I first had one of Mathew Rice’s desserts at my friend David’s birthday party. The party was in the cozy downstairs of Nightwood , where Mathew is the pastry chef. Everything at Nightwood is always delightful, but this was a particularly fun night. Mathew made a brown butter cake with rhubarb filling and some sort of cream cheese pistachio frosting, or at least that is how I remember it. It was really delicious and it got me excited to try more of his desserts.
The thing that is brilliant about the sweets that Mathew makes is that they are at once familiar and comforting and yet totally original. In my book, that is as good as it gets. And every time I eat at Nightwood I look forward to dessert.
I was thrilled that Mathew agreed to share this recipe for one of my favorites, Gooey Butter Cookies. Mathew came to Chicago from St. Louis, famous for it’s gooey butter cake, and so this is the perfect contribution to our city and to the 12 Days of Cookies.
Also, these are amazing. Bryan and I could not stop eating them. They taste like the top of a gooey butter cake . For those of you unfamiliar with gooey butter cake, think: baked cream cheese frosting, which isn’t far from the truth of this recipe. Raw cookie dough eaters will love these. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier to have this recipe in my life. It is taking a lot of self control to not make these every week.
Mathew completed the food quiz, which is below. Next time you are at Nightwood, say hello to Mathew and let him know you made his cookies!
LOTTIE + DOOF FOOD QUIZ with Mathew Rice
Why this cookie?
It’s always a favorite with guests, and most people haven’t heard of it. I created a scratch version from a recipe that called for a boxed cake mix. Somehow I figured it out.
Sweet or salty?
Sweet! I even have a tattoo on my hand that says sweet.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla. Nothing beats an awesome vanilla ice cream.
Hot or mild?
What won’t you eat?
I stay away from all offal meats. I get that it can be cooked to be tasty, but it’s not for me.
Most memorable meal?
A “meal” of all desserts by my favorite pastry chef, Mindy Segal.
Favorite object in your kitchen?
My citron green KitchenAid mixer.
What are you scared of in the kitchen?
I got a nasty cut on a Japanese mandoline once. I stay away from those now.
Do you prefer to cook alone or with others?
With others. Just cooked Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and we had a great time.
What country would you like to travel to for the food?
Italy. I’m a huge fan of gelato and semifreddo.
If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?
Maybe a passionfruit. It’s my favorite. It’s out of the ordinary. It’s fruity. It’s sweet. Just like me.
Favorite thing about winter?
Snowy days and eggnog lattes.
This makes a whole mess of cookies (40+). Feel free to cut recipe in half if you are not cooking for a crowd.
Gooey Butter Cookies (recipe by Mathew Rice of Nightwood Restaurant)
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 pound cream cheese
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (optional (Tim thinks it is optional, but important))
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Confectioner’s sugar for rolling and dusting
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, butter, vanilla bean seeds, and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
Incorporate the flour mixture. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Scoop roughly 1-ounce balls and toss in the confectioner’s sugar. Place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment, a couple of inches apart. Bake at 325° F until they spread and puff slightly, about 12-16 minutes. They will be really soft in the center. If they start to brown, they’ve gone too far. Cool to room temperature.
From this point, Mathew usually refrigerates them on the tray because as the cream cheese and butter get cold, they’re easier to pick up. It is a good tip. Dust with more confectioner’s sugar before serving. Mathew always serves these cookies straight out of the fridge. He thinks they don’t taste as good warm. I agree with Mathew! Store these in the fridge and you can serve them cold/cool.
These will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Yeah, good luck with that.
Previously, on THE 12 DAYS OF COOKIES
Day 1: Maple Pecan Cookies 
Day 2: Fig and Date Swirls 
Day 3: Evergreen Shortbread 
Day 4: Rugelach