Carol’s Coffee Cookies

Rather than just acknowledge my disdain for baking, I’d like to try to understand it.

Certainly the exactness essential to the process makes me nervous. I have an inherent sense that if I screw something up while I’m cooking I will be able to correct it (adding a pinch of salt, a glug of wine, or simmering can fix many a cooking predicament). Not so with baking. It seems when sugar is involved, everything becomes more persnickety.

The horror that sets in if I’m asked to make a cake is similar to the feeling I got in high school trigonometry class when asked to calculate sine or cosine. I lose all rational ability to perform functions that I’ve been taught. My unfortunate attitude toward both pastry making and trig are that they’re skills I will never need in life. (My friends all know that I’ll stuff them with duck or risotto, salad and cheese, but if they want dessert, they should bring it themselves…I’m also a hearty believer in drinking one’s dessert.)

It naturally follows that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I’ll reach for Camembert over a cupcake any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Icing makes my teeth itch.

There are those days, however, when I just need chocolate. Or ice cream. Or one of these:


Carol’s coffee cookies—a childhood staple that waited for me in tins on my grandmother’s turquoise 1950s formica counter when I visited. I had a bit of a coffee fetish as a kid: coffee ice cream in my root beer floats, coffee rather than chocolate syrup in my milk to make it palatable, and these lacy flat doilies that crumble easily when I bite into them and melt aromatically on my tongue as espresso scents waft through my nostrils.

Maybe my indifference to baking stems from the fact that my grandmother did it just fine without my help. She did it for me but without me: a quiet pre-meditated act of love. My job was simply to enjoy her scrumptious triumphs.

These are my weakness. These are my exception: the one thing I will bake happily and with tranquility. I am tolerant as I lift their imperfect shapes from the baking sheet into a tin. I am blissful as I eat them, two in a row, twice a day for as long as the batch lasts.

(makes approximately 36 cookies)
½ cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 egg
¾ cup sifted all purpous flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
optional:  ½ cup chopped nuts / mini chocolate bits


Cream butter and sugar until very lite and fluffy. Add all other ingredients and mix to combine.  Arrange by teaspoonful on a buttered and lightly floured sheet.  Bake at 350°F until edges firm and tops dry (approximately 12 minutes).  Remove immediately from sheet and nibble.

Appropriated from The New Fannie Farmer Cook Book by my grandmother, Carol Moss Graves.

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10 Responses to “Carol’s Coffee Cookies”

  1. Melissa Millay says:

    The first time I had these cookies was at Christmas dinner – and I was seated next to your dear grandmother!

    These cookies rate at the top of my all time favorite cookies. Feel free to send me a care package…

  2. diane says:

    Lovely, and I think their freeform irregularity on the baking sheet make them more endearing to us non-precisionists. Miles Davis noted that it’s not that you play a wrong note per se, it’s the note that comes after that makes it that way, or not. Thank you for pitch perfect Carol cookies.

  3. Sally Branson Lynch says:

    Had this recipe but lost it- thanks! For anyone who doesn’t care for coffee (I do not) these cookies are still luscious!
    As always- so well written and the photos are great. Thanks again.

  4. Kate says:

    OMG – YUM!! These cookies are the best!!!! I had no idea they were so easy to make. Am fully stealing this recipe and am going to look forward to fattening myself up on them!

  5. ruthie says:

    Sound positively addictive! Got to make them…one day; now content to read about them….

  6. Sally Tomatoes says:

    Oh yum! What a brilliant grandmother you had.
    I love your blog, Ms. Lovage. You are a delight!

  7. silver cat says:

    Oh, the memories….I’m gonna bake a batch of Carol’s Coffee Cookies right now!

  8. George says:

    Mmmm…. coffee cookies! Sounds awesome. Also, the recipe sounds really easy. I have a similar feeling about baking… it is frustratingly final. Did you see the recipe for chocolate chip cookies from the NYTimes a few years ago? They recommend making the batter and then letting it chill for upwards of a day for texture. The cookies do come out really well. Also, you are supposed to sprinkle them with sea salt on top before baking. I like a little salty with my sweet.

    • Tarajia says:

      hi george, thank you for your comment!! in fact these have a delicious bit of saltiness to them, though i love the idea of a sprinkle of sea salt. if i ever bake again i will try that. i am with you on the salty-sweet combo. makes it so much better.

  9. FatButFrugal says:

    Gosh these look good. Who would have thought – coffee and cookies. How many would you say you have to eat if I wanted to stay up ALL night.
    Also do you have any recipes that make you fall asleep?
    Peg and I do so enjoy your blog, keep up the good work!!
    Greetings from Akron,Ohio.

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