Tag Archives: cookies

Tasty Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was in the children section at a bookstore with my friend Tina.  We were recalling some of our favorite childhood books.  I pulled out Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with nostalgic fondness.  I remember thinking how amazing it would be if meatballs fell from the sky, and as a child I daydreamed about it.  Then, there was Stone Soup, another favorite with ingredients like carrots, beef, potatoes & barley.  I never had barley at that time, but it sounded wonderful.  As I continued to pull out books there was a common theme Tina pointed out…FOOD.  She said, “Kamille, you’ve always been a foodie.”

Never gave it much thought, but I guess she’s right.  I still have my first cookbook from age 7, Mickey Mouse Cookbook with little notes inside.  One of my favorite treats is checking out cookbooks from the library.  When Tayers was born, I seriously had at least 10 cookbooks from the library (you know to read while nursing, etc).  And what is it with the fascination with Food magazines.  How many recipes does one truly need for Chocolate Cake, brownies, or apple pie?  And if you look through my recipes you’ll see that I have three different chocolate chip cookie recipes available.  So you might wonder why I’m offering you another one.  Well, I haven’t done much baking lately and I’ve been trying to eliminate wheat flour from our diet; however, I wanted to make a special New Year’s Day treat, which could be made fairly quickly.  I adapted my Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with this one to make it a paleofied version.  As Ben said after eating one, “these are good and not just Paleo good,” meaning they don’t taste like they’re a second rate version.

A Year Ago: Quicky Sticky Biscuits

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (printable recipe)

I love my Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies and these ones are even more moist, and possibly better.  This is the first time I have used coconut sugar.  It didn’t make the cookies taste like coconut either.

Ingredients:

3 1/3 cups (8 3/4 ounces) almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

10 Tb unsalted butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp Celtic sea salt

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

4 ounces Valhrona chocolate (82% cacao), chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Vanilla sea salt, or flaked sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.  Measure almond flour & baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.

On medium heat, melt 8 Tb of butter in a pan, constantly swirling until the butter is browned and smells like yummy toasted nuts (about 3 -4 minutes).  Pour the melted butter into a metal bowl, while trying to leave the bits in the pan.  Add the remainder 2 Tb of butter to melted butter and stir till it’s all melted.  Add the sugar, vanilla & salt and thoroughly combine.  Add the egg & egg yolk and mix for 30 seconds then allow it to rest for 1 minute.  Continue to mix for 30 seconds again, then rest for 1 minute and repeat one more time.

Add the almond flour & baking soda to the wet mixture and stir to combine.  Add in the chopped chocolate & pecans and mix throughout.  Place 2 Tb of dough onto the parchment paper, spaced 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle vanilla salt or flaked sea salt on top of dough.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Let cool completely on pan and then remove.

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Sandwich Cookie Bakery & Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Before I tell you about these wonderful little gems, let me digress.  I have this little dream of opening a bakery.  It’s a fantasy really, because in reality I know I will most likely not ever do it.  The realism side in me shines brightly during these visions of grandeur.  I see the long hours, the upfront costs and the early morning hours.  So, someone else with the will can go ahead of me and follow their dream.  However, if I did open a shop that I truly believe would succeed, it would be a Sandwich Cookie Bakery Shop. Cupcakes are so seven years ago, but cookies in sandwich form are going to be popping up.  I’m convinced of it.  If you stroll around the blogosphere, it’s all about the “whoopie pie,” which people loosely tie with what I deem as the coveted Sandwich Cookie.

If you’re in the mood for a cupcake without the all too often top heavy frosting, then make some of these sandwich cookies I’ve made over the past year.

