Menage a Trois Cookies

Menage a Trois Cookies - anneliesz

Menage a Trois Cookies

I’ve had cookies on the brain recently and with a very specific point of view: make one batch of cookie dough and then through minor adjustments make three flavors of cookies. Simplicity in execution and finding a simple hack for cookie season can be sexy, no? *Keep the butter at room temperature for 15 minutes so that your finger indents the butter easily but it’s not quite at the soft as skin balm stage.

Makes 24 cookies

1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature*
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Pumpkin Spice Sparklers
2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Ras el Hanout & Vanilla
1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout spice mix
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cacao & Pink Peppercorn
2 teaspoons cacao nibs
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pink peppercorn


Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes. Add each egg, one at a time to to the creamed butter, stopping between eggs and scraping down the sides of your bowl. Add all of the flour at once, pulsing 5 times to begin to integrate the flour into the wet ingredients. Mix the flour in until it just comes together. Divide the cookie dough into three portions (roughly 214 grams each) dispersed into three small bowls to create the three cookie flavors below.

Pumpkin Spice Sparkler: Stir together the sparkling sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a ramekin. Use a tablespoon to roll 8 dough balls. Roll each ball in the spiced sugar until well coated. Place the balls on a plate to chill for 1 hour at least.

Ras el Hanout and Vanilla: Sprinkle the ras el hanout onto the cookie dough in one of the two remaining bowls. Add the vanilla. Mix to combine. Chill the dough for at least one hour. When ready to bake, use a tablespoon to roll 8 balls of dough.

Cacao & Pink Peppercorn: Sprinkle the cacao nibs an pink peppercorn onto the cookie dough in the last bowl. Mix to combine. Chill the dough for at least one hour. When ready to bake, use a tablespoon to roll 8 balls of dough.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place the cookie dough balls 2 inches apart– you’ll be baking in batches. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pan at the 5 minute mark. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving them to fully cool on a wire rack. Bake the remaining cookies.



PS- Store the cookies in a sealed container for 1 week. And this is where you are in luck because cookie tins should start hitting the shelves soon.

PPS- I may be weird but I like to freeze cookies too as if it is some sort of deterrent to the cookie monster (*ahem*) finding them in the wilds of the countertop. If you’re going this route, consider freezing the cookie dough balls pre-baked. Said cookie monster actually likes frozen cookies but stops short of dough. This kind of prep will mean easy, fast fresh cookies ready to be baked off once you know company is coming over. They should be fine for a month if stored in a freezer-safe sealed bag.

Menage a Trois Cookies - annelies

Cookery Bookshelf

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies anneliesz

How is a tradition made? I’m inclined to think the plain response is repetition. But look for the underlying root cause and you’ll find desire–that holds something of intrinsic interest. Is it desire for gobbling sugar-laden rounds, crispy or chewy at a yearly cookie swap? Perhaps. But, peek beneath that layer of parchment paper and the desire goes well beyond unsalted butter creamed into brown sugar and granulated white. If we cook to nourish, we bake to share.

Growing up, Christmas cookies didn’t factor into our holiday experience. My mom regularly kept keen tabs on the sugar supply entering our house. Once, while visiting family in Mexico, my eyes bugged out of my head seeing the elaborate platters of cookies baked simply for service when guests visited. Can you imagine keeping a cookie inventory with the expectation of people regularly visiting? More often, cookies around here get frozen, packed up and toted to work or washed down with a sip of tea. But, once a year, for the past few, we congregate to share cookies with friends who have brought their own batch to dispatch to a new home.

This year, I contemplated making this year’s get-together the final hurrah in a string of past year cookie parties. I thought I had baked my last Christmas cookie until the day of the party when I pulled down the new cookbooks I had been waiting to put to good use and which I’m going to highlight below. What I had failed to see as I considered cutting the cookie swap ties is what I actually love about cookie parties. Each person brings cookies that reflect their personality, whether they’re nuanced and complex, simple and straightforward, or adventurous. This year’s batch was no less interesting.

