Cookies

Chocolate Poppyseed Graham Shortbread + Modeling Chocolate Tutorial by Molly Brodak

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After a season of cakes, I am ready for something with a little more texture to it, something crunchy and rich. These cookies have an unbelievably addictiveness to them and I think it's down to the texture: crumbly, tender shortbread with bursts of crispy poppyseeds and crunchy sanding sugar on the edges, not to mention the incredible flavor from Banner Butter. The graham flour, which I'll explain more about below, provides a lovely, homey flavor and also adds another dimension of texture for a truly multi-textural experience. They are salty and rich with dark chocolate flavor, perfect for paring with coffee or, as I did here, a bit of white chocolate. They are also exceptionally easy to make and have only one (ONE) annoying step (grating frozen butter), which I think is impressive for how delicious they turn out.

 oh my god

oh my god

Let's start with the modeling chocolate.

Now, modeling chocolate, if you don't know, is a miracle. It's as pliable as fondant, perfect for using with silicone molds, sculpting, rolling out and cutting, or just messing around with, but unlike fondant it is DELICIOUS. 

Unlike fondant, which is evil to put on cookies, it is delicious.

Even if you don't have any cool food-grade silicone molds sitting around to press the modeling chocolate into beautiful decorations, you can still roll it out and make some beautiful designs with a knife or small cookie cutter if you want. You can even brush it with edible luster dust for a fancy finish. Stored in a sealed container, it should last a long time, reviving with a bit of warmth from your hands, and can be used for all kinds of fun baking projects down the line, so I recommend having some on hand.

I'm not even going to give you a recipe for it since there is no way to top Cake Paper Party's chart and instructions. My only change is that I highly recommend using Guittard's Choc-Au-Lait chips for your white chocolate version and nothing else. They are, as I mentioned a few posts back, the only edible white chocolate chips on the market in my opinion. I found them recently at Whole Foods, so you might try that if you're not willing to wait for an online order.

So basically you just melt the white chocolate chips, then mix in the correct amount of corn syrup for the consistency you want. Be quick and gentle when folding in the corn syrup. As soon as the mixture has the consistency of peanut butter, STOP. There may still be streaks of corn syrup--it's ok. Let it all cool for at least two hours.  Knead once cool, and the mixture should incorporate to a smooth, play-dough like consistency. 

See the first photo here? That's as far as you should go when microwaving white chocolate to melt it. Stop while you still have large chunks, then just stir until the chunks melt. Heating your white chocolate chips in the microwave beyond this point only leads to despair. Trust me.

In general, be careful of overworking modeling chocolate. If it gets too warm from your hands, it can break into an oily mess. There is a way to fix this though, so don't toss it. I really think these cookies are even better with a smidge of the creamy white chocolate on top, so even if you didn't want to mess with all this I would still throw in some rough-chopped chunks of white chocolate into this shortbread, or drizzle some melted on top for a very easy fix.

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Now onto the cookies themselves. We've covered shortbread already, and this one has some changes from that recipe (which I still think is the best all-around vanilla shortbread out there) due to the cocoa powder and this cultured butter I want to use.

I am IN LOVE with Atlanta's own Banner Butter, and I knew it would shine in this shortbread. If you can't find Banner, be sure to use some other kind of cultured butter as a substitute, like Plugra, Lurpak, or a local butter if you can find it. The slight tang to this butter gives the cookies a subtle buttermilky flavor, and the rich fat content is important to the recipe proportions.

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You can keep a log or two of this dough in the freezer forever, and whip it out any time you need a quick cookie for your guests. Or yourself. Just whip out your log and slice. Ok sorry, I had to. I'll stop saying "log" now.

 chop your log (SORRY) with a knife warmed over the stovetop for easy slicing. And don't use a marble cutting board. Why would such a thing even exist

chop your log (SORRY) with a knife warmed over the stovetop for easy slicing. And don't use a marble cutting board. Why would such a thing even exist

Graham flour is the same thing as whole wheat pastry flour, but it is not exactly the same thing as whole wheat flour. Named for who else but the 19th C Presbyterian minister who railed against bread made with white flour (he called it "tortured") and masturbation (he called it "Self-Pollution"), graham flour is milled from the same soft wheat that cake flour is made from and it is unsifted, unlike whole wheat flour. The grain's outer hull is ground more coarsely, and yet the inner kernel is finer than whole wheat flour, so what you end up with is a light, not dense, crumb while still benefitting from the texture of the whole grain particles. It also has that nutty taste that will remind you of a graham cracker, which makes a nice base for the chocolate and acidic butter here to play against.

