Montana: Iced Oatmeal cookies are Santa’s favorite

The choice for Montana’s best cookie was easy–Iced Oatmeal Cookies.  What attracted me to this specific recipe was the icing (which reminds me of the classic Archway Iced Oatmeal cookies we bought when I was younger) and the direction in the recipe requiring the oats to be milled in a food processor.

If you haven’t been following our 2017 challenge, Jeremy and I are baking our way through the 50 states in search of the best Christmas cookies to present to our friends.  My last cookie was a winner, Mississippi Praline Macaroons.  The pecans in baked meringue were like eating nutty toasted marshmallows–a treat for me.    Michigan,  South Carolina,  Indiana,  New JerseyAlaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.

The cookies started off well, with the food processor and the oats.  Like other recipes that have tripped me up, there was a footnote that I read at the end of the recipe–milling the oats too long makes a flour, which makes the entire cookie more soft.  I think that the very soft cookie was not my overall objective–I would have liked the end result to have some chewy/crunchiness.

I took the cookies to my nephew’s graduation party, and the plate was empty when I left.  I loved the icing, and the cookies looked very pretty.  Next time, I will not mill the oats at all to keep the traditional texture.  The link will take you to the website with really nice photos and step by step directions.Oatmealcookiedrying

Prep time, 15 mins
Cook time, 12 mins
Total time, 27 mins
Serves: 2 dozen
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk

 

 

Mississippi: You can’t eat just one Mississippi Praline Macaroon cookie

Mississippi is moving to the top of my cookie list.  The Mississippi Praline Macaroons were easy to make and delicious.  I took them to a cookout with friends, and they (the cookies, not the people) disappeared before the hamburgers and hotdogs–I confess I ate at least seven or eight at the event, so I don’t exactly know how much everyone else liked them.

As for a gift-able Christmas cookie?  The jury is out on that. I had trouble maintaining their fresh meringue crisp flavor.  They wilted to softness quickly, but I didn’t put them in an airtight container right away as indicated in the recipe.  I need some feedback about how to maintain the crunch. The flavor is 110% terrific.

If you haven’t been following our journey, Jeremy and I are baking our way through the 50 states in search of the best Christmas cookies to present to our friends.  Previous to this, I tackled the ill-fated Michigan Rock cookies.  Before Michigan, I tried a cookie recipe from  South Carolina,  Indiana,  New JerseyAlaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.

Start with pecans.  I bought a 2 lb bag at Costco.  That’s more like 4-pie-quantity, and I didn’t make a dent in the bag–but if these were gifts, one 2lb bag would be perfect.

Mississippi Praline Macaroons

  • Total Time: 50 mins |
  • Makes: 35 to 37 macaroons

This is a favorite dessert [from Ann Grundfest Gerache, Vicksburg, Mississippi] served at community Passover seders sponsored by Vicksburg’s Congregation Anshe Chesed.

Game plan: As soon as the macaroons have cooled, store them in an airtight container to keep them crisp.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large egg meranguewhites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 35 to 37 pecan halves, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease 2 or 3 large baking sheets or line the sheets with foil and grease the foil.
  2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until frothy. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue beating, adding the brown sugar gradually (in small handfuls) and scraping the bowl once, until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks. (This will take a few minutes.) With a large rubber spatula, fold in the pecans.
  3. Drop the batter by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Press a pecan half into each, flattening the cookie slightly.
  4. Bake until the macaroons are set and feel hard and crisp, about 35 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely, then store in airtight containers.

Singlemacaroon

 

 

Michigan: Michigan Rock cookies – big taste, big errors

I was humming along, producing a new cookie every two weeks, until my recent cookie disaster, but it’s not Michigan’s fault.  Jeremy and I continue our tour of the 50 states, searching for the most interesting Christmas cookie for each.  Two weeks ago, I baked Michigan Rocks, a cookie that has a lot to offer in terms of taste, but I was derailed by a dog. . .or two.

Before Michigan, I tried a cookie recipe from Charleston, South Carolina, Benne Wafers. That nutty sesame cookie was delicious and different.  Before that, was was  Indiana,  New JerseyAlaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.

