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Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

It’s that time of year again – cookie baking time!  I love baking cookies, but due to my sweet tooth and ever-expanding derrière, I try to keep cookie baking to a minimum.  The holidays, however, mean that I get to bake for other people!  Perfect!  This year, I made cookies for Adam’s co-workers, and friends of ours.

I titled this post as “Holiday Cookies”, because I actually baked 2 types of cookies that are Christmas-y (Peanut Butter Blossoms and Cranberry Bliss Bars) and 2 that are more Hanukkah-like (Coconut Macaroons and Hamantaschen).  The coconut macaroons did not go as planned, and are not featured in the photo.  This is the first time that Ina Garten has failed me.  She recommended a cooking time that was way too long, and an oven that was way too hot.  I burned them – burnt sugar bottoms and crispy coconut – not completely charred, but I did not want to give them away as gifts.

I started off with the Peanut Butter Blossoms.  They are one of my favorites, and I make them every year.  I love the crisp sugary outside and the chewy center paired with the added bonus of the Hershey’s chocolate kiss!  Chocolate and peanut butter are a blissful match & a crowd pleaser!

Next up, the Cranberry Bliss Bars, which I found on this website.  They were inspired by the Cranberry Bars served at Starbucks during the Holiday season.  These bars are sinful!  There are white chocolate chunks and cranberries mixed into the batter, cream cheese frosting, and a drizzle of chocolate on top (I used semi-sweet instead of white chocolate).  Truly decadent!  I am definitely going to keep a few pieces for just Adam and I!

Last but not least, Hamantaschen.  Adam’s favorite “Christmas cookie”.  Hamantaschen cookies are traditionally served during the Jewish celebration of Purim.  We do not typically celebrate Purim, but feel that Hamantaschen should be enjoyed throughout the year!  Hamantaschen are buttery cookies filled with fruit or sometimes even a poppy seed mixture.  Adam and I prefer apricot Hamantaschen.  I made a few huge ones, and a bunch of smaller cookies.

Cranberry Bliss Bars
recipe adapted from A Year in the Kitchen
Printable Recipe

Cake:
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks

Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Drizzle:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, or white chocolate
1 tbsp. half & half or heavy cream
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt; beat well.  Gradually mix in flour until smooth.  Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter with spatula.  Pour batter into a well-greased 9×13-inch baking pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges.  Let cool.

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.  When the cake has cooled, spread frosting over the top of cake.  Sprinkle cranberries over top.  In a double boiler, or in a bowl resting on a pot of simmering water (not touching the water), add chocolate and half & half for the drizzle, melt whisking continually.  Drizzle over the top layer using a fork, chill for 4 hours.  Slice into triangles, makes 16-20 triangles.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
Printable Recipe

1 bag Hershey’s Kisses
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for rolling
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons half & half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove wrappers from chocolates – start with half the bag.  Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.  Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Wait 1 minute, and then press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges.  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Hamantaschen
adapted from Mele Cotte
Printable Recipe

½ cup shortening
½ cup unsalted butter or unsalted margarine
l ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
(scant) 4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
Egg Wash of whole egg & milk or cream
Apricot filling (or fruit filling of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

Cream the shortening and sugar.  Add eggs and blend until smooth.  Stir in milk and vanilla, then in flour mixture until a firm (but soft) dough forms. Form into a smooth disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Roll out dough on lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/8th inch.  Cut dough into 3-inch rounds.  Fill with a heaping teaspoon of filling, and fold three sides towards into center, pinch sides together.  Brush pastries with egg wash.  Bake 18 minutes, or until golden brown. (Makes 48-60 cookies, depending on size)

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I have a slightly unhealthy relationship with chocolate chip cookies.  I LOVE them.  The chewy cookie paired with gooey chocolate morsels, yum!  Chocolate chip cookies have the power to brighten any gloomy day, turn enemies into friends, and they finish off a nice dinner with just the right amount of sweet.  My love affair with chocolate chip cookies began when I was young, but it really blossomed in college.

I had a very unique college experience – I attended a women’s college in Upstate New York.  There were only 400 women at the school, total.  Yep, a very small school, in the middle of nowhere, all women, and chock-full of traditions.  One of the traditions was Tea Time.  Tea Time was held in the middle of afternoon seminars.  The dining hall staff would bring tea, coffee, and cookies to the Main Hall for us to enjoy with our professors.  My favorite were the chocolate chip cookies they made from scratch.  If our professors let us out a little late for the break, we would miss-out on the chocolate chip cookies.  This was incredibly disappointing.

