Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

After we tried these cookies, Dave and I decided we needed a new name (the original name is Magic in the Middle).  While I like the name, I wanted something that conveyed exactly what you're getting into with this cookie.  It's not terribly creative and I'm open to other suggestions. We wanted something akin to Peanut Butter Bombs, but alas our creative juices were halted by the mind-numbing deliciousness of this cookie.  Seriously they are that good. The chocolate cookie is soft and rich and the peanut butter is just enough to cut through and give you the ever-satisfying combination of peanut butter and chocolate. These are an 8-ounce glass of milk kind of cookie.  I love how they spread and get a cakey like texture.  Mine cracked a little--I think my dough was starting to dry out, so work quickly or pop the dough in the fridge.

A King Arthur Flour recipe, I loved taking the opportunity to use the double Dutch process cocoa I picked up while I was there.  It's a very rich cookie, so I'm glad to have tried the cocoa with another flavor, peanut butter, to give some balance in flavor.  Since my dough was a little crumbly, I did add a little milk to bring it together--1Tablespoon was enough, but you could add up to 2 if necessary.  I measured out my peanut butter filling by teaspoons and ended up with 40 portions instead of the recipe's 26.  Then when I used a level small cookie scoop to portion out the chocolate dough, I ended up being able to get 36 cookies.  I guess my instruments were little smaller than the original baker's, but I would recommend making all your peanut butter balls first so that you can get as close to even as possible.  Another tip from King Arthur Flour: if you want to double this recipe, go ahead, but add an extra egg to the dough for better results.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cinnamon Spiced Almonds

My father-in-law loves almonds.  He also loves to shop Costco.  One day, several months ago, he was wandering around Costco and spied a deal on almonds. So the bargain deal made its way into the cart and that was that. Pleased with his purchase, when he got home he dug into his bag of almonds.  And then proceeded to tell my mother-in-law that the giant bag of almonds he got such a deal on tasted terrible.  When my mother-in-law looked at the bag, she asked him where in the store he found them.  Apparently the deal was in the baking aisle.  That's when my mother-in-law explained that they were raw almonds, not the roasted ones he was used to finding in the snack aisle.  And then she packed them into a zip top bag and held them for me when I stopped by a few days later, figuring that I could use them in baking.  Since then, the almonds have had a home in my freezer, and while I've used a few now and then, I really hoped to find a way to use them up in one sweet treat.  After seeing candied almonds in a local store for the holidays, my wheels started turning.  These are excellent, slightly sweet with a little cinnamon and spice to balance the nuttiness of the toasted almonds.  And so super easy to make.  You'll wonder why you've never done it before.

This recipe came from Sarah and Dulcie at Two Tarts and I really liked how they used a few different spices to create a seasonal sweet flavor to pair with the almonds.  Alternatively, you could include a variety of nuts such as almonds, walnuts or pecans to make a nice selection of flavors.  Packaged up in little bags, these would make great hostess gifts.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Seven Layer Mess Bars

Despite the name, these are not a flop!  In fact, they're pretty darn good and a twist on the traditional seven layer bar.  Dave was very pleased with how they turned out, even though he's not sure he's ever had the original style seven layer bar.  I was happy to make something so yummy since the circumstances of how these bars came to be were a little, well, unconventional.

It was one of those days where I had a leftover bit of an ingredient that I had to use up or throw away.  Since wastefulness is not a trait in my kitchen, I knew I had to make something, but what?  And to top it off, the ingredient was something I rarely use in my kitchen: most of a can of sweetened condensed milk.  I'd used a scant 1/4 cup of the stuff to make the Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies I guest posted at Mom's Crazy Cooking, but what was I going to do with the rest of it.  Somewhere in my mind I vaguely recalled a recipe for some sort of bar that used sweetened condensed milk, so I pulled out the one cookbook flashing in my head--my nondescript Christmas Cookies book.  Lo and behold, I found a recipe that I thought being short by a 1/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk wouldn't be a big deal.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I hope you baked something delicious and are sharing it and the day surrounded by the people you love.

Dave and I are off for a week in Disney World with my family.  I'm looking forward to lots of sweet treats, hoping I can figure out how to replicate them for you later.

Merry Christmas,

The Cookie Princess

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Remember last year when I made the White Peppermint Snowballs? They were ok, but kind of a disappointment.  So I looked for another recipe to incorporate peppermint candies into a holiday cookie and found these.  They are perfect and I'm glad I opted for chocolate chip version.  I like to use semi-sweet chocolates chips, but white chocolate would also probably be quite tasty.  Either way, the crushed peppermint candies provide a very nice twist to a chewy cookie and it has a nice holiday feel.  Dave liked how the cookie was flavored by the candies, rather than eating a cookie and running into a piece of candy mid-bite.

