All in Cookies

Carrot Cookies

Soon after I began dating the man to whom I am now married, I asked him to tell me the name of his favorite cookie.  I was curious to hear his answer, but more importantly I wanted to surprise him with a batch.  Without hesitation, he replied "carrot cookies."  I was surprised, not only because I thought he seemed more like a chocolate chip cookie person (back then I thought everybody was a "chocolate chip cookie person"), but also because I had never heard of carrot cookies until that moment.  Without asking any followup questions, I went ahead and baked him the best interpretation of "carrot cookies" I could muster.... and he was very sweet about it when I surprised him with something that more closely resembled carrot cake than his evasive favorite cookie.  Later on in our relationship when he first took me home to meet his family, his mom made carrot cookies for us and suddenly I understood.  Because his mother boiled and pureed the carrots beforehand, they were light and textured pillows of carroty goodness unlike anything I'd ever tasted.  Read more.

Cut Out Cookies

I don't remember exactly where I got the recipe for these cookies; all I know is that, twenty-five years ago, I copied it out of some magazine and I've been making them ever since.  These cut out cookies contain less sugar than traditional sugar cookies, making them perfect for icing or dipping.  The dough also includes cream cheese, which adds a special tenderness.  When my boys were young, I always made them at Christmas time, Valentines Day, and Halloween, so they could decorate them with icing to look like Christmas trees, Santas, hearts, pumpkins, bats, ghosts, skeletons, etc...  I now prefer to simply dip my cut out cookies in chocolate.  The result is understated and delicious.  In my opinion, they're best when the chocolate coat is a bit hard, so I keep them in the refrigerator until just before serving.  Read more.

Gingerbread Tree

The ideal dining table centerpiece is handmade, edible, and inexpensive, like this gingerbread tree.  For this tree, I purchased a set of 10 star cookie cutters from Sur La Table, but I could have gotten by with half as many because sometimes the different cookie-cutter-sizes were barely noticeable.  The tree in my picture uses 36 cookies, and of the 10 cookie-cutter-sizes, from largest to smallest, I used: 5 cookies from size one, 5 from size two, 5 from size three, 5 from size four, 4 from size five, 4 from size six, 3 from size seven, 2 from size eight, 2 from size nine, and 1 from size ten.

Instead of gluing the cookies together with icing, I used a drinking straw to cut a whole in the center of each cookie before baking and piled them onto a dowel-topped base.  This enabled me to arrange and rearrange the cookies whenever I changed my mind about how many of each cookie-size to use (I finally decided to mostly use large cookies because the resultant tree looks more like a fir).  This also makes the cookies removable and edible (warning: they harden if left out too long).  For the cookie stand, I purchased the base at a craft store and drilled a hole in its center.  I glued a ¼" dowel into the hole and cut it to the desired length (12" in my case).

I wish I was able to decorate cookies with creative little details.  But I'm no artist, so I've decided that simplicity will suffice.  (My parents didn't pass along their artistic genes to me; when we lost an enormous oak tree from the front yard of my childhood home, they made these amazing turtle stools for each of us.)  Read more.

Mini Gingerbread Houses

I love gingerbread houses and so I've made many of them over the years, but they have their shortcomings.  In order for the house not to collapse, its structural components need to be stiff—too stiff to enjoy eating.  And because of the excessive candy and frosting, the most well-decorated houses always end up being the most sickly sweet. 

But thankfully, my mini gingerbread houses are small enough to support themselves with a soft and edible gingerbread.  They don't need candy decorations either.  I make two different house sizes: small ones (2 inches long), and mini ones (1½ inches long, and small enough to balance on a cup of coffee or a glass of milk!).  Read more.