Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Holiday Dessert Party #2

Holiday Dessert Party #2 - hosted December 17, 2017
With the holiday season winding down, my almost-final tally is over 50 dozen cookies and brownies baked this season. Normally I don't keep track but I was asked about it in an interview for a story for the Christian Science Monitor so I did a quick tally, going through what I had baked for my first dessert party for my friends, what I baked for the benefit for the domestic violence shelter, what I baked as gifts for friends, coworkers, people at church and what I baked for my second holiday dessert party, this one for family.
Apple Cobbler aka Apple Crumble Bars
You'll recognize some of what I'd done for the first dessert party because they're perennial favorites with almost everyone but I also mixed it up a little with some specific family requests and favorites. Apple cobbler is always a family favorite and this one disappeared quickly.
Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two of my nephews like chocolate chip cookies so I had to bake one of my favorite recipes for them. For my other nephew, Vanilla King, it was Snickerdoodles.
Soft and Thick Snickerdoodles
My cousin Christine liked these butter cookies from her goodie bag last Christmas so I made them again for her.
Diamond-Edged Melt-in-Your-Mouth Butter Cookies
My niece always likes peanut butter cookies so I made one of my favorite peanut butter cookies.
"Best Ever" Peanut Butter Cookies
 Plus a repeat of what I made for her birthday earlier - Kahlua Cake.
Kahlua Cake
My cousin Elinor requested lemon bars. These had the added advantage of being made with lemons from her mom's lemon tree.
Lemon Bars

Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Kiss Cookies
My cousin Miriam was supposed to come but she had a conflict with a birthday party her oldest son wanted to go to. Nevertheless, I baked these white chocolate macadamia cookies, her favorites.
White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
So it ended up being something for everyone. Click on the caption under each picture for the recipes.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Soft and Chewy Gingersnaps

Soft and Chewy Gingersnaps - made dough December 10, 2017, modified from Baker by Nature
The original recipe called for browning the butter, chilling to solid state, softening then mixing it to make the cookie dough. To be honest, I didn't have that kind of time. I needed to make cookie dough for the benefit for our local domestic violence shelter, I had to drop off the cookies on a Friday which meant I had to bake over 5-6 dozen cookies the night before and I was making cookie dough leading up to baking night. No time to mess with browned butter melting, chilling, mixing. I also didn't know if I would like orange flavor mixed with ginger and molasses (I have very simple taste buds) so I left out the zest in the original recipe as well.

Fortunately, these cookies turned out pretty well despite my simplifications. I do wonder if they would've been even better with browned butter but they were pretty good even without browning the butter so my rush job didn't hurt it. I also made a batch to bring into work and they went over really well. The kind of well where people stopped by my desk, stopped me in the hall and instant-messaged me that they liked it. That's my unofficial gauge of whether a recipe turned out.
I liked the Ginger Krinkles I posted earlier but surprisingly, I liked this one even better. I say surprisingly because I usually am not big on ginger molasses cookies. I know they're popular this time of year but I've never been a fan. Yet there was something about these cookies I really liked. Texture was good and so was the flavor. Not too spicy, not overly spiced and not heavy on the molasses. This might be another cookie that goes on the permanent holiday baking roster.
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup mild molasses

Sugar coating: 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Add in granulated sugar and brown sugar; continue beating until and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition just until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the molasses and beat until combined. 
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add in dry ingredients, beating until just combined. Portion into dough balls, cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  6. Roll frozen dough balls in granulated sugar, coating completely. Evenly space on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake cookies, one baking sheet at a time, for 9-10 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and lightly golden. Do not overbake. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

White Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Cookies

White Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Cookies - made dough December 10, 2017 from Delightful E Made
One thing I'm always mindful of, especially around the holidays, is to look for ways to give back. It may sound sappy but I feel fortunate to have achieved what I've achieved and I'm very much aware that I didn't do it on my own. Yes, I worked hard for it but I also had opportunities that opened up because of the support from others. That's something I'll never forget. So in the spirit of giving back, I was delighted when my friend Hildy made me aware of an opportunity to help support a local domestic violence shelter. They were holding a benefit for the shelter and needed dozens of cookies to serve at their benefit.
The cookies had to be dropped off between 9 am - 5 pm on a certain Friday. That posed some logistical difficulties for me because that meant I had to get home early enough on Thursday night to have time to bake dozens of cookies, cool them, package them up and I had to find time during the work day Friday to leave work long enough to deliver them to the drop off site, about 10 miles from my office. That may not sound like a big deal but I'm still working 13-14 hours a day and oftentimes meetings come up that I have to attend so it isn't easy to get away from the office, even for half an hour at lunch.
M&M Cookies

Soft and Chewy Gingersnaps (recipe to follow)
BUT, you make time for what's important and this was important to me. I spent the weekend before the drop off making the cookie dough to park in my freezer: my new gingersnap recipe (recipe to follow), M&M cookies, snickerdoodles, and this recipe I wanted to try for White Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Cookies.
Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

White Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Cookies
The dough for this ended up being rather soft, which worried me a bit since soft dough usually means the cookies spread thin, even when baked from frozen dough. Fortunately, in this case, the softness of the dough was attributable to the cream cheese in the dough and for whatever scientific reason I can't explain, that also helped the cookies retain their shape and remain fairly thick.
I love coconut and macadamia nuts so this was almost guaranteed to be a winner with my taste buds. And so it was. Brown sugar caramel overtones paired nicely with the sweetness of the white chocolate and coconut and the macadamia nuts added a nice crunch and contrast. The recipe made more than 2 dozen cookies. I ate one and baked the rest for the shelter. I stayed up late that Thursday night to bake 4 kinds of cookies but that's the kind of late night I like to put in: cookies for a cause.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (I used vanilla)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, lightly toasted, roughly chopped
  1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and coconut extract (if using); mix until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips, coconut and macadamia nuts.
  3. Portion into golf-ball size dough balls, cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Evenly space dough balls on baking sheets and bake for 11-12 minutes or until cookies are golden brown at the edges and no longer look raw in the middle. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Ginger Krinkles

Ginger Krinkles - made dough October 28, 2017 from Hildy's friend
This is one of the cookies I served at my dessert party. While I'm not normally the biggest fan of ginger snaps (why are they called "snaps" when they don't "snap"? They're not a crisp cookie that snaps. They're a chewy cookie. It's a puzzler but it did prompt me to buy the "Oh Snap" sign at Michaels, not just because it had a cute gingerbread man "snapping" (now that's a snap!) but "oh snap" is something my millennial nieces always say so it reminded me of them. But I digress.
I got this recipe from my friend Hildy, who got it from her friend. I don't know who that was but I credit this recipe to Hildy's friend. It also came with resounding endorsements from Hildy and her kids, who she said don't usually like ginger molasses cookies but that they fought over these. Well, that's enough for me to make them.
I thought it would be fitting to make them for my holiday dessert party, not only because they were seasonally appropriate but also because Hildy was coming and I thought I should present the recipe she was kind enough to send my way.
These were good, chewy (rather than "snappy"), and baked up beautifully. They made for a nice presentation too. Thanks, Hildy (and friend)!

2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Mix oil, sugar and egg until combined. Add molasses.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture. Portion into walnut-sized dough balls, cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper. Roll dough balls into granulated sugar and space evenly on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Rap the pan on the counter after removing from oven. Cool cookies in baking sheet for several minutes before transferring to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Brownie-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brownie-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies - made dough November 26, 2017 from The Food Charlatan

You know I can't resist trying out new recipes for chocolate chip cookies but I've made so many of them that I tend to be a little jaded. Only something truly different piques my interest. Such as this concept of "stuffing" a brownie inside of a chocolate chip cookie.
Now I've stuffed nutella inside of a chocolate chip cookie, I've stuffed Hershey kisses in there, and I've layered chocolate chip cookie dough with Nutella, all for something a little different. But for this one, you baked a brownie inside the cookie. First you bake the brownies separately and let them cool completely. Second, you cut them into small-ish squares, wrap the cookie dough around the brownie, encasing it completely, freeze (I always freeze the dough first) then bake. Wow. That's just genius.

The original recipe used a boxed brownie mix. You know my eyes glazed at that point. This baking snob does not do brownie mixes. Fortunately, I had also recently made the Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies and I knew, with such little flour in the recipe, this would be a good brownie to use. You don't want one that could easily be overbaked since you're baking these twice; the first as the actual brownies and the second inside the cookies. This baked up moist and fudgy enough that I wasn't too concerned about overbaking them or the brownies becoming dry inside.
I recommend using mini chocolate chips for these. The brownie center is creamy-fudgy and I think the mini chocolate chips work better than the regular size or big hulking chocolate chunks. But that's a texture thing with me.
Make the brownie-stuffed chocolate chip cookie dough balls as compact and round as possible. The cookies don't spread much but you still want them to be domed, like little mounds of chocolate chip and brownie goodness. This ended up being one of the biggest hits at my holiday dessert party and I've put it on the permanent roster to make again.
Cream Cheese Chocolate Brownies - make the brownies only, not the frosting, and underbake slightly.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour, spooned and leveled
2 cups mini chocolate chips
  1. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Beat for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and eggs; beat to combine.
  2. Whisk together baking soda, salt and flour. Add to creamed mixture in 3 additions, beating until just combined after each addition. Do not overmix. Fold in mini chocolate chips.
  3. To assemble: scoop out 2 separate balls of cookie dough, about 1 1/2 tablespoons each. Flatten each ball into a thin disk with your hands. 
  4. Place a small brownie square on top of one piece of cookie dough and top with the other cookie dough disc. Pinch the dough together around the brownie square, sealing the ends to enclose the brownie completely. Repeat with all dough and brownie squares. Cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space cookies. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Chocolate Swig Cookies

Chocolate Swig Cookies - made dough October 28, 2017 from A Bountiful Kitchen
I originally thought I would make these for my holiday dessert party but when I tried the taste test cookie, decided against it and brought them to work instead. That's probably not the best lead in to get you to try these cookies, oops.
It isn't that they were bad because they weren't. If you like chocolate shortbread or "bread-y" type cookies, this could be a good choice. I tend to prefer my chocolate cookies to be more in the baked-fudge category and these weren't quite that. They're a little heavy in texture and while not dry, was not quite fudgy either.
I believe the thing with "swig cookies" is the frosting but, not being a frosting person, that didn't do it for me either. I liked the swig cookies I've made before but think I prefer the vanilla or lemon versions of these.