Rhubarb Sandwich Cookies with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Homemade Graham Cracker Sandwiches

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Lemon Cookies with Coconut & Lemon Filling

Make Your Own Oreos

My Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies

Tomorrow is my birthday and I thought providing another cookie recipe would be a fantastic addition to your day, especially since I haven’t added any new recipes lately.  I baked for a woman’s tea this past week through Ben’s financial company, which was a nice break from motherhood and a time to have people ‘ooo’ & ‘aww’ over my food (so easy to win me over).  And since it was an afternoon tea, I knew a butter shortbread cookie would be great; but, a Lemon Lavender Butter Cookie would be perfect.  So now to the recipe.

Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookie (printable recipe)

This recipe has also been used to make the Orange Cardamom Cookies & Bursting with Delight Lime Cookies .  Both of those had an icing on top and these Lemon Lavender Cookies would be perfect with a honey glaze.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons culinary lavender
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, lemon zest, lavender, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Put the dough on parchment paper.

Mound the dough together and roll into a log. Once you get a basic log shape, position the dough in the middle of the parchment. Then, take the parchment that’s north of the dough and cover it over the dough. Take a bench scraper and push the edge of it at the base of the parchment covered dough, trying to make a concentric log. Roll the log so the parchment covers the whole thing and twist the edges. Refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight.

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Remove firm dough. Unroll the parchment so the dough is still sitting on top of the paper. Place on a cutting board. Cut the dough into 1/8 inch. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 12-15 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then slide cookies, still on parchment, onto a rack to cool completely.


My Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies

Ben and I just got back today from San Diego, while our girls were graciously taken care of by Ben’s folks.  The downside of our trip was recovering from the sickness that invaded our family & I still carried the first couple days in southern California.  It was great though.  I got to read without interruption, enjoy sunshine & the salty breeze from the ocean, and spend a lot of time with my wonderful, dear friend Veronica.  It was a real treat (thank you Steve & Cherie!).

These cookies are also a real treat.  They are addictive with that last note of saltiness to draw you in to take another bite.  As far as the real Little Debbie’s in the sealed bag found in the white box–not completely a fan.  Ben on the other hand is a fan.  Once when we were in the store he picked up a box of Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cream Pies and said he wanted to buy them.  In my haste & grandiose perception of what may not be so easily attainable I say, “Oh, don’t buy that…I could make that!”  The problem being–is I have been known to say those last four words many a times, especially at the moment when (specifically) Ben wants the designated said item right then (not two weeks later).

However, there was a time when I followed through on my “I could make that,” by making these Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies.  And you would do everyone in your household or work a favor by chanting, “I did make that!”  My girls were sure to speak the praises through continuous, “MMMM!”

Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies (printable recipe)

This recipe is revised from one online (one of those copycat kinds); however, as I truly don’t like using shortening if at all possible–I omitted it from the filling & used butter instead.  If you want a more firm filling like that found in the store kind, then use shortening where you see butter in the creme filling portion.  These cookies are very moist. If you want them a bit more firm, then try putting them in the fridge for a while to firm them up.

Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup rapadura sugar
1 Tb molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups Quick Cooking Oats

crème Filling

2 tsp very hot water
¼ tsp salt
2 cups marshmallow crème (7-ounce jar)
½ cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Directions for Cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugars, molasses, vanilla & eggs for 1 minute. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda & cinnamon. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until just combined. Mix in the oats.

Using a cookie scooper (2 Tb), drop onto lined baking sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until the cookies are just starting to darken around the edges. They will still appear moist in the center. Be careful not to over bake them. Transfer cookies on hot sheet to a wire rack and let sit for 10 minutes and transfer to foil.

Filling: While your cookies are baking, prepare the filling. Use a small bowl to dissolve the salt in 2 teaspoons of very hot water. Set this solution aside to cool. Combine the marshmallow crème, ½ cup butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix well with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the cooled salt solution to the filling mixture and combine with the mixer.

Assembling: Distribute the crème filling evenly amongst half of the cookies. Take the other cookie and put on top of the crème cookie, pressing gently to make a sandwich.


