RSS Feed

Tag Archives: cookies


We were in San Francisco’s Chinatown a couple of weeks ago and made our usual stop at Eastern Bakery for a bag of almond cookies. I’ve bought other sweets there over numerous visits and I have a hard time wrapping my tastebuds around them, but then Chinese cuisine isn’t really known for its desserts.

But I have a wonderful cookbook, California the Beautiful Cookbook by John Phillip Carroll, which includes a recipe for almond cookies. I remember my mother making them years ago and I thought they were pretty good. Not exactly like the ones Eastern Bakery turns out which are drier and crumblier, these are more like a smooth shortbread. They’re easy to make.

The original recipe asks you to top the cookies with sesame seeds before baking. I don’t see sesame seeds as being necessary on an almond cookie, but that’s subject to taste.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
whole almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream softened butter and powdered sugar together. Add egg yolk and almond extract and cream again, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
Toss together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add flour to butter mixture and beat in until all is combined and there are no flour pockets.
Roll out tablespoons of dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 1/2″ apart. Give each cookie a mash with your fist to flatten it slightly, then top with a whole almond.


Bake at 375 about 15 minutes until edges are browned.

If you feel sesame seeds would be a good addition, beat the leftover egg white with a tablespoon of water. Brush each flattened cookie with the egg white, then dip in sesame seeds and top with almond; bake as directed.




Following my post about making your own mincemeat, I was asked for recipes for mincemeat cookies and mincemeat cake.

The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook from 1954 is a cute little basic cookbook with declarations such as “Today we know that deep-fat frying, or French frying, as it is sometimes called, can be a healthful way to cook foods” and “It is not unusual, in California, to see salads mixed over a large bowl of ice, so deeply do Californians believe that a colder the salad is, the better tasting it will be” and “Some people think they do not like liver, yet it is very healthful and should be eaten by every member of the family at least once a week.”  Despite these statements (and an unhealthy obsession with commas), there actually are some good recipes in here.

That’s where I found the cookie recipe titled Florence’s Mincemeat Cookies. The first time I made it, I didn’t read the whole recipe before I started in, and halfway through I read,  “Make a depression in dough… and fill with mincemeat.” Oh hell no. That is not what I had in mind.  So I did what anyone else would have done: I punted. This is the result.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups mincemeat

Cream butter and sugar together, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda and add by increments to the butter. Stir  in mincemeat.  Chill dough for 1 hour.

Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheet, about 2″ apart. Bake at 375 about 10-12 minutes, until tops are still wet but just starting to dry. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cooling rack right away.


This sweet bread-cake is from Christmas Treasury, a production of Sunset Magazine – a magazine marketed to Western United States residents and which was a great magazine for 92 years until 1990 when Time-Warner bought it, at which time it started to suck mightily and is now indistinguishable from any other lifestyle magazine. No, I’m not bitter and deeply resentful. Not at all. Not me.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups mincemeat
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture alternately with mincemeat, mixing until thoroughly blended. Stir in nuts.

Grease and flour an 8-inch bundt pan or 5″ X 9″ loaf pan, and scrape batter into pan. Bake at 350 for 50 to 55 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Run knife around pan edges to loosen. Let cake stand 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

This cake looks pretty with powdered sugar sifted over, or mix powdered sugar with lemon juice, orange juice, rum or brandy to make an icing to drizzle over the cooled cake. Serve with butter or cream cheese to spread on each slice.



I always wanted to be the sort of person who could make perfectly decorated cutout Christmas cookies. I’m not. I have come to grips with this and decided I can live a full life anyway. But I do like to make cookies and other sweets at Christmas, even though I don’t have the sweet tooth I used to – I just like to bake and then give the results away to presumably appreciative people.

On Tuesday my husband and I made some of our favorites to pack up and mail off to his family in Nevada.  None of these recipes is complicated. They aren’t fancy but they taste good and are quietly addictive.

