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Talking cookies with 'The New York Times Cooking'

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

In kitchens across the country, bakers are cranking out batches of treats for holiday parties, cookie swaps or just to eat off the cooling rack. It's undeniable December is all about cookies, and that is especially true for the team of food writers that puts together the lineup of new recipes featured in The New York Times' annual cookie week. So this year, armed with a stand mixer and a microphone, NPR producer Emma Klein set out to discover what it takes to make a knockout cookie recipe.

EMMA KLEIN, BYLINE: I love baking. Sometimes it's pies, cakes or bread, both sweet and salty. But every December as a kid, my mom and I would spend hours crafting cookies to fill festive tins for family and friends. Now, years later, I love to find new cookie recipes to try. So this year, I had some friends over to bake some of The New York Times holiday cookies. We made the matcha latte, Mexican hot chocolate and the Technicolor cookies, and I'll get into why they're called that later. After our baking party, I called up the people who actually created this year's cookies to hear how they come up with their recipes. New York Times food writer Eric Kim felt like he had a lot to live up to with his 2023 cookie offering.

ERIC KIM: I had a lot of pressure on myself this year 'cause my cookie last year was a gochujang caramel cookie, which truly went bonkers. That's the most viral I've ever had a recipe go. We were kind of, like, selling out gochujang in stores.

KLEIN: Kim and the rest of the team spent months trying to perfect their recipes. They start prepping for cookie week in the summer.

KIM: If people knew how much work went into each cookie - I mean, the first year, I almost lost it. My parents came downstairs and saw maybe 30 bowls of different batches, and they were kind of like, wait, you're still working on the cookies? And I was like, go away. Don't talk to me.

KLEIN: Kim's recipe this year was the result of a bit of experimentation.

KIM: These cookies started off as matcha blossom cookies because I was sort of playing around with - you know those, like, really old peanut butter blossom cookies that you had at your friend's house, maybe?

KLEIN: He eventually ended up with a matcha latte cookie, a combo of the popular green tea flavor baked into a cookie and topped with a creamy milk frosting.

Next up, we made Vaughn Vreeland's Mexican hot chocolate cookies. They're a chewy, spiced chocolate treat stuffed with marshmallows.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, this is good.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I got a little tingling sensation.

KLEIN: That's 'cause you can't handle spicy.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN: The Technicolor cookies, developed by New York Times contributor Sam Seneviratne, are the most striking-looking cookies of the seven recipes.

So pretty.

They're bright with psychedelic stripes and spiced up with cardamom and ginger.

SAM SENEVIRATNE: I think people really do eat with their eyes as much as they do with their mouths. And especially when you're trying to convince people to make your food - especially at this time, there's a million cookies on offer, so I think it is important to make things that are visually appealing. And then the taste has to match. It's not worth it if it's only pretty.

KLEIN: If she gets the recipe right, readers will be making batches and batches of these cookies for the holidays. But Sam - she won't be.

SENEVIRATNE: By the time it comes to the actual holiday, I've made so many baked goods that I usually just take a full-on break from it.

KLEIN: So were this year's cookies a hit? Here at NPR headquarters, we had our own little taste test at the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED holiday potluck.

Can I get you guys to taste this and tell me what you think?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Oh, good. I like the texture, kind of buttery cookie. It's really nice. It was supposed to give matcha?

KLEIN: It was supposed to give matcha.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: It was supposed to give matcha. It wasn't giving that much, but it was giving, you know, like, a little ginger moment. That's what it was giving for me. I ate all of it, though.

KLEIN: So pretty popular - but I might need to make these one more time to get it right for the next holiday party.

From NPR News, I'm Emma Klein, wishing you all happy holiday baking. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Emma Klein