'The Great Minnesota Cookie Book,' by Lee Svitak Dean and Rick Nelson, of the Star Tribune, is a compilation of 80 winning recipes and stories from bakers around the state who have entered the Holiday Cookie Contest at the Star Tribune. Lee is the food editor and Rick is the restaurant critic and staff writer for the Taste section.
They will be speaking on “Holiday Cookie Traditions” on Nov. 29, 7 p.m., for Talk of the Stacks at the downtown Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall. Cookies will be served! Doors open at 6:15; general seating.
Note: Using canned pumpkin is just fine. Preferred, even.
3½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup pumpkin puree
5 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons milk
1 cup powdered sugar, plus extra if needed
To prepare cookies: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line the baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the shortening and granulated sugar until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
Drop rounded teaspoons of the dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes; do not overbake. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare icing: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, butter, and milk, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat, set aside, and cool completely, about an hour. Whisk in the powdered sugar until the icing is the desired consistency, adding more if necessary. Ice cookies to taste.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
For as long as she can remember, Amy Karlen of Minnetonka, Minnesota, has been crazy about the Pumpkin Cookies that her mother, Judy, makes. “For years, I’ve been telling Mom that this is the best cookie, that it would win contests,” she said. “But I know she would never think anything she made would ever be that good.” Karlen has spent a considerable amount of time turning her friends and colleagues into Pumpkin Cookie converts too. “So many people say, ‘I don’t like pumpkin,’ but then they like these cookies,” said Karlen. “They’re cakey and sweet and spicy. They have always reminded me of autumn.”
Cashew Lemon Shortbread
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon lemon extract (or 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
½ cup roasted cashews, chopped
Freshly grated lemon zest, optional
Preheat the oven to 325°F and line the baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add ½ cup granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon extract (or lemon juice and lemon zest) and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour, and mix just until the dough begins to form a ball. Stir in the cashews.
Shape the dough into 1 ½ -inch balls. Roll the dough balls in the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar, place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, and flatten with the bottom of a glass (and sprinkle with a bit of fresh lemon zest, if desired). Bake just until cookies are set and edges are lightly browned, 17 to 19 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Although Jean Livingood of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, has been making Cashew-Lemon Shortbread for a short time, they’ve hit number 1 on her family’s cookie roster of greatest hits. Not just at Christmas, either. Her oldest daughter unearthed the recipe in an old cookbook, and everywhere she took them the reaction was the same: Wow. At a recent birthday party, the shortbread was quickly reduced to a few crumbs, the only food item completely gone by the event’s end. “That happens everywhere we take them,” Livingood said. Besides their simple goodness and easy-to-follow instructions, there’s another reason why Livingood has added these newcomers to her baking mix. “I’m a chocolate freak,” she said. “And my daughters say, ‘Mom, we can’t make everything chocolate.’”
Chocolate Decadence Cookies
For added flavor, we toasted the walnuts. To toast walnuts, place the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring (or shaking the pan frequently), until they just begin to release their fragrance, about 3 to 4 minutes (alternately, preheat oven to 325°F, spread the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake, stirring often, for 4 to 6 minutes). Remove the nuts from the heat and cool to room temperature.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (such as Ghirardelli’s 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or other nuts (toasted, if desired)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line the baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract. Set the bowl in a larger bowl of hot tap water.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and reserve.
In a double boiler over gently simmering water (or in a bowl in a microwave oven), combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter, and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips.
Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake until the surface looks dry and the centers are still gooey, about 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.