Giving Thanks … and Cookies
November 29, 2007
As I’ve already mentioned here (and approximately 700 times to my husband), this was the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent away from home. At my parents’ house, Thanksgiving is a big deal. On Turkey Day itself, my parents have hosted upwards of 30 guests during certain years. And while the exact number of chairs at the table (or, back in the day, the main table and the kids’ table) changed, many things remained the same. While my step-father has experimented with new turkey methods (oven roasting, grilling on the gas grill and charcoal grill and even deep frying), many of the dishes are constant. If you tasted my grandma’s stuffing (featuring pork sausage) or my mom’s stuffing (featuring Italian sausage) (yes, two stuffings, both laced with pork — we’re that kind of family) you’d know why.
So breaking with tradition this year to spend the holiday with my husband’s family brought mixed emotions. I would of course miss my family and our traditions, but I looked forward to experiencing a new set of traditions with this new part of my family. And, Kevin’s grandmother would be making the meal and she is an excellent cook. Before the holiday, we called Kevin’s grandmother to see what we could bring. I was envisioning maybe a side–perhaps an amped up version of brussel sprouts or green beans. Or, ooooh even better, maybe she’d want me to bake something! I’ve told you about my love of making baked goods (especially those I can pass off on others). I had visions of pies (pecan!) and tarts (cranberry!) and cheesecakes (bourbon spiked pumpkin!), oh my.
Well the answer came back: Grandma wanted cookies. I have to admit, my heart sank a bit at first. I guess I just don’t associate cookies with Thanksgiving. They’re more of a Christmas thing to me. But then I remembered, I was keeping an open mind to this new Thanksgiving thing! With resolved spirits, I began searching the blogosphere and Internet for recipes. Eventually, I settled on three new recipes (peanut butter chocolate chunk (per my husband’s request for something along these lines); molasses spice; and giant chocolate toffee cookies). And I knew I had to stick with one old favorite: Spritz. Sure, Spritz are pure Christmas to me, but I planned to Thanksgiving-ify them with the addition of harvest-colored sanding sugar.
Well, the giant chocolate cookies (recipe, if you’re a masochist, is here) were a total bust. I swear I measured the cookie scoops exactly according to the recipe, but they spread out into each other while baking—to the point that the first batch resembled a pan of brownies. In subsequent batches, I reduced the size of the scoops, but had a terrible time getting them off the pan. They all went straight into the “cookie graveyard” (a container full of the cookies that flopped; heartily enjoyed by my husband).
The other two new recipes (peanut butter/chocolate chunk and molasses spice) were both delicious. And the spritz, while very good, will apparently never be as good as my mom’s. She swears she’s given me her exact recipe, but I have a feeling she’s holding out. So I put together a platter of these three types of cookies and embarked on my first new Thanksgiving.
In the end, I’m happy to report that both the cookies and the “new” Thanksgiving were a hit. Kevin’s grandma made a delicious turkey and her stuffing even featured sausage (albeit the chicken variety). And now I can’t wait to get to Minnesota for Christmas. Maybe I’ll surveil my mom while she makes her spritz cookies. If I discover her secret, I’ll be sure to share!
Pictured from left to right: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk; Spritz; Molasses Spice; Spritz; Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned chunky peanut butter (about 9 ounces)
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Mix flour, oats, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, honey, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in chopped chocolate. Cover and refrigerate until dough is firm and no longer sticky, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. With hands, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough for each cookie into 1 3/4-inch-diameter ball. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake cookies until puffed, beginning to brown on top and still very soft to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)
Recipe from My Mom
1 ½ c. butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 tsp. almond, depending on taste
3 ½ c. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Mix egg yolk, vanilla and almond into the butter/sugar mixture. Combine flour and baking powder in smaller bowl, whisking to combine. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture. Create cookies by (1) using a cookie press or (2) rolling the cookie dough to ½ inch thickness and making shapes with cookie cutters or (3) rolling the dough into a log and slicing rounds. Place the cookies on a silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until slightly puffed and just beginning to brown at the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Molasses Spice Cookies
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated Best Recipe Cookbook
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling cookies
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
Adjust racks to upper- and lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together in medium bowl; set aside. Either by hand or with electric mixer, cream butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add egg, vanilla extract, and molasses. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.
Place remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar in shallow bowl. Working with 2 tablespoons of dough each time, roll dough into 1 3/4-inch balls. Rolls balls in sugar and place them on ungreased baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets (from top to bottom and fron to back) halfway through baking, until outer edges begin to set and centers are soft and puffy, 11 to 13 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to cooling racks with wide spatula.