Posts Tagged With: cookies

White Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

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With Labor Day on its way out the door and schoolchildren taking its place, classic snacks are on the brain.  Parents in this modern age are determined to nourish their offspring with “healthy snack” – you know, those that crunch like carrots and don’t contain trans fats, packaging, or any other frivolities.

I’m not saying throw away dreams of good calories and vitamins abound…but when I came home from school as the leaves turned brown, I wanted a cookie.  Yes, I was “that kid.”

The chocolate chip cookie dipped in milk is classic and (taking a hint from the many clothing advertisements cropping up this season…) classic never goes out of style. As such, I admit to having cookie brain lately…where at many moments during the day, I crave a cookie.  The presence or absence of a cookie wreaks havoc on emotions – just take a look at cookie monster ! Happiness and sadness hinge upon the presence of one, buttery morsel lying at the bottom of the jar.

Some kind of goodie clearly had to be made…so I landed upon a white chocolate chip pecan cookie. Soft and chewy with a little burst of spice from time to time, these treats are perfect for that 2pm lull when coffee calls and you seek an energy burst.  Or when you get home off the train and can’t yet imagine dinner. Even breakfast (if you throw caution to the wind !) justifies a nibble.

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Now, I’ll admit:  I like white chocolate BUT I use it to appease those who can’t sleep at night after having eaten “real” chocolate…as a result, I stirred in a handful of semi-sweet chips to the recipe at the end…as I don’t have any problem snoozing after cookie consumption.

Whether you suffer from cookie brain or not, this spin on the classic chocolate chip delight is sure to leave you (or your children) grinning.

Ingredients: 

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and smooth.  You can do this with an electric mixer or by hand.

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Add the white and brown sugar, whipping until lightened in color and almost pillowy.  Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition.  Don’t worry if your batter adopts a strange texture – this often happens if the eggs are not room temperature.  Their chilly, refrigerated state makes the butter cringe.  It is okay – adding the flour will make everyone get along. Toss in the two teaspoons of vanilla and give the mess a whirl.  Be sure to scrape down the sides from time to time – make sure all the butter is getting incorporated into the batter.

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In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  I enjoy the snickerdoodle-esque (quite the adjective) quality cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice bring to these cookies.  Makes me feel a little like Remy in Ratatouille.  It offsets the pecan nicely – very much a fall flavor.  If, however, you prefer the more standard flavor profile, you can skip them and no harm will come to the cookies.

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Slowly add the flour mixture in to the batter, being careful not to mix too quickly (or else flour will be everywhere in the kitchen – EVERYWHERE.  Like this). Once combined, stir in the pecans and the chocolate chips.  Taste.  Whatever anyone ever told you about not eating the batter is to be ignored.

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On a baking sheet (which you may or may not line with parchment paper – it’s up to you), drop the cookies by tablespoonful.  I like to shape them into rounds but it’s definitely not an exact science…they will spread out a bit so be sure to leave about an inch to two inches of space between each bit of dough.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes but be sure to use your nose: once you can smell the cookies, chances are good that they are done. I prefer soft bites but if you like crispy cookies, by all means cook them longer.

Once out of the oven, remove them from the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire rack…but remember – warm, just-out-of-the-oven cookies are the best, so you should probably eat one or two.  With some milk.  Just a “serving suggestion”. 🙂

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As for the rest, save them for snacking and relieving cookie brain symptoms !  Bon appétit !

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Well, it happened.  I’m a senior, wading through my final year of university, and joys of syllabus week are, alas, but wee specks in the my rearview mirror.  Homework, late nights, and crunchy leaves pretty much mean that I should be  putting “ma main à la pâte” in a figurative sense…however all I seem to do is literally put my hand to the dough and whip up the fall classic – chocolate chip cookies.

I think I learned how to cook making these cookies.  My mom would let me measure the chocolate chips.  Well, I don’t know if she let me, or if I just did it…because let’s face it, who doesn’t want to sample those delicious morsels of cacao bean delight ?  Also, a five-year-old can’t really mess up that part of the cookie making…unless she eats too many chips…whoops.

Once I’d mastered that, I could  pack down the brown sugar…add the white sugar…even (eventually) measuring out enough flour (“Liz, fill it to the top of the P” – we had Pyrex 2-cup measuring cups, and I suppose the top of the P was approximately 2 1/4 cups of flour…) for the recipe.  We had (and still have) this rickety metal stepladder on which I’d place the ingredients I’d measured…and then I’d (of course) climb on it to watch all the ingredients go swirling, whirling, twirling around in the MixMaster (Kitchenaid, for those those versed in proper kitchen vocab).  The best part came when I could sample the dough.

I don’t think anything tops cookie dough batter.  I always wanted to just nibble it raw…but mom would chide, “No Liz !  There are raw eggs in there !  You could get sick !”

