Monday, December 29, 2014

The Cookie Momster - Cream Cheese Cookies

When I was a kid in Brooklyn, I knew more than one person with the nickname "Cookie".  Only in Brooklyn, right?  Because once we moved to Long Island, I never heard it again.  Which was sad, because in my mind, there is no nickname as endearing as Cookie.  My own nickname, The Bear, is cute in its own way (and has a sweet backstory) but doesn't come close to Cookie.

So you can only imagine my delight when, after finding my Brooklyn Osher family, I gained a cousin named Cookie.  Cookie Schneider, 100% pure Brooklyn, married to my cousin Steve.  A lovely, warm, gracious lady.  And sweet, did I mention sweet?

I mention my cousin Cookie, because sometime this morning, I found my mind wandering to cookies. Christmas and cookies have always gone together, but it has unfortunately been a number of years since I have baked those hundreds of cookies on which I built my baking reputation back in the seventies.  Especially the last 11 years, when eating sweets became an afterthought.  I really wanted to knock out a batch of my cream cheese cookies, and maybe the hermit cookies, but I got distracted by a trip to Publix and 24 triple chocolate cupcakes.  

When we got back from Publix, I used up a couple of lingering ingredients to prepare my tzatziki (mine, all mine!) and an unexpected panful of kraut sveckle.  Seems I changed my mind about the Kingstowne wraps, and found myself with a bag of coleslaw mix - shredded white and red cabbage, and carrots.  Absolutely unauthentic, so I threw in some thinly sliced onion, and then mini farfalle to complete the heresy.  Thanks to Publix, now there's a fresh baguette that I want to turn into garlic bread, and those cupcakes, formerly frozen, which need to be iced or glazed or something.  Oh, and one other thing:

Don't freak out, those aren't really oxtails.  They are cowtails, silly.  Big difference.  But that's a recipe for another day.

Heretical Kraut Sveckle

(Have I ever mentioned how much I despise Al Sharpton?  We've been watching the news, incessantly, and everything is depressing.  But Al has been pissing me off since 1987.)

Back to my cookie brainstorm - here is the one recipe you should always keep in your back pocket.  I found this in a Betty Crocker cookbook way back when and it has never let me down. One never knows when a child will need four dozen cookies for a classroom party, or when you might get invited to compete on "Chopped".  I've been baking these in vast quantities since 1976 and never had a complaint.  Never had any leftovers, either.

Cream Cheese Cookies 

1/2 stick butter
1 - 8 oz. bar cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 - 18.25 oz. box yellow or chocolate cake mix

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Let the butter and cream cheese soften at room temperature, then beat together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Gradually add in the cake mix, beating well after each addition.  Refrigerate for about an hour to firm up the dough and make it easier to handle. Use a small scooper to portion out the dough onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Flatten slightly, then place in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes until done.  Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a metal spatula to remove the cookies to cooling racks.

Now then, I'm sure you can see the endless possibilities for additions and variations.  My favorite involves adding a cup of chocolate chips to a chocolate batter, and using a medium sized scoop to portion them out.  I roll them with my hands before flattening them slightly onto the baking sheet, so they look positively professional.  Because of the larger size and the chips, I have to bake them longer than 10 minutes, and watch them until they are done.  It's very important to check to make sure the bottom of the cookie doesn't start to burn.  Of course you can frost them, ice them, glaze them, ganache them, sandwich them, dust them, or sprinkle them for a fancy finish.  They freeze well, by the way, so feel free to bake hundreds and hand them out to your nearest and dearest.  Save a few for yourself, though, these always go fast.

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