Today my second cookbook, five years in the making, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites, at last leaves my noisy, messy kitchen and, perhaps, makes its way into yours. I am, as ever, a nervous wreck. I hope you love it. I hope you find a new favorite recipe (or 5) in it.
I hope you make the granola biscotti and have them on hand for breakfasts and snacks for weeks; I hope your weekend is filled with sticky toffee waffles and breakfast potato skins. I hope you make a big batch of the dressing and the crumbs tonight for the kale caesar right away and keep them in jars in your fridge so that you can make more every night, as we do for weeks on end throughout the year and when you need a break, move onto the sushi takeout cobb. I hope you’re as excited as I am that there’s a soup section this time (including a mini-matzo ball soup that’s completely vegetarian and a grandma-style chicken noodle soup that’s cozy and economical and the only way I’ve made it since). I hope you find that the artichoke galette tastes a whole lot like that retro parmesan artichoke dip and it’s not an accident; I hope you don’t roll your eyes when you read about Debröd (but I’ll understand if you do); I hope you see why I make that herby baked camembert for every party and probably always will. I hope you’re excited that most of the mains are vegetarian again (halloumi sheet pan roasts and puffy dinner pancakes and a wild mushroom shepherd’s pie) but the meat dishes are ones I couldn’t shut up about (meatballs marsala with buttered egg noodles, street cart-style chicken and rice and short rib carnitas). And I hope you know that one of the most bonkers parts of this book is the Party Cake Builder, 7 different one-bowl, dead-simple cakes and 4 easy frostings (think: The ‘I Want Chocolate Cake’ Cake and then some) you can mix and match and present as cupcakes or sheet cakes or layer cakes without a lot of planning because I know — believe me, I know — most birthday cakes are made with love, devotion, and good intentions, but also at the last minute. And I hope you’ll see why I think the cookie section has some of my favorite recipes yet, because we’re finally going to crack the code of those bakery cookies so they at last taste even better than they look.
Because this book is for you, to everyone who has come to the Smitten Kitchen to read, to cook, and to share over the last 11 years. This book is a thank you for inspiring me every day to become a better cook and writer. You are the very best part about this gig.
And these are the cookies I have promised. When I was in high school, I worked at a local bakery several times a week after school, but on the wrong days. The best day to work was Tuesday, otherwise known as Cookie Day. The bakers would bake off all of those long and star-shaped butter cookies before they left and leave out piping bags loaded with jams and chocolates and trays of sprinkles, chopped nuts, and dried coconut, and whichever two people were lucky enough to have the afternoon-to-closing shift would get to spend most of their time in the back, filling and dipping and rolling. But never me. Two girls, sisters, had the Tuesday shift, and never, ever missed or traded an afternoon; believe me, I tried, I pleaded. In the 2-plus years I worked there, I got to cover only once, but I remember every second of it, because it was the best Tuesday of my life.
You can still get cookies like this at a lot of bakeries, and our nostalgia for them may be strong, but the reality of them these days is by and large underwhelming. They’re usually ordered from a central supplier, and, if that isn’t bad enough, artificially flavored. Still, these are not the kind of cookies I’d ever felt the need to make at home, because it’s quite a production. Recently, however, something snapped—perhaps the last, frayed tether on my sanity; don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know this—when I realized they’re astoundingly easy to make at home with real butter, good vanilla, and sea salt. The dough is ready to bake right away, so it’s about 15 minutes from mixing to baking, 30 minutes to cool, and then you’re just some jam in a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off, melted chocolate chips, and all the sprinkles you can get your hands on from making every day like Tuesday. This time, my assistants are shorter and cuter, and, because even they know how awesome Cookie Day is, 100 percent as unlikely to miss their shift.
Bakery-Style Butter Cookies
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (160 grams) jam of your choice
- 1 cup sprinkles, chopped nuts, or finely shredded dried coconut
- 10-to-12-ounce (285-to-340-gram) bag semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
Combine the butter and sugar until well blended and light. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt, and beat to combine. Scrape down the bowl and beaters. Add the flour, and mix just until the flour disappears. Fit a piping bag with a medium (approximately 1/2-inch opening) French star tip [I’ve got the Ateco 866 but others will work], or you can use a large plastic bag with the corner snipped off.
Pipe the dough into about 1/2-inch-wide, 1 3/4-to-2-inch-long segments, spaced about 1 inch apart, on your baking sheets. It’s possible a professional would have a better way to do this, but since I am not a professional, I use a knife or scissors and simply snip off the dough for each cookie, giving it a clean finish. Bake the cookies for 11 to 13 minutes, or until they are golden at the edges.
You can cool these completely on the baking trays, or for at least 2 minutes, to make them easier to lift to a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Assemble: Meanwhile, place your jam in a sandwich bag, but don’t snip off the corner until you’re going to need it, to limit messes. Place the sprinkles on plates with rims or in shallow bowls. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in a small saucepan until they’re three-quarters melted, then stir to melt the rest. (This will keep the chocolate from burning or overheating.) Place the melted chocolate in a bowl with a good depth for dipping. Line two large baking sheets with parchment, or just use the cookie trays you baked on, wiping off any excess crumbs.
Once the cookies are completely cool, flip half of them over, to become the bottom half of your sandwiches. Snip a little corner off your jam bag, and squeeze a little down the center of each flipped cookie, but not so much that it will squeeze out when sandwiched. Sandwich with the other half of the cookies. Dip each a third to half of the way into the chocolate and (trust me) let it drip off, wiping away any excess. (I know we all love chocolate, but the sprinkles will slide off if it’s too thick.) Roll the cookies in sprinkles, then return them to the baking sheets to set. You can pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes to hasten this process along.
Do ahead: These keep at room temperature in an airtight container for a week.