She is probably right, but when I make it all on my lonesome, I’m not going to lie, I take a hearty nibble-nom-nom out of whatever “pâte” I’ve put my “main” in.

This recipe is a little bit different than your back-of-the-chocolate-chip-bag variation BUT I think it’s the secret to the perfectly balanced SUPERCOOKIE : add molasses.  It sounds surprising, however the molasses renders the cookie soft and “nuanced,” to borrow some wine-bottle diction.  Just trust me, expert choco-chip cookie master since the age of 5.  Get out of class, whip these up, and forget about your application woes while munching on this old-school afternoon snack.  🙂

Ingredients :

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt (only add if using unsalted butter)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter; softened
1 cup brown sugar; packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 bag (12 oz approx.) chocolate chips (you can feel this one out – if you want less, just add bit by bit)

Start by creaming the butter in a large mixing bowl.  If you have an electric mixer, go ahead and fire it up.  If not, get ready to whisk like it’s your job.  You want to make sure the butter is nice and uniform so that the sugar will mix in evenly.  Also, the softening of the butter allows more sugar/ingredients to “dissolve” into the fat, making for a smoother, creamier batter.  (“Liz, soften the butter” “Mom, how ?”  “In the microwave.”  “Mom, what if I melted some of it…”)

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Fun fact courtesy of the padre: if your butter didn’t get soft enough, wrap a warm towel around the mixing bowl.  This will help the butter to soften – it’s particularly effective with a metal mixing vessel.

When the butter is light and the whisk/beaters make pretty swirly shapes in the mixture, begin to add the brown sugar.  Beat until the mixture lightens in color.  Add the white sugar and the molasses, beating again until lightened in color.  It should look like very grainy buttercream frosting.  Scrape down the side with a spatula, and mix once again.  (“Mom, can I taste it?”  “Liz, it’s just sugar and butter !  You already know what that tastes like !”)

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Add the vanilla to the eggs, dropping them in one by one (“Liz, I never add the eggs one by one, it takes too long. I just throw them in there with the vanilla”) beating after each addition.  You can skip this step, as my mom always does, but I like to beat them in one by one – I get to personally make sure each one gets whipped into shape.

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In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon – stirring well to incorporate evenly.  Carefully add this to the butter mixture (“Liz, don’t add it so fast !  You’re going to make a mess !”), reducing the mixer speed or using a spatula to combine.  If you go too quickly, the flour will explode in your face and probably make you sneeze.  It’s not worth it.  Take your time AND as an added bonus, play this game :  How little flour/mess can you make in the kitchen ?  It’a really fun game – and worthwhile, too !  Why ?  Because it’s less to clean up later, silly !  Oh, I am brilliant at times.  🙂

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Finally, add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

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Mommmmm, can I taste it now ??”

Yes, yes yes yes.  Take a nice good sample of your cookie dough, for this is, arguably, the best part.

On a large cookie sheet, drop the batter by tablespoons full (“I never bother with spoons, I just sort of eyeball it and use my fingers”) and shape into balls.  I use a big spoon and my fingers and just try to make sure each cookies is approximately the same size.  I really wouldn’t fuss over the size of your balls (“…”) and just have fun plopping misshapen cookie blobs on the baking sheet.  Make sure they are spaced about 2 inches apart from each other, as these cookies like to spread out.

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Cook for about 12 minutes per sheet, or until a nice golden brown.  “Light and gooey and yummy and chewy,” as my sibling and I would chant. We take cookies seriously in this household….and this apt.

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Remove and let cool on a rack (if you can wait that long) or place directly on a plate and devour immediately !

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Happy munching, and bon appétit ! 🙂

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Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars

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We used to have a rhubarb plant growing in the garden and I remember eating a lot of strawberry rhubarb pies as a child.  Rhubarb is this funny looking little (well, large and leafy, actually) plant that greatly resembles celery…except it’s red and fairly bitter.  My mom LOVES it stewed with a little sugar and perhaps some brightly colored fruits we call strawberries.

[Side note: I feel like I talk about my mother a lot…it would seem that she greatly influences my cooking.  Pity she doesn’t read my blog.  Mom, hello ?  You there ?

I hear the crickets, too.  Oh well – I suppose she doesn’t need to read my blog because she gets the real deal…part of the benefits of living with your family.  They eat your treats (and you don’t feel awkward eating EVERYTHING)].

In any case, to continue my original train of thought, my mom loves rhubarb and therefore purchased a bunch from the farmstand a few days ago.  Today, upon leaving me alone in the house and looking at the rainy weather, said, “Liz, please do something about this rhubarb and these strawberries I got from TJs.  I have pie crust in the freezer if you don’t want to bother making some, but I really don’t want this rhubarb kicking around the kitchen anymore.”  Yes everyone, the rhubarb is now my problem and I have to “do something about it.”  Sigh.  Such a burden.