Pierre Herme chocolate sables sidled up to chocolate peanut butter buckeyes. Linzer cookies with cranberry orange jam sat near Mexican pfeffernusse. Saffron snickerdoodles and sandwich cookies cut in animal shapes slicked with tomato jam set up shop near double chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate fudge punctuated by white chocolate chips kept company with chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies with hot fudge. The array of cookies distributed on the platters reflected the interesting assemblage of characters in our house. Each person’s individuality positively impacted the party and the wild collection of cookies served as a visual depiction.

Snickerdoodles - Cookie Love

“Any Which Way But You Will Never Lose” Snickerdoodles

from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy

When my friend Kate’s newest cookbook came out in April, I pre-ordered it even though I knew I wouldn’t use it until December. I’ve visited Mindy’s HotChocolate in Chicago and toted home a bag of one of her hot chocolate blends to keep the sweetness going strong. What I liked right off the mark with Cookie Love is how cookie plates play a regular role at HotChocolate.  The book is organized like a cookie plate–even the table of contents resembles a tic-tac-toe grid of cookie types. Segal says, “Like serving a cookie plate, making cookies is a generous act.” (p. 4) Her cookie plates focus on providing cookies of different textures, flavors, and colors, offering a cookie type for each kind of eater. Two methods for shortbread yield fun and aesthetically pleasing sandy crisps of Leopard Print Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Shortbread with Hot Fudge (p. 61). Best Friends cookies (p. 119) marry coffee and malted milk hot fudge. In her tough love front matter section, Segal implores you to “Embrace the extras.” (p.4) She puts her methods where her mouth is giving multiple ways that extras can be used up. The photography is inventive and sometimes whimsical much like the cookie-maker herself, evidenced in cookies like the Black Sabbath (p. 85), a deep dark chocolate sandwich cookie with frosty peppermint filling and that pays homage to Segal’s appreciation for heavy metal. Next up on the cookie-baking front: quite possibly the Peanut Butter Thumbprints with Strawberry Lambic Jam (p. 145). But, for the Cookie Swap, I made the Snickerdoodles. Rolled in cinnamon sugar, the flavor is all familiar but the cookie clincher can be easily summed up as two kinds of salt–one to round out the sweetness and the other, a bit of crunch. It just so happened that Kate brought Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprints dented with gooey hot fudge, a variation of Hot Fudge Thumbprints (p. 147) that another party-goer exulted over when the second layer of cookies made an appearance.

Chocolate Wafer Cookies - Gluten Free Wishlist

Chocolate Wafer Cookies

from Gluten-Free Wishlist by Jeanne Sauvage

I met Jeanne in person only this year during a brief trip to Seattle. She kindly let me prep for a cooking demo in her kitchen and after every last ingredient had been measured and bagged, we sat down for tea and she offered me cookies from a batch she was testing. That cookie! Chewy in the middle, crisp around the edges and deeply doused in chocolate, it left quite an impression. When she offered to pack up the batch for me to ferry away to my hotel room, I happily accepted them. Every year at the Cookie Party, I bake a batch of gluten-free cookies. I knew that this year’s fete needed to include one of her cookies and she happily sent me a copy of her cookbook to check out and cook through. I love the premise behind Gluten-Free Wishlist creating a collection of recipes that include foods that have been missed when living gluten-free. As testament to that idea, one Cookie Party attendee decided to purchase a copy of the cookbook for his sister upon seeing the photo of Ramen Soup (p. 186) on the cover. Sauvage’s foundation in technique comes through in her precise instruction, including a six-page method for making Croissants (p. 147) with a variation for Chocolate Croissants. Using Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (p. 39), a blend that kicks off the book means the recipes  that follow it are straightforward with expert guidance of what to look for as you bake and cook. The morning of the Cookie Party, I was running a bit behind schedule and I say this primarily to highlight how easy the Chocolate Wafer Cookies (p. 196) were to make. If I’d had enough time, I would have converted those Chocolate Wafer Cookies into Jeanneos (p. 205), slathering their middles with frosting. And the same cookies would make a fabulous base crust for an icebox pie (hello, Peanut Butter Cream or Banana Cream Pie!). I’m eyeing the Soft Pretzels (p. 69) next and am intrigued by the Gluten-Free Master Sourdough (p. 87) though the recipe for Stroopwafels (p. 206) hits all the high notes for Dutch food taste memories of morsels my Dad would bring home from Henk’s Black Forest Bakery.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts - Gluten-Free Girl Everyday

