Category Archives: Cookies

Honey Cake Biscotti/Mandel Bread with Chocolate Chips


Full disclosure, I spent more time trying to figure out the title for this post than I did baking the actual cookies! In the end, all I know is this Honey Cake Biscotti Mandel Bread with chocolate chips is super delicious!

I first saw this recipe in Paula Shoyer’s cookbook The Holiday Kosher Baker, and knew I had to try it. Paula calls them honey cake biscotti but after I tasted them, I felt the texture was really more like mandel bread. Just a quick mandel vs. biscotti clarification…  While most people are familiar with the more popular and sexy Italian biscotti made in a myriad of flavors which are crisp and dunked in coffee, the mandel is a traditional Jewish cookie and something your bubbe (a Jewish grandmother) enjoys with a glass of tea and bakes enough to share with everyone she knows – and I mean everyone! When you look at them side by side, they resemble each other and taste similar. The main difference is mandel is usually a little softer than, and not as dry as biscotti because it contains more oil. Biscotti are always twice baked whereas mandel can be sliced and served as a softer cookie or twice baked.
With the holidays quickly approaching, I’ve been spending time trying new recipes to share with family and friends (just like the bubbe!). I’m lucky to have a nice support system of taste testers! When I sent some to my son last week he said “I don’t know how you did it, but you somehow managed to make mandel bread taste just like honey cake.” I told him I couldn’t take all of the credit for that but thanked him just the same. I am really glad I tried this one; it’s a winner. They really taste like honey cake, it’s amazing! Thank you Paula Shoyer!

The original recipe calls for shaping them and baking them right away. I found the dough too loose so I put it in the refrigerator for an hour. This is how I prepare my mom’s recipe so I’m sure it’s just second nature for me to do it that way. You can also leave the dough in the bowl and place it in the fridge, then mold it into logs after you take it out. If it seems firm enough for you to skip the refrigerator, go for it and get it in the oven.


When baking with honey, here is a good tip… A trick to help the honey slide out of the measuring cup is to measure the oil first. Then when you put the honey in, it won’t stick to the glass. I love this trick! This is also good when using molasses, corn syrup or any other sticky liquid.

My mother’s mandel recipe has chocolate chips added, so I figured why not try adding chocolate chips in these – it was a good decision! Honey and chocolate are a nice marriage. You could also add white raisins and walnuts which are equally as delicious or leave them plain. This recipe is a great start to a sweet new year! Enjoy!

Ingredients:
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon*
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (I like to grate it fresh)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 extra large eggs (at room temperature)
½ cup extra light extra light olive oil
½ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup warm coffee (regular or decaf)
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

Optional version: You can also make this with raisins and walnuts by using ½ cup white or black raisins and ½ cup chopped walnuts or make them plain. This recipe is adapted from Paula Shoyer’s Honey Cake Biscotti recipe.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and sift together. In another bowl add the oil, honey, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla, coffee and whisk together well. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently to incorporate. If using chips or other addition, add in at this time.

Divide the dough in half and shape it into a rectangular log about 10 to 12 inches long by 4 inches wide. I placed mine in plastic wrap which helped to mold them and put them in the fridge for an hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the dough is chilled, place on the cookie sheet leaving 2 to 3 inches in between the loaves. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until the loaves are set and a little browned on the bottom. Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let sit for 5 minutes. Place back on the cookie sheet and slice to the thickness you like. I like a thinner cookie so I sliced mine ½” but you could easily make them ¾ – 1” if you want them thicker like biscotti. If you want a softer mandel, don’t double bake them. If you want them crunchy, bake them a second time. Lower the temperature of the oven to 300. Place the cookies cut side down. Bake for 8 minutes take them out and turn them and bake them another 5 – 8 minutes until crisp. Let the cookies cool on the pan. Store them in an airtight container for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.

This recipe yields 30 to 40 pieces depending on the size you slice them.

