Apr 7, 2015

God Created Cookies To Tempt Us... Knowing That We Are Weak.

Adams Cookies
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Actually my first recollection of cookies would have to be Animal Crackers as pictured to the right. I don't know why they called them crackers, they were definitely sweet like cookies. They came in this little circus wagon box with animals on it. The little cookies actually looked like animals, 17 different kinds to be exact. Each box had 22 cookies in them, I counted them once. Naturally I hid them from my friends. 

I've really grown up a lot since then and have evolved from an animal monster to a cookie monster. Now when I make cookies, I hide them from my wife.

Here are eight of my favorites:

Adults Only... "Chocolate Bourbon Balls"
This is an easy, no-bake recipe. I make these during the holidays every year to give as gifts, they are delicious and very potent. They should not be served without checking the recipients ID.

Chocolate Bourbon Balls
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1/2 cup finely chopped dried cherries or cranberries
1/4 cup Maker's Mark bourbon (you can use whatever brand you like, this is my favorite)
2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (15.25 ounce package of Orios with cream centers removed, then crushed)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup finely chopped pecans to roll the bourbon balls in

In a small bowl, let 1/2 cup finely chopped cherries macerate in 1/4 cup of Makers Mark bourbon for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine well 2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs, 1/2 cup each of firmly packed dark brown sugar and finely chopped pecans, the cherry mixture, 1/4 cup molasses, 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls and firmly roll the balls in finely chopped pecans. Store the bourbon balls in an airtight container in your refrigerator for at least 1 week before serving. Makes about 30 servings.

Kids Only... "Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies"
Peanut butter and jelly are as popular here in Hawaii as it is on the mainland. This recipe will not only please the little kids, but the big kids as well. This is one my favorite cookies.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies
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1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling the dough
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup extra chunky peanut butter (I use Jiffy brand)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
1 large jar of the jelly of your choice (I use Smucker's seedless raspberry)
Parchment paper

In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, shortening and sugars, then mix in peanut butter, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and flour. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter mixture. Beat until thoroughly combined.

Next place a long sheet of plastic wrap on your kitchen counter and place half of the cookie mixture into a long row in the middle of the plastic wrap. Fold the wrap tightly over the cookie dough. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough, then put the two dough logs into your refrigerator for 2 hours. This process will make handling the dough while forming the cookies much easier.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350˚F. Now line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar into a plate. Unwrap the chilled dough and make balls using about 1 tablespoon of dough per ball. Roll the balls completely in the sugar. Place each ball on the parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between the balls, as they will spread while cooking. Take a fork and gently press lines into the top of the cookie balls, first horizontal then vertical, creating a patern on top of each cookie.

Place the cookie sheets into the heated oven on two different shelves toward the top of your oven. Cook for 5 minutes, then open the oven and switch around the cookie sheets so the bottom is now on the top. This will ensure even browning on the bottom of the cookies. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove cookies to cool for about 30 minutes. Decorate the top of each cookie with a dab of your favorite jelly. Makes about 60 cookies.

Note: You can freeze the dough to cook the cookies at a later date. Just put the logs into a zip-loc freezer bag.

Chocolate Macadamia Shortbread Cookies
I love macadamia nuts, they are actually grown here on Moloka'i. Combine the wonderful flavor and texture of Hawaiian Macadamia nuts with dark chocolate, then put them in shortbread cookies, and watch them vanish.

1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
8 ounces dark chocolate
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped

Cream the butter until smooth and beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla. When the butter and sugar are combined, slowly add flour and beat until incorporated. Mix in the 1 cup of coarsely chopped macadamia nuts. Roll the dough into a log and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Heat oven to 300°F and remove dough from refrigerator. Slice the log into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Place the slices on an ungreased baking sheet an inch apart and bake for 20 minutes or until the cookies turn golden around the edges. Remove from oven, and place cookies on a cooling rack. While cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate with the shortening, then dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate. Immediately sprinkle the top of the chocolate coated half of the cookie with the finely chopped macadamia nuts. Set cookies on parchment or wax paper, and let cool. Makes about 30 cookies.

Orange Lace Cookies
I first made these in cooking school and have always loved them. Thin crispy cookies, flavored with fresh orange juice and zest and full of holes, like lace. These are elegant and really go well with an elegant dessert, like my "Prickly-Sweet Hawaiian Pineapple Sorbet" (recipe).

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (8 oz) sugar
3/4 cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) fresh orange juice
1 stick (4 oz) butter
1 orange zested (zest the orange first, then cut it in half and use the juice)

Stir together the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter. I like to stick it in the microwave in 30-second intervals until it’s liquified. Add the orange zest to the bowl with the juice, then pour the juice over the flour. Whisk until it's smooth, then pour in the butter and whisk until that's completely incorporated. Now refrigerate the bowl of batter for 2 hours or overnight, wrapped tightly in plastic.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Fill a pastry bag, outfitted with a small plain tip, with batter. (You can also fill a ziplock bag, then snip off a bit of the corner.) Pipe nickel-sized rounds on Silpat-lined cookie sheets, spaced 3 inches apart. Yes, space them far apart because they spread. And use the flattest sheet pans you’ve got or the batter will slide around. You will have way more batter than sheet pans, so you’ll need to bake them in batches. Or bake some today, and then some tomorrow. Bake for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on these. You want them golden orange. If they get into the brown palette, they start to get bitter. 