Bursting with Delight Cookies

Not only are these cookies bursting with delight, but I have been reflecting upon this notion as I await what the Christian world calls “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.”  As my girls took their nap today, I was folding laundry listening to the song, ‘O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.’  One of the lines says, “How he loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore…how for them he intercedeth.”  I was struck by how great his love is for me.  When I was a little girl I would stand up on mall benches and sing “Jesus Loves Me.”  When people would ask me why I believed in Jesus, I would respond with, “why wouldn’t I (this at a very young age).”

I think it’s because I was drawn to Jesus’ incredible love.  I knew he was good, but not just good as in the superhero fighting the villain, it was much deeper than that.  And as my oldest is three understanding more concepts, listening to all the stories we tell her, taking initiative in conversations & thoughtfulness, I’m seeing how at such a young age–Jesus makes sense.  I was reading to her some Bible stories, very simplistic in nature, and it came to the part where Jesus was being crucified (like I said, it was simplistic, not the Passion in full swing) where she had a sadness in her eye.  I could identify with that sadness and conjure it up from when I was her age, because I like her, could see why it was so sad.  It was sad & lonely, because this person who was so incredibly good & just was being robbed of life.

But the part in which I burst forth, as did she, was when we soon realized that wasn’t the end of the story, but Jesus overcame death, bursting forth from the tomb–leaving it empty.   I could see the shadow of sadness quickly being replaced with joy & hope in my three year old’s eyes.  And as I saw in this child illustrated Bible, feet on a cross, my eyes got misty connecting with the same mourning my daughter was feeling.  But, unlike watching a fake romance movie Hollywood has portrayed giving us hope deferred & hope renewed–this is such a better love story.  This is a love story even a three year old understands to be true & wholeheartedly genuine.

And even though we rarely think about feasting upon cookies during this season of Lent (most people giving them up), I do offer you a burst of delight upon your senses (not that I think these compare to the Easter story at all).  I made these cookies for my mom getaway a couple weeks back and I find they have a wonderful marriage with sour, freshness of the lime, the creamy depth of the cream cheese, the buttery, saltiness of the caramel and the crunch & melding of it all with the macadamia nuts.  I like how the flavors blend, some pack more of a punch, while others leave a nice undertone on in your mouth.

I think that’s why I find these cookies applicable with this post–it’s about awakening the senses.  So as you might read the Passion story for the first time or the 70th time, notice how much of the story deals with smell, touch, taste, sight, & sound.  How Jesus reached us with our senses.  How the Lenten season is typically about denying the senses, yet as Jesus burst forth from the tomb on Easter morning–we burst forth in celebration with him to feast in a hope no longer deferred.

Burst Delights (printable recipe)

I used my Orange Cardamom Cookies as the base for these Lime-Cream Cheese-Macadamia Nut-Caramel Cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts, measure out 1/4 cup and finely chop it up
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 lime for juice

Cream Cheese-Caramel Icing

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup homemade caramel sauce (or store bought)
  • splash of lime oil essence (or extract)
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, zest, 3 Tb. finely ground macadamia nuts, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Put the dough on parchment paper.

Mound the dough together and roll into a log. Once you get a basic log shape, position the dough in the middle of the parchment. Then, take the parchment that’s north of the dough and cover it over the dough. Take a bench scraper and push the edge of it at the base of the parchment covered dough, trying to make a concentric log. Roll the log so the parchment covers the whole thing and twist the edges. Refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight (if you want to speed the process, then place in freezer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour).

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Remove firm dough. Unroll the parchment so the dough is still sitting on top of the paper. Place on a cutting board. Cut the dough into 1/8 inch. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 12-15 minutes. While the cookies are still warm, slice the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice over the cookies.  The cookies will absorb the juice and give the cookies that great lime kick.  Cool on baking sheet and arrange with below directions.

Make Icing:

Put the whipped cream cheese in a small bowl and add 1 Tb of caramel sauce at a time.  Mixing to get a balance of caramel & cream cheese.  Then add some lime essence, just a splash.  You want to have a balance of the flavors.  Not too much of the lime, but enough to have it stand out.