About ingredients:

  • eggs are jumbo or extra-large
  • butter is unsalted
  • flour is pastry flour – all-purpose will work but I think pastry flour is superior for cookies
  • I used organic raw granulated sugar but ordinary granulated works fine
  • all extracts are pure (NOT imitation)
  • And always thoroughly preheat the oven.

From Mimi Sheraton’s Visions of Sugarplums  (a cookbook you really ought to have if you love Christmas foods – all about sweets served at Christmas around the world) is this classic recipe for Scottish shortbread. I use a wooden mold I got in Scotland to shape the cookies.

shortbread mold

But it isn’t necessary, just a fun touch.


  • 1 1/2 cups (3/4 pound; 3 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour or cornstarch

Cream the butter and sugar together. Combine the two flours and cut into the butter mixture; mix as for pastry. Add just enough of the flour so that the dough forms a soft ball. Divide dough in half and pat each half into a round cake tin. Either press with a wooden mold, or use a knife to score the dough into wedges emanating from the center like sunrays. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork.

Bake at 350 until golden and lightly browned. The cookbook says 45 minutes to 1 hour; I have always found that to be far too long and usually it is done in about 15 -25 minutes. You can further cut the wedges when it is warm, or wait until it cools and break the shortbread apart.


This second shortbread is from Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It is quite a bit more delicate than the previous recipe but has a light caramel taste that is equally addictive. I like to toast the cashews in a dry frying pan before chopping them, but this is strictly optional.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 cup chopped cashews
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the nuts and mix well.  Combine the dry ingredients and work them into the butter with your fingers. The mixture will be crumbly.

Dust a work surface with flour. Divide the dough in half. Roll half at a time into a simple shape like a square or circle to about 1/4″ thickness. Cut with a knife into wedges or squares.  Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes at 375. These puff up and expand a little bit, so space them about 1/2″ apart. Let cool about 10 minutes on cookie sheet before carefully removing to a rack to finish cooling. These are fragile but get a little more firm as they cool.


This is my go-to biscotti recipe, from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere (a comprehensive work on all kinds of basic desserts like tarts, basic cakes, ice creams, etc, with an excellent appendix). My husband’s elderly aunt loves these so I always make them for her.


  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grappa (substitute brandy or cognac)
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract
  • 1 teaspoon aniseed
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until they start to smell nutty. Remove from pan and chop into 1/4″ pieces.

Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, grappa, anise extract, and aniseed and cream the mixture again. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat them in just until mixed. Stir in the almonds.

On a lightly floured board, make rolls of the dough about 1″ in diameter and lay them on a baking sheet about 2″ apart. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes.  Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and carefully slice the rolls into 1/2″ pieces on the diagonal. Place the slices on their side and bake another 5-8 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on a rack. Store airtight. Serve these with a cup of coffee and a glass of grappa (or brandy or cognac, since grappa is a bit of an acquired taste, even for me).

Note: these can be flavored in many ways – omit the aniseed & anise flavoring and instead try grated lemon peel & lemon extract; orange peel and orange extract; Amaretto; hazelnuts in place of almonds with Frangelico, and so forth.


This recipe is courtesy of my niece Aimee Rice Bennett. Even though I am not a huge sugary dessert fan, these are really special and taste like more; my husband, who is death on sugar, LOVES these. I tweaked the spices a bit from her recipe.



    ¾ cup butter, softened

  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

 Cream butter and sugar; add egg and molasses and cream again. Combine the dry ingredients and mix into the butter. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.

Make a mixture of

  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  •  1 teaspoon cinnamon

Take your dough out of the fridge, roll it into little balls and roll them around in the sugar mixture, then place them on a greased cookie sheet about 2″ apart. Bake them for 9-10 minutes, until the tops of the cookies crack. Cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two, then remove to a wire rack.

Note: I had leftover spiced sugar after rolling the cookies. I just tossed it into a date-nut bread batter rather than throw it out – delicious.


Last but far from least are oatmeal cookies. This is the same recipe I have used for over 50 years and it is absolutely perfect; it is the recipe from the Quaker oatmeal box and cannot be improved upon. My husband has learned to make these and he cuts the sugar a bit; I leave it as is. He adds about 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; I don’t. What we do agree on is no raisins, lots of walnuts, and the most important instruction: take the cookies out of the oven before they’re done.