*I first tried Vietnamese cinnamon at my mother-in-law’s house several years ago and have never used another cinnamon since! It is strong, rich and sweet, just the way cinnamon should taste. It has a higher oil content helping it disperse more thoroughly in baked goods. If you love the taste of cinnamon, you must try it! It’s a little more expensive than what you are currently buying, but well worth the money and a little goes a long way. I find it at spice shops, Sur La Table, and  specialty groceries. Here is a link to purchasing it online.  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/vietnamese-cinnamon-3-oz

It was Almost like a Hamantashen Throw Down!


It was almost like a hamantashen throw down at my house on Monday, the only difference is there was no winner – just a really good time. Every year for the past few years, my friend Marcy and I get together to bake hamantashen for Purim. Hamantashen are the triangular cookies we eat during the holiday. Purim is a fun Jewish holiday which includes dressing up in costume, carnivals and drinking quite a bit! FYI, the drinking is so we can no longer tell the difference between good and evil – not such a bad thing once a year! As with all Jewish holidays, there is a retelling of the story of why we are celebrating and we always have very traditional and symbolic foods we eat. For Purim, hamantashen play a staring role. Let me set the scene… 6 different fillings on the counter, 5 dough recipes all chilled overnight and wrapped tight in plastic wrap, 4 fun hours of baking, 3 too many hamantashen eaten which gave me a bellyache, 2 friends happily talking the morning away, and finally 1 house that smelled absolutely delicious – and still does! Did I forget to mention approximately 200 hamantashen were made?

Mine were baked, packed up and shipped out yesterday or handed out to local friends. Hers were frozen and will be baked today then brought to Connecticut for some very lucky people! Among the varieties: a cream cheese dough reminiscent of rugalach, a traditional dough, a secret recipe dough, a chocolate dough, and finally a new one I tried from the 2nd Avenue Deli Cookbook which calls for almond flour. I almost said my new favorite but then deleted it. Like my mother always said “I have ten fingers and I love them all the same – don’t ask me to choose!” That is how I feel about most hamantashen recipes I’ve made.
I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before or not, but mother had some kind of obsession with hamantashen recipes. Not necessarily baking them – collecting them! For whatever reason, she included about 3 of them in the little 15 page handwritten cookbook she made for me when I got married. The crazy thing is while she was an avid baker, I don’t remember her ever baking hamantashen when I was growing up except for the time with the sisterhood from our Temple. So it was very surprising she added so many into my book. This being said, I guess it should be no surprise I have inherited her obsession. I never really thought of it like that, but clearly after reading my own words, what else would you call it? The only difference is I don’t write about them and collect them, I actually bake them!

Today I’m sharing Carole Walter’s recipe which my friend Marcy brought with her. Oddly enough is extremely similar to my mother’s except my mom used shortening (which is exactly why I know she never made them – she never used shortening!) and she always baked with jumbo eggs. Carole uses butter in her recipe and large eggs. The preparation is a little different as well. Sorry mom, but Carole is the winner in this throw down not only because I’m not a fan of shortening – because I don’t think my mom ever made them! However, I do think my mom would approve and besides, there is always room for one more hamantashen in your life – and in my mother’s case, one more recipe to add to the list! I hope you try this recipe which is adapted from Carole Walter’s cookbook simply called Great Cookies! The name says it all, they are great cookies and very delicious, with a nice bit of crunch on the outside and soft on the inside. Whatever filling you choose… Enjoy!

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (I would add one tsp. like my mom next time)
1 cup (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter or margarine cut into cubes
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
sanding sugar (optional)
Egg wash*
Fillings of your choice (I used cherry pie filling, lemon curd, and poppy seed)

This recipe makes 40 – 2” cookies


Dough

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse two or three times to combine. Add the butter and pulse five times then process 5 seconds to form meal like crumbs.

Place the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla in a small bowl and mix with a fork to combine. Pour the mixture into the processor and pulse four or five times, then process until the dough begins to clump together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and with floured hands, form into two disks, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days. (This dough may be frozen for up to 4 months)

When you are ready to bake, position the racks to the upper and lower 1/3 of the oven. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll the dough to a thickness of about 3/16”. My trick is to use paint sticks you get at the hardware store. I cover them with plastic wrap and use them as guides. I like that better than the rings you can put on your rolling pin. Using a 3” round cookie cutter, cut circles of dough and place them on the cookie sheets.

