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While my mom was here to lend a hand, I decided to tackle a few of the things on my 31 before 32 list. One of the items she was keen on helping me with was trying out recipes from the Sweet & Vicious Cookbook. We decided on two cookie recipes, the first of which was the Southern Sartoralist’s Cookie. A pretty impressive name to live up to, but we were not disappointed.
- This cookie was so kick ass that we made two batches in three days. The first we took to Andy’s coworkers (all 2 dozen were gone within 3 hours) and the second we made the night before my mom left so she could take them to some of our family in NC. And so she’d have road trip treats, but mostly for family 😉
- I lucked into some modifications since we made both batches so close together, first we tried this with both dark and light brown sugar and hands down dark brown sugar is the way to go. The other thing I accidentally tweaked was the measurement for the smoked salt. While that stuff is incredibly powerful, I will say that the cookies with a slightly more full 1/2 a tsp (think slightly humped not level) really highlighted the play of salty and sweet in the recipe.
- I know it is a little more complex than your average rip and dump cookie recipe, but it is well worth the effort. I get a lot of positive feedback on my baking, but rarely have a gotten this enthusiastic of a response. After having one of the left over cookies for dessert the day we made the first batch, Andy even said it was good that he hadn’t tried the cookies when we dropped them off at his office because he wouldn’t have be able to stop himself from eating them all. My mom is on a very strict diet right now (she’s lost almost 30lbs!), but after trying a single bite, she rearranged her daily calorie allotment to make sure she had enough at the end of the day for a single cookie.
Still feeling pleased with my recent baking win, I wanted to try my hand at a similar recipe, these London Fog Sugar Cookies. The cookie part was pretty much the same, and I am a sucker for anything with Earl Grey tea and fresh vanilla. Since we’re currently in what will most likely be our last cold snap of the season, I couldn’t think of a better time to whip up something that pairs great with a hot mug of something.
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar
- ½ vanilla bean pod, split and seeds removed
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon Earl Grey tea leaves (I just cut open one teabag and measured from there)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons decorating sugar (for rolling, optional)
- In a small bowl or dish, combine the granulated sugar, icing sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Using your hands, rub the seeds into the sugar to evenly distribute them throughout.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the vanilla sugar mixture. Add egg and vanilla and mix until blended well.
- Add the flour, tea leaves, baking powder and salt and mix to combine into a soft dough.
- On a clean work surface, roll the dough into a log. Roll log in decorating sugar (if using). Wrap log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours until ready to bake.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease a baking sheet. Slice chilled dough into ¼-inch thick slices. Bake until the edges are light brown and the middles set, about 6-8 minutes. Be aware that the bottoms will brown long before the sides or tops do, so don’t over bake!
- Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Will keep covered at room temperature for 1-2 days.
- Since the Thyme Cookies were so surprisingly wonderful, I had really high hopes for this recipe. Before I get all nit-picky, I want to say this was a solidly good recipe; the problem was that I wasn’t wanting merely “good” I wanted “fantastic”.
- The biggest issue I had with this recipe was flavor. Not that these had a bad flavor, they were just a little bland. The vanilla was very subtle and the earl grey, well if I hadn’t made them myself, I wouldn’t have known it was in there. They were perfectly fine with an accompanying strong cup of tea. All in all, if I decide to make these again, I am going to have to dial the flavors way up.
When it comes to baking, I am one of those people who like to have immediate results; sure, it may take hours, but at the end of the day, you have a finished product. In order to make myself stretch a little as a baker (and as a person), I decided to try the recipe for Vanilla & Thyme Slice & Bake Cookies by A Beautiful Mess. Now the recipe says you can chill the cookies for a mere two hours, but since overnight was the optimal time, it seemed like the perfect place for me to start.
For the cookies:
- 1 cup softened butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, plus more for decorating
- 1 egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the glaze:
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- First, cream together the butter, sugar, and the seeds from the vanilla bean. To remove them just slice the bean down the center, and then use the tip of your knife to scrape the seeds out. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the thyme and egg and whisk together until well incorporated.
