The World’s Greatest Cookie

World's Greatest CookieCategorically Correct
Describing myself as a foodie can be problematic—mainly because I am not sure what that means exactly beyond the fact that I love everything about food. I am not the person who will take pictures of my food at a restaurant (though I have done it on occasion). I am not the person who has to go to the latest “it” restaurant (though I am always down for a tasty night on the town).

I guess you could say I am the contradictory foodie. I have line in the sand standards and can be psychotically obsessive about an ingredient, technique, or authenticity. And, yet can be very cavalier about, say, Cool Whip and/or American cheese. (Though, as you can tell, I still have a healthy food snob side.) Adding to my quirks? Rules about certain edible items.

Case in point: I had a recent conversation about what constitutes a Christmas or special occasion cookie versus an everyday cookie. And, I, true to form, had some line in the sand opinions. A chocolate chip cookie is an everyday cookie. You will never convince me otherwise. Mexican wedding cakes are a Christmas cookie. You just don’t make them all the time. They are special. The problem is that, in my true contradictory/quirky foodie way, I have discovered a grey area. A good example is this cookie recipe my grandmother made, rather presumptuously named The World’s Greatest Cookie.

I love this cookie. It is without question one of my favorites…but, I hardly ever make it. Growing up, the only time I had them was when I went over to Gam’s house. My mother almost never made them. My theory as to why this was the case is that they are made with so-called pantry staples that were not staples in our pantry, things like coconut and corn flakes. These are not obscure ingredients. But, for whatever reason, we just never had on hand. So, to make these cookies would have required forethought and planning—which doesn’t quite qualify them for everyday status.

Fast forward to my own kitchen where corn flakes and coconut are pantry staples. And yet, I still don’t make these very often. So, you would assume that these cookies would fall into my Christmas/special occasion category based solely on taste and planning. But, no.

These cookies are buttery and flakey and are so darn good that they should go in the myriad of cookie tins that we make up every holiday season. But, they don’t for the same reason that they don’t fall into the everyday, pack ‘em in a lunch category. These cookies don’t travel well. These cookies break. They are delicate and unless you pack your lunch with utmost care, by recess you have crumbs instead of The World’s Greatest Cookie. They are tasty crumbs, but still…

So, I have placed these cookies in their own category that I have recently named Because I want to. The only reason needed to make these lovely bites is because you want to.

There are a number of versions of this cookie available on the interwebs. This is the recipe for The World’s Greatest Cookie that my grandmother used.

The World’s Greatest Cookie
Makes approximately 5 dozen (depending on your definition of walnut-sized) Read more…

Blondies

BlondiesRaising the Bar
Bar cookies are a wonderful thing. They can be simple. They can be complicated. No matter what version you go with, you can count on one thing—they will be popular.

Bar cookies are so popular because they are relatively easy to make. For the most part, you mix up a batch, put them in a 13 x 9-inch pan, and wait. Best of all, they travel well. This is why you will find a bar cookie at just about any school function, sports tournament, or potluck.

The hardest part is deciding which recipe to make. During the holidays I make a Five-Layer Bar that is deadly, and I usually follow that up with some pecan bars. When I am in the mood for something with a little fruit, there are lemon bars, raspberry bars, or apple pie bars. But, if I am being honest, my everyday go-to bar cookie is a blondie.

There have been heated debates about which is better the brownie or the blondie. The reality is, there is no right answer. For me, while I love the brownie, there is something about the buttery flavor of a blondie that is undeniable.

This recipe is my go-to when I have that blondie craving or just need a little pick me up.

Blondies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and Food 52
Yields about 36 cookies

The generous amount of real vanilla extract in this recipe is what makes them so delicious. So, don’t be shy! Also, these are better slightly under-baked rather than over-baked. Read more…

World Peace Cookies

World Peace CookiesCaught in the Cookie Jar
I had an email land in my inbox the other day that included a recipe for peanut butter cookies. And, I was intrigued by how unexpected it was. I haven’t made peanut butter cookies in forever—mainly because peanuts at school are a big no-go. So, that might explain some of the surprise. I also think I’ve been conditioned to think about cookies only really during the holidays…even though I eat cookies almost daily.

I am a frequent cookie maker. Sometimes they are for sporting event potlucks or some sort of school activity. But, mostly I make cookies because I like ‘em; because I can; and, depending on the variety of cookie, they can be a nice “grab n go on the way out the door” breakfast. (Hey, it could be worse…)

I am also one of those people who needs something sweet in the afternoon. Right around two or three o’clock, I get a cup of tea and something sweet and small to go with it. Nine times out of ten it’s a cookie. (Or three. Depends on the size.) Shortbread, oatmeal, chocolate chip, Oreos…any and all will do. These are what I consider everyday cookies. Not the fancy ones we hand out for Christmas. The cookie jar workhorses, if you will. They go in school lunches, soothe a sweet tooth, and welcome the kids home from practice.

I can’t say that I have an actual favorite cookie. There are just too many to narrow it down. A lot of the time it depends on my mood. Sometimes I want big butter flavor. Other times I am looking for big bites of chocolate or nuts. Over the weekend I was in the mood for the kind of cookie that will just melt in your mouth. The cookie the French call a sablé . But, I was making these particular cookies for a volleyball tournament so I went with a favorite from Dorie Greenspan. These World Peace Cookies are so good and once you get the hang of making the dough logs, making them is a snap…

World Peace Cookies
Adapted from Pierre Hermé & Dorie Greenspan on Food 52
Read more…

Italian Hazelnut Cookies (Baci di Dama)

Italian Hazelnut CookiesChristmas On The Couch
It is officially December…which means cookie season is here! I love cookie season. Planning the selection. The cookie-palooza day of baking and the packaging. The best part, of course, is the delivery. The look on people’s faces never gets old.

This year is going to look a little different.

While on vacation this past July, I injured my knee—which required surgery. So, I am on the couch for the foreseeable future. That means cookie-making is not in the cards. At least not for me. But, I refuse to go without.

So, I am enlisting the help of my resident sous chef. And, between the two of us, we should be able to make things happen. First up will be our traditional Swedish Gingers Cookies which we will be devouring while I micromanage the decorating of the tree. After that, we will have to see…as this year’s cookie lineup has yet to be determined.

The list will no doubt include traditional favorites like Classic Scottish Shortbread,  Chocolaty Caramel Thumbprints, and Red and White Pinwheel Cookies. We’ve been looking at books and websites for some new additions. But, one thing I know for certain is that last year’s star of the show will be back.

These little Italian Hazelnut Cookies require a bit more labor and attention than the average cookie. But, they are soooo worth it. They are a hazelnut lover’s dream! I swap chocolate ganache for Nutella to make the sandwiches. This both adds hazelnut flavor and makes things a bit easier. And, this year I am all about easier!

Italian Hazelnut Cookies Recipe (Baci di Dama)
Adapted from Americas Test Kitchen
Yields 32 small cookies

These tiny Italian hazelnut-chocolate sandwich cookies are made from a very rich, fragile dough that easily crumbles when you bite into them. Read more…