Meltaway Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2

Okay, last weekend I got an early start on my baking after realizing what month it is. It seems like only yesterday I was horrifed to find that somehow June 21st had just slipped by and the days were starting to get shorter (I really hate that).  At this point I can start to celebrate that we only have 79 days and 22 minutes until the winter solstice (of course, by the time you read this it will be probably only be 77 days!!!).  I think it’s my favorite day of the year…when the days start getting longer and the horrid darkness of wintertime starts to wane.  Judging by the fact that Googling the phrase “how many days until december 21 2011” returned “about” 143 million results, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels that way.  When it’s finally April or May again and the plants start to bloom, and the trees rustle with their new bright green spring leaves, I feel like I can finally take off my shoes and socks and take a breath.

I love fall, though, and we are in the midst of what is supposed to be the most colorful and intense display of fall leaves in 10 years. We went up north to visit my mom and stepdad this last weekend, and the news guys weren’t lying. Wow.  I think my favorites are the maple trees.  I love the yellows and oranges – so vibrant. I’m not sure if the sky is actually really a richer blue or if it’s just the combination of colors that makes it seem like it is.  I love to hear the leaves crunching under my feet, and the air is nice and crisp – perfect sweatshirt weather.  It’s exactly the right weather for having a fire in the fire pit and visiting the apple orchard. The only problem is that white stuff that’s going to start falling in just a few short weeks.  Eek! 

At any rate, I can’t do a thing to stop it, so I’m going to try to make the best of it.  I want to have time this year to sit quietly and craft, without having to worry about baking everything at once. So here’s another great cookie recipe.  This one calls for frosting.  While the frosting can be frozen, I actually think it’s best to make the cookies and freeze them without frosting – the frosting is easy to make, just doesn’t taste quite as good (at least to me) after it’s been frozen.

These are essentially a brown sugar shortbread cookie. They really do have that melt-in-your-mouth flavor that is so indicative of shortbread, with the added depth of brown sugar. These also have egg yolk, which helps to keep them just a bit moist.

Very basic ingredients. And because it’s a shortbread base, no leavening agents.

Start by creaming the brown sugar and butter together. Beat for about 3 minutes.

Nice and creamy!

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.

Beat in the egg yolks and the vanilla.

Add the flour and stir to combine.

 

Roll into 1″ balls and flatten on an ungreased cookie sheet to about 1/4″ thick. This dough is crumbly and will be rough around the edges.  Bake until just browned in a 350° oven.

While the cookies are cooling, melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium low to medium heat.  Swirl gently occasionally, and watch it closely. When it turns brown immediately remove it from the heat. At the same time, put some walnuts in the oven to toast.

When the butter is browned, combine it with confectioners sugar and milk to make a creamy frosting.

 Add the milk a little at a time, beating between additions, until it reaches a thick but creamy and spreadable consistency.

 Put a pile of walnuts on a plate or a cutting board.  Spread each cookie with a generous dollop of frosting.

Dip the frosted side in the chopped walnuts, and then let the frosting set.

It might be a good idea to try a couple to make sure they taste good!

That’s the ticket!

Meltaway Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting:

Cookies:

  • 1-1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • Granulated sugar for flattening cookies

Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk, or additional as needed

Directions:

Cookies:

Beat butter and brown sugar until creamy.

Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat well.

Add flour and stir until mixed in.

Form into 1″ balls and flatten with a juice glass dipped in sugar. They should be about 1/4″ thick.  You can crowd them because they will barely spread.

Bake for 7-9 minutes until just barely starting to brown. Do not over bake.

Remove to a wire rack to cool.

While cooling, toast about 2 cups of walnuts (or nuts of your choice), and finely chop.  Place in a bowl or on a cutting board.

Frosting:

Brown the butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium low to medium heat.  Swirl occasionally and watch carefully – once it turns brown remove it from the heat immediately.  Slower is better to prevent burning.

Mix the browned butter, powered sugar and vanilla together, and add milk one tablespoon at a time until frosting is thick but creamy and spreadable.

Frost cookies and immediately press frosted side into chopped nuts to coat.  Allow frosting to set before storing in an airtight container. If you want to make them and freeze them, freeze the cookies unfrosted in an airtight container, and thaw before frosting.

