Holiday cookie time. Photo by Emilia Juocys

I’m a cook, not a baker. There are few professional chefs who are both. Cory Barrett, formerly of Cleveland’s Lola, was its pastry chef and then its chef de cuisine, very rare. Michel Richard is an anomaly in being both a world-class pastry chef and a dazzlingly ingenious savory cook, as his book Happy in the Kitchen shows (I highly recommend this book, by the way, and his restaurants). That savory cooks and pastry cooks are different creatures is also why writing the new best-selling Thomas Keller book, the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook—stunning in its recipes, photography, and design—was both so hard and so exciting for me, as I tried to understand the whys behind the craft of baking and pastries and write about them through executive chef Sebastien Rouxel.

But it’s holiday-time, Christmastime, the season of baking! And my cherished assistant Emilia Juocys, a trained cook, happens to be a cookie fanatic and has asked to step in with a post on her favorite cookies for this season. Thanks, Emilia, I’ll be baking these cookies with James and Addison this week!—M.R.

By Emilia Juocys

This year it took me a couple of days to figure out what cookies I wanted to bake this season. I had cookbooks all over my kitchen open to various pages and a notepad and pencil in hand, making a list of what cookies or confections I wanted to prepare. Sitting at the kitchen table asking myself which recipes I wanted to bake that were new. Also asking myself if I wanted to make any classics. Also keeping in mind how much time I had to prepare these delicious morsels. Time is a factor—I could spend hours and days baking, so I had to be realistic. And yes, I do get carried away with my cookie projects and want to bake up a storm at home. If you know me, this is no surprise.

So, I decided on five types of tasty treats, four cookies and one confection. Two classic cookies—a simple rolled sugar cookie and a chewy oatmeal cookie. The other three came from outside inspiration. I do need to throw in here that I was inspired by Michael’s and Keller’s new cookbook the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook. (If you do not have it and love baking and pastries, this is a must-have book!) The two treats that popped into my mind from the Bouchon book were marshmallows and langues de chat.

Sadly, langues de chat (otherwise known as cat’s tongues), are not in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, but the emphasis on classical French pastry did motivate me to make these tasty little French butter cookies. Langues de chat are a classic piped cookie. It is also a formative cookie for me personally, because I can recall making this in high school French class for my classmates. Cat’s tongues are great for dunking in hot beverages, especially coffee, and the marshmallows are perfect with hot chocolate. The good news is that the marshmallows are in the book.

Hot chocolate was the inspiration for my second cookie. The idea came to fruition when Michael and Chef Brian Polcyn came to Chicago for the Salumi book tour. We stopped in at Xoco and spent the morning with Chef Shaw Lash who works for Chef Rick Bayless. She sat down with us and presented an array of hot chocolates. One of them was a spicy Aztec hot chocolate made with allspice and chile, not overly spicy but perfectly balanced with chocolate and spice. Overall delicious! My Mayan chocolate cookie is made up cocoa, cinnamon, ancho, and cayenne pepper. This cookie is addictive. Watch out!

Have a great holiday season and happy baking to all!


Mayan chocolate cookies—a little spice can go a long way.

Mayan Chocolate Cookies

  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle

  • 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/ 176°C.
  2. Sift the cocoa, cayenne, chili powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and flour together in a bowl.
  3. In a standing 5-quart mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for a minute to soften, and then add the sugar and beat for 3 more minutes. Paddle until the butter is light and fluffy, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add the egg to the butter and beat for another minute.
  5. Stir in the flour/spice mixture until the flour is just incorporated. Remove the dough, place in plastic wrap, and let chill for 45 minutes in the refrigerator.
  6. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, scoop out tablespoons of dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar on top and then bake the cookies for 12 minutes.
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven, cool for 10 minutes, and enjoy.

Yield 16 cookies


Langues de Chat (cat’s tongues)—little French butter cookies.

Langues de Chat

Cat’s Tongues

  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 390°F/180°C.
  2. In a standing 5-quart mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. The butter should look light and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. One by one, add the egg whites and then the vanilla to the creamed butter. Add a white, beat for 30 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and repeat.
  4. Sift the flour and salt a few times so there are no lumps.  Slowly mix in the flour into the butter mixture.

    Piping out the cookies.

  5. Using a pastry bag with a #2 tip, fill the bag with the cookie batter and pipe on to a sheet tray that is lightly buttered or onto a silpat. Be sure to leave 2 inches between the cookies as you pipe, as they do spread a little.
  6. Bake the cookies until a nice golden brown appears on the edges, about 12–15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely.


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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.