Year of Cookies
Blog Collection

I have a grand finale for the Year of Cookies.  This month's cookies are called "Ladders," and they are a family tradition.  My grandfather's mother used to make these, and then my grandmother, and then most of the women in the family (although I've only attempted them one other time).  We have no idea why they're called Ladders, but basically they're extremely gingery gingerbread cookies shaped like rectangles with little stripes across them (see below). 

I have fond memories of these cookies (which are an acquired taste).  As a teenager, I was finally allowed to have them with hot tea, just like a "grownup."  They do go best with tea, even though I am a coffee fanatic.

There is definite disagreement in the family over the amount of flour to use, but since I'm the one posting this, I'll give my own opinion.  The original recipe calls for 7 cups of flour; I feel that this results in a brick-like consistency.  You also need to work fast with the dough, before it hardens into paving material.

I only recommend these cookies to those who LOVE ginger.  My grandfather used to eat ginger candies, so I'll bet he really liked Ladders.  I also recommend not attempting these without the aid of a Kitchen-Aid mixer.  I know my great-grandmother never dreamed of such a thing, but you will strain the muscles in your arms if you try to mix it with a spoon.

A final note: be sure you put hot soapy water in your pot immediately, or wash it immediately, because it will be impossible to clean if you don't.


LADDERS RECIPE (from Ethel Schwartz, my Great-Grandmother)

1 cup shortening (NOT butter)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup molasses (I prefer the lighter kind)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger
1 well-beaten egg
1 tbsp vinegar with 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in it
6 cups all-purpose flour

Put the first three ingredients in a large, heavy pot and bring to a boil.  Add 2 cups of flour, stir until smooth and add salt, ginger, and vinegar/baking soda.  Transfer dough to your Kitchen-Aid mixing bowl (use the dough hook attachment).  Let cool just enough so that the egg doesn't cook.  Put in the well-beaten egg and mix it.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth.  Add 2 more cups of flour and mix until dough comes together.

Immediately dump the dough out onto a well-floured mat and cut into three equal portions.  Shape the three portions into brick shapes.  One by one, roll them out into rectangular shapes, about the same thickness as for sugar cookies.  Slice them into long strips, and then use a blunt knife to make the stripes.

I dedicate this month's cookie to my Aunt Peep, who loved family traditions and would be overjoyed that the Ladders live on.  Her daughter has been making them and sending them to the rest of us bums who don't have the oomph to make them ourselves for years.  Now that I've learned the Kitchen-Aid trick, I'll be making them every year.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes.  Ungreased air-bake sheets work the best.  Cool on a rack and then brew some tea and enjoy!
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Lori · 12/23/09 4:21 PM)
These cookies are truly pillowy and moist...they'd be perfect for whoopie pies.  I've made them before with icing on top, but given my quest for skinniness, I decided to skip it this time.  Seemed like gilding the lily anyway.

The recipe is an ancient one that I printed from back in 2002 (that's 150 years in internet years).  Unbelievably, it's still online!

I suggest making these once your pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving runs out, just to tide you over till Christmas cookies.

One tip: I used the microwave to soften the butter, and it went all the way melted. I think if you set the butter out to soften instead of microwaving it, they might be even loftier.

I also suggest rotating your baking sheets halfway through the baking time.

Can't believe the Year of Cookies is almost over!  I'll be announcing next year's baking theme next month...suggestions are welcome

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: Lori · 12/3/09 9:31 AM)

This is weird, but I've never eaten a madeleine OR cooked one before...these are pretty chocolatey looking, but I have to put them to the "Tina" test to see whether they are truly chocolatey.  Catie had one and declared it good.

They are pretty easy to make, but they require a strange method involving three different components of batter.  I got the recipe from my "Joy of Chocolate" cookbook...if anyone wants it, I'll post the recipe later.


1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 oz semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
pinch salt
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or butter the indentations of a madeleine mold.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat and stir until chocolate is melted. Set aside.

3. Combine cocoa, sugar, flour, and salt in a sauce pan.

4. In a bowl, lightly beat eggs, yolks, and vanilla together with a fork until well blended.

5. Stir chocolate mixture into the dry mixture, then add egg mixture and blend well.  Place saucepan over very low heat and, stirring constantly, let the mixture warm for around 2 minutes. (It must not turn truly hot, so text with a finger to actually feel the temperature.) Remove from heat.

6. Fill the madeleine mold half full with batter.  Do not over fill the indentations.  Try for uniformity in size.  Bake 12 minutes.  Turn out.  Cool.

(From The Joy of Chocolate cookbook, by Judith Olney, copyright 1982.)

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 13 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 12/15/09 4:56 PM)
pecantassies.jpgSo far, the Year of Cookies has been very hit-or-miss.  We went from the high of the banana whoopie pies to the low of the crunchy chocolate cookies.  This month, we have success.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe (, but it was fairly simple to make.  I do have a few tips, if you do decide to make these:

*Watch out for the divided need to reserve one of the tablespoons for the filling.  I accidentally included the extra tablespoon in the crust, but I don't think it suffered.