 

Chocolate Poppyseed Graham Shortbread

230 g (8 oz, two sticks) frozen and grated unsalted cultured butter

1 tsp. fine sea salt

2 Tbsp. poppyseeds

1 tsp. vanilla extract

125 g. powdered sugar

280 g. (2 c.) Graham flour 

38 g. (1/3 c.) dark cocoa powder (I always use Hershey’s Special Dark)

2 egg yolks, room temperature

Coarse demerara sugar, for sanding

Place butter in freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight. Once butter is rock-hard, grate quickly using a box grater into a large bowl, re-freezing the butter if it starts to soften. Chop up the last few chunks rather than grating down to your thumbs.

Sprinkle salt and poppyseeds over grated butter then return to freezer for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, flour, and cocoa powder together in a small bowl. Once butter is chilled, add flour mixture and quickly toss with your hands (use disposable gloves for this part if you have them). Then, add the egg yolks and vanilla and quickly mash and squeeze dough until it comes together. It may be streaky with chunks of butter. Squeeze just until it holds together, then separate into two balls and place onto plastic wrap. Work the balls into logs and roll tightly using the wrap. If dough becomes soft and warm, allow to chill before proceeding. Unwrap, the re-roll the logs in coarse Demerara sugar, then wrap tightly. Place the two logs into the freezer to chill overnight or until completely solid, at least four hours. 

Heat oven to 375 degrees F, slice dough into ¼ inch discs, and bake for about 12 minutes on a parchment-lined tray. Cool completely before storing.

 Seen here piped with celestial royal icing designs

Seen here piped with celestial royal icing designs

Lemon Pepper Cookies by Molly Brodak

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Good thing its gratitude season, because I've been feeling positively awash in things to be thankful for lately (not the least of which is winning an NEA fellowship for prose (!!?!?!!)). I've also been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to do meaningful work as a teacher. I know not everyone looks forward to getting to work every morning like I do. 

On top of that, I get to live in Atlanta. I don't know what it is exactly, maybe just that romantic slant of light in the fall, maybe the sentimentalism of the first touch of those seasonal mean reds, but I've been deeply extra in love with my city lately. So I thought my Thanksgiving treats this year ought to pay homage to The A, my vibrant, beautifully diverse and thriving adopted hometown--and nothing could be more perfect than to represent Atlanta's signature lemon pepper wings with a lemon pepper cookie.

Oh, and to put Killer Mike, true Atlanta native, on that lemon pepper cookie. Boosh.

 we got to see Run the Jewels at the Hawk's home opener a few weeks back and it was lit

we got to see Run the Jewels at the Hawk's home opener a few weeks back and it was lit

This cookie is made extra rich and buttery with cultured butter. You can get some great European cultured butters out there but one of the best stateside is Vermont Creamery's cultured butter, which is pretty easy to find at the grocery store. I love the slightly buttermilky tang and incredible richness of this butter. To adjust for the extra fat in this type of butter, a touch of cornstarch is added to the cookies, which also makes the crumb a bit finer and the texture silkier. I really love a cut-out cookie that is not too hard, not too soft, and keeps its sharp edges--this recipe hits all of those notes expertly.

Citric acid is key for a bit of bite to your lemon bakes, so it is definitely worth seeking out (you can often find it in the canning/preserving section at the grocery store). You'll never be able to achieve that true citrusy tang with lemon rind alone (discussed previously in this lemony treat and that lemony treat). Pepper balances out the bright lemon with an earthy bite and elevates this cookie to glory. If you're not up for royal icing decorations, might I suggest smearing some strawberry ice cream between two of these babies and freezing up some incomparably tasty ice cream sandwiches, or drizzling with white chocolate.

The cream cheese in this dough helps make that perfectly soft but rich texture and prevents the cookies from spreading too much. Unlike when you are creaming butter and sugar for cakes or other applications, you don't want to whip too much air into cookies meant for cut-out shapes. About half the time (4 minutes instead of 8 minutes for a full creaming) is sufficient, as any more can lead to distortion in your cookies as they bake up. Don't be afraid to use dusting flour to roll this dough out if it is sticky--it won't get tough, thanks to the cream cheese.  A full description of my rolling-out method can be found here. Honestly, one of my favorite ways of dealing with cut out cookies is to just slice up a sheet of frozen dough with a pizza wheel--less stress and no scraps.

 I also made one with Chan Marshall/Cat Power, another Atlanta native I love dearly

I also made one with Chan Marshall/Cat Power, another Atlanta native I love dearly

 

This recipe makes, I don't know, a buttload of cookies, so feel free to halve it if you would prefer. But really, this is such fantastic cookie dough to freeze and have on hand for when you need a little something special so I recommend making the full amount. Do like I do and cut out a bunch of basic squares or rounds and store them in a Tupperware container in the freezer so they are ready to bake whenever the mood strikes.

 

 freshly ground pepper is miles away from the pre-ground dust

freshly ground pepper is miles away from the pre-ground dust

LEMON PEPPER COOKIES

8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

2 c. (4 sticks) cultured butter, softened to room temperature

zest of two lemons

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

450 g. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. citric acid

2 egg yolks, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

800 g. (about 6 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1 tsp. corn starch

1 tsp. baking powder

Whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder thoroughly in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter, sugar, cream cheese, lemon zest, pepper, citric acid, and salt in a stand mixer with paddle attachment or in a large bowl with your hand mixer for about 4-5 minutes. Be sure no lumps of cream cheese remain. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix for another minute. Add the flour mixture in two batches and mix until just barely incorporated. Remove dough ball from bowl and knead a few times in your hands to make sure the flour is fully incorporated. Divide into three discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill/rest dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Roll each disc onto a floured sheet of wax paper into a 1/4" rectangle that will fit your cookie sheets. Cover each dough sheet with plastic wrap and place on cookie sheet, then place cookie sheet into freezer. 

Chill for at least an hour, but can be left in the freezer for up to 3 months in sheets. When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Remove sheets from freezer, cut shapes directly from frozen dough sheets, and bake frozen shapes immediately on cold or room temperature cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. If shapes become soft as you work with them, be sure to refreeze before baking. Bake for 8-12 minutes. They will puff slightly but then shrink back down to their proper shapes. Cookies will not brown much due to the cream cheese, so barely golden edges and set centers are the best indicator of doneness.

Allow to cool completely, then frost if desired and gobble.

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Mandarin Matcha Cookies by Molly Brodak

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One of my favorite books when I was little was the Runaway Bunny. It's a little sad and creepy now when I look at it again, as the best children's books always are, and it reminds me so much of my mom. I used this book as inspiration for these Mother's Day cookies on sale now here in Atlanta at Youngblood Boutique.

I also am a huge fan of Japanese ceramics, and I think the poppy seeds in this cookie remind me of the subtle textures and imperfection of some Japanese tea cups and plates, the wabi sabi kind, a little imperfect to remind us of our own imperfect, impermanent existence.

The farmer's market had some lovely mandarins on sale last week, and I thought their flavor would brighten up this matcha cookie I'd been working on for a while. I originally had a matcha ginger flavor, but I much prefer this mandarin version. It's sweeter and friendlier.

I tested this recipe with a regular/low quality green tea powder and a really nice, expensive one from the Asian grocery, and there was a big difference in taste. The low quality matcha made the cookies, well, green, but not very flavorful. The expensive stuff had a beautiful bright, almost neon green color and really tasted like the real deal, so take that info and do what you will with it.