    • 3/4 cup butter, softened
    • 3/4 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
    • 2 Eggs
    • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
    • 1-1/2 Cups flour
    • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
    • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
    • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (NOT instant or quick-cooking)
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or more)

Cream butter with sugars. Mix in the eggs and vanilla thoroughly. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda, and mix into the butter mixture. Mix in the oatmeal and the nuts.

Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, spacing about 1 1/2″ apart. Bake at 350 degrees. Watch cookies carefully. When the edges start to set up and brown a little but the center is still wet, remove them from the oven. Let cool on cookie sheet a few minutes, then remove to cooling rack. You’ll thank me later.


As far as I know there isn’t any particular Christmas association with biscotti, but I do include it in my Christmas baking just because it’s easy to make and most people like it. I’ve had lots of commercially-made biscotti but they are usually too sweet and flavorless for my tastes.

These go well with a cup of coffee, tea, or red wine, or alongside a simple dessert like ice cream or pudding. This is slightly adapted from Lindsey Shere’s recipe in Chez Panisse Desserts.

Amaretto-anise Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup almond slivers or whole blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract
  • 1 teaspoon aniseed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Toast the almonds in a small frying pan over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until they are just lightly browned. Remove from the pan, let cool, and chop.

Cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and cream mixture again. Beat in the Amaretto, anise extract, and aniseed. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat them in until just mixed. Stir in the almonds.

With your hands, make sausagelike rolls of the dough about 1″ in diameter and lay them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool about 5 minutes, then slice them diagonally about 1/2″ thick. Turn slices on their sides and bake another 5 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

There are plenty of variations with this recipe: use brandy, grappa, or other liquor; use lemon or orange juice and peel; use vanilla extract, rum extract or almond extract, and so on. I made a lovely variation once using Boyajian lemon oil and lemon zest… dream up your own.

images (2)

Hachiya persimmon.

Persimmons are ripe and widely available at Christmastime, though many people are unfamiliar with them.  They are native to Asia and grown worldwide, and are especially popular in the eastern United States and California – but they seem to have slipped past the Midwestern US somehow. They’re beautiful intensely-orange globes that can be eaten raw or made into desserts, but they must be ripe or they are unbelievably mouth-puckering.  Though there are many varieties, the main types are Fuyu, which is a squat, flattened sphere, and can be eaten raw – it’s good sliced into salads; the other type is the Hachiya, which is heart-shaped and must be fully ripe before eating. When completely ripe, it’s very jellylike – or as a friend said, “it’s a bag of snot.”


Fuyu persimmon.

If your persimmons are softening but not quite snotlike  ripe, here’s what to do. Slice peeled and seeded persimmons into a saucepan, add enough water to keep them from sticking.  and cook about 25 minutes over medium heat, then puree in a blender or food processor.

My mother didn’t like persimmon cookies until I made this recipe, and it’s by far the best persimmon cookie I’ve ever tried. The last time I made this, I used 1/2 cup dates and 1/2 cup golden raisins (which had been rinsed thoroughly in boiling water) – just because I thought I wouldn’t have enough dates for all the baking happening that day. It worked beautifully.

This is from Sunset Magazine.

Persimmon Bars with Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup persimmon puree
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup salad oil
  • 1 cup pitted dates, snipped into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Stir baking soda into persimmon puree.

In a large bowl, beat together egg, sugar, oil, and dates.

In another bowl, stir together flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; add to date mixture alternately with persimmon puree, stirring just until blended. Stir in nuts.

Spread batter in greased and floured 9 X 13 baking pan. Bake at 350 until wooden pick inserted in middle comes out clean, 25-40 minutes.

Let cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then spread with lemon glaze.

Lemon glaze

Stir together 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.


In the very late 1970s and early 1980s there was a sudden vogue for rum balls, served in certain types of female-patronized tearooms and bakeries. They were small truffle-like chocolate confections, very sweet, with an extremely small amount of rum – more likely it was rum flavoring. I haven’t seen them in years.

