Showing posts with label cookies misc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cookies misc. Show all posts

Friday, May 1, 2009

Nutella Cookies

This recipe, yet another from my KAF Cookie Companion, is actually for any kind of nut butter. I made it the first time using peanut butter since that's all I had on hand and it was pretty good. Not as good as my favorite peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, but still pretty good. For the most part the cookies don't flatten out at all and you end up with round cookies with an almost fluffy texture, rather than the flatter, chewier cookies I prefer.

What intrigued me of course were all the other options for these cookies if you simply changed the butter you used. I instantly wanted to try both almond butter and hazelnut butter, but alas I didn't have enough almonds or hazelnuts to make my own. When I mentioned the idea to Chris he latched on to the idea of Nutella Cookies -- because after all, what is Nutella but hazelnut butter mixed with chocolate? On the next grocery store run I picked up nutella (and almond butter, but that's for later) and gave them a shot.

I am not a huge fan of hazelnuts, but these cookies could help change my mind. I overbaked the first set a bit -- because it's kind of hard to tell if they are done just by looking at them -- making them crunchy rather than chewy, but even that way they were good. I also added a full bag of chocolate chips instead of the one cup that the recipe called for which gave them a very prominent chocolate flavor -- just the way I like my chocolate chip cookies.

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick)butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, hazelnut butter or nutella
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

In a large bowl cream together the shortening, butter, nut butter, and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then stir in the flour, chips, and nuts.

Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until they're beginning to brown. Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Maple Snickerdoodles

I tend to scroll through all the pictures on Tastespotting 3 or 4 times a week looking for inspiration in my baking. Some days I will only look at one or two links from the pictures and won't copy any recipes into my gmail documents folder where I store my online discoveries. Other days I will copy dozens of recipes for some vague future use, but then won't actually get around to making one of the recipes for months or even years.

Then there is the occasional recipe like this one. A recipe that looks so good, and so easy and just different enough for me to slap myself in the forehead and say "why didn't I think of that?" as I rush for the mixer and the butter and sugar. As far as I know everybody likes snickerdoodles. They are just plain good in a homey, simple sort of way with the delicate butter and sugar flavors and the wonderful cinnamon sugar topping.

These take that concept and tweak it just a bit. In this version the cinnamon is added to the cookie dough along with a little bit of maple syrup and maple extract, and then the cookie dough is rolled into a mixture of white sugar and maple sugar. The results aren't quite as good as normal snickerdoodle (which are pretty near perfect as far as I'm concerned), but they are quite good and a nice change of pace. They have the snickerdoodle texture -- soft and cracky -- combined with a light maple flavor with hints of cinnamon.

For anyone looking for a quick and easy recipe that is a nice twist on a classic -- this is a great recipe. Especially if you have maple sugar and maple extract hanging around waiting to be used up. :)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 maple syrup
1/4 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup maple sugar

1. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in another bowl.
3. Beat the egg and maple syrup into the butter and sugar.
4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.
5. Mix the white sugar and maple sugar in a small bowl.
6. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and roll the balls in the sugar mixture.
7. Place the balls on a baking sheet.
8. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until golden brown and cracked on top, about 8-10 minutes.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Espresso Walnut Meringues

I had a bunch of egg whites left after making the big-ass cake last week and I figured I could find a way to use them so I threw them in a tupperware container and put them in the fridge. I looked through a few recipes and considered financiers and madeleines, but this meringue recipe from the Nick Malgiere Modern Baker book won the day with its simplicity.

The recipe is easy, beat the egg whites with a little salt, and then add sugar a tablespoon at a time until you get stiff peaks. Sprinkle the other chopped ingredients -- walnut, espresso, chocolate and corn starch -- across the top and fold them in. Spoon them onto the baking sheets and put them in the oven for 30 minutes. Easy as can be.

I was a bit confused though because the ingredient list calls for a full cup of sugar, but in the instructions it only tells you to put 1/2 a cup of sugar in the egg whites, and never gives further instructions for the rest of the sugar. I must have read that thing a dozen times trying to figure out what I was missing, but the recipe never gives further instructions so there must be a typo somewhere.

Mine aren't nearly as poofy as the ones in the picture, mine are pretty much flat and slightly sticky in the center. I've never made meringues before so I'm not sure if I messed up the recipe, or that's the way they are supposed to be. The flavor is good though, using only 1/2 cup of sugar produced cookies that are only slightly sweet and slightly bitter from the espresso powder, I'm not sure what a full cup of sugar would have done to them but I would be interested to find out. You can barely taste the chocolate, and if you didn't know it was in there you probably wouldn't guess, however, I also suspect you would miss it if it wasn't there since it blends nicely with the espresso powder.

These aren't something that I would crave and then make, but they are a dandy way to use up spare egg whites and I can definitely see repeating variations of them again.

Using only 1/2 cup of sugar produced cookies that are only slightly sweet and slightly bitter from the espresso powder.