When all of the dough has been cut place about 1 ½ teaspoon of filling in the center of the circle. Brush the perimeter with the egg wash or a little water. To fold or to pinch? That is the question! Now you can either use the pinch method as I do and pinch 3 corners together, or use the folding method where you flap one side, then the next two till you form a triangle.


Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg wash. I sprinkled mine with some sanding sugar for that extra sparkle and crunch. Bake the hamantashen for 15 to 18 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. To ensure even browning, rotate the pans top to bottom and front to back. When done, remove from the oven and let them rest for 2 to 3 minutes on the cookie sheet then remove to a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container with wax paper between layers for up to 3 days. These cookies may be frozen.

*When I make an egg wash I use the whole egg and put in a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and a splash of water. Carole uses egg whites only. Either will work fine.

Couldn’t we all use some World Peace Cookies this Valentine’s Day?


Couldn’t we all use some World Peace Cookies this Valentine’s Day?

Every year I time things perfectly for Valentine’s Day. I make my famous sugar cookie dough, plan when I’ll be baking, spend the day baking and decorating the cookies and organize all of the packaging material ahead of time. Then I rush excitedly to the post office with more than a dozen boxes in tow all strapped to a luggage cart. Most of them for family and friends and usually a few extra for orders I get every year.

This year, things just didn’t come together for me. I didn’t have a plan. I never made the dough. The few orders I usually get fell though for various reasons. I had no packing material and on Friday night I tried to convince myself that it’s okay to skip a year. Then the guilt set in (Jewish mother’s guilt that is!). My boys are in college, how could I not send them cookies? So while watching a late night movie, I turned to my husband and said “okay, I’ll just make my mother’s thumb cookies and get them in the mail tomorrow.” They are the easiest cookie and they have a Hershey Kiss on top! What says I love you more than that? From a cookie perspective that is!

Now it’s Saturday. I wake up early and get caught up in a rerun of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (may her memory be a blessing). I laugh hysterically at the zaniness of the show (it was the Chuckles the Clown episode and if you have never seen it, you must). At 9:30am I decide I had better start baking knowing the post office closes at 2. As I head down the steps I’m now thinking if I end up with extra, I’ll put a few in a package for my niece and nephew; I always send them cookies too. But, are the thumb cookies enough? Amanda really loves chocolate… maybe I should make chocolate cookies also. I don’t know why I’m thinking this, but I am. I run upstairs and try to find a recipe I have for an easy cut out cookie. At this point, I still think I have time to make the batter, refrigerate the dough, roll them out, frost and decorate, pack them up, then pop them in the mail – all by 2pm. In the meantime, I put a pot of eggs on the stove to boil which are needed to make the thumb cookies.

Finally I start the cookies. I measure and sift the dry ingredients then I notice the recipe says must refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Somehow, I missed that part or maybe I thought by some magic I could still get all of this done. Most people might just scrap the whole thing, but not me! I grab Dorie Greenspan’s book Dorie’s Cookies and attempt to make her World Peace Cookies. It looks really easy, it’s a slice and bake and I can easily alter the ingredients I have already measured so it’s a perfect fit. I know what you are thinking, and yes, of course I know slice and bake cookies also need to be refrigerated! The recipe says it only needs a couple of hours in the freezer so I keep going.

The flour and cocoa needed for the 1st recipe was almost double that of Dories. I just had to add more cocoa powder to compensate for the world peace cookies. I cream the butter and then add the dry ingredients to the wet and think wow, this is so dry and crumbly – which she mentions in her recipe it might be. I look over the recipe again and now realize, I didn’t double the butter, or the sugar, or the vanilla!


