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.

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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 🙂


Making Milk’s Favorite Cookie

June 8, 2008

Commercials, taxes, politicians….these are unfortunately necessary evils in our lives. Okay, maybe not politicians, but taxes and commercials (or advertisements in general) certainly are. And unfortunately for us, commercials have just been getting more and more annoying (Geico, anyone?)

Thankfully not only do we now have dvr to fast forward through them, but there are a few companies that continue to make charming or entertaining commercials. For example, this oreo commercial.

It makes me smile every time and it does it’s job by making me suddenly want oreos. I’ve been holding on to this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a while now. I was actually going to save this to make for a friend but decided I needed something just like it this weekend.

I made a tiny mistake making these, but considering it was a mistake I could fix easily with more chocolate, I am not really complaining 🙂

Homemade Oreos
Source: Smitten Kitchen

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375F

2. In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar, then beat in the butter, and the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set on a rack to cool.

4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

6. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk. Enjoy.

Make sure you use vegetable shortening. I used butter flavored, and it made the cream very yellow so I just added a teaspoon of cocoa powder. You can do that anyways if you want more chocolate 🙂

I also highly recommend matching the cookies into pairs before you start adding the cream to any of them, just to make sure you can get them all close. Either that or roll out the dough and cut them all to make sure they’re all even, which I just might do next time.

No matter how you make them, these things really are as good as the original, and definitely worth the effort 🙂


The Dark Side of a Cookie

June 3, 2008

 It’s funny how chocolate can so easily grab peoples attention. Wouldn’t it be fun if more people could be like that? You simply say their name and people instantly want to know more. Sure people like to gossip about celebrities but I mean the real people out there like those of us baking all the time. A little bit of almost everything I bake (especially the cookies) makes its way into the office so whenever I stop one of my co-workers on her way to her desk in the morning she almost always asks “chocolate?!”…I could have been giving her phone messages but somehow she could just smell the chocolate, and these cookies in particular seemed to please her so hopefully they’ll grab your attention too 🙂

I wanted to find the perfect recipe for the last bit of that Amano chocolate I received from the Blake Makes giveaway. My initial plan was to make chocolate and white chocolate truffles, and cover the chocolate ones with the Amano but this new recipe didn’t quite turn out. Don’t worry, I will be making plenty of truffles in the future, just not Amano.

So I had to come up with a different great recipe and decided to peruse my Magnolia cookbook to see what I could find. There are of course tons of excellent recipes that I want to try eventually but I had a bit of a challenge that prevented me from trying most of them. You see, I need to go grocery shopping…badly. Now I know that I could easily go and get a small amount of what I might need for any recipe, but it’s much easier to be a little lazy and much more fun to see what you can do with what you got. Truthfully I am pretty happy I went with this one 🙂

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
Source: Magnolia Cookbook

1 cup flour
6 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips*

Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and shortening with the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes or so for the sugar to dissolve then beat in to egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture until well blended then stir in the chocolate chips. *Note: this recipe called for 1/2 cup of chocolate chips but that wasn’t nearly enough so I added in another 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips. Set bowl in the fridge for a few minutes to chill. Preheat oven to 350F.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, sprinkle with additional sugar and bake for approximately ten minutes.

Scoop onto a cooling rack and allow to cool. Enjoy 🙂

The dough for these was a little drier than normal but the resulting cookies were really great. I love the sprinkling of sugar on top and plan to use it again in the future 🙂