I had trouble finding an origin story for Michigan Rocks, a fruity type of cookie that attracted me because it was filled with dried dates, raisins, nuts, and more.  I had my choice of several recipes–united only in general fruit and nut ingredients.  Unlike other recipes, Michigan Rocks had so many different versions.  I admit I settled on the one below, in the archive of a Pennsylvania paper, because white wine was an ingredient–and that sounded adventurous.

And then all hell broke loose.  I had measured and mixed all of the ingredients, and the paddle and bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer began to thump–that’s unusual.  I was just beginning to realize that the recipe makes nine dozen cookies. I would need baking reinforcements and thought to ask my teenage neighbors if they would like to help eat some.  And then the doorbell rang. . .

It was the three teens I had just summoned in my mind!  They needed me to look at a sick chicken, and in that moment, my dog (and his friend dog who I was babysitting), ate the one teaspoon of dough I had put on the tray.

Calls to poison control, dog vomit, counting raisins in the yuck, and hours later (everyone lived), I baked a tray of the cookies.  They were soft and delicious, but, somehow, I had lost my appetite for this particular kind of cookie.  I gave all of the remaining dough to the neighbors, and they pronounced the cookies delicious!

So there you have it.  I’m ready to leave Michigan behind, but take my neighbors’ word that these cookies are keepers.  You  might consider cutting the recipe in half the first time you make it.

P.S.  We have a new kitchen dog gate–it’s terrific.

SOFT MICHIGAN ROCKS

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 lb. margarine

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour, sifted with 1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 lb. chopped walnuts (2 cups)

1/2 cup raisins

1 lb. cut-up dates

7 oz. package flaked coconut

1/2 cup white wine, any kind

Cream margarine with brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour mixture gradually until all is used up. Add rest of ingredients up to wine. Mix together well. Then add wine. Drop by teaspoons onto lightly greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Makes 9 dozen.

—Pat Zaengle, Nesquehoning

South Carolina: A sesame seed favorite, Benne Wafers make unique Christmas cookie

bennewafers3Jeremy and I continue our tour of the 50 states, searching for the most interesting Christmas cookie for each.  This week, I am baking a recipe from Charleston, South Carolina, Benne Wafers.

If you have been following our blog, my last stop was  Indiana.  I made Springerle coolies, and they were not too good, but it was entirely baker’s error.  I need to re-visit that recipe because I think I missed a unique cookie.   I have baked my way through New JerseyAlaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.

This week’s recipe was not difficult to find, but I did have to wait a day or two for my order of sesame seeds from Amazon.  The Olde Colony Bakery in Charleston has the history of the Benne wafers, originating in Colonial times with slaves arriving from Africa.

sesameseedsThe seeds are lightly toasted before making the simple recipe. I’m a careless kind of cook, so I concentrated on those sesame seeds for 10 minutes, making sure they were perfectly browned.  Overall, the resulting cookie was thin, crisp and tasty, but not my favorite.  My version was considerably darker than the cookies pictured on the Old Colony Bakery web page, so I suspect I could have taken them out of the oven a little earlier.  My crunchy cookies may have had more crunch (over-baked) than crisp (just right).

I found an easy recipe on SimplyRecipes.com.  I think I should change my approach to bake each cookie recipe twice.  I think if I did this again, I could do better.

Benne Wafers Recipe

by Steve-Anna Stephens

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Dough chilling time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2-4 dozen, depending on the size of your spoonfuls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 F. Cover cookie sheets in parchment paper. Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy skillet over medium heat until they are golden brown.

Beat the brown sugar and butter together in a medium-sized bowl for several minutes until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder, then add these dry ingredients to the butter, sugar, egg mixture, mix well. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. This makes it easier to drop the cookies on the sheets.

Drop by teaspoonful onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving space for the cookies to spread. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown. Cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheets, then transfer to a rack to continue cooling.