Here's how I do my rolling out--it's a method that causes minimal stress/sticking and less distortion of your cut shapes. Overall the plan here is to just keep the dough on wax or parchment paper (wax is better since it wrinkles less in the freezer) and keep it cold. Not rolling out directly on your work surface also reduces the amount of flour you'll need to roll out, since it is ok that the dough sticks to the paper underneath.

1. Mix dough as described below, shape immediately into three discs and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to an hour, until cold and firm but not rock hard.

2. Place wax or parchment paper cut to the size of your cookie sheet on your working surface. Sprinkle with flour. Place perfection strips on paper, then position dough between them. Using flour as needed, roll out dough to desired thickness (I always use 1/4 inch--the thickest strips) and pick up paper with dough and place on cookie sheet, cover in plastic wrap, then immediately place in freezer. Stack all flattened dough sheets like this. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.

3. Remove one dough sheet at a time from the freezer and cut shapes from frozen dough and bake immediately or store in freezer-safe container. Re-roll scraps just once.

To keep the paper from sliding as you roll your dough, let the paper hang over the edge of your work table and push your tummy solidly up against it to keep it in place as you roll out. It will seem silly at first but it totally works. 

Keeping your dough constantly cold will ensure your cookies don't spread much. These cookies will spread a tiny bit in the oven, which is not a huge deal if you are just eating these, but if you are a maniac like me and want a great trick to fixing spread edges that are a little too wabi sabi for your needs, just use a microplaner on the edges for more even, straight lines.

Admission: of all the cookie doughs I've made, this one is my favorite to eat raw. I know I know, you're not supposed to, but I do it all the time. It is so yummy.

 piping party

piping party

I'm not a terribly patient piper, since I am much better with a paint brush than a piping bag, but I really wanted the look  of piping on these cookies with the beautiful textured background. I cannot stop looking at the cute little bunnies on these cookies. A few small swipes of edible color dust defined their shapes really well.

MANDARIN MATCHA COOKIES

makes 15-30 cookies, depending on cutter size 

2 c. unsalted butter, soft but cool 

2 c. (425 g.) granulated sugar

3 mandarin oranges, zested, and one juiced

1 egg, room temperature

1 yolk, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tsp. matcha green tea powder

1 tsp. sea or kosher salt

5 c. (635 g.) all-purpose flour

3 tsp. poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With a hand mixer, beat softened butter, sugar, salt, orange zest until just combined and smooth, about 2 minutes (stop before mixture begins to fluff up). Add eggs, vanilla extract, poppy seeds and matcha and mix for another minute. Add flour and beat just until dough comes together; do not over mix. 

Prepare dough as described above and bake cut out shapes for 9-14 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie shape. Cookies are done when edges just barely begin to brown and center is set (do not allow to brown too much). Be sure to bake the same size cookies together, and allow at least 2 inches space around each cookie. Once cooled, frost with royal icing if desired and store in an air-tight container.

 happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, mine especially

happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, mine especially

Christmas Gingerbread Cake with White Chocolate Ermine Buttercream by Molly Brodak

It's been a tough year. I know I'm not alone in feeling this. Maybe that's why I decided this year to saturate myself in Christmas cheer--a holiday I usually feel pretty neutral about.

Last year at this time my Mom and I were in Iceland, and there was something so much more special about holiday decorations in Iceland, especially the power of lights in the otherwise gloomy long nights there, and especially the power of a Christmas tree.

I'm not sure what city we were in when we found this tree, but I remember the moment walking up to this city square and seeing it glowing, and I am pretty sure I cried. I'm certain I hugged mom. To me, it's not the tree itself, not the details of its decoration or the lights, but the feeling it represents, the effort to will kindness, warmth, and generosity into a world that is dark and cold. A reminder to be your best self, even in the hardest times.

I wanted to end this year on that note, so my christmas cake takes the shape of a warm, cheery, nostalgic Christmas tree. I decorated it with cookie ornaments, sets of which are currently on sale at Young Blood Boutique here in Atlanta.

