The original recipe was called Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies and called for walnuts to be added to the batter and for the cookie dough log to be rolled in chopped walnuts before slicing and baking. But I don't like walnuts (too bitter) so I originally opted to substitute cashews instead.
While I'm not big on nuts in my cookies, I have a higher tolerance for cashews (and macadamia nuts) if I am going to add them in. In the end, however, I decided to forgo even the cashews and just went with a plain cream cheese cookie, mostly because I had leftover lemon frosting from my recent cake wreck, Lemon Drop Cake.
Turns out that was the right decision to make. I really liked these cookies for their simplicity and straightforward goodness. Be sure to bake them long enough for the bottoms and sides to get golden and the middles to "dry out" on top but not get more than lightly golden brown. That will ensure they've baked long enough for a good "snap" to the texture.
The cream cheese taste was very subtle but contributed to the nice crisp texture of the cookie. It paired well with the lemon frosting but I also think it would've been good unfrosted, too. This is a good tea cookie for an afternoon tea or served as a light dessert after lunch. Er, "light" assuming you only have one, that is.
Cream cheese cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese (not whipped), room temperature
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups walnut halves, 1-1/2 cups toasted and coarsely chopped, 1 cup finely chopped (optional)
1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl.
2. Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Mix in toasted walnuts, if using.
3. Transfer dough to a work surface. Divide in half; shape each half into an 8-1/2-inch log about 2-inches in diameter. Wrap each log in parchment paper; freeze until firm, about 30 minutes or up to 2 weeks.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. with racks in upper and lower thirds. Unwrap one log, and roll in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, coating completely (optional). Cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Space 1-inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
5. Bake cookies, rotating halfway through, until golden around edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Repeat with remaining log and remaining 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if using. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.