Showing posts with label cookies and brownies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cookies and brownies. Show all posts

08 March 2018

Baking With Coffee Flour

When last I ordered from, I threw a bag off coffee flour in my cart because ... I don't know ... it sounded interesting. I'd been doing a lot of baking with chocolate and wondered if adding coffee flour to a chocolate cake or whathaveyou recipe would enhance the chocolate flavor the way adding brewed coffee would. But then I stopped baking -- my culinary life is all fits and starts these days -- and the flour languished in the baking cupboard.

I know. You're wondering what the heck coffee flour is, right? What would you do with it? Why would you want it?

Coffee flour is a food with a mission. Every year, billions of pounds of coffee fruit are discarded as a byproduct of coffee production. Instead of leaving the fruit to rot as waste, coffee flour was created to convert the leftover fruit into a tasty, nutritious flour that can be used for baking, cooking and making beverages. High in fiber, protein, and antioxidants, coffee flour is a non-GMO food that is naturally gluten-free. Not only is our coffee flour a perfectly versatile ingredient, it also helps create jobs for farmers and protect the environment.

It's feel-good flour.

But, how do you bake with it? says you can use 30% coffee flour in place of all-purpose or gluten-free flours in your recipes, but other sources say 10, 15, or 25%. I would guess start with the smallest amount and increase if successful?

I have not yet been brave enough to try using it in any of my favorite chocolaty recipes (I just feel, since it's a coffee byproduct, it should be paired with chocolate even though I know it doesn't need to be), but I have tried a two recipes specifically formulated to use coffee flour and had good results.

The first recipe I tried was "Coffee-Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies" from the February 2017 issue of the print magazine Rodale's Organic Life. I made the recipe exactly as written, going with weighted measures where provided, and ended up with 41 extremely yumptious cookies. Neither The Husband nor I enjoy coffee or coffee-flavored things, but these cookies do not taste at all coffee-like!

They are dark cookies, yes, with a hint of dates and a slight bitterness that put me more in mind of black tea tannins than coffee. That dark, slight bitterness worked well, though, balancing the general sweetness of the cookie and the insipidness of the milk chocolate morsels I used (forgot I was out of semisweet).

They have crisp-but-yielding exteriors with soft, almost cake-like interiors, and melt in the mouth. Definitely a cookie I'd make again. (I brought a third of the batch to work and everyone liked the cookies so much that I brought in another third the next day ... and The Husband was very unhappy about that so, yeah, it's a good cookie).

For my second attempt at baking with coffee flour, I used gluten-free "Chocolate Coffee Flour Muffins Recipe" recipe one snowy afternoon as I had all the ingredients on hand already. While this was my first time baking gluten-free, the recipe was simple with straight-forward instructions and I had no trouble preparing it. The only change I made to the recipe was to use Hersheys Special Dark chocolate cocoa, because that's all I had on hand.

The muffins baked up beautifully -- light and fluffy with a delicate crumb (perhaps more cupcake than muffin?). Perhaps a little dry, but I've certainly had much worse. The Husband enjoyed his muffins with a cup of tea and, frankly, that's always a good pairing. Flavor-wise, the muffins are a very dark chocolate with that slight, bitter coffee flour edge.

When I portioned the batter out into the muffin cups, I thought the batter smelled a lot like a Bounty/Mounds bar and, if I made this recipe again, I would top the muffins with shredded coconut instead of hazelnuts and, maybe, also add a little coconut extract to the batter.

I'll probably bake the CoffeeFlour® "Coffee Cherry Flour Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars" next, because everyone likes chocolate chip cookie bars. I really want to bake the "Coffee Cherry Flour Chocolate Zucchini Bread," but zucchini season is months away and it seems wrong to buy out-of-season zucchini!

25 May 2017

Lazy Blackberry Almond Bars

I came home from work Monday night in the mood to bake something Right Then That Minute. Since I had a bag of sugar cookie mix and a punnet of fresh blackberries on hand, I decided to whip up a batch of my tried-and-true generally-husband-pleasing blackberry bars. These bars are based on Betty Crocker's "Raspberry Streusel Bars" recipe, but I've steadily tweaked it over the years until it has become what you see below.

You don't absolutely have to warm the preserves, but it spreads much more easily on the hot sugar cookie base if you do. Otherwise, I find bits of the base get pulled up and mixed into the preserves as I try to spread it around.

