Archive for July, 2009

July 30, 2009

Totally twisted sugar cookies

As I was planning out a couple of things to bake to send with my parents on vacation, I decided I wanted to switch things up a little bit from just plain old cookies or bars.  I also thought I would take a step away from the gazillion recipes I have book marked online, and head over to our shelf that is brimming with various cookbooks and loose recipes.  I found this old magazine-type recipe book called 110 More Cookie Recipes by Betty Crocker.  It’s the kind of thing you might get free with a purchase, or for a few bucks in the checkout aisle.  But when I was a kid we would sometimes bake different things from these little books (we have one for cakes too), so I flipped through and found these cute little pretzel cookies.

These cookies were very very cute, and fun to make.  They were adequate, taste-wise. Nothing special, but tasty enough.  The original recipe called for the plain cookie base rolled in sugar, but I decided to make half with a chocolate dough rolled in sugar and half with the plain sugar cookie base rolled in cinnamon sugar. They did puff up a little more than I expected, so if I made them again I would use thinner pieces of dough to make each pretzel.

Pretzel Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s 101 More Cookie Recipes

1 cup sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract (I didn’t have any on hand, so I just added a little extra vanilla)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8-1/4 cup cocoa powder (optional)
Sugar or cinnamon sugar for rolling

Mix 1 cup sugar, the margarine/butter, milk, egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. If you want to make chocolate cookies, add 1/4 cup cocoa to dough (or 1/8 cup for half the batch). Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (This step is important as the dough was wayyy to sticky to work with after mixing).

Heat oven to 375. Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Divide 1 part into 12 equal pieces (keep remainind dough refrigerated). Sprinkle surface with sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Roll each piece of dough on sugared surface into pencil like strip, about 10 inches long. Twist into pretzel shape on ungreased cookie sheet (I recommend placing it directly on the sheet – they are hard to move once they are in pretzel shape.) Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until delicate golden brown, 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

July 27, 2009

Chocolate Toffee goodness

This is the second time I have made these amazing bars from Prudence Pennywise, but the first time they got eaten so fast I didn’t have time to take pictures.  I don’t even know what to say about these bars except I think I could eat an entire batch in one sitting with a tall glass of cold milk.  A buttery shortbread base filled with chocolate chunks and caramel chips, coated with melty, gooey milk chocolate topped with sugary, crunchy toffee bits.  Yeah. SO good.

Also, these bars are so fast to whip up. So fast its dangerous. One bowl, easy ingredient list… I only made a few changes to the recipe, using more Hershey’s bars and adding in some caramel/chocolate swirl chips. I also doubled the recipe to fill a 9×13 pan. I think it would be fun to play around with various chips and toppings using the cookie base, which is very thin, but very buttery and the brown sugar flavor is prominent.

Toffee Chocolate Shortbread Bars
Adapted from Prudence Pennywise
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup all purpose flour
4 regular sized Hershey bars, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup of caramel/chocolate swirl chips (I didn’t measure exactly… just eyeballed it.)
Toffee bits (I used Heath bar bits)
Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9×13 inch pan or line with greased foil. In a medium bowl, combine butter and sugars until creamy. Add in salt and flour; blend well and add half of chopped Hershey bars and all of the chips. Press into prepared pan. Bake for about 20-23 minutes, or until golden brown at edges and bubbly in center. Let cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle remaining Hershey bar chunks over warm bars. Spread with knife until bars are evenly coated, then sprinkle with toffee bits.
July 22, 2009

Chocolate cookie bliss

Okay so I know I was pretty psyched about the vegan chocolate cookies I made a few weeks ago.  But these, these are just amazing.  I had one still warm out of the oven, and it had just the right amount of slightly-hardened exterior filled with an amazingly moist chewy chocolate-y cookie.  Choc-full of white chocolate/milk-chocolate swirl chips, it was all I could do to pack these away to send with my parents to take on vacation and not hide them all to devour myself.  The only changes I made to the recipe was to use use the white chocolate swirl chips instead of peanut butter chips, and to use low-fat vanilla yogurt instead of fat-free plain.

What else to say?  Make these.  Eat these. Love these.

Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Swirl Chips
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup of white chocolate/chocolate swirl chips 

Preheat oven to 350ºF.


Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sift together flour, soda, and salt; set aside. 

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars (mixture will resemble coarse sand). Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist. Stir in chips. Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets (I didn’t grease mine).



Bake for 10 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.


This post is part of Culinary Smackdown Battle – Cookies

July 16, 2009

Sunflower Cupcakes :)

(Thanks Manuel for this great pic!)

These cupcakes just make me smile.  They are so cheery and summery and they were pretty fun to make, despite being quite an adventure with a lot of obstacles…

I got the Hello, Cupcake book about 6 months ago, and had previously only made a few of the cupcakes. I flip through it every once in a while, but I feel like I need a special occasion to make such fancy cupcakes.  Finally, I found out we were having a work party and I immediately jumped on the chance to make something exciting.

I was planning on using regular old Duncan Hines cake mix and Betty Crocker frosting because a) I knew it would be enough work decorating and b) I have yet to find a yellow cake recipe or frosting recipe that beat the store-bought.  Yeah… I know. I can’t help it, I love me some chemical filled, food-colored, quick and dirty desserts.

However, I didn’t have any cake mix around the day I was making the cupcakes (a day before decorating), so I decided to try out this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  But then I didn’t have any cake flour or buttermilk, so I used all-purpose and half milk, half yogurt. THEN I filled the cupcake tins way too full (I always get over excited with dreams of big fluffy cupcakes).  This resulted in cupcakes that burned on the edges and undercooked in the center.  I salvaged most of them, but had to through away about 6.

When it came time to decorate, I found that it was way too hard to use canned frosting to do the petals.  The frosting was way too gooey and the petals looked awful.  I made a run to the store and got two tubes of that good ole Cake Mate decorating frosting and it worked like a charm. ALSO these cupcakes are supposed to have leaves made out of fruit roll-ups, but the box I bought contained zero green ones… so I had to skip that. The flowers are just made with regular and mini oreos, and the lady bugs are red M&Ms with black frosting piped on.

These cupcakes were a big hit and definitely worth the effort, despite all the little hurdles I had to cross. I didn’t love the actual cake – which may be the recipe or may be my substitutions/mixing skills. Someone said it tasted like cornbread… hmm.   It was definitely tasty, but I will have to continue my search to find a homemade rival to Mr. Hines…. If you want to try it for yourself, head on over to Smitten Kitchen.

July 13, 2009

Chewy, wait no, Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this picture of some majorly thick, chewy-looking chocolate chip cookies from My Baking Adventures and they were immediately requested.  After reading through the post, I saw the note that these cookies became very crispy after cooling, but I decided to give them a try anyways, and made sure to have the dough ready to bake right up so we could eat them warm after lunch!

I made the cookies very thick and big to try to increase the chewy factor.  The dough seemed very crumbly after mixing and chilling… but they were delicious straight out of the oven.  They did in fact become quite hard after cooling but they were still yummy.

I didn’t really have any regular chocolate chips (which is weird because I usually buy way too many and have like 5 bags in the pantry…) so I improvised a bit.  For half the batch I used the few semi-sweet chips I had, some mini chips, and a chopped up Hershey’s bar.  For the other half I used M&Ms.  I preferred the chip-filled cookies. Also since I made my cookies so big, I only got about 18 cookies from the recipe.

(As you can see some of these look a little overly browned… my second batch stayed in the oven just a little too long – they became extra crispy!  Be sure to watch these babies and pull them out when still gooey)

Campanile Restaurant Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel via My Baking Adventures

8 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used  random chocolate bits in half and M&Ms in the other half)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted these)

Chill chocolate in refrigerator 2 to 3 hours.

Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder into a bowl and mix well.

Using paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat unsalted butter in a mixing bowl at medium speed 3 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add granulated and brown sugar. Beat until blended.

Whisk egg and vanilla in a bowl until blended. Add egg mixture to creamed mixture and beat until blended, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 of flour mixture and beat until blended. Add remaining flour mixture and beat just until combined. Beat in walnuts and chocolate. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, 2 hours or until firm.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and arrange ball 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Press each ball lightly with palm of your hand.

Bake in preheated 325 degree F oven 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies have risen and cracked (mine cookes about 20 minutes at least since they were so big); do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies. (Or 1.5 dozen for really big cookies!)