New plan… I put everything away and Sunday I happily baked cookies, decorated cookies and packaged them to mail first thing Monday morning. If the cookies make it by today, what a surprise! If they make it by Wednesday then that will be perfect, I think you guys know where I stand on greeting card holidays! So here they are, some of the most delicious chocolate cookies I have ever tasted (and pretty indestructible if you don’t mind me saying!). They are a little soft with a nice chew, terrific texture and full of chocolate chips throughout! World peace cookies for everyone…  and Happy Valentine’s Day if you celebrate. For me, this is just another excuse to enjoy something chocolate! Enjoy!

Recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s book Dorie’s Cookies which is a fantastic book for anyone who likes to bake

Ingredients
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s cocoa powder)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe’s semisweet chocolate chunks – already chopped)

Makes about 32 cookies

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together and set aside.

I used a hand mixer and a large bowl to cream the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and homogeneous, about 3 minutes.  You can also use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Turn off the mixer; add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start blending. Mix on low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. The original recipe claims the dough is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s crumbly; sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Lucky for me!

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. Divide it in half and shape the dough into logs that are 1 ½ inches in diameter. Don’t worry about the length – get the diameter right and the length with follow. Mine came out to about 9” long. Wrap them tight in wax paper or plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours, or refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When you are ready to bake, place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Working with one log at a time, and using a long, sharp knife, slice the dough into ½ inch thick rounds. I found it was much too difficult straight from the fridge so I left mine out for about 15 minutes. When I sliced them, they tended to crumble; Dorie says to just push them back together onto each cookie. It worked like a charm!

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes – don’t open the oven. When the timer rings, they won’t look done, nor will they be firm. That’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are just warm, at which point you can munch on them or let them reach room temperature. They are amazingly delicious as is. The texture is just perfect, a little chewy and densely chocolate! I decided to frost a few of the ones that did not come out as nicely and sprinkled them with Valentine decorations. World Peace out!

Thumb Cookies with a Kiss – a Hershey’s Kiss that is!

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to send a Kiss from me to you, in the form of what else? A cookie! Thumb cookies with a kiss – A Hershey’s Kiss that is. I don’t have a long story to tell you about these cookies; I wish I did. If you are an avid reader of my blog, you’ll know from last year’s post, I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. http://www.splashofsherri.com/2015/02/13/happy-valentines-day-how-do-you-tell-someone-you-love-them/ I do however celebrate cookies! Every year I use this week as an excuse to bake cookies nonstop and send them to people I love – as if I needed an excuse to do that!

These are a quickest cookie you will ever make; therefore, this will be the quickest post I will ever write so you can get right to it. What I will tell you is they were one of my mom’s specialties and probably one of her most requested cookies. They melt in your mouth, are so easy to put together, and very versatile. You can fill them with a chocolate kiss, jam, or even caramel.

The batter is not like any other cookie I have seen and calls for a very unusual ingredient. Wait for it… wait for it… hard-boiled egg yolks. Yes, you read that correctly – hard-boiled egg yolks! The first time I made them, I was skeptical but they turned out great. The cookie is similar to shortbread and what I found is the egg yolk gives the cookie body. My mom would mash the egg yolks very finely with a fork. I used a fine hand grater and it worked terrific. You could also use a microplane if you have one. If not, a fork worked for my mom and will work for you too!

If you need a tip on how to cook the perfect hard-boiled egg click on this link from a post I wrote two years ago. You definitely want a beautiful bright yellow yolk for these! http://www.splashofsherri.com/2014/09/16/the-perfect-hard-boiled-egg/

So if you love someone, and that someone could be you, whip up these cookies and give yourself a kiss – you deserve it! Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 cups flour
3 hard-boiled egg yolks only (I used extra large)
½ cup sugar
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon of butter softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla*
Pinch of Kosher salt
50 Hershey Kisses (I used dark chocolate – for heart health!)
Optional: Jam (your favorite flavor)**

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Separate the eggs and set aside the whites of the eggs (you can save them to eat later). Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Grate in the egg yolks and blend well. Then add the flour and pinch of salt mixing till combined.

Roll small balls of dough about 1” (approximately 2 teaspoons) and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about an inch apart. I used the smallest cookie scoop which holds 2 teaspoons so every cookie would come out the same size. Press down the center of the dough with the Hershey Kiss.