4 large eggs whites
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar (or a 1/2 cup -- there seemed to be a mistake with the recipe in the book)
1 1/4 cups walnut pieces (about 5 oz or 150 grams) finely chopped but not ground
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 300 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip withthe whisk attachment on medium speed until white, opaque and beginning to hold their shape. Increase the speed to medium high and whip in 1/2 cup of sugar 1 tbsp at a time continuing to whip until the egg whites are stiff, but not dry.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and scatter the walnuts, then the espresso powder, chocolate and cornstarch on top, one at a time in order. (Don't mix them all together and beforehand.) Use a large rubber spatula to fold them in.

Use a spoon to make rough mounds of the meringue, about 2 inches apart on all sides, on the prepared pans.

Bake the meringues until they are almost dry about 30 minutes. Ratate the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


One of my Christmas gifts was an amazon gift certificate, and one of my treats to myself with that was madeleine pans. I clearly have much to learn about properly making madeleines though because I seriously over-filled the cavities in the pan the first time and ended up trying to trim the finished cookies, with not-so great results.

The good news is that they are very good. Light and fluffy with a delicate crumb and delicious flavor. I will really enjoy experimenting with these cookies. This first attempt was the traditional madeleines in Dorie's book, Baking From My Home to Yours. Flavored with the zest of a lemon they have an excellent light lemony flavor that pairs beautifully with the texture of the cookies.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working in a mixer bowl, or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines. (For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge; see below for instructions on prepping the pans.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Or, if you have a nonstick pan (or pans), give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don't worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven's heat will take care of that. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched.

Remove the pan(s) from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch(es), making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pan(s) before baking.

Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioners' sugar.

makes 12 large or 36 mini madeleines

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Orleans Praline Disks

I got three new baking books for Christmas, but so far the Nick Malgieri one is the only one to get me really excited about various recipes. Maybe it's all the pictures... there are a lot of recipes that sound good in the Sweet Melissa book that I will make eventually, but the pictures keep drawing me back into the Malgieri book.

Well, that and these cookies just sounded really good. Lots of butter, brown sugar and pecans baked into round, flat cookies that are still chewy. um... yes please.

I ended up playing a bit with the final appearance of these. The book has you flatten the top of the cookies after scooping the dough with a small disher and then sprinkling some of the 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans on top. I found that kind of annoying so I started rolling my cookie dough into the dough, then flattening them out. The advantage was more pecan to cookie ratio, the disadvantage was that I ran out of chopped pecans and didn't feel like digging the food processor out yet again, so for the final round of cookies I simply pressed a half pecan on top.

When I make these again (yes, they are definitely good enough to repeat) I think I will toast all the pecans before chopping them up. I was a bit surprised that he didn't have you toast them in the recipe considering almost everyone who bakes on a regular basis (including me) knows that toasting nuts before using them almost always improves the flavor quite a lot. The other thing I might consider doing is melting some semi-sweet chocolate and drizzling it over the top of the final cookies. The finished cookies don't need the extra oomph of chocolate, because they are quite good on their own, but I think it would be a nice addition if I feel like messing with it.

1 3/4 cups pecan pieces
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1 large egg
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 and line cookie sheets with parchment or silpats.

Place 1/2 cup of the pecans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped, but not ground to powder. Set them aside. Combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups of pecans with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar in the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

Combine the butter, the remaining brown sugar, and the pecan and sugar mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat just until smooth. Do not overbeat.

Decrease the speed to low and add the flour. Continue beating until the flour is just mixed in. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to give a final stir to the dough.

Roll a round teaspoonful of the dough (a tiny disher is excellent here) between the palms of your hands to make a little sphere. Place it on one of the prepared pans. Continue with the remaining dough, keeping the cookies about 2 inches apart on all sides. Use a fingertip to flatten the spheres of dough slightly and sprinkle them with the reserved chopped pecans.

Bake the wafers until they spread and become brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets about halfway through to ensure even baking.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sicilian Fig Bars

I find it kind of funny that just a few weeks after writing about how little figs do for me I have featured them in a recipe yet again. Of course in that earlier post I also wrote that fig newtons are an exception to that rule, so an opportunity to make them at home seemed too good to pass up. Combine that with the fact that the recipe is in one of my new cookbooks -- Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker which I got for Christmas, and the fact that the recipe claims to be a traditional Sicilian recipe and it was pretty much a given that it would be near the top of my list to try from this book.

I don't know much about my heritage -- English/German/Irish seem to be pretty safe bets and I've never really cared enough to learn more. Chris, on the other hand, has at least some idea of his heritage because his paternal grandmother is 100% Sicilian, and he is always interested in Sicilian food, particularly the cookies and sweets and treats she makes from time to time. As far as I know she never made the Sicilian versions of fig newtons, but the idea of a traditional Sicilian recipe made with one of his favorite ingredients, put this recipe at the top of Chris' list of requests.

Despite the fact that these cookies look like they should be complicated, they are actually pretty easy to make. The dough is a cookie dough called Biscotti Regina which is quickly mixed up in the food processor and very easy to work with. For the fig filling the only time consuming part is snipping the hard stems off of the figs and cutting them into pieces. After that you dump the rest of the ingredients into a pot and simmer it until it thickens up, then let it cool. Assembling the cookies bars took a little time, but the dough was easy to work with and it didn't take much effort, just a little time, to roll the dough out to the appropriate diminsions and wrap it around the fig filling.