I have made many different types of chocolate chip cookies over the years – ones with nuts, milk chocolate chips, chocolate chocolate chip, white chocolate chips, even peppermint chocolate chips.  I enjoy making them, just so that I can eat some of the cookie dough – cook’s reward, right?  I usually just make them based on the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package.  Yesterday,  however, I strayed from my usual routine.

I thought it would be a great opportunity to turn up the volume on chocolate chip cookies!  There is definitely a chill in the air, and when it gets colder, I start craving spicy foods.  I was thinking about the Mexican Hot Chocolate I had at a chocolate house in Santa Fe, NM.  Chocolate melted with cream and spices – cinnamon, chili powder, vanilla – what a great idea!  I found a recipe that did not disappoint.  This is definitely a chocolate chip cookie for adults – sophisticated and spicy.

Caution: I would recommend not giving your children the beaters to lick, the cayenne pepper will likely “light up their lives” and burn their tongues.

Spicy Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Diet Recipe Blog)
Printable Recipe

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla; beat until smooth and light.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.  Gradually mix into wet ingredients. Beat until they are combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips until combined.  Scoop cookies into 2-inch balls and place them on cookie sheets.  Bake for about 12 minutes (until lightly golden).  Let the cookies cool slightly for a few minutes, then remove from them from the cookie sheets and transfer to a wire rack until they cool completely.

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Unlike in years past, we did not carve a pumpkin this year for Halloween.  We do not have our own porch to display a carved creation, and someone would surely trip if we tried to keep it on our building’s stoop. I could see a lawsuit coming a mile away.  So, no pumpkin carving party, no roasted pumpkin seeds, no “pie pumpkins” to roast and mash.  I was feeling like I missed out a little bit, and when I saw that can of Libby’s pumpkin purée at the grocery store, I just knew I had to pick it up.  I didn’t intend to make pumpkin items all weekend – it just sort of happened that way.

The first thing that came to mind, when I was dreaming up what to do with the 15 ounces of pumpkin purée, was cookies!  Adam would surely love some iced pumpkin cookies after a long work week.  The cookies actually turned out to be more muffin-like than cookie-like.  They were basically muffin tops without the stumps (remember that Seinfeld episode?).  They were fluffy and the spices were just perfect.  The icing was so tasty, and satisfied my sweet tooth.

On Saturday evening, we went to dinner with some good friends in Manhattan’s East Village at Cucina di Pesce.  I had the pumpkin ravioli.  There were 6 plump pasta pillows on the plate and they were smothered in a creamy pesto sauce.  The contrast of the sweet, velvety pumpkin filling and the rich pesto was divine!  I gobbled it up too quickly to take a picture!  I can’t wait to go back!

On Sunday, I wanted to make Adam something yummy before he left town for a business trip.  I decided to make some pumpkin and cranberry scones.  They didn’t turn out like I had hoped, but they were still pretty tasty.  I think if I were to try my hand at these again, I’d use this recipe instead and add fresh cranberries.  Adam enjoyed the tartness of the unexpected bits of cranberry.

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Finally, this morning I made a bowl of steamy pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast.  This one, I created myself.  I had to keep adjusting the amounts of spices, sugar and pumpkin, but in the end it was delicious!

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Mmm…pumpkin.  I’m only going to post the recipes to the cookies and the oatmeal, and not for the scones because I got the recipe from a blogger that I do not follow regularly.  She had what sounded like a good recipe, but it did not turn out as I had hoped, and I thought it would be in bad taste to “out” her recipe.  You win some.  You lose some…

Iced Pumpkin Cookies (allrecipes.com)
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.  In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.

To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

Pumpkin Oatmeal by Anne
Printable Recipe

1 serving oatmeal prepared according to package directions (steel-cut or quick-cooking rolled oats)
milk, or half & half, as needed
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
sugar, brown sugar, and salt as needed

Prepare oatmeal to package specifications adding a pinch of salt.  Stir in pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar.  Taste and adjust sugar, brown sugar and spices as necessary. Heat through, and serve with a sprinkle of brown sugar.