Lazy Blackberry Almond Bars

Yield: 25 bars


  • 1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • ⅓ cup butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground mace
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup seedless black raspberry preserves, warmed until slightly runny
  • ¼ blackberries
  • ¼ flaked almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 8-inch square baking pan with foil and brush with canola oil or spritz with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine cookie mix, butter, flour, almond extract, cinnamon, mace, and egg until a soft dough forms. Press half of the dough into the bottom of pan and bake 15 minutes.
  3. Spread warm preserves over cookie base. Sprinkle with blackberries.
  4. Mash remaining dough and almonds together with a pastry blender until crumbs form. Scatter over preserves and berries.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bars are golden brown.
  6. Cool completely then cut into bars and store in a tightly sealed container until needed. Baked bars will slowly soften, so eat within a day or two of baking.

16 February 2017

Improv Challenge: Chocolate & Chillies

It'sImprov Challenge Cooking reveal day for February, and this month's theme let us all get really creative with chocolate and chillies (aka chilies or chiles). Yum! I immediately knew I wanted to make some kind of cookie so it was merely a matter of thinking and experimenting until I found the recipe that seemed perfect for the challenge.

These cookies are loosely based on the memories of a bite-size chocolate and chili shortbread cookie I ate last year, but I went big with soft palm-sized drop cookies. I want rich, almost fudge-y, dark chocolate goodness, with just a touch of heat and spice. Something that would pair perfectly with an ice cold glass of milk and leave you feeling like maybe you'd been a little bit naughty. I wanted to flirt with decadence without crossing the line into chocolate overload. I think I mostly succeeded with this.

Chopping chocolate is a recommended stress reliever

Dark Chocolate & Chili Cookies

Yield:About 4 dozen


  • 1¼ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour [King Arthur Flour]
  • ¾ cup baking cocoa [King Arthur Flour Triple Chocolate Blend]
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3.5 oz bar dark chili chocolate, chopped [Lindt Chili Excellence Bar]
  • 3.5 oz bar dark chocolate, chopped [Lindt 85% Cocoa Excellence Bar]
  • Cinnamon sugar, if desired [Lindt Chili Excellence Bar]


  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, cayenne, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chopped chocolate.
  2. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes, depending on how gooey you like your cookies. Immediately sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if using.
  3. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Let cool completely before eating ... if you have the patience! (The warmer the cookie, the more fragile it will be so handle with care).
  4. Cooled cookies will keep in an airtight container

Don't be surprised if these are gone in a day

The Husband thought these tasted a bit like "Mexican" hot chocolate, because they're very dark with just a hint of heat and spice, and was happy to scarf them down with mugs of tea. However, if you would like a properly spicy cookie, feel free to double the amount of cayenne. Also, these are fairly soft and crumbly cookies. Brilliant to nosh on (very morish -- so if you have a weakness for cookies, be forewarned) but not suitable for dunking in a cup of tea.

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.

06 June 2016

Fabulous Chipotle & Cinnamon Brownies

Just too much on my mind lately and sometimes, rather than tossing and turning in bed all night, it's easier to just get up with the birds and bake something.

And that something needs to be uncomplicated. Because while I am too wired for sleep, I am still not together enough to be trusted with knives or box graters. And something quiet. Because the last thing I want to do is wake The Husband and have him worrying about what I'm doing up and about in the wee small hours.

So brownies. Brownies are pretty much perfect.

To make these fabulous chipotle and cinnamon brownies, I started with a mix and then threw flavors at it until it seemed "right." My coworker had just hosted a taco bar party, so "Mexican" flavors were already on my mind. While I like the mild, mellow burn these brownies leave on the back of my throat, you might want to increase the heat by adding a little cayenne. I'm also kind-of curious to see how sriracha would work out, too, so if anyone wants to try that and get back to me ...

Even baked for 40 minutes, these are very dense, soft, almost-but-not-quite-gooey brownies. I think the bittersweet chocolate gives the commercial mix more complexity and depth, making for a more grown-up brownie. Warm, they're dynamite with a dollop of cinnamon ice cream, they're also pretty darn fine all by themselves at room temperature.

To make these chipotle and cinnamon brownies, prepare a brownie mix (I used a Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie mix) as directed on the box and then add:
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Mexican vanilla (from the Penzeys bottle I've been hoarding since I realized they no longer sell it)
  • 2 oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (a bit of Divine 70% bittersweet chocolate leftover from Choctoberfest)
Bake and cool according to box.

Because The Husband hates cinnamon and I knew the very idea of spicy brownies would appall him, I made The Husband his very own pan of brownies by doctoring another mix with the zest of a large orange, 1 tsp orange extract, and 2 oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate. I was striving for a Terry's Chocolate Orange-esque brownie and my results weren't too far off. Of course, after I'd baked The Husband's brownies, I realized I could have just chopped up a dark chocolate orange and thrown that in instead of the bittersweet chocolate!

