And by that I mean baking season. Fireplaces curling smoke from chimneys. A hint of snow seasoning the air. Christmas trees glowing from living room windows. Festive music in every store, pumping up shoppers while slowly destroying the poor workers’ souls.
It’s CHRISTMAS TIME!
My husband said the most awful thing I’ve ever heard yesterday: “You know Christmas is just one day, right?”
After demanding he get out of my life, I told him in no uncertain terms do I get to have a Christmas SEASON (and really, it’s limited to the confines of post-Thanksgiving to 12/25 so it’s not even technically a full season, so there), and I mean he gets 8 whole freaking days for Hanukkah, so he can just shut his mouth and let me do my Christmas thing.
We just spent a week-plus in California with my in-laws for Thanksgiving, and I had many adventures I’ll be sure to write about in the coming weeks, but right now, I want to talk about cookies. My sister-in-law and I discussed a baking cookies before, during, and after Thanksgiving, but the timing wasn’t right (there were SO MANY DESSERTS already). When we got home, amidst setting up the tree and singing Christmas songs off-key, it felt like a cookie kind of day. The sky was that snowy-gray, the apartment was toasty-warm, and my fantasy football team was holding steady against a team I was sure I’d lose to.
All that was missing was a flurry of Earl Grey Lavender Cookies.
The original recipe I used is here. I went a little wild and halved the recipe, making a small batch of my standard Earl Grey Lavender Cookies (using Adagio teas Earl Grey Lavender loose leaf tea — seriously my favorite tea ever) and experimented with the other half to create a Cocoa-Coffee Shortbread.
Because this recipe yields like two dozen cookies, I wasn’t trying to risk all that goodness on an experiment. Plus it’s super easy to halve, especially if you just got an amazing set of measuring spoons that range from 1/8 tsp to 2 tbs from Crate & Barrel for your birthday (husband win). For the Cocoa-Coffee batch, I subbed just under a tablespoon of Peet’s coffee and one finely chopped dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss (man am I product-placing like a champ right now or what?) in place of the tablespoon of tea leaves. These cookies came out a shade overcooked — they’d probably be best coming out of the oven right at 12 minutes. The tea cookies I had to leave for another 3 minutes or so.
In case you need a little extra calories (wink), a swipe of Nutella across the top of the still-warm coffee cookies is heavenly. Come on, it’s the holidays. Calories don’t count at Christmas! And as we’ve already established, Christmas is all month long!
Base Recipe – Tea Shortbread Cookies
2 cups Flour
2 tbs Tea Leaves
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Confectioners Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Butter
Sift/whisk together the flour, tea leaves, and salt, until the leaves are spotted throughout.
In stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream flour mixture with confectioners sugar, vanilla, and butter.
Put dough on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a log, twisting both ends to seal closed. Place in fridge for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut dough in 1/4-inch sections and arrange on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet ~2 inches apart (they do spread a little).
Bake 12 minutes or until the edges are just turning golden.
Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
Experiment with the add-ins! My best so far has been the Earl Grey Lavender, but I’ve tried other herbs, too. The coffee is pretty tasty. Thyme was…less enthusiastically received.
I was going to email this recipe to my mom, because that’s what I do when I’m eating lunch and really patting myself on the back mentally. Then I remembered I have a blog I can brag through, so you’re welcome, world. Also, it’s Election Day, and almost everyone I know wants to puke for one reason or another, regardless of political affiliations. Why not stuff our faces with gooey, sweet, buttery dessert instead?
Sorry there are no pictures to go along with this recipe. Like I said, I was just going to email it to my mom and I rarely need to send photographic evidence of my culinary prowess.
If you ever feel like eating apple pie but also don’t feel like actually making apple pie you can try this apple crisp recipe I did spontaneously last night. Though now that I think about it, it’s probably barely less effort than apple pie. It just seemed like nothing because I already had the knives and cutting boards out and the oven already heating because I was cooking spaghetti squash and roasting tomatoes (which by the way turned out ah-mazing). Anyway, so I was going to make cookies because I was in a dessert kind of mood but I also didn’t want to do the cleanup and the waiting that can go into my shortbread cookies and also I’d just bought several apples at the farmer’s market and it’s fall so it’s like apple pie season, right?
But I didn’t have any pie crust and I was not trying to make that from scratch after all the hard work I’d already done cutting a spaghetti squash in half (guys, it’s really hard, okay?). So I basically was like “excuse me, Google, can you tell me what delicious desserts I can make with apples that don’t involve pie crusts?” and Google was like “duh, I know everything.” (I could have asked Siri but I’m not really talking to him right now [yes, him. I changed the voice option to male and British and I used to have him read me my texts but then my husband got jealous and sent me rude texts that Siri then read, and it’s really uncool to have your own phone call you smelly in a sexy British accent]. Google, on the other hand, is always so helpful. Probably because I don’t have the thing where Google talks to you, and I just Google things the old fashioned way by typing them into Google. Okay, at this point I should probably get some sort of endorsement deal for the number of times I’ve mentioned Google, right?)
Moving on, I found a recipe for apple crisp that had been adapted from a peach crisp recipe, and I think it was on allrecipes.com but I don’t know for sure so I’m really really sorry to whomever is not receiving the proper credit for this recipe but I just don’t feel like getting back on the Google right now, especially since I’m not even getting paid to talk about Google.