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Oh, Italy…

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A friend on Facebook recently sent me a link to a place in Italy we frequented, and that got me thinking about my time in Italy…

10 1/2 years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend a semester “studying” abroad in Florence, Italy.  I say “studying” because I was supposed to be studying, but really, I just wanted to experience the culture, food, and art.  My “studies” were definitely on the back burner, and fun was the name of the game!  I visited amazing small towns, large cities; I went to museums and saw famous works of art; and I ate (boy did I eat) the varying cuisines of Northern and Central Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain.  It was incredible & I brought home the extra pounds to prove it!

The two classes that I did care about, and did actually study for, were my Italian language class and a cooking class, titled Food of Italy.  My cooking class was taught by a very Italian man, and during each class we cooked meals from the different regions of Italy; risotto from Veneto, amatriciana from Lazio, pappa al pomadoro from Val D’Aosta, etc.  At the end of each class we were able to enjoy what we had created.  Yes, we got to eat!  I remember for one class we made a traditional biscotti with almonds.

The word biscotti, is derived from the Latin word, biscoctus, which means “twice-cooked/baked”.  The biscuits or cookies, are baked twice in the oven, so they could be stored for long periods of time, which was particularly useful during journeys and wars (Wikipedia).  Italians usually eat their biscotti with a sweet dessert wine, or a cappuccino.

It was so bizarre to me to make a cookie that was rock hard, but when dipped in coffee or a cappuccino, it was spectacular!  I tried to recreate these biscotti shortly after I arrived back in the US, but fell short in my execution.  They were terrible.  I haven’t attempted biscotti since then, until now…

Adam has been traveling for work these past 5 days, and I am excited to welcome him home.  I thought it would nice to make him, and his co-worker a little snack for when their flight arrives at midnight.  Since I have become more confident in the kitchen, I have decided to try my hand at making biscotti again.  And who better to learn from than an Italian American, Giada De Laurentiis.  I have enlisted Giada’s help and I am attempting her Almond and Lemon Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate.  I decided to use semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of white chocolate because I love semi-sweet chocolate.  I also did not use the entire 18 ounces of chocolate that the recipe calls for – I used 12 oz which is the normal package size at the store, and found that if you pour the melted chocolate into a mug, it is easier to dip the biscotti.   I also added the juice of half of a lemon (had to add a bit of flour to account for the extra liquid) because I felt the lemon flavor was a little too mild.  The lemons didn’t seem to yield the 3 tablespoons of zest like the recipe says.  Additionally, if I were to make these again, I would reduce both cooking times by a good 5 or 10 minutes.  They seemed to brown-up quickly.

These Italian cookies should definitely be paired with a nice glass of milk or coffee – they are great on their own, but like the traditional biscotti, they are crunchy.  I am excited for Adam’s arrival!  I hope he likes the biscotti!

Almond and Lemon Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate (Giada De Laurenttis http://www.foodnetwork.com)

cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped whole almonds
18 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixture until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest and then the flour, and beat until just blended. (The dough will be sticky). Stir in the almonds. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough evenly into 2 equal mounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. With moist hands, space the dough evenly apart and form into 2 (9 by-3-inch) logs. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip the end of each biscotti in the chocolate. Transfer the dipped biscotti to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet, until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container.

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Mmmm…Molasses

Yep, that’s right, molasses cookies!  Molasses scream Fall to me.  I’m not a huge fan of the rock-hard molasses cookies that almost chip your teeth when you eat them.  I like the soft and chewy cookies with a giant glass of milk.  Yum!  For some reason, molasses are always sold in giant jars and there is always a bunch leftover.  As was the case a few weeks ago when I made a spice cake that called for molasses.  I had a giant jar of molasses leftover.  So, what was a girl to do?  I just had to make cookies!  And who did I get my recipe from, non other than Martha Stewart!  I love her!  I also love her recipe for Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies.  OH, and the reaction I got from Adam was a huge smile, words of enjoyment, and a request for more milk.

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Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies from Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a shallow bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining cup of sugar until combined. Beat in egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until a dough forms.

Pinch off and roll dough into balls, each equal to 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat.

Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Defintely follow the 3 inch rule – they expand and flatten & could mush together with it’s neighbor!  Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked two sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days.

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