cookies 201

A small preview of the cookies my assistant, Emilia, has prepared for her family this Christmas. (Fun recipes; love the goat caramel.)

By Emilia Juocys

The Christmas baking season is upon us again and I could not be happier for the cookies that will be coming out of my oven. The usual suspects of chocolate chip, ginger pig, chocolate orange crinkles, cat’s tongues, and dream bars are in the works. Baked treats for my family and friends. The funny thing was that I was so excited for Christmas cookies because earlier this year the Chicago chef and cookie goddess Mindy Segal came out with her cookie book, Cookie Love. I jumped for joy because the book has the most-delicious rugelach recipe ever! So if you are looking for a dazzling cookie book to give to your baker this holiday, sprint to get this one.

Every year I mention why I enjoy sharing these tasty morsels and how that brings smiles to the faces of those around me. The other day my mom mentioned that my 8-year-old cousin from Poland, Marcel, was upset about not baking cookies with me this Christmas. My little sous chef will not be visiting, but he is with me here in spirit. I find it so important to pass on tradition through cooking, to share recipes from our past or even current ones that make an impact on those around me. Take the time with a child, a friend or a family member and walk them through a special recipe. There is nothing better.

My fondest memories in my life have been tied to food, growing it, making it, and eating it with family, friends, and loved ones. I can sit back and think of a flavor, or even close my eyes and sense an aroma and recall where it came from, where I was at the time, and who was there with me.  I know that my cousin has this approach now embedded into his mind. So my wish for the season, is for you to spend precious moments with those who want to savor them with you.

For this cookie baking season I am sharing a friend’s Sour Cream Sugar Cookie recipe for roll out cookies and an original cookie recipe the spiced pecan thumbprint cookies with cajeta (goat’s milk caramel). Sugar cookies are everyone’s best friend. I normally bake drop cookies because they are easy, but during Christmas people love cookies shaped like trees, bells, stars, santas, or pigs. They are fun to decorate with various frostings and candies. I enjoy baking, and honestly don’t have enough patience to hand decorate dozens of cookies. I enjoy lighter fluffier cut out sugar cookies to my ginger pigs that are a but crunchier. So, that is why I went in search of a sour cream cookie. Adding more dairy to the dough, makes the cookie more tender. This sugar cookie recipe is super easy to make, just be aware of its stickiness. So, don’t be afraid to use flour, a decent amount of it when you roll this dough out. If you have a frosting or icing on hand, these cookies scream, please decorate me!

The second cookie that I am sharing was inspired by my family vacations to Mexico. Yes, I tend to use a lot of Mexican spices and love Mexican cuisine, but this was something fun I wanted to create. A simple thumbprint cookie with crushed pecans, cinnamon, and anise, topped with cajetia (goat’s milk caramel). Now if you have never had or made cajieta you are in for a blast. The first time I had this luscious goat caramel topping was at breakfast in Cancun. I poured a bit on my waffle cause you kinda get bored of syrup. I sat back and thought hmmm this is sweet like caramel but has a bit of character to it, something kinda sour. Oh, I like it. I ran back to the table and poured more of this caramel goodness on my waffle. I was hooked.

The caramel takes abut an hour to make, but it is well worth it to make. You can use it for the cookies but it also goes well with waffles, pancakes, chocolates, and ice cream. Well, pretty much anything one wants slathered in caramel.

Enjoy baking these two cookies or whatever pastries that are on your to bake list this holiday. Share the treats with those around you. Happy Baking!  Merry Christmas!


sugar cookies 2015

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, two sticks, room temperature
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. In a standing 5-quart mixer with the paddle attachment, begin to cream together the butter and the sugar. Paddle on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time and vanilla and paddle until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Paddle until eggs and vanilla are incorporated, next add the sour cream. Paddle for 1 minute more on medium speed and be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients on low speed and paddle until the dough comes together. This cookie dough is very sticky. Refrigerate at least for 4 hours or overnight.
  5. On a heavily floured surface, begin to roll out your dough. Be sure to flour the top of the dough and the rolling pin. Roll to 1/4 inch thick and cut in your favorite shapes. Place cookies on sheet trays lined with parchment paper or silpats. Bake at 350 degrees F./177 degrees C. for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should poof a bit and have a cake like consistency.
  6. Cool and decorate as desired.

Yield: 5 dozen, depending on shape and size of cookie cutters.


pecan thumbprint

Spiced Pecan Thumbprints with Caijeta

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, two sticks, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground anise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup ground pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F./163 degrees C.
  2. In a standing 5-quart mixer with the paddle attachment, begin to cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and anise. Paddle on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and paddle for 30 seconds to incorporate into sugar butter mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl stir together the flour, salt and ground pecans, then add to the sugar butter mixture. Paddle at low speed until the dough comes together.
  4. Line two sheet tray with parchment paper or silpats. Begin to scoop out tablespoon sized balls of dough and roll into balls. Once all the dough is formed into balls place them two inches apart and then press your thumb into the middle of the ball.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes; then remove from oven and press center of the cookies down again with a small round spoon. (back of your measuring spoons)
  6. Return to oven and bake for 10-14 minutes more.
  7. Allow to cool for 15 minutes then drizzle the caramel in the indentations in the cookies.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies



Goat’s Caramel

  • 1 quart goat’s milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  1. In cup combine the baking soda and cornstarch with two tablespoons of water (slurry) and set aside.
  2. Using a large sauce pot pour in the goat’s milk and sugar. Place on medium high heat stir until all the sugar dissolves.
  3. Now stir in the slurry and increase to medium high heat. Bring milk to a boil, keep stirring and be careful not to boil over.
  4. Stir and watch the milk mixture for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until the milk transforms into a golden caramel.
  5. Once color and consistency is reached allow the caramel to cool. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 month in a sealed container.

Yield: 2.5 cups


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© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.