- Then stir in the flour and salt until a dough ball forms. You may need to use your (clean) hands to press the dough together here. Roll the dough into long cylinder, cover in plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 2 hours or overnight. You can keep this frozen in your freezer for at least a month (probably longer).
- When you are ready to make cookies, remove from the freezer and allow to sit out for a few minutes while your oven preheats. Then slice into 1/4 inch or slightly thicker rounds and place on a baking sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper.
- Bake at 325°F for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the cookies on a cooling rack.
- In the meantime, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze, then place back on the cooling rack to allow excess glaze to drip off (put some wax paper underneath for easy clean up). If you are feeling fancy (remember, we are going for real life Martha here), you can decorate the tops with a few thyme leaves as well.
- This recipe was a winner for me. Personally, I’d skip the glaze if I was making them for just myself, but if you are a big fan of sweet, the thin vanilla glaze really does give you that little something extra. Plus it makes for a prettier cookie if you top it with the fresh thyme leaves.
- Texture-wise, these cookies are much more like a shortbread than your the average slice and bake you get from the grocery store. They also don’t bake up in the expected manner. It sounds strange, but they “dry out” rather than expand and bake. So you have to watch them a little more closely. I baked for the minimum recommended time and then checked on them every two minutes afterwards until they were done.
Not to brag, but I have been pretty pleased with the status of my 30 before 31 list lately. Never before have I had some many items crossed off at this point in the year; usually it’s a mad scramble to get things done come about January. I still have a long way to go, but it feels good to be checking things off regularly. My current push is to cross off #8 – Make 12 recipes from cookbooks I already own, before the end of the year. So far all the recipes have been good, and with the slightest tinge of Fall in the air, I felt it was a good time to try out the recipe for Orange Spice Cookies.
Since I lacked not only the fluted pastry wheel, but any pastry wheel at all, I decided to cut these out the way I do most of the cookies I make. With one of the glasses from my cabinet 🙂
- I had the worst time with this recipe. I couldn’t get the dough to hold together; it was too soft to roll out even after throwing it in the freezer for five minutes to help it set up. There was some very unladylike cursing and general railing about the folks at Southern Living and whether or not they even bother to try their own recipes before endorsing them. I finally ended up adding extra flour, and everything was peachy, though I sill planned a scathing review… then I realized that I made a teeny tiny error when putting these cookies together. And by teeny tiny, I mean I accidentally doubled the amount of butter called for. So yeah, it was all on me, and I am really glad I didn’t write anything unkind before I figured out my mistake.
- The only real criticism I have for the final product is that it is really sweet. The cookies are pretty sweet on their own, and adding the icing just takes it a little too far for me. After rolling it around in my mind a bit, I think I’ll probably trade the the icing for a dark chocolate drizzle or dipping the cookies in dark chocolate next time I make them.
I wasn’t sure how much baking I’d be interested in doing this month, I honestly ended up a bit baked-out after the last two weeks in December. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t want to make another brownie, cookie, or cupcake for months. There was a problem with that you see; my brother in law and his girlfriend gave me two cookbooks for Christmas, and I thought I’d page through them, you know just to see. Then I find myself adding ingredients to our shopping list and pulling out baking sheets. I just can’t seem to help myself .
The first recipe I decided to try out was Brown Sugar Shortbreads from Southern Living Incredible Cookies, since they were fairly straight forward and go great with warm beverages.
- I’ve only made shortbread cookies a couple of times, so I admit that my technique may be a bit lacking, but I had issues getting the dough to come together. I followed the instructions exactly, but I couldn’t get it past the crumbly mess stage. Finally, I decided to knead in additional fat to get where it needed to be to roll out. I used 2 tbsp vegetable shortening, which in hind sight wasn’t the best idea, so if you run into a similar issue, use butter. After that though, things went smoothly.
- I’ve always thought shortbread cookies were a little bland on their own, something you had to have with something else. These, however, are pretty awesome on their own. The brown sugar adds a dark richness that is far more complex than the standard buttery flavor. I am usually pretty good about only having a cookie or two before packing the rest up for Andy to take to the office, but I had quite a few of these before I managed to get the box closed.
- Just for funsies, I sprinkled a couple of the warm cookies with cinnamon sugar, and Andy had them all gone before I’d even made my tea.