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Gluten-Free Girl Everyday by Shauna James Ahern with Daniel Ahern

Over in Emeryville, there’s a tiny bakery that sells a screamingly good hazelnut chocolate chip cookie. For this year’s Cookie Party, I knew I wanted to bake two types of gluten-free cookies because I figured most of the cookies friends would bring would be glutenful and I knew three people attending are gluten-avoiders. I wanted their cookie options to be interesting, delicious, and safe. When Shauna James Ahern and Dan Ahern launched a kickstarter last November, I kicked in and was rewarded with a box of their gluten-free flour with a chocolate chip cookie recipe on the side of the box. I had a hunch that the ingredients were within reach and proceeded to mix them together. I discovered happily the suggestion to add chopped hazelnuts to the batter. Bingo! When these cookies hit the cooling rack, it was mighty hard to hold myself back from just eating one with chocolate melting as the cookie is torn in two. Aside from the cookie being a good gluten-free cookie, this was one good cookie. I spirited over to my cookbook shelf. Sure enough, inside Ahern’s James Beard award-winning cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, there on page 289, was the Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts recipe. Ahern and I worked together at a previous company. Her writing wins me over and her recipes are easy to navigate. Earlier this year, we earmarked several of their recipes while going through a Whole 30 nutrition reset. I’ve bookmarked others like the Edamame and Sweet Rice Salad with Salty Seeds (p. 151) for a quick weeknight meal or the Millet Fritters with Feta, Spinach, and Golden Raisins (p. 98).  I’ve made their Millet Waffles with Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche, and Capers (p.103) which were light, crunchy, briny, creamy, and smoky. This cookbook leans on the more savory side and so do I.

Christmas Cookies- anneliesz

I believe in Christmas and the reason for the season. But, I also wish my friends Happy Hanukkah who celebrate that holiday and send Happy Holidays greetings to friends who exchange gifts without attachment. This is the first year I’ve caught a few sentiments thrown out declaring, “Happy Everything!” and I don’t know what that means. Let’s say that next year, the cookie party assembled under one theme, say chocolate chip cookies. I can guarantee that if there are 15 people in attendance, there will be 15 variations on the same chocolate chip cookie idea. And doesn’t that diversity make for a more interesting conversation?

It’s hard to celebrate the season singing Christmas carols or being merry and bright in light of recent events including the massacre in San Bernardino. The Los Angeles Times style of reporting short bursts of updates has satisfied my need to know and stay current, perhaps to my detriment as I scroll and refresh the page with frequency, gobbling information like aforementioned cookies. We are at the start of two holidays that are celebrations and in the back of my mind I think about employees gathered at an ordinary office Christmas party in Southern California, not knowing as they drank cider or punch that their lives were about to change. Perhaps they too ate cookies before the doors splayed open.

We gather together bringing who we are to the table. What we bring, who we are can vary differently from the person next to us, but isn’t that part of the beauty of a cookie swap? Your cookie will be different from my cookie and that makes it delicious in its own right. I can’t imagine requiring everyone to bring the same cookie made from the same recipe as the only way to party. Each cookie and each person who bakes them holds so much intrinsic worth. Sometimes, it is all we can do to come to a cookie party, toting a baker’s dozen to share with the stranger who looks nothing like us and who just might become a new friend. Sometimes, it is all we can do to spread cheer and be the change we wish to see in our world, in our living room, right here.