 I use an edible FoodWriter marker to draw on the cookies after using a food coloring "watercolor" wash

I use an edible FoodWriter marker to draw on the cookies after using a food coloring "watercolor" wash

Improving upon classic gingerbread cake meant adding some lightness to it and some extra fat to counteract its typical dryness. I tried to switch to cake flour for a more refined texture but the cake flour just could not handle the muscle of the molasses, and ended up gummy and collapsed. So the texture of this cake is somewhat coarse but fitting for the nostalgic, old-fashioned vibe I wanted. Thinking back to my cream cake lesson, I turned to sour cream to both lighten the texture and add some fat for moisture. Still, gingerbread is going to be a heavy cake no matter what due to the molasses, but this is by far the lightest and moistest gingerbread cake I have ever had.

 did I buy this brand of molasses because it looks like a tiny liquor bottle? Yes. That is accurate.

did I buy this brand of molasses because it looks like a tiny liquor bottle? Yes. That is accurate.

 incredibly moist!

incredibly moist!

Flavorwise, something had to be done to balance the overwhelming flavor of molasses. It's just so powerful. The little scoop of ground ginger most recipes call for just will not do. I swapped out that weak mess for some real, freshly grated ginger, along with a pinch of pepper and a shot of rum. Finally some flavor comrades who can step to molasses. 

This buttercream is exactly the same as the ermine I came up with a few cakes back, but now with white chocolate for an even creamier flavor. It's one of my favorite buttercreams, and has a sturdy, almost-pudding-like consistency that I knew would hold up under the heavy gingerbread.

ERMINE BUTTERCREAM

4 Tbsp flour

1/4 c milk

3/4 c heavy cream

1/2 c granulated sugar

1 c (6 oz) white chocolate, chopped

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 c unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 c powdered sugar, or to taste

Combine milk and cream. Place flour and 1/3 c. of the milk/cream mixture in a small saucepan. Whisk constantly over low heat until mixture thickens. Add remaining liquid and sugar, boil over low heat for about 2 minutes until mixture is thick as paste and bubbling. Add white chocolate and stir until melted. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until cool. Whip butter, salt, vanilla, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cool pudding in small batches and whip until smooth and combined.  

I doubled the recipe for the cake and carved my stacked cakes into a smooth Christmas tree with a rice krispy treat top, then frosted it and wrapped it in pink fondant. Cookies were applied with melted chocolate so they'd be nice and secure while I transported the cake to the party.

I baked off some tiny meringue cookies that were also glued on with melted chocolate and painted with edible gold and pastel watercolors. Tiny royal icing dots for lights and a few ribbons and bows tied it altogether (groan).

I brought this to my friend's amazing holiday party and it made me so happy to cut it up. Every piece ended up with its own assortment of cookies and it made such a delightful dessert plate. Sometimes people ask me how I can stand to cut up my creations, but I tell you it is my favorite part--dividing up this little cake of happiness I've made for everyone who wants it.

GINGERBREAD CAKE

2 c (250 g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp (6 g) baking soda

2 tsp (5 g) cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

3/4 c (180 ml) molasses

3/4 c (180 ml) whole milk

2 tbsp dark rum

1/2 c (107 g) white sugar

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

1 egg

2 yolks

1/2 c (112 g) sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine milk and rum in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring pitcher and heat for about one minute, until very hot but not boiling. Add molasses and stir, set aside.

Whisk flour with baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream soft butter with sugar, salt, and grated ginger until fluffy, about three minutes. Add egg and yolks, then sour cream, and beat for another three minutes. Pour half of the molasses mixture in gradually, continuing to beat, then half of the flour mixture. Finish beating mixture with remaining liquid then flour mixture.

Divide batter into prepared pans and bake for about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of your pans. Cakes are done when center is set and springs back when pressed. Cool cakes, level, split, and fill. 

 

 a cut up cake is my favorite cake

a cut up cake is my favorite cake

The Pinnacle of Shortbread Mountain by Molly Brodak

I realized recently I have been doing so much cake-work in my sweetcraft practice. Time to get back to basics. The most basic of all basics, shortbread, which is, if executed well, hardly basic. 

