It is officially the beginning of summer. The weather may not agree, but Memorial Day has come and gone and it’s time for easy summer livin’.
Now we can relax with cookouts and picnics, vacations and fun. Grilling outside keeps the house cool and light summer salads lend themselves to lots of creativity and fewer calories. Soon, home-grown veggies will grace our tables.
Dinner is done, but what about dessert?
After good mocha chip ice cream, one of my favorite summer desserts is cookies. Cookies are easy to make, quick to bake and you can make a few days’ worth in just about an hour.
Surprisingly, cookies and Jews have a long love affair. The definition of a cookie is a “small, sweet cake.” Therefore, by definition, Rugelach is a cookie and so is hamentaschen. In Denmark there is a cookie called a “Jewish” Cookie that goes back to the 1700s when Jewish bakers made almond cookies topped with chopped almonds, cinnamon and sugar. I don’t know how they travelled, but these are the same cookies my Russian grandmother made when I was a child.
Whenever we went to Kabbalat Shabbat services at my synagogue, we ate cookies at the Oneg Shabbat following the services. Plates of pretty, fancy pastries were placed on the table along with a plate of cookies for the younger set. I loved the black and white cookies and the round ones with jam in the middle.
And that brings us back to cookies and summer. Cookies are fun and light-hearted just like the summer months.Who can eat a cookie without smiling?
Cookies are so portable. Toss them into a zipper bag and you’re good to go to the beach, on a picnic, or even to the office for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. And they are perfect for a camp lunchbox treat.
It’s summer. Forget the fancy cakes and pies and make some cookies. Then relax and enjoy the lazy days of summer.
Chocolate, Cherry and Chip Cookies (Dairy or Pareve)
1-3/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp, baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 stick plus 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup dried cherries
OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup chopped, toasted almonds
Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa in a bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside.
Place the butter, sugars and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce the speed to very low and spoon in the flour-cocoa mixture. Scrape the bowl often. When blended, remove the bowl from the stand and mix in the chocolate and cherries by hand.
Drop by rounded spoonsful, 2-inches apart, and bake for 8 to 12 minutes. Let cool before placing in an airtight container. Makes 24 to 36 cookies, depending on size.
Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies (Dairy)
2-1/4 cups unbleached flour.
1 tsp. baking soda.
1/4 tsp. salt.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened.
1/2 cup granulated sugar.
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar.
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract.
2 large eggs
1 cup toffee bits
1 to 1-1/2 cups bittersweet or semi-sweet 54 percent to 72 percent cocoa chocolate chunks or chocolate chips.
OPTIONAL: Sea salt sprinkled on top
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside.
Place the butter, sugars and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high, until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each addition.
Turn the speed to the lowest setting and spoon in the flour mixture, scraping the bowl often.
Remove the bowl from the stand and mix in the toffee bits and chocolate chips by hand.
Place by rounded spoonsful on the prepared pans.
If desired, sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on each cookie. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes until golden. Let cool completely on the sheets. Makes 24 to 36 cookies.
Ginger-y Snaps (Dairy or Pareve)
1 large piece (about 4 inches) fresh ginger, peeled
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups unbleached flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. (scant) ground cloves
1/3 cup butter or pareve margarine
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. dark corn syrup or golden syrup
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 to 2/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease one or more cookie sheet(s).
Grate the ginger and measure two heaping teaspoons. Set aside in a cup or small bowl.
Mix 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon together in a small shallow bowl. Set aside.
Put the flour, baking soda, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.
Cream the butter and shortening in the electric mixer. Add the light brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, molasses, golden syrup, vanilla and grated ginger and beat until well blended.
Add the flour while mixing on slow speed. Add the crystallized ginger. Beat until a dough forms.
Take a rounded tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball, gently roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture, place on the cookie sheet and repeat, spacing the cookies two inches apart.
Flatten cookies slightly. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 to 18 minutes.
Gluten Free Almond Cookies (Dairy or Pareve)
1/2 cup butter or pareve margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs, 1 reserved
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1-3/4 cups almond flour
1 cup oat flour
1/2 cup whole almonds (for topping cookies)
sugar for dusting
Line 2 or 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and the eggs and beat again, until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl as needed.
Reduce the speed to low and add the baking powders and flours and beat until completely blended.
Roll tablespoon size balls of dough, about 1-inch in diameter, lightly in your palms and place 1 to 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Gently flatten. Place a whole almond in the center of each cookie.
Break the last egg in a small bowl and beat well. Lightly brush once over each cookie. Sprinkle very lightly with sugar.
Place in the oven and bake until golden, 11 to 15 minutes. Let cookies cool completely before moving them. Makes 36 to 48 cookies.