If you’re a baker, then you probably treat the moment when you find a new cookie recipe that you love the way an astronomer treats finding a new star – with frabjous joy. Find a book with a clutch of keepers and you’ll feel as though you’ve discovered a whole constellation. That’s the way I felt when I got my copy of Jesse Szewczyk’s COOKIES: THE NEW CLASSICS.
Jesse’s a terrific baker – I met him when we made Thanksgiving dinner together for The Kitchn’s Food Fest – and a wise one. He started his book knowing that there were already hundreds of recipes in the world for every kind of cookie we love. But he set himself the mission to find a way to make the classics modern, to add something to them that would surprise us, that would make a good cookie even more memorable. I was hooked just reading the table of contents – I love the way he’s organized his chapters: Chocolaty, Boozy, Fruity, Nutty, Tart, Spiced, Smoky and Savory. Mission accomplished.
He's got chocolate-chunk cookies made with smoked butter – brilliant; crinkle cookies made with preserved lemon; snickerdoodles made with sweet potatoes; and beautiful Campari Shortbread Cookies with Crunchy Orange Sugar – maybe you saw that recipe in the Bon Appetit cookie-box story.
The first cookie I tasted came from the Boozy chapter, it was the one that Jesse brought to my house when we cooked together. He made the Bourbon Pecan Sandies and they were a knockout – a perfect shortbread with toasted pecans and a shot of bourbon. A southern cookie that would be right anywhere.
Just in time for holiday baking, Jesse’s sharing a cookie with us from the Spiced chapter: Cinnamon Sugar Speculoos Bars.
I think you’ll love this one – I did. Cookie on and I’ll be back on Friday with more cookies for the holidays … and beyond.
Makes 24 squares
Nonstick pan spray
½ cup (150 grams) speculoos cookie butter (see Note)
2 sticks (16 tablespoons/226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups (400 grams) packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2½ cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour (320 grams)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¾ cup (75 grams) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 ml) milk, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon speculoos cookie butter
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Note: The cookie butter can be found next to the nut butters in well-stocked grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s.
Storage: The bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Make the Speculoos Squares: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Grease a 9 × 13-inch metal baking pan with the nonstick pan spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on the long sides so it’s easy to lift out after baking. Lightly coat the paper with pan spray.
Place the cookie butter and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until completely melted, 60 to 90 seconds total. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth and ribbony. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the cinnamon. Stir with a rubber spatula just until a soft dough forms with no pockets of dry flour.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer using clean hands coated with pan spray. Combine the granulated sugar and remaining ¼ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top. Lightly press the sugar into the dough with your hands.
Bake until the top is lightly browned and the edges are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
As the bars cool, make the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Transfer half the glaze (about 1½ tablespoons) to a second medium bowl and add the cookie butter and cinnamon. Whisk until completely smooth, adding additional milk to thin it as needed. Both glazes should be thick yet pourable. If either of them is too thick, add additional milk; if too thin, add additional confectioners’ sugar.
Drizzle the top of the bars with the glazes and let set for 20 minutes, then slice into 24 pieces (6 long rows by 4 short rows).