Now is the time, my friends, the time for copious Christmas Cookie postings, barrages of beautifully bedecked baked goods, and elastic-waist EVERYTHING. Personally, I can’t resist joining in; December is one of my favorite times of the year — everyone becomes a baker!!!
My second favorite part about the holiday baking season is that it becomes 100% acceptable to show your appreciation for others in the form of baskets of assorted homemade cookies (something I often do at other times of the year, but, in December, I get fewer odd looks for it). Little cellophane baggies of cookies with homemade labels and pretty ribbons are the perfect way to say, thank you for being you!
Also, all of the baking items are on sale this time of year, so stocking up for the mountains of cookies soon to be exiting my oven is very doable, even on a student budget (a dental student budget, even).
My first seasonal recipe offering is a festive riff on my Brown Butter Roll-out Cookies, flavored with an array of warm and aromatic spices, dressed with a complimentary smear of cookie butter (see my rant on cookie butter bliss here), and garnished with white chocolate. Santa will be sure to leave extra presents under your tree if you leave these winners out for him!
My issue with most roll-out dough recipes is that they tend to sacrifice flavor and texture for structural integrity, resulting in dry, flavorless, cardboard cookies. Now, I know that form should follow function (as my dad reminds me every time I purchase a ridiculous pair of high-heels…which occurs frequently), but I want my cookies to look good and taste good, just as want my patients’ teeth to be beautiful and actually chew food!
This dough is probably one of my proudest baking accomplishments. It is my favorite to use for cut-out cookies: it rolls out easily, holds its shape to a T during baking, and it stays sturdy enough for your most ambitious decorations, yet stays soft on the inside. This spiced up version is sort of a hybrid speculoos and chai fusion, which positively begs to be paired with white chocolate. Seriously, if you’re thinking about skipping the white chocolate part, DON’T….it’s essential…like jam in a PB&J or a complementary toothbrush after your dental cleaning. Use the white chocolate (and brush your teeth).
White Chocolate Spiced Speculoos Cookies
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned and cooled in fridge until JUST semi-solid (~20 min.)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed & at room temp
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temp
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (yes, for real…have faith in me)
1/2 teaspoon salt
~1/2 cup cookie butter
4 blocks vanilla flavored almond bark (the white chocolate you melt to make almond bark…not actual almond bark)
Festive sprinkles, gold sanding sugar, etc.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream cooled brown butter (instructions for browning located here), softened butter, and both sugars together, until pale and fluffy, ~3 minutes on medium speed. Add in egg and vanilla, beating for an additional 2 minutes. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, use a fork to combine and aerate flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, pepper , and salt. Turn mixer to low, and gradually add dry ingredients, mixing only until JUST combined. Scrape dough out onto a large peace of plastic wrap, form dough into a disk, and wrap in the plastic wrap. Place disk inside a zip-top bag or airtight container, and chill 24-48 hours.
Remove dough from fridge 2 hours prior to handling. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit, and line your baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Unwrap dough, and spread out the plastic wrap underneath it. Place a second large sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/4″ thickness between the two sheets of plastic wrap — this prevents the necessity for adding more flour so the cookies don’t become crumbly. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut out your shapes, and place them on the baking sheets — you can pack the cookies pretty closely together since they will not spread much at all while baking. Place sheets of cookies in the fridge for 10 minutes prior to baking. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through bake time, until tops have tiny microcracks on them and no longer look wet (they’ll still be a bit shiny though). Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks for complete cooling prior to decorating.
Decoration option #1: White Chocolate-Frosted Cookie Butter Cookies
Smear ~1/2 tablespoon of cookie butter over the top of each cooled cookie. Place cookies in freezer for 10 minutes to harden the cookie butter. Working with one almond bark cube at a time, melt the almond bark candy in microwave — as directed on package — and spread in a thin layer over the cookie butter, sealing it in on the sides. Top with sprinkles, and allow white chocolate coating to harden.
Decoration option #2: White Chocolate-Drizzled Cookie Butter Sandwiches
Smear ~2 teaspoons of cookie butter on the bottom of half of the cooled cookies. Sandwich the bottom of another cookie on top of the cookie butter, and gently press together, running a butter knife around the perimeter to remove any excess. Place sandwiched cookies on wire racks. Place 2 blocks of vanilla almond bark in a microwavable plastic bag, and microwave for 80-90 seconds (do not seal bag), then let sit for 1 minute prior to handling. Snip a small corner off of the bag, and delicately drizzle the melted white chocolate over the cookies, being careful to overlap the sides of the cookies to seal them together. Top with sprinkles, and allow drizzle to harden.