Cookery Bookshelf

Tea and Cookies: Cookbooks to Use for a Christmas Cookie Exchange at Teatime

A few years ago, I decided that what the holidays really needed was another party. I can’t remember if this was prompted by the desire to see people congregate under mistletoe or just eat, drink, and be merry, but we will go with the latter response. Happily what started out as a small food blogger cookie swap has continued for several years and looped in friends outside of the blogosphere too. This Christmas cookie exchange lets me try new cookie recipes to discover the right mix of flavors and options for an enticing collection. I have further amended the cookie swap, hosting it at teatime and dubbing it as Tea & Cookies. Who wouldn’t enjoy a spot of afternoon tea with their sweets, right? For this year’s cookie swap I focused on test driving new 2014 cookbooks and am sharing my findings. Include your favorite cookie and recipe link if you have it, in the comments section.


Chocolate Teff Brownies - Flavor Flours

Chocolate Teff Brownies from Flavor Flours
Tea Pairing: Mandarin Rose Petal Black Tea from ML Tea

When I heard Alice Medrich was penning a book on baking with whole grain flours from the perspective of flavor first, I became intrigued. My friend, Irvin and I cemented our friendship years ago on this very topic of thinking of flours as a flavor base upon which to build in baking. Teff works marvelously well with chocolate and is naturally gluten-free. How many people think of teff is griddled into injera flatbread used to scoop up delectable Ethiopian food. Teff flour is darkly hued and works so very well with 70% chocolate. What I liked about Flavor Flours is that each of the flours used also is naturally gluten-free, even if Medrich is leading with flavor first, making the entire book gluten-free. I’ve gotten to work with her before and she is meticulous about recipe testing. Her brownies are already a favorite of mine and these teff brownies were popular at the cookie swap. Plan on cutting small squares—they are quite rich. Friends with birthdays coming up can expect me to bake Chocolate Chestnut Souffle Cake (p. 206), Yogurt Tart (p. 110), and Buckwheat Cake with Rose Apples (p. 172), though I’m keeping an eye on these Buckwheat Linzer Cookies too. I’m quite convinced that roses and chocolate are meant to be along with other dynamic duos like basil and tomato or strawberry and vanilla. Mandarin Rose consists of a smooth black tea tinged with a floral high note of rose petals.


Norah's Lemon Lemon Cookies - Isa Does It

Norah’s Lemon Lemon Cookies from Isa Does It
Tea Pairing: Prince Wladimir from Kuzmi Tea 

Winter time in California means citrus in as many shades as you can imagine. I was given Isa Does It as a gift and let me tell you that it paid off in a friendship with a neighbor who saw it in my window and decided she liked the inhabitants of our apartment before meeting us. That is a win. These cookies are vegan and use coconut oil in two very interesting ways: the oil is used in the cookie batter and then again in the lemon glaze. Because I had a pomelo, I substituted it for the lemons called for in the recipe. I also had just picked up some citrus chef’s essences from Afterlier and was jonesing to try them out. So, a dash of bergamot oil and two dashes of blood orange oil later, I had morphed Norah’s Lemon Lemon Cookies into Citrus Cookies. They are screaming good and offer a chewiness with a bit of crunch in the glaze. Cookbook notables in Isa Does It iclude the Tofu Butchery section which shows the myriad ways to process a cube of tofu into edible bites. Dishes I’m looking forward to cooking up include Sunflower Mac (p.116), Sesame Slaw (p. 58), and Tamale Shepherd’s Pie (p. 231). Prince Wladimir tea reminds me a bit of an Earl Grey with sass. It has a bit of a smooth profile with a bit of vanilla playing off the citrus notes. It pairs perfectly with the Citrus cookies.

Sarah Bernhardt Cakes - A Kitchen in France

Sarah Bernhardt Cakes from A Kitchen in France
Tea Pairing: Breakfast Blend Tea from Fortnum & Mason

I sped read my way through this gorgeous book one evening after it appeared in my mailbox. A day later and I learned it was a gift—the best possible kind of gift. I had already marked these little Sarah Bernhardt Cakes as being ideal for a cookie swap given how unique they would be in contrast to more expected cookies. Mimi Thorisson writes in A Kitchen in France that she received this recipe from her Icelandic mother-in-law and serves them with coffee. The base of the cake is akin to a macaron cap, mine even developed feet (that little ridge that crops up around the edges of macaron caps). The caps are then frozen while the mocha frosting is made, which is then smeared on the caps. Lastly they are dipped in melted chocolate. Though they have a few steps involved, these cakes are not hard to make but are quite fancy. They are the kind of sweets for which you pull out the good porcelain dishes. A Kitchen in France is smattered with lush photography and seasonal menus. Other recipes I’m itching to make include her Mont Blanc (p. 281), Chestnut Velouté (p. 248), Roast Chicken with Herbs and Crème Fraîche (p.46), and Happy Valley Wonton Soup (p. 291) from a Chinese New Year section in this French cookbook—look for her Tea Eggs recipe (p.293) there too. The multicultural feel of this book won me over. Thorisson grew up in Hong Kong and describes visiting her French grandmother and learning from her too. It reminded me of my own multicultural roots and the ways that each of us brings all that is woven into our cultural DNA onto the table. These rich little mocha cakes pair well with a stout breakfast blend tea to cut some of the sweetness. This tea stands up well to the cookies.


…The One That Got Away

Buttered Popcorn Rice Crispy Treats from Joy the Baker: Homemade Decadence
Tea Pairing: Korean Sejak Green Tea from DAVIDsTEA

Because an entire table lined with chocolate chocked cookies might set my heart aflutter, but perhaps not appeal to those that don’t have a card in chocoholics-are-us, I had selected this Buttered Popcorn Rice Crispy Treat recipe for its fun flavorful approach to the well-known sticky, chewy sweet. My copy of Homemade Decadence sat on our kitchen table with such promise, decked out with the ingredients required as indication of how easy it would be to pop, melt and mix. As things go with party-hosting, I ran out of time before the cookie swap started to whip up a batch.  This lapse in time judgment will work well for our next movie night–can you imagine anything better for movie-watching that combines sweet and salty? I’m a regular reader of Joy the Baker partly because Joy Wilson has a way of writing that makes baking fun and approachable, much like Joy herself. So, now the real question is to ask,  what movie we should watch when it’s time to turn out these treats.


Tahini Butter Cookies

It’s not often that I give myself over to an ingredient so completely. While my grocery impulse purchases more often than not consist of obscure finds like Aleppo pepper, usually I don’t devote myself to finding every conceivable way to include an ingredient into as many dishes as possible.

At one point, not so very long ago, tahini served the main purpose of being that necessary add-in for making hummus. A jar of the thick beige sludge sat on the countertop waiting. Waiting. And waiting for me to find a reason to crank its lid open and spoon some out. As I continued delving deeper into Middle Eastern cooking though, I found its use casually making its way into many ingredient lists. Rather than assert itself boldly, most of these recipes let the sesame seed butter accent the intricate spice combinations, whether that’s a recipe for Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole from the Syrian cookbook I’ve been testing, or the quinoa, spinach, pear and hazelnut salad from Whole Grains for a New Generation, dressed with, you guessed it, tahini and lemon. My mind is being blown.

As I let my guard down around this ingredient, it continued inferring itself into unexpected places. And isn’t that the truth with most new things we encounter? In the beginning we might be reticent to begin experimenting beyond the known, but as we get more comfortable, those boundaries keep extending?

Be a good cookie- what does that mean to you? I eagerly signed up to participate in this year’s Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap hosted by Julie of The Little Kitchen and Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil, especially after I learned each swapper had to make a small monetary donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer created by two employees at OXO to participate. I appreciate companies that think beyond the bottom line to consider how their work and reach can benefit others.

That combination of giving to something bigger than ourselves and gifting mystery cookies to mystery food bloggers clinched my interest from the get-go. I find myself easily pulled into the seedier part of the “holiday spirit” which means to say the part laced with capitalism and consumption, so this helped me adjust my fulcrum from holiday mode back to something challenging cultural mores.