Still, these provided a nice background for the Christmas sprinkles I bought for decoration and looked pretty on the plate. I advise making these a bit on the small side since they're so dense.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar for pressing top of cookies

Sour cream frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
2-3 tablespoons milk, to thin to desired consistency
  1. Cream butter, shortening and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add sour cream and vanilla extract.
  2. Whisk together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.
  3. Using a 2-inch scoop, portion the dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Lightly spray the flat bottom of a round glass with nonstick cooking spray then dip into 1/4 cup granulated sugar to coat the bottom of the glass. Press glass bottom over cookie dough balls and flatten slightly. Re-coat glass bottom and dip in granulated sugar as needed to flatten all cookies. Cover and chill or freeze at least an hour.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Space the cookies evenly on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies should be barely firm on top. Do not over bake. Let cool completely. Frost when cool.
  5. Make frosting: Cream butter and sour cream until smooth and well blended. Whisk together cocoa, powdered sugar and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat. Add vanilla and enough milk until desired consistency is achieved.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017 Holiday Dessert Party #1

Holiday Dessert Party round up - hosted on December 2, 2017

I typically decorate big for Christmas every other year. Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows I'm a Christmas nut. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday but decorating for Christmas is where my freak flag lives. And flies high.

Triple Layer Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting
It's usually a 2-3 month-long process, starting with the first month where I clean my house from top to bottom. You can't put decorations on dusty surfaces. Plus bookshelves must be cleared, every conceivable surface swept, vacuumed, mopped or dusted, furniture cleared away, the year-round pictures on the walls tucked away to be replaced by Christmas wall hangings, extraneous "stuff" donated to charity and so on.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Kisses

Then month 2 is the structural framework. Artificial trees have to be put up, sometimes a new tree (or two *cough*) ordered, display planning needs to be done. The last month (this would be November since my goal is always to be done by Thanksgiving weekend) is about hanging the ornaments on the trees, putting up the wreaths on nearly every internal door in the house, hanging whatever needs to be hung on the walls, decorating the mantle, filling up the bookshelves with little vignettes of Christmas display pieces, lining the stairs with plush snowmen, and the list goes on.

Soft and Thick Snickerdoodles
This year, it took me a little longer since I could only work on it during weekends. I came home too late at night during the week to do it then. But I crammed a lot of decorating into those weekends so I met my goal of being done by Thanksgiving. Although, to be honest, I didn't actually finish all of my decorating plans. But I'd done enough that by Thanksgiving weekend, when it started to feel like a chore to keep putting more decorations up, I declared myself done. When I'm not enjoying it anymore, I stop. I don't believe in stressing for the holidays.
Almond Butter and Nutella Swirl Cookies

This year, I was motivated to declare myself done because I was out of time and needed to switch my energy from decorating to baking. Because I was going to hold my not-always-annual holiday dessert party this year. Several weekends before the party, I started making cookie dough to store in my freezer. What I made partially depended on who was coming as I know some of my friends' personal favorites and partially on any new recipes since the last party that I thought had turned out well and I wanted to make for them.

Ginger Krinkles
But ultimately it also depended on the practical realities of what could be made ahead of time and baked off at the last minute. Because you know I'm all about freshness and only serve baked goods that I could bake on the same day or the day before. Brownies are the only exception since they freeze well, can be made ahead of time, frozen (well wrapped) then thawed and cut right before serving.

Brownie-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
For what I was serving, I made only the toffee butter crunch shortbread and the triple layer chocolate cake the night before since both would be fine the next day. I knew the caneles would take the longest not only to bake but because I had to build in some buffer time for the canele copper molds to cool before I used them again.
Buttery Tea Balls
On the day of the party, I woke up at 5 am, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and turned on my oven by 5:05 am. I baked all the frozen cookie dough and canele batter steadily throughout the day. I didn't turn my oven off until 1:58 pm; the party was slated to start at 2. Made it just in the nick of time.
Cream Cheese Chocolate Brownies without the frosting

Essence of Chocolate Squares
So here's the holiday round up with links of the stuff I've made in the past. The new entrants to the holiday baking lineup will be posted later this month. Hopefully.

Toasted Hazelnut Slice n Bake Cookies sandwiched with Nutella

Diamond-Edged, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Butter Cookies

Butter Toffee Crunch Shortbread