A Small Symbol For a Special Occasion

March 24, 2009

Have you ever known a couple who were perfect for each other? Not just happy together, but really perfect for each other. Who just strengthen each other in ways most of us will never know. I happen to know such a couple. These two… it’s hard to describe, you’d have to meet them to see how well they work together and complete each other but honestly, you just have to spend five minutes with them to see it. There is a certain flow that you just don’t see in most relationships.

Anyways, my dear friend Dean, is the guy-half of this couple. I baked a bunch of stuff for their engagement party last summer and have been really looking forward to their wedding. Unfortunately, because of various things in their lives (my wonderful, dear, sweet friend is being sent to Afghanistan!) they had to rush things, and had a pre-wedding-wedding. I still had to make them something though (of course!) and while the cookies I chose to make might seem simple, I thought the symbolism of joining two types of cookies (though perhaps a bit cheesy), was perfect. 

I really wish I could do more for my friend as they prepare for the future, but hopefully this little act, this punny symbol meant something to them.

Two Heart Cookies
Slightly adapted from: Epicurean Escapism

Chocolate Cookies:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz chocolate, melted and cooled
2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Sugar Cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

You can follow the same directions for each recipe, just make sure to keep things separate.

In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients (except the sugar). Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter. Add the egg and vanilla or chocolate liqueur to the sugar and butter. With the mixer on low speed, beat to combine until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time and beat with the electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is just combined.

Wrap the dough tightly with saran wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. More is better, especially for the chocolate dough.

Remove the dough from the wrap, place it on a smooth, lightly floured surface, and use a rolling pin to roll it out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. You can also roll between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with heart shaped cookie cutters, using two different sizes (cutting one inside the other). Carefully pick up the cookie, remove the inner heart and put aside, placing the large heart on a greased cookie sheet. Combine and roll out the leftover dough and continue cutting out cookie shapes to place on cookie sheets. Repeat with the other batter, placing the smaller chocolate hearts inside the big sugar hearts and the smaller sugar hearts in the large chocolate hearts. Place the hearts on your cookie sheets in the freezer until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 350F and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning the tray halfway through, until the edges of the sugar cookies just begin to turn very light brown.

Remove cookie sheet from the oven and allow to cool for 1 minute. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to the cooling rack to cool completely before storing or eating. Enjoy!

The original recipe called for peanut butter dough, rather than a simple sugar cookie dough, but as I have mentioned I am weird and picky and only like my peanut butter on a nice slice of bread so I went with the much favored sugar cookies. But I highly suggest trying the original recipe if you like that stuff.


When is a Pretzel, Not a Pretzel….

January 7, 2009

I feel like I am getting in a bit of a rut, making so many cookies. Maybe I should rename my blog… what do you think of “Heaven is a Cookie” … or “Hell on a Cookie Platter” *g*. It’s just so hard to step away from such a happy little treat, as I am sure everyone with brand new sugar and/or cookie and/or diet resolutions have figured out.

Well, I have this one additional cookie recipe, then I promise, we’ll try to get creative and have some real fun. Though I can’t promise the next few recipes will be any healthier. At least these cookies aren’t totally cookies. They are pretzels too. Or are these pretzels that are cookies too? Well, it doesn’t matter, They are really good. The original recipe called for them to be drizzled with white chocolate, but we really loved the mint slime from the previous recipe so we used that instead. I have a feeling that the white chocolate would have been better.

Chocolate Pretzels
Source: The Great Book of Chocolate

2 cups flour
2 tbl cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp cocoa liqueur
4 oz white chocolate

Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy add egg and liqueur. Gradually beat in dry ingredients.

Divide dough in half, press into disks, wrap and chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Form dough into approximately 22 balls and roll each into a rope approximately 12 inches. Make each rope into a pretzel shape by twisting two ends around each other then bringing both back near to the center of the strip.

Bake until firm, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

Melt white chocolate in double boiler. Drizzle the cool cookies with the chocolate and let stand for 30 minutes to set. Enjoy 🙂

We had a lot of fun using the whisk attachment of my new hand mixer (the overdose of Christmas cookies killed my last ones) and these cookies were great. Be creative with them. Dip them in chocolate, or drizzle with white chocolate, or dark chocolate, or the slime. Or any combination of the above. The dough for these was slightly saltier than a regular cookie dough but that’s the way a pretzel should be and it was just amazing once they were done.


A Kiss for the New Year

January 6, 2009

 

Okay, so I know I’ve done a lot of cookies recently, but one of the very generous gifts I received over the holidays was The Golden Book Of Chocolate(can you say, “woohoo?” 🙂 ). So my man and I had a lot of fun going through picking out all the recipes we plan to make this year. It’s actually got a great selection, even for someone as picky as I am, so we will be dipping into the great big book several times this year.

I honestly don’t know why we were so fascinated by these cookies and chose to make them first. Maybe it was the mint. Or the several layers of chocolatey goodness. Whatever it was, they didn’t come out quite like the picture in the book, and we will have to work on them a bit to make them come out as pretty, but they were definitely a great start to the new year.

