Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I grew up eating a crisp oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that I still turn to when I’m having a cookie craving, but I do love a soft, bakery-style cookie once in a while and have been meaning to try a recipe at home with my little assistant, who (at almost 2 years old!) is now old enough to “help” me. On a rainy Wednesday, Levi and I made a batch of these together – him perched on a kitchen stool; me on my own two feet.

He got really excited when I retrieved the hand-mixer from the baking drawer, and imitated the sound while doing his own little mixer charade. He also does a perfect imitation of the sound of an egg cracking on the counter. When I spooned the flour into a measuring cup, he helped me level it off with a knife then dump it into the bowl. What a good helper. After much measuring, mixing and scooping, the cookies were in the oven and there was flour everywhere, even on the tip of Levi’s little nose. We both peered through the little oven window and exchanged looks of anticipation and delight.

My little assistant, wearing my apron (which he insisted upon). He was so excited, he couldn’t keep his face still, hence the blur!

These cookies were just what I was craving – sweet with a hint of salt for balance, slightly crisp on the exterior with a chewy inside, and a gooey dark chocolate chunk in every bite. I found the recipe on Kelsey’s blog Apple a Day – thanks for a recipe that I’ll surely return to again and again. My only adaptations were using 3 tablespoons of olive oil because I was short 3 tablespoons of butter (which I wasn’t sure about but you couldn’t even tell in the end!), using salted butter and reducing the amount of salt in the recipe to just over a 1/4 tsp., and using chopped semisweet dark chocolate in place of chocolate chips.

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

(Just slightly adapted from Apple a Day; originally from Food Network Canada)

3/4 cup salted butter, softened 
3/4 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup granulated sugar 
1 egg 
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 tsp. cornstarch 
1 tsp. baking soda 
1/4 tsp. salt 
1 cup chopped good-quality semisweet dark chocolate, such as Scharffenberger
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, using a hand-mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until blended. Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and mix until flour is incorporated. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  • Drop tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges.  (It actually took my cookies/oven about 11 minutes to achieve that ‘barely golden brown’ – also note, the tops will not brown so don’t overcook them!)
  • Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for five minutes.  Remove cookies from baking sheet and let cool completely.  Makes approximately 3 dozen, which may sound like a lot, but trust me – they’ll go fast!

Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies

Every year around this time, our meyer lemon tree in the front yard becomes too full with lemons to ignore. We use them in savory dishes like Red Trout Fillets with Meyer Lemon and in baked goods like lemon bars. Next year I’d love to try making preserved meyer lemons, so we can enjoy them long after their season has ended.

This lemon-orange (or mandarin) hybrid is a little sweeter than a regular lemon, and I prefer my lemon bars to be a little more tart to contrast the sweetness of the shortbread. So this year I thought ‘d try a meyer lemon sugar cookie instead. Sugar cookies are already nice and sweet, so I thought the meyer lemon zest and juice might be the perfect addition. I was right. I’d never made drop-sugar cookies before, only the cut-out kind, so I had to do some recipe googling before diving in. I stumbled upon a blog called Tall Grass Kitchen that had a recipe for meyer lemon sugar cookies. When I read the introduction to the recipe, I saw that I wasn’t alone in thinking that lemon bars are better suited for regular lemons!

These cookies are cake-y and crumbly, almost scone-like. They have a sprinkling of meyer lemon sugar on top that gives them that distinctive glimmer that makes sugar cookies so appealing. If I make them again, I’ll probably form the dough into balls and roll them in the sugar (like I do with Snickerdoodles) instead of sprinkling on top, since a lot of that precious sugar fell off when I stored the cookies. Also, the recipe didn’t specify how many it made, but I ended up with 2 dozen cookies. I might have made them a little bigger too, because they baked for 12-15 minutes instead of 9-12. The night I made these, Levi had gone to bed pretty easily, I poured myself a glass of white wine, and enjoyed the peace and quiet (and time!) to bake; the perfect end to the day, and of our tree’s bounty.

Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies

(From Tall Grass Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups sugar, plus 3 TBS.
zest of two Meyer lemons (about 2 TBS.)
2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a food processor, combine all of the sugar and the lemon zest. Process until combined. It will smell lovely. Reserve 3 TBS. of the lemon-sugar and set side for sprinkling on top of the cookies later.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well to incorporate. Add the lemon juice and vanilla. Mix until combined.
  • In a medium bowl, use a whisk to mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  • Drop heaping Tablespoonfuls of dough onto lined baking sheets. Sprinkle tops of cookies with the reserved lemon-sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes, switching baking sheets halfway through. They’re done when they’re just turning golden on the bottoms. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. Makes 2 dozen.

Pine Nut & Orange Cookies

I hadn’t baked anything since before the baby was born.  But yesterday while Levi and Dad were taking an afternoon nap, I jumped on the opportunity, turned on the Jackie Greene Pandora station and made these pine nut and orange cookies that I’ve been eyeing in Fine Cooking because they use olive oil instead of butter. When I went to the store and saw that pine nuts were $34 a pound I thought to myself, “These better be good cookies!” (Don’t worry – the recipe only uses 1/2 a cup, which turns out to be $5 worth of pine nuts).

The dough was slightly stressful to work with because it was so crumbly. You really have to squeeze it tight in your hands to make it stay together in a ball. When you press down on the ball of dough with a sugared glass, the edges sort of crack and break apart, which looks pretty, but is also stress-inducing. I was doubtful if they would stay together, but sure enough, when they baked they held their shape, and they looked beautiful. The texture of these cookies reminded me of biscotti. They’re slightly crunchy, flavorful, and rich from the olive oil.

Pine Nut & Orange Cookies

(From the Aug./Sept. issue of Fine Cooking)

1/2 cup pine nuts
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar; more for rolling
3 Tbs. finely grated orange zest (from 2 medium oranges)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large egg, beaten

  • Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
  • Toast the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, zest, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pine nuts. In a small bowl, whisk the oil and egg and add to the dry ingredients. Mix with your hands until the dough is evenly moist and holds together when squeezed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Fill a small bowl with about 1/4 cup sugar. Pinch off 1 rounded teaspoonful of dough (about 1/2 oz.). Shape it into a ball, coat it in the sugar, and set it in on a light-colored nonstick cookie sheet. Dip the bottom of a drinking glass in the sugar and flatten the cookie to slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Repeat to make 13 more cookies.
  • Bake until the tops are golden and the edges are brown, 9 to 13 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for several minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. While the first batch of cookies bakes, shape the remaining dough into cookies and arrange on a second cookie sheet. When the first batch is done, bake the second batch.
  • The cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

‘Tis the season for peppermint bark! We loved the combination of buttery shortbread, white & dark chocolate, and peppermint in this festive looking cookie. Cut these into fun, irregular pieces and people will be grabbing for them. If you’re suffering from candy cane overload, or want some variety, try topping this cookie with chopped toffee or peanut butter cups instead. Mmm … feeling inspired?

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

(From the December 2009 issue of Bon Appetit)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies or candy canes (about 3 ounces)
2 ounces high-quality white chocolate (we used Ghirardelli)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Line bottom of pan with long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving overhang on both short sides of pan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  • Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.
  • Pour the dough into the prepared baking pan and spread evenly, using moistened fingers to press dough to form even layer over bottom of pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.
  • Bake cookie base until light golden brown and slightly puffed and edges begin to come away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes. Place pan on rack; immediately sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Using small offset spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate over top of cookie in thin even layer. Immediately sprinkle chopped candy canes over.
  • Stir white chocolate in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Using fork, drizzle white chocolate all over cookies. Chill until white chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
  • Using paper overhang as aid, lift cookie from pan and transfer to work surface. Using large knife, cut cookie into irregular pieces (makes about 36). Store cookies in the refrigerator in an airtight container between layers of waxed or parchment paper. They’ll be good for 1 week.

Chocolate-Black Pepper Cookies

Ah, I love the time of year when the tree is illuminated, the Christmas music is cranked up, and you can stay inside all day baking cookies. These chewy chocolate cookies with a hint of espresso are rolled in coarse sugar and finished off with cracked black pepper before going in the oven. They’d be a welcome addition to any holiday cookie platter! Thank you, Martha Stewart, for this intriguing spicy/sweet cookie. The recipe that we referred to in her cookie cookbook said that the recipe yields 4 dozen cookies, but we only got 30 cookies. Actually, we ended up with even less because Nikita and I ate several while we were waiting for them to cool  🙂

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling
1 TBS. plus 1 tsp. good-quality instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
coarse sanding sugar, for rolling

special equipment: parchment paper, electric mixer

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, espresso powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
  • Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Roll log in parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove log from parchment paper. Let soften slightly at room temperature, about 5 minutes. Roll log in coarse sugar, gently pressing to adhere sugar to dough.
  • Transfer log to cutting board. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle some freshly ground pepper on top of each round.
  • Bake cookies until there is slight resistance when you lightly touch the centers, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. You can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Roll-and-Cut Sugar Cookies

What do German Shepherds, trees, people, stars, and firetrucks have in common? Absolutely nothing except that those are the cookie cutters that my Mom and I decided to use for our decorated sugar cookies! You can sprinkle the cookies with colored sugars and add pieces of nuts before baking, or you can decorate your cookies when they cool with a simple icing made from combining powdered sugar, a little water (until it reaches a good consistency), and food coloring of your choice. These cookies made great Christmas gifts this year!

Roll-and-Cut Sugar Cookies

(Adapted from the December 2008 issue of Food and Wine)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Colored sugar, pieces of nuts, and/or icing for decorating

  • In a food processor, add the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is broken up into small pieces. Continue to pulse until flour and butter form small clumps.
    • Add the egg yolks and vanilla and process at low speed until the dough comes together in a few large clumps. Pat the cookie dough into two 1/2-inch-thick disks, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate until chilled but not firm, about 30 minutes.
    • Preheat the oven to 375°. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Refrigerate the cutout cookies until chilled, about 30 minutes (we skipped this step and the cookies baked just fine). Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar and add nuts, if you need to make eyes, ears, noses, etc.
    • Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, until they are lightly golden around the edges; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Let the sugar cookies cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then, using a metal spatula, carefully transfer them to a rack (we just used the counter) to cool completely, about 20 minutes.
    • Decorate with icing and have fun!

    We hope everyone had a great Christmas!

    Vanilla-Lime Bites

    These bite-sized cookies are delicate and buttery, with a burst of lime and just enough sweetness from a dusting in powdered sugar – the perfect holiday cookie. Merry Christmas from our kitchen to yours!

    Vanilla Lime Bites

    (Adapted from the Vanilla Crescents in the December 2008 issue of Food & Wine)

    2 sticks salted butter, softened
    1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
    1 lime, zest and juice
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

    Pinch of salt

    • Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
    • Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar until pale white, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, lime zest and juice.
    • Add the flour and salt and beat at low speed just until combined.
    • Form small balls with the dough in the palm of your hand. Carefully transfer the balls to the baking sheets, leaving an inch between them.
    • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden and the tops are pale blond; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking.
    • Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on wire racks (or the counter).
    • Fill a small bowl with confectioners’ sugar. While the cookies are still warm, coat them in the sugar and transfer to a clean sheet of parchment paper to cool slightly.
    • Roll the cooled cookies in the sugar again and let cool completely.

    *Vanilla-Lime Bites can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to 1 week. Dust the cookies very lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving.