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