Hash Tag Cookies

People had been making a criss-cross impression on balls of cookie dough with a fork long before 1925, when George Washington Carver issued an agricultural bulletin with 105 recipes using peanuts, including three for cookies. Some people might tell you the imprint helps cookies bake evenly, but more likely a fork is nine times out of ten more at hand than a cookie press. How the criss-cross became a traditional hash tag for peanut butter cookies is material for a Beard Award. Here’s a good one-bowl recipe for this all-time American favorite.

Combine 1 cup packed light brown sugar with a half cup each of softened butter and peanut butter. Mix until smooth; add a beaten egg and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix very well. Sift in a half teaspoon each baking soda and baking powder into a cup and a half of AP flour, add to peanut butter mix, and stir thoroughly until it forms a smooth dough. Shape into balls a little smaller than a ping-pong, roll in sugar (optional), and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls with a fork that has been dipped in sugar so it won’t stick. Make a criss-cross pattern, and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Peanut Butter Pecan Blossoms

Beat a half cup each white sugar, packed brown sugar, creamy peanut butter, and unsalted butter with a large egg until well blended. Use a table fork; trust me. Sift a teaspoon baking soda and a half teaspoon baking powder with a cup and a half of AP flour, and stir in a cup of rather finely-chopped pecans. Mix flour and butter mixtures to doughy consistency. Spoon dough into 1-inch balls—it helps to have a cookie scoop—and place on a lightly-oiled baking pan. Bake at 350 until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven, and immediately press a milk chocolate kiss in each cookie. Cool on a rack.

 

Corn Cookies

What you have here is rather much a sugar cookie made with cornmeal and masa. As with flour cookies, they’re often seasoned with various flavorings, herbs, and spices, these more often with savory herbs such as rosemary and verbena. This recipe makes a somewhat soft cookie that can be firmed up with the addition of a bit more masa. Chopped nuts and white chocolate chips add a festive note.

Whisk together a quarter cup of yellow cornmeal and a quarter cup of masa harina with a cup and a half of AP flour, a half teaspoon of baking powder, a half teaspoon of baking soda, and a teaspoon of salt. Beat together two sticks softened butter, a cup and a half of sugar, a quarter cup of honey, a large egg, and a teaspoon of vanilla with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add cornmeal mixture until just combined. Form dough into a ball and refrigerate in plastic wrap for about a half an hour.  Roll out to about a quarter inch, cut into rounds and bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet on the middle rack at 350 until lightly browned on the edges.

Basic Cut Christmas Cookies

Wittgenstein and his ilk will demand—in various languages—“Just what IS a cookie?” Eggheads steeped in negative logic will say, “It is easier to say what a cookie IS NOT than to say what a cookie IS!” and a resonant female voice will state, “A cookie is a cookie is a cookie.”

Flour, sugar, and butter with a leavening agent and eggs constitute the Ur-cookie. These can be topped with a sugar frosting or glaze or sprinkles, or chopped nuts. You can add food coloring to make them magenta, chartreuse or cyan. You can cut them into any shape using traditional cookie cutters or you can use a knife if you’re feeling (or are) artistic. For true inspiration, make them with children at your elbow.

1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter with sugars; mix well. Add eggs, vanilla and then flour, sifted with salt and baking soda, a little at a time. Bake at 350 degrees on a flat, heavy baking sheet for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool thoroughly before frosting.

Grinch Crinkle Cookies

Mix together one box vanilla cake mix—I use the French vanilla—two eggs, one stick softened butter (NOT margarine) a tablespoon of vegetable oil (NOT olive oil; can you believe I feel I have to say that?) and a little bottle of green food coloring: all of it. In another bowl, mix one cup corn starch with 1 cup powdered sugar. Using a large spoon, scoop up a lump of the (very stiff green) dough, shape it into a (ping-pong ball and roll it around in the starch/sugar mixture until coated. Place on a cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled parchment paper and bake at 375 for about 8-10 minutes. Take care that they bake through without any browning. Once done, remove from oven and let sit 2 minutes before placing on wire rack to cool completely.

For the hearts, mix a half cup each of flour, corn starch and powdered sugar mixed with a half stick soft butter, just enough cold water to make a stiff dough and plenty of red food coloring (eyeball it, but you want them really red, not pink) cut into heart shapes and bake on an oiled cookie sheet at 350 until crisp. Glue to the cookies with icing.

Red Currant Thumb Cookies

When working with the dough, use powdered sugar on your hands and the wax paper instead of flour; these cookies are floury enough. The longer you chill the dough, the better it holds its shape. Use unsalted butter, and almost anything other than red currant jelly is too sweet. Breaking the jelly up makes it less likely to bubble up and spill over the cookie.

Take 3/4 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg yolk, and 1 1/2 cups cake flour. Cream butter and sugar with egg yolk. Fold in flour, knead a little bit, wrap in wax paper, and chill. Roll into 1/2 inch balls, make a small depression in the middle, and fill with jelly. Bake at 325 until golden.

Wookie Cookies

Traditionally made on May 4, Wookies are fun to make and delicious any day of the year. Preheat oven to 350, and line a lightly oiled baking sheet with parchment paper. Flip the paper to oil both sides. Cream together 2 sticks softened unsalted butter with 1 cup sugar. Mix in one 1 large egg, beaten, and add a tablespoon vanilla extract. Set aside. Mix 2 ½ cups AP flour with 1/2 c. cocoa and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients until just combined. On a clean floured surface, work the dough until smooth and roll out to about ¼ inch. Cut into “wookies” with a gingerbread man cookie cutter, place onto the parchment baking sheet, and use a fork to make fur.  Bake for about 10 minutes, remove from oven and cool thoroughly before decorating with frosting and sprinkles. They’re a little chewy.

Apple Pecan Cookies

You don’t see many Southern apple cookie recipes; a quick scan of Southern Sideboards, Bayou Cuisine, River Road Recipes, Vintage Vicksburg, Gourmet of the Delta, The Jackson Cookbook, and The Mississippi Cookbook turned up nary a one, but this recipe comes from Hosford Fontaine’s Allison’s Wells: The Last Mississippi Spa, and you can’t get any more Southern than that. Though the South has a native crab apple, most of the Old-World apple species that produce what Emerson called “the American fruit” simply don’t do well in our climate, and apples from those that do are most often dried or made into pies or sauce. I use firm, tart apples for this recipe, usually Galas or Grannies.

3 cups of fine unpeeled diced apples; (I use only pieces with skin so that when baked they’ll stay firm)
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
A half teaspoon each ground cloves, nutmeg and salt
2 cups rolled oats
¼ cup white raisins
¼ cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugars well, add eggs and flour mixed and sifted with spices and baking powder, then stir in apples, oats and nuts. Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes, stirring once. Form dough into ping pong balls, and bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet with parchment paper at 350 or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. This recipe makes about three dozen wonderful, chewy, sticky cookies.

 

Lemonade Cookies

An easy, delightful recipe for a summer afternoon. Cream 2 sticks of softened butter with a cup of sugar. Mix in two large eggs, and beat until light. Sift three cups all-purpose flour with a teaspoon of baking soda and blend into the creamed mixture. Add a 6-oz. can of (thawed) lemonade concentrate. A tablespoon or so of lemon zest is a nice touch. Drop dough by spoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400 for about 8-10 mins. Cool and coat with icing made with confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pink or yellow food coloring is pretty in dough and/or icing.

Dolly’s Teacakes

For long afternoons when it’s too hot and buggy to play outside, and the teddy bears are hungry. Cream 1 cup softened butter with 1 ½ cups sugar. Add a tablespoon vanilla extract and 3 lightly beaten eggs. Mix very well. Sift 3 cups all-purpose flour with a tablespoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of salt. Using your favorite wooden spoon, mix flour with butter and eggs. Chill dough, roll out on a lightly-floured board, and cut into small rounds. Bake on a lightly-oiled cookie sheet in a medium oven for somewhere round 10 minutes. Serve with strawberry Kool-Aid.