Posts tagged cookies

Do you really need it? Cast iron cookie pan

I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets. I couldn’t live without my mini-frother, my digital meat thermometer, or my muffin whisk (it’s a crazy contraption that looks more like a rug beater but ensures that “just moist batter consistency recipes call for). So when I saw a cast iron cookie pan for sale, I thought, Well I’ve gotta try that out. Did I mention I’m a sucker for sales too?

In my defense, my thought was to use it to make a creamy cheese dish that I’d had in an Italian restaurant. You need a small cast iron pan to do it and I figured this one would work–and it would also make perfectly crisped cookies (cue TV personality voice while you say that). But here’s what happened–I tried the cookie mix that came with the pan, I didn’t expect much with the flavor and I wasn’t disappointed. It tasted like cakey chocolate chip brownies, not anything like a good, chewy cookie. But hey, that’s a mix. With my cookie recipe, it would turn out beautifully, right? I mean, I love my regular-sized cast iron pan.

Well, despite coating the pan with plenty of baking spray, the cookie batter stuck to the pan. Worse, it cooked unevenly leaving the center of the cookie doughy and the outside burnt to a crisp. Sigh. The cast iron cookie pan was in the realm of TV infomercials, not essential gadetry, as I’d hoped. I even burned my hand on the pan when I thought it was cool and of course the pan was still plenty hot 10 minutes after coming out of the oven.

I thought about my gadget fixation while taking an online quiz on what kind of cleaning personality I have on Motherboard. Did my penchant for gizmos mean I’d be destined to be a micro-cleaner, obsessed with ridding my kitchen of spots? Or did I have a closet hoarder habit that manifests itself in the kitchen? Well, I fell squarely into the good-enougher, center-of-the-road category. As far as cleaning goes that means I’m not likely to dust until you can write your name in the specks and when it comes to filling up the dishwasher, I cram it. But what does it mean in the kitchen? I think I need to develop my own version and call it, What kind of meal maker are you?

Here’s my kitchen tweak:

When it comes to cooking are you…

A) A domestic diva! who whips up souffles no problem.

B) A good-enougher who’s willing to take a few shortcuts as long as dinner is still delicious (hello, canned tomatoes!)

C) A cable show candidate who throws in whatever ingredients are handy figuring it will either taste okay or land you a spot on America’s Worst Cooks.

I figure, I’m a good-enougher–with a healthy dose of creative cooking steam mixed in–what about you?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Why aren’t you using…almond extract?

I ran out of vanilla extract a few months ago. And I haven’t missed it.

Instead almond extract has become my go-to addition to cookies, cakes and all things sweet.

Pop the cap of the almond extract and you might be a little overwhelmed with the pungent scent that only hints of almond. But baked into goodies, the flavor mellows and deepens giving sweets an added boost of nuttiness.

Your turn–are you an almond extract fan? Are you ready to swap out your vanilla extract for something zingier?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Chewy whole wheat oatmeal cookies

After going over how to grind your own whole wheat last week, I wanted to pass along a few more recipes. Here’s another one: oatmeal cookies.

Sometimes oatmeal cookies can get dry, especially when you’re using whole wheat. The secret to chewiness here is letting the raisins get a soaking in the eggs before going into the batter.

This recipe was tweaked from the original which appeared in the 1978 Colorado Cache Cookbook put out by the Junior League of Denver.
Recipe

Ingredients:
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup raisins
*I use a combo of golden raisins, dried cranberries and regular raisins
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla)
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups oatmeal
¾ cup chopped walnuts or almonds

Directions:

  1. Lightly beat the eggs. Add the almond extract and the raisins. Let this mixture stand, covered, for one hour.
  2. In a large mixing bowl cream the sugars and butter together—whip until fluffy.
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine all of your dry ingredients except the oatmeal and nuts.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the whipped butter and combine well with the mixer.
  5. Stir in the raisin/egg combination with a wooden spoon.
    The oatmeal is the last ingredient to be stirred in. I use regular, whole oatmeal and toss 1 cup into the batter. With the other cup, I pulse it in the food processor to mince the oatmeal.  (I also add 1 Tablespoon or more of ground flax seed to the oatmeal for a health boost.)
    After your oatmeal is mixed well into the batter, add your chopped nuts.
  6. Place the dough into the refrigerator for at least an hour before baking.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The BEST whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

As promised, I’m passing along my favorite recipe for 100% whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. These cookies whip up quickly, but if you have the time, it’s fun to grind the wheat berries with your kids and then make the cookies. Of course, you can always get your whole wheat flour at the store. I’m thrilled that you can now find King Arthur flour everywhere. It used to be that you had to order it, now I can find it at my local grocers. Yeah.

