An interview with Deborah Harroun of the blog Taste and Tell, and her amazing, from scratch Red Velvet Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies.
I can’t think of a better way to start off the holiday baking season than with a festive cookie recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers Deborah Harroun, author of the food blog Taste and Tell, and her new cookbook Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook.
If you don’t already follow her blog, Deb might still be a familiar face to FoodieCrush readers. She and her husband Josh along with their three children, Abbi, Easton and Camden (in utero!) joined me two years ago at the State Fair for an article in my summer issue of FoodieCrush magazine. They rode rides, hit the games and noshed on favorite fair food which Deb took back to her own kitchen and created fair-inspired recipes you can see here.
Deb has always been a huge supporter and inspiration to me and to FoodieCrush. So when she offered to send me a copy of her new cookbook, Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook, I knew before even seeing it that I’d be finding plenty of delicious influences. These Cream Cheese Thumbprint cookies are pretty much just the start.
With nearly 2,000 blog posts spanning 7+ years, Deb’s blog delivers plenty of family friendly recipes ranging from standard favorites like Gnocchi With Meat Sauce to totally inventive Jalapeño Stuffed Taco Soft Pretzel Sticks.
But one recipe theme has become near and dear to her heart: red velvet. She’s dedicated weeks of posts exclusively for red velvet recipes and soon enough, cookbook publishers took notice and asked her to compile a few faves and a lot of new recipes into a hard cover cookbook.
In Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook, Deb covers basic favorite recipes like The Best Red Velvet Cupcakes and then leaps into a red-hued sugarland with red velvet quick breads, cookies, brownies and bars, breads, ice cream and even red velvet “Twinkies.”
Let’s dig in!
Deborah shares her recipe for Red Velvet Whoopie Pies on the morning show, Good Things Utah. Check out the video of her appearance.
Behind the scenes with Deborah of Taste and Tell
1. What inspired you to create a book all about red velvet?
I became obsessed with red velvet a few years ago after making and blogging about a couple of red velvet recipes. Because they were so delicious and fun, I decided to do a red velvet week with 5 red velvet recipes. It was so popular and so fun for me that the tradition continued the next year, and then the next.
Writing a cookbook wasn’t really on my radar, but when my publisher reached out to me, the idea immediately excited me. I had a newborn at the time, and didn’t really know how I could pull it off, but I was so excited about it that I just had to go for it!
2. What was your favorite part about the book, and your favorite part about the process? What was the least favorite?
My favorite part of the process was having people taste the recipes and love them. I remember my husband coming home from work one day after taking the Red Velvet Cheesecake in for his coworkers, and telling me that people were asking if they could pay me to make another. I don’t know if I have a least favorite part of the process, per se, but the photography was the most challenging for me. I think it’s because I wanted it perfect, and like so many people, I am critical of myself, but in the end, I was very happy with how it all turned out.
3. What did you discover about yourself while writing it?
I don’t know if I should admit this, but I learned that I work best under pressure. When deadlines are looming and I know I only have x amount of time, I tend to work more efficiently.
And now, my list of 10 Q’s with Deborah of Taste and Tell
1. Describe your blog in 3 words:
Easy, family, friendly
2. If you could be one food blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
Lindsay from Pinch of Yum. I am constantly impressed with her blog and how authentic and real she comes across. She is the kind of blogger I aim to be.
3. Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
There are so many amazing blogs – that is a hard question!! I think that I’d have to go with 3 that I know I can go to for recipes that would be a hit every time and blogs whose recipes I actually cook from regularly!
Mel’s Kitchen Cafe – Mel is as down to earth as they come, and every single one of her recipes is a home run.
The Girl Who Ate Everything – I think I’ve made more recipes from Christy’s blog than anyone else’s. Her taste is spot on the same as mine.
Lauren’s Latest – Lauren’s recipes are always winners, too. And her posts are always entertaining!
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
A good knife. I’m lucky that my husband is good at keeping my knives nice and sharp, and they make dinner prep easier and faster. Couldn’t live without them!
Kristy of Sweet Treats and More, Deborah, Carrian of Oh, Sweet Basil and Christy of The Girl Who Ate Everything
5. What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
I would have to say anything on the grill. A few years ago I was completely afraid of grilling and left it completely up to my husband. I have been grilling a lot more myself, but I’m still not 100% comfortable or confident. But I’m determined to get there!