Once they come out of the oven, they will be quite soft and if you try to pick them up, they will rip. Wait about 60 seconds for them to set up a little, then you can shape them. Gently glide an offset spatula under them to loosen, then drape them over something round, like a rolling pin, a wine bottle, a vinegar bottle, a pepper grinder, whatever you’ve got kicking around. Once they harden, you can slide them off. If the cookies harden on the sheet pan before you’ve had a chance to shape all of them, return the sheet pan to the oven for 30-60 seconds, and they will heat up and get pliable again. If you have no desire to deal with the shaping, which is admittedly a small production, simply let them cool flat on the sheet pans, and you’ll have flat, but still lovely, cookies. Store in an airtight tupperware. These cookies don’t like humidity which is a problem in Hawaii, they get soft. Makes about 60 cookies.

Cinful Cookies
I call these "cinful" because they contain cinnamon. Even the texture is sinful, tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

2 cups flour, all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In another bowl mix together with a hand held mixer, butter, ginger, molasses, 3/4 cup sugar and milk until light and fluffy.

Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, 1/3 at a time. Mix on low until mixture is moist and all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Do not over mix.

Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and form each into ball shapes, then flatten slightly and press one side in remaining sugar and place sugar side up on the parchment lined baking sheets.

Repeat with remaining dough, placing cookies 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake 10-12 minutes, or until tops are cracked and edges are hard.

Let cookies cool completely on pan... if you can wait that long. Makes 12 servings.

Coconut Palmier Hearts
Palmiers are simple cookies to make using ready-made puff pastry. The addition of coconut flakes make these little hearts very tropical.

1 pound package of ready-made frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 7-ounce package sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Unwrap the puff pastry and lay them on a clean work surface. Cover to prevent the dough from drying out and let it thaw until completely pliable but still cool. It's very important that the dough be completely thawed before using.

In a food processor, combine the coconut, sugar, and cinnamon. Process until finely ground, about 2 full minutes. Pour 1 cup of this mixture onto a flat surface like a smooth kitchen counter, and spread it out to the diameter of the puff pastry dough.

Unfold one sheet of pastry onto the coconut mixture and pour an additional 1/2 cup of the coconut mixture on top. Use your hands to cover the pastry thickly with the coconut. (The pastry will be sandwiched between 2 layers of coconut.)

Run a rolling pin over the pastry to press the sugar and coconut into the dough and help it adhere. You want to roll the dough out to a 13-inch square. Using a bench scraper, or edge of a large knife, lift the sides of the pastry up and fold them toward the center so they meet flush in the middle. Then fold one half over the other like you're closing a book. Wrap the rolled log loosely with parchment and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up.

Repeat this process with the other puff pastry sheet using the remaining coconut-sugar mixture.

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F. Place a rack in the middle position.

Remove the plastic wrap. Use a sharp knife to slice the rolls into cookies roughly about 3/8-inch thick. Arrange the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, allowing 2 inches of expansion room between each one. Now pinch together about 1/2 inch of dough, right below where the two rolls meet on each cookie, which helps to form the point of a heart.

Bake the palters in batches until golden and caramelized on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake until golden on the other side, about 7 minutes more. It's the caramelized sugar and toasted coconut that provide the flavor.

Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Cookies will be less crispy but still delicious the next day. Serve with my Hawaiian Pineapple Sorbet (see recipe index). Makes about 32 cookies.

Lemon Curd Thumbprint Cookies
When I was a small child I had a dream about a giant who made these cookies with his thumbprint... they were huge! Unfortunately these are just little ones.

Ingredients for lemon curd:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits

Procedure for lemon curd:
Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour. Makes about 1 1/3 cups. Note: Curd can be chilled up to 1 week.

Ingredients for cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup lemon curd (recipe above)

Procedure for cookies:
Heat oven to 350˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or nonstick liners. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with mixer until well blended. Beat in yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. With mixer on low, beat in flour just until moist clumps form. Gather dough together in bowl to bind.

Shape scant tablespoons of dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a floured finger, make a deep indentation in center of each ball. Bake cookies until firm and lightly golden on bottom, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven and immediately fill indentations with curd. Return to oven and bake 2 minutes longer to set curd.

Bake remaining cookies. Lightly dust edges with confectioners' sugar before serving. Makes 45 cookies.

Happy Birthday Cookies
These fun bite-sized birthday cookies look like mini cakes with colorful sprinkles. All you need is a lit candle on top and a wish for another Happy Birthday Cookie.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons colorful sprinkles

Buttercream filling ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Colorful sprinkles, for rolling the cookies in

Birthday Candles

To make the birthday cake cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, or silicone mats. Set aside until needed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the sour cream and mix until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.

With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture. Add the milk and then increase the speed to medium and beat until the batter is moist and thick.

Using a tablespoon, scoop small rounds of dough into the palm of your hand. Roll the dough into a ball and then flatten it into a small, flat disc. Bake the cookies for about 8-10 minutes until they have set and the edges start to turn a light golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the buttercream filling. Cream the butter in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add the confectioners sugar and salt and mix (gradually increasing in speed) until the sugar is fully incorporated, about 5 minutes. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times. Add the vanilla and whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Once the buttercream is creamy and airy, the buttercream is ready.

To create the cookie sandwiches, match the cookies in pairs. Place each pair next to each other, with one of the cookies topside down. Frost a thick layer of buttercream on the cookie that it topside down. Top with the other cookie and repeat with the remaining cookies.

Place a birthday candle into the top of the birthday boy/girls cookie sandwich. These last up to 5 days in a sealed container.

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