Indiana: German Springerle cookies inspired by a rolling pin

If you are just joining this 2017 adventure, Jeremy and I have challenged ourselves to produce one terrific cookie recipe from each of the 50 states.  Each week, we draw a state name and go off in search of an interesting cookie recipe.  This week, I added Indiana to my group of states.  I have baked my way through New JerseyAlaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.

My choice to bake Springerle cookies was a no-brainer.  Joanne, my co-worker and a German teacher, had surprised me with the gift of a wooden Springerle rolling pin just the week before. When I drew “Indiana,” my first internet search referenced two religious organizations that make traditional Springerle cookies:   I had never heard of the cookies; although, when I searched online, I recognized the unique designs.  Springerle cookies are white, rectangular cookies that have an embossed design–Springerle means ”little jumper” or “little knight,” because of the commonly represented design.

In Indiana, there are several bakeries, including one at the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, that make the cookies.  There is a bakery that specializes in all things German, including a huge collection of gnomes:  The Heidelberg Haus.  I may decide to order the cookies so I can see what they are supposed to take like.

I set out to make these traditional cookies.  I started by ordering “Bakers Ammonia,” a pre-baking soda era item because several recipes called for that.  I didn’t use it, though, because there were many recipes that didn’t require the traditional item.  Here’s the problem. There are two types of Springerle cookie recipes:  easy and difficult.  I chose easy.  Easy did not taste great.  I suspect that the cookies must be made with a lot more love than I devoted to them. Unfortuantely, mine were crunchy and nearly inedible.

Here’s Martha Stewart’s recipe.  I did not use this one, but if I were to try again, I would try this one.

Here are some recipes on All Recipes.  (The cookies were not light and delicate, but I suspect that is not the fault of the recipe–I need a tutorial.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Jersey: Pignoli cookies bring out my inner Italian

This headline was misleading, since, according to my DNA, I am  <1% Italian; however, the smell of these cookies baking took me to the evenings I’ve visited Vaccaro’s Bakery in Baltimore’s Little Italy.

If you are just joining this 2017 adventure, Jeremy and I have challenged ourselves to produce one terrific cookie recipe from each of the 50 states.  Each week, we draw a state name and go off in search of an interesting cookie recipe.  This week, I added New Jersey to my group of states.  I have baked my way through Alaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.

Before my research on cookies from New Jersey, I had never heard of a pignoli cookie.  (Pignoli is pronounced: peen-yo-lee and means “pine nuts.”)  Also, I could not imagine a delicious sweet made with pine nuts, which are usually relegated to annoyingly healthy salads or pesto–savory, not sweet.

I landed on the Carlo’s Bakery page.  Although I do not watch TLC’s Cake Boss, I learned that the show is filmed in the Hoboken bakery.  Digging a little deeper, I figured out that the charismatic Buddy Valastro also has a huge repertoire of cookies, including the Italian pignoli.

I picked up 7 oz. of almond paste (a first for me–had no idea this existed) and 8 oz. of pine nuts.  Almond paste was $8.99 at Martins, and the pine nuts set me back another $8.00.  The recipe I used produced 14 cookies–that’s more than $1.00 a cookie.  Valastro advertises these cookies at $14.95 a lb.

With my usual disregard of baking directions, I didn’t see that I would be making the dough in a food processor–mixing took less than 5 minutes.  I did like the surprising ease of directions, but if a person didn’t have a food processor, it would be hard to create the consistency needed.

I rank the flavor of these cookies at the top of my list so far, but the price tag would keep me from producing these as gifts.  If I can find a more reasonable source of these two ingredients, I am making these in December.

Bon-Appetit Recipe for Pignoli Cookies:

MAKES 14 COOKIES

  • 1 7-ounce tube almond paste (not marzipan), coarsely crumbled
  • ⅔ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup pine nuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse almond paste and powdered sugar in a food processor until combined. Add egg white, honey, and salt and pulse until a smooth, thick batter forms, about 1 minute.

Place pine nuts in a small bowl. Working one at a time, scoop tablespoonfuls of batter onto pine nuts and toss gently to coat. Roll lightly with your hands to form pine nut-covered balls. (Note to Reader:  It is a sticky dough–I wasted at least a cookie’s worth of dough stuck to my fingers–“flouring” my hands and utensils with powdered sugar would have helped this process.) Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake cookies until golden brown and edges are firm, 16–19 minutes. Let cool.