Putting them together:

With a spoon, put about 1/2 teaspoon icing on each cookie & swirl around.  Drizzle caramel over the cookies with a fork or spoon.  Sprinkle with remaining chopped macadamia nut & lime zest.


Throw Nabisco Out with Homemade Oreos

There are some people who say they’ve never enjoyed Oreos.  I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed them.  In fact, in high school I spent pretty much every weekend of my junior year at my surrogate family’s house–the Carrillo’s.  Veronica (then Carrillo) is (and has been) one of my dearest of friends since I was four years old.  We are complete opposites, share a plethora of memories, and loyalty can always be found in her.

While being the adopted daughter, I would hear the question from Mrs. Carrillo, “Kamille, is there anything you want at the store?”  To which she would hear, “I guess some double stuff Oreos?!”  And come the next couple times around to making the grocery list, Mrs. Carrillo would instinctively have the double stuff on the list (or have them waiting for me).  “But now I’m taking it back, I’m taking it all back.”  Those Nabisco kind have nothing on these chocolatey mixed with white chocolate goodness.

And they went rather well with my mom get away weekend.  I got away with some of my fellow mom friends, and it was beyond glorious.  Being able to spend time to know and be known by these women I dearly love & respect was a glimpse of heaven bound.  So, in terms of these cookies, I must say that the first bite of just the cookies left me a bit disappointed.  I was expecting a little bit more depth of chocolate richness; but, in that first bite I felt it lacking.  However, as the flavors began to meld and the salt kicked in–the chocolate popped, which made me want another bite.  And that’s how these cookies work–you can’t just have one.

Homemade Oreos (printable recipe)

This recipe comes from The Essence of Chocolate.  If you were wondering if you would go back to Oreos after tasting these, the answer is NO!  You will want to make the dough when you’re ready to start rolling it out.  Putting it in the fridge will make it too hard to roll and not necessary.

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

Cookies:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 15 Tb (7 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature

For the Filling:

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.  Remove the cream from the heat and add the white chocolate (making sure all of the chocolate is covered by the cream).  Let stand for one minute then whisk to melt.  It will take about 6 hours to let the filling to get to the right consistency.

For the Cookies:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add all of the ingredients except for the butter and combine on low speed.  With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time, until all of it has been added.  The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form pebble-size pieces.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer.

Transfer the dough to a board and use the heel of your hand to shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches.  Cut the block into 2 pieces.

One at a time, roll each block of dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until 1/8 inch thick.  Use a 2-inch circular cookie cutter (I used a big pastry coupler).  Place 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.  Remove from oven and put on a cooling rack leaving the cookies on the sheet for 2 to 5 minutes (the cookies will be too soft to remove initially).  Then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

The dough trimmings can be pushed together once and rerolled to make more cookies (only re-roll twice).

To Assemble:

Place half of the cookies upside down on a work surface.  Whip the filling lightly with a whisk just to aerate it a bit; it will lighten in color and fluff up.  Do not overwhip, or the filling may begin to separate.

Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip or use a disposable pastry bag and cut an opening at the tip of the bag.  Pipe about 1 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each cookie.  Top with another cookie, right side up.  Gently, using your fingertips, press the cookies together until the filling comes just to the edges.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Note: for the leftover dough you have rolled twice, I just put it on the baking sheet and baked it.  Then, had that for the family to munch on.


Chocolate Chip Cookie Olympics

I remember sitting on my parents bed watching the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.  I was eager in anticipation to watch the Women’s (really girls) gymnastic team.  I would study their moves, watch with my jaw dropping at Dominque Dawes floor performance and wonder why my mom didn’t enlist me on my path toward gold medaldom (copyright Kamille) at age 2.  However, once it hit the Atlanta Olympics, where the US Women clinched the gold title with Kerri Strug’s renowned performance on the vault, my interest in the Olympics had hit a standstill.  Not only have they hit a standstill, but a divorce of the relationship.  As I sat around a table of friends discussing how they couldn’t get enough of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and how they’re a bit sleep deprived as a result, I hated to respond, because I was afraid of the obvious scorn.  I piped in a bit sheepishly, “Yeah, well, I haven’t watched one ounce of Olympic coverage this year.”  Looks were given.  Them trying to be courteous without telling me of my ignorance.

