Homemade cookies spread love – and save money

Homemade cookies spread love – and save money

During my childhood, I loved Purim more for its cookies than the chance to dress in costume. I have such sweet memories of the hamantaschen, rugelach, and almond crescents (once called vanilla kipfurl) served at Purim parties at my synagogue.

I recall holding a cookie in each hand stationed at a long table laden with platters of pastry. With a ponytail popping from beneath my crown, I was the only Queen Esther in history who would have traded my royal gown for a rolling pin.

I was eager to make these cookies at home but my mother, who never baked anything she could buy, was unable to help me get started. To be nice, she bought me a children’s cookbook called “Wendy’s Kitchen Debut,” leaving me to my own devices.

After mastering all of Wendy’s sweets, which required no baking, I was ready for more challenging desserts. Like most Americans, my first foray into cookie preparation entailed the recipe for Toll House chocolate chip cookies, which then as now appears on bags of Nestle’s chocolate morsels.

Much to mom’s delight, my initial results from this accessible recipe were stunningly delicious. It sparked a lifelong passion for cookie-baking that became part of my Purim repertoire.

What would Purim be without an array of confections to give and receive? At this holiday, many Jews exchange mishloach manot, boxes or baskets containing at least two kinds of food, traditionally pastries.

The custom arose in ancient Persia, when King Ahasuerus was on the throne granting his vizier Haman great power.

With rumors running rampant that Haman hated the Jews, Mordechai, a respected member of the Jewish community, stood by the palace gate, where he heard that Haman was building a gallows to annihilate the Jews.

The king, who sought someone to marry, had invited all eligible women to attend a gala event; Mordechai asked his niece Esther to become a contender. Esther was a dark-haired beauty, and luckily Ahasuerus chose her to be his queen.

Still sensing danger, Mordechai warned his niece to keep her religion a secret at court. But taking a chance, Queen Esther exposed Haman’s wicked plot to her husband, explaining that she was Jewish. The king became so enraged with his vizier, he had Haman hanged on the gallows the man had planned for the Jews.

As the Jewish community rejoiced at their good fortune, Mordechai requested that people remember this close call with death by exchanging gifts, a gesture that grew into the present-day mishloach manot that are sent to family and friends.

While the custom began with presenting pastries on small silver trays, centuries later our grandmothers found less expensive packaging for the cookies and cakes they baked.

With many women now juggling several roles – careers, motherhood, keeper of the home – and free time a scarce commodity, few bake anymore. In many cases, Bubbe’s cookie recipes and the confidence to handle pastry dough have been lost.

Instead a growing number of Jews are relying on professional companies to send Purim gifts to family and friends. It’s a convenient option, but it can be pricey.

In a flagging economy, this year would be the ideal occasion to organize an old-fashioned cookie exchange. If you enlist some friends, with minimal effort and cost, you can amass dozens of cookies in different varieties to share with your loved ones.

If you’ve never baked before, don’t despair. The recipes here are designed to turn novices into pros.

Since there is nothing better than the mouthwatering taste of homemade cookies, an assortment of even the simplest cookies is more tantalizing than the snazziest professionally made mishloach manot package delivered to the door.

Cookies are an ideal pastry. Because of their durable surfaces, many kinds travel without smearing or breaking. These bite-sized treats can be served for dessert or as an extra indulgence after a holiday cake or pie. The perfect snack, cookies complement tea, coffee, or milk. They can be packed in children’s lunch boxes or frozen and quickly defrosted should unexpected guests arrive.

In years gone by, ordering mishloach manot seemed like a good idea because a phone call or mouse click ensured that everyone on your list received a gift of goodies. But in these uncertain times, spreading love through baking cookies and spending time with friends is a more meaningful way to commemorate Purim.

The following recipes call for parchment paper to line cookie sheets.

Orange Poppy Seed Zingers

Poppy seeds are a traditional Purim pastry ingredient. These perky cookies taste great with a hot cup of tea.


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 1/4 tsp. orange extract

1 tsp. orange juice

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. poppy seeds

1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

3 tsp. orange zest (about the skin of one orange)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, orange extract, and orange juice, mixing until well incorporated.

3. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Spoon into orange mixture, mixing on low speed until flour dampens.

4. Add poppy seeds, ginger, and orange zest, beating on high speed until well incorporated.

5. Using a coffee teaspoon, scoop enough dough to fill three-quarters of its bowl. With another teaspoon, push dough onto a cookie sheet. Dropped dough will form uneven mounds. Repeat until all dough has been spooned out. Bake for 10 minutes, or until tops turn golden and edges brown a little. Yield: 4 dozen cookies.


Pecan Sandies

Ground pecans lend a crumbly texture to these perky cookies. Try one and you’ll reach for more.


1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter at room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed down

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups flour

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. almond extract

1 tsp. rum extract

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

48 pecan halves in perfect condition (not nicked or broken)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on cookie sheets.

2. In a large bowl, cream 2 butters and 2 sugars.

3. Add remaining ingredients – except pecans. Beat on low speed until flour dampens and then on high speed, until well combined. Add chopped pecans and mix into dough until evenly combined.

4. Roll dough into a ball. With a sharp knife, cut dough ball into 4 equal parts. From each quadrant, break off 12 equal pieces of dough. With your hands, roll each piece into a ball, about 1 inch in diameter.

5. Place each small dough ball on parchment paper and flatten with the palm of your hand. You’ll have 1 1/2-inch circles, about 1/8 inch tall. Lift each circle of dough and, if necessary, even the edges with your fingers. Replace circles on parchment. Gently press a pecan half into each circle.

6. Bake 14-16 minutes, or until cookies brown on top and darken a little at the edges. Yield: 4 dozen cookies.


Cherry Butterscotch Jumbles

These crunchy cookies exude all the bells and whistles you wish were in oatmeal raisin cookies.


1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed down

1 tsp. confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract

1 large egg

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1 cup uncooked oats (old fashioned, not instant)

2/3 cup dried cherries

2/3 cup butterscotch morsels


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Cream butter and all 3 sugars. Add vanilla extract, almond extract, and egg, mixing well.

3. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cardamom; mix on low speed until flour dampens. Then mix well on high speed.

4. On low speed, mix in oats, cherries, and butterscotch morsels until evenly incorporated.

5. Fill the bowl of a coffee teaspoon with dough. With another teaspoon, push dough onto prepared cookie sheet. You’ll get uneven clumps, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

6. Bake for 12 minutes, or until cookies brown. Yield: 4 1/2 dozen cookies


Triple Chocolate Chip Supremes

Brimming with bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate chips, these chunky cocoa cookies are a chocolate-lovers dream.


1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter at room temperature

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed down

1 cup granulated sugar

1 rounded tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1/2 cup milk chocolate morsels

1/2 cup white chocolate morsels

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream 2 butters and 3 sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until well combined.

3. Add flour, cocoa, and baking soda, mixing on low speed until flour dampens, and then on high speed until ingredients are incorporated.

4. Add 3 kinds of chocolate morsels and almonds. Blend on low speed until evenly distributed. Dough will be sticky.

5. From a rounded coffee teaspoon, roll dough in hands, forming balls 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place balls on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 16 minutes, or until cookies feel slightly firm to a soft touch. Yield: 5 1/2 dozen cookies.