My husband said his mother used to make rum balls that were baked and were flaky or crispy. I did a lot of inquiring and recipe searches before finding this one, which he says is pretty close to what he remembers. It was sent to me online by a nice person whose name I’ve forgotten but who said she remembered the same type of cookie when she was a child.

This is from I have tweaked it very slightly.

Polish Rum Balls

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup finely ground nuts
    • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature ( 1 1/2 sticks)
    • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
    • 2-3 tablespoons rum ( light or dark, your choice)
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    • confectioners’ sugar
  1. Combine flour, pecans, butter, sugar, rum, vanilla, and nutmeg in bowl.
  2. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into 3/4-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Put unused dough back in refrigerator.
  5. Bake  12 to 15 minutes, until bottoms of cookies golden brown.
  6. Remove to rack to cool. These are much flakier once they have cooled.
  7. If desired, dust with additional sugar before serving.

I think you could substitute other liquors for the rum – whiskey, brandy, bourbon, etc. – and have a successful outcome. If you don’t want to use liquor, perhaps some orange juice would be a good substitute.


Long, long ago my family bought Buckhorn Oatmeal. I haven’t seen it in years and have no idea whatever happened to that brand. It was probably cheaper than Quaker Oats (a big reason to buy something when you have three kids in the family). I don’t remember it being better or worse than the name brand. Eventually we transitioned to Quaker Oats; I suppose Buckhorn became unavailable.

We made and ate a lot of oatmeal cookies. A few recipes came and went, but we always went back to the real deal, the recipe on the bag of rolled oats. My brother sometimes made oatmeal bars instead of cookies.

Nowadays I buy oatmeal in bulk at the supermarket, or a local brand made in town, Moore’s Flour Mill (which has a popular spinoff, Bob’s Red Mill). I avoid “instant” or “quick” oats, as they don’t have the taste or texture of rolled oats.

The secret to really great oatmeal cookies: remove from the oven before they are done.

This is the recipe I use, slightly adapted from the original:


  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 Cup firmly Packed Golden Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt (optional)
  • 3 Cups raw rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  3. Add combined flour, baking soda and salt; mix well.
  4. Stir in oats and nuts; mix well.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Do not overbake! For the most delicious soft chewy cookies, remove from the oven while tops are still slightly wet-looking. You won’t regret it!
  7. Cool  five minutes on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.

Bar Cookies: Bake 30-35 minutes in ungreased 13″ X9″ greased metal baking pan.

Of course this recipe lends itself to all kinds of adaptatIons, additions and subtractions.  Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, chopped dates, shredded coconut, figs,  etc.) is a classic variation, as is a teaspoon of cinnamon or other spices. Nuts can be eliminated, or added to, as can chocolate or butterscotch chips.  Other whole-grain cereals similar to oatmeal can be mixed into the oats.

I’ve found that cutting back on the sugar makes a smaller, dryer, harder cookie than I like, so I prefer to use the full 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar…  unless an adequate substitute is found. By happy coincidence, I found one.  Last Christmas, I set aside one Saturday to do an enormous baking of cookies and breads to send to my husband’s relatives in Nevada. Among the sweets I made that day was a batch of mincemeat cookies – which took half a jar of prepared mincemeat. I stuck the half-empty jar in the refrigerator and forgot about it.

Last weekend, my husband asked if that mincemeat was still good, and if so, shouldn’t we use it? I thought it could be in incorporated into oatmeal cookie dough. When mixing the cookie dough, I omitted the granulated sugar and added the leftover 1/2 jar of mincemeat along with the oats. We tossed in slivered almonds and walnuts. My husband started spooning the dough onto a cookie sheet, then asked if an ice cream scoop would work. It worked very well, though the cookies were enormous! The cookies spread out the same as if they’d had the granulated sugar added and were tender & soft.

I probably won’t be using mincemeat again until next Christmas, but when I do, I’ll save some to make oatmeal cookies with.

%d bloggers like this: