A good friend of mine lent me this book - American Cookie: The Snaps, Drops, Jumbles, Tea Cakes, Bars & Brownies That We Have Loved for Generations by Anne Bryn. Perfect timing, too, because it's definitely cookie season in my kitchen. From Thanksgiving till New Year's I bake a lot of cookies. I mean a lot. And I certainly have my annual favorites that include gingerbread of all kinds, chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, etc. But sometimes you just have to mix it up.
Funny story...I handed this book to my crew with a stack of sticky notes and asked them to mark some favorites. It came back to my desk with Coconut-Lime Cupcakes and Bourbon Balls flagged. Ummmm...those aren't cookies! "They are in the cookie book," they retorted.
Well, I couldn't argue with that. Though I was still looking for their cookie selections.
On the PageI think Bryn sums up my feeling about cookies in her introductions. "[Cookies] are expressions of love, small squares of a nostalgic place in time, stains in a beloved old family cookbook, remembrances of cookie jars and a childhood past, little dots connecting the holidays in our life" (pg. viii). I don't often eat the cookies that I bake, but I love to bake for friends and family, especially if there is a story to them.
Her chapters include: Drop Cookies Past & Present; Cookies Shaped, Rolled, & Remembered; Wafers, Icebox Cookies, & Planning Ahead; Bars, Brownies, & Baking for Others; Tea Cakes, Politics, & Conversation; and Candy, Fried Cakes, & Culinary Artistry. What fun! And sprinkled in with all the deliciousness are history lessons. For instance, she writes that wartime cookies tell a story. She explains, "If your favorite cookie contains oats, prunes, coconut, dates, or is made without eggs - like a gingersnap - it's probably a wartime cookie. ...World War II put a strain on cookie baking because sugar and butter were rationed. What was available was molasses, brown sugar, corn syrup, honey, margarine, and vegetable shortening. And dried fruit" (pg. 10).
I cannot wait to try her homemade fig newtons as those are my favorite! Stay tuned for that.
But today I'm sharing a recipe from her icebox chapter. I often make batter and chill it before baking. But I do not often make cookie dough ahead of time and stash it away until I'm ready to bake.
When we were in Denmark for the holidays last December, Rikke pulled some dough out of the freezer and baked just enough of her Brunkager for nibbling while we played board games. Odd as it sounds, I have always just baked the darn batch and given away dozens of cookies to not have them in my house! This recipe allows you to just slice off the one dozen or so that you need to get you through the evening.
Bryn writes, "...the 1930s [was] the beginning of what we now call 'slice and bake' cookies. ...Their simplicity of ingredients, their do-ahead ability, and their sheer nostalgia make them a perfect cookie for our busy times. You are not on the clock with these recipes. They work around your busy schedule" (pg. 124). Gotta love that! I will be baking many more dozens of these for gifts next week.
On the Plate
I picked these because they reminded me of those Danish brunkager. However the flavor was decidedly sweeter. I'll play with this recipe soon to add some spices and molasses. But these were a hit. "A little too good," claimed my husband as he downed his fourth or maybe fifth cookie.
Ingredients makes 4 to 5 dozen
though you don't have to bake them all at the same time
- 1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
- 3/4 C organic light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 egg
- 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
- 1-1/4 C flour
- 1/3 C pecan pieces
- Also needed: parchment paper
Place butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. Cream together with a hand blender until lightened and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined.
Stir in the flour and pecans until all of the ingredients are moistened and come together.
Spoon the dough into the center of a piece of parchment paper. Roll the dough into a log. Wrap the paper tightly around the dough and place in the freezer for at least an hour to firm up. You can leave the dough in there for longer, as needed.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the dough into thin rounds and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, about 1" apart.
Bake until they are golden brown and crisped around the edges, approximately 10 minutes.
Let cool on the sheet for 1 to 2 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until you have as many cookies as you need. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.
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Click to see what everyone else read in December 2019: here.