The sweet aroma of cookies baking wafts through the kitchen as the kids trample in and plead, "When are they gonna be ready?" Smile and reply softly, "Soon. But these are for the company, dear hearts."
And these cookies will still be there when your guests arrive, because the kids will taste them and move onto the chocolate chips and frosted Santas.
With twinges of flavors like anise, cardamom, basil, liqueur and coffee, these treats definitely appeal to grown-up taste buds.
All Things Considered has gathered recipes from three bakers who suggest these adult holiday cookies.
MISO MACADAMIA BLONDIES
Genevieve Ko is a baker, food writer and author of Better Baking: Wholesome Ingredients, Delicious Desserts. She shares this recipe from her book.
The butterscotch pleasure of blondies intensifies when macadamia nuts take the place of butter and flour. With a creamy richness that evokes pound cake, the roasted nuts blend with brown sugar into bars that are tender at room temperature and as chewy as fudge when frozen, which is how I love them. Miso, a Japanese soybean paste, adds a savory depth that gives these an alluring salty-sweet balance.
Tip: White (shiro) miso, available in Asian and natural foods markets, is the sweetest and mildest of miso varieties. It also tends to be smoother. If you buy one made with just soybeans and rice, it should be gluten-free. Read the label carefully, though, since miso is sometimes made with wheat or barley too.
Makes 25 gluten- and dairy-free blondies
1½ cups (218 grams) roasted salted macadamia nuts
1 cup (215 grams) packed dark-brown sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons white (shiro) miso
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides with foil or parchment paper and spray again.
Pulse the macadamia nuts in a food processor until chopped. Remove ¼ cup (36 grams) of the chopped nuts and reserve. Pulse the remaining nuts until finely ground, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the brown sugar, baking soda, and salt and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Scrape the bowl, add the miso and vanilla, and pulse until incorporated. Add the eggs and pulse until smooth, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the reserved chopped nuts on top.
Bake the blondies until the top is dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Lift the blondies out of the pan using the sides of the foil or paper. To cut into perfectly even squares, freeze the blondies until firm, at least 30 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut into 25 squares. Serve frozen, cold or at room temperature.
The blondies will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Ignacio Alvarez is president of Lux Bakery, a family owned business in San Antonio established in 1965. Dip these cookies enough and it's possible to catch a buzz. You may find yourself "socially lubricated," says Alvarez.
Makes approximately 2 lbs. batch in ounces and grams to measure quickly.
12 ounces all-purpose flour
8.25 ounces granulated sugar
4.25 ounces all-purpose shortening
4.25 ounces lard (secret stuff)
2 ounces eggs
8 grams anise seed (if liquid anise flavor, use 6 grams)
5 grams butter flavor
5 grams vanilla flavor
3.5 grams table salt
3 grams ground cinnamon
Combine all of the dry ingredients except for the flour. Mix the dry ingredients with the shortening and lard until fluffy. Add wet ingredients again until fluffy. Then add the flour.
Form dough into ½ oz. balls, place on a greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges brown.
Chocolate Dipping Sauce
4½ ounces dark chocolate
½ cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon basil leaves
1 ounce of liqueur (Alvarez's favorite was "Licor 43," a product of Spain)
Chop the chocolate into small, even-sized pieces. Pour the cream into a saucepan and add the basil leaves, if using. Heat until just beginning to bubble, then add the chocolate, stirring with a whisk.
Pour into a pitcher or strain through a fine-meshed strainer to remove the basil leaves, if using. Serve immediately.
Coffee Cardamon Cookies
Dorie Greenspan is the author of 12 cookbooks, including the recently released Dorie's Cookies. She shares this recipe from her book.
If spice cookies are good alongside coffee — and they are — then wouldn't they be even better with coffee in them? That was the question I asked myself and these cookies are the affirmative answer.
These have freshly ground espresso in the dough (you can use whatever coffee you'll be drinking with the cookies or, in a pinch, instant espresso — but don't use as much: 2 teaspoons does the trick.) I love that you can see the specks in the cookies. And although there's cinnamon in the mix, it's the addition of cardamom that makes these cookies extra special. The cardamom blends so beautifully with the coffee and cinnamon that it's elusive, but it adds spice and warmth.
I bake these until they're set around the edges but still have a little give at the center. If you'd like them a bit chewier, bake them for less time. But don't bake them longer, since they crisp after a couple of days.
The glaze is optional, but I like the look and the extra bit of sweetness that it brings to the cookies.
A word on the glaze: The recipe calls for half an egg white. The easiest way to divide the white is to beat it lightly to break it up, and then measure out 15 grams. Or put it in a mini liquid measuring cup and pour off half.
Makes about 30 cookies
For the cookies
2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground espresso or coffee beans (or 2 teaspoons instant espresso)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
½ cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1½ tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the optional glaze
½ large egg white
¾ cup (90 grams) confectioner's sugar
1½ teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
½ to 2 teaspoons warm water, if needed
Directions for cookies
Whisk the flour, espresso, cinnamon, cardamom and salt together.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture curdles. Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl and add the flour mixture all at once. Pulse until the risk of flying flour has passed, then mix on low speed just until the dry ingredients are fully blended into the dough. You'll have a thick, very moist dough.
Turn the dough out, gather it together and shape it into a disk.
Roll the dough between pieces of parchment paper to a thickness of ¼ inch. Slide the parchment-sandwiched dough onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Have a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter at hand.
Peel away both pieces of parchment paper and put the dough back on one piece of paper. Cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined baking sheets. Gather the scraps together, re-roll, chill and cut.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, rotating the sheet after 6 minutes, or until they are toasty brown on both the bottoms and tops.
Poke them gently — they should be firm around the edges and softer in the center. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and allow the cookies to cool for at least 20 minutes, or until they reach room temperature, before glazing (or serving) them. Repeat with the remaining dough, always using a cool baking sheet.
Directions for optional glaze
Working in a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until it's foamy. Pour in the confectioner's sugar and, continuing with the whisk or switching to a flexible spatula, stir, mash and mix until the sugar is thoroughly moistened. It looks like an impossible job, but a little elbow grease will get it done. You'll have a thick mass. Push the mixture down and stir in the melted butter. If the glaze looks too thick to brush, stir in a bit of water a little at time until you get a workable consistency; you'll probably need less than 2 teaspoons of water, so go slow.
You can spread the glaze over the cookies with a small icing spatula or butter knife (to get the same look as the cookies in the photo), or you can use a brush. Dip a pastry brush into the glaze, picking up ¼ to ½ teaspoon of glaze, and brush it over one cookie, brushing in one direction. Without taking any more glaze, and working perpendicular to the original direction, brush the glaze until you have a nice crosshatch pattern. Repeat with the remaining cookies. You can serve the cookies 15 minutes after they're glazed, but if you want to save them for later, place them on a lined baking sheet and allow them to air-dry for at least 1 hour before storing.
The rolled-out dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or, wrapped airtight, frozen for up to 2 months. Cut and bake directly from the freezer. Covered with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against its surface; the glaze will keep at room temperature for about 4 days. Packed in a covered container, the cookies will keep at room temperature for 5 to 7 days. They'll get drier, but they'll remain delicious. Unglazed cookies can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.