This past weekend, I spent all day Sunday with my dear friend, colleague and neighbor TKTC for our first annual holiday baking extravaganza. Cozy in her lovely, vintage Wicked Park apartment, we donned our aprons at 11:30 am and didn’t remove them until well after 7 pm. We baked Russian tea cookies, cranberry cornmeal thumbprints, lime meltaways, graham cracker caramel crunches (delicious!!), chocolate-dipped macaroons and (whew!) these little gems: woodland spice cookies.
While each and every variety was delicious (JiT’s favorites are the woodland spice and the Russian tea), these were my favorite to create. I based them off of a Martha Stewart recipe for cardamom spice cookies and borrowed their idea for imprinting the cookies with a woodgrain pattern before cutting them out. But I’ve changed the flavors significantly….mainly because I didn’t have any cardamom on-hand when I made the dough. But the result is delicious in its own right. They’re like a cross between a traditional gingerbread and a basic sugar cookie…the flavor is delicate and, depending on how long you bake them they’ll come out either very crisp or crunchy with a slight bit of chewiness. I like them with a bit of chew, so we under-baked them a bit.
As for the woodgrain texture…thats probably my favorite part. The pattern is done using a plastic imprint mat called a faux-bois mat thats typically used for imprinting cake fondont. I was able to find one online for less that $15. Its quite easy and fun to use. After rolling the dough, you lay down the mat and gently roll over with your rolling pin to imprint the pattern onto the dough. Then cut the cookies out in shapes as you usually would.
Pair with some cocoa or a tall glass of milk and Santa will want seconds and you will too. Merry Christmas to all!
Woodland Spice Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen
5 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lite corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice, cloves and pepper in a large bowl. Place butter in a mixer bowl. Bring sugars, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour hot sugar mixture over butter, then beat on low speed until combined.
Beat cream, egg, and vanilla in a bowl, then add to butter mixture. Beat on medium speed until well combined.
Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Divide dough into thirds, and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out 1 disk between lightly floured parchment to 1/4-inch thickness. Place a woodgrain patterned plastic faux-bois mat on dough, pattern side down. With rolling pin, lightly roll over mat to imprint dough. Carefully remove mat and repeat on any remaining sections of the dough.
Cut out shapes with holiday cookie cutters and transfer cookies to parchment-lined baking sheets, grouping similar sizes together and spacing them 1 inch apart. Roll out and cut scraps once. Repeat with remaining dough disks.
Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies will still be light in color. Do not overbake. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool. Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 2 weeks.