A couple notes, these cookies are great warm, but I find they’re better on day #2–they get chewier. I’ve included this recipe from King Arthur below, with one omission–vanilla extract. Lately, I’ve been avoiding using it, or substituting almond extract for a little extra pizzazz. Here you don’t need it–the chocolate, honey and whole wheat offer plenty of flavor on their own.

Recipe

Ingredients

Prep time: 15 minutes

Servings: About 2 dozen

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons honey

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (opt.)

1/4 cup dried tart cherries (opt.)

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, cocoa powder or black onyx powder (opt.)

1/2 tablespoon ground flax

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, sugars, honey, espresso powder (if you’re using it), and salt. Once that’s combined, add in the egg, vinegar, baking soda and baking powder.
  2. Stir in the flour and then the chocolate chips.
  3. I always refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350.
  5. Lightly coat your cookie pan with baking spray.
  6. Make cookie balls in your hands that are about the same amount as a tablespoon.
  7. Bake the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes or just until lightly browned.
Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Bierberg Bakery’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pot

Until next year.

I couldn’t help but post a farewell to the ladies at Bierberg Bakery. Each year a group of ladies come together in a tiny shop tucked away in German Village, Columbus, Ohio, to make Christmas cookies. These are the same recipes that the owner, Helen Bierberg Walsh’s grandmother brought over from Germany in the early 1900s.

The bakery opens from October 20th to January 1st each year. They make traditional German sweets like lebkuchen, hernchen, stollen and other favorites by hand, spending their hours roasting hazelnuts or dipping confections in chocolate and chatting, sometimes in English, sometimes German.

You can click above to hear Johanna explain how she finishes off Wilhelm cookies by giving them a chocolate bath. Walsh’s father Gustav (who Johanna calls “Gus”) came up with the idea of using old cookie tins to make “the chocolate pot.” There’s a total of three cookie tins. One large, overturned tin makes the base and has a door cut out of it where he placed a single lamp light (pretty much a light bulb attached to a plug-in cord). Then, another tin was welded onto the base tin. Within the top tin, a smaller tin sits welded inside, perfectly insulated. The top tin holds the melted chocolate.

I’ll admit, I gushed over the innovative chocolate pot. I mean, there are articles, books, classes devoted to how to properly temper chocolate to give it a rich sheen while not overcooking it. Try buying a chocolate temper machine and you’re looking at prices topping $400. Yet Gus’s device–complete with a two-pronged fork–do even better (they don’t even need a thermometer to check the temperature). As I marveled aloud about the chocolate pot, I asked to no one in particular, “I wonder how he came up with this?”

Johanna immediately responded, “He was German.” That seemed to say it all.

Until next year…

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

3 Easy candy cane-inspired treats

Did you forget someone? If you’re like me you thought you had made a list of all the people to give treats to, intended to get it done the first week of December. Then, it didn’t happen. Second week of December, still didn’t happen. And now, it’s almost Christmas and you’re starting to think, maybe Valentine’s Day treats instead.

I like to look on the bright side: A little desperation feeds creativity (yup, bad pun intended).

Looking around the kitchen for ideas, first I considered what we had on hand–oodles of candy canes. My thought? Crush ‘em and use ‘em. Of course, my kids were all in favor of taking a mallet to the candy canes.

Here are three easy holiday treats to make in a hurry.

Brownies + peppermint = yum!

Fast: Candy cane brownie truffles

How to: Make your own or use store-bought brownies. Take a spoon to dole out 1-inch sized pieces. Mold the pieces into balls in your hands. Melt white candy coating or semi-sweet chocolate chips. Roll the brownie balls in the melted chocolate and then in crushed candy cane pieces. Place on a sheet of waxed paper to set. (These are a little easier if you refrigerate or freeze the brownie balls before dipping, but you don’t have to.)

Faster: Candy cane cookies

How to: I used Nilla wafers, but you could use pretty much any cookie. Oreos are a good match too. Follow the same procedure as above, dipping the cookie half way into the chocolate and then into the candy cane pieces.

Someone likes being the official taste tester.

Fastest: Chocolate-dipped candy canes

How to: Melt white candy coating or semi-sweet chocolate chips (you have that part down, right?). Dip one end of the candy cane into the chocolate and then into Christmas sprinkles. Place the candy canes on waxed paper to set.

This is just one of many yummy recipes you can find at Delectable Christmas Candies & Treats. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates. Click through for plenty of last-minute recipes, including this one for Date-Orange bars.

How about you–are you still busy making holiday sweets to give away?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Coconut Snowman Cookies–in 3D!

Snowmen cookies

Three different snowman frosting styles

Sure, you could make flat, sugar cookie snowmen, but why not enlist your kids in sculpting some three-dimensional ones? That’s what I did with this coconut snowball recipe. I let my kids roll the dough into 3 sizes of balls figuring we’d make a whole family of snow people.

