Friday, January 29, 2010

Peanut Butter Stuffed

Yield: about 3 1/2 dozen

Source: The Clumbsy Cookie blog, the Cookie Madness blog, and the Pillsbury website. The links are included below.

Oh, how I love a peanut butter cookie. I love peanut butter in just about anything, even (and maybe especially) ice cream. Yum. The other day, I found this fabulous recipe on this really fun cookie blog called The Clumbsy Cookie. All I did was look at the pictures, and I was in love. So, I was pretty excited to try them, I don't mind telling you.

Okay, so I started with this peanut butter cookie recipe, which I found at the above link, but which actually comes from this blog, Cookie Madness.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky (less sweet peanut butters work best)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups sifted flour —if you don’t sift, use 1 1/3 cup

I normally don't keep dark brown sugar around. But, as it turns out, when I went to make the cookies, I didn't have any brown sugar at all around, so I ran to the store. I honestly don't know how much of a difference it makes to have dark brown rather than light brown sugar. I'll let you experiment with that on your own. I can tell you, however, that this cookie dough is amazing. I had to physically stop myself from eating it.

Here is where the cookie gets interesting.

In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of peanut butter with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. It should look (and taste) like a drier, more crumbly, but sweeter version of peanut butter.

Then, chop up a couple big squares of dark chocolate into little bits. I used a nice 70% dark chocolate bar, and 2 squares was enough for about half the batch.

Also, mix together 1 tsp cinnamon with 1/4 cup sugar.

Now that your preparations are made, it's time to get serious. Start by washing your hands. You might want to have a hand soap you love nearby, because seriously, I think I washed mine at least 25 times today. Start with a little ball of dough, and smash it flat in your hand.

Add in the chopped chocolate...

And a little glob of peanut butter/powdered sugar...

And wrap the edges around into a nice neat little package.

Now roll the whole thing in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on a cookie sheet for baking.
I have to admit, I was a little leery about the cinnamon and peanut butter together, but as it turns out, there was no need to fear. It's a delicious combination. Those of you who are actually reading through all this and looking at the links might have also noted that I left out the peanuts. The funny thing about that is that while my family is picky about nuts, they do actually eat peanuts. But I don't really like them in the peanut butter cookie. It's a quirk, I know. I say, it's your choice.

The recipe calls for baking at 375 degrees for 7-12 minutes. I think that is quite a large window of baking time. I baked mine for about 10 minutes, and they turned out beautifully. They were slightly crispy on the outside, with all this lovely and gooey chocolaty and peanut-buttery yumminess inside.

I did bake some up plain, without the filling inside, and honestly, I wish I hadn't. What was I thinking? Leaving chocolate out would make the cookie better?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate Frosted

Yield: about 3 dozen

Source: My mom got the recipe from her aunt, who it seems learned it from her mother, who got it from who knows where?

When I started this blog, my mom told me about her favorite cookie from her childhood. Apparently, her grandmother used to make these chocolate frosted cookies, and my mom remembers loving their cakey texture and frosting. Who wouldn't? My mom had to call her aunt for the recipe, and I for one, am glad she did. Now that I have made the cookie myself, I almost cannot forgive Mom for not making this cookie when I was a child!

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk (I have never come across a recipe with buttermilk that I didn't love!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

There's no real trick to making this dough. Just melt the chocolate, (I melted mine in the microwave) and mix the ingredients together in order. I will say that I used bread flour, only because this recipe has a tendency to get a little dry and heavy. I was definitely glad that I did.

You can skip poison checking this dough. It is not the greatest raw dough I have tasted. Instead, have a warm cookie right out of the oven, before they are frosted. Yum.

The dough does not go on in neat little balls. As you can see, they are unruly piles of dough. It's part of their charm. I made the cookies quite small, as well. I recommend making them small, because the yield is only about 3 dozen, and you will want to make use of every tool in your arsenal to make these babies last more than a day or two.

Bake them at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. I cooked them for 10 minutes, because they were small-ish. See how they bake up all puffy and beautiful? If they are not puffy, consider adding a touch more flour. Let them cool a few minutes before adding frosting.