I knew my recipients of the cookies I baked had specific restrictions such as no bacon (ladies after my own heart) so I began conspiring what kind to prepare. Would I go with a chocolate chip or shortbread? Perhaps I might get extra fancy and make different colors of royal icing to deck the stockings with their color and cheer. All the conjectures and brainstorming coalesced into something simple. They needed to be relatively easy since the deadline for sending them out quickly approached and I had just returned from a business trip. No time to frost and decorate, these cookies needed to work overtime just to get the job done. For Amanda of Maroc Mama, Madison of Espresso and Cream & Caitlin of Chopsticks and Measuring Cups, I had just the cookie.

And boy, was this going to be a good cookie.

Tahini butter cookies are a riff on nutty peanut butter cookies with a flourish of sea salt and sesame seeds on top.

These cookies found their inspiration from two very specific places. First, my baker friend Amy had spent time in Turkey learning how they bake their breads. She held a soft launch tasting party for her new venture, Marla Bakery. Of all the savory and sweet treats we sampled and provided tasting notes that evening, her Tahinli knocked my socks off. Here, she used tahini in a way that let the subtly sweet flavor notes of sesame come through. I scoured the table at the end of the evening for a bun to take home, but unsurprisingly they had all been scooped up.

So, with this flavor suggestion in my mind, I began ruminating on the simple and classic peanut butter drop cookie… with a twist. How would a substitution of tahini express itself in that cookie? What spices would work best to not overpower but sweetly accent the nuttiness and natural sweetness of the tahini? Had anyone ever made Tahini Cookies before? I consulted Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook “Jerusalem” and of course, it featured a recipe for Tahini Cookies. He spoke in the headnotes about the rage of popularity several years ago for these cookies in his home country. As I scanned the recipe, it looked like it would bake up a cookie that could be a fan favorite in the U.S. too, but didn’t have that precise drop cookie profile I was looking for. So, I turned to a friend and fellow Food Blogger Bake Sale planner’s blog, thinking “the baker next door” would surely have a suggestion and steer me in the right direction. Her recipe lay the foundation for my adaptations.

Things to know about the Tahini Butter Cookies: they can easily be made on a Monday night after work. They will be the first cookies to be eaten up even when a chocolate cookie is also on the plate. Most people after tasting them ask what’s inside and are agog at the word Tahini. They make great homemade gifts. While you’re at it, toss some into a freezer bag for some holiday spirit in January.

Special thanks to the cookies I received in the swap – to Diana of The Dreamery for her Mexican Hot Cocoa Cookies, to Aaron of The Hungry Hutch for his Brown Sugar Shortbread and to Kari of Kari’s Kitchen for her Brown Butter Pecan Sandies. Let’s just say we made short work of your offerings.Tahini Butter Cookies


Tahini Butter Cookies

So, I’m going to admit I can be a bit of a revisionist, but then we all give into those tendencies on occasions, right? I think of Goya promptly “borrowing” paintings from their patrons to fix a little something and never giving them back. The Maldon salt below is optional, which is to say mandatory (unless you are watching your sodium). That tiny hit of salt really brings out the deep nuttiness of the sesame seed butter. Also, I have played with adding 1 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon. If you like more of a cinnamon flavor, opt for the full teaspoon, but if you want to really go for the sesame gusto, stick with 1/2 teaspoon and that playful fleck of Maldon. You might want to kiss this cook.

Makes about 2 dozen

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (8 ounce) stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sesame seeds, optional
Maldon flaky sea salt, optional (garnish)

Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack to the middle of the oven.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cardamom or cinnamon (if using), and salt.

Beat butter, tahini and sugars until smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla until combined. Dump in dry ingredients. Pulse or mix on low until just combined.

With a tablespoon, scoop out dough. Using fork tines, press each dough ball for a grid pattern. Sprinkle  sesame seeds and flaky sea salt on top.

