Berry Lemonade Cookies by Molly Brodak


This is it y’all, this is the cookie recipe.

The one I’ve been working on for two years.

My beloved dough is all dressed up for spring here with tangy berry and lemon flavors and I couldn’t be happier about how these turned out.

This recipe makes a perfect cut out cookie that is tender yet keeps any shape you cut it into. Some bakers simply use shortbread for their cut out cookies since, without any eggs or leavener, shortbread always keeps its shape. But this is no crisp, crumbly shortbread—this is a soft cookie with a tender crumb. And it’s all thanks to a couple of key techniques and ingredients, the most important of which is cream cheese.

Replacing some of the butter in a basic cut-out cookie recipe with cream cheese allows the cookies to stay soft and moist while minimizing spread. Plus the slight acidity of cream cheese acts as an extra tenderizer, ensuring these cookies have a smooth, soft mouthfeel and none of the dry flouriness that ordinary rolled doughs have. Just make sure you’re using real, full-fat cream cheese blocks and not the spreadable kind that comes in tubs. A fellow pastry chef told me that in France his colleagues call cream cheese, a newish product to them there, “Philadelphia” and praise its wonders—in Spain and Mexico it’s called queso filadelfia. It’s really a unique cheese when you think about it—it’s not exactly like other soft cheeses, and the particular fillers it uses (gelatin, xanthan gum, guar or carob gums) give it a special consistency that makes it both creamy/spreadable and able to keep its shape.

I developed this recipe because I really wanted a cut-out cookie that tasted as good as it looked. I’ve tasted plenty of fancy decorated cookies in my life and hooo boy, some people just do not care how their cookies taste, I can tell you that for sure. Especially in our image-soaked Instagram-era of baking where carefully edited photos are often valued over, you know, flavor, I wanted to make sure my cookies could walk the walk.

This dough is truly foolproof. It is very easy to work with, versatile, and tastes even better than all-butter cookie dough in my opinion. Follow a couple of my temperature techniques below and you can accomplish anything—ANYthing—with this dough.

Since I had lemons and blood oranges laying around, I decided to make a curd of each—honestly they are both great, but the lemon curd is really a knockout.

[heart eyes emoji here]

[heart eyes emoji here]

Here I’ve simply added fruit powder to the dough for a pop of color and intense flavor—pairing the cookies with tart lemon and orange curd makes them an incredibly fun and flavorful cookie. To make a plain version of these cookies, just omit the fruit powder. Or try an added 1/3 c. of cocoa powder for the best chocolate cookies you’ve ever tasted.

Side note: never listen to a recipe that tells you to “substitute” some flour for cocoa powder to make something chocolate. That’s insane. Cocoa powder is made of dried cocoa solids…it is not a grain, and it behaves very differently from flour in a recipe. Just because both are powdery and dry doesn’t mean you can substitute one for the other. This dough recipe is receptive enough to allow up to 1/3 c. of any low-moisture addition—cocoa, fruit powder, spices, herbs, chopped nuts, heck, go crazy.

Freeze dried berries are easy to find in the grocery store now (Trader Joe’s consistently has great freeze dried fruit options), although certainly you can find them online too in bulk. I used raspberries, strawberries and blueberries here, and I’ve also used peaches, apples, and mangos to great effect with regards to flavor (not so much with color). My mini food processor is perfect for the job of pulverizing the freeze dried berries into powder. If you don’t have a food processor, just beat/roll the berries in a ziplock bag with your rolling pin until finely crushed. DON’T FORGET to look for the little inedible silica packet that often comes in freeze dried fruit packages and remove it before whizzing everything together! I have made this idiotic mistake a few times when I’m in a hurry and have had to throw out entire batches of fruit powder once I saw the mangled silica packet buried in the powder.

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The only common errors that can happen with this dough are (1) not mixing the cream cheese and the butter well enough and (2) not pulling the cookies from the oven at the right time (more on that later). Since the two ingredients have different consistencies and usually different temperatures, you can sometimes get lumps of cream cheese in your dough if you don’t scrape the bowl well or mix long enough. Here I’ve stopped mixing too early so you can see the lumps.

see them lumps

see them lumps

Keep mixing until the butter and cream cheese are uniform, but do not overmix. You don’t want to cream this mixture—it would add too much air to these cookies, which would only make them drier and more likely to spread. It should stay “wet” looking and un-fluffy, like this. It kinda looks like hummus to me.