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
Creamy Chicken Pesto Penne from The Picky Palate Cookbook. I needed something easy and something I could make from pantry staples, and it totally fit the bill. My husband claimed he wasn’t hungry before dinner but then ended up eating seconds!
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you?
I don’t know if I’d call it a talent, but I love photography. I take millions of pictures of my kids, and I get really excited about capturing places on camera when I travel.
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating:
Is it cheating if I say everything?? There really is very little that I don’t like when it comes to food. I adore a decadent meal at a 5 star restaurant or a burger at the local food truck equally.
9. You juggle 3 young kids, a husband and your blog is your full time job with new posts nearly every day. What are your secrets or processes to fit it all in?
Very little sleep!! In all honesty, I truly love what I do. I get excited about trying new recipes, or getting a new cookbook in the mail, or just being in the kitchen. And I always want to share it all!! I think if you have that love and that passion, you find a way to make it work. Are there days that I’m frustrated and tired and don’t know how I’m going to do it all? Of course!! But I can’t imagine my life without the blog.
10. The one secret ingredient to your success is:
I’m going to steal these words from someone else – you get what you think about most of the time. If you are always thinking about how your traffic isn’t growing, or how frustrated you are that the reach on your Facebook page is terrible, they are going to stay that way. But if you focus on the positive things, good things will come to you. It’s not easy – it’s something I work on every day, but on the days I live by that statement, everything just seems to fall into place.
Wise, wise words! Thank you Deb, you’ve been my foodie crush since I first started blogging and I’m thrilled for you and all you’ve accomplished.
Now, let’s get to those cookies!
Ah, sweet! Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
Deb’s Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook features all kinds of recipes that would fit in well with the holidays, but this easy recipe for Cream Cheese Thumbprints spoke to me. Probably because I crave easy.
About the recipe:
These cookies are really easy to make and because there’s extra smooshing with your thumb to be done, they’re fun to get the kids involved in making too. They’re like playing with sweetly sugared play dough that you can actually eat.
The cookies are dunked into an egg white wash and then bathed in sugar. I absent mindedly forgot to dip two of the cookies into the egg wash before the sugar and figured, hey, let’s see what happens. I’ll tell you what didn’t happen. The sugar didn’t crisp and it soaked into the cookie rather than adding the delicious crunch that perfectly contrasts the soft cookie center. As a first time maker of the cookies, I did end up using a bit more sugar for rolling than the recipe called for so was glad I had a little extra on hand.
After the cookies were finished baking, I used a knife to gently crack off the edges of the sugared egg white that baked off of the cookie to reveal a pretty, lightly crunchy round edge.
The cream cheese filling…do I even need to say anything? It’s everyone’s favorite bite.
These cookies are great all year round and can easily be decorated for every holiday. A simple sprinkling of peppermint candies makes them perfect for Christmas, but candy hearts for Valentines personalizes them for your favorite cupid and blue and white sprinkles would add a pop to the 4th of July. Or you can always leave them as is. They taste just as good.
Red Velvet Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
For the cookies
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons red liquid food coloring
- 2 teaspoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
For the filling
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Beat the butter, brown sugar, and 1 egg yolk (reserve the other yolk for the filling) in a large bowl with and electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour, food coloring, and cocoa and mix until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough into 36 balls.
- Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Place the granulated sugar in a separate shallow bowl. Roll each dough ball in the egg whites and then in the sugar. Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheets. Make an indentation in the top of each cookie with your thumb.
- To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, the reserved egg yolk, salt, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Removed them from the oven and use the handle of a wooden spoon to deepen the indentation (be careful not to break them.) Fill each cookie with about 1 teaspoon of the filling, then return the cookies to the oven and bake until the cookies and fillings are set, about 12 minutes more. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in the refrigerator. Allow the cookies to come to room temperature before serving.
Reprinted with permission, Deborah Harroun
Purchase Deb’s cookbook, Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook, here.
Follow Deborah here:
Cookies for Santa’s Milk Drive
Did you know milk is one of the most requested items at our nation’s food banks but is rarely donated?
Join me this holiday season for the Cookies for Santa’s Milk Drive and donate online to send one gallon of milk to your local food bank and serve those in need. It’s a small thing that will make a huge difference.
Make it a great day friends, and cook something good.
As always, thank you for reading and for supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. All opinions are always my own.