Maybe it was the recent record-breaking heat wave here in New York, but I just hadn't been feeling very fall. My heart may have been saying "sweater weather," but the thermometer was tauntingly registering "spring break." I figured this called for cookies.
I fell in love with "The Pain d'Avignon Baking Book" not because I'm a big bread baker (I'm not), nor because my annual summer vacations on Cape Cod make me any authority on one of its most beloved bakeries (though I think I am). I took to the cookbook as soon as I beelined straight for the back of it, where the enticing yet approachable recipes for non-bread things like honey cornmeal cake and dark chocolate scones could be found. There, I spotted promising-looking slice-and-bake cranberry cookies that offered all the cozy satisfaction of a walk in the woods.
I love a slice-and-bake because it's such an unfussy, reliable cookie, and it conjures up serious Pillsbury nostalgia. This one, however, is better than any supermarket cookie, thanks to a magical jolt of cream cheese in the dough. The result is a sublime treat that is tender on the inside but toasty on the edges, tart yet sweet. In other words, this one's truly the platonic ideal of cookie excellence.
The Pain d'Avignon cookie is made with pecans, but pecans cost a fortune and I'm still trying to put a kid through college. If you're feeling flush, by all means, reach for the pecans. However, I've tried to keep the fall vibe with less costly but still flavorful pepitas. I've also tweaked the proportions here a little to make measuring more streamlined.
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I can't claim this recipe will yield an exact replica of the Pain d'Avignon cookie, but I hope these simplifications will motivate you to give it a try. While they'd go down very well with a cup of hot cider and a crackling fireplace, I can testify that they're just as good on an unseasonably warm afternoon when you're hungry for a taste of fall. When you can't crunch on leaves, you can still crunch on these.
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Inspired by The Pain d'Avignon Baking Book: A War, an Unlikely Bakery, and a Master Class in Bread by Uliks Fehmiu with Kathleen Hackett
- 2 sticks butter, room temperature
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon flaky salt
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups shelled, unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Optional: 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, or with a knife, roughly chop the pepitas (not too fine).
- With a stand or hand mixer on medium, beat the butter, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt together until smooth. (If you don't have a mixer, just blend everything with a wooden spoon in a big bowl.)
- Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add in the flour. Finally, stir in the cranberries.
- Plop the dough onto a sheet of parchment and roll it into a log about 2-1/2 inches thick.
- Spread the pepitas on another sheet of parchment. If you like, sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons of demerara.
- Roll the log of dough in the chopped seeds to coat it. Slice into 1-inch coins. (If the log is too soft, stick it in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up.)
- Evenly space the cookies apart on the sheets and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once. Remove when they're golden around the edges.
- Transfer to a rack and cool, then enjoy.
If you have it, reach for high-fat, European-style butter for this recipe.
Don't feel like baking a whole batch of cookies? Slice off what you want and wrap the remainder in plastic. Refrigerate and bake to order.
cookies we love
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