If we go way back in my origin story, we could probably say this blog happened because of Christmas cookies. That’s where my love of baking came from, which led to my love of cooking, and then cookbooks, and then food blogs, and now here we are. While I don’t know if my mom would call herself a “baker,” she always made sure we had plenty of homemade cookies for Christmas. My brothers and I would always help with the cut-out sugar cookies, fighting over who got to use the Santa cookie cutter, while my mom yelled at us for eating too much dough and Jesse and I debated the perfect sprinkle-to-cookie ratio.
We used to make at least 6 or 7 different kinds of cookies, such as Tollhouse chocolate chip, rich rolled butter cookies, cookies swirled with toffee (one of my old favorites), peanut butter temptations, and a new recipe we might have discovered that year, etc. Starting around Thanksgiving, we would bake at least one kind a week and then place them in the freezer until their ultimate reveal on Christmas Eve. This, to this day, drives my dad insane. But as long as we leave a few out and he gets to eat the dough off the beater, we can usually calm him down. These days we’ve limited the number of cookies we make since we seem to have lost our ability to eat thirty dozen cookies over the holiday season. (Well, I didn’t.)
At some point when I was younger I started helping out with more than just the sugar cookies, but I can’t remember exactly when that began. Eventually, by the time I was in high school, I had fully taken over holiday cookie production. My mom always had a zillion other things to do, and I enjoyed baking, so it was a natural progression. But – we still always try to get a small group together to make the cut-out cookies – “It’s tradition.” Just like how my mom still requests a Christmas list from all of us “for when I see Santa this weekend!”
My love for baking grew as I began baking just for fun, with my friends or alone on a Saturday night because I was a nerd who wanted to bake chocolate chip cookies and read her latest Nancy Drew novel. I’m still very much that same girl. Give me a fresh pan of brownies, a pair of good sweatpants and a feel-good movie and I’ll have the best Saturday night ever.
So when I heard about The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I signed up as fast as I could. Hosted by Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen, the premise is this: Sign up. Receive the names and addresses of three other food bloggers. Make some cookies and send each of them a dozen. Receive a dozen cookies from three other random food bloggers in the mail. Eat cookies. Post your cookie recipe on your blog the same day as everybody else. The world gets a lot of cookie recipes. Fun, right?! I thought so. Getting cookies in the mail is one of the greatest things ever.
For my cookies I made these browned butter Nutella slice and bake ones, since browned butter and Nutella make all things better. They look kind of like your average cookie (except for the swirls), but the flavor really packs a punch. I took a hint from Take a Megabite and browned my butter with some vanilla bean. You just can’t go wrong with that combination. I will warn you, though – this cookie dough is INSANELY good. Good luck not eating all of it before you bake them. While we were photographing this post Robert popped an entire raw cookie, Nutella swirls and all, right into his mouth. Not a bad idea.
If you try these out I hope they will become a holiday favorite and that your Mom forces you to make them every year. But I don’t think you will be complaining about that. Happy holiday cookie-baking!
ps – If you like Nutella, you might enjoy my Nutella Latte Popsicles.
Illustration at top created with pencil and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations are available in my Etsy shop.
(get 15% off through 12/25/14 with coupon code HOLIDAY2014)
Photos by Robert Cornelius.
- 14 tbsp (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
- ¾ cup (5.25 oz) granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups (9 oz) all purpose flour
- milk (preferably whole milk)
- ½ cup Nutella
- Place the butter and the scrapings of the vanilla bean in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk the mixture constantly until the butter bubbles and foams. As soon as little brown bits appear on the bottom of the skillet and the butter has turned a darker amber color and smells pleasantly nutty, take it off the heat. (This should take about 5-10 minutes depending on the heat of your skillet. If it's taking longer than that, kick the heat up a notch.) Let it sit for a few minutes before transferring to a heat-proof bowl. Cover and chill in the fridge until the butter has returned to a "softened butter" state, about 1-2 hours.
- Beat together the butter, sugar and salt until creamy, but not fluffy, about one minute. Beat in the egg until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. If it seems pretty dry, add 1 tbsp milk and mix a little longer until the milk is distributed.
- Pour your cookie dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead it gently with your hands. If it's too sticky add more flour, and if it's crumbly and falling apart add a little more milk and work it in. Play with the dough just until it stays together well as a mass, not crumbling apart, and it isn't sticking to your hands.
- Sprinkle a little extra flour on top of your dough mass. Using a floured rolling pin, gently roll it out into a 12x12 inch rectangle. I usually have to pull dough from other areas and patch it in somewhere to get a clean square shape. Sprinkle more flour on the dough and rolling pin as needed if they are sticking together or to your work surface. Feel free to use a little milk or water to help you patch areas.
- Once you have your 12x12 inch square of dough, spread your Nutella across it, getting as close to the edges as possible. An offset spatula comes in handy for this. Just be gentle and use more Nutella if it doesn't seem like enough. (I won't tell anyone.)
- When your Nutella is well-spread, gently start rolling your dough square from one end onto itself, creating a spiral log. Tuck in the ends or any parts that seem to be sticking out strangely to make it more compact.
- Roll up your log in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to chill, preferably overnight but at least for two hours.
- When your cookie dough log is chilled and you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare some cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Slice your log into ¼-inch thick rounds and place them on the parchment-lined sheets at least half an inch apart.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are just barely starting to get golden. Let the finished cookies rest on the baking sheets for 3 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature. They should stay good for at least 5 days.