Recipes for shortbread should be, well, pretty short--this is a recipe about butter, and if you start mucking things up with bips and babs (chocolate, lavender, caramel, etc) you're not really doing shortbread. Shortbread's purpose begins and ends with chauffeuring butter to your palate.

I wanted to create a shortbread recipe that would ensure the most toasty, buttery flavor possible while maintaining an exceptionally tender texture, not overly sandy, dull, or pasty. (Almost) as always, a little bit of extra work makes a dessert that is enormously more extraordinary. We've got three different sugars, two different butters, two different flours, a resting period, and a bit of egg yolk coming down the line--still, it's a very easy recipe.

Let's start with butter, as we should. It makes sense to want to reach for a really expensive, European high-fat/cultured butter for a recipe like this. And, indeed, we will. But as most bakers will tell you, you can't always swap in your Plugra for your standard American butter. It has a slightly higher fat content, less water, and is often cultured (making it slightly acidic), all of which affects recipes substantially. Rest assured this recipe is adjusted for Euro-butter factors.

We're also going to to use browned butter for half of the total butter requirements. All-browned butter in a shortbread recipe would create a butter a little too solid, since so much more water is evaporated from browning the butter, little is left to create steam/rise in the dough. But we really, really want those little flavor bits that browned butter imparts, so a balance must be struck.

 look at those precious chunks of browned milk solids!

look at those precious chunks of browned milk solids!

With our higher-fat Euro butter in play, we need to make some adjustments to the flour. Cake flour has the ability to absorb more liquids than all-purpose flour, but using all cake flour can leave you with a chalky shortbread. All purpose with a small portion of cake flour gives us the right texture and prevents the shortbread from becoming greasy due to the extra fat. Definitely use your scale here; in one test batch I added just half an ounce more flour and the resulting shortbread was too dry.

Often a little bit of starch is also added to the dough in order to help soak up some of that fat, and give the shortbread a silky tenderness. This is where our mix of sugars comes in. White sugar melts fast and will create the right structure for the starches and proteins, powdered sugar adds a silkiness thanks to the cornstarch, and brown sugar just for that light molasses-y flavor.

All that's left, ingredient wise, is some egg yolk. Purists would balk at adding egg to shortbread, but purists would also be too busy choking on a mouthful of their powdery sand cakes that explode into dust upon biting into them to admit that the old fashioned recipe for shortbread needs a little more structure, a little more protein in order to make it flaky and tender instead of a dust bomb. Just half an egg yolk; a full yolk would prevent shortbread from being "short" enough (refers to the extremely fine/melting crumb). Trust me, you'll see.

I also knew that, as with many other cookie recipes, letting the dough rest would result in a more flavorful shortbread. Unrested, you are baking flour particles next to butter particles in your dough, which is fine. But rested, you are baking butter-soaked flour particles, which is great. I tested the recipe at three stages--unrested, rested for two hours, and rested overnight. Guess which one tasted best.

The unrested dough tasted mostly like flour. Both rested doughs tasted fantastically buttery and complex. Texture-wise, they weren't that different; the unrested dough was slightly chalkier.

The good news is that the batch rested for two hours tasted pretty great, almost as great as the 24-hr shortbread, so if you are in a hurry you'll still come out ahead with just a little resting.

 they don't look very different, but they sure tasted different

they don't look very different, but they sure tasted different

Thick shortbread is better than thin shortbread if you want a truly tender bite instead of just a crisp one. Double baking the shortbread a la biscotti will give you the most beautifully browned and crisp exterior; I highly recommend it. I also recommend removing the center of your shortbread if using a round tart pan since the center will never really get cooked, and those pointed edges of each wedge will always break anyway (see my set up above; I use a metal biscuit cutter as a center stay). A rectangular pan also works great here, just make sure you are using a pan with a removable bottom as the shortbread is really delicate.