Once the cookies had cooled slightly, we added a quick powdered sugar glaze and then more coconut. After the glaze had set, we added mini-chocolate chips for eyes and cut up fruit leathers for the “carrot” noses and scarves. Melted white chocolate made for perfect snowman glue.

I would love to claim this idea as my own, but really my kids insisted on doing something fun with the recipe. Seeing as in the last week we’ve had nonstop snow and 2–yes 2!–school snow days, I guess I’m not surprised. Plus the temperature is still so chilly that we can’t play outside. No wonder then that my kids were driven to make snowmen inside!

I wanted to try a few different ways to frost the snowmen–my older kids were patient enough to use the original recipe technique above, but younger kids might not be. 

So here are 3 frosting techniques I used, along with some notes.

Powdered sugar coated snowman

Frosting #1 Powdered Sugar

Good: Simple. You just roll the cookie balls in powdered sugar while they’re still warm.

Bad: This makes sticking on the mini-chocolate chip eyes much tougher.

Frosting #2 Powdered sugar glaze

Powdered sugar glaze snowman

Good: Add 2-4 teaspoons of milk to a cup of powdered sugar and stir. Place the cookie balls onto a wire tray with a cookie pan underneath. Pour the glaze over each ball. This is the LEAST messy technique.

Bad: The white chocolate glue is the most visible with this glaze. (Kids don’t seem to mind though.)

Glaze + coconut

Glaze + coconut snowman

Frosting #3 Glaze + ground coconut

Good: After you’ve glazed the snowman balls–and before the frosting sets–roll each one in coconut that has been pulsed in a food processor so that it’s nearly ground. This frosting turned out the prettiest snowmen and it masked any little errors (like too much white chocolate glue).

Bad: Messy. This is the recipe recommended version and these snowmen were the best of the batch. But you need to have patience to put these together.

*A batch of cookies will make for 5, 3-layered snowmen and 1 snow snake;)

This is just one of many cookie recipes you can find at Our Most Gorgeous Holiday Cookies Ever. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates. (If I have time this week, I really want to make the chocolate pinwheel cookie recipe. We’ll see:)

Are you making cookies for the holidays? What are some of your favorites?


Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

3 Fancy cookies. 10 minutes. No kidding!

Pie crust windmillsSome delectable cookies take days to make. And I love every minute of it. But when you’re crafting your cookies with kids there’s just no way to hold their interest through multiple steps of mixing, rolling, filling, dipping (well at least around my house, the last time I tried the cookies ended up paper thin thanks to my 7-year-old’s hearty rolling skills).

Still, I like making cookies with my bakers-in-training. I stumbled on a solution by accident (thank you coupon circular!). Pie crusts. Unlike pre-made sugar cookie dough that can spread and leave carefully constructed raspberry cookie volcanoes deflated, pie crusts withstand little fingers’ various designs. Added bonus: The dough comes rolled for you!

Here are just three ideas to make fancy cookies with pie crusts. And yes, you can make these in the time it takes your oven to heat up to 375 degrees (okay, maybe mine is slower than most).

Ingredients to have on hand

Pre-packaged pie crusts

Jam, I used apricot and raspberry

powdered sugar

sliced apples

cinnamon and sugar


Ready to make cookies?

•The Windmill

(Pictured above.) I drummed up the idea for this one from my 9-year-old’s origami book. Start by cutting a 1 1/2 to 2″ square with the pie dough. You make four slits almost to middle, starting from the corner working toward the center. Slather about one teaspoon jam (any flavor), starting from the middle working out. Fold one corner toward the inside and repeat with each corner tip. (I found a helpful tutorial with paper). Press the tips in the center and top with a chocolate chip, dried cherry or whatever else you have on hand. Bake for about 10 minutes or until just browned.

Apricot kolaches•Kolaches

Sure, these aren’t authentic, but I can make 3 dozen of them in under 20 minutes (not including baking time:) and they taste almost as good as the real thing. For the kolaches, use a pizza cutter to make 1-inch strips in the pie dough. Cut again, to make 1-inch pieces. Add about a half teaspoon of jam to the center of the square and fold two corners toward the middle and leave the other two open. You can brush the folded sides with egg yolk and then sprinkle with raw sugar. Or, after you’ve baked the cookies, give ‘em a dip in some powdered sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes.


Mini turnovers•Mini Apple Turnovers

My 7-year-old had so much fun with these! With a 1 1/2″ biscuit cutter (you could also use a drinking glass) I had her make circles in the dough. A 9-inch pie crust will make about 10 circles. I had a bowl of thin-cut apple slices on hand that I’d squeezed with a bit of lemon. On one half of the circle, she placed a piece of apple (she cut them to fit using a kitchen knife). Then she folded the dough over the apple and sealed the two ends together (you might want to use a little water to make the seal stick). Then she dipped the turnover in melted butter and then her favorite, cinnamon and sugar. Alternatively, you can brush the dough with egg yolk and then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Or go without dipping altogether!

