some of the filling showing. Using my finger and some cold water, I then “paint” the pinched edges both to seal them and to smooth them. You don’t want your hamantaschen opening up in the oven. They may taste fine, but the look will be disappointing.

Place the hamantaschen on baking sheet lined with a silicon baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Fillings

I am happy to use bought fillings which I then add special touches to. You want a filling that is thick enough to hold up to baking without running all over. I like to use either Solo brand or Love N’ Bake. Some of my favorite fillings are Nutella, apricot pastry filling, almond pastry filling and Lekvar or prune filling.

I always add a bit of orange zest to my apricot and prune filling and place a few sliced almonds on top of the almond filling. Nutella needs nothing added, but on occasion I have been known to add a few mini-chocolate chips.

Below is a wonderful poppy seed filling, which I will make from scratch. Obviously, if you are using multiple fillings, you will either have left-over filling or gee, I dunno, you may need to make additional batches to hand out to lucky friends and family! (Left-over filling can be used in yeast-based pastries or in little tarts.)

Best Poppy Seed Filling – Ever

1 cup (About 5 ounces poppy seeds

1/2 cup dairy or non-dairy milk

1/2 cup honey or agave

1/4 cup dark raisins

1 Tablespoon butter or non-dairy buttery sticks

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Grind the poppy seeds using a coffee or spice grinder. You can do this with a mortar and pestle, but it will be more work.
  2. Place the ground poppy seeds into a small saucepan with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Remove the filling from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Chill the filling before using for best results. This can be made up to 3 days ahead as well.

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

I decided to revisit this recipe after watching an episode of Valerie Bertinelli where she made lemon rosemary shortbread. I made a few changes and I think you will really like the results. These melt-in-your mouth Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies are a little taste of Provence. Give them a try; they make wonderful holiday or hostess gift cookies. For other delicious and easy-to-make cookies for an afternoon tea, try Financiers or Mandelbread.

I tend to get seduced by recipes and so I have all of these special spices and herbs around the kitchen. When a colleague baked some lavender cookies, I, of course, went on a search for the best dried edible lavender. Growing up, lavender grew like a weed in our backyard and every year my mother and I would dry it and then sew sachets for gifts and to put in our drawers. I still remember the beautiful amber colored watered silk that we used to contrast with the pretty lavender colored ribbon that we tied around the sachet. While these cookies will most definitely NOT go in my lingerie drawer, they do evoke that wonderful childhood memory. However, they do not taste like potpourri or soap. They taste like Provence, the flavoring is actually quite subtle and they simply melt in your mouth. While not vegan, they do not have any egg. They could be made with vegan buttery sticks, but since butter is the star here, personally I would not go that route. Your choice.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies by Erica Leahy, The Artist Baker – Morristown, NJ and tweaked by me

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh lavender or 1.5 teaspoons dried lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried mint
  • Zest of one lemon

For Garnish

  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried lavender
  • 1/4 cup granulated or coarse sugar

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt until thoroughly combined, about 3 minutes. Add in vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift together the all-purpose and cake flours. Mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition. Add the lavender, lemon zest and mint and mix to just combine. The dough may appear crumbly but will come together when rolled in plastic wrap.
  2. Roll out the dough to a long roll about 2.5 inches in diameter, using the plastic wrap to form the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  3. Meanwhile mix the 1/4 cup sugar with the lemon zest and lavender in a small bowl. Cover and set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut the log in half and refrigerate one half while you work on the other half. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the dough into 1/2 inch thick disks and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies until just golden at the edges, about 25 to 28 minutes. Ovens vary so watch them after 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the lemon, lavender sugar mixture. Any extra will be wonderful in tea or certain mixed drinks. Let cool completely before serving. While these will be delicious with coffee or milk, the true, delicate floral notes will come out with a nice light tea or a dessert wine.

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Lumpy. Bumpy. Chewy. Deeply chocolaty with an undertone of spice. And easy – so easy.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am not a vegan. However, I always like to have some good vegan recipes – especially desserts – in my back pocket. Whether you keep kosher or eschew dairy products for ethical reasons or because of food allergies, vegan desserts can be a wonderful option.

However, I will not serve a vegan dessert unless it is just as good as a non-vegan one. I came across this recipe and after a few tweaks, the result is a delicious cookie that chocolate lovers will adore. The hint of exotic spices gives a Mediterranean flavor that marks it as unique.

This recipe comes together quickly and requires no special equipment or techniques – and I had everything on hand in my pantry. Do use a really good quality unsweetened Dutch Processed cocoa like Droste or Valrhona when making these. Chocolate and cocoa powders each have their own unique flavor profile so find one that you like and use it in all of your recipes.

I confess that I made my cookies with unsalted real butter, but they absolutely will not suffer if they are made with a buttery vegan solid such as Earth Balance.

My husband and I tried the cookies still slightly warm from the oven and after a day in an airtight tin. While both were good, we agreed that the flavors and texture were at their peak after sitting overnight. The cookies will easily keep for a week, if stored properly, and are luscious with a glass of milk (dairy or non), a cup of coffee or with a sweet dessert wine.

Because the cookies are such a deep, dark brown, it can be difficult to tell when they are fully baked. I made three batches and baked each one for a different amount of time – from 14 minutes to 20 minutes. All worked, but the one that baked for 14 minutes was the best. The dough does not spread during baking so however the cookies go onto the baking sheet is pretty much how they will come out at the end. Try one of these deeply satisfying and not overly sweet cookies soon.

Recipe

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup of unsalted, solid vegan buttery margarine or unsalted real butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch Processed Cocoa

2 cups light or dark brown sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup strong coffee (the liquid and NOT granules!)

2.5 cups whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup coarsely chopped, lightly pan-toasted blanched almonds or walnuts

1 cup of raisins tossed with 1 teaspoon of flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets or pans with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone mat like Silpat.
  2. Combine first five ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Allow the mixture to melt until it resembles chocolate syrup. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. Combine the flour with the baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine until no flour is visible. Add the almonds and raisins and work through the batter so that everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Lightly spray a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop or measuring spoon with a non-stick spray. Scoop out slightly rounded Tablespoonfuls and place on the prepared baking pan. The cookies do not spread during baking so they can be fairly close together.
  6. Bake for 14 minutes, turning once if your oven bakes unevenly like mine!
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing.

Almond Flour Blondies

Gluten-Free? Really?

I’m not gluten-free. However, I did have left-over a lot of wonderful almond flour that I had bought for Passover. Not sure what I was thinking when I went shopping, but let’s just say that I got carried away and we’ll leave it at that.

And I’ve been in a brownie-making mood so I went in search of a recipe. Everything sounded pretty simple and I had all of the ingredients on hand, which was a plus since Frances has me cooking down my pantry. The only problem I had is that I really do not like white chocolate. So I made a couple of minor tweaks and came up with this version.

If you want an ooey, gooey blondie with crispy edges, I recommend that you try this version or the original. You don’t have to be gluten-free to enjoy them. And because they are so gooey, I think that the brownies actually improved when they were a few days old. It didn’t stop me, my husband or our cat from eating them the second that they had cooled down!

Recipe from Meaningful Eats and tweaked by me

Yield: About 24 squares

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter [coconut oil will work for dairy-free]
  • 3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix to fully incorporate. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.
  4. Pour the dough into the greased baking dish. Smooth into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until until golden and the brownies appear to be set. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Slice into bars and enjoy!

Financier Pastries

So What Is a Financier?

A financier is an almond and brown butter pastry baked in a small mold. These light and moist pastries have a crisp eggshell-like exterior and traditionally were baked in small rectangular molds that resemble gold bars. They became a favorite of bankers in the Paris financial district.

While popularized in nineteenth century France, these delectable little pastries date back to the Middle Ages. They were originally made by nuns of the Order of the Visitation and were called a visitandine.

Turning Flour Into Gold

When you bite into one of these delights, the combination of brown butter and almond flour explodes with an instant burst of caramelized deliciousness. Financiers are deceptively simple to make, but unlike the classic Madeleine, they don’t disappoint. Marcel Proust has A LOT to answer for!

I have looked at numerous recipes for the financiers and they are all pretty similar. By some wonderful alchemy, these simple ingredients bake into pure pastry gold. The following recipe comes from the Joy of Baking and makes 12 little pastries. Since the financiers are best warm from the oven, this number was perfect for me.

Recipe

Don’t worry if you don’t have rectangular or boat-shaped molds. These work out fine using small muffin cups.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter plus 2 Tablespoons melted for brushing the tins

1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 cup (55 grams) ground almonds (can use almond meal/flour)

3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners (powdered or confectioner’s) sugar sifted

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 large (90 grams) egg whites lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fresh berries (optional)

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) with oven rack in the center. Place 12 shallow, rectangular or boat-shaped tartlet molds (or mini-muffin cups) on a baking pan. Brush each tin with melted butter.

Place the 1/2 cup of butter in a small, light-colored saucepan over medium heat. [You need to be able to see the color of the butter change so please don’t use a dark pan.] Melt the butter and allow it to come to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally. As it boils, you will notice foam coming to the surface. Continue to cook the butter until it starts to look clear and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan. The butter will turn a golden brown. [This happens all of a sudden so do not walk away!]

Immediately remove the butter from the heat and pour it through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Allow the now clarified brown butter to cool to room temperature. You will need 1/3 cup of brown butter for the recipe. I didn’t have any left over, but if you do you can use this to brush the tins.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Be sure to break up any lumps from the ground almonds.

Make a well in the center and fold in the lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla and the brown butter.

Fill each mold almost to the rim. Bake the pastries for 5 minutes or until the batter is set around the edges but still soft in the center. [I originally baked it for 4 minutes so my berries sunk a bit more than was perfect.]

Remove the pan from the oven and place raspberries or blueberries on top, if using, which I recommend. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until the financiers are golden brown and springy to the touch. Ovens vary but mine took an additional 7 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Once cool enough to easily handle, the financiers should easily pop out of the tins. These are best served warm, but they can be stored for a few days, covered, at room temperature.