The Best Shortbread Ever

makes 12-14 wedges 

8 Tbsp (4 oz) salted cultured European-style butter, soft but cool (Plugra, Lurpak, etc)

8 Tbsp (4 oz) browned butter, cooled to semi-solid

1/4 c. (1.75 oz) packed light brown sugar

2 Tbsp (0.9 oz) sugar

2 Tbsp (0.5 oz) powdered sugar

1/2 large egg yolk

2 tsp vanilla extract or scraped vanilla bean

1/4 tsp salt

2 c. (9.5 oz) all-purpose flour

1/4 c. (1 oz) cake flour (I use White Lily)

1 Tbsp Demerara or sanding sugar for sprinkling

With a hand mixer, beat softened butters, sugars, salt, 1/2 egg yolk, and vanilla extract/beans until just combined and smooth, about 2 minutes (stop before mixture begins to fluff up). Add flours and beat just until dough comes together; do not over mix.

Press dough into a 8" tart pan or cheesecake pan with removable bottom and pat the top with wet fingers to smooth. Dock the dough with a fork and sprinkle demerara sugar on top. Cover and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Bake in an oven preheated to 275 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the heat up to 375. Allow shortbread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then cut into wedges and transfer carefully to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for an additional 15 minutes until toasted to a golden brown. Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

 possibly the most addictive thing on the planet

possibly the most addictive thing on the planet

Strawberry Cheesecake Cookies by Molly Brodak

In late February, summer could not feel farther away. One requires summer's official flavor at times like these: strawberry. The subdued pink tone of these cookies belie a truly intense and completely natural strawberry flavor. Soft and tender with the slight crunch of strawberry seeds, these cookies also retain their shape when baked which makes them pretty much the holy grail of roll out cookies.

The magic ingredient here is freeze-dried strawberry powder, which can be purchased or made, and of course making it is cheaper. I found the best deal to be a few bags of these sliced freeze-dried strawberries at my corner CVS, although any brand will work. 

I made these cookies not overly sweet because I knew I'd be icing them with royal icing, although they are lovely without icing for those who prefer a dreamy, soft cookie that won't break your sweet tooth.

Just whizz the freeze-dried strawberries up in your food processor to a fine powder (I use this fantastic Kitchen Aid mini grinder that I also grind spices in or make caster sugar with). Because they are so tender, these would make great candidates for sandwich cookies...with dark chocolate ganache?! YES go and do this.

 I hate making two different weights of royal icing (border and flood) so I just make a medium weight and somehow manage to carry on

I hate making two different weights of royal icing (border and flood) so I just make a medium weight and somehow manage to carry on

Many good roll out cookie recipes call for a smidge of cream cheese to keep them tender but I really wanted them to taste like cream cheese, so I kept adding more and more cream cheese until they were perfectly balanced. There is no softer, creamier roll out cookie on the planet.

Side note: someone recently asked me why the salt in all of my cookie and cake recipes is always added to the butter/fat instead of being added to the flour mixture as is routine. What happens to the salt when you whisk it together with the flour and leavener? It sorts itself out to the bottom of your bowl, where it stays. Salt is heavy. It is not a powder. Salt is a liquid. Always add salt to your liquids, not your drys. Now let us never speak of this issue again.

I love an excuse to get out my collection of silicone leaf and flower molds for a little extra easy beauty. Just a quick squish of some white fondant into the mold and then a bit of edible copper-colored powder mixed into a paint with a few drops of vodka and you are good to go. I've tried every kind of metallic powder under the sun and nothing compares to the stuff from Evil Cake Genius. It's pricey but it lasts for ever, and the effect is worth every penny.

 That rounded rectangle shape was cut out with the lid of a Hershey's cocoa canister

That rounded rectangle shape was cut out with the lid of a Hershey's cocoa canister

These cookies will change your life. Well, maybe at least just get you through the winter.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cookies

8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 c. butter, softened to room temperature

3/4 c. (150 g.) sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 yolk, room temperature

1/3 c. freeze-dried strawberry powder (about 2 c. of sliced freeze-dried strawberries will grind down to about 1/3 c.)

