The start of the school year is filled with promise — new school supplies, new teachers and new adventures.
Nearly every year I’ve had kids in school, I’ve stayed home on the first day to send them off with a hot breakfast and greet them with hugs and freshly baked treats as they return.
When the kids were young they didn’t have a say in what came out of the kitchen; usually it was a standby like chocolate chip, peanut butter or snickerdoodle cookies. Sometimes it was a pan of bars. There might have been a hectic year or two when the local bakery pitched in, and there was also the year we were moving a kid to college, so my adult daughter did the honors.
As the kids got older and palates changed, sometimes the recipes did, too. But what was in the cookie jar didn’t really matter. It was the tradition, and those moments connecting that are so fleeting.
Now, two decades later, I’m down to one kid in the house, and he’s not much for fussing. I offered to make a hot breakfast as I do every year, but nah, he’d just have cereal. His choice for his after-school treat? Rice Krispies Treats, which I can make in my sleep.
It’s not about being culinarily challenged, though, there’s plenty of time for that. It’s about making them feel loved and important. So if a simple pan of bars is what he wanted, that’s what he got. But I did add sprinkles.
Chocolate, Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies.
“When I make a vegan bake, I don’t want to compromise on flavor or texture, and these cookies are a lovely example of that,” writes Chetna Makan in her new cookbook, “Chetna’s Easy Baking” (Hamlyn, 2022). “The delicate flavor of cardamom and the richness of dark chocolate and pistachios means these are a riot in every mouthful.”
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) vegan butter, softened
• 3/4 c. light brown sugar
• Pinch of fine sea salt
• 1 1⁄4 c. flour
• 1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1⁄3 c. unsweetened almond milk
• 10.5 oz. vegan dark chocolate (70% cocoa), roughly chopped
• 1⁄2 c. pistachios, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar and salt and beat together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cardamom, baking powder and baking soda and mix together.
Add the almond milk to the butter mixture followed by the flour mixture and then the chocolate and pistachios. Fold it all together to form a soft dough.
Take a lime-sized portion of dough, shape it into a circle and place on a prepared sheet. Repeat to form all the cookies, leaving enough room between them for the cookies to spread when baked.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
Lemon Birthday Cake Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies.
They may be called birthday cake cookies, but they are delicious for any occasion. You may need 5 lemons, depending on the size of each, to get enough zest for the cookies and frosting. From “Betty Crocker Cookbook, 13th Edition,” by General Mills. (Harvest, 2022).
For the cookies:
• 3/4 c. granulated sugar
• 1/2 c. sour cream
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
• 1 egg
• 1 tbsp. lemon zest
• 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 c. multicolored candy sprinkles
For the frosting:
• 2 c. powdered sugar
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
• 2 tsp. lemon zest
• 1/8 tsp. salt
• 2 tbsp. multicolored candy sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare the cookies: In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, sour cream and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add egg and 1 tablespoon lemon zest; continue beating until well blended. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix until soft dough forms. Stir in 1/4 cup sprinkles.
Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (dough will be soft). Onto each of two ungreased baking sheets, place 12 balls about 2 inches apart. Flatten balls to 1/2-inch thickness.
Bake one sheet 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes; remove from baking sheet to cooling rack. Repeat with second baking sheet. Cool cookies completely, about 15 minutes.
To prepare the frosting: In medium bowl, beat together powdered sugar, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt until smooth. Spread each cookie with scant 1 tablespoon frosting. Sprinkle cookies with sprinkles. Let frosted cookies stand until the frosting is set. Store in a single layer in loosely covered containers at room temperature.
Makes about 36 cookies.
Traditional crinkle cookies are made by coating portions of chocolate dough in powdered sugar just before baking. For these treats, we combined the warm cinnamon-sugar flavors of a classic snickerdoodle with the puffed cracked surface of a chocolate crinkle. From “Fabulous Modern Cookies,” by Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin (Everyman Press, 2022).
• 2 1/4 c. flour, divided
• 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
• 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon, divided
• 2/3 c. canned pumpkin purée
• 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
• 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Position oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two 18- by 13-inch baking sheets with parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a small saucepan with a light-colored bottom, melt butter over medium heat. Continue to cook and it will start to bubble noisily as the water boils off. Once the bubbling begins to quiet down, swirl the pan constantly for about 1 minute, or until the milk solids at the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter has a nutty aroma. Remove the pan from the heat and add the brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Stir with a whisk or spatula, making sure to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer.
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and pumpkin purée. Cook the mixture in a small nonstick pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula. Transfer the pumpkin paste to the brown sugar mixture and, using the mixer’s flat beater, beat on medium speed to break up the pumpkin paste and incorporate the sugar. Allow the mixture to cool completely, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Once cool, mix the egg yolks and vanilla into the batter on medium speed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl and the beater to make sure all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
In a shallow bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and the powdered sugar. Portion 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and drop them directly into the bowl of the cinnamon-powdered sugar. (The dough is a little too soft to roll in your hands.) Gently roll them around to get them completely coated and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until the cookies have puffed, cracked and the edges are set, 11 to 15 minutes. Halfway through baking, rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough once the baking sheets have completely cooled.
After the cookies have cooled. store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.
Turkish Ginger Lime Cookies
Makes 14 (2 ¼-inch) round cookies.
“The texture of this unusual cookie is super-crisp, and the flavor is buttery and aromatic, with a perfect balance of lime and ginger,” writes Rose Levy Beranbaum in “The Cookie Bible” (Harvest, 2022). “Try not to eat them all at once.” Note: This recipe requires ample time to chill, so you’ll need to prepare it in advance.
• 3/4 c. plus 1 1⁄2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
• 3/4 tsp. baking powder
• 1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
• 2 tsp. lime zest, finely grated and loosely packed, from about 2 limes
• 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
• 3 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened
• 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
• 1/2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger, from a 2-in. piece
• 1 to 2 large egg yolks, about 1 tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add grated lime zest to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the granulated sugar and, with your fingers, rub it into the lime zest. Add the butter and powdered sugar to the bowl. Attach the flat beater and beat on low speed until the sugar is incorporated. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until lighter in color and fluffy.
Add the grated ginger and egg yolk and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until it is incorporated and large clumps form, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Remove the bowl from the stand and press the dough together into a large ball. Set the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and top it with a second piece of plastic wrap. Press down to flatten it and then roll it 1/4 inch thick. Slip the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate it for 1 to 2 hours, or until firm enough to cut out the cookies.
Lift off the top piece of plastic wrap, cut out the cookies, and transfer them to the baking sheet, a minimum of 1 inch apart. Use plastic wrap to knead together the dough scraps and shape them into a disc. Cover with the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll and cut.
Continue with the refrigerated dough until you have used all the dough. Refrigerate the baking sheet, lightly covered, for 20 to 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and continue baking for 5 to 10 more minutes, or until the cookies are golden around the edges.
Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and transfer cookies to another wire rack. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.