Make more "thyme" for slice-n-bake cookies!

Today is a perfect day to bake cookies!

…What? What?!

Ok, so it was 80 degrees and humid when I left for class at 7:15 this morning and can only imagine the havoc the heat is wreaking outside of my air conditioned academic building this very moment. Perhaps this one sticking point is enough to make it a very imperfect day to bake cookies, but let me explain.

Temperature and oven heat aside, I can see myself returning home from class this afternoon and whipping up a batch of delicious baked treats simply because I have finished all of my class work for the day and aside from a workout and an overflowing hamper hiding in my closet, I have nothing planned ahead of me. It’s a day like this, though few and far between when school is involved, that the urge to bake strikes me unrelentlessly, and the heat is really not enough to deter me. Of course having no one to feed these cookies to is a hang-up, so I might just settle for telling you about these slice and bake cookies instead.

I’ve made these cookies before, technically. I say technically for two reasons: (1) I made the dough but left the actual baking to ma mère because I had to run off for a few days to the beach and wouldn’t have time to get them in the oven once I got back, and (2) these are so adaptable that last time I made a lemon poppy seed variety, and this time the two flavor combinations I chose resulted in wildly different cookies. The original recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, and it’s a fantastic blank palate to keep in your repertoire. They are moderately time consuming due to their chill time, but ultimately easy to whip up and full of possibilities. My only complaint is that if you do choose to make several separate flavors at once, you can’t easily make one batch of the base and just mix each flavor into portions of it. Maybe I’m mildly incompetent at the logistics of this, but I found that I needed to make half of the dough and flavor it, and then make the other half and flavor it with my second set of add-ins. In the future I will try to play around with the recipe to make it easier to work with in that sense.

I chose to make a lemon-thyme cookie and a chocolate-espresso one, and I have to urge you to try both of them, though the thyme in particular stole my heart. The chocolate was rich with a soft, chocolatey depth of flavors that was very enjoyable, but in the end, the lemon-thyme (which really wound up tasting more like a butter-thyme cookie) was above and beyond what I could have imagined. It certainly is not for everyone, but pair this with a cup of tea (iced or otherwise), and you have yourself a real treat.  The glazes – coffee for the chocolate and honey for the thyme – didn’t really pan out, with the honey retaining its liquidity like a champ (as honey is apt to do), and the coffee just not being very detectable, but I still highly recommend both versions of the slice and bake cookie.

Slice and Bake Cookies, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: roughly 4 dozen cookies

The Ingredients – The Base Cookie
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon (vanilla) extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

The Ingredients – The Mix-Ins (Thyme)
1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
½ - 1 teaspoon dried thyme
The Ingredients – The Mix-Ins (Chocolate “Mocha”)
¼ cup cocoa powder (use ¼ cup less flour in this batch)

The Method**
Cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and continue beating until the mixture reaches a smooth and silky consistency again. Beat in the egg yolks, salt, and any mix-ins you choose. Reduce the speed on the mixer to low and add the flour, mixing until it just disappears. If in doubt, it's better to under beat here, incorporating the remaining specks of flour with a spatula. Turn the dough onto a counter and form it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, wrapping each separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and form each ball into a log measuring about 1 to 1 ¼ inches thick. Wrap each log in plastic and chill for two hours (or freeze for one). At this point, you may freeze them for up to 1 month or refrigerate for up to 3 days – just make sure they go in an airtight container.

When you are ready to bake them (remember to thaw the dough a little if you opt for freezing first!), divide your oven into thirds using the oven racks and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets (or as many as you need) with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, use a sharp and slender knife to portion them into roughly 1/3-inch slices. If you make them any thicker, just be aware that the baking time will likely need to be increased. Place the cookies on the baking sheets with around ½ an inch of space between each one.

Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, watching for them to set but not brown. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature before applying a glaze (if necessary).

*Although I admitted that the coffee flavor, at least in this recipe, was not well detected, it did help to cut the intensity of the chocolate a little bit. You can also up the amount of coffee or brew it double-strength to try to get more of a robust flavor out of it.
**If you’re choosing to make more than one flavor out of one batch, you should divide all ingredients in half and work in batches to create the multiple flavors. That is, cream 1 stick of butter and add 1/3 cup powdered sugar (etc.) for the first flavor combination, then go back after that dough is chilling in the fridge to make the second round of dough.


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