1 tsp. vanilla

3 c. (375 g.) flour, plus more for rolling

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter, sugar, cream cheese and salt in a stand mixer with paddle attachment or in a large bowl with your hand mixer. Be sure no lumps of cream cheese remain. Add the yolk and mix for another minute, then the strawberry powder and vanilla until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in two batches and mix until just barely incorporated. Remove dough ball from bowl and knead a few times in your hands to make sure the flour is fully incorporated. Divide into two balls. Roll out each ball onto a floured surface into a 1/4" rectangle that will fit your cookie sheets. Layer each dough sheet with plastic wrap and place on cookie sheet, then place cookie sheet into freezer. Use a sheet of wax paper between sheets to prevent them from sticking together.

Chill for at least an hour, but can be left in the freezer for up to 3 months in sheets. When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 365 degrees F. Remove sheets from freezer, cut shapes directly from frozen dough sheets, and bake frozen shapes immediately on cold or room temperature cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. If shapes become soft as you work with them, be sure to refreeze before baking. Bake for 8-12 minutes. Cookies will not brown much due to the cream cheese, so just checking them by tapping their centers with your finger to make sure they are set up is the best way to test if they are done.

Allow to cool completely, then frost and gobble.

 beauty make it rain

beauty make it rain


Schröder in Sugar by Molly Brodak

respect the Golden Patch

Happy NBA trade deadline day everyone...

Just wanted to show off this hand painted cookie set featuring my favorite point guard, Dennis Schröder, who you can bet will not get traded today because he's poised to be central to the Hawks going forward. Gets his tooth knocked out mid-game and just picks it up, sticks it in his sock, and keeps playing. His hustle is inspiring.

 Made a stencil from his photo then painted it onto a fondant topper for the cookie   

Made a stencil from his photo then painted it onto a fondant topper for the cookie

 

Take us into the future, Schröder. Go Hawks!

Salty Malty Cookies by Molly Brodak

Over in the Buy a Recipe section of Kookie House I sell a very good and special recipe that I typically have spent months/years developing. These recipes will change in inconsistent amounts of time since time is arbitrary here at Kookie House. Each recipe is available for a limited time only and I can't sell you the old ones, so be sure to save or print your downloads as soon as you purchase them, and check back regularly for new ones.

To start things off I wanted to offer my all-time favorite cut-out cookie, since cookies make up the floors and the ceiling and the around-and-around of Kookie House. No matter how many cakes and eclairs and fancy gumpaste flowers I make, cookies remain the still point of my spinning world.

The flavor of these cookies is incomparable. You have never had a cut-out cookie so good. I have never truly enjoyed eating sugar cookies, especially those iced with royal icing. They are typically too sweet and bland. These were designed to taste delicious with royal icing or fondant icing, but are incredibly addictive on their own. The malt flavoring not only adds a delectable richness to the buttery flavor of the dough but also encourages browning, gilding the edges of your cookies with that crucial Maillard gold.  

You do need to get yourself some dry malt extract. Malted milk powder will not work as a substitute. You need the pure stuff, and the darker the better. I highly recommend Briess Traditional Dark, which you can buy here or at your local home brewer's supply shop. If you like malt flavor, or just delicious things in general, you will find all kinds of other uses for powdered malt around your kitchen, from malted milkshakes to malted waffles to a more fantastic fried chicken batter. (Be sure to store the rest of your malt powder in a tightly sealed container away from humidity (not in the fridge), as it is hydrophilic and will turn into a sticky/crusty mess if moistened.)

These were designed to hold their shape yet remain soft in the middle, with a balance of granulated sugar and powdered sugar that I have spent a long time perfecting. They become just slightly larger after baking so that they will fit fondant cut-outs with a tiny border (a post on this soon). The edges aren't the sharpest cookie edges around, but what kind of maniac expects unnaturally razor-sharp edges on their cookies anyway. 

Included in your recipe will be some tips on rolling techniques, like why you should freeze your dough in sheets rather than chill it in a lump after mixing (it never made any sense to me that most recipes ask you to chill a disk of dough THEN attempt to roll it out once chilled into a crumbling, difficult mess), and why you should bake off your scraps into one giant Malformed Monstercookie instead of rerolling scraps more than twice.

freeze your dough like THIS before cutting out shapes

Buy it here for just two dollars then make yourself a pair of Yeezy Boost 350 to eat.

NFS