Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies by Cynthia Raub

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I love lemon poppy seed anything: cookies, muffins, scones, you name it! These cookies are addictively crisp, with a tender crumb and are a perfect addition to any cookie assortment. The lemon zest lends a fragrant floral note in addition to its citrusy sweetness. These cookies are especially delicious with tea because of they are delicate and subtly sweet. This recipe is simple, adaptable, and perfect for preparing in advance for your special occasions. 

Notes: I have adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who has adapted a simple slice and bake recipe from cookie queen Dorie Greenspan. Deb of Smitten Kitchen recommends different add-ins such as cranberries and orange, or lime and cornmeal - the possibilities of substitutions are endless with this recipe. To get a beautifully round cookie, roll the log tightly in the plastic wrap as described in the instructions. If you have an empty paper towel roll handy, cut through it lengthwise and nestle the dough roll inside of it to protect the roll's round edges.


Time: 30 minutes active,  2.5 hours inactive
Yield: About 30 cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 heaping tablespoons)
1/3 cup poppy seeds

Beat room temperature butter on medium speed in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add sifted confectioners sugar and continue to beat on medium until smooth. Once smooth, add egg yolks, one at a time until incorporated. Add salt, vanilla extract, lemon extract, lemon zest and poppy seeds- beat until combined and smooth. Lower the mixing speed and add the flour, a 1/2 cup at a time. Continue to mix until wet mixture binds to the flour but do not over mix. 

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and gently gather it into a ball. Divide the ball into two and wrap each half in plastic wrap- refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes of resting and firming in the refrigerator, remove one dough ball from its plastic wrap and roll gently into a log (about 1.5 inches thick) on a clean and flat surface. Place the rough log onto a clean sheet of plastic wrap, wrapping the plastic wrap around the length of the log to secure the shape. Take the ends of the plastic wrap and roll the log of dough against the table away from your body until the plastic wrap is taught and the ends are secure. Repeat with the second roll, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. *Optional: Cut a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll through its length and place the log(s) into the roll- this will protect the log from developing a flat side.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking pans with parchment paper. Remove the dough logs from the refrigerator, unwrap it from its plastic and place on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice log into 1/4" thick cookies. Gently pat the rough cut edges of the cookies with your fingers, rounding out any flat or uneven spots and place on baking pan with 1 inch space between cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until crisp and barely golden. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies by Amy Cantu

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Everyone has a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and everyone says theirs is the best. They are all wrong. These Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever put in my mouth, and I have for sure eaten more chocolate chip cookies than any one person should ever eat in their whole lifetime. This fact obviously makes me an expert on the matter. (This obviously does NOT make me an expert on anything, except eating too much and too frequently. I digress.) What I can say with complete accuracy is that the cookie dough and baked cookies were so delicious, that I had to make a second double batch because I (and Cynthia, and my friend Christine, and my husband AJ, and my kids) couldn't stop eating them. The smell of them baking in the oven was so intoxicating that Cynthia and I couldn't wait for them to cool, so we burnt our fingers prying them off the cookie sheet and our tongues from the hot, oozing chocolate: It was absolutely worth it. The edges of the Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie were crisp and crunchy, while the centers were soft, yielding, and chewy. The tahini flavor was subtle, but added a deep, nutty base that stood up to the velvety, rich dark chocolate. AJ (who doesn't crave sweets) couldn't stop at one cookie, while my kids speedily cleaned up their toys to share one more. I'm not saying these cookies are magical (O.K. that IS what I'm saying), but I think they might be the answer to world peace, happiness, and well-being . . . maybe.

Notes: The tahini flavor is pronounced in the cookie dough, but is much more subtle in the baked cookie. I added a tablespoon of sesame oil to play up the flavor a bit, but it does result in a more crisp cookie. 

The cookie dough really does need to rest in the fridge for 12 hours, so the flavors can mingle and the cookies don't spread too much when baked. I have doubled the quantities in the recipe included here because 25 cookies is the minimum to prevent a fist fight (or at the very least, Ro Sham Bo,) to determine who gets the last cookie. Save the angst and make enough for everyone to enjoy!

Also, the cookie dough freezes beautifully. Freeze the cookie dough balls in a single layer on a cookie sheet until hard, then transfer them to a sealed container or bag. Bake the dough balls straight from the freezer, adding a couple extra minutes to the baking time.

Time: 20 minutes (active), 12 ½ hours (inactive)
Yield: About 25 cookies

1 cup (1/2 lb) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup tahini, well stirred
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil (optional)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 ½ cups chocolate chunks or chips, bittersweet or semisweet
Flaky salt, like fleur de sel or Maldon

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, tahini, sesame oil (if using), and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, egg yolks and vanilla and continue mixing at medium speed for another 5 minutes.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork or whisk. Add flour mixture to butter mixture at low speed until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in chocolate chunks. Dough will be soft, not stiff. Refrigerate at least 12 hours; this ensures tender cookies.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat.  For each cookie, roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball, and drop onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. (Cookies will spread while baking.)

Bake 13 to 16 minutes until just golden brown around the edges but still pale in the middle to make thick, soft cookies.  Or for crisp cookies, bake until evenly golden brown (about 1-2 minutes further). As cookies come out of the oven, sprinkle sparsely with salt. Let cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Cake by Amy Cantu

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Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Cake

Ice cream cake is sooo much easier to make than a tiered cake baked in the oven. It looks impressive and tastes divine, because much like cheese, who doesn’t like ice cream? My family declared this “the best birthday cake ever”, which is almost an insult because of how little effort it took. The hardest part about this “cake” is starting at least a day in advance, so that the layers have ample time to freeze. I love the layered look of the cake, once it’s sliced. Depending on the flavor of ice cream you choose, this ice cream cake is just as comfortable at an elegant dinner party, as it is at a kid’s (or husband’s) birthday party!

Developed from Bon Appetit.

Notes: Variations of this ice cream cake are endless. You can change the ice cream flavor to just about anything that would go with chocolate. (Peanut butter ice cream topped with peanut butter cups?! A berry flavored ice cream and then top with fresh berries?! Or how about Dulce de Leche ice cream and then drizzle with caramel sauce? YUM!). You could also change the chocolate cookies to shortbread or vanilla wafer cookies and do a citrus flavored ice cream. Modify the whipped cream topping by substituting a teaspoon of lemon or orange zest for the cocoa powder. Now you have a summery dessert!

Time: 30 minutes (not including freezing time)
Servings: 12

52 chocolate wafer cookies, such as Famous Chocolate Wafers (about 12 ounces), broken into pieces, or chocolate cookie crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 quarts Cookies and Cream ice cream, slightly softened
2 cups chilled whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed, for garnish

Blend cookies in food processor until finely ground. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are moistened. (Or if using chocolate cookie crumbs - use a fork to combine crumbs with butter until moistened.) Press crumb mixture onto bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.

Spoon the softened ice cream into the crust-lined pan. Smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze overnight.

Combine whipping cream and vanilla in another large bowl. Sift powdered sugar and cocoa over. Using electric mixer, beat until soft peaks form. Spread mixture over top of cake. Freeze until cream is set, at least 1 hour. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep frozen.) Sprinkle crushed chocolate sandwich cookies over top of cake. Run knife between pan sides and cake to loosen. Remove pan sides. Using small metal spatula or knife, smooth cake sides. Let cake stand at cool room temperature 10 minutes before serving.