Play Me a Recipe

Samantha Seneviratne makes Jeweled Butter Cookies

Episode Summary

'Love, Cake' blogger, recipe developer, food stylist, and cookbook author Samantha Seneviratne shares her Jeweled Butter Cookies recipe.

Episode Notes

On Play Me a Recipe, your favorite cooks will walk you through their most treasured recipes, offering all the insider tips, stories, and tricks you won't get from a written recipe—and you'll be right alongside them, every step of the way. Feel free to pause, jump back, or navigate the steps via the podcast chapters.

If you're cooking along, here's the recipe we're making today. Go ahead and grab the ingredients below (Sam starts listing them at 1:44) before  starting the episode.

(P.S. Missing some tools? We've linked to the equipment that Sam uses throughout the transcript; use promo code COOKWITHUS for a slight discount at checkout. OK, back to the recipe.) 

Jeweled Butter Cookies

Chocolate glaze

  1. Make the cookies: In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat butter and sugar until combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks and orange zest and beat until combined. Beat in flour, baking powder, and salt. Add pistachios, apricots, and cherries and beat just until evenly distributed.
  2. Divide the dough in half. Tip each half out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 2-inch cylinder. (Two smaller cylinders are easier to work with than one big one.) Freeze cylinders until solid, 2-4 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch slices from one frozen dough cylinder. Place slices on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake until set and light golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.
  4. Dip the cookies: Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the coconut oil into the warm melted chocolate. Transfer the chocolate to a short glass or ramekin (it should be wide enough to dip the chocolate but narrow enough that you have about at least 1 1/2 inches of chocolate at the bottom). Dip cookies into the chocolate and transfer to the prepared sheets. Let set at room temperature or in the fridge.

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Episode Transcription

(P.S. Missing some tools? We've linked to the equipment that Sam uses throughout; use promo code COOKWITHUS for a slight discount at checkout. OK, back to the recipe.) 

Samantha Seneviratne: Do you have a song about cookies?

Artie: Yes! (sings)

(Sam and Artie laugh)


Sam: Hi, this is Play Me a Recipe. I'm Samantha Seneviratne. I'm a food stylist and a cookbook author, and today we're going to make my Jeweled Butter Cookies. The recipe is linked in the show notes if you need to refer to it, but otherwise we'll be gathering ingredients, and mixing, and slicing, and baking, and dipping right here together. Feel free to pause or jump back if you need a little more time.

Okay, this recipe is a really simple, really delicious butter cookie. It's studded with pieces of sour cherry, and pistachio, and apricots, and flavored with a little bit of orange. They're basically a cookie that is meant for a cup of tea, which is basically my favorite kind of cookie—and my mom's favorite kind of cookie. My parents come from Sri Lanka and they’re big tea drinkers in Sri Lanka, so I love to develop cookies that sort of go well with tea.

This is a great recipe for the holidays because you can basically make this dough well in advance, form it into a log, throw it into your freezer and then forget about it for, I would say, up to three months and then just bake them as you need them. It also makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies, which is a lot of cookies, so great for sharing, great for cookie swaps, and things like that. I like to have a cookie dough in my freezer at all times, just so I can bake a few off whenever I have a warm cup of tea and a book ready to go, or someone desperately needs a little dessert. Yeah, they're really versatile and very easy.

Ingredients & equipment

For this recipe, you'll need 2 sticks of butter, 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, 3 large egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of orange zest, and for your dry ingredients, you'll need 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of, of course, salt, and for the jewels in these cookies, you'll need 1/2 cup each of chopped pistachios, apricots and sour cherries. And then the final step: we'll use 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 1 teaspoon of neutral oil for our dipping.

These cookies don't require anything special, but do have your electric stand mixer, if you have one, ready to go, and a few baking sheets lined with parchment, a cooling rack, and a small glass or ceramic ramekin for dipping.

Step 1: Make the cookies

Sam: So the first thing you need to do is cream your butter and sugar, and that's 2 sticks of unsalted butter. If you have salted, go ahead and use it; we’ll just adjust the salt later. No big deal on that. The butter should be at room temperature. 3/4 cup of sugar—granulated sugar—3 large egg yolks, also at room temperature. A teaspoon of orange zest, freshly grated orange zest. If you want to soften your butter really quickly, sometimes what I do is put it—still in the wrapper—stand the sticks up in the microwave, I know it sounds insane, but stand them up in the microwave and blast them for 8 seconds and then turn them over so that they're standing on the other side and do another 8 seconds. And after about 16 to 24 seconds, they'll be perfectly softened and ready to go into your cookies.