24 February 2016

Whisky-Glazed Chai Shortbread

Before I decided a chai-spiced honey cake would be just the thing for February's Improv Challenge, I briefly flirted with a tea-flavored shortbread. I tried an Earl Grey-infused shortbread first and it was fine, but not quite what I was looking for, so I tried it again with a chai tea blend and it was better -- richer and more aromatic than the subtle Earl Grey version. Either version is easy enough to make -- essentially you're just taking a basic shortbread recipe and adding tea.

These are good cookies ... crumbly and buttery, as shortbread is wont to be, with the distinct aromatic flavors of chai spices and the gentler, more subtle taste of whisky. If you wanted to, you could easily make these "Irish" for next month's Saint Patrick's Day shenanigans by using a good Irish strong tea, like Barry's Classic, and Irish whisky.

Whisky-Glazed Chai Shortbread

Yield: 16 squares


  • 2 Tbsp chai tea (contents of about 5 tea bags) [Tazo]
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 Tbsp honey whisky [Wild Turkey]


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spritz a 9-inch square baking pan with a little baking spray.
  3. Pulse the tea and flour in your food processor until the tea is in small pieces evenly distributed throughout the flour. Then add the sugar and butter and process until a crumbly dough begins to form.
  4. Pour dough out into the prepared baking pan and smoosh dough down with your fingers (or the bottom of a small glass) until it is spread evenly across the bottom of the pan. Using a serrated knife, score dough deeply to make sixteen squares.
  5. Bake the shortbread at 375° for 20 minutes, or until it's firm and golden brown. Remove pan from the oven, and after 5 minutes, turn the shortbread out of the pan onto a clean cutting board. Cut all the way through the score marks. Place shortbread pieces on a rack to cool completely.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk together the powdered sugar and honey whisky. Brush glaze over cooled cookies and allow to dry completely on racks. Will keep in a tightly covered container for a week or so.

06 January 2016

Easy Strawberry Almond Bars

Haven't baked a lot of cookies this Christmas season, but I did bake a pan of really delicious strawberry bars using a bag of sugar cookie mix and Betty Crocker's recipe for "Raspberry Streusel Bars" as a base.

I added a little orange zest and cinnamon to the sugar cookie dough (along with the other ingredients called for in the recipe) and mixed slivered almonds in with the reserved dough that was to be crumbled on top of the jam to form the "streusel." And, obviously, I used strawberry preserves instead of seedless raspberry jam.

These. Bars. These bars were just nomilicious. We could not stop eating them and they did not last long! Definitely worth baking again. Next time I might use lemon zest, black currant preserves, and hazelnuts ... or, you know, try the recipe as it was actually written ...

30 December 2015

Juice All the (Citrus-like) Things

For my birthday, The Husband gave me a citrus juicer attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer. I'm still not one hundred percent on why The Husband gave it to me. If it's because I've been buying lots of "weird vegetable" juices from the yoga place down the street and he thought I might like to make my own juices ... well, it's the wrong juicer attachment for that sort of thing. If it's because he hoped I'd start buying caseloads of citrus from the warehouse club and make him fresh orange juice ... well, that hasn't happened. Yet.

Because I forget to buy citrus when I'm at the warehouse club? Yeh. That's probably why. The warehouse club is just one giant distraction after another. Go in for vitamins and egg whites, come out with antihistamines and four kinds of butter ...

Happily, December is satsuma mandarin season and, as usual, I picked up a big case of the delicious darlings from Chaffin Family Orchards. Which meant we ate satsuma after satsuma until we were positively stuffed with citrus and didn't want to see another satsuma before next December. Unfortunately, there were still a half dozen slowly fossilizing satsumas left and I was darned if they were going to go to waste so (you guessed it) I got juicing.

The citrus juice attachment is very simple to use -- just slot the bits together and screw them into the "power hub" on the front of the stand mixer. It takes seconds to assemble and then you just juice all the things! Rather like shredding cheese with the food processor, juicing turns out to be quite an addictive thing and I really had to work hard to stop myself from juicing all our lemons and limes, too.

And what did I do with the beautiful, fragrant, sweet satsuma juice? The Husband did a shot of it ... and then I used the remainder in cookies. Followed Pillsbury's "Fresh Orange Cookies" recipe and ended up with some really yummy cookies ... that look, strangely, nothing like the one's pictured on Pillsbury's site. Mine are much flatter whereas theirs are domed. Mine are quite cake-like actually -- very much like biting into a light and fluffy orange muffin top -- and theirs looks sturdier and more scone-like. Regardless, the Husband has been eating them in quantities that suggest they're the best "biscuit" (cookie) I've baked it quite a long time. Having lots of good citrus flavor and being not particularly sweet for an American cookie (putting them more in line with a UK biscuit), they go down a treat with a big mug of black tea.

