Eric Akis: Cookies to ease your worried mind

Eric Akis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many folks have turned to baking to help knead, whip and beat out the stress they are feeling during these unsettling times. It’s a happy distraction from what’s going on that, of course, rewards you with a house filled with a comforting aroma and some tasty baked goods to eat.

If you agree and love to make cookies, slip on an apron and roll up your sleeves, because I have two recipes for you.

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The first is for an everyday, snacking-style cookie using peanut butter and honey. That combination works well on toasted bread, and the same is true when mixed into cookie dough. When baked, these cookies are tender in the centre and have just a wee bit of crispness on the outside. They go great with a glass of milk.

The second recipe is for a slice- and bake-style of cookie made with cranberry, orange zest and cornmeal. To make them, the dough is formed into a rectangular-shaped log, chilled until firm, and then sliced and baked. The end result is a nicely textured cookie that’s not too sweet, has the tang of cranberries and a zesty orange flavour.

Those cookies could be enjoyed now with tea or espresso. They’re also festive enough to bake during the holiday season, package up and give as a gift.

Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cookies

These crisp cookies have appealing bits of dried cranberry and orange zest in them.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time
Cooking time: 12 minutes
Makes: about 24 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1/3 cup butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 tsp finely grated orange zest

• pinch of salt

1 large egg

Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and chopped cranberries in a bowl.

In a second bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, almond extract, orange zest and salt until well combined. Add egg and beat until well combined.

Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until a dough results.

Roll the dough into an eight-inch log, place on a sheet of parchment paper and roll up. Slightly flatten two sides of the log to make a rectangular shape. Refrigerate dough until firm, about one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Unwrap and cut the log of dough into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet 1/2-inch apart. Bake, in the middle of the oven, 12 minutes, or until light golden and set. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Cookies could also be frozen.

Peanut Butter and Honey Cookies

These cookies, flavoured with peanut butter and honey, are perfect to snack on with a glass of milk or hot beverage.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 12 to 13 minutes, per sheet of cookies
Makes: about 30 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In second bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, place butter and peanut butter and beat until well combined. Beat in honey, sugars, egg and vanilla.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and then beat in flour mixture until well incorporated and cookie dough is created.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place on the baking sheets, spacing them about 3 inches apart. With a floured fork, press down twice on each ball, creating a crosshatch pattern and discs of dough about 1/2-inch thick.

Bake cookies, in the middle of the oven and one sheet at a time, for 12 to 13 minutes, until light golden brown and set. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Cookies could also be frozen.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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