The Unusual Cookie Ingredient Swap That Changes Everything

What's your favorite cookie? Are you on team chocolate chip, or are you more of a Nilla wafer nibbler? Do you prefer drop, bar, or rolled and cut into fancy shapes? Whatever your cookie preference may be, there's one thing we bet everyone's favorite cookies have in common: they all contain sugar or at least some sort of sweetener. In fact, the Collins Dictionary defines a cookie (in the original, non-computer sense of the word) as "a small sweet cake," the operative word being small. After all, not all cookies are all that small, but sweetness is pretty much a defining characteristic. Take out the sugar, and basically you've got, what, a cracker?

Not necessarily, says Molly Yeh (pictured). Yeh, who's followed the by now familiar route of starting a food blog, publishing a cookbook, then landing a Food Network gig, is known for her baking, but she wants to introduce us all to something that's outside the typical holiday cookie repertoire. To this end, she has partnered with Boursin (the cheese spread that makes Disney mac & cheese so creamy) to sponsor a savory cookie competition.

What is a savory cookie?

Yeh says that a savory cookie is most definitely not a cracker. The reason for this, she says, is that the former "draw[s] inspiration from traditional sweet cookies and also includ[es] an element of decoration." As to just what this inspiration might be, she suggests it might be using a soft cheese (think: cream cheese, blue cheese, brie, or maybe drained ricotta) as a frosting or a filling or turning spices or seeds into savory "sprinkles" (perhaps arranged in a more decorative pattern than on the seeded crackers that are already available). When it comes to savory cookie decoration, "the options," Yeh tells us, "are both endless and delicious."

Some of the different cookies that Yeh is excited about experimenting with include savory shortbreads, linzers, and rugelach. She also floats the idea of coming up with some type of savory cheese biscotti, telling us, "I love the idea of pairing these with a squash or tomato soup."

Tips for creating savory cookies

There aren't too many savory cookie recipes out there, but if you're feeling experimental and want to try coming up with some of your own, Yeh has plenty of advice to offer here (recipe development being her thing, after all). She starts by telling us, "For savory cookies, the flavor profile is so important." She says cheese makes a great base, but not just any cheese, suggesting something both creamy and crumbly. She also advises, "When you are making savory cookies you have to be mindful of the salt content and how much you use because the cheese already has salt in it."

One thing that Yeh says might surprise you about savory cookies is that the dough still contains sugar, although in smaller amounts than in sweet cookies. She also likes experimenting with different spices in her savory cookie dough, adding " I recommend toasting them to bring out their flavors." She does say, however, that you need to make sure the spices you use enhance the flavor of the cheese rather than overwhelming it. You'll also need to pay attention to the temperature of your ingredients, as Yeh explains this is "crucial when making a savory cookie." She tells us that, "In many cases you'll want to make sure the ingredients and dough [are] chilled to create a tender flaky texture," saying that "you likely wouldn't be starting off by creaming butter and sugar together as you would in a sweet cookie."

How to give savory cookies that holiday feel

Don't savory cookies sound like they might be a great holiday gift idea? Something a little more outside-the-tin, and very welcome at a time when it feels like we've all been eating nothing but sugar since Halloween. Yeh says, "There are so many great flavor combinations and spices that add warmth and make savory cookies taste like the holidays," but adds that "presentation is key to making a savory cookie feel like it's for the holidays."

With sweet cookies, she says, we usually decorate with frosting and colored sugar to add a touch of seasonal whimsy, but with savory cookies she advises using the natural coloring found in herbs and spices like paprika and chile powder to add beautiful tints and hues. As a final tip, she reminds us to "be sure to use cookie cutters to create beautiful, pleasing shapes that can also help achieve that holiday feel." A nice gift box, a bit of ribbon, and there you go, the perfect holiday gift that's as unique as it is delicious.