*There might be too many pecans in the filling.  It's a very small cavity in the little crusts, and I would decrease the amount of pecans a bit, so that you get more liquid.

*Toast the pecans for the filling up-front to give them time to cool, before you put them into the filling.  There's an egg in there, and you don't want scrambled eggs.

I declare these yummy, even if they don't have any chocolate in them.  They could benefit from a dollop of whipped cream on top.  Also, the mascarpone flavor doesn't really come through very well; I would consider adjusting the amounts in the crust a bit to see if I could make it a bit more cheesy.
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 6 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 9/18/09 11:33 AM)
Quick and simple to make, these deep dark chocolatey cookies are a hit.  It's from a Ghirardelli recipe I originally found on a bag of chips, but it also shows up in magazines sometimes. 

Here's the recipe:

Mine took on more of an oval shape, but slice-and-bake is always easier than rolled out cookies, in my book.  I also would have left out the walnuts if I had my own preference, but certain people in the house like nuts, and I like certain people, so I left them in.

Overall assessment...very very chocolatey, but a bit too crispy for me.  I prefer chewy cookies.IMG_1659.jpg
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 9 (Last: Croc · 9/3/09 12:32 PM)
I have to admit to a certain amount of ambivalence when it comes to peanut butter cookies.  I've had my share of crunchy, stale, hockey pucks called peanut butter cookies, and this taints my opinion.  For this month's cookie, I used Martha Stewart's Classic Peanut Butter cookie recipe (ripped out of a magazine years ago, and thus, not available online).  I see that there are other peanut butter cookie recipes from Martha on her website, but they have far less butter, and must be inferior.

These cookies are super easy to make, and result in a light cookie with an outer edge that dissolves in your mouth, and a more dense inner area that's slightly chewy.  Just about perfect.  All you need is a nice icy glass of milk and you're set.

By the way, I was going to include a little nugget of information...why peanut butter cookies have to have the cross hatch fork marks on them.  I did lots of googling, and came up with lame explanations galore (to smush the cookie, to warn people with allergies, to tell the PB cookies from the other ones), but nothing satisfying.  Does anyone out there know the origin?

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies (from Martha Stewart Living Magazine)
(makes about 4 dozen)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 mins.  Mix in eggs, then peanut butter.
3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until just combined after each addition.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. (I especially noticed this step, because it mirrors the "resting" technique used in the NY chocolate chip cookie recipe...maybe they're onto something.)
4. Using a 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Press cookies with fork tines to flatten and create a cross-hatch pattern.  Bake until golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes.  Let cool on sheets 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.  The cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temp for up to 3 days.

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: SuBe · 8/24/09 5:19 PM)
June's entry in the Year of Cookies is "Baker's One Bowl Chocolate Chocolate Cookie."  This is quite simply the easiest and chocolatyest cookie I've ever made.  And best of all, only one bowl to clean afterward.

Here's the recipe:
2 pkg (16 squares) Baker's semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp Calumet baking powder
2 cups chopped nuts (optional---and discouraged by Rosemary)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Coarsely chop 8 squares of the chocolate and set aside.  Microwave remaining 8 squares chocolate in large microwaveable bowl on High 1-2 mins.  Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir in sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla.  Stir in flour and baking powder.  Stir in reserved chopped chocolate and nuts.  Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 12-13 mins or until cookies are pufed and feel set to the touch.  Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies.

Notes from Rosemary:  I didn't have squares of Baker's chocolate so I substituted semi-sweet chocolate problemo.  Also, I baked them on air-bake cookie sheets, and they could've used another 2 mins or so.  They came out very gooey (but hey, that's not really a bad thing).

Overall, these are my second favorite cookie so far (just behind the banana whoopie pies).  They're just about the most chocolatey substance on the planet.  And that, as Martha likes to say, "is a good thing."

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Guest · 7/1/09 11:05 AM)

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Guest · 6/11/09 5:01 PM)
Sorry this is so belated!

These cookies come courtesy of NY Times, via Barry.  He brought these beauties into the office about a month ago, and I thought they were the BEST I've ever had (and I've had a few).  The two secrets of the recipe are letting the dough sit overnight and sprinkling sea salt on top before baking.

I put a measuring tape next to the cookie in the picture, so that you can see how MASSIVE they are.  Like maybe the size of a dessert plate...but they taste so good that you want them massive.

My favorite thing about these cookies is that the edges turn out perfectly chewy/crispy, and the center is pillowy and melty.  Barry tipped me off to decreasing the amount of chocolate disks (which I did), and while I thought at first it was heresy, he was right.  I only put in 1 lb of chocolate disks and it seemed perfect.