If you like fig newtons -- these are a sure fire winner. Very yummy with a much more complex flavor than store-bought newtons which seem pretty boring in comparison.

Biscotti Regina:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract

Combine the flour, sugar, baking poweder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulese several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until the butter is finely mixed in, but the mixture is still cool and powdery. Add teh eggs and vanilla and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball. You can put the dough in the fridge at this point if you want to split the work over a couple of days. Otherwise, wrap it up in plastic wrap and wash the food processor because you will need it for the fig filling.

Fig Bars:
1 1/2 pounds (700 grams) dried Calimyrna figs
1 cup water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup dark rum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 batch of biscotti regina dough

To make the filling, use kitchen shears to snip the hard stems from the figs, then snip each fig into 5 or 6 pieces. In a large saucepan, combine the figs, water, apricot preserves, rum, cinnamon and cloves. Stir to mix well.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirrin often. Reduce the heat to low and let the filling simmer until it is thickened, but not extremely thick. Cool the filling and puree it in the food processor with metal blade.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment or silpats.

Divide the biscotti regina dough into 6 pieces and roll each into a rope about 12 inches long. Place 1 rope on a floured work surface and press and roll it to make a rectangle of dough about 4 inches wide and 12 inches long. Spoon about 1/6 of the filling down the center of the dough. Use a pastry brush or your finger to paint the exposed dough with water, then lift the dough all around to enclose the filling within the tube of dough. Pinch the seam closed. Turn the filled piece of dough seam side down and flatten it slightly. Place the dough on the prepared cookie sheets and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Bake the cookies until the dough is set and golden, 15-20 minutes, rotating the cookie pans halfway through to ensure even baking. Let the cookies cool on the pan. When they are cool, trim the edges of the dough and cut the log into fig-newton shaped cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pecan Heath Cookies

I found this recipe on Baking Blonde's website and liked the idea of butterscotch, heath bars and pecans all in one recipe. The cookies are meant to be slice and bake -- prep the dough, roll into a log and throw in the fridge, slicing off cookies to bake as you want them, or bake them all at once. However, Baking Blonde made hers as both drop cookies, and slice and bake and said they work well either way. I didn't have the time for slice and bakes, but I did have heath bars to use up, so I opted to make them as drop cookies.

The cookies are very, very good. They kind of remind me of pecan sandies, but with the added benefit of chocolate/heath bars in there making them even better. I didn't have the heath baking bits (which I'm sure would work well too) but a bag of mini heath bars which I chopped up. The difference is that when you chop them up yourself you end up with some bigger chunks of heath and chocolate which is definitely a good thing.

My only quibble with the recipe at all is that when you cream the butter/crisco and sugar there does not seem to be nearly enough butter for the sugar. Maybe that wouldn't have been such a big deal with slice and bake cookies, but for drop cookies it means you have to really work to get the finished dough to stick together in a ball. And, since the cookies are meant to be sliced and baked, they don't spread much in the oven which means you should flatten them some before baking.

If I make these again as drop cookies I will definitely up the butter by at least another 1/4 cup (making it a full stick of butter as well as a 1/4 cup of shortening). If I make them as slice and bake though, I would likely try them as the recipe states because I have a hunch the butter/sugar ratio is right for that style of cookie.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening (I used trans-fat free butter flavored Crisco)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 TBS vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup English Toffee bits (like Heath bar bits)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (I toasted mine first)

Preheat oven to 350 (if going to bake immediately)
In a large bowl cream the butter, shortening and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Stir to combine.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix until combined. Gently fold in the toffee bits and nuts.

*If baking immediately, drop dough by spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheet. You might have to really work the dough between your hands to get it to form a ball, and make sure to flatten the ball a bit beofre baking. Bake for 8-9 minutes until edges are set and light brown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Shape dough into 2 12 inch rolls Wrap each in Seran wrap. Chill for 4 hours or until firm.
When ready to bake:
Preheat oven to 350. Unwrap and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lighlty browned. Cool for 1-2 minutes on sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fresh Cranberry Orange Cookies

I love cranberries. Of course that should be pretty obvious by now to anyone who reads my blog. The cranberry orange quick bread I made the other day is one of my standards that I make several times during the cold months. The white chocolate cranberry orange cookies are a favorite amongst my friends and frequently requested. And of course I tend to make all sorts of cranberry recipes when I see them, like the cranberry maple oatmeal cookies, and the pumpkin cranberry upside down cake and this, this, this, and this.

Yup. Cranberries are near the top of my list for favorite baking ingredient. Most of my friends love the white chocolate cranberry orange cookies that I linked to above, but I don't like white chocolate so they don't do much for me. When I found this recipe on epicurious I knew I wanted to make it immediately, but I had to make a couple of changes. The original (which I will try soon) called for light brown sugar which I didn't have, for pistachios which I didn't have, and for minced fresh ginger which I also didn't have. I substituted white sugar for the brown, doubled the walnuts in place of the pistachios and used about a 1/2 cup of crystallized ginger and it worked out fine. In fact, when I make them again with light brown sugar, I will probably keep the crystallized ginger in there because I like how the flavor plays against the tart cranberry.