Cookies and Milk and Thanksgiving and Christmas

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8

I believe in an earlier posting I may have alluded to the fact that even though I’m no longer in school (yeah, okay that’s the understatement of the year), I still think having cookies and milk when I get home is a great way to start the evening.  I love to dunk cookies in milk, and being the incredible cookie snob that I am, they of course have to be homemade. And I like my cookies sort of chewy and crispy all at the same time – unlike my husband who likes them hard as a rock.  I think this might be because his mom made an amazing slice and bake refrigerator cookie that was specifically formulated to be a dunker, e.g. a harder cookie.  So to make sure he gets cookies he likes, I always completely overcook two pans full just for him.  This is also kind of a defense mechanism, because if I don’t provide him with cookies that are too hard for normal folks to enjoy, he’ll simply leave the bag or the container open to ensure they get stale and hard as quickly as possible.

I will also now publicly admit to the fact that I will make cookies in anticipation of upcoming holidays and freeze them, in order to cut down on the amount of last minute baking. The reason I’ve hesitated to admit to this is because when I was growing up, my mom did the same thing.  And my brother and I pestered her unendingly and constantly while explaining to her that cookies were for eating, not freezing.  And we would raid the freezer anytime we could get away with it.  Actually, my dad, brother and I all raided the freezer without any guilt whenever we could.  I can remember my dad nonchalantly taking a spoon from the kitchen drawer, and then sort of innocently strolling downstairs to eat ice cream right out of the container.  My mom tried to help him with his diet because he had heart issues, so she was pretty aware of what was going on.  She had a sixth sense about when he was on a foray to the freezer, and if I had a nickel for everytime she’d yell down the stairs, “PHIL!!! Get out of that ice cream!”, I’d have at least $6.00. Plus I knew if I caught him at it he’d always offer to share as long as I didn’t tell mom.  We also used to search the house for the big candy holidays – Halloween and Easter, and I hate to brag, but we were pretty good. Between the three of us we could almost always suss out the hidden goodies.  And we were first class at looking innocent and blaming each other when the big day came and the larder was empty.  Somehow she always managed to come up with enough stuff anyway. Looking back, I think she probably hid decoys in several places to throw us off and kept a supply hidden somewhere. I’m guessing she buried it in the back yard.  She’s a cagey little thing.

Last week I realized that this weekend is October 1st. OCTOBER FIRST!  Okay, trying  not to panic. Eight short weeks until Thanksgiving and only four weeks later ’til Christmas.  This means that I need to get all my presents made and bought, plan two Thanksgiving and one Christmas dinner, all while working full time and trying to keep up with a blog!  Deep breath, I know I can do this.  My plan this year is to send a box of homemade goodies to the majority of the folks on my list.  But there are some others who are getting handmade gifts and I’m not close to finished. My dear friend Pam is coming over next weekend to learn to make candy, and that should spur me on a bit I think.  But in the meantime I can make and freeze cookies.

I started with a basic brown sugar cookie – a Cracked Brown Sugar Cookie to be precise.  This is a lip-smacking cookie and you really can’t eat just one.  They’re buttery and brown sugary sweet, soft and crispy, and perfect for dunking in milk.  Plus they freeze well and they’re easy to make.  I’m not sure where this recipe came from, but it was one of my aunts.  I’ve been making them for over 20 years and they don’t disappoint.  They aren’t fancy, but they are a perfect complement to other cookies and goodies on a holiday plate. A plus to these cookies is that they’re equally delicious with a big glass of homemade lemonade, so they’re a great summer cookie, too.

Ingredients are simple.  Brown sugar, white sugar (not shown because once again the orange canister looked like a glowing alien vessel – once I learn to do lighting correctly I’ll be able to fix that issue!) vanilla, eggs, butter, cream of tartar, baking soda and some salt (also not shown due to a minor brain fart).

Cream the butter and sugars together. Run the mixer for 3 or 4 minutes on a higher speed, and scrape down the sides a couple times.

Pretty!  Now add in the eggs and vanilla and beat it again until it looks like this.

Mix your dry ingredients together and dump ’em in the bowl.

Stir just until combined.  If you over beat the dough once you’ve added the flour, it’ll get tough.

Should look like this.  And it will smell heavenly!  Yes, it’s good dough, too. Try not to eat too much – they’re really good baked, too. At this point you can either start baking them or you can put the dough in the refrigerator for a bit.

