Recipes: When the pandemic gets you down, bake cookies

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In my quarantine kitchen, nothing seems to bring more cheer than a big batch of homemade cookies. It helps alleviate the blues. First, in preparing them, the process fills the house with luscious scents accompanied with the bang-clang noise of productivity. And second, the anticipation of sharing them with family and friends brings a feeling of accomplishment, something that brings joy in tough times.

Fortunately, I’ve accumulated a regiment of airtight glass jars in a variety of sizes and styles over my many years of cookie baking. I give the jars filled to the brim with cookies as gifts, intending for the recipients to keep them. But those containers seem to find their way back to me with notes asking for more cookies.

Of course, those cookie treasures can be sealed up in plastic bags for use at home or given as gifts. I like to keep one or two bags in the freezer for emergency cookie raids.

Cookies come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Some are crisp, while others are chewy. I’ve chosen three very different recipe offerings to share here. One is crisp and spicy, and one is chewy and filled with dried fruits and nuts, oats and coconut. A third recipe yields cookies that are so firm and crunchy, they need to be dipped in liquid to soften them and make them chewable. Hot coffee or tea works beautifully as a softening agent, as does hot cocoa. If so inclined, whisky works, too.

Martha’s Big Kitchen-Sink Cookies

Martha’s Big Kitchen-Sink Cookies are made with dried apricots and cherries according to the recipe, but feel free to substitute other ingredients. (Photo by Lennart Weibull)

These great big Kitchen-Sink Cookies are from Martha Stewart’s new cookie cookbook, “Cookie Perfection” (Clarkson Potter, $26). They contain lots of goodies, but Martha writes that the home baker should feel free to customize the add-ins. Try dried cranberries instead of cherries, and if you don’t like pecans use walnuts. She cautions home bakers to make sure you leave enough space between the cookies when baking them because they spread out.

Yield: 8 cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup large unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup dried cherries

1 cup halved pecans, toasted, see cook’s notes

Cook’s notes: To toast pecans, place in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Place in 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Keep an eye on them because they can burn easily. Cool.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium (I use the flat beater attachment on my stand mixer), beat butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on low, beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.

2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. With mixer on low, gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well combined. Add oats, coconut, apricots, chocolate, cherries and pecans, and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined (I make the flat beater do the work on low speed).

3. Scoop dough into 8 balls (3/4 cup each). Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart. Use the palm of your hand to flatten into 4-inch rounds. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown, about 16 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. (Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Source: “Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection” from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, $26)

Molasses-Ginger Crisps

Molasses-Ginger Crisps are spiced with three types of ginger — fresh, ground and crystallized. (Photo by Mike Krautter)

These spicy cookies are a Martha Stewart favorite. They include a trio of gingers — fresh, ground and crystalized. While baking, they fill the kitchen with welcome fragrance. The easiest way to peel fresh ginger is to use the bowl of a spoon, but I admit that I usually don’t peel it unless there is a knob with thickened skin.

Yield: 8 dozen


2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, room temperature

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 cup coarse sanding sugar, see cook’s notes

Cook’s notes: Sanding sugar is large crystal sugar that’s great for decorating because it won’t dissolve with heat. It creates a sparkly effect because of the large size of the crystals that reflect light. It is sold online, in some supermarkets and in stores that specialize in baking and craft merchandise.


1. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg and egg yolk, crystallized ginger, and grated ginger. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with molasses; mix on low until combined. Cover and refrigerate until firm, a least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using 1 teaspoon measuring spoon or cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, then coat with sanding sugar (children like to help with this). Transfer to parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

3. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are flat and edges are dark golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheets. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. (Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days or frozen up to one month.)

Source: “Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection” from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, $26)

Dutch Almond Cookies

Dutch Almond cookies are served in Holland alongside a cup of hot coffee. (Photo by Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer)

These cookies offer a very pleasing amount of sturdy crunch and are best served as “dippers” with a hot beverage. In the Netherlands the cookie is called Janhagel and is served resting on a saucer with a cup of hot coffee. Over the years I have taken liberties with the recipe to shorten the prep time (see cook’s notes). Note that this is a “refrigerator” cookie, meaning that the dough needs time to chill overnight before it is sliced and baked.

Yield: About 80 to 90 cookies


Butter for greasing pan

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons water

2 cups whole blanched almonds or whole dry roasted skin-on almonds, see cook’s notes


1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cook’s notes: I used to use blanched almonds in this recipe. But I wanted to save time so I started using Trader Joe’s dry roasted, unsalted whole almonds with the skin still intact. Those nuts work fine but if you want to make authentic Dutch Almond Cookies, blanch the almonds. To blanch (remove skin) from whole almonds place in heatproof bowl. Pour enough boiling water to barely cover almonds and let them sit for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Pat dry and slip the skins off. I like to use a paper towel to pinch the skin off (pinching at the large end).


1. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil; butter foil. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda and cinnamon; stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside.

2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar, granulated sugar, and water. Return to heat and bring to boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts. Remove from heat and stir in almonds.

3. Pour sugar-almond mixture into a large bowl and stir in dry ingredients. Press dough into prepared square pan, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight or until firm.

4. About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

5. Prepare topping: thoroughly combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside.

6. Unmold the “brick” of cookie dough from the pan and place on cutting board. Cut brick into three bars, each 2 1/2-inches wide. Wrap 2 bars in parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Cut remaining brick into 1/4-inch thick crosswise slices. As you cut cookies, place them on prepared sheets one inch apart in all directions. Just before putting sheets in oven, sprinkle tops of cookies generously with the cinnamon sugar. Bake cookies for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Slide the parchment with the cookies on top onto cooling racks. Cookies will crisp as they cool. Repeat with remaining bars of dough.

7. Store cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. If freezing the bar(s), it is best to thaw dough overnight in the refrigerator before slicing and baking.

Source: “Cookies Unlimited” by Nick Malgieri (HarperCollins, $35)

Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at