Bake for 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for three minutes on the sheetpan. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.





Peppermint Chocolate Rochers

DESSERT RECIPES- peppermint-chocolate-rochers

Looking for reasons to bake in December is not difficult. Do you find yourself any other time of year looking for reasons to break out the eggs, sugar, butter and flour with the gusto that the holidays inspires? I didn’t think so.

We hosted our second annual Cookie Swap this past weekend with local food blogger friends. Among those RSVP’d, I knew of two food allergies to keep in mind. Two friends I knew for certain are gluten free. One is in the process of eliminating ingredients and is avoiding eggs. I made Buddhettes for my egg-free friend and baked up a batch of these gluten free Peppermint Chocolate Rochers.

Yes, neither of these would “technically” constitute as cookies, but I tend to be a spirit of the law kind of gal. And Anita brought some cupcakes so clearly this could be construed a Baked Good Swap? Her alphabet Linzer cookies became our party entertainment. Mike, Anita’s husband suggested a rule early on that you could only eat a cookie if you could spell something with the other cookies.

What started as “happy holidays” became everything from “play shop” and “Als Pho” later to be followed by “Laos.”

happy holidays cookie tilesplay shopcookie tiles

Faith brought vegan Peppermint Candy Crisps. Susie baked up Drunken Almond Macaroons. Charissa and Patrick arrived with Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Gluten Free cookies.

peppermint candy cookiesDrunken almond macaroonsgluten free coconut peanut butter chocolate cookie

Steph brought Blackberry Rosemary Shortbread Bars. Sabrina made a batch of Lemon Rosemary Cookies with Black Pepper.

blackberry rosemary shortbread barslemon rosemary black pepper cookies

Irvin brought two batches of cookies: chocolate raspberry striped cookies and cinnamon bun swirl cookies.

chocolate raspberry cookiescinnamon bun cookies

It was a rollicking good time. Somehow baking up a baker’s dozen always allows everyone to try the different cookies and leave plenty for the hostess. I’ve got a plan for those extra cookies and cupcakes and it involves another favored reason for the holidays- gifts that keep on giving.

peppermint chocolate rochers


I’ve been a fan of the blog Orangette since 2006 when I originally started la vie en route. I can safely say this is my favorite recipe of hers. She nails dead on the rochers from local bakery Tartine. They make a version with toasted almonds and another one with cacao nibs.  I baked a batch of Rochers for Thanksgiving after finding myself the proud recipient of extra egg whites left over from making a Maple Custard Pie. I played around with the recipe for a Christmas-infused adaptation and it resulted in something special. The chocolate chips melt in your mouth and the peppermint is subtle- think of this as a sophisticated York peppermint pattie.

Adapted from this Cocoa Nib Pavlova recipe from Orangette

  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Set oven to 275. Prep two pans with parchment paper or silpat.

Place egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a heavy duty mixer and mix on low for a few minutes and then increase to medium speed until soft peaks begin to form.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch.

Set the mixer on medium high and slowly pour in the sugar mixture. Continue mixing for about 5 minutes. Toward the end, add the peppermint oil. The mixture should be very thick.

Mix in the chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto each pan with several inches in between. I like to swirl the spoon on the top to give it a swirled look. Once all the mixture has been doled out onto the pans, place them into the oven on the top rack and lower rack.

Drop the temperature down to 250. Bake for 30 minutes, switching racks halfway through baking period. Once done, the rochers will be firm to the touch. Let cool on a rack.

NOTE: If you notice your rochers are still gummy underneath when you lift them up with your spatula, place them back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes and that should do the trick.

Makes about a dozen large rochers, best enjoyed up to a few days after baking. Store in a sealed container.




Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

DESSERT RECIPES- Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

A certain Mister has a fondness for oatmeal cookies. He and I talked ad nauseum about the variations on Oatmeal Raisin and we agree, there’s something extra special about a basic oatmeal raisin cookie. How do you take something delightful and basic and make it better? Easy.

