Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Brown Sugar Cookies

Imagine for a moment a cookie made with no spices that relies on its flavor from butter and butter alone. What do you think it might taste like? Perhaps those butter cookies so popular around the holidays? Something like shortbread, maybe?

What if I told you it elements of caramel and butterscotch. What if I told you that you could taste hints of ginger or molasses in the finish? You wouldn't believe me. But it's true. This sugar cookie gets is flavor from that incredible magic known as "brown butter" or as the French say "beurre noisette." The flavors in this simple and easy to make cookie are astounding. You truly will find hints of caramel and butterscotch along with some lovely notes of ginger and molasses (depending on the quality of the butter and brown sugar you use).

Honestly, I fell in love with this cookie. I also found that eating them on the second day was even better as the flavors mixed and melded even more.

When you bake these you probably will remove them from the oven thinking they are not done yet and you'll be right. These are deliberately undercooked to preserve their wonderful chewy texture at the center. If you cook these until they are completely done your cookie won't have that magical chewy texture and beautiful flavor notes. So be sure to follow the directions about removing them at about 12 minutes and allowing them to sit on the cookie sheets for an additional five before putting them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Oh, while I'm thinking about it. I'm working on recreating Mama's Fruit Cake for the holidays. My nephew and niece found her original handwritten notes and sent them to me. Of course, like many of Mama's recipes there are important parts that seemed to be kept in her brain and not written down on the paper! It might take a couple tries to get it right, but when I figure out the secret formula, I'll be sharing here.

If you're one of those people who make jokes about fruitcake be prepared to be embarrassed. This thing is killer and beyond belief good!

: Brown Sugar Cookies
: Brown sugar and browned butter give these cookies a magical mixture of flavors. Adapted from Cook's Illustrated - America's Test Kitchen

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cups packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp.baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg plus 1 yolk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a small light bottomed skillet, melt 10 tbsp of the unsalted butter. Continue to cook until the milk solids begin to brown, 2-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, add the remaining 4 tbsp of cold butter, and set aside to cool, 15 minutes.
  3. In a shallow dish, combine 1/4 c packed brown sugar with white sugar, rubbing with fingers to break up the brown sugar. Set aside.
  4. Whisk together flour, baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 3/4 c brown sugar with cooled melted butter, along with vanilla and salt. Add egg and yolk to butter and sugar and stir well. Add flour mixture and stir until well-mixed and no pockets of dry flour remain.
  6. Turn dough onto a board and pat into a rough circle. Cut circle in four equal pieces, then divide each piece into six equal pieces, for a total of 24 cookies. Roll each piece into a ball, then roll in the mixed sugars to coat, then place onto lined cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake one tray at a time for 12-14 minutes, spinning the tray front to back at the halfway point. They will appear underdone. Let sit on the tray 5 minutes to finish cooking, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 12 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 24
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

The weather has changed here in the desert. A cool Sunday with rain late in the evening has given way to temps in the 50's during the day and in the 30's at night. Although we're supposed to warm up in the 60's or low 70's by the end of the week, the beginning of the week has been a chilly one. I've even had the fireplace going trying to stave off using the heater at least for a few more weeks.

I'll admit, though, that I like the change. Heat just doesn't agree with me. Of course, with cool weather comes the desire for warm drinks. Hot tea, hot coffee or hot cocoa always seem to hit the spot when the weather turns cool. When  you wake up in the mornings and spot some snow on the mountains a little bit of hot tea with some tea cakes really sets the tone for the day.

This recipe for tea cakes is adapted from one in Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story . I played with the spices just a tad in this because I wanted something that would stand up nicely to strongly flavored tea or coffee. The result was fabulous. These little cookie/cakes are addicting. I've been trying to limit my intake of sweets to what a normal person would have but these pretty much blew up my intentions. I bagged up a couple dozen of these with the intention of getting them out of the house. Guess what. They didn't make it. I blew through one bag sitting in front of the fire watching movies and the other bag keeps calling my name!

The texture of these cookies is delicate and cakey. The spices give them wonderful flavors that meld together and scream Autumn: nutmeg, ginger, and a little allspice. When I did these I used vanilla sugar and left out the vanilla extract. However, I'll quote the recipe with regular vanilla extract since most people don't keep vanilla sugar in the pantry.

I think you'll really enjoy these delightful little cookies. They stand up nicely against even the strongest teas or flavored coffees.

: Old Fashioned Tea Cakes
: Delightful cookies with spices that pair perfectly with tea or coffee.


  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • pinch of allspice


  1. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and shortening until creamy. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and spices in a separate bowl.
  2. With mixer on low speed, add eggs one at time beating after each addition until incorporated. Add the vanilla.
  3. Add half of the flour mixture and beat at low speed until incorporated. Add the milk and then the remaining flour mixture and blend until smooth.
  4. Remove bowl from mixer and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least two hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or use nonstick aluminum foil. Scoop dough into one tablespoon mounds onto cookie sheet. Leave about 1-2 inches between each cookie. Dip a fork in flour and create a cross on the cookies by piercing with the tines. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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