It goes like this:
1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar (I think I’ll try trimming this down to like 3/4 cup next time…but it hasn’t been tested yet so proceed at your own risk)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups apples, peeled and sliced (I used 2 big Granny Smith apples and a decent-sized…Honeycrisp, maybe? I don’t remember I just started grabbing up apples without reading the labels — other than the Granny Smith which we all already know are poison-apple-green)
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease 8×8 pan
Layer in your apple slices. Eat a few because they don’t quite fit or because you feel like it (or because they fell on the stove top and your husband won’t eat the dessert if they’re included because he doesn’t trust that heat kills germs and besides, the stove top is actually pretty clean right now anyway, Charlie).
In a large bowl, sift (or whisk) dry ingredients.
Cut in butter. Okay, so I just remembered this was actually weird and difficult because I’ve never “cut in” butter before — I mean what even does that mean? I used my awesome brain power and context clues (the recipe said I could use two knives to do this) to kind of wing it. I just plopped my butter into the dry mixture and started slicing and dicing and sort-of-stirring until it was a crumbly sort of mixture.
Sprinkle (or use my method: dump & spread) over the slices in the pan.
Bake 40 minutes (until the crust is golden around the edges)
Let it sit for a hot second and taste-test a small piece because apples get really dang hot and if you take too large a bite you will scald your entire mouth and throat and complain all night, Charlie.
Oh, and for my fellow Americans, don’t skip out on voting today! It’s super important, because what even is a democracy if the people don’t get a say, however tiny you might feel yours is? If nothing else, give yourself license to complain for the next four years by making a choice today. And then reward yourself with this dish.
Also bonus recipe because that spaghetti squash is still making me irrationally smug:
I was going to say “so easy your husband could do it,” but that implies husbands can’t cook which is sexist and also a complete falsehood. However, mine is culinary impaired so I really mean it when I say this dinner is so easy. It’s all about spaghetti squash, man!
Salt & Pepper
Grape Tomatoes (like maybe a pint? You know how you and your family feel about tomatoes. Make that many.)
Pesto (I use the jarred stuff; you can make this yourself if you feel ambitious but I didn’t, and my husband certainly would not)
Preheat your oven to 400
Slice a large spaghetti squash (what is a large spaghetti squash? Yeah, no clue. Ours was the size of a Tom Brady football [#toosoon?] and it gave us 3 heaping servings. But seriously, I’d say a little smaller than a football. Or a little larger than a Game of Thrones dragon egg [because that reference is so much more helpful].) oh shoot, I didn’t finish this sentence: so, slice that bad boy lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. I threw most of them away but one stuck to my finger so I ate it and it was as delicious as a pumpkin seed so I wish I’d saved them and dried them. Your call.
Put the halves cut-side-up on a baking sheet and rub the flesh with oil (that sounds super gross and somewhat Silence of the Lambs-y so sorry ’bout it). I also sprinkled salt and pepper over them, but that’s optional.
Bake for 40 minutes
You can prep the grape tomatoes by tossing them with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. You’ll pop these in the oven (set to 350) when you take out your squash.
Once the squash is done, let it sit and cool while the tomatoes roast (like 10 minutes). Then use a fork to scrape out the guts into a large bowl. The squash gets all stringy, hence the name. Once you’re all scraped out, discard the skins (sorry, I’m still thinking about Silence of the Lambs I guess). Toss the squash with a couple spoon-scoops of pesto. Kind of like with the tomatoes, you know how you feel about pesto. Use that much.
Top the squash with the roasted tomatoes, then sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top (and more salt & pepper, if you’re obsessed like me).
PS: if you transfer the squash halves to a plate and use the same baking sheet (covered in foil) to roast the tomatoes, it makes clean up easier. Although I just realized you’ll probably get squash guts on the plate, meaning you still have two things to wash regardless. Ah well, what do I know, my husband does the clean up.
Remember when I was pity-partying over my lack of chocolate chip cookie skills? My sister-in-law just shut it down with a life-saving recipe.
Okay, that’s a tad dramatic, but having a good cookie recipe up your sleeve is pretty much crucial for things like making friends, impressing co-workers, or surviving the winter.
When I told my husband his sister sent me a recipe to try, his eyes widened with excitement and his voice took on a reverent hush: “Nina is a great baker!”
Fall has arrived in our neck of the woods, bringing with it the blustery wind I hate and the blushing leaves I love. With football on TV, it just felt like a cookie day. Armed with the recipe my sister swears by, annotated with her own tips, I took a deep breath and opened my heart to the chance I could make a perfect chocolate chip cookie after all.
I was not disappointed. If you are struggling to find the *perfect* recipe (and if your definition of perfect is golden outside, fluffy, chewy, not-cakey inside), let Smitten Kitchen rock your world.
The most reassuring bit of advice from Nina: The cookies will still look gooey when you take them out at 11 minutes, but they cook more on the sheet. Also, if — like me — you are in a rental with a standard, inexpensive oven, don’t beat yourself up if they don’t come out perfect every time. It’s the oven’s fault!
Thank you, thank you, to my lovely sister — and to Smitten Kitchen, the source of this great recipe. My husband has already eaten about half the batch.