Mother’s Day gifts? Sure, candy and flowers are lovely, but in my book, homemade cookies rise to the occasion even better. First off, they are delicious and portable. Yes, they are versatile as well as irresistible. Ingredients can vary, designed to lean into Mom’s favorite flavors. They are easy to pack, tucked into a resealable container, layering them with wax paper or parchment paper to separate each tier. Tie with a pretty ribbon and maybe a handwritten note. Done.
If Mom prefers, she can eat some and freeze some for later. I’ve been known to eat cookies right out of the freezer, cold and hard. I’m sure that I’m not the only mother with shameless freezer-cookie habits.
Buy a cookie and it often ends up being just a bite of sugar without much personality. Bake cookies, and the moment you measure out the flour, you will probably feel love, perhaps connected with mother memories. Take in the soothing scent as they bake. Enjoy a whiff of kitchen happiness.
Mmm. Cookies for Mom.
Honey Peanut Cookies
For moms who prefer a cracker-like crunch in a cookie, these Honey Peanut Cookies may well be the ticket. The recipe was developed by pastry expert Nick Malgieri and published in his cookbook “The Modern Baker” (DK, $35). He wrote that the flavor trick in this recipe is the use of honey-roasted peanuts, a tip he learned from his mentor, Maida Heatter. I love to serve these cookies with chocolate ice cream and if they are sweet, fresh strawberries. Store them between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper in a tin or other airtight container for several days.
These cookies bake best atop silicone baking mats.
Yield: About 36 cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted but not piping hot
1 1/3 honey-roasted peanuts, finely chopped but not ground
Silicone baking sheets
1. Set oven racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.
2. Stir flour and baking soda together and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, honey, and egg together until just mixed to avoid making a foamy mixture. Then whisk in butter.
4. Use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour mixture and chopped peanuts. Drop tablespoon-size pieces of batter onto prepared pan, keeping them about 3 inches apart on all sides.
5. Put the first prepared baking sheet with cookie dough in place on the bottom rack for 5 minutes. Meanwhile drop dough on a second prepared baking sheet and when the five minutes are up, move the first sheet to the top and put the second sheet on the bottom — then bake for 5 minutes. Baked cookies should be golden brown. Remove top pan from oven and repeat process. Cautiously slide mat onto rack to cool a little. Wait a minute or two and pry cookies off the mats (I use a small offset spatula) and bake more cookies. If needed, wipe off the silicone mats before adding more dough.
Source: Adapted from “The Modern Baker” by Nick Malgieri (DK, $35)
If mom loves ginger, that slightly peppery flavor with a welcome spark of sweetness edged with a spicy aroma, it is more than likely she will adore these cookies. A double dose of ginger — both crystallized (sometimes called “candied”) and fresh ginger — makes these cookies delectable. Cooled cookies can be dusted with powdered sugar. But instead, I often dip one half of each cooled cookie in melted coating chocolate (sometimes labeled “coating wafers”) and let the chocolate harden by setting half-dipped cookies on wax paper or parchment paper.
Yield: 32 cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
Optional garnish: Powdered sugar or melted coating chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and salt on medium-high speed until thoroughly blended and creamy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed with rubber spatula, about 3 minutes. Add eggs; mix well until blended. Add vanilla and fresh ginger, mix well until blended.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; mix until blended on medium speed. Add crystallized ginger and mix until blended. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart on parchment lined sheets. Flatten using back of spoon to a 1/4-inch thickness.
4. Bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer parchment to cooling racks; cool completely. If desired, dust cooled cookies lightly with powdered sugar. To get a fine powdery layer atop the cookies, place powdered sugar in sieve and shake sieve over single layer of cookies. Or dip half of each cookie in melted coating chocolate and place on wax paper or parchment paper for chocolate to harden.
Source: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)
Salted Shortbread Cookies
Alison Roman, writer, cookbook author and host of CNN’s “More Than a Cooking Show,” describes shortbread as the perfect cookie in her new book “Sweet Enough” (Clarkson Potter, $35).
“(It’s) buttery, tender yet crumbly, a little salty, and made with only a few ingredients, most of which you likely have on hand,” she writes. “It can be modified to suit your needs and desires by adding (small) chocolate chunks, ground cinnamon, toasted (chopped) nuts, lemon zest — whatever.”
So, modify them if you like, including something your mother would like. The cookies can be prepared 3 days in advance and stored airtight at room temperature.
Yield: About 30 to 40 cookies
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) cold salted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces; see cook’s notes
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon sea salt flakes
Cook’s notes: If using unsalted butter, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt to mixer when beating the butter and sugar.
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer or a food processor), beat the butter, both sugars, and the vanilla on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour and beat just to blend.
2. Divide the dough into 4 even pieces, placing each on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting sticky. Using your hands (just like you are playing with clay), form each piece of dough into a log shape, about 1 1/4-ish inches in diameter. Rolling the dough on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it totally perfect. (You can also do this using parchment paper if you prefer.) Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water. This is the egg wash.
4. Brush the outside of the logs with egg wash and roll them in more granulated sugar (for those delicious crispy edges). Slice each log into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, place them on the lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart and sprinkle lightly with flaky salt.
5. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown and the whole cookie looks sparkly and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on cooling rack.
Source: “Sweet Enough” by Alison Roman (Clarkson Potter, $35)
Cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at email@example.com