I can't believe that I've been doing the dessert of the month for three years!  It's been a fun adventure, although it sure doesn't help my waistline...
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 9 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 10/15/11 10:57 AM)
I was first introduced to the "financier" by my friend April, at a shmancy restaurant called Licorous in Seattle.  The entire meal was amazing, and it was topped off by our decision to "just order both" of the desserts offered.  I had never eaten a financier before, but it was a revelation.  Chewy, crispy, honey-flavored, almondy, melty...and there WASN'T EVEN ANY CHOCOLATE!  They stuck in my mind so thoroughly that I decided to attempt them as part of the Year of Cookies.

This is the recipe (a Martha):

I had to skip the raspberries because the ones I bought were already moldy when I bought them (I hate it when that happens).

A couple of notes in case you try the definitely don't need much batter in each cup; use less than you think.  My financiers were a tad puffy on top because there was too much in there, I think.  Also, be patient with the butter.  If you rush, your flavor won't be quite as nutty and developed.

I would also advise you that the egg whites need to go in one at a time, so don't get all smart and crack all of them into the same bowl ahead of time.

This batch turned out really tasty, but not as wonderful as the professional ones at Licorous.  Those were in another league of deliciousness.  Here's the problem...they're very very tiny, so I accidentally ate about 7 of them while the second batch was cooking Smiler

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: Guest · 3/2/09 3:25 PM)
This is my first entry in 2009's Year of Cookies. 

Ever since I was introduced to the Black & White by a friend from New York, I have been craving the taste of those cushiony, conflicted delights.  The real things range in size from mini to "size-of-your-head" huge.  These bad boys were about the size of the palm of your hand.  For me, absolute requirements for a black & white are squishiness and real chocolate icing.  I've been unable to locate an acceptable black & white here in Seattle, but I can sometimes beg for visitors to NY to pick up some real ones for me (although they tend to get stale on the trip home).

Anywhoo, I was originally going to try Martha Stewart's mini black & white recipe for this project, but Barry handed me an "authentic" recipe he found online:

I have also seen the episode of Seinfeld that is mentioned in the article above, but never tasted one until years later. I had no idea what I was missing!

So this recipe is relatively simple and straightforward, and the cookies themselves seemed very promising when I put them in the oven.  They had the correct puffed shape, and the batter tasted good, if a bit lemony for my taste.  Here's where it all went horribly wrong...the frosting.  This recipe calls for a type of royal icing that's just confectioner's sugar plus boiling water...let me tell ya, it's TOO SWEET!!! I'm not sure I've ever uttered those words before, but yeah, it was way too sweet.  And to top it all off, the cookies were not squishy. They were dense.  Sorta chewy, but not my preferred consistency, which is roughly like a smashed cupcake.

Ultimately, I give this recipe a thumbs down, but others who tasted them said they were "alright."  I'm back to the drawing board in my quest for the perfect black & white recipe, and I may try the Martha one next.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.  It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: Guest · 2/6/09 4:44 AM)
I know the world has been waiting, holding its breath for this announcement.  Having just concluded the Year of Cupcakes (weirdly, the rockiest dessert year), I am ready to tackle a Year of Cookies.  Curse you, Martha Stewart, for having the Year of Cakes lo these many years ago.

Click here to see my original Year of Cakes blog: http://rosemary.user.groupee.c...on/71360709326262558

I've had a blast and learned a lot over the last 3 years.  I followed up the Year of Cakes with my own Year of Pies, then Cupcakes.  I thought the pies would be the most difficult, but I feel confident about my pie crust now, and nothing will ever top the totally from scratch blueberry pie.  The only problem is that now I can't eat pie that has gluey, canned filling anymore without disdain.

We had many cupcake debacles last year (we won't even discuss the pukey looking strawberry ones), but one recipe emerged triumphant----the Two Bite Brownie Mini Cupcakes I made in December.  They were fabulous, and I will post a complete blog with the recipe and pictures soon.

So, without further fanfare, here's the plan for 2009.  Get your Silpats, air-cushioned cookie sheets, and chocolate chips ready!  I'll link to the recipes where they're available, and otherwise I'll post the full recipe when I do that month's cookies.

January - Classic Black & Whites (from a recipe Barry found for me back in 2003, so it's no longer online)
February - Raspberry-Almond Financiers (Martha Stewart)
March - Banana Whoopie Pies (Martha Stewart)
April - Seattle Times' Grand Prize Winner, Dave's Chocolate-Chip Treasure Cookies
May - Double Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies (from a bag of mini mint chips)
June - Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies (Bon Appetit)
July - Classic Peanut Butter Cookies (Martha Stewart)
August - Ghirardelli Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies w/ Walnuts (Ghirardelli)
September - Pecan Tassies (Martha Stewart)
October - Chocolate Madeleines (Joy of Chocolate recipe book)
November - Iced Pumpkin Cookies (
December - "Ladders" (dense molasses bricks from an old family recipe)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 10 (Last: Guest · 2/10/09 1:30 PM)
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