For cranberry lovers these cookies are awesome. They have a big punch of tart cranberry flavor with the zing of ginger and the sweet of oranges. The cookies would have had a better texture with brown sugar, but white works in a pinch. I would have loved to have seen the bright green pistachios contrasting with the red of the cranberries, but alas it wasn't meant to be this time. I guess that's what next time is for though.

Here is the original recipe on epicurious. And below is what I made:

2 cups dried sweetened cranberries
1/3 cup orange juice
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Combine dried sweetened cranberries and orange juice in small bowl. Let stand until dried cranberries soften slightly, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or

Whisk all purpose flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until just blended.

Using electric mixer, beat room-temperature butter and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Add 1 egg, vanilla extract, and grated orange peel and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour-spice mixture. Stir in chopped walnuts, chopped ginger, coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, and dried cranberries with any juices that have accumulated.

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing tablespoonfuls about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 baking sheet at a time, until golden and almost firm to touch in center, about 16-18 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool cookies completely. (Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store cookies in airtight container at room temperature.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lemon Ginger Cookies

Inspiration for my baking comes from all over the place, but I suspect that the inspiration for these cookies came from the strangest place yet: Chris' body wash. Every time I smelled the stuff I would start thinking about making lemon ginger cookies, which is pretty ironic since I'm pretty sure there is no ginger or lemon in his body wash. So after my shower this morning I decided to actually follow through with the inspiration and make some cookies.

I didn't have a recipe for lemon ginger cookies, but that didn't bother me too much. I took the lemon cooler cookies from my King Arthur Flour cookie book and added a teaspoon of ground ginger and about a 1/4 cup of finely minced crystallized ginger. When I tasted the cookie dough though I was a bit unhappy with the lemon flavor so I added the juice of half a lemon, just to bump it up a bit.

If/when I make these again I will likely add even more ginger. The cookies are very soft and cake-like with a nice lemon flavor and only the barest hint of ginger in the back of your mouth after you swallow. The flavor might come forward a little more after they sit overnight, but I suspect that the flavor combination I'm looking for will only come about by adding even more ground ginger and leaving the chunks of crystallized ginger bigger so that the bite and spice comes through with each bite.

It's a good combination though and I think they would make a nice change in the Christmas cookie offerings this year -- for those who are sending cookies that is, because I'm pretty sure I will only send a box or two this year, unlike last year when we shipped dozens of boxes and made at least 30 boxes for coworkers.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup (4 oz) cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger (or if you want a more assertive ginger flavor use 1 1/2 tsp)
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp lemon oil (if you don't have this zest another lemon and add more juice)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger

In a medium mixing bowl cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the sugars, salt, baking powder, ginger, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon oil and mix until everything is smooth. Add the flour and then the ginger and blend to combine. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 and scoop the cookies onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats. Bake 10 -12 minutes until the cookies are brown on the bottom and set on the edges. Cool completely.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Biscotti is meant to be dipped in coffee. Especially into milky lattes or coffee sweetened by cream. That's my opinion anyway, and since it's my blog I'm free to write what I want.

I tried a piece of biscotti by itself and it just didn't do that much for me. It was crunchy which I don't like in cookies and there wasn't enough chocolate flavor to wow me either. But the next day I took the other half of that piece of biscotti and dipped into my morning coffee (which is always doused liberally with Italian Sweet Cream creamer) and it was fantastic.

The crunch of the cookie was softened by the liquid and the bittersweet of the coffee worked perfectly with the chocolate and almonds in the biscotti. I brought the biscotti to work and fully expected to bring at least half of it home again since I had also brought the pumpkin scones the same day, but I was surprised because my coworkers ate all of it. Guess more people like biscotti than I expected...

6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped bittwesweet chocolate
1/4 cup dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silpats.

In a medium bowl beat the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at at time , the batter may look slightly curdled.

In a small food processor, process the chocolate, cocoa and espresso powder until it is finely ground. Mix it with the flour and then add that mixture to the egg/sugar mixture. Stir in the nuts.

Transfer the dought to the prepared baking sheet and shape it into a log about 12 inches long and about 2 1/2 inches wide and an inch thick.

Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Remove it from the oven let cool 5-25 minutes. Five minutes before cutting it, use a spray bottle filled with water and thoroughly but lightly spritz the log, making sure to cover the sides. This will make slicing easier.

Reduce the oven temp to 325, then cut the log into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces.

Set the biscotti on the baking sheet cut side down and bake for 25 minutes. remove from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Magic in the Middles

It may be hard to tell, but I have a pretty strong sweet tooth. I know, I know... shocking... right? But it's true. I managed to resist most of the day sitting at home the other day, but then the damn sweet tooth kicked in and I started looking for a recipe to make. I wanted chocolate and was going to make fudge but discovered I didn't have everything for it. With chocolate on my mind though I started flipping through my King Arthur Flour Cookie book and saw the picture for these peanut butter-filled chocolate cookies.