Jen at Beantown Baker posted this recipe and it's a great one.  Not having any bittersweet chocolate chips, I loaded mine completely with semi-sweet chips, but you can use any combination you'd like.  I resisted the urge to use any peppermint extract, which was the right call.  Any more peppermint flavor would have been too overwhelming.  I'm pretty sure these would be Santa approved and there's a good chance you've got some candy canes floating about right now, so what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

These will certainly get you in the holiday spirit.  Aren't they pretty?  Add to that a sweet, flavorful shortbread and you've got a winner.  The shortbread gets a little softness to it's texture from the sweet cherries and the white chocolate is a nice accent.  These lovelies will look great on Santa's plate and even better, you're holiday guests will like the fruit and chocolate combination.

I found this recipe at Better Recipes (formerly Mixing Bowl), posted by judyjellybean.  They were easy to make and make a lot!  These would be a good for a cookie exchange.  After baking, I started dipping the cookies in melted chocolate and nonpareils, but ran out of chocolate (because I didn't read the recipe and only bought one package).  When Dave taste-tested, he said not to worry about dipping the rest.  Since the cookie already has white chocolate in it, he felt the addition dipping overpowered the cookie without adding anything, and then you couldn't enjoy the cherry flavor.  What can I say?  The man knows cookies.  Make your own choice, I left mine half with and half without.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

Don't those look good?  Bet you want the details and the recipe, huh?

Well, I'm guest posting over at Tina's blog, Mom's Crazy Cooking.  So hop on over there, check out Tina's blog and learn all about these lovely yummy treats.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

Chocolate + salt = perfect treat.  I love chocolate covered pretzels.  Usually when I make them, I do the standard pretzel twists. From time to time I'll even drizzle a little white chocolate on top of those for a professional, polished look.  But when I was at the grocery store the other day and spied a bucket of pretzel rods, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.  Any pretzel rod you like will do to give you the salty, chocolatey, crunchy combination that can't be matched.

Using a good quality melting chocolate (I use Mercken's) is key here, just like in the Oreo Truffles.  Your special piece of equipment is the tallest drinking glass you have.  And you can decorate these as simply or as dramatically as you like. Lately I've seen other version around the blogosphere with the pretzel positively drowning in toppings like peanuts, M&Ms, sprinkles and more chocolate.  I considered drizzling colored chocolate on top but instead opted for some simple holiday nonpareils and candy cane sprinkles.  Whatever you choose, this is an easy and tasty treat that will be hit with everyone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Andes Creme de Menthe Chunk Cookies

Two years ago my sister made these cookies.  I could not stop eating them.  Between the two of us, we probably took 15 or more dozen cookies to my parents' house that Christmas, but these were the only ones I wanted.  They are soft, have a great minty flavor, but paired with a buttery, caramely sweetness from the brown sugar.  Since it's not a chocolate cookie, it's a completely different type of mint chunk flavor than you normally get this time of year.  It's the perfect crisp edge with a soft and chewy center, so I knew I had to make them.

When I asked Amy for the recipe, she said it was straight off the bag of Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips.  Sad that I couldn't find them last year, I scooped up two bags as soon as I saw them in the store this year.  I made them a little smaller, but otherwise I followed the recipe and they were exactly what I wanted.  I may have beat her in the bake off, but she still knows a good recipe when she sees it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today's a big day! Not only is it another Secret Recipe Club reveal day, but it's also the reveal day for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  I signed up for both before realizing the reveals were scheduled for the same day.  But that's ok, it worked out just fine. Starting with the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I had the pleasure of baking cookies for Ashley at Embracing Beauty, Cayla at Cayla's Cookie Jar and Danielle at Little Spindle.  The Cookie Swap is the brain child of Julie at The Little Kitchen and Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil and is a secret Santa-style swap where each blogger bakes cookies for 3 bloggers and will receive cookies from 3 other bloggers.  Several hundred bloggers participated and I'm looking forward to getting my cookies from secret bakers.  I'll let you know what I get and who they're from.  If you'd like to participate next year (and trust me, you do) go here to sign up for the notification.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oreo Truffles

My mom makes the best chocolate.  Seriously, she has been making it for years and my family has been fighting over it for just as long.  Instead of baking during the holidays, my mom would make pound upon pound of homemade fudge, chocolate covered pretzels, and clusters of various nuts.  She even makes molded candy for all kinds of occasions.  She would make Easter candy in cute bunny shapes--hollow, solid or even these tiny one inch bunny molds she'd make in all kinds of pastel colors.  She would make this to sell to friends for use in their Easter baskets.  Embarrassingly enough, I'd sit at the kitchen table as a child and watch her toil away, never putting two and two together when some eerily similar looking bunnies showed up in my Easter basket.  But I digress, as it's almost Christmas.  Several years ago, my mom noticed a local chocolatier selling chocolate covered Oreos for a dollar piece.  Out of her mind, my mom figured she could sell them three for a dollar and turn a profit and thus added those to her repertoire.  Then a couple of years ago, she figured out how to make Oreo truffles--these delicious crushed Oreo treat dipped in milk chocolate that are both decadent and simple to make. She taught me, and today, I'm sharing with you.

