I love cookies (cue Cookie Monster: Om, nom, nom). Mixing, rolling, cutting, baking: I love every step of the process. Oh yes, and the eating. That’s good, too.
During the past year especially, I’ve found that baking, particularly baking cookies, works wonders for my stress level (I realized while writing this that my go-to stress relievers tend to be running and cookie-baking, both of which lead to subsequent eating. Hmm…). Jared, who knows me all too well, said it must be because there are few things I enjoy more than a completed project. And he’s totally right. When I set out to bake a batch of cookies, I start with a half dozen or so simple ingredients and end with something adorable, tasty and complete. I know what I need, I know what to do, and I know what to expect. They’re stable little guys that way.
Whether it’s any indication of my stress level as of late or just a reflection of the holiday season, I’ve been baking cookies like a fiend ever since Thanksgiving. There was the great Cookiepalooza a few weeks ago, the cookie-pressed spritz cookies last week and a few batches of jam cookies baked in between. Then on Sunday afternoon, I baked 162 cookies (Jared started counting because the whole ordeal was getting so funny) in a three-hour time span. Whew! Methinks my poor little oven is in need of a holiday.
Now I realize I’m probably going crazy overboard with the whole cookie thing this year, but after careful consideration (and much experimentation), I’m convinced that the cookie, as in the general cookie concept, is the greatest baked good on the planet. Think about it: First, endless variety ensures there’s something for everyone (chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, biscotti, shortbread, macaroon … you get the idea). Second, they’re not too finicky (basic cookies are great starter recipes for the kiddos). Third, they’re guaranteed to make the house smell great.
Oh yes, and one more thing: When it comes to cookies, the tummy always has room for at least one. Sure, maybe after a second serving of lasagna or a Thanksgiving-sized meal you have to digest a while before eating that piece of pie. But a cookie? No problemo. A cookie is tiny. A cookie fits any time.
Here’s a look at the three cookie types from this weekend’s bake-athon, recipes included:
Ginger spice cookies: (Find the recipe here.) These cookies taste like the holidays, not to mention they’re probably my all-time favorite. And they’re super fast and easy, which is a plus when marathon baking.
Lemon-glazed sugar cookies: (Find the recipe here; substitute lemon for orange in glaze recipe.) These guys are fresh and delicious any time of year and often a welcome break from all the chocolately business going on at the Christmas dessert table. For super easy prep, mix up a batch of the dough, and divide in half. Form each half into a 1-by-1-1/2-inch rectangular log, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate until firm. It’s slice-and-bake action from there on out.
Raspberry pinwheels: I don’t make these often, mostly because they’re a lot more time-consuming than the basic sugar or drop cookies. But if you have the time, they’re well worth the effort. They look and taste super special, which is probably what I love most about them. I used a slightly modified version of a Real Simple recipe from a few years back. Check it out:
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 8-ounce bar cream cheese
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup raspberry jam (Real Simple calls for seedless, but I’m partial to the seeds.)
• 1 egg, beaten
• 3 tablespoons course sugar for sprinkling
In mixer, beat butter, cream cheese and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then reduce speed to low, and gradually add the flour. Blend until just incorporated.
Turn dough onto floured work surface, and kneed it two to three times to bring it together. Form dough into two 1-inch-thick squares, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for an hour.
On lightly floured parchment, roll one of the dough squares into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread half the jam over the dough. Cut dough into thirds to make three 9-by-4 rectangles. Starting at long side of each rectangle, roll into logs. Wrap each log in wax paper, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (until firm). Repeat with second dough square.
Once dough is firm, slice logs into 1-inch pieces and place on parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Brush with egg (careful not to let to use too much; goopy egg on cookie = no bueno), and sprinkle with course sugar.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Let cool on baking sheet for about a minute, then cool completely on wire racks.
What are you baking up these days? Are you a cookie fan like me? Or is there another treat that rocks your world? Pull up a chair, grab a cookie, and tell me all about it!