I have seen the picture before but I have always dismissed them as difficult or time consuming to make. Since I hadn't really done anything except sit around the house that day I decided time-consuming would be just fine. Actually though, they weren't hard at all, and while it did take some time to roll the peanut butter into balls and then flatten chocolate dough to wrap around each peanut butter piece, it didn't actually take all that much time and the results were well worth it.

The cookies are a little heavier on the peanut butter flavor than the chocolate flavor, but that's okay because they are still good. They are also a different take on the chocolate peanut butter cookie, and with the solid chocolate outside, they offer a dramatic and appealing surprise when you bite into them and discover the layer of peanut buttery goodness in the middle.

I baked them for 9 minutes as the recipe called for and I was a bit concerned when I pulled them from the oven because they didn't look done at all. However, I decided to trust in the recipe and sure enough they set up perfectly once they had cooled.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg

3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment or silpats.

To make the dough, in a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and set aside. In another mixing bowl cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the egg beating to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients, blending well.

To make the filling: Stir the peanut butter and sugar together until smooth. With floured hands roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls.

To shape the cookie, break off about 1 tablespoon of the dough, make an indentation in the center with your finger and press one of the peanut butter balls into the indentation. Bring the dough up and over the filling, pressing it closed and roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out. Repeat until finished.

Dip the cookies into granulated sugar and place on the baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten the cookies to 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Rice Krispy Treats with Homemade Marshmallows

Chris and I are almost perfectly matched in the kitchen. He does 99% of the cooking and is always interested in trying new recipes and learning new techniques. I make most of the desserts and am in my element with flour and sugar and my Kitchen Aid. There have been a few areas though where Chris' interests have crossed over into what would normally be my territory. Bread is one of those areas, which seems appropriate though because I am always looking for sweet recipes, and my bread baking ranges towards over-the-top bacon/cheese/onion type breads or brioches to turn into French toast or cinnamon rolls, while Chris wants to make traditional sourdoughs or whole wheat loaves.

Another area where Chris has crossed into things I would normally be interested in is marshmallows. We had tried to make the egg white based marshmallows in my Dorie Greenspan book and didn't have much success with them and pretty much wrote off the idea of homemade marshmallows. Later though Chris saw Alton Brown make marshmallows with gelatin and his interest was piqued again, especially after we started messing with homemade fondant which uses marshmallows.

These days it doesn't take much at all to get Chris into the kitchen to whip up a batch of homemade marshmallows. especially now that it's winter and he can have them in his hot chocolate. And of course he didn't object at all when I suggested using them to make rice krispy treats. Regular rice krispy treats are damn tasty and very easy to make, but using fresh marshmallows and organic brown-rice rice krispies kicks the recipe up a notch and takes out any guilt about eating heavily processed foods.

We're not really all that passionate about avoiding processed foods -- and we do love oreos and certain candy bars -- but we do try to limit the amount of processed foods we eat and we take a certain amount of pride in using fresh ingredients and keeping a lot of the mystery ingredients in boxed and canned foods out of our diets. I know there are many others out there who try to avoid any and all heavily processed foods though, and for those people who still love their childhood rice krispy treats this is a great alternative that tastes just as good or even better than the original, but with very few of the preservatives or mysteries of mass-produced foods.

For the marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray


Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2
cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over
medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Fall is here and I don't imagine that there is a baker out there who isn't excited about the new season of baking upon us. The time when we switch from the fresh fruit concoctions of summer to the spices and and root vegetables of fall and when the chill in the air and the football games on t.v. make us relish turning the oven on for hours at a time.

I certainly like summer baking well enough, but I don't have enough experience with fresh fruit which lends itself to pies (which I suck at) or simple dishes that need to be eaten the same day they are made. My problem is that I need to make stuff that lasts at least overnight so that either Chris or I can bring it in to work for our coworkers -- otherwise it's destined for the trash can which is incredibly frustrating. (I actually threw away almost an entire cheesecake this summer because it was a long weekend and all my neighbors said they were on diets...)

So summer baking is kind of hit or miss with me. I made an excellent Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and quite a few blueberry concoctions, but for the most part nothing to get me really excited. But now Fall is here and I love Fall and Winter baking full o f pumpkin and cinnamon, maple and molasses, apples and cloves and nutmeg.

These cookies are a perfect gateway between Summer and Fall when the air is still warm outside, but everyone is anticipating the flavors of Fall. The cookies mix up quickly, ready to go into the oven by the time it's done pre-heating and then they only bake for 12 minutes, but they fill the house with the cinnamon spice goodness of Fall. Then of course you make a marshmallow fluff icing and fill the cooled cookies with those -- making a soft, pumpkiny, yummy pillow of flavors perfect for indulging in.

1 1/2 cups (15 oz can) pumpkin
2 large eggs
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsps molasses
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp grund ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour.

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/3 (4 oz) cups marshmallow fluff
1/4 tsp extra fine salt
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 and line baking sheets (I prefer insulated) with parchment paper or silpats. Put the first 5 ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fit with a paddle attachment and mix well. Add the salt, spices, baking soda, and baking powder and combine. Next add the flour and stir until it disappears.

Scoop the cookies a 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared baking sheets and bake 10-12 minutes until they are set on the edges and look mostly baked in the center. Place on cooling racks and cool completely.