Bake on the center rack of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes turning the cookie sheet half way through the baking – don’t over bake them. This recipe makes 4 dozen cookies

*you can change the flavor of the cookie very easily by using a variety of different extracts. I have made them with almond extract and they taste amazing.

**If using jam, I like to use a Hershey’s Kiss to make the indentation but you can also use your thumb – hence the title – thumb cookie! Use about ½ to ¾ teaspoon of jam. Use any flavor you like. My favorite is raspberry or blackberry. Don’t overfill, they will run out of the center.

 

 

 

Ode to my Mother-in-law Joan, and her Snickerdoodles

This post is an Ode to my Mother-in-law Joan, and her Snickerdoodles. First, the Snickerdoodle… Where did it originate? Who thought of the name? Why do so many people love it? One theory about it’s origin lies in New England. It is possible it is just a nonsense made up word. Need I remind you of the whoopie pie? Another theory could be, it is of German origin, from the word Schneckennudel (“snail noodles”). I’m sure there is some in-depth research done on this topic, but I’m satisfied with the ones I have found! Plus, who can argue with Schneckennudel? Why so many people love it – is easy! It’s a cookie that is crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, with a delicious hit of cinnamon in every bite and a little tang from the cream of tartar.

For me, it originated in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania in the 90’s. It was the first time I had ever heard of one, seen one, or tasted one. I was well into my 20’s and I’m pretty sure it was Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law Joan was the person who introduced me to this soft, fluffy, cinnamon laced cookie. She baked them almost every time we visited. There they sat in a tin, along side the other tins filled with cookies I had never tasted before: gingersnaps, spritz cookies, rum balls and chocolate gobs. Opening each tin was like unwrapping a birthday present and finding a surprise inside. After all of this, you probably think the snickerdoodle is my favorite cookie – but you would be wrong. I like them just fine but they are far from my favorite cookie. On the other hand, my boys and husband absolutely love them.

Over the years I have attempted to make them but they never came out as good as my mother-in-laws. Once they seemed so different my boy’s coined the term “Sherri-doodle” cookies! After a while, I gave up trying to make them. This past summer, my mother-in-law Joan passed away. I think in many ways her passing is the reason I have had such difficulty writing my blog. For me, food is so personal and has a strong connection to people and events in my life. Just thinking about writing seemed trivial and just sad. Plus, I loved her phone calls after I posted and knew I would miss that. It was the one thing we had most in common. We both love to read cookbooks, try new recipes, share our love of baking with others, and had a mutual admiration for the other when it came to the culinary arts.

I have always anticipated sharing some of her recipes with my readers. I guess it’s true what they say, don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do today. The past couple of weeks I faced my baker’s block and today I am facing my writer’s block. I attempted the Snickerdoodle once more. This time, using my mother-in-law Joan’s recipe, they were delicious. The recipe comes from a community cookbook entitled Tried & True Recipes, The Best from Beth Israel Center’s Sisterhood and submitted by Judy Weiss. So here’s to you Joan, the first in many tributes to your fantastic baking and cooking – of course with a Splash of Sherri! I just couldn’t bring myself to use Crisco as the original recipe calls for. Crisco is something we didn’t agree on!

1 cup butter softened (or Crisco)*
1 – 1/2 cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs (bring to room temperature)
2 – 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a bowl sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar, then add the eggs. Add the flour to the butter mixture, mix and then chill the dough. (I was a little impatient here and didn’t chill the dough). They came out great, but will chill the dough the next time to see if there is a difference.

Roll into balls the size of small walnuts. I used a cookie scoop that was 2  1/2 teaspoons. Roll the ball in mixture of 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart for 8 to 10 minutes. Joan’s notes say to bake 10 minutes for soft cookies, 12 -15 for crisp cookies. With the small scoop, I ended up with 80 2 1/2″ cookies! The cookies will puff when they bake and then flatten to a crinkled top.

*Some recipes call for 1/2 butter and 1/2 Crisco.

SONY DSC