Cookie Cat

When The Kid was away at college, my mom sent our little scholar a box of her famous frosted sugar cookies.  My generous child offered them to friends, but there were no takers—it was culinary school, and these were just boring sugar cookies from some random grandmother in North Carolina.NECI on Main, Montpelier, VermontEventually, one person had one.  Then another person, then word got out about these amazing cookies.  Long after they were nothing but a memory, chef-instructors would approach The Kid, and ask if there any cookies left.

“No?  Any idea if you might get some more?  And when they might arrive?  Lemme give you my cell number…and my home number…wait, here’s my address.  Any time at all, just gimme a yell.”

Like my own mom, another mom I know makes an epic frosted sugar cookie.  My mom’s cookies are shockingly delicious, but definitely not fancy.  Mama Cat’s are crispy, delicate, and also, shockingly delicious, but they are kind of fancy.Her son Chef Chrissie, makes them for very special dates.  He also must use them in some type business negotiations, because he calls them his “never-fail deal closers”.

If they were shoes, Mom’s would be a classic pair of Doc Martin boots; good-looking, super comfortable classics that you could wear every day, all day.  Mama Cat’s would be Christian Louboutin’s; elegant, exquisite, and for very special occasions.

As good as the cookie is, the frosting, this wonderful vanilla fudge, is almost better.  And, if you let the frosting boil for about five minutes before adding the confectioner’s sugar, it will set up much thicker, and can be placed into mini muffin papers, with a light sprinkling of jimmies. They transform into addictive little vanilla-fudge candies. The secret to these cookies is the dough and how it’s rolled.  If the dough gets warm, they won’t work, so unless you work really, really, fast, you will need to refrigerate it every so often while working with it, and before baking.  And these need to be rolled super thin—like 1/8-inch thin.  Don’t get lazy here, thinness makes a huge difference.  You want the finished product thin and crispy as a cracker.

These cookies are the perfect accompaniment for tea with the mother-in-law or to grease any particularly squeaky wheels you might have in your life.  They are chic little treats that would look appropriate at a patisserie in Paris, but also just right for eating in your pajamas while watching one of those “real” housewives shows.

Mama Cat’s Elegant Sugar Cookiesmama cat's cookies1 cup butter, softened

1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 & 1/2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients.  Split dough into two disks and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Roll cookie dough out very thin and cut into shapes. Bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about six minutes.  Cool on racks until completely cool.

Makes 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size and shape.

Vanilla Icingvanilla fudge1/2 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup milk

Heat ingredients in a saucepan until it boils.  Let it cool slightly, and mix in 1 & 3/4 -2 cups of sifted powdered sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Spread a thin layer of the warm icing on cookies and let cool and set.soft maple sugar cookiesIf you take your time, and use care, you’ll have an elegant, delicious confection to impress.  They’re great to have in your back pocket (but not literally—they’d crumble and stain your drawers).

Stained drawers.  See what I did there?

Thanks for your time.

Nuts about pecans

I think my sister-in-law hates me.

Leah is a perfectly nice woman and she makes my brother happy.

The problem originates with her father.  Her parents live in Camden County on a farm and have a small grove of pecan trees.And there grows the source of my strife.

Every so often after having visited, Leah will bring back bags and bags of big, fat, shelled pecans.  They put the store-bought version to complete and utter shame.

So, what’s the problem, you may ask?

The problem is that on occasion, the booty will include a bag of pecans which have been salted and toasted in butter.And any so-called self-control that I may tenuously possess goes right out of the window.  Soon I find myself diving into that delicious, delicious bag in a downward shame spiral that only concludes when I find myself with buttery hands and face, gazing guiltily into the now empty bag.

The girl (me) can’t help it.

Peanuts can be bitter and in quantity makes me queasy.  Macadamia nuts are really greasy and waxy feeling and are horrifically expensive to boot.  Cashews taste good, but the flavor is kind of one note.  Almonds are okay, but to me they don’t play well with others.  Pistachios are awesome, but go much better in baked goods and ice cream.