09 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

The generous folks at Imperial Sugar sent me a case of their extra fine granulated pure cane sugar for #Choctoberfest. In case you're not impressed by that, let me point out that a case of Imperial Sugar is forty pounds of sugar. Think of all the things I can create with that amount of sugar! Think of all the cups of tea The Husband can sweeten with the bits he "borrows!" Seriously though, The Husband likes his black tea sweet and too often I have gone to bake something only to find the bottom of the sugar canister coated with the merest scraping of sugar as "someone" has drunk up the rest. That's not going to happen now. Even he can't use that much sugar in his tea!

Astounded by Imperial Sugar's generosity, I decided to bake meringue cookies with their sugar as it's such a simple recipe -- not much more than eggs and sugar -- and I thought it would give the sugar a chance to shine. Sugar doesn't just make these meringue cookies sweetly delicious, but it binds with the egg proteins, increasing their strength and elasticity, creating the fluffiest meringue. Science!

While I've made meringue with regular ol' granulated sugar, it can give the meringue a grainy texture which is not terrible in something like Eton Mess, where the meringue is smashed up and mixed with many other ingredients, but I didn't want gritty cookies. Imperial Sugar doesn't seem to make a superfine sugar, so I just whirred the Imperial Sugar granulated white around in my food processor until it resembled fine beach sand. This doesn't take long to do and allows me to feel even more smug about my kitchen skills.

These cookies are a trifle on the large size -- I like a generous cookie -- so you might want to use teaspoonfuls instead of tablespoons if you prefer a more delicate and ladylike cookie. Also, you could mix some cocoa powder in with the chips and raspberries for a more chocolaty meringue.

Also, feel free to use semisweet or bittersweet (yessss) chocolate in these cookies. The Husband does not enjoy dark chocolate and I love The Husband and want him to be happy, so I stuck with milk.

Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

Yield: Approximately 2 dozen cookies


  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 4 oz white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • 1 oz freeze-dried raspberries
  • 5 oz milk chocolate morsels


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using your fingers, gently break the raspberries so none remain whole, being careful not to crush them into dust. Set aside.
  3. Pour white sugar into your food processor and whir around until it resembles fine beach sand. Set aside.
  4. In the scrupulously clean and dry bowl of your stand mixer, use the wire whisk attachment to whip egg whites with cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla until the whites form soft peaks.
  5. Slowly add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and mixture becomes very white and glossy.
  6. Gently fold in the crushed raspberries and chocolate chips, taking care not to deflate the batter.
  7. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls on to the parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 1½ hours, rotating the pans from top-to-bottom and front-to-back halfway through baking.
  9. Turn off the heat and let the meringues cool completely in oven, about 2 hours.

If the cookies stick to the paper when you try to remove them then they are not baked properly. Reheat the oven to 200°F, put the cookies back in, and then turn off oven. Leave for about 2 hours and they should be fine.

These cookies will keep well in an airtight container on your kitchen counter for several weeks ... if they last that long!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

08 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Dark Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

For today’s #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar recipe, I’ve used dried tart cherries, toasted slivered almonds, and bittersweet chocolate morsels in a scrumptious crisp-yet-slightly-chewy oatmeal cookie. Warm, crispy-on-the-outside-with-slightly-chewy-inside oatmeal cookie are my weakness. Freshly baked chocolate chip? Peanut butter? Snickerdoodle? Sugar? They’re all fine, but I don’t feel I NEED to eat them. But a warm oatmeal cookie? I go full Cookie Monster.

These cookies use a combination of brown sugar and white granulated Imperial Sugar. Brown sugar tends to make baked goods more moist and white makes them crisp so I thought using the two I might give me the combination of crisp-yet-chewy combo I craved. In this, I think I was quite successful and may try combining brown and white sugars in other chewy cookie recipes.

If you’ve not toasted almonds before, fear not for it is quite easy! Just heat your oven to 350°F. Lay the nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and golden. You do need to keep an eye on them, because they will burn, but stirring every few minutes seems to help with that. You can also toast almonds in a skillet, but I tend to burn them when I try the skillet method!

If you don't have access to white whole wheat flour, all-purpose is a fine substitute. I use white whole wheat simply because it makes me feel more virtuous and no-one I bake for can tell the difference between cookies baked with white whole wheat and all-purpose. They can spot "regular" whole wheat recipes from a mile away, though, and turn their noses up every time. Ugh. Picky people.

Anyway, to the cookies!