When you’re ready to bake them, use a 1″ dough scoop (or hand roll them) and then roll them in granulated sugar. They’re going to spread out a little, so leave about 1″ between cookies.  Bake for between 9 and 10 minutes – until just barely starting to brown.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 30 seconds and then remove them to a rack to cool.  When they’re completely cool store in an airtight container.  To freeze, layer between sheets of clear plastic wrap in an airtight container.  They should freeze well for up to 2 months.

Yep, they’re good!  They’re the ones on the bottom. Tomorrow I’ll post the recipe for the ones on the top – also very yummy!

Cracked Brown Sugar Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (plus additional for rolling)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour

Directions:

If you are going to bake the cookies immediately, preheat oven to 350°.

Cream together the butter and sugars.  Beat for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.

Add vanilla and eggs, and beat for about 1 more minute.

Mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together and add to butter/sugar mixture.  Stir just until combined.

Dough may be refrigerated for up to 2 days until ready to use; or may be baked immediately.

Roll or drop into 1″ balls.  Roll in granulated sugar and place on a heavy duty aluminum cookie sheet at least 1″ apart.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until beginning to brown.  They may not look quite done, but they’ll be fine.  Let them rest on the cookie sheet for about 30 seconds and then remove to cool on a wire rack.  When completely cooled, store in an  airtight container.  May be frozen up to 2 months if well-wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container.


Simple Scrumptious Shortbread Cookies

Sail the main course in a simple sturdy craft. Keep her well stocked with short stories and long laughs. Go fast enough to get there but slow enough to see. Moderation seems to be the key. Jimmy Buffett

Yep, I think of Jimmy Buffett as my pal.  He’s been with me for over 30 years, singing songs that seem to perfectly reflect whatever I was feeling at the time.  Right now my life is at a point where simple things hold a great deal of appeal, which is a  frequent subject in Jimmy’s songs.

Sometimes I want to spend an entire day perfecting a complicated and amazing recipe.  One with many steps that have to be orchestrated as carefully as a ballet performance – one false step and it’s ruined, but when flawlessly completed yields a thing of great beauty and flavor.  Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes not, but I always keep trying.  While I strive for baked goods that look good and taste good, taste is definitely most important.  Would that be function following form?

Anyway, there’s almost nothing simpler to make than a shortbread cookie.  Butter, flour, sugar, salt and vanilla – just five common ingredients.  Of course, you can add different flavors or flavors combinations. or some nuts if you like, but my favorite is usually the simple variety without any additions.  They will literally melt in your mouth.  So delectable!

It was another cool day here, so it felt like the perfect time to turn on the oven.

Just five ingredients.  Make sure the butter is room temperature, and sift the flour and salt together.

 

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cream the butter and sugar together until it’s combined.  For these cookies you don’t want the butter to be super light and fluffy, so as soon as they combine, you can add the vanilla, then stir a bit. Then add the sifted flour and salt and beat until combined.  It will be extremely crumbly.

Dump it out onto a pastry cloth and form it into a flat piece.  Wrap it up and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes.

 Here it is out of the fridge and ready to be rolled out.

 Sprinkle some flour on it as you’re rolling it out if it starts to stick to the rolling pin.\

You’ll want it about 1/2″ thick. You can reroll the dough and keep cutting out, just handle it gently.

Put them on a cookie sheet  – you can space them fairly close together since they won’t really spread out. Sprinkle with sugar (I like the chunkier sugar but couldn’t find it, so used regular, which is fine, too, just not as sparkly).  Bake for about 16 minutes until just beginning to brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.

These are perfect with a glass of milk . Mmmm. Enjoy!

Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature (no substitutions)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3-1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 35o°.

Cream butter and sugar together until combined.  Add vanilla and stir just until combined.

Sift the salt and the flour together and add slowy just until combined.

Dump the dough onto a pastry cloth or marble slab and form it into a flat circle (it will be very crumbly, but don’t worry!).

Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, then place on a pastry cloth or marble slab and roll out to about 1/2″ thick.  Cut out with the cookie cutters of your choice, however, you’ll want to use cutters that are fairly simple shapes. You can reroll the dough and keep cutting it out.  Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a rectangle (still about 1/2″ thick) and use a pastry cutter to cut out rectangles about 1″ x 2″.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 16 minutes, or until the cookies just start to brown around the edges.  It’s better to undercook than overcook these.

Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.  Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.  These also freeze well – use wax paper or parchment paper between the layers.

You can substitute other flavorings for the vanilla, and also make additions such as dried lavender or finely chopped nuts.  These are really fun to experiment with.