To make the filling place all the ingredients in the bowl of the mixer and mix until well combined and fluffy. Portion the filling between two cookies to make sandwiches.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chewy Lemon Pistachio Finaniers

Chris and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today... I baked 4 batches of cookies, Chris made marshmallows, Portuguese Sweet Bread, and beer can chicken for dinner. :) Good times. Well, at least our version of good times.

I have never had a financier cookie before in fact, I'm not even sure I've heard of one before. But, I was looking for cookies to bake and came across this recipe in my Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey book. I had lemons to use up, I had a container of egg whites waiting to be used in the fridge, and we had just bought two large bags of pistachios so I figured this would be a good way to use everything up. I didn't have a financier pan, don't even know what one looks like, but the book said you could bake them in mini muffin pans too, so that's what I did.

They're interesting little things. I'm not quite sure I would call them a cookie, but they're not really a muffin either. The texture is nice and light and moist, which I expected from all the egg whites and powdered sugar, but not "muffin-like" at all. The flavor is mostly lemon with a hint of pistachio, and just a touch too much egg flavor for my tastes. When they were warm from the oven still the egg flavor was pretty strong and gave me an immediate negative impression of them. Luckily that flavor fades to the background once they cool off and the lemon comes forward.

I can definitely see trying a different version of them, just to see what other options are out there, but if they all have the eggy flavor to them, I probably won't experiment with them too much.

1/2 cup almond meal (or ground blanched almonds)
1 cup ground shelled and toasted unsalted pistachios
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup sugar
zest of two lemons
8 large egg whites
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Combine the ground almonds, pistachios, and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar in a food processor. Grind the nuts and sugar together until the mixture is very fine and powdery.

Transfer the nut mixture to a large bowl and stir in the granulated sugar, lemon zest, egg whites and vanilla until just smooth and combined. Sift the flour and salt together onto a piece of waxed paper and gently fold into the batter.

Carefully stir in the melted butter into the batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the batter very cold and firm, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450. Spray the mold of a financier pan, cups of mini muffin or muffin top pan, or small decorative molds with nonstick cooking spray. Fill the molds 3/4 full of batter. Place the filled pan or other pans on a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes. Reduce the oven temp to 400 and bake until firm and golden, about 7 minutes longer. Remove them from the oven and unmold immediately and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Almond Joy Cookies

Now this is a flavor combination I can get behind. Coconut, chocolate and almond. Yum. The cookies are a crumbly coconut/almond combination, topped with a chocolate glaze and toasted almonds. Overall, these were pretty good cookies... the cookie base was a bit dry and crumbly, but not in a really bad way. My only real complaint was that the chocolate was a bit overwhelming for the rest of the cookie. If I made them again, I would drizzle the chocolate rather than dip it, and I would pay more attention to breaking up the almonds.

These were actually much better the second day after the flavors had a chance to meld. The coconut and almond came out a bit more and the chocolate mellowed -- but I still think I would drizzle rather than dip next time.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1/4 cup almond paste
1 large egg
1 cup coconut
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsps corn syrup
2 tbsps butter

1 cup blanched almonds, chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats.

To make the dough: In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, almond extract, coconut extract and almond paste. Add the egg, beating until fairly smooth, then stir in the coconut. Stir in the flour.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. USe your fingers to gently flatten each cookie to about 2 inches in diameter.

Bake the cookies for 14 minutes until their edges are a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

To make the icing: In a small pan over low heat or in the microwave, melt together the chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter, stirring until smooth. Dip the top of each cooled cookie in the icing, then transfer them to a rack. Sprinkle with almonds.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lemon Zucchini Drops

I finally did it. I used up every last bit of the three huge zucchinis that a coworker gave me. It took me several weeks, and many loaves of zucchini bread, but I succeeded. I actually thought I was going to throw away over a cup of shredded zucchini after the last round of bread, but then I borrowed the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion from the library and found this recipe which used the last of it.

This is the third cookbook I've borrowed from the library now, and I have to say I won't be buying the Moosewood Book or the CIA Institute Baking book, but I will own this particular book at some point. For now I'm trying to save my money for other expenses so I have a hunch I will be borrowing it from the library quite a lot in the meantime because holy crap there are a lot of great looking recipes in here. I have pieces of paper scattered throughout it marking out recipes I want to try, but every time I flip through it again the marked pages change because yet another recipe catches my eye and makes my "short list" for baking.

The reason I made this recipe first of course was the damn shredded zucchini sitting in my fridge waiting to be used up or thrown out. I have to say, the recipe is very good. Moist, soft cookies filled with chewy raisins and crunchy nuts. Lightly spicy from the cinnamon and fresh tasting from the lemon zest and lemon icing. Pretty much a winner all around, especially if you have zucchini that you are desperate to use up and don't want to make zucchini bread for the millionth time, because despite how good it is, you can only eat it so often.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini
3 1/4 cup to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsps grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsps lemon juice
3 to 4 tbsps light or heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then stir in the zucchini.

Beat the flour, lemon zest, raisins, and walnuts into the creamed mixture. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until they spring back when touched lightly in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes then transfer to rack to cool completely.