So there you have it.  I’m not an Olympic watcher.  It honestly doesn’t interest me that much anymore.  I understand why people get all excited about it (the various cultures & people represented, the nostalgia, etc, etc); but, really, it’s something I’m not crazy about.  Instead, I have spent the past two days preparing for what I call the Chocolate Chip Cookie Olympics.  Now this is something I get excited about.  A chocolate chip cookie can bring people together or tear them apart.  You understand.  You walk into a coffee shop and they have those big chocolate chip cookies in the big glass container and you pause.  You really want to eat one, but you wonder if they meet the criteria.  You could possibly end up hashing out $1.50 – 2.00 on a waste of your daily caloric intake.  I would wager to say that there is nothing quite as disappointing as biting into what looks like the promise land flowing of chocolate chips & butter to find a C.C.C. disguised as a dry sand-like substance floating around your mouth.  We’ve all been there.  So I set out to make three different chocolate chip cookie recipes, where I would present them to my tasters and they would judge & award gold, silver, & bronze.

Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies (Cooks Illustrated)

I first made these Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cooks Illustrated in late summer (click on the above picture and it will take you there).  These cookies probably have one of the most superb flavor profiles you’ll find.  I chose this recipe, because it is my favorite chocolate chip recipe.  The recipe calls for chocolate chips & toasted pecans.  There are chocolate chip recipes masquerading as “chocolate chip cookies,” but they’re not true to the definition.  The ones that include oats, dried fruit, nut butters, coconut, etc.  They’re good for sure, but for the sake of all things being equal.  I was on the search of a true chocolate chip cookie, no strings attached.  So for this round, I took out the toasted pecans to make it equal among the other two candidates.

The other two contestants were the classic N.Y. Times chocolate chip cookie & a recipe claimed as the best chocolate chip cookie from ‘Not Without Salt‘ blog.  A word why these two were chosen.  My friend Paige loves to bake equally as much and I would say enjoys food more than I do (that’s a compliment by the way).  She has mentioned that these are her family’s chocolate chip cookie of choice.  After I posted on the Superlative C.C.C., she commented that her & her husband Stephen still found their aged cookie to be better.  I still never made them.  Then, a couple days ago, a friend Julie emailed me about the best cookies she ever tasted with sea salt on top.  Guess which cookie she was talking about?  Yup!  N.Y. Times C.C.C.  So they were enlisted immediately.  And the last cookie was enlisted because Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt was the former Pastry Chef of Ciao Thyme in Bellingham.  I trusted the head chef Matio Gillis’ opinion of Ashley, so when she said her’s were the best, I thought, “heck, I need to try them.”  And so goes the C.C.C. Olympics.

I made each of the cookies warm to order, so all of the tasters ate them warm.  I however, didn’t make them equal in using the same type of chocolate for each, which caused a bit of discrepancy in the final tasting (but I did take that into account for the final tallying).  I will go through each cookie stating the Pros & Cons.

Cooks Illustrated Cookie

Pros: Tasters said these had the best flavor of the three.  They noted, “buttery, salty, caramel & toffee, nutty…tastes like a blondie in cookie form…chewy, with crisp edges.”  These cookies don’t need to sit in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours to get those flavors, like the N.Y. Times cookie.  They don’t require a mixer, just a whisk.

Cons: Texture didn’t win as big on these.  Although they were chewy, they lacked the combination of soft, chewy that one taster found she liked in the “Subway Chocolate Chip Cookie.”  Upon sitting at room temