Shannon McConnell is a maestro of the kitchen — a chef’s artist, if you will. Serving as the Pittsburgh Food Examiner for the past seven years, McConnell has reviewed food, cooked for hundreds, titillated thousands with her writing and has kicked baking’s ambiguous butt for more than a decade. The woman is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen – and then she takes photos of her food. Move over, Oliver Seidel – there’s a new lady in town. Ms. McConnell sat down with us to share her top cookie recipes for this holiday season. Fear not – her recipes are so easy to accomplish (and crowd-pleasing), a trained monkey could bake ‘em.
Lemon Blueberry Cookies
- 2 3/4 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 sticks of butter (room temp)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp of lemon zest (roughly 1 lemon)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp cream cheese (room temp)
- 1/4 cup dried roughly chopped blueberries
- 1 cup white chocolate discs for melting
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup 2% milk
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside to add to the wet ingredients later.
- Cream together butter and sugar until smooth (no lumps). Fully incorporate the egg, vanilla, lemon zest, blueberries and cream cheese. Add the dry ingredients gradually and once everything is fully incorporated, add the lemon juice last.
- Roll rounded balls of dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. With a brush or fingers, moisten the top of each cookie with a very slight amount of water and slightly flatten, and add a sprinkle of sugar for texture.
- While the cookies are baking, place the white chocolate into a double boiler or in the microwave. Add the milk in small doses until the chocolate is smooth with no lumps.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden. Let sit for 2 minutes on the cookie tray before moving them to cool on wax paper. Using a spatula, drizzle the melted white chocolate over top of the cookies, and let them cool completely.
Parmesan Shortbread Cookies
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Pinch of minced fresh rosemary
- 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix flour, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic and rosemary in processor.
- Add butter and, using short pulses, process until dough begins to come together.
- Gather dough into ball. Cut the ball in half and place in plastic wrap. Press into a used paper towel roll and put in the fridge to cool.
- Once cool, slice each tube into equal parts and bake until the tops and bottoms are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer shortbread to cooling rack.
- Serve with hot tomato soup!
Chocolate Peppermint Drops
- 1 1/8 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup dutch unsweetened coco powder (sifted)
- 1 stick of butter plus 2 tbsp for greasing
- 1 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp coffee
- 1 cup white chocolate discs
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup 2% milk
- 1 tsp peppermint extract
- Mix the cocoa powder, baking powder, flour and salt together and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, add egg and coffee and whisk until fully incorporated.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in stages. Do not over mix.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper, drop in spoonfuls at evenly spaced intervals.
- Bake at 350 degrees F until edges begin to crisp and the center is set; this takes approximately 10 minutes.
- Let cool on tray for 5 minutes and move to a cooling rack.
- In a double boiler, mix 1 cup of white chocolate discs and 1/4-1/2 cup of milk until blended smoothly.
- Take off double boiler and add 1 tsp peppermint extract. Whisk to incorporate.
- Use a spatula to spread white chocolate on one half of the cookie and then roll in red sugar or Christmas sprinkles.
- Let cool completely.
Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mum of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.