Wednesday, March 3, 2010

White Chocolate Coconut

A simple oat and coconut cookie drizzled with white chocolate and topped with toasted coconut. Perfect for entertaining!

Yield: 3-4 dozen

Source: Paula Deen contributed this recipe to the Food Network website.

Here were my requirements for this week's cookie:
First, no frosting. Not that I am opposed to frosting in any way, mind you. It's just that I was getting a little tired of frosted cookies. I needed a break. I wanted something that didn't require that extra step.
Second, for similar reasons, something that didn't involve chocolate or peanut butter. I wanted something kind of classy, something you don't normally make for your grade-school kids, something really nice.

I definitely think I accomplished these small goals, especially the second. Paula Deen's White Chocolate Coconut cookie was a perfect fit for this week.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup quick oats
3/4 cup shredded coconut

8 oz. white chocolate, melted
3/4 cup toasted coconut

I think the dough turned out nice. It reminds me a little bit of cobbler crust. Personally, I am a big fan of coconut, so it made my cobbler-crust cookie even better!
Paula Deen calls for the oats and coconut to be folded into the dough. I can see why. Honestly, I think I over mixed my dough just a touch, and I think I overdid the flour as well. They turned out kind of heavy, and looking not at all like Paula's. Disappointing.

Roll (or, more appropriately, squish) the dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. I did flatten some of mine, and left others unflattened (which Blogger tells me is not actually a word. But you get the idea.) . I like them better flat. It's easier to do the next step.

Once I was done baking the cookies, I used the cookie sheet to toast the coconut. It only took a few minutes, with the oven still on 350.

Melt the white chocolate (I gave mine 2 minutes in the microwave, stirring after the first minute). I started by dipping the cookies into the chocolate, but honestly, I just made a big mess doing that. I then moved to using a wooden spoon to drizzle it onto the cookies. That seemed to work a little better. Once your white chocolate is drizzled on, top it with the toasted coconut.
The plain cookie reminds me a lot of this Coconut Crispies recipe. Of course, Paula Deen's cookie doesn't use Corn Flakes! However, I do like this cookie a lot, precisely because of the addition of the white chocolate. It really adds a new layer to the flavor. Plus, it makes these cookies really, really pretty!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Root Beer Cookies

A recipe for a cakey, root beer flavored cookie with luscious root beer icing.

Yield: 5-6 dozen

Source: A neighbor, Angela Jeo, who tells me she got it from the LDS Jordan River Temple.

I've been anxious to try this recipe since my friend Angela sent it to me over Facebook a few weeks ago. Once again, I can tell you that I have never found a cookie recipe with buttermilk in it that I didn't love, and this is no exception.

The recipe is pretty simple, but if you don't keep root beer concentrate in your pantry, you will have to plan ahead.

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. root beer concentrate
2 large eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

1/2 cup butter
2 tsp. root beer concentrate
3 T. water
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Mix the ingredients together into a soft dough. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Let me share a couple pieces of advice, if I may.
First, drop the dough onto a cool cookie sheet. I made the mistake of loading up a warm sheet with dough before I was ready to bake them, and met with disaster. Well, not epic disaster, just mild disaster. When the dough melts and gets a bit liquid, then it bakes into something very crunchy, and incidentally, hard to remove from the pan. Which is no fun for anyone.

Second, baking time is key here. I forgot to set my timer, and underbaked the first pan-full. They turned out kind of gooey, and not so great. I baked the second pan-full for 12 minutes, which turned out to be a bit long. They were quite brown, and crispy around the edges. Third pan-full baked for closer to 10 minutes, which was the sweet spot, if you ask me.

Third, make them small. They just turned out better when they were small.

Fourth, don't stack the cookies until they are completely cooled. Yes, I learned this one the hard way.

The frosting, (as usual) takes the cookies from good to phenomenal. The recipe I had actually called for 3/4 cup of butter, but it sounded like it would make a lot of frosting, so I reduced it to 1/2 cup. I was glad I did, because I still had plenty of frosting, even for the nearly 70 cookies this recipe made. This icing is a touch thin, and I think that's a good thing. You'll definitely want to let them sit awhile before stacking the cookies between layers of wax paper.