I used these adorable Thumbprint Cookie Cutter Stamps from Williams Sonoma that are ideal for creating sharp edges along with a perfect little well in the center for the lemon curd (lazy? Just use pre-made jam instead!). Or you could just make thumbprint cookies the old fashioned way—with an actual thumbprint—either way, these cookies are going to taste fantastic.

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Adding a touch of heavy cream to citrus curd makes it a bit more opaque, giving the color more saturation—plus it adds a touch of extra creaminess. I like tasty salted butter in my curd, but feel free to use unsalted if you prefer. Try to make sure you’re not letting any egg whites get into your mixture as you separate your eggs, since it is usually these errant whites that end up cooking and ruining your smooth curd with icky lumps. This recipe will make more curd than you need for the cookies, but not more than you need, you know, in your life in general.


5 large egg yolks

200 g (1 cup) granulated sugar

zest and juice of 4 lemons

113 g (1 stick) salted butter, cold, cubed

1/2 tsp (one splash) heavy cream

Bring about a cup of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk yolks and sugar in a metal or glass heatproof bowl and place over simmering water. Whisk for about a minute, until the yolks lighten, then add zest and juice. Whisk for 8 minutes, or until the mixture is thickened. Stir in butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated. Strain mixture into a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and place in fridge to chill.

You can see my blood orange curd was looser than my lemon curd—both consistencies worked just fine

You can see my blood orange curd was looser than my lemon curd—both consistencies worked just fine

Now that we’ve got that chillin in the fridge, it’s cookie time. This recipe as written below is a half batch; I always double the amounts you see here. I halved it because I imagine most people just don’t need as much dough as I usually need. On the other hand, this dough stays perfect in the freezer so I highly recommend just doubling it and freezing the extra dough into sheets and saving it in your freezer for the next time you feel like baking off a batch…

A quick note on rolling out dough. I don’t recommend using any flour whatsoever to roll this dough out—it already has the perfect amount of flour in it, and adding flour to the outside of a raw cookie can make the baked cookie taste floury and overcooked. Instead of rolling on a floured surface, use wax paper. My rolling pin never touches my dough! Here’s my technique:

Cut a long piece of wax paper, a bit longer than your cookie sheet. Place the rested dough on the wax paper and allow a margin of the paper to fall over the side of the table or counter you are rolling on. Then cover the dough with another sheet of wax paper and start to roll the dough, unsticking and repositioning the top sheet of wax paper as needed (I do this after each roll). Hold the bottom sheet of wax paper in place by pressing your legs or tummy against the lip of the wax paper and the edge of the table or counter. It’s a bit odd, but this is the best way to keep the wax paper from sliding around as you roll out the dough. Keeping the dough sheet on the wax paper also makes it super easy to pick up and transfer onto your baking sheet to freeze before cutting out shapes.

I also use perfection strips to keep my dough a consistent thickness. They work much better for me than the spacer rings you can buy for rolling pins, since I’m a klutz and I can never seem to keep the rings from rolling over my dough and messing up the thickness.

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Once the dough is fully rolled out, cover the dough sheet with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to chill until firm. All cookies I bake I cut straight from the frozen sheets of dough then pop immediately into the oven. You’ll get less spread and sharper edges by cutting and baking from frozen dough. Just be sure to peel off the wax paper as well as the plastic wrap and the cookies will come off your cutters easily and won’t lose their shape as you transfer them to your cookie sheet.

Now, you’ve got to be careful on timing here. The cream cheese and the fruit powder both work to mask the usual visual cues that tell you when a cookies is done—dry top, brown edges. The cookies will puff slightly as they bake, then start to settle. It is once they start to settle that you want to pull them. You’ll notice slight browning on the bottom edge of the cookie, but other than that, the cookies will not change color much—which is great for these fruity beauties.