Dark Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen cookies


  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup dried tart cherries
  • ⅓ cup toasted slivered almonds


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Beat butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugars, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating until blended.
  • Whisk together flour, cocoa, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in chips, cherries, and nuts.

  • Drop dough by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto parchment paper-line baking sheets.

  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool completely.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

06 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

My first recipe post for #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar and I'm telling you how to make blondies when you're probably all expecting some decadent ooey-gooey chocolate explosion of a brownie. Well. Here's the thing -- I prefer blondies to brownies. Yes. I know. WEIRD. But, seriously, these blondies are vastly superior to your standard brownie, don't take any more time to make, and are just so fine! They're the perfect combination of a sugar cookie and a brownie -- dense and fudgy like a brownie, but the flavor is pure sugar cookie. The addition of almonds and raspberries make them seem extra fancy -- rich and decadent -- but they really are so easy to make and go down a treat with a cold glass of milk. Or big mug of sugary tea. Or tiny glass of dessert wine ...

Baking chips. Some for the blondies, some for my belly.

While I love blondies, I don't like them too sweet so when I threw this recipe together one afternoon I opted for bittersweet chocolate morsels instead of white (which is what I usually find in blondies) to try to balance the sweetness of the brown sugar and berries. I think I was successful, but these bars are still very rich, so feel free to cut them smaller than I did!

These are most delicious served warm so the chocolate is a bit gooey.

I used King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat in this recipe, but the same amount of all-purpose would work just as well. White whole wheat adds an air of virtuousness to these blondies, legitimatizing my tendency to scarf them down like nobody's business! Also, if you want to play around with it, I'm betting blackberries and pecans would make a tasty variation.

I did not line the pan with parchment the first time & it was pretty much impossible to remove the baked bars.

Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

Yield: 16 bars (cut 4x4)


  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour [King Arthur Flour]
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking spice mix [Penzeys]
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste [Nielsen-Massey]
  • ¾ cup bittersweet chocolate baking chips [Ghirardelli]
  • 4 oz fresh raspberries
  • ⅓ cup flaked almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease 8x8 baking dish and line with parchment paper so that there is a bit of overhang -- this will make it MUCH easier to get the baked blondies out later.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in large bowl with hand-held mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.
  4. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until blended.
  5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Scatter raspberries and almonds evenly over batter. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is set, about 35 minutes.
  7. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Remove blondies from pan, cut into 16 pieces (4 rows by 4 rows) and serve.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

26 August 2015

Celebratory Chocolate Cookies for a Coworker

One of my coworkers is getting married soon so we threw a little do for her one afternoon and it was really sweet. Her colors are pink and orange, so there was pink and orange everything. Plates. Napkins. Balloons. Pom-poms. Fans. Cupcake picks. Cookie decos.

Look at that gooey caramel center! Rolos, yo.

Yes, even the cookies were pink and orange! I used two Betty Crocker chocolaty cookie-mix based recipes -- "Chocolate-Caramel Filled Cookies" and "Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies" -- as the bride-to-be loves chocolate. As you can see by following the links, neither of my cookies looked much like Betty Crocker's! But they were both quite delicious and my coworkers nommed them up as if the cookies were manna in the wilderness. (The Husband was also rather disgruntled about the lack of cookies flowing in his direction ... I made dozens of cookies. Surely they didn't all need to go to work? Well, yes, they did).

Need to work on my glaze-drizzling technique :(

I made the cookies exactly as directed ... except I had so much glaze leftover from decorating the "Chocolate-Caramel Filled Cookies" that I used the excess to decorate the Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies," too. The white chocolate glaze might have looked prettier against the dark chocolate cookie, but I didn't know what else to do with the leftover glaze. Throwing it out just seemed silly.

29 December 2014

Packing Cookies

My father had asked me to bake him something for Christmas, which is also one of the reasons why I made those short-cut peanut butter blossoms. I also gave him a nice wedge of the cranberry-walnut fruitcake and half a batch of short-cut linzer bars.

I'd intended to give him the whole batch of linzer bars, but it turns out The Husband actually likes slivered almonds and I ended up holding half the batch back for him. I've been married for fifteen years now and I still can't remember what The Husband will or won't eat. I say it's because he keeps changing his mind about things, but he says it's because I'm not paying attention. Which is possible, but I swear he was much more selective when I married him. That may have had more to do with culture shock than taste preference, maybe? Regardless, he likes almonds. Or, at least, sliced almonds with raspberry jam and sugar cookie base.

This short-cut Pillsbury recipe for "Linzer Bars" is both fabulously simple and delicious. I did double the amount of jam and almonds, because the original amounts called for seemed a bit scant, but then I like a jammy cookie. This recipe could easily be made with just about any jam and nut you like and I'll probably be trying it soon with black raspberry jam and blanched slivered almonds.

