Cheese Platter: Cookie Edition?

Lately, we’ve enjoyed an abundance of brownies at the office. We usually keep at least a box or two of boxed brownie mix around as “emergency baking mixes.” This means that on Fridays when we don’t have tea time officially planned or on days when we just have the munchies for sweets, we can quickly and painlessly whip up a batch of brownies. When Dennis picked up 10 boxes of brownie mix–after all, how can you say no to a 10 for 10 sale??–we thought, “Wow, we’ll be set for awhile!” Well… enter two Thursdays ago, thesis stress, a strong inclination towards procrastination, and six boxes of brownie mix left and we ended up on a six-day brownie-baking and eating streak. Yes, we polished off every. Single. Box. Left.

But I digress. The above was a long-winded way to say that come tea time planning time, I didn’t know if we would have any sweet tooth left in us. And really, what sweet thing could we bake that would top six days of brownies? I was stumped until I remembered the time we gave one of our mentors a baking “test” interview in lieu of a traditional interview for a summer internship position with us. She opted to go with a recipe that was off the beaten path and made these amazing dark chocolate chip rosemary hazelnut cookies. These were drop cookies, so each bite gave you a satisfying mouthful of cookie, and oh what delicious mouthfuls they were. Salty, aromatic, and filled with little pockets of melted chocolate, these cookies blew us away. And almost two years later, I’m still thinking of them…. (In case you were wondering, she passed the test with flying colors.)

I was amazed and excited to discover a whole world of savory cookies on the world wide web. Whereas the dark chocolate chip rosemary hazelnut cookies were true butter and sugar cookies with a chewy texture and a sweet body, a search for “savory cookies” led me to a lot of butter-based shortbread-y type cookies. I saw various combinations of cheese, herbs, and spices–a few bloggers even played around with seaweed! So bright-eyed and excited was I that I probably clicked around and salivated at far too many recipes and their accompanying photos, but somehow managed to settle on making lemon asiago thyme shortbread and fig and blue cheese savouries. Just in case the idea of savory cookies didn’t go over well with our mentors, I figured that at least the fig ad blue cheese savouries would have some sweetness and be a bit more reminiscent of a more traditional cookie.

Both of these were food processor cookies, so they were quick and easy to put together–always a plus on a Friday afternoon and when you have some eager mentors clamoring for goodies straight from the oven. The lemon asiago thyme shortbread recipe came from The View from Great Island (which I couldn’t help but noticed also boasted many other drool-worthy shortbread recipes, sweet and savory) and they are as easy as cookies can get.

First, we put all the ingredients into my trusty, 10-cup food processor:

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I worried that the doubled ingredients would make for a tight fit, but my food processor handled it just fine. After pulsing to combine, I ended up with a crumbly dough that required a bit of kneading. Since these are what are known as icebox (or slice and bake) cookies, the dough needed to be able to come together to form logs. The trick is make sure your dough has an even texture throughout and to make sure you don’t overwork and dry out the dough–otherwise, the slicing part won’t go so well.

As their names for them imply, icebox cookies need some time in the fridge or freezer to firm up. The butter started out softened and at room temperature so this step also helps you achieve a nice, sandy texture and more importantly, avoid slippery, melted cookies. After an hour or two in the freezer, our logs were nice and chilled and ready for slicing and baking! A sharp knife makes for clean slices and cookies.

We could hardly wait to devour these after they came out of the oven, but in the spirit of wanting to enjoy the shortbread at its best–fully cooled down and hardened–we managed not to sneak too many tastes in. The buttery crumble of the shortbread was a perfect complement to the nutty cheesiness of the asiago. Between the butter, cheese, and thyme, the shortbread was very mellow, but had so much depth in flavor. Just imagine a cheesy cracker in shortbread form!

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One of the wonderful things about icebox cookies is that if you want to save them for a rainy day, you can just leave them in your freezer. When you get a hankering for cookies, you just slice them and pop them in the oven–just let them bake a few minutes longer than you would if they had come out of the fridge.

Our other recipe of the day, fig and blue cheese savouries from The Runaway Spoon via Food52, were also a butter-based cookie and slightly more involved, but still a satisfyingly easy recipe. Just as with the lemon asiago thyme shortbread, all the ingredients started out in the food processor. Since all the ingredients were in about the same color family, this made for a lot less exciting photo:

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A quick run in the food processor gave us a nice big ball of dough, which we then rolled out. Since we didn’t have a rolling pin on hand, we had to make do with a drinking glass. After cutting the cookies, arranging them on baking sheets, and spooning fig jam onto them, the dough was pretty soft. I was worried they wouldn’t hold up in the oven so while we were waiting on the asiago lemon thyme shortbread to finish up in the oven, we let these chill in the freezer and fridge to firm up a bit.

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The cookies did end up spreading out a bit so I’m glad we added a chill time before baking them. These didn’t have a chance to cool down too much before they were snatched up, but they were definitely softer than the lemon asiago thyme shortbread–perhaps more time for the dough to chill and firm up would have remedied that? The jam reduced to a nice sticky texture though! These ended up being the more popular of the two cookies, and they were disappearing a lot faster than we could take the next batch out of the oven! We were a bit worried that the blue cheese might lend these cookies a strong pungency, but the cookies ended up having a cheesy depth without being… ah… stinky at all.

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The final verdict on these cookies? Initial reactions were simultaneously weirded out and intrigued, but everyone did agree they were addicting, and we had not a single cookie leftover come cleanup. I will definitely be venturing into the world of savory cookies again–I’ve already got my eye on some seaweed sables….

– Sylvia

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