This is less of a recipe and more of a process and has been featured on lots of blogs.  I'm not sure where my mom learned, but since I got it from her, she's my citation. These are delicious.  Rich and chocolatey, they are perfect for adding a little bit extra to a cookie tray or packing up in a box for the chocolate lover on your gift list.  Have a little fun and be creative with the topping--you can used colored chocolate to drizzle over or all kinds of sprinkles.  These can be personalized or color-coordinated for any occasion, so keep these in your back pocket for year round indulgence.  I'd wanted to color mine in the traditional red, green and white for the holidays, but my green chocolate melts must have been a little old because they wouldn't melt properly, even with a little shortening to help them along.  Melting chocolate, as long as you use a good quality chocolate (my mom and I use Merkens), is easy and you don't need any fancy tools to do it.  In fact, Dave did most of the work on these--I just rolled the balls and drizzled the colored chocolate on the finished truffles.  Don't be scared--these truffles are totally worth it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Brownie Roll-Out Cookies

Hopefully I won't get in trouble for not making Gingerbread Cookies this year.  It wasn't that I didn't want to make them, I just thought the space in the cookie tins (and freezer) would be better utilized by these guys.  Cause they are really yummy.  Just like the name says, they taste like a brownie.  Tempted to frost them, I resisted and opted instead for just a sprinkling of sanding sugar.  Definitely the right thing to do.  They are chocolatey without being overly sweet, so any type of frosting would have been overkill.  Even though he's not the biggest chocolate fan, Dave likes flavor of these cookies and thought they were a good addition to the cookie rotation.  I like the soft texture and they aren't just another crisp roll-out cookie, but have their own simple spot in the cookie world.

My memory is lapsing as to exactly how I stumbled upon this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but regardless it's a perfect recipe.  You can alter the depth of your chocolate by choosing a different brand or type of cocoa powder--I used plain old Hershey's, but you could try dark cocoa or a mix or regular and dark, or go for one of the fancy pants brands.  Whatever makes you happy. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Easy Lemon Cookies

You may remember last year I had quite the time making a lemon cookie I was happy with.  I started with the Soft Lemonade Cookies that didn't quite turn out, but that I salvaged into something else. Then I reworked the recipe and created the Glazed Lemonade Cookies that were better, but still not what I was going for.  Recognizing my plight, my dear friend Mere came to my rescue and sent me this recipe.  While I was still so frustrated with lemon last year, after my success with Lemon Bars this past spring, I thought I'd try Mere's version this cookie season.  I'm so glad I did.  These cookies pack a great lemon flavor without being tart.  They are soft and chewy and care finally the lemon cookie I was looking for.

Mere's recipe is crazy-easy to make.  I didn't change a thing and as you know I'm not too proud to use a prepackaged mix as the base for my cookies.  These cookies work any time of year, so keep them in mind for spring and summer.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Several weeks ago, Cindy was sitting with me at the kitchen table while I organized my recipes for holiday cookies.  She refused to look through them because she didn't want to be disappointed if for some reason I ended up not baking a particular recipe.  But the next weekend, when again Cindy found herself sitting at my kitchen table while I pulled out the recipes to be baked, she just about lost her mind when she caught a glimpse of this recipe.  The chocolate and salty pretzel combination really got her going and she started thinking about ways to make them better before she even read the recipe!   I will give her credit though because she and I came up with a good idea.  A solid cookie in the chocolate chip family, the salty pretzels and bittersweet chocolate put a new twist on an old favorite.

Jen at Beantown Baker yet again led me to another wonderful cookie.  I love chocolate covered pretzels and these really incorporate those flavors in cookie form.  I wasn't able to find bittersweet chocolate chips, so I improvised using part bittersweet chocolate and part semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Cindy's first idea was to individual chocolate dip each of the pretzel sticks (holy tedious work, Batman) but then we thought that a chocolate pretzel bark would be the better way to go.  That's exactly what I did, although I think I would add more pretzels next time.  Since the pretzels were coated, the chocolate flavor was stronger than the pretzel flavor.  And I don't think more pretzels, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup, could hurt this recipe.