But pecans have many different layers of flavor.  When sautéed in some butter with a little salt, they obtain a whole new profile.  They enhance every dish to which they are added. In salads, I use them in place of bacon.  Pecans are a healthy, flavorful textural addition to rice.  Ground up you can use them as a coating for chicken and chops.  Ground even finer they add a rich, slightly sweet note to pastry and pie crust.

For Christmas I made pecan sandie’s for my dad.  But another cookie I made for him a while back was an even bigger hit.  In addition to the pecans, there’s chewy, tart dried cherries and chocolate.And if Leah wants to hate me some more with a couple pounds of buttered, salted pecans—I’m in.

Chocolate chunk-oatmeal cookies with pecans and cherries

Recipe courtesy America’s Test Kitchen

Makes sixteen 4-inch cookiesdried cherry pecan cookies1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder  

½ teaspoon baking soda  

½ teaspoon table salt  

1 ¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats 

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped 

1 cup dried cherries, chopped coarse 

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped into chunks about size of chocolate chips (about 3/4 cup) 

12 tablespoons butter, softened but still cool 

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

1 large egg  

1 teaspoon vanilla  

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries, and chocolate.
  3. In mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until just incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup, then roll between palms into balls about 2 inches in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1-inch thickness. Bake both baking sheets 12 minutes, rotate them front to back and top to bottom, then continue to bake until cookies are medium brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet, and shiny in cracks), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Do not overbake.
  5. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.Thanks for your time.

Fluffer What-er?

It literally took the cookies longer to bake than make.  And they only take 10 minutes to bake.

The Kid is kind, softhearted, and funny (although my child’s mortified when this news leaks).  It all goes against the carefully cultivated image of a cranky old man, shaking his fist at neighborhood children who venture too near his yard.

The Kid’s role modle

I’d made some lemon cookies for The Kid, who was joining us for dinner.  But they weren’t Petey’s thing, so I texted our offspring, to grab something sweet for Daddy on the way over.

I didn’t hear back, but I hardly ever do, so I just assumed that our conscientious child would deliver.

Only, The Kid either never received the message or forgot to procure.  I’m not entirely sure which; my spawn was a little fuzzy on the details.  But the upshot was, there was no dessert for Daddy.

The Kid was distraught.  Our child was all set to miss dinner to get him something when I had a thought.It was a thought about my kitchen crush; Alton Brown.

I’d been reading the October issue of Food Network Magazine.  And within its pages was an Alton recipe for peanut butter cookies.  But it was as stripped down as an abandoned Cadillac in a sketchy part of town.  It didn’t even have flour, for heaven’s sake (which means they’re gluten-free).  Regardless, they were a hit.

So thank you Chef Brown.  Call me maybe?

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

*(I haven’t tried it myself, but if there are peanut sensitivity issues you could probably sub in almond or sunflower butter)


1 cup smooth peanut butter

½ packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Alton mixes by hand, but at this point I just dumper everything into my mixer bowl and mixed until it just came together.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls.  Place 6 on each pan, and flatten with the tines of a fork making the traditional cross-hatch.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies look dry and are lightly browned around the edges.

Let cool on pans for 2 minutes then place cookies and parchment onto racks until totally cool.I tried rolling the balls in dark cocoa powder to give them a hit of chocolate.  It didn’t really flavor them, but when baking the cookies got an interesting pattern of black with light brown peeking through.

Which gave me an idea.

Before baking, I added orange gel food coloring into the dough until it was bright orange.  I made the cookies about ¼ the size of the originals.  After they baked and cooled completely, they looked very Halloween-y.

I then made a batch of the marshmallow frosting that I talked about a few weeks ago.hallo-1Using the frosting I made cookie sandwiches.  They’re pretty good right away, but if you make them, cover them, and let sit overnight, the frosting sets up, and won’t squish out the sides when you take a bite.

These littles cookies are very similar to a sandwich I’ve heard about.  Called a fluffer nutter; it’s marshmallow fluff and peanut butter on spongy white bread that was created in New England in 1913.

Which is pretty horrifying.  But if you don’t have the sandwich ingredients on hand for the small fry, you could give them approximately the same nutritional benefits by having them dine on cotton candy and gin (Of course, that’s assuming you always have cotton candy and gin in your kitchen–but who doesn’t?  Amiright?).

Thanks for your time.