To make glaze put all ingredients in the bowl and mix. Glaze the cookies once they are completely cooled.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hermit Cookies

I decided to make cookies yesterday and since I have been eying the Hermit Cookie recipe in my Passion for Baking book for a while now I decided to go with that. There was something appealing about a big cookie full of spices and raisins and dates and pecans... I've seen a couple of variations on these cookies, most of them seem to have the fruit macerated in some sort of liquor. Normally, that sort of thing is right up my ally, but yesterday I wanted something I could just throw together.

The other interesting thing about these cookies is that there is lemon and orange extract in the ingredients. I actually used lemon and orange oil instead (using half of the amount called for) since that's what I had on hand and the cookies had a prominent citrus flavor. After trying this version I will definitely set some time aside to try a version with macerated fruit, because surely, fruit flavored liquor can only make a good cookie better. :)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground quick or rolled oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups raisins, plumped and dried
3/4 cup dates, finely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Cream butter and brown sugars until well blended. Add honey, eggs, and extracts and then fold in flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Blend well and fold in raisins, dates, and nuts to make a stiff batter. Chill dough for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment or silpats.

For each cookie, using wet hands, roll about 1/3 cup cookie dough in your palms, making it round. Press slightly on prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes until set and cookies are slightly flattened. Let cool on baking sheets.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pecan Tassies

I have wanted to make Pecan Tassies for a very long time now, but for the life of me I can't figure out why I waited until a day when the heat index hit 105 for me to get around to it. This was not a day to stand around the kitchen fussing with crust and filling and mini-muffin pans with the oven running, but that's what I was doing.

The crust was extremely easy -- butter, cream cheese and flour mixed (but not over-mixed), then chilled. I did that while Chris made pancakes this morning and while the temperature was a reasonable 75, granted, that reasonable 75 was at 8 am, but it was at least reasonable.

I put off the rest of the tassie adventure until much later in the afternoon when the temperature had surpassed anything close to reasonable -- I guess I figured with it that hot outside running the oven couldn't make that much of a difference. *sigh*

Before attempting the tassies I figured I would love them. Pecans, sweet syrupy filling, crust... yeah, my kind of thing. While making the tassies I figured I was going to hate them because they were a pain to make. I couldn't figure out how much dough to use for each one, which means some of the tassies have tall, thick crusts, and others don't. I also ended up throwing away at least half of my brown sugar syrup mixture which really annoyed me considering how much groceries cost these days.

I took them out of the oven after the recommended time, then went and ate dinner (grilled pizza -- yum!!!) After dinner I took the tassies out of the pans and realized they needed to bake a bit longer. *grumble* After all that, and seeing the rough appearance of my tassies, I expected to hate them. Luckily I didn't.

The crust is not sweet at all, in fact, it's just a touch tangy from the cream cheese. The filling isn't quite the same as pecan pie filling, but it's super sweet and a little goes a long way. And of course, toasted pecans in all of that makes for a yummy, delicious treat. I wouldn't really recommend making them on a hot summer day, but I would definitely recommend making them.

Cream Cheese Pastry:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
2 cups all purpose flour (you'll need more to use to roll them out later)
1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs
2 cups lightly packed, dark brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely chopped, lightly toasted pecans

To make the pastry: cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth -- about 2 minutes. Slowly add the 2 cups of flour until incorporated -- be careful not to overmix the dough. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325.

Divide the chilled dough into 24 1-inch squares. Roll each square into a ball and place into mini-muffin tins. Mold the dough into each hole, pressing it up the sides. Put the pans into the fridge while preparing the filling.

To make the filling: whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, butter, salt and vanilla until well blended.

Distribute 1 cup of the pecans among the pastry-lined muffin cups. Empty the filling into a measuring cup with a spout and pour the mixture into the tins, filling them no more than 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1 cup nuts.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back toward the end of the baking time. Let stand 5 minutes. Using your finger and a fork, run the blade carefully around the edges of muffin cups to lossen them.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crunchy Sesame Pistachio Cookies

I'm predicting a lot of cookies this week -- primarily because I'm working odd hours again and I am planning to make up several different doughs for quick baking later this week. I suppose I could just take the week off, but that's just not my style.

These cookies could have fallen into that category, but instead I baked them today since Chris has wanted them ever since we bought the book -- Saha, A Chef's Journey Through Lebanon and Syria. We have a thing for authentic cuisine and love trying new and different foods from around the world and our cook books are a reflection of that interest. Chris does the cooking from these books, and leaves most of the baking to me, which suits both of us just fine. This cookie recipe wasn't one that particularly interested me, but Chris thought it looked fantastic from day one. Being a good girlfriend, I made it for him. Being a bad girlfriend, it took me about 2 months to get around to it. :)

The base recipe is simple -- a very soft, sugar-cookie-like dough that you firm up in the refrigerator. Once the dough is cold, you roll it into marble-sized balls (the book didn't specify what kind of marbles they were basing this on...), flatten into 1/2 inch thick discs (I used the bottom of a glass dipped in flour and a spatula to get the sticky dough off the bottom of the glass), then you press one side of the disc into lightly toasted sesame seeds and the other side into chopped up pistachios.

The result is an incredibly soft cookie that is only slightly sweet with sesame seeds and pistachios adding flavor and a whole lot of texture. The books description said they were supposed to be baked for 10-12 minutes and end up crunchy -- I baked mine for 8 minutes and got very soft cookies. I think if I had baked them for longer I would have gotten something much closer to shortbread style cookie. *shrug* I like soft cookies... what can I say. Of course, part of me feels that the crunchy ones would have been more authentic, and if I make them again I will likely bake them for longer, but they are quite good soft too.

1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/3 cups self-raising flour
1/3 cup pistachio nuts, cut into slivers
1/2 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Put the sugars and butter in a large bowl and cream together well. Mix in the vanilla extract and egg, followed by the flour. The dough softens easily, so transfer it to the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats.

Take little pieces of the dough and roll them between the palms of your hands into small marble-sized balls. Flatten gently to form little discs, about 1/2 inch thick. Line up 2 dishes, one with the pistachio slivers and one with the sesame seeds. Press one side of the dough into the pistachios and press the other side into the sesame seeds. Carefully brush off any excess and place on the prepared baking sheets (the book didn't specify, but I baked my pistachio side down) allowing about 2 inches between them for spreading.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown (or for soft cookies, bake for 8 minutes). Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

White Chocolate Whalers

Most days I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to bake. Sometimes I may not know the exact recipe, but I will have an ingredient that needs to be used up (lemons, bananas, etc..), other days I will want something more specific, a cookie or brownie, or some sort of cake will be on my mind. A lot of times a recipe that I saw on a blog, or if not an exact recipe, an idea that I got from a blog (strawberry rhubarb cheesecake for instance) will be bugging me -- and the only solution for that of course is to bake.

This was not one of those days. When I got up this morning, I had no idea what I was going to bake -- which was a very odd feeling. I wasn't terribly worried about it of course because I have lots of recipes on my lists and I knew I could find something fairly easily. I ended up dismissing all the recipes on my refrigerator though -- all too time consuming for today. I still want to make the graham flour banana bread that I found on Peabody's site, but I have not been able to find graham flour to save my life. (I also double checked and Peabody says that it has to be graham flour and not whole wheat flour -- which a lot of people say are the same thing...) One day I will get around to ordering it online, but until then, that recipe is out.

So, I flipped through my Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey book while I ate my cereal, but nothing there jumped out at me. Next I grabbed a stack of my books and settled down in front of the computer -- I had a hunch it was going to take me a while to find a recipe today.

I was wrong.

The first book I started with once I was good and settled was my Carole Walters Cookies book. I used it yesterday for the Lemon Cookies and I didn't really think I would find anything in it today, but cookies are just easier to deal with than cakes or pies or tarts. Actually, I figured I was going to make some sort of bar cookie since I was feeling fairly lazy, but as I flipped through the book I landed on the page for these white chocolate rice crispy cookies and knew I had found it.

I have wanted to make this recipe for a while. Actually, when I first got the book I intended to make them for my friend Candy who really likes white chocolate but I don't like white chocolate much at all, so it's not something that I tend to make that often. However, this looked like an interesting cookie that I was willing to try, but I never seemed to have enough white chocolate or oranges in the house -- today I had everything I needed.

I have to say, except for the bites where you get a lot of white chocolate -- these are pretty good. Crispy and cracky on the outside from the rice crispies that you roll the dough in before baking. Chewy and soft on the inside from the egg heavy dough and the rice crispies you mix in. The flavor is pretty intensely sweet with just a hint of orange in the background and of course the whole thing kind of reminds me of rice crispy treats, and who doesn't like those?

The recipe came from the "Big Boys" section of the book which means big, fat cookies. I think mine were a bit smaller than she intended, and they are smaller than the lemon cookies from yesterday, but they are still quite large.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tbsps grated orange zest (I used two oranges)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 tsp salt
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 cups crispy rice cereal, divided
3 (3.5 oz) bars high quality white chocolate, cut in 3/8 inch dice
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted unblanched almonds (optional) -- I left them out

Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silmats.

Melt the butter with the orange zest over low heat. Set aside to cool to tepid.

Combine the flour and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat the egg yolks and whites on medium speed until thick and lightened in color. Add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, then increase the speed to medium high and beat until well blended, about 1 minute more. Slowly pour in the butter-zest mixture, then add the vanilla. Mix for 1 minute longer to combine, scraping down the bowl as needed. The mixture will thicken as it is beaten.

Using an oversized rubber spatula fold in 3 cups of the rice cereal. Strain the dry ingredients over the batter, folding gently with the rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in the chocolate pieces and the almonds, if using.

Place the remaining crispy rice cereal in a flat dish. Using a #16 ice cream scoop, drop mounds of dough into the cereal and toss lightly to adhere. Place six balls of dough on each cookie sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Using the heel of your hand, flatten into 3-inch disks.

Bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. To ensure even browning, rotate the pans halfway through. Let rest for 10 minutes, or until firm enough to handle before loosening with a large metal spatula. Transfer to cooling racks.