I wanted to make a nice presentation with the cookies so I bought a round tin at Job Lot and filled it with pairs of cookies I put in seasonal cupcake liners. I figured two cookies to a liner was both a nice look and a decent serving. Dad could just reach in and pull up a liner rather than rooting around all the cookies. And, importantly, the jammy Linzers wouldn't get a chance to fuse to each other!

I put the peanut butter blossoms on the bottom, then a circular divider repurposed from a box of Thornton's, and a layer of bars. It looked quite pretty and the cookies seemed to keep well. Although it probably doesn't matter how well they'd keep, because Dad and The Husband had eaten nearly all the Linzers by the time we left him after Christmas dinner!

This may be for the best as the leftover blossoms kept at home in the same container as the Linzers (with no divider between them) went unappetizingly soft as they absorbed the moisture (I assume) from the jammy bars. Meh. I'm still learning.

27 December 2014

Pretty (Lazy) Peanut Butter Blossoms

Growing up, peanut blossom cookies were one of the first cookies I learned to bake. First, I was old and trustworthy enough roll the dough into balls and coat them in sugar. Then, I could put the kisses on the hot, soft cookies. Then, I was old enough to make the dough myself. Frankly, I loved making molded cookies and, thankfully, my mother's Christmas cookie repertoire was dominated by them. Peanut butter blossoms. Russian tea cakes. Jammy thumbprints. Chocolate crinkles. Yum!

Pretty blossoms waiting their turn in the oven ... and then a kiss! Oooer.

So, there's really no excuse for these lazy cookies. I know exactly how to make peanut butter blossoms from scratch. And yet, as soon as I saw this variation on Pinterest, I rushed to put a tube of refrigerated sugar cookie dough on my shopping list. And a bag of kisses, obviously. Because I would have cookies almost instantly. No measuring. Limited mixing. Dirtied one bowl, one measuring cup, and one spatula. Baking the fruitcake seemed to dirty nearly every dish in my kitchen (I am still not a tidy cook) and I wanted cookies without the washing up.

A kiss for the cookie, a kiss for my belly, a kiss for the cookie ...

Yes, there's nothing to these cookies. Just a tube of sugar cookie dough, a half cup of creamy peanut butter, and a bag of chocolate kisses. I did fancy them up a bit by squishing the dough through my cookie press and found that doing so created the perfect balance of cookie and chocolate so Yay, me.

I also found a nifty way to neatly and easily load the cookie press, which is to roll the dough into tubes slightly smaller than the dough chamber and just drop them right in! I know it's an obvious thing, but I spent so much time faffing about with doughy spoons when I made my Halloween spritz, trying to get all the air pockets out so the press would work properly. I could have saved myself so much time (and sworn a lot less).

Logs of dough. Yes, I know they look like poo.

Anyway! The cookies were very crisp and surprisingly peanut-y considering the small amount of peanut butter used. As always, I think they're best when the kisses are still a bit soft and melty, but they were still pretty darn tasty two days later.

20 December 2014

Ugly Cookies

I'd picked up a bag of Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips at Big Lots just after Thanksgiving with the intention of holding on to them until February when they could be used in baking adorable heart-shaped shortbread cookies. But then I opened the bag ... just to see what they were like ... and started snacking on them. So it seemed they should be used sooner than February, lest they all get snacked away.

Not in the mood for shortbread, I made the "Andes Double Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies" recipe on the back of the bag, omitting the nuts and using four ounces of semisweet morsels instead of a "chunked" baking bar. They were an easy cookie to assemble and the recipe yielded up forty-three cookies -- pretty darn close to the listed four dozen -- although only forty-one made it out of the kitchen as one was lost to breakage and another to "testing."

I don't like coffee or coffee-flavored things, but one of the upcoming Improv Challenges uses coffee and cream so I thought I should experiment and these cookies seemed like a good start. I know a lot of chocolate cake recipes call for coffee because coffee helps bring out the flavor of the cocoa so I do keep espresso powder on hand. However, I wasn't sure how strong my espresso powder was compared to the two tablespoons instant coffee granules called for in the Andes recipe so I limited my tablespoons to one. If you sniff the cookies, beneath the rich, heady aroma of chocolate-and-peppermint, there is a definite whiff of coffee. The Husband also dislikes coffee, but clearly hasn't noticed or isn't bothered by the scent as he keeps scarfing up cookies! And all my coworkers, some coffee drinkers and some not, all enjoyed these cookies. Ymmv, is all I'm saying.

(Mostly, though, I can't get over how ... unattractive ... these cookies are. Frankly, they look like something worrying I might find half-buried in the cat box).

31 October 2014

Halloween Spritz Cookies

My mother used to bake spritz cookies for Christmas every year and, as a child, they were the cookie I loved to hate. They were pretty, yes, but they were horrible little beasts to assemble. My mother had a Mirro cookie press -- the kind you have to turn the handle at the top of the barrel while holding the bottom level with the baking sheet until enough dough has come out to see the shape of the cookie and then you have to carefully lift the cookie press straight up so as not to ruin the design. It never really worked out well when I had the running of it and, when I started baking on my own, I vowed I'd never bake spritz cookies because they were just to darn fiddly.

Yet ... here I am with an Oxo Good Grips Cookie Press. A cookie press I was given for Christmas last year. After I specifically asked for it. Because I am mad, I tell you, mad.

I used the spider, web, and pumpkin cookie disks to shape my Halloween spritz. I thought the web and pumpkin would be the easiest shapes to press, but the webs turned out to be annoying little beasties. Of course, I started with the webs so when they wouldn't come out properly I thought it was because the baking sheets weren't chilled enough! And then I thought maybe the dough needed to be chilled. And then, finally, I decided to try the spider disk ... and the spiders came out perfect from the first!

Stupid webs.

The pumpkins also shaped and stuck to the baking sheets just fine. I don't know what it was about the webs, but they really didn't want to release from the press.

I used the recipe for butter cookies that came with my Oxo Good Grips Cookie Press, figuring the recipe had been formulated especially for the press and was thereby a good starting point ... so I am still a bit grumpy and confused about why the webs were so difficult.

Since I was making Halloween spritz I divided the dough into two bowls and colored it with Americolor Soft Gel Paste Food Colors. I was afraid to use too much black, because my mouth kept telling me the cookies would taste "black" even though my brain knew that was nonsense.

The dough looks rather gray in the photo, but the cookies baked up pretty dark.

The orange was just ORANGE from the get go and didn't bake up any less vibrant.

Overall, I'd say I enjoyed my first attempt at spritz cookies and am looking forward to making more as we head into Cookie Season. The Oxo cookie press does take a little getting used to as using it isn't quite as straightforward as the instructions suggest (I would say I pressed a good dozen duds before I got the hang of it), but know that I've figured out what I'm doing ... it beats the socks of my mother's old screw-style cookie press!

20 June 2014

Celebrating with Easy Spumoni Cookies

"Spumoni Chunk Cookies" I made for a retirement party. The recipe starts with Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix and then tarts it up with pistachios, dried cherries, and semisweet chocolate chunks. I've made these cookies several times now, but I admit this was the first time I actually stuck with the recipe -- I've used toasted walnuts or pecans -- because pistachios are not something I usually have on hand. (If you can find shelled salted roasted pistachios, well, good on you. I bought mine still in the shell and, in shelling them, probably put as many in my tummy as in the measuring cup).

I thought I had a bag of Nestle Toll House chunks left from Christmas, but couldn't find them when it came time to bake and ended up buying a bag of Hershey's Baking Melts. Based on the packaging illustrations, I was expecting thumbnail-sized rounds, but opened the bag to find surprisingly big 'uns. A bit too big for these cookies, I thought, so I ended up chopping them in half. Unlike with the pistachios, no chocolate ended up in my belly!

The cherries were the last of the sour (tart) cherries I'd bought for fruitcake last December. They're excellent cherries -- slightly sweetened with a real intense punch of cherry flavor. They look a little bit like raisins once they've baked into the cookies, but once you take a bite you know you're dealing with CHERRIES. There's no confusing these with anything else!

Everyone at the party really loved these cookies and several people asked me for the recipe, only to appear visibly distressed when I explained I'd tarted up a cookie mix. The Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix yields a perfectly fine cookie and, with all the other ingredients added in, the cookie base wasn't a significant player in texture or flavor, anyway. If you want to go all out, by all means do use your favorite from-scratch cookie recipe. I needed to bake quite a lot of cookies in very little time between several other obligations and using a cookie mix saved me from Freaking Out and Baking Angry. No one wants to eat angry cookies.

Anyway, there were 35 cookies at the start of the party and 0 cookies were left at the end, so I think it's pretty clear these cookies were a success!

02 February 2014

Baking for My Love: Chocolate Madeleines

As the orange madeleines from William-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking (revised edition) went over so well, I decided to tackle the chocolate version. The recipes are almost identical, but the chocolate recipe obviously omits the orange zest and adds cocoa powder. Interestingly, it also omits the almond extract and uses a full teaspoon of vanilla. I'm pretty sure red raspberry extract would also work well and I may try that next time. Oh, yes, there will be a next time. I envision a monthly baking of madeleines. Chocolate raspberry madeleines. Ginger madeleines. Lemon poppy seed madeleines. Chai spice madeleines.

