Happy National Cookie Day!

When it comes to baking, cookies are my thing.

During the holidays, I will definitely bake pumpkin bread a few times, and once I settled on a really good recipe for cream cheese pound cake, I stopped experimenting.  I'm not really a big fan of pies, so never tried to master them.   For some reason, cookies were always easier to make, so I have spent more time over the years trying and perfecting recipes for many kinds.

Today is National Cookie Day, which seems very appropriate to fall in December!  This is the time of year I tend to bake more cookies than any other time.  Not just for guests, but I always tote several containers of decorated Christmas tree shortbread cookies (recipe to come later in the month), Hello Dollies, peanut butter cookies, and other varieties when we go to Tennessee each Christmas.  Since I don't finish my holiday TV tour until about a week before we go home, the Sewell kitchen will be a hurricane of cookie baking activity during that week. 

Here are few of my favorite recipes, some of which will find their way into my Christmas carry-on bag.

My mom made the best lemon bars, but she made only one pan each year - at Christmas.

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These chocolate chip cookies take a bit of planning to allow time to keep the dough in the fridge before baking - but trust me, it's worth the wait.

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If you're in a hurry, these are the world's easiest peanut butter cookies, and they only require five ingredients.

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Happy baking!

 

 

 

Happy National Chocolate Chip Day!

Did you know today is National Chocolate Chip Day?

We celebrate all of the major holidays here in the Sewell home and the Shop with Style office.  So I couldn't let the holiday pass without again sharing my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Nothing complicated here.  Just a few simple tweaks to the classic Nestle Toll House recipe. Although I must disclose that there is a waiting period involved to allow the dough to rest in the fridge (and develop all of that rich, toffee goodness that makes these cookies so yummy).

There is actually a separate Chocolate Chip Cookie Day - only 81 shopping days until August 4! - and while there are many uses for chips, 90 percent of the chocolate chips in our home go into this recipe.

If you bake them, please comment below and let me know what you think.  Happy baking!

What I'm Baking: Lemon Bars

My mom made amazing lemon bars.  The tangy, melt-in-your-mouth kind, with a buttery shortbread crust.

She only made them at Christmas, and stored them in our downstairs freezer.  If you wanted one, you had to go down and sort through her Christmas baking stash of chocolate peppermint brownies, thumbprint cookies and other treats, and wait for what seemed like an eternity - maybe 15 minutes - for it to thaw enough to eat.

Now, my sweet mother-in-law often makes lemon bars at Christmas - since she knows I associate these with my mom.  While I have my mom's recipe, it usually only occurs to me to bake them in December. 

But with warm weather finally springing up in New York - which also triggers a taste for all things lemon - I decided to whip up a batch today.  I often take dessert to our Tuesday night gatherings with friends from church, and decided to switch things up from the usual chocolate chip cookies or cream cheese pound cake I usually take.

Also, with Mother's Day this Sunday, it seemed an appropriate time to make them, so here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened

Filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by lightly buttering bottom and sides or lining with parchment paper.  Sift flour and powdered sugar together, and cut in butter (I use a pastry cutter) until mixture forms small crumbs.  Press into pan, and bake for 25 minutes.

For filling, combine eggs, sugar and lemon juice; beat well.  Sift flour and baking powder together, and stir into egg mixture.  Pour over baked crust, and bake 25 to 30 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least an hour.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before cutting and serving. 

If you try it, please comment below and let me know what you think.  Happy baking!

Super-Simple Peanut Butter Cookies

In my opinion, peanut butter cookies are one of the world’s most perfect desserts. 

Not just any peanut butter cookies, but warm, homemade ones fresh from the oven - complete with criss-cross patterns across the top.

After years of making them with the usual long list of ingredients, I found an easier way.  By using only five ingredients - which you probably have in your kitchen right now - you can go from craving to fresh-baked cookies in less than 15 minutes.

I make these for my husband, who adores them, as well as for parties, bridal showers, church gatherings – pretty much anywhere someone asks me to bring dessert.  Not only are they scrumptious, but since you don't use flour, they are also gluten-free.

Regular creamy or crunchy peanut butters like Jif and Skippy work best here.  Natural varieties tend to yield cookies that are crumbly or “spread” excessively when baking.  I also prefer using brown sugar, as the cookies are a bit chewier than with regular white sugar.

Here is the super-simple recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix all ingredients in bowl.  Scoop onto a non-stick cookie sheet or baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and flatten by making crisis-cross patterns with the tines of a fork.  Depending on your oven, cookies will be ready in seven to eight minutes.  Remove pans from oven about a minute before cookies appear to be “done” or start to brown.  Makes about two dozen cookies, depending on size.  These are best enjoyed with a glass of ice cold milk.  

If you try them, please let me know what you think.  Happy baking!

Please Try This At Home

If you’re over your New Year’s resolutions – and have started eating sugar again - here is your excuse for breaking the fast.

These tweaks to a popular recipe take chocolate chip cookies from merely delicious to absolutely decadent!

Start with the Nestle Toll House recipe.  You probably have it in your kitchen, but here it is.

Use one tablespoon of vanilla instead of one teaspoon.  It sounds like a lot, but trust me on this.  (Sometimes, I live on the wild side, add them up and use both.)

The recipe doesn’t specify, but use dark brown sugar instead of light. 

Now for the tough part.  After you mix the dough, cover it tightly (I use one of these to seal it and keep other odors out) and leave it in the fridge for three days.  (I never said this was easy.)

Make extra dough if you must for sampling.  But this is seriously worth the wait.  I don’t fully understand the science (this might help), but it results in a rich, toffee flavor and cookies that brown evenly.  Every time.

Finally, remove the cookies from the oven before they appear to be done.  You might need to experiment with a few pans to figure out what works best with your oven.  The recipe says to bake them for nine to 11 minutes, but I generally take them out of my electric oven after seven.  Let them firm up on the baking sheet for several minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

For an Insta-look at the process - and a glimpse of our fun-sized New York City kitchen - here's a quick video:

And a look at the finished products.  Same recipe, same batch, same baking time, same oven.  The only difference is that the dough for the cookies on the top row was baked right away, while the dough for those on the bottom row rested in the fridge for three days.  

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Both have that heavenly crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-in-the-middle texture, but the "aged" ones have a much richer taste.  

Please - do try this at home, and let me know what you think.  Happy baking!