UPDATE: I actually didn't have enough frosting. I never frosted the dozen and a half underbaked, gooey cookies from my first pan-full. If you want to frost them all, use 3/4 cup butter and 3 cups powdered sugar in the frosting recipe.
It is unusual to bite into a cookie and taste root beer, but it's the kind of unusual I could get used to!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Butterscotch Frosted Cookies

A cakey buttery cookie with a browned butter frosting. Simply delicious.

Yield: about 4-5 dozen

Source: The Cooking Cache, link below

I found this recipe at Cooking Cache, and decided it looked good enough to try. It was an unusual one, for me; not my favorite cookie, but still pretty yummy.

The recipe:
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream (8 oz.)
2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup chopped nuts

Start by creaming the shortening and brown sugar together, and then add the eggs and vanilla. Then add in the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream. Add the nuts last. As usual, I left the nuts out. It always makes me a little sad to do this.

The dough will be quite soft, not the sort of thing you can roll into neat little balls. Drop it by teaspoonfuls onto your cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. I made them kind of smallish, so 10 minutes was perfect.

They come out soft and cakey, very similar to the Chocolate Frosted cookies. The raw dough is not good, not good at all. Even the plain cookie is pretty, well... plain. So, the frosting is the key to this recipe. It is not the easiest frosting I have ever made, but it's not bad.

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
3 1/2 - 4 cups powdered sugar
4-5 T boiling water
1 tsp. vanilla

Start by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and continue cooking until the butter is brown, but not scorched. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the other ingredients. Mine turned out pretty thin, so I put a little more powdered sugar in. And, for the sake of honesty, I will tell you that I did not actually boil the water. I just used very hot tap water. Maybe that's the lazy in me, but I think it turned out fine.

The key here is to frost the cookies as soon as you make the frosting. This frosting hardens as it sits, so time is of the essence, here. Make sure your cookies are cooled and ready to frost before you start melting the butter. Once the frosting is made, frost quickly. My frosting was starting to harden before I was quite done. If this happens, you can add a little more water and stir it up again, and that should give you a few more minutes to finish up. You can garnish them with some finely chopped nuts, if you want. Just add the nuts fast, before the frosting hardens, or they will never stick.

I think they turned out quite nicely. I won't say it was my favorite cookie of all time, but pretty good. It is perfect if you like something that is not overly sweet or chocolaty.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Butter or Shortening, part 2: A Science Experiment

My daughter did this experiment for her science fair project, and I decided to steal her work and publish it on my blog. We recently had a chat about how the world is not fair, so I'm sure she will be fine with it!

First, she made a batch of chocolate chip cookies using shortening. The recipe came, I think, from the chocolate chip bag. I'll reproduce it here, just in the interest of clarity.

1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 cups flour
1 package chocolate chips
Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes

She followed the recipe, except that we used only about half the chocolate chips called for. The shortening cookies turned out pretty much as expected, lovely and soft and delicious.

She then made a batch of cookies, substituting butter for the shortening. The first thing we realized is that the dough is much softer, and required more flour. We added about 1/2 cup extra flour. I could maybe have used even a little more. This is because butter naturally has more water in it than shortening, and hence more moisture in the dough.

The butter cookies spread a fair amount during baking, and when they came out of the oven, most of them had spread into each other, leaving us with the half-round half-square creations that have to be cut apart with the sharp end of the pancake turner. They were not pretty.

They also did not puff up as much as the shortening cookies. The lower melting point means the dough just spreads and flattens during baking. Shortening dough tends to hold its shape better.

She asked several people to taste test the cookies. She gave them one cookie from each batch, and they had to comment on the taste and the texture of each cookie. Most people liked the butter flavor better, but the texture of the shortening cookie better. As expected.

If you do make your chocolate chip cookies with butter, keep these things in mind:
First, make sure the recipe calls for butter and not shortening. Shortening recipes have more moisture in them. Baking cookies is chemistry, and getting the mixture right is crucial to a quality product. I recommend this recipe if you want butter cookies.
Second, refrigerate the dough before baking. This will not only let the flavors combine in wonderful ways, but will also prolong the melting point a little, causing less spread during baking.
Third, be sure to place dough on a cooled cookie sheet. If the sheet is hot when dough is placed on it, the dough will begin to melt even before baking, and the cookies are more prone to spreading.
Fourth, let the cookies sit for 2-5 minutes on the cookie sheet after coming out of the oven. Butter cookies have a much softer texture, and are more likely to fall apart upon removal from the cookie sheet. Give them a couple minutes to cool and set up before removing them to a cooling rack.