Cookie Customs

The moment Christmas is underway, our eyes seem to avert to everything shiny and new. Our stomachs, meanwhile, are just longing for all things familiar and sugary sweet.

Recipes by Jenn Smurr
Photography by John Kazakalis
Styling by Lisa Malott

The holidays are our green light to pull out all the stops. Go big, or go home. Make it Deluxe.

It’s that time of year to overstimulate the senses with the latest LED sparkly lights for the house, the showstopping rib-eye roast for Christmas dinner, or that opulent $50 Chocolate Panettone you’re just hoping someone will send. Though when it comes to satisfying that cookie craving that naturally comes with Christmastime, going home might be the only place that ever really gets it right.

This Christmas (and, let’s be honest, most every day of the year), our mouths are watering mostly for fresh, home-baked goods. Those oaty, nutty, rustic cookies. . . the ones with a simplicity of flavors that hits the taste buds with a kind of complexity that’s laced with memories and slight sugar rushes. There is a sort of magic when the kitchen is flooded with the aroma of nostalgic, sweet, buttery dough. (Well, naturally, if Mom or Grandma are making them.)

One could argue it’s these simple familiar tastes, as opposed to the extravagant desserts of the season, that make for the desired momentary getaways from December’s hustle and bustle. While the most offbeat and elaborate of cookies may be on the rise, decorated in detail and washed in bright hues, few things can satisfy like a fresh homemade batch of cookies straight from the oven. Sometime it’s only those classic recipes that we grew up with that hold the savory sentiments of both holiday and home in one bite.

Of course, there never seems to be enough days in the month for baking cookies, let alone eating them (accompanied by Christmas-movie marathons, of course). Where there are empty cookie jars, there are eager taste buds, anticipating the plethora of sweets to be devoured over these next few weeks.

Rather than all the cutters and bedazzled frostings, the reason Grandma always gravitated to simple cookie drops and icebox-rigid dough slices may have been because they didn’t over-complicate the process or over-stimulate the taste buds. Rather, her perfected recipes seem to know just what we want, even when we don’t.

So, this year we bring you a few of our favorite recipes, some straight from Grandma’s recipe collection. Because, regardless of how many hours someone slaves over a roast, nothing else tastes quite like Christmas than those classic cookies.

 

LAKELANDER COOKIE

AKA “NOT YOUR AVERAGE PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH COOKIE”
(Since we like to think Lakeland isn’t quite “average” itself…)

peanut butter filling:
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (Jenn enjoys Reese’s peanut butter)
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt

peanut butter cookies:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 2/3 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not instant)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make the peanut butter filling, combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl using a whisk. Cover and chill the mixture until the cookies are ready to be filled.

To make the peanut butter cookies, in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir in the oats and salt. Set aside the dry ingredients.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine butter, chunky peanut butter, and sugars. Cream on medium-high speed until very fluffy and pale, at least 3 minutes, scraping down the mixing bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer to medium-low and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating to incorporate each and scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients on low speed a little at a time, and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, going all the way to the bottom of the bowl to mix in the dry ingredients well.

Use an ice-cream scoop to portion all the cookies in 1-ounce scoops (or use about 1 heaping tablespoon per cookie), placing the scoops on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (Place all the cookies close together for the chilling step — you will space them for baking later.) You should have about 48 cookies. Chill the scooped cookies for at least two hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange 8 cookies, spaced evenly apart and staggered, on each parchment-lined baking sheet. (Note: Do not flatten the cookies; they will flatten as they bake.) Set the baking sheet inside another baking sheet to double pan and place it in the oven. Bake until evenly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway throughout. If you have 2 double-panned pans in the oven at the same time, also switch them between the racks. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing the cookies with a metal spatula. Allow the cookies to cool completely before filling them.

To make a cookie sandwich, turn one cookie flat side up and spread with a little less than 2 teaspoons of filling. (If you have a 1-ounce scoop, you can slightly underfill it to portion the filling or underfill a tablespoon) Top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently. Repeat until all the cookies are assembled into sandwiches.

NANA’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES

2 sticks of butter (softened)
4 Tbsp sugar
2 cups flour
2 cups finely chopped pecans
2 tsp vanilla
Powder sugar (for rolling cookies after baked)

Cream room temp butter with sugar. Gradually add flour. Once mixed, add vanilla and pecans. Bake on parchment paper at 350 degrees F. for 8-10 minutes. Don’t overbake. (You want them to melt in your mouth, right?) Roll in powdered sugar, and then roll once more.

SALTED RYE COOKIES
(two versions)

Version 1:
1 cup (2 sticks / 225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg

Kosher salt
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest (optional)
2 1/2 cups (230 g) (dark) rye flour
3 Tbsp coarse sugar

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, a pinch of salt, and the orange zest. Gradually mix in flour. Divide the dough into 2 portions, and place each on a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape into logs about 2 inches in diameter and wrap tightly. To shape the soft dough log into a more perfect cylinder, use a paper-towel tube: Cut the tube open vertically along one side and nest the wrapped log inside, then tape or rubber-band the tube closed. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a sheet of waxed paper, combine 1 1/2 tsp salt and the sparkling coarse sugar. Unwrap the dough logs and roll them in the mixture to coat well. Place each log on a cutting board and cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds, arranging the rounds one inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned at the edges, about 16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through so cookies bake evenly. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Version 2:
Follow previous instructions. Cut cookies a tad bit thicker. Make a small indention and fill with 1/2 tsp of your favorite jam or jelly. We used raspberry preserves. Enjoy!

FLOURLESS OATMEAL
CHOCOLATE CHUNK
COOKIES

(two versions)
Version 1:
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats, divided
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
Parchment paper
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. and set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. In a food processor or blender, pulse 1 1/4 cups oats until very finely ground. Add cornstarch and baking powder; pulse briefly. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate and remaining oats. Drop dough by tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool on
sheets for 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Version 2:
LACE COOKIES
Follow previous instructions, but double butter for thin, light, crisp Lace Oatmeal
Chocolate Chunk cookies.