I knew she wanted a pie.  Or if she didn’t want it, she was thinking about it. Alas, I’m not a huge pie person…unless it’s a cream pie, a tart, or Eva’s Shoofly Pie, which I have yet to make but for which I purchased more molasses about a week ago.  What to do…what to do…

I know !  What about little squares ?  Like raspberry or lemon squares but with a strawberry rhubarb filling ?  I like this idea.  I like it a lot.  Upon making this epic decision, I set about creating this dessert.  For the crumb, I used the same recipe as the one found on my raspberry squares recipe with a few minor changes due to a lack of ingredients…

Just in time for June, strawberries, and the season of rhubarb, here’s a quick dessert that should convert rhubarb skeptics into believers.  [Hear that, mom ?]  🙂

Filling:
3 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces – I used about 5 medium stalks
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries, quartered (you can ALWAYS add more – I only had about 2 cups worth)
1/2 lemon, squeezed and zested
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp (tasting margin)
2 Tbsp cornstarch

Throw the rhubarb, strawberries, zest and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Rhubarb contains a fair amount of water (as do strawberries) so you don’t need to add any other liquid.

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Stir frequently to keep the fruit from sticking to the bottom. Cook until the fruit is tender – the strawberries will start to breakdown and the rhubarb should be intact but easy to puncture or pull apart.IMG_9832

In another bowl, combine the cornstarch and the sugar, mixing together to combine.  The cornstarch acts as a thickener so that your compote won’t run later when placed between the cookie layers.  The little starch molecules swell and expand when placed in contact with liquid, making a pasty consistency.  I used two healthy tablespoons, so if you increase your fruit amount, don’t be afraid to add more cornstarch.  Let it boil until quite thick.  Set aside to cool.

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Oatmeal crumble :

3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1-2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups oatmeal

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Take out a large rectangular pan – I’m not sure what the dimensions of mine were…but probably 9×13 as that’s standard.  You have two options – either serve theses bars like a crumble and just grease the pan – which is delicious – or line it with wax paper to allow for easy removal and cutting.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until nice and creamy.  If you are using a whisk – have at that lard !

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Add the sugar and cream again until the mixture begins to lighten in color.  NOTE:  I did not have 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar in my pantry.  I used about 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (all that I had) and then added abotu 1/4 cup of white sugar and a nice blob of molasses.  In total, the measuring cup contained about 1 1/4 cups worth of sweetness.  If you are in a pinch, mixing white sugar and molasses will essentially get you brown sugar, but I find the sweetness to be more concentrated so I just use less of the new combination.

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In a separate bowl, combine the flour and the baking soda.  I think a dash of some spice nice as well, perhaps a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves would be tasty.  Add the flour slowly (to avoid flour clouds !) and mix well.

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Add 2 cups of oatmeal to the mixture and stir.  My little mixer took on a rather grumpy tone adn refused to properly incorporate the oats, so I just mixed them by hand with a spatula and a spoon.  The batter should be fairly crumble but still like a cookie.  Press about 2/3 of batter into the bottom of the pan, working from the middle out.  Be sure to keep the layer an even thickness all the way out to the edges so the cook times aren’t wonky.  Top this mixture with the compote made earlier.  Again, spread evenly !  Use that spatula responsibly.

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Add the final cup of oats to the remaining batter and mix until very crumbly.  Sprinkle this overtop the pan and don’t be afraid to use your fingers.  Getting dirty in the kitchen…it happens.  All the time.  The upside ?  You get to nibble the dough.  Who doesn’t love oatmeal cookie dough ?  Win-win situation, if you ask me.

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Bake until the top is golden brown – as you can see in the photo below, the color doesn’t change much, so you have to watch this one in the oven.  I cooked mine for about 20 minutes.

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Let the bars cool before cutting, or else you’ll just end up with a big gooey mess.  I suggest serving them warm with ice cream, but they are just as fabulous on their own with a cup of tea.  Happy June and bon appétit !  🙂

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Homemade Oreo Thin Mints

I usually am not a fan of packaged cookies…why ?  BECAUSE they are easy (at hand, perfect for nibbling, pre-made, no stress, so simple…) and expensive (why, Nabisco, why ???) and full of unknown ingredients (preservatives ? Wax?  Wood shavings ?).  Mixing everything up by hand is just how I grew up (for the most part) and so boxed cookies are a “special event.”  Social Teas and Le Petit Ecolier excluded.

However…the other night, a friend of my family’s brought over these delicious little creations that are sort of like thin mints (those Girl Scout cookies that are über popular) and a peppermint patty.  It’s a thin wafer cookie – the bottom of an oreo – with a layer of mint cream on top that is subsequently smothered in chocolate.  On a hot night, these cookies are oddly refreshing…particularly when they come out of the freezer.

