There was once a cookie shop in Wichita Falls called Grandma B’s. They served huge, hot, fresh cookies to the masses. I can’t even remember when that spot closed but I will always remember their cookies. I loved the chocolate chip. But the 2nd most talked about cookie that they made, at least amongst my peers, was a blueberry cream cheese cookie.
I have always wanted to make a similar cookie. Why is this an important cookie for me? Well, you can read about the hot blueberry cream cheese cookies and a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Merrill in the note below the recipe if you’d like to know.
Well, I’ve been trying my hand at it. I have been around the block several times with this cookie. I tried beating cream cheese with the butter and sugar in varying amounts with varying success. I tried a version with butter and shortening as with my favorite Snickerdoodles. I tried lots of things. I came to the conclusion that the cream cheese was disappearing into the mix for the most part. So I backed the cream cheese out of the dough until the very end and then added it, cut into almost- frozen chunks. The result…pockets of cream cheese in the final cookie. It worked just like I wanted it to. My all-butter cookie was far and away preferred by my tasters. And, I rolled the cookie dough in sugar for good measure. I have to say it is a very pleasing cookie, and while by no means identical, it stands up nicely to my long ago memory of a great cookie.
4 ounces cream cheese, cold
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces dried blueberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (for rolling)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the cold cream cheese into strips or small pieces and place it on a plate in the freezer for at least 15 minutes, but not more than 20 or it will begin to freeze through.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat for 30 seconds. Turn off the mixer and scrape the bowl. Then, continue to beat for an additional 30 seconds. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the flour mixture. When just combined, add the blueberries and mix until they are evenly distributed in the dough. This will be a stiff dough.
3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides. Take the cream cheese out of the freezer and cut it into 1/3” cubes. Spread out the dough in the bowl and sprinkle the cubes around in the dough. Use a large plastic scraper/spatula to turn the dough and gently mix in the cubes. The goal is to not mix them into the dough, but to have them remain as distinct as the blueberries are. They will mash and stretch a bit.
4. Once the cream cheese has been added to the dough, use a spoon or a scooper to create 1½” balls of dough. Place the remaining sugar in a small dish and roll each dough ball into the sugar. Place the balls on a cookie sheet which has been lined with a silicone liner or Silpat. Press the cookies slightly to flatten them a bit.
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until just golden around the bottom edge. Allow the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Notes about these cookies:
Make sure your cookie sheet and silicone liner cool completely between batches.
Cubing cream cheese is messy. This is not a precision game. Just do the best you can.
The cream cheese squashes and migrates as you try to fold it into the dough. Try to make sure pockets of cream cheese remain visible, even though the cubes get squashed. Just don’t overwork the dough and you will be fine.
So Grandma B’s cookies were great. They really were…especially when they were hot out of the oven. But the reason I love thinking about those cookies is because they are permanently linked with my memories of the wonderful and legendary Old High (Wichita Falls High School) English teacher, Linda Merrill. I was in her class, way up on the 3rd floor (it was the 3rd floor, wasn’t it?). She was one of those outstanding teachers who make learning fun. She was an absolute card. And she hatched in me a lifetime devotion to John Irving novels starting with her apt suggestion that I read A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Well, a few times, she looked the other way while I sneaked out of the classroom to go buy big bags of fresh Grandma B’s cookies. And sneak out I did, down the staircase and out by the tennis courts to my car. I was back in a flash with a bag of hot cookies, including a few of the aforementioned blueberry and cream cheese cookies. And we would all sit in class and have cookies with our literature. Let me be clear, I’m not saying she gave me permission exactly. I’m just saying that she didn’t happen to see me go or come back, and didn’t ask any questions about how I came to have a big bag full of hot, fresh cookies. I wouldn’t even mention it for fear she wouldn’t want me talking out of school, so to speak.
But, Wichita Falls lost Mrs. Merrill a few years back. She died out riding her Harley trike motorcycle of all things…after playing tennis. That is Mrs. Merrill for you. She was fantastic. I’d be surprised to find a person who was ever her student who didn’t have a similar story about ways that Mrs. Merrill made them feel special, smart, lucky, or interesting…even if it involved a wee bit of naughty. What I didn’t know back then though, was that I would forever get to have a little bit of her spirit in my family because a few years ago my Aunt Joyce married Mrs. Merrill’s cousin, Coach Pete Gill. He has that same happy magnetism as she did.
So these are my Mrs. Merrill’s Hooky Cookies. God bless her. And, GO COYOTES!!
(Linda Merrill wasn’t the only fantastic teacher I had at Old High. Roma Prassel has had a life-long influence on me. If I could think of a cookie to dedicate to her, I could tell you about how she managed to make me feel like the most important person in the world during my first week at my mammoth new school. And, I’d have to invent a cookie for Mr. Johns, too. After all, his geometry lessons got me to fall for the other pi. Love them all! I was blessed in the teacher department.)