I have trouble putting a frosting recipe down on paper. I'm just not the type to measure frosting, or purchase ready-made frosting, for that matter. I will tell you that for this recipe, I started by melting about 3 tablespoons of butter, and it turned out to be not quite enough. So, start with about 4-5 T. Melt the butter, add a little vanilla (about 1/2 tsp) and some cocoa powder (about 1 T.). Give that a quick mix with the hand mixer to smooth all those ingredients together, and then add some powdered sugar. Once again, I don't ever measure it, I just start adding some in a bit at a time, until it gets to the right consistency.

Today, I accidentally made the frosting too thick and it turned into little frosting pebbles. Still delicious, but terrible for spreading. I added about a teaspoon of milk, and the problem was solved. Honestly, the greatest thing about frosting is that it is so forgiving. Just keep adding powdered sugar or milk until you get the right consistency. Just keep some graham crackers on hand to spread the excess frosting on, if you have any! For this cookie, I actually wanted the frosting to be just a touch thin, and as it turned out, I got the consistency exactly right. (an unusual feat for me!)

I frosted the cookies gently and left them out to continue cooling. I was disappointed that my frosting only lasted as long as 21 cookies. :( Ah, what a wonderful cookie. I'm so glad to be re-introduced to a cookie my great-grandmother used to serve her family.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chocolate Chip

Yield: about 3 dozen

Source: Alton Brown's "The Chewy"

I remember the day my friend told me about this recipe. She urged me to go to Alton Brown's website and find this particular recipe. Being the Alton Brown fan that I am, I found and tried the recipe right away. At that time, the recipe had 525 reviews and 5 out of 5 stars. Today, 661 reviews and still 5 stars. Did anyone rate it less than 5 stars? I doubt it. I personally can't see how they could do it. It is hands-down the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever tasted. And I have tasted a lot of chocolate chip cookies.

Here is Alton's recipe:

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 T. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Alton asks you to sift the flour, salt and soda together, and I rebelled and did not do this step. Actually, the truth is that I don't have a decent sifter and, more importantly, I am lazy. I'll admit it. I just put them in one at a time when it calls for dry ingredients, and I do the flour last. I know, I know... I'll get a sifter someday. No promises, though, about how often I will use it.

Melt the butter and add it to the mixing bowl. I used salted butter, rather than unsalted, because it was what I had in my fridge. If you do that, just be sure to cut your salt down to 1/2 tsp.

Add the sugar and brown sugar and cream on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, milk, and vanilla, and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Isn't it lovely? And dough made with real butter instead of shortening is definitely worth tasting before baking!!

While I'm thinking about it, I should mention that I agree with Alton on the bread flour. I keep a small amount on hand, though I use it only rarely. This recipe is one of the few reasons to keep it in the house at all. He also recommends that you let it chill for a couple hours. When I made them, I was short on time, so the dough only chilled for 45 minutes.

Alton calls for a #20 disher to scoop these onto the baking sheet. I have never been one to scoop cookies with an ice-cream scoop, (and therefore I don't own one appropriate for cookie dishing) so I just used spoons. Boring? Maybe. I do wonder, though, how big the #20 disher is. I suspect it is pretty big, because Alton calls for baking at 375 degrees for 14 minutes. I did mine at 350 for about 10-11 minutes, and they were plenty brown.

This might also be a good time to mention how much I love baking with a stone. The one I use came from Pampered Chef and I have used it for several years. My husband dropped it and broke a corner off, so I can now make only 9 cookies at a time, but I still use it. I love that it cooks evenly, doesn't require parchment paper, and is so easy to clean.

The cookies came out beautifully. They are just a touch crunchy, mostly chewy, with gooey chocolate chips and a wonderful buttery flavor. Perfection, thou art a chocolate chip cookie!! Do yourself a favor and eat one right out of the oven.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Yield: 4-5 dozen

Source: My grandma. I have no idea where she got it.

This past Christmas saw some rather pathetic Snickerdoodles at our family gatherings. Mine turned out too gooey and underdone. My mother-in-law's turned out too crispy. I somehow think that making Snickerdoodles is something of an art form. It doesn't seem like a tough cookie to make, but it has only rarely produced results that have made me happy.

I recently tried this new recipe. (New to me, that is.) My Grandma sent it to me, and gave it good reviews. (She also sent a recipe for Molasses Snickerdoodles that I can't wait to try!) I think this one is better than the recipe I made last Christmas, but I still wasn't super happy with the results. I don't think it's the recipe, though. I think it's the baker.