Somehow, I didn’t think my mother would be keen on buying Oreo’s latest creation, so I decided to make them myself.

Yep.  I’m making THIS :

It’s surprisingly simple HOWEVER BE WARNED : This recipe takes time.  Each individual component is easy to make, but the process of assembling the cookies themselves is rather involved.  If you have children who like helping in the kitchen (or a bunch of people who like rolling out dough and cutting it into shapes à la Christmas cookies…), then this is a great recipe.

I promise you…it’s worth it.  My sister says that these are the best cookies I’ve made to date in my life…given my love of baking, that’s a pretty regal compliment.

For the cookie:

8 oz butter
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt (optional)
1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream butter until light and fluffy.

Add the powdered sugar and beat again, keeping that fluffy texture.  Add the cocoa powder and watch out for cocoa clouds!

Stir in vanilla.  Add the flour; combine until the dough forms a ball.  Knead on countertop before putting it in plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to chill in the fridge for 1 hour (or in the freezer for 15 minutes).  Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface and cut into rounds.

Place on a baking sheet (the cookies won’t rise) and cook for about 10 minutes.

For the filling:

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/2 tbsp water
2 tsp peppermint extract
1 tbsp butter

Combine the 2 1/4 cups sugar, the corn syrup, water, extract, butter and salt and beat until combined. It will be quite malleable.

Dust work surface with remaining sugar and pour mixture overtop sugar.  Knead until smooth – it only takes a few turns.

Roll between two sheets of parchment paper until about 1/4 inch thick.

Freeze until firm – about 15 minutes.

For the coating:

10 oz semisweet chocolate
1 tbsp butter

Melt the chocolate and butter over the stovetop on LOW HEAT.

Assembly:

When the cookies have cooled, lay them on out a baking sheet covered with tin foil.  Remove the mint filling from the freezer and place on countertop (peel off parchment paper).

Using the same cutter as was used for the cookies, cut rounds of the mint filling and place them on top of the cookies

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If your kitchen is warm and the filling starts to get sticky, place in the freezer again before covering with the melted chocolate.

Store in the freezer and laugh in the face of Oreo !

Bon appétit !

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Peanut Butter Blossoms

My mom used to make peanut butter cookies on occasion when I was little.  Though I’m not a HUGE peanut butter person, there is something about biting into a moist cookie with the comfort of peanut butter that is quite satisfying.  I think it was my sister who started making these in my house and I have simply modified her recipe, which comes from the Hershey kitchen, to make the variation pictured above.  Rather than using chocolate kisses, I recommend “hugs” – it reminds me of the classic combo of milk and peanut butter.  It’s a very simple recipe but a word to the wise – it’s time consuming.  Don’t make these if you want a quick cookie.  The rolling and the unwrapping and the placing of the hugs can be a bit tedious (but it’s worth it !)

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INGREDIENTS

1 bag of Hersheys’s HUGS
1 1/4 cups peanut butter (I prefer the creamy/smooth variety but chunky/crunchy works just as well. Also, no need to buy “Reese’s peanut butter” as that’s just  over-sweetened goop.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar ( + 1/2 more for dusting)
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 flour (depending on the oiliness of the peanut butter…)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Beat the butter and the peanut butter together until creamy.  Add the sugar(s), white and brown, slowly.  Make sure to beat well after each addition – the dough should lighten in color and be quite fluffy.

Add the egg, milk, and vanilla, beating well.  Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and beat again to make sure that everything is well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

NOTE :  I often add spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, to this recipe.  However, I rarely measure.  I would guess that about a tsp of cinnamon and a 1/4 tsp of nutmeg find their way into my mixture.  If you wish to add these flavors, do so now and mix in with the flour.

Add the flour mixture to the batter, stirirng slowly as to prevent “flour clouds”.  This makes cleanup a pain and everyone knows how much I love to clean…grumble.  😉

Pour some granulated sugar into a small bowl.  Then, using a tablespoon, scoop out some of the dough.  Roll the dough between your two palms, making the dough into a ball.  Drop this into the bowl of sugar and coat. Then, place the rolled dough onto a baking sheet, making a small impression in the center with your thumb.

Cook for around 10 minutes – the cookies will puff slightly and turn a golden color when ready.  However, these are “better under than over” – meaning underdone – as if they are overcooked they will be dry.  Dry cookies are not happy cookies. Unless they are shortbread.  Or ginger snaps.

When cooked, remove from oven.  Place in the center of each cookie an unwrapped HUG, pressing down to firmly “mount” the chocolate.  It’s handy to have the hugs unwrapped prior to cooking…but I am never that organized so I unwrap them while the cookies are in the oven.

Make sure to sample one when warm – the chocolate will melt but still hold its shape (oh the bizarre would of Hershey’s waxy chocolate) – so while it might get messy, it’s usually a worry-free nibble.

Happy eating !

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