I know, I know, these cookies don't look like much. I struggled when taking the photos for this post, because there just isn't very much that's interesting about these white, plain, cream cheese cookies. No styling trick or pretty plate from my now extremely pared down prop collection seemed to do the trick. They just looked boring, for lack of a better word. Uninspired and dull. I took the best photos I could, and then set my camera down. I was pretty sure these cookies weren't even worth posting, and then I decided to eat one.
And just like that, I changed my mind. These cookies needed to be shared.
The recipe is from Food52 Baking (an awesome addition to anyone's cookbook collection, if it's not there already), and I marked it off as a recipe worth testing for two reasons. The first, is that the recipe is so darn easy. It has five super basic ingredients—butter, cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt. The second, is that I thought the recipe headnote was endearing. Apparently, the recipe comes from a Tupperware party that Merrill's mom attended in the 1970's. Lately, I've been really interested in trying out classic, homey, all-American recipes like these (tomato soup cake is currently on my list of things to try), so how could I not give an easy recipe like this one a shot?
The cookies come together in a matter of minutes, as long as your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature. And even if they're not perfectly softened, just cream the two together for a few minutes to soften before adding in the sugar (part of baking is knowing how to cheat successfully). I added in a bit of lime zest after everything was light and fluffy (because why not), then flour and a bit of salt went into the mixer. I quickly scooped the dough out onto lined baking sheets, and into the oven they went—all accomplished within ten minutes. After a quick stint in the oven (the key to these cookies is not to overbake them), they're done. They'll be very pale and very soft, but don't leave them in the oven for any longer than 14 minutes.
As the cookies cool on a wire racks, you'll notice that they look utterly unimpressive. I contemplated drizzling chocolate over them or wishing I had rolled the cookie dough in sprinkles or sugar to make them look a little more interesting. I was about to pull the chocolate chips out of my cabinet when I stopped myself. I needed to experience the recipe as written before messing with it (adding lime zest doesn't count as messing with it in my book), so I went off to take their photos. I'm glad I chose to wait. Chocolate would probably have ruined the delicious simplicity of these cookies.
Imagine what cream cheese frosting tastes like. These cookies taste like a baked version of that. I wasn't entirely convinced by these cookies upon first bite, yet I noticed after about four bites that I was still mindlessly eating them...and I realized how much I loved the amazing, chewy cookie that was in my hand. My boyfriend and his coworkers had the exact same reaction. We all thought the cookies were a little weird at first bite, but they always drew us in for a second, third, and even fourth cookie. They have such a pleasant tanginess to them, and their soft, chewy texture is completely irresistible. These cookies were so successful, that it makes me want to start baking more of the recipes found on the sides of grocery store packages. Who knows what other hidden gems are out there!
Cream Cheese Cookies
recipe barely adapted from Food52 Baking
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 scant cup sugar
zest of 1 lime
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position your racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone liners.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl after about 2 minutes, add the lime zest, and continue beating on high speed. Once light and fluffy, mix in the flour and salt until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl one more time and give it a quick stir.
Using a cookie scoop, drop rounded tablespoonfuls of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, but no longer than that. They should look slightly under-baked (otherwise they won't be chewy). Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the sheet pans before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
Makes 2 dozen cookies