Except. I'm baking for The Husband and he's not going to want anything more adventurous that chocolate raspberry. Drat.

*sobs into her floury apron*

Chocolate Madeleines

I found it a bit odd that the two recipes were not found side-by-side in William-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking (revised edition), but fell 147 pages apart -- the first in the chapter on cookies and the second in the chapter on chocolate. Why did you do this, editors? All the recipes in the chocolate chapter could easily have been integrated into the rest of the book -- chocolate madeleines with cookies, chocolate opera cake with cakes, etc. Is it simply because chocolate is a big deal to most humans? Am I just being pedantic and weird?

Probably. And, yes.

As with the orange version, this recipe makes twelve madeleines and they are best served warm with a light dusting of confectionery sugar. I found them rather richer than the orange ones -- the orange ones were so light and fluffy and zesty that I managed to eat four without blinking, but the chocolate ones were darkly, deeply chocolaty (surprising, because I just used Hershey's Dutch-processed cocoa) and two more than sufficed with a pot of Earl Grey. The Husband does not agree with me on this and he happily ate five chocolate madeleines with his afternoon cuppa. It's possible that it comes down to chocolate tolerance. If you love chocolate, you'll want to eat all the madeleines. If you don't, then you won't. I'm very much a citrus and berry girl.

19 January 2014

Baking for My Love: Orange Madeleines

I'm a bookish cook, so baking madeleines seems an obvious thing and yet I've spent years avoiding the things because they sounded tricksy and every resource seemed to have a different opinion about what they should be. Mostly, I think, because everyone wants to bake Proust's madeleines and no-one has that precise recipe?

As I don't want to bake Proust's madeleines any more than I want to read Proust, I was willing (purely out of love for The Husband) to attempt the two versions in William-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking (revised edition). The Husband seemed quite excited by the idea of madeleines -- they are very photogenic cookie-cakes (cake-cookies?), after all -- and they seemed high on his list of Things I Must Bake.

Since we had too many satsumas on hand, my first attempt was with the recipe for orange madeleines. A thorough read-through of the recipe actually left me feeling quite confident I could bake a decent madeleine -- they are surprisingly simple cookie-cakes -- and I was away.

Buttered, Floured Madeleine Pan

The recipe says to carefully and thoroughly butter and flour ever ridge of the madeleine pan, because the madeleines may stick otherwise, so I buttered and floured as if Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were looking over my shoulder. And, you know, I think I might have gone a wee bit overboard, because when I went to flip and knock the pan against the cooling rack to release the cookies, they all fell out before I'd even completed the flip. I used a Chicago Metallic madeleine pan and it is, apparently, not joking around about being nonstick.

These madeleines came out looking and tasting just as Essentials of Baking said they should -- perfect little scallop shells of tender, spongy cake. I was so chuffed. We ate them warm, as recommended, with a dusting of confectionery sugar. The recipe makes twelve, which is perfect with tea for two as breakfast and elevenses.

Orange Madeleines

Really, I can't get over how well these madeleines came out and I look forward to baking the chocolate version. While I know a lot of my success has to do with improved baking skills due to time and practice, some has to do with the way Essentials of Baking's is written. It's as if the editors peeked into my brain and then wrote the book specifically for me. The recipes (at least the ones I've read through) all seem quite clear and straight forward and even go so far as to provide instructions for both hand and machine mixing. And amounts are giving in multiple forms of measurement! Honestly, I'm crushing pretty hard on Essentials of Baking.

Orange Madeleines

12 January 2014

Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

I promised one of my coworkers cookies as thanks for all the help he's given me this week, what with so many staff members struck down by winter ailments. I baked him ginger oatmeal cookies as, while he likes cookies, he prefers goodies he can pretend are good for him! Oatmeal is heart-healthy and ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory effects, so ...

Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

Ginger Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Taste of Home
Makes about 24 cookies

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
1½ cups white whole wheat flour [King Arthur Flour's 100% Organic White Whole Wheat]
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
¼ cup crystallized ginger chips [King Arthur Flour's Mini Diced Ginger]

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat together shortening and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until well combined.

Roll into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Gently flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or just until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.
This cookies were good -- crispy on the outside with touch of chewiness at the center and very rich with spice. I was quite pleased by how well they turned out and my coworker was very happy.

I have shared this recipe at these delicious blog parties:
Swing by and link up your own dishes!