Okay, I'm using a stand mixer here with my granulated sugar and butter and orange zest. And I'm gonna let that get nice and fluffy. That'll take about 3 minutes. If you want to use a hand mixer, that's fine, too. I wouldn't do it by hand unless you're...very, very powerful. (Laughs) I love my stand mixer because I could do other things right now. Arthur is trying desperately to take a nap, but having a little difficulty. I'm going to probably have to pop back and check on him while this butter is creaming, which makes the stand mixer the perfect tool for the job.

Sam: So now I'm just chopping in my add-ins, and so I have 1/2 a cup of dried cherries. Dried sour cherries, and 1/2 a cup of dried apricots, and 1/2 a cup of pistachio meat. I basically like this mixture because the apricots are super sweet, the dried cherries are nice and tart, and the pistachios are savory and delicious, and they all have beautiful, complementary colors. Of course, you could swap these out for other fruits that you like. Dried figs would be really nice here, and pecans. What else would be good? Currents and lemon zest would be really, really nice. Basically, it's customizable! It's 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit and nuts, and you can pretty much swap in and out whatever you have on hand and whatever you like the most—

(sounds of Artie stirring)

Sam: Uh oh. (Laughs) I can hear my son Arthur is desperately trying to get out of his nap right now. We'll see—we'll see how much I can get done before he comes running in.

To my butter and sugar that's nice and fluffy, now I'm gonna add my 3 large egg yolks, also at room temperature. If they're cold, they could just make the butter sort of stiffen up. To warm up your egg yolks, once you separate the yolks and the whites, throw those yolks into a glass—a small glass—and then put the glass into some warm water so that the yolks are protected from the water, but they warm up from the water. I mean, you could also do the whole egg in its shell, but this is just an even faster way to warm up those yolks.

(Artie talking to himself)

Sam: I don't know what he's talking about back there, but so now I'm adding my dry ingredients: 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. We also need 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of—I use kosher salt—if you have fine salt or table salt, you're just gonna want to use a little less than 1/2 a teaspoon. Kosher salt is just bigger. I keep kosher salt for all of my cooking, so I just use it in my baking as well. I think it's just fine. And then we’ll mix that up.

(Starts stand mixer)

Sam: Okay, so before that gets too combined, I'm gonna throw in my fruit because I wanna make sure my fruit and my nuts are nice and evenly dispersed in my cookies. Okay, So into my mixer with my pistachios, sour cherries, and apricots and then we'll mix that up until we have a nice uniform dough.

Step 2: Shape the cookie dough into logs

Sam: Okay, so I'm going to try to explain what I'm doing here. We have to shape this dough into 2 equal cylinders that are about, I don't know, maybe 2 1/2 inches in diameter, or maybe even less, 1 1/2 inches, basically the diameter of your final cookie. So I have 2 sheets of parchment paper that are each about 12 inches by 16. I'm going to divide my dough in half and set each half of dough onto my parchment paper. Now you need a ruler.

(Laughs) I don't know if I can explain this. So you put the dough into the center of your paper, pull the short side of the paper over the dough, pkay? And then you can sort of start using the paper in your hands to manipulate it into a cylinder. Now, if you turn it around and take a ruler and press the ruler into the crease between the dough log and the two halves of paper, you can push it into a perfect circle. Yeah. (Laughs) I don't think that made any sense. And as I'm sure you can hear, Arthur is not excited about taking a nap.

Sam: So all you have to do—if this is not making any sense—all you have to do is shape this dough into 2 little cylinders that you can then wrap up, and freeze until they're solid, so that you can slice them.

(Still confused? Here’s a video of Dorie Greenspan rolling a cookie log.)

So now we just have to pop our little tubes of dough into the freezer for—about 2 to 4 hours would be good. You just want it to be nice and solid so that when you slice it, it stays round But if you wanna work with your dough and it's still a little soft, they just might be a little...rustic. No big deal.


Sam: And we're back. I'm Samantha Seneviratne; food stylist and cookbook author, and we're in the middle of making my Jeweled Butter Cookies. As a reminder, the recipe is linked in the show notes, and we're going through the whole thing right here. Feel free to pause or jump back if you need a little more time, and we're coming back to the point where we've let the cookie dough freeze for a few hours and I'm going to slice and bake them.

Step 3: Slice & bake

Sam: Okay, so get your oven preheated to 350°F. I am working with 1 log of cookie dough at a time. Now the recipe says to freeze it for 4 hours, but I think mine was only in for about 2, and it seems pretty solid. So that's good. And we're slicing them, I don’t know, about 1/4-inch thick. Let's see, maybe I can check the recipe. Yeah, 1/4-inch thick. I'm using a serrated knife to cut through the dough. Oh, it looks so pretty. And so basically the idea is, as you slice, you want to rotate the log so that you never develop any flat sides of your cookies. And if at any point your dough is too warm, you can always pop it back into the freezer to chill up again.

(While slicing) They look so pretty. The dried cherries just sort of sparkle in this wonderful way. They sort of remind me of holiday ornaments. I think these are a really great cookie for gifting and sharing. As I mentioned before, this recipe makes a lot of cookies, so that's always good, because you can share them with a lot of people. They also are kind of sturdy, I would say, especially once you dip them in chocolate so you could certainly ship these to a loved one that's not nearby. And I think that they last a long time. Even after they’re baked. You can throw them in a new airtight container in the freezer, and they will stay pretty nice for quite a long time. Butter cookies freeze really, really well. For me, these cookies are super basic but also satisfying. And pretty. There's varying textures, which is nice: crunchy nuts, chewy fruit, buttery cookies. Kind of has it all, if you ask me.

Sam: So I'm slicing my cookies. I'm almost done with one log—super easy. I love a slice-and-bake cookie, too, because you don't have to roll out portions and do anything fussy. You just slice them and call it a day. So these are going to go onto a rimmed baking sheet that I've lined with a little bit of parchment paper. They're going to spread a little bit, but not a lot. So you don't have to spread them out on this sheet very far. Maybe 1 inch, 1 1/2 inches.

Sam: and then we'll throw them into our 350°F oven for about 15 minutes. We're just looking for nice golden edges and a set cookie. You'll know they're set when they're sort of dry. So I'm gonna pop these in the oven and then we'll make the glaze.

Step 4: Make the glaze & dip

Sam: Okay, so now while the cookies are baking, I'm going to melt 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate. I'm going to do it in the microwave, as opposed to in a double boiler, or something like that. The key with melting chocolate in the microwave, is just to do it in bursts. It has a tendency to scorch very, very easily. So if you do it in sort of 15-, 20-second bursts and then stop and stir occasionally; I'm doing it in a wide bowl just to make the process go a little faster. But in order to dip my cookies, I'm gonna transfer it into a narrow glass.

Sam: Okay, so I've pulled my cookies out of the oven. They’re just a little bit golden brown around the edges but still slightly pale in the center. You could feel that when they're warm, they're still sort of soft. But once you let them cool completely, they firm up nicely.

My first batch is nice and cool, so I am going to move onto dipping. So I melted my 4 ounces of chocolate, and I also mixed in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or vegetable oil. And that's basically just to make the mixture more fluid and sort of coat a little evenly. I've transferred my chocolate to a little glass, and the reason I put it in a glass, is because it makes dipping things so much easier because all the chocolate is sort of collected into a pool. And you don't waste any! You just have to make sure the glass has the circumference of the cookie, so you can fit it in.

The dipping is actually the most fun part, if you ask me. And I don't temper my chocolate, I mean, you certainly could. And then you can keep them at room temperature and they'll ship a little bit easier and not get messy on the plate. But I find that I can dip them and then just store them in the freezer. And the cookie stays fresher that way, too. And the chocolate is fine, and just let them get back to room temperature before I serve them.

Everybody likes them that way, so that's what I do. It's very easy, I think, around the holidays. You have to make things simpler for yourself, if you can. That is always my goal. The holidays are gonna be a little strange this year. I think I'm still trying to decide what to do. I miss my parents desperately, but we're just trying to keep them safe. So we've only been meeting outside, but we'll see what happens.

Sam: All right. My first batch of cookies are all dipped. They look so shiny and pretty. I'm gonna sit them on a piece of parchment just to firm up a little bit. You could also just toss them in the fridge for, you know, 10 minutes and they'll be firm enough, and then we're going to taste them. Maybe I could get Arthur to come and taste?

(musical interlude)

Sam (to Artie): Okay. Should we get them out of the fridge?

Sam: What do they look like to you?

Artie: Good! Like peanut butter.

Sam: (Laughs) Oh wow! There's no peanut butter. What do you think?

Artie: Yum!

Sam: What does it taste like?

Artie: Applesauce?

Sam: (Laughs) Applesauce? Maybe that's the dried fruit you taste.


Well, thanks so much for making my Jeweled Butter Cookies with me today. I hope yours turned out super beautiful and crisp and colorful, and I hope very much that they'll make it into your holiday table. Let me know how it all went by leaving a review. And you can find the recipe in the show notes and on Thanks for joining me. I'm Samantha Seneviratne on Play Me a Recipe. Happy cooking to you and yours.