1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder

400 g all-purpose flour

113 g (1/2 of an 8 oz package) cream cheese (not low-fat)

226 g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

225 g granulated sugar

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp almond extract

pinch citric acid (optional)

1 large egg yolk, room temperature

1/3 c freeze-dried strawberry, blueberry or raspberry powder (about 2 c. of sliced freeze-dried fruit will grind down to about 1/3 c.)

Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Using a hand mixer, mix butter and cream cheese on low until fully combined and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Add sugar, salt, extracts, and citric acid and mix until just incorporated. Add the yolks and mix again until just incorporated, then repeat with the fruit powder. 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 and flatten into discs. Wrap well in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes—until it is rested and firm but not rock hard. Roll out each disc between sheets of wax paper then freeze dough sheets if using a regular cookie cutter, or cut shapes immediately if using the cookie cutter/stamps with plungers. Freeze cookies for at least 15 minutes before baking.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Remove dough 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 look at their bottom edges for slight browning where the cookies touch the cookie sheet/parchment/silpat.

Allow to cool completely, then frost and fill with chilled lemon curd.

SO pretty and SO YUMMY

SO pretty and SO YUMMY

Lemon Pepper Cookies by Molly Brodak


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.  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.

Oh and here’s my basic royal icing recipe if you want to get piping:


White vinegar, for wiping bowl

1/4 c. warm water

3 tsp. pasteurized powdered egg whites

1 drop almond extract

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. light corn syrup

3 c. powdered sugar

Use a paper towel soaked with a little white vinegar to wipe out your bowl and beaters. Place warm water in the bowl, then sift egg whites over the water. Allow to sit for five minutes, then mix on low with a hand mixer until powder is evenly distributed and no large lumps remain. Then increase the speed to medium and beat to foamy soft peaks, add extracts and corn syrup, then slowly add powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Beat until stiff and smooth. Use a tiny amount of water to thin icing to desired consistency. Cover bowl with wet dishtowel and allow to sit for ten minutes or more to allow bubbles to dissipate. Store covered or in piping bags.

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

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


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. granulated sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. citric acid

2 egg yolks, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

800 g. all-purpose bleached flour

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 between two sheets 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 bottoms and set centers are the best indicator of doneness.

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


A Better Bundt by Molly Brodak

Poundcake is the shortbread of the cake world. But despite its apparent simplicity, it's not necessarily easy to master. Both are best plain, without any bits or babs mucking things up because, all in all, both are really just an excuse to eat butter.

Bundt cake is poundcake, btw, just baked in a bundt pan. True poundcake is made into loafs, but that is the only difference. I use the terms interchangeably.

While I am bestowing the priceless gift of my secretest bundt cake recipe upon you, I'm also offering up some of the amazing photos of a bundt cake shoot I participated in with local Atlanta brilliants: Haley Sheffield, photography; Kristine Cholakian Cooke, stylist; and Caroline Worth-Bruno, floral designer and heavenly gem.

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke

Survey the world of pound/bundt cake recipes online and you will find the classic quatre quarts recipe--basically just butter, sugar, eggs, and flour--and you will also find recipes that resemble regular cake recipes. I say "regular" because they include a chemical leavener like baking powder or baking soda. And that is a huge mistake.

Have you ever had a bundt cake stick to the pan, break apart when you try to remove it, or have a pitted, unsmooth crust? If so, blame your baking soda.

Let me explain. Baking soda (and baking powder is just baking soda with some added neutralizers to slow baking soda's frantic and immediate bubbling) causes the air pockets in your batter to expand. Once the bubbly structure is created, the batter network cures, trapping the air and creating the soft, tender texture of cake. As the batter expands, it falls all over itself in your pan chaotically, pressing itself into the sides of your pan, forcing its mass up like a slow-mo volcano.

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke, flowers by Caroline Worth-Bruno

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke, flowers by Caroline Worth-Bruno

Pound cake batter, on the other hand, is a lazy batter. These cakes take much longer to bake than regular cakes because this batter is just sort of gently sitting there, lazily basking in your oven...

Without a chemical leavener, pound cake expands just a little only due to the steam escaping from the finer air bubbles in your batter. The batter that is touching your pan forms an even, smooth crust because it's not expanding very energetically against the pan. If you have the right recipe, your bundt should never break upon removal from the pan, but fall out smoothly with an even, golden crust. 

Unless you are using a pan from the dark ages, you shouldn't need any grease or flour in your pan either. In fact, those things can just cause an interference. Any normal nonstick bundt pan should be fine on its own. You should also not need to pry any instrument into your pan to get your bundt baby out. A few taps, a few gentle shakes, and it should plop out easily when inverted.

That being said, I do spray my older pans with a light flash from Baker's Joy, just for the extra assurance. I have made bundts with and without it, and it really makes no discernable difference except in my very old aluminum antique pans.

Bundt is done when the top cracks and the dough inside the crack looks just barely set.

Now, being "plain" as it is, a bit of acid in poundcake is always a good idea. That's why lemon or citrus poundcake is always the most popular variety, but blueberry and strawberry are also great. I love lemon poundcake with strawberry icing (just puree some fresh or frozen strawberries, strain, and add the juice to the icing recipe below), and I really really love orange poundcake. 

If you want really good, tangy lemon icing, you're going to need a pinch of citric acid, which can be found in the canning section of your grocery store. Lemon juice alone will only take you so far. Make it as thick or as thin as you like, but don't sub water for the heavy cream or milk--that bit of dairy really helps give the icing substance.

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke

And if you really really want to gild the lily, you can brush your warm poundcake with simple syrup and it will be even more ridiculously moist, edging up to a pudding-like texture, if that's your kind of thing. Either way, this cake is better the next day, once the crust softens.

I tested the basic triad of poundcake recipes--all butter, butter and cream cheese, and butter and sour cream, and a combo of both. As expected, the sour cream and cream cheese (which has been my go-to poundcake recipe for years) was the best. The acid of the sour cream works a little like buttermilk, keeping the dough tender, and the moisture of the cream cheese keeps the cake tender enough to not really need a sugar syrup soak.

The texture of this cake should be velvety and dense.

Take your time creaming this batter, since there are no chemical leaveners, this mechanical whipping process is the only source of bubbles/rise for your cake--don't hurry through it.

This recipe makes an ample amount of batter, about 7 cups, enough for two 8" loafs or one large bundt pan. It can be halved if using a smaller pan. Because the pan size doesn't matter as much with pound cake in terms of how the batter will perform, you can put as much or as little of this batter in your pans and it should all come out basically the same, just be sure to adjust your time down for smaller amounts of batter or smaller pans.

For chocolate poundcake, just add 1/2 c. of good quality cocoa powder. photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke

For chocolate poundcake, just add 1/2 c. of good quality cocoa powder. photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke


1 1/2c. (3 sticks) very soft room-temperature unsalted butter

8 oz. very soft cream cheese

3 c. (600 g.) sugar

6 large eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. sea or kosher salt

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

3 c. (375 g.) all-purpose flour 

1/2 c. (114 g.) sour cream (not reduced fat)

1 lemon, orange, or two limes, zested and juiced

For the icing:

1 c. powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. heavy cream or whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract or other flavor

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/8 tsp. citric acid

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray large bundt pan or two loaf pans with Baker's Joy if desired. 

Mix butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer until completely combined and no chunks of cream cheese remain. Add sugar, salt, and finely grated rind of citrus fruit(s) and cream on medium high speed for about 4 minutes, until mixture is fully combined and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly on high speed and scraping bottom. Once the last egg is added, whip for an additional 4 minutes until batter is pale and fluffy, scraping sides and bottom consistently.

Add 1/2 of the flour and mix on low until just combined. Add sour cream and extracts and juice and mix again on low until just combined. Add the remaining flour and mix until just combined.

Scoop batter into pan(s) and bake for about 60 minutes, or until tops are split. Allow to cool in pan for five minutes, remove, then level bottoms if desired, and allow to cool completely before icing. 

To make the icing, add the liquids to the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Pour over cakes and allow to set before slicing. Store cakes under a glass dome or an overturned bowl.

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke, flowers by Caroline Worth-Bruno

photo by Haley Sheffield, styling by Kristine Cholakian Cooke, flowers by Caroline Worth-Bruno