Do Ahead: Cookies can be made 5 days ahead; store airtight at room temperature.

 

 

Alabama: Southern spice – Turtleback cookies make great Christmas gifts

Our 50-state Christmas cookie challenge continues.  Between now and December, Jeremy and I are trying to bake on cookie representing each of the 50 states, with the idea that these will make excellent personalized gifts. I’ve baked c0okies representing Alaska, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Colorado.  I drew Alabama this week.

Let me digress a minute.  In second grade, I had to produce the dreaded “science fair project.”  My mom and dad helped me to combine my love of baking with science.  I made the traditional Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe, but each time I baked them, I left out one ingredient.  My final display explained the chemical influence of each of the ingredients in the cookie.  I was proud of the project and remember sharing my display in the cafeteria/gymnasium of our elementary school.

Fast forward to Saturday. I was in a hurry, and I decided that Turtlebacks would be a great cookie to make for a party I was hosting a few hours later. With my grandson, we began mixing and measuring.  I was temporarily thrown off by the 20 tbsp. of unsalted butter required but continued mixing with my typical abandon.

I was stopped in my floury tracks when I read that the dough had to be refrigerated for 24 hours.  Oh well.tra I put the dough in plastic wrap, cleaned up the kitchen, baked two trays of chocolate chip cookies from a boxed mix and went out the door.

On Sunday, I returned to the cookies, determined to finish them.  The frosting began with the instruction, “Whisk REMAINING cinnamon and salt. . .”  That’s when I realized that I had not measured several of the main ingredients correctly the day before–I put ALL the cinnamon, salt, butter, brown sugar and vanilla in the dough.  That was an epic error. Remembering my elementary school project, I knew that my cookies would be flat, dark brown, and inedible.

So I doctored the dough with flour and baking soda and moved on.

The frosting for the cookies is out of this world delicious.  I could have eaten it with a spoon out of the pot. Ok.  I confess.  I ate it with a spoon out of the pot.

The cookies–if you mix the ingredients correctly–are delicious.  What I like about them, too, is that they are not your average oatmeal, chocolate or sugar cookie.  The flavor is maple and spice.

I shared the cookies with family and friends.  My German teacher friend, Joanne, remarked that they taste a lot like the traditional spice cookie, lebkuchen.  Lebkuchen means “gingerbread” in German.  That gives me more reason to believe that these cookies would be an excellent gift at Christmas.

Turtleback Cookies

(based on the recipe from Traeger’s Bakery in Demopolis, Alabama).

MAKES 32 COOKIES

Ingredients

1 12 cups all-purpose flour
12 cup chopped pecans
1 14 tsp. ground cinnamon
12 tsp. baking soda
12 tsp. ground cardamom
12 tsp. kosher salt
34 cup brown sugar
12 cup granulated sugar
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 12 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 12 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsp. heavy cream

Instructions

(Ingredients in bold are the ones I didn’t measure correctly–pay attention!) Combine flour, pecans, 1 tsp. cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom, and 14 tsp. salt; set aside. Combine 12 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 16 tbsp. butter, and 1 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl; beat on medium-high speed with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; add dry ingredients; beat on low speed until just combined.
Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, whisk remaining cinnamon and salt, plus the powdered sugar in a bowl; set aside. Place remaining butter and brown sugar in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium, stirring constantly; boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining vanilla and the cream. Using a mixer, add the powdered sugar mixture and blend until icing is completely smooth.
Heat oven to 350˚. Roll dough into 1 12” balls and flatten into circles about 12” thick. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned around the edges; cool. Top each cookie with a thin layer of icing, spread almost to the edge (about 1 tablespoon of icing should suffice). Allow the icing to harden completely before serving.
Traeger’s Bakery is no longer in business, but it was the mainstay of Demopolis, Alabama for over 70 years.  A description of the cookies and the bakery appeared in Saveur online magazine in April 2015.