Minty Chocolate Kisses
Slightly Adapted from: The Great Book of Chocolate

1 cup flour
2 tbl cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp mint extract
1 egg

filling
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz white chocolate
1 tsp mint extract
Food coloring, if desired

glaze
5 oz chocolate
1/3 cup butter

Mix flour, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy, then add the mint extract and egg beating until blended. With a mixer, gradually beat in dry ingredients. Press dough into a disk wrap and chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven 350F. Roll out dough on floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out cookie cutters*. Place cookies 1 inch apart. Bake until golden at edges 6-8 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.


 
Bring cream to a boil, remove from heat and stir in white chocolate until completely melted. Add mint extract and food coloring, if desired.**

Cool until firm but not set, approximately 30 minutes. Pair cookies to match as closely as possible and fill.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Spread on top of cooled cookies. Drizzle with additional mint filling. Chill until set 30 minutes. Enjoy 🙂

These things are incredible. Definitely the kind of thing you’d want to make a double batch, because even as thin and as tiny as we made them, it just wasn’t enough. Maybe next time we’ll double the size of the cookies 🙂

* For this first attempt, the dough came out way too moist to roll, even freezing it for a few minutes first. If you would prefer to roll them out, add more flour until it’s nice and thick first. Otherwise, you can roll the dough into balls and press until thin disks before baking.
** We didn’t allow the filling to cool for nearly long enough so it was a rather fun, goopy mess. It didn’t look nearly as nice as it should have, but it was darn tasty.


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 4: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas Cookie

December 21, 2008

 
My man, the new helper I’ve mentioned a few times, has a handful of incredible nieces and nephews. These are adorable, fun, and very lovable kids. They have great parents, a wonderful supportive family…and unfortunately two of them also have severe allergies.

I’m not talking about the typical pollen/dander/etc stuff that just about everyone has to deal with, either. These poor kids seem to be allergic to almost everything you could think of. It makes life a little difficult, but with a lot of care they are thriving.

It makes Christmas cookies difficult though. Not only do we have to make sure that the ingredients won’t hurt them, but we have to make sure there is no chance of accidental contamination. With the dairy allergy they haven’t had the chance to develop a chocolate addiction, so our vegan choice was out. We didn’t want to make plain sugar cookies either, because not only do they get that all the time, but every kid deserves fun cookies on Christmas, and what could be more fun than snickerdoodles? 🙂

These were actually much easier to convert to safe cookies than we expected.

Allergy Free Snickerdoodles

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dairy free soy margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
2 large eggs (aka an egg replacer equivalent to 2 large eggs)*
2 tbl soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbl sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Crop the dough by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets, leaving several inches between them. Keep in mind these spread more than most. Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack for as long as you can wait. Enjoy.

* If you use an egg replacer, read the box carefully. For some reason a few brands actually use egg whites. If you’re dealing with an allergy, make sure whatever you use is completely egg free.


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 3: Cookie Bling

December 19, 2008

 
I don’t know what it is about cookies, but they always seem to make people so happy, especially around the holidays, and they are so easy to make! You can use any recipe at all, no matter how many times you’ve made them during the year and just let your imagination wander.

Below are four ideas that I used this year to make my cookies special, but you can do anything you want. Just have fun with it.

1. Oreo Snowflakes

Just roll out the dough for Oreo cookies, use a Snowflake shaped cookie cutter and bake them as usual then carefully spread the filling on the cookies. Then you can either leave them as is, dust the top with powdered sugar like snow, or colored sprinkles to make them pretty.

2. Starry Cookies

Take a simple sugar cookie recipe, use a star shaped cookie cutter and before baking, sprinkle sparkling sugar, or regular red and green sprinkles then bake as usual.

The colors add a little character to the cookies, but sparkling sugar in particular adds to it, giving your stars a little shine. And this kind of thins is always more fun with extra hands  🙂

3. Chocolate Covered…

Chop the chocolate then melt in the microwave or in a double boiler then dip whatever you wish in the chocolate. Besides your fingers, of course. Brownies, pretzels, any type of cookie, anything you can think of 🙂

We did oreos this year. Just set the chocolate covered tid-bit on a sheet of aluminum foil, add a tiny bit of colored sprinkles on top or whatever you want to make them pretty and resist the urge to eat them until the chocolate has become firm.

You can use chocolate that’s particularly made for candies and dipping or regular chocolate. Just make sure to leave it be until it gets nice and hard.

If your place is too warm you can even set them in the fridge, then the freezer, but they always look prettier if you let them set on their own.

4. Peppermint Shortbread

Prepare the shortbread cookies as usual using a candy cane cookie cutter to shape the cookies. Bake and allow to cool completely.

Melt some white chocolate in a double boiler, mix in red food coloring until you reach the color you desire, then add peppermint extract to taste. It shouldn’t take much, approximately 1/4 teaspoon per cup of chocolate but just add a little bit at a time until you’re happy with it.