Bake it with fall spices, a bit o’ pumpkin and play with different flours. Those of you reading this who are gluten free- so is this cookie. Adding teff flour boosts the iron, protein and calcium and pairs well with the brown rice flour. The smell of mesquite flour hearkens back somehow to a Texas sunset and makes your kitchen smell warm and inviting. I decided to experiment with using half refined sugar and half maple sugar, which is less sweet than refined as I really wanted the sugars to accent the natural sweetness of the raisins. Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and pumpkin kick it up a notch. You’ll find the texture to be hearty as the toothsome flours play to that of the oats. My taste-testers all gobbled up the cookies- everyone from the Mister to the artist friend, the retired soccer player and the amiable bus driver. And I have a hunch you might like them too.



Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

YIELD: 2 dozen cookies
TIME: 15 minutes – overnight – 30 minutes

  • ¼ cup teff flour
  • ¼ cup mesquite flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup maple sugar
  • ½ cup refined sugar
  • ¼ cup pureed pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cup rolled GF oats
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Combine teff flour, mesquite flour, brown rice flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix butter, pumpkin puree, maple sugar and refined sugar until completely combined. Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Add ½ flour mixture into the sugared butter bowl and mix until combined. Then add the rest of flour mixture and mix until completely combined.

Mix in oats with a spatula. Then mix in raisins and chopped pecans with spatula until combined. Cover bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375.

Place sheet of parchment paper or silpat on your cookie sheet. Use a tablespoon and scoop out medium sized portions of dough onto cookie sheet. With your hand, press down on dough without pressing cookie flat.

Cook for 16 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire rack.





The apartment is filled with the aroma of cinnamon and sugar mingling together in the air. Something about this smell is both comforting and reminiscent of childhood. It smells like home. I somehow lucked out, as I was the one who got to move into the apartment before the wedding. Over the past few years and subsequent roommates, I have been lucky to become and remain friends with each of them. As some friends joined us in the heave-ho of boxes and bags from my last apartment, I was somewhat reticent to leave. A page was turning, was I ready to read what comes next?

I traipsed down every night to my former abode the first few weeks to dwell in the familiar, leaving this new world we get to create behind. One evening Nathan came with me and there at Carole’s apartment, we watched the remainder of the Giants game. It’s been a year and one of the best ways I can exclaim what it’s teaching me or what He’s teaching me is to hold things loosely. And tightly while you have them.

I made cookie dough on Sunday afternoon with Kristen and an intention of bagging freshly homebaked cookies for my new-to-me neighbors, but a gas leak and thus non-working oven forced my hand and dough to wait until mid-week. So tonight, I sit in the afterglow of Snickerdoodles scenting this new apartment, this new world that feels very quiet when Nathan is not around. So quiet that my thoughts become ravenous to leap onto the page.

Snickerdoodles, the name alone conjures up a smile, takes me back to a black Baptist church my mom’s friend Dottie belonged to. Sometimes we would meet her on a Sunday morning and all I remember are the crash of the tambourines, my body slumping in the wooden pew and clutching a brown paper bag slightly soiled with butter stains. Dottie’s auntie would bake fresh Snickerdoodles for me when we joined her at church. I always remember being fond of her church. Who doesn’t love a house of joy, a bag of warm cinnamon sugar disks and the melodic rise and fall of song? So, somehow it seemed fitting that these be my first baking foray at the eyrie. If I had her recipe now, it would be below. Instead I purloined one from Smitten Kitchen. Bake and serve for people you love.

DESSERT RECIPES- Snickerdoodles





Adapted from Martha Stewart, from Smitten Kitchen

YIELD: Makes three dozen 3 to 4-inch cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 stick or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. At this point, I chilled the dough for an hour (or you can overnight) before scooping it, because I otherwise found it too difficult to scoop into balls and roll but the original recipe doesn’t find this step neccessary.

Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small ice-cream scoop* to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. In theory, they can be stored in an airtight container up to one week, but I say good luck wtih that.