We’re still inventing ways to make cookies out of pie crusts–it’s a lot of fun. Looking for more ideas? Check out these Creative Holiday Cookies. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

And congrats to the winner of the King Arthur $60 gift certificate. Happy baking to Darcy B!

Your turn–what cookies are you making this holiday season?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Viennese Cookies–Ischl Tartlets

Ischl tartletsButter and nuts. Hazelnuts. Flipping through recipes for Viennese cookies, I’m always surprised to see a short list of ingredients and a lengthy description of how to put the sweets together. These are no drop cookies–these take time, but they’re not hard to make. And the results–a filled, glazed cookie with nuts, cinnamon, and raspberry taste are decadent. (Yeah, these scream cookie exchange!)

I recall my mom giving me Rick Rodgers Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague almost apologetically one Christmas. She explained that she bought it more for the pictures than the recipes. I’d spent a semester in college living in Vienna and she knew that around the holidays I craved their holiday cookies. I wish we had something in the US similar to the Christkindl Markets that they have throughout Austria come December. Around certain streets, vendors just seem to pop up with food, crafts and trinkets (yes, there are chestnuts roasting on an open fire). But since we don’t, here’s a recipe to help you taste a little bit of Europe right from your own kitchen.

Thanks to Vera Marie Badertscher, of A Traveler’s Library who invited me to do a guest post about Daniel Silva’s A Death in Vienna. After writing up the review, I just had to head into the kitchen to make something.

Recipe

Ischl Tartlets

Ingredients

Yield: 30 1½-inch sandwich cookies

Cookie dough

1 cup flour

2/3 cup almond slivers (*note: if I could find hazelnuts for a decent price, I would use them, but since I can’t almonds are the perfect substitute)

¼ teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons butter (NOT margarine), at room temperature

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

¼ teaspoon nutmeg and/or cinnamon (optional)

Filling

1 cup raspberry preserves

Glaze

(For dipping, if you want the cookies completely coated in chocolate double this recipe)

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 Tablespoons water

1 Tablespoon heavy cream

2 Tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

  1. For the cookie dough, in a food processor place the almond slivers, flour, cinnamon, salt and zest (if using). Blend until the almonds almost become powdery.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar together until smooth.
  3. Using a wooden spoon or stiff spatula, combine the flours into the butter. Do not over mix. (The dough will be stiff and may have some crumbles.)
  4. Divide the dough in half and place each portion into waxed paper and then a large plastic bag and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.
  5. On a floured work surface, roll half of one of the dough balls out to 1/8”. Try to keep the dough as cold as possible.
  6. Using a 11/2” round cutter or a Linzer cookie cutter, stamp out the cookie shapes.
  7. Line a baking pan with parchment and place the dough cookies on it. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the cookies 7 to 10 minutes or until just BARELY browned. The cookies will burn easily, so keep your eyes on them.
  9. Cool slightly before removing from the pan. Cool entirely before adding filling and glaze.
  10. For the filling—Using a kitchen knife add ½ to 1 teaspoon preserves on the bottom part of the cookie, place another cookie on top, bottom end facing the filling so that the nicer outside part shows on both sides. Repeat with the remaining cookies (and eat any cookies that don’t have a matchJ
  11. For the glaze—In a large, glass measuring cup or bowl, slowly heat up all the ingredients. I usually set the microwave for half power and cook at one-minute intervals or until the chocolate just begins to soften. Whisk until smooth.
  12. Dip the cookies one-half into the chocolate and then place on waxed paper or parchment. Alternatively, place the entire cookie in the chocolate glaze to coat. (It helps if you refrigerate the cookies before dipping.)
  13. Allow the chocolate to set on the waxed paper (you can speed up this process by placing them in the refrigerator).
  14. Top with chopped pecans. These cookies should keep well for 3 to 5 days.

*This recipe is a tweaked version of Rodgers.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Pumpkin Cookies from Just Baked’s Pam Turkin

pumpkin cookies

Photo credit: Pam Turkin

From cupcake queen Pam Turkin, the mind behind Just Baked, comes this recipe for pumpkin cookies.

Ingredients

4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (saigon is my favorite)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups butter
1 can (15 oz.) 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup Mini Marshmallows

Directions

  1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
    COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pie spice in medium bowl. Beat soften butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin, eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat until blended. Gradually add flour mixture into pumpkin mixture at low speed until combined. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
  2. BAKE for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Spread each cookie with frosting.

Frosting ingredients

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup Milk

1/2 tsp Vanilla

dash cinnamon

Directions

Add Milk and vanilla to powered sugur until thin enough to drizzle.  Once cookies have cooled drizzle over cookies to taste and enjoy!!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)