Scoop into a bag and carefully pipe the chocolate as stripes onto the cookies. Allow the chocolate to set then enjoy.

Don’t forget to place the cookies in a pretty tin or plate. Add a bow if needed and they will be beautiful for the people you love.

Whatever you do with your Christmas cookies, have fun with it.  🙂


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 2: Vegan and Delicious

December 15, 2008

 
My dear sister is the kind of women it’s easy to be proud of. She is incredibly quirky and fun to be around, and an great photographer. She has been trying to start a business with a friend of hers and finally has been getting paying jobs. She even has a blog, showing some of her amazing work.

It is finally the kind of job she can be happy with, and I can’t wait for the day she can quit her “day job” and do this full time. I think it will be great for her.

I personally have never really been one of those people who care about how much cheese, or butter…or chocolate that I eat. But my sister is the exact opposite. She really cares about what goes into her body and how everything she does and eats effects everything around her, so she and her husband decided to become vegan. Is that the correct phrase? “Become vegan”?….Anyways, they are vegan. Which makes for an interesting challenge when it comes to Christmas cookies. You can’t go with all the ingredients you would normally choose.

I am always leery when trying “alternative” ingredients. Soy, dairy free, lactose free…none of that stuff sounds like fun. But these cookies are incredible. Even with all the special ingredients it required, they are simply amazing. You could easily use it as a healthy-ish substitute for kids, and they would never even realize all the things these cookies are lacking!

Merry Christmas, my dear sister.

Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: About.com

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
10 oz dairy free chocolate chips
½ cup dairy free soy margarine
1 ½ cups organic sugar
3 tsp egg replacer mixed well with 1/3 cup hot water
½ tsp chocolate liqueur

Preheat oven 350 F. Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil/parchment paper

Bring several inches of water to boil in a small pan or double boiler. Place ½ of the chocolate chips and the margarine in a small stainless steel bowl over the pan and stir constantly until melted and smooth.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

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In another bowl, pour the chocolate mixture and using an mixer, add the sugar, egg replacer and chocolate liqueur until well combined.

In three additions, gradually mix in the flour mixture until well combined. Fold in the remaining chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. place sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Bake for about 14-16 minutes or until the top has cracked but the cookies are still soft. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool until you can no longer resist. Enjoy. 

As a small side note, I have noticed that recipes that call for both melted chocolate and cocoa powder tend to be really moist, with a richer chocolate taste. Keep that in mind when you’re looking for new recipes 🙂


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 1: A Classic Treat

December 13, 2008

 
It’s hard to believe 2008 is almost gone, and so much has happened! The stocks are pretending they are on a yo-yo, the banks are going bankrupt, much chocolate has been devoured. Thankfully not all of it has been bad. We’re still alive, able to read our favorite blogs and bake ourselves more chocolate when it’s needed. Ignoring the fact that it’s always needed 🙂

Unfortunately now that most bank accounts have almost been completely emptied, we get to spend our last remaining pennies on the people in our lives. The obligations that our society puts on this time of year makes it a little hard to have much fun with the coming holidays, so many people are stressing. But thankfully one thing anyone, even children can have fun with is Christmas cookies!

Regardless of whether you’ve made cookies your whole life, never done it before or (like me) don’t really have the money to choose another gift option, it can be a lot of fun to dive into your kitchen and bake like crazy.

My next couple blogs are all gonna be about Christmas cookies. A couple recipes, some decorating suggestions and…other things 🙂 But first! A classic, and one everyone loves. Sugar cookies!

Sugar Cookies
Source: Rightathome.com

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Optional
decorating supplies of your choice (i.e. sprinkles, sparkling sugar, melted chocolate, etc.)

The day before:

In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the sugar and butter. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary. The mixture should resemble coarse, moist sand.

Add the egg and vanilla extract to the sugar and butter. With the mixer on low speed, beat to combine until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time and beat with the electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is just combined.

Wrap the dough tightly with saran wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.

The next day:

Remove the dough from the wrap, place it on a smooth, lightly floured surface, and use a rolling pin to roll it out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. You can also roll between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and carefully transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet, placing each about 2 inches apart. Combine and roll out the leftover dough and continue cutting out cookie shapes to place on ungreased cookie sheets.

If using sprinkles to decorate, sprinkle before baking. If using chocolate (swirls, strips, dipping…) bake and allow to cool completely first.

Preheat oven to 350F

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning the tray halfway through, until the edges of the cookies just begin to turn very light brown.

Remove cookie sheet from the oven and allow to cool for 1 minute. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to the cooling rack to cool completely before storing, eating or decorating them.

This is one of the most classic cookies you can make. Soft and sweet, and very easy to decorate for the holidays. If you don’t want to wait overnight, allow the dough to chill at least an hour before rolling, but if you have the time to wait the flavors will develop more so it’s definitely worth the extra time.