1 cup softened butter
2 cups + 3 T. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon

You start by beating the butter for 30 seconds, then adding in the 2 cups of sugar, and beating until it's fluffy. Add in the eggs, milk, and vanilla, and beat well. Then add in the salt, cream of tartar, baking soda, and flour, and make sure it all gets combined well.

A word about Cream of Tartar. I have struggled with the use of this little ingredient. I don't love the way it makes the cookie taste, so I have frequently left it out. It is really there to help control the acidity of the cookie, and since baking cookies is rather similar to a chemistry experiment, it is probably best to leave it in. I debated about whether to put it in today. What ended up making my decision was the cupboard. There was no cream of tartar in it. (Well, to be truthful, there was a full container, but it was in packaging that hasn't been sold in probably 20 years, so I was leery about using it.) Anyway, I left it out, and I kind of wish I had put it in. I think next time I make this recipe, I will. End of boring speech about cream of tartar.

You will need to make a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for this next step. I used 3 T. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. I used almost every last bit of it.

You roll the dough into little balls, roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, and then place them on a baking sheet.

The recipe calls for you to smash the dough-balls down with a drinking glass to flatten them before baking. With my first pan-full, I did that. I was not thrilled with the results. They were running into each other, baking up into shapes that were, let's say, less than round, and generally looking not-so-appetizing. So, for my second pan-full, I baked them first, and then smashed them.

Only I don't think I baked them quite long enough. The recipe calls for 8 minutes at 375 degrees. However, when you don't smash them down first, I think they could use an extra minute.

On my third pan-full, I forgot to set the timer (possibly the most irritating and easily made mistake for the cookie baker!), and I let them go a little long. They were getting brown on top when I removed them. These actually turned out the best.

As you can see, there was quite a difference in how the different batches looked. The cookies on the right in the photo above were from the first batch, the press-before-baking batch. They are pretty ugly. Those on the left are from the second batch, and are beautifully and perfectly round. I love that. It looks so professional. Like they were made by a capable adult and not a 6-year old child.

So, to sum up, my recommendations are:
1. Use the cream of tartar.
2. Smash after baking
3. (and I cannot believe I'm saying this) do not underbake. Consider pushing the baking time to 9 minutes.
4. Enjoy with a big glass of milk.

Monday, January 18, 2010

No Bake Cookies

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Source: I have no idea. I've been making these since I was a kid, and so has everyone else I know.

I asked my kids what kind of dessert they wanted, and two of them voted for no-bake cookies. I was surprised. They always seem so, I don't know, mundane or something. It's like they're not a real cookie. But, sometimes quick and easy is a nice change, so I went for it.

The truly nice thing about this cookie is that you can make it very quickly on the stove, and it never goes in the oven at all. Hence the name, no-bake. Frankly, I feel a little silly making this post at all, since I'm sure all of you made this cookie at some point in time, and it was probably back when you were 10 years old.

Usually, I opt for the no-bake chocolate cookie, but since I recently shopped the case lot sales, I went for the no-bake peanut butter cookies. (I have 12 small jars of peanut butter in my storage room. Well, 11 1/2.) I'll include both recipes here, though, since they are almost identical.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup coconut
3 cups quick oats

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 T. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup coconut
3 cups quick oats

You start by melting the butter. Add in the milk and sugar, and the cocoa if you are making the chocolate variety, and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for a minute or so, and then remove it from the heat. If you are making the peanut butter kind, this is the point where you add it. Stir it in and let it melt. If you are making the chocolate kind, add the vanilla now.

Have I mentioned that I love this Pampered Chef measuring cup for this job? It is perfect for messy jobs like peanut butter or shortening. You choose how much to put in, and then just push it right out into your bowl, or pot, as the case may be. I don't use it much, but for peanut butter, nothing else will do.

Next, just mix in the rest of the ingredients, which is nuts, coconut, and oats. A word about that. We're big coconut fans here. I love it. I also think walnuts are great in the chocolate cookies, although I wouldn't put them in the peanut butter kind. However, I know that some people are really opposed to coconut and some opposed to nuts. It's fine to leave them out, but you do have to make up the difference by adding more oats. It's not an exact ratio, either, meaning that 1 cup of coconut does not necessarily equal 1 cup of oats. Just add more oats until the consistency is right. Not enough oats, and the cookie will be gooey and stick to the pan, your fingers, and everything else it touches. Too many oats, and the cookie will fall apart and be very dry. I am intimately acquainted with both of these situations, having messed up in both directions in the past.

When we made these as kids, we always lined a cookie sheet with wax paper and dropped them onto it. Now, I prefer to put them into my mini-muffin pan. I always spray it pretty generously first with some kind of non-stick spray. Either way you do it, drop them in little globs and put the pan in the freezer for a little while. They'll be ready to eat before you can finish creating a blog post!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Yield: about 4-5 dozen cookies

Source: Karl Wilson, a friend and neighbor.

I should call this post "A Failed Experiment in Kitchen Sink Cookies." They did not turn out at all like I wanted. I was supremely disappointed.

Our neighbor, Karl, makes these cookies, and I first fell in love with them when his wife gave me one. They are possibly the best cookies I have ever had. They have a little bit of everything in them. Karl didn't have a name for them, or a recipe, for that matter, so, consequently, I have dubbed them the Kitchen Sink Cookie.

I was unsuccessful at procuring a recipe for this wonderful creation. It's not that Karl is unwilling to share, it's more like he doesn't have a recipe. He makes it from feel, so to speak, and thus it is a little different each time he makes it. Undeterred, I set out to recreate it from my own experience and knowledge. I won't call it an epic failure, but I was definitely disappointed.

I started with a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe:

1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour

Then I added a bunch more ingredients.

In these bowls are chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, chopped walnuts, coconut, chopped orange peel, and dates.

Karl uses craisins. I thought I had craisins in my pantry, but it turned out I didn't. I used the dates I had leftover from making the Graham Cracker Pudding, so I used those instead.

I'm actually looking forward to giving these another shot. Next time I will make the following changes:
1. Using craisins and not dates.
2. Using more walnuts. (as you can see, I only used about 1/4 or 1/3 cup. It was not enough.)
3. Using more coconut.
4. Using less orange peel. I like the orangey flavor it gives, but I think a teaspoon would be plenty.
5. Using a different chocolate chip cookie recipe. Maybe one which calls for butter instead of shortening. We'll see.

On the bright side, the butterscotch chips were perfect!

I baked them for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

They were good, but not Karl Wilson good. I'll figure this out yet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Graham Cracker Pudding

Yield: 2 logs

Source: My husband's grandmother used to make this every Christmas. It seems no one in the family has any idea where she got the recipe. It is the most unique dessert I have ever come across! It is not too sweet, which is sometimes a nice change from the ordinary.

This is my favorite inherited recipe from my husband's family. I like to think it describes them perfectly. They are the Norwegian-Wyoming-Lutheran-Farmer types, for whom life requires a lot of hard work, and is never too sweet. On the bright side, this recipe requires no baking, so you can eat it as soon as it chills a bit.

If you have ever eaten this before, or even heard of it, I beg you to drop me a line. I would love to know what you know about it, even if it is next to nothing.

So, here are the ingredients:

2 lb. graham crackers
1 bag small marshmallows
1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
(dates and walnuts are optional)
You will also need a flour sack towel, or preferably two

You start by emptying the entire bag of marshmallows into a bowl. Then open the pineapple, DO NOT DRAIN THE JUICE, and pour it over the marshmallows. Stir them together a little, and let it sit for a few minutes while you crush the graham crackers. The marshmallows need to soak up the juice.

I like to use the food processor to crush up the graham crackers, and yes, you will be using the entire box. When you pour the crumbs into the bowl with the marshmallows and start mixing, you quickly realize that there is something very wrong here. The entire two-pound box of crackers and only one tiny little can of pineapple to moisten it? Yes. It's true. It will be very, very dry.
Do your best to mix everything together, and don't be surprised if your mixing muscle gets sore. This is also the point at which you should add the dates and nuts. Personally, I prefer it to have both, but I usually make one log with nuts and one without, because I have a family that is afraid of nuts. Wimps.

At this point, you should take a clean flour sack towel and get it wet. Wring most of the water out, but don't squeeze it to the point of dryness. Lay the towel out on the counter, and scoop about half of the mixture onto the towel, arranging it into a long string. (Later you should repeat this process with the other half, giving you two long logs of frozen yumminess.)
Wrap the wet towel around the mixture and start squeezing. When you do this, you will easily see why we say this recipe is a two-man job. It just goes better with two. You have to really work on this, squeezing hard to get everything to stick together, and arranging it into a long log.
Don't be surprised if you open the towel, and the log just falls apart. I know it's frustrating. I'm on your side. You can add a little water to the towel if needed, but usually you just have to keep squeezing. Get someone stronger than you to work on it if you come to the end of your rope, so to speak!
It looks gross in the picture, right? The people watching me create this post have used words like "manure" and "puke" to describe how it looks. Don't be deterred by the pictures, though. It is worth the wait.

Once it's all put together, unwrap it from the towel, which is probably now ruined, or at least very dirty and stained, and roll it carefully onto some wax paper. I actually like to put aluminum foil down with wax paper on top of it. Roll it up, fold the ends in, mark which log has nuts, and put it in the freezer.
When you are ready to serve, just use a sharp knife to cut off some slices. Place them on a plate and cover them with a big dollop of whipped cream. Yum!! Eat with your fork, or with your fingers, either way is fine with me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

Yield: about 4-5 dozen

Source: This is another cookie I have been eating since birth. I'm pretty sure my mom got it from the oatmeal carton at some point.

I like to refer to these as my "award winning" cookies, and I also like to think that they deserve it. Does it really matter the circumstances of the award? Okay, I'll tell you anyway. I think I was about 10 or 12 years old. I was in 4H. I entered them in the county fair and won an honorable mention. The judges told me they were a little too dry and crumbly. I disagreed.

This is a fabulous everyday cookie. I have never met the person who didn't like it. (With the possible exception of one friend, who told me that oats made him "so regular." Arguably, though, this did not mean he did not enjoy the flavor!) The recipe is pretty predictable, except that it calls for water, which is a touch unusual.

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 T. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
chocolate chips
3 cups quick oats

It is very nearly against our religion to make cookies without doubling the recipe. These cookies also have the potential to double your weight, so I guess that's apropos!
Today, I put double the shortening and double the sugar in the mixer before I discovered that I did not have double the brown sugar in the house.

Is there anything more irritating? I dropped everything and ran to the store for more brown sugar. And diet coke.

Start by creaming the shortening, sugars and eggs. Add in the water and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients last.

I once again tested the limits of my mixer by doubling the recipe. The bowl is just not quite large enough for this, which doesn't stop me from trying.

Let me mention a couple things here that I have learned in my many years of experience making these cookies.

FIRST, put the oats in last. Even the chocolate chips go in before the oats. Once the oats are in, nothing else will mix together well, so make the oats the finale.

SECOND, I know that I did not specify how many chocolate chips to use. This is really a matter of taste. I prefer to use an entire bag for one batch, but I realize that many of you would prefer to use less than that. I say, they're your cookies, and chocolate chips are not necessary for the integrity of the recipe, so do whatever you want. You can even use a raisin, as long as you never tell me about it. (Who would use a raisin when you could use a chocolate chip?) When I double it, and I always double it, I use one bag of chocolate, and another of some other kind of chip. Peanut butter is my favorite, but today I used butterscotch.

Be sure to poison check the dough before baking. I have fantasies of sitting in front of the tv with a bowl of this cookie dough and a spoon, and a great chick flick. Be sure to poison check after baking, too, while the cookies are still warm and gooey. (Pause while I wipe the drool from my face.)
This is the part where you drop the dough onto the cookie sheet. I prefer the two-spoon method. It keeps the hands clean.

Bake these lovely little pretties at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. (Preferably 8) They should be a little gooey when they come out, but still brownish on top. Is that technical enough? Leave them on the sheet pan for a couple minutes before moving to a cooling rack. The hot pan will continue to cook them a bit, which will really help the gooey-ness. You might have to experiment with your oven and your area of the world to get this right.

If there is a secret to making this cookie "award winning," it is to underbake just a touch. Just as paint dries a shade darker, cookies cool a shade crunchier. If they are a bit underdone upon coming out of the oven, they should cool to chewy perfection.

Yes, you can freeze them. But, if you're going to do it, make sure you get them in the freezer before the family knows about it, or there will be nothing left to freeze.