Whether or not the weather cooperates, September marks the beginning of fall baking season. It’s also the perfect time to try some recipes for “ordinary” cookies – good enough for a weekday lunch but not tied to any major holiday.
For folks on a gluten-free diet, we found a flourless chocolate pecan cookie created by Dominique Ansel, the pastry chef who invented the Cronut. Be sure to check that the baking powder you use is gluten-free – some contain flour.
Of the recipes here, the oatmeal toffee cookies and the blondies would be the easiest to adapt to personal taste – swap one variety of nuts for another, or leave them out entirely.
Oatmeal toffee discs
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 14 minutes per batch
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
Recipe from Linda Faust of Minneapolis via the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune. Note: Toffee bits, such as Heath brand, can often be found in bags in the baking aisle, near the chocolate chips.
2½ cups oatmeal, divided
1¼ cups whole wheat flour
1½ cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces toffee bits
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine 1/2 cup oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt, process for 15 seconds and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter for 1 minute. Add vanilla extract, corn syrup and egg, and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, a third at a time, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in remaining 2 cups oatmeal, chocolate chips, pecans and toffee bits.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart (cookies will spread). Bake until cookies flatten and become brown and crisp, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool cookies completely on baking sheets.
Peanut butter cookies
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus at least 2 hours chill time
Cook time: 10 minutes per batch
Makes about 24 cookies
Recipe from Slate’s You’re Doing It Wrong column. Writer L.V. Anderson insists on natural peanut butter (the kind that requires stirring to incorporate the oil), butter – no shortening, please! – and brown sugar. The cross-hatching that’s traditional is not required, however.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar, or more as needed for coating the cookies
Beat the brown sugar, butter, and peanut butter with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer (or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl) until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat to combine. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir just until combined. Wrap the dough in foil or plastic wrap (or simply cover the bowl) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, coat each ball in sugar, and transfer to a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies.
Press the tines of a fork flat against each ball of dough to indent it, then make a second indentation perpendicular to the first one. Bake until the cookies are firm and their edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer the cookies to wire racks or paper towels to finish cooling. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a few days.
Chocolate chunk blondies
Makes 12 large bars
This recipe was adapted by the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” by Ian Garten.
Note: Blondies have a tendency to be dry, but there are two solutions: Underbake them a little, and store them in the refrigerator wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cups chopped walnuts
1¼ pounds semisweet chocolate chunks
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8½-by-12-by-2-inch baking pan.
Cream butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl after each addition. In small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. With mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula.
Spread batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t over bake. The toothpick may have melted chocolate on it but it shouldn’t have wet batter.
Cool completely in the pan and cut into 12 bars.
Flourless chocolate pecan cookies
Prep time: 30 minutes plus overnight chill time for dough
Cook time: 8 minutes per batch, plus cooling time
Makes 16 to 20 cookies
When the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune staff tested this, they suggested that smaller cookies are more manageable (2 tablespoons of dough per cookie instead of 3 1/2) and the pecans should be toasted. (Place pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, shaking pan often, until the nuts begin to release their fragrance, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; cool.)
Recipe from Dominique Ansel, from his upcoming cookbook, “Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes” (to be released in October).
2 cups dark chocolate chips (60 percent cocoa content, or greater), divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons pecans, roughly chopped
Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water over medium heat and let it come to a simmer. Place a stainless steel bowl on top of the simmering water (making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not come in contact with the water) and add 11/2 cups chocolate chips. Stir slowly with a spatula to ensure that chips are completely melted before turning off heat.
In a separate microwave-proof bowl, melt butter in microwave oven. Stir melted butter into melted chocolate. Keep mixture warm over double boiler with heat turned off.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add eggs and whisk until fully incorporated and batter resembles the consistency of pancake batter, making sure you incorporate any dry ingredients that may have settled on the bottom or side of bowl, using a spatula or scraper if necessary.
Slowly whisk in melted chocolate-butter mixture (if chocolate-butter mixture cools and begins to solidify, gently reheat it over the double boiler before incorporating).
Using a spatula, gently fold remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips, as well as pecans, into the batter. Cover batter tightly with plastic wrap, pressing wrap to cover surface of batter. Refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands or a scoop, break dough into pieces (about 3 1/2 tablespoons for mega cookies or less for more manageable ones). Roll dough into balls. Place balls at least 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using the palm of your hand, gently press the tops of the dough, forming it into a thick disk.
(Note from Kathy Morrison: This dough is very sticky, so it’s just as easy to spoon out the dough onto the parchment paper, then flatten it with your butter-greased or cooking-spray-greased palm.)
Bake in the oven’s middle rack until cookies are just beginning to crack on top but the dough is set on the edge and has a soft spot in the center (about the size of a quarter), about 8 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheets until cookies further set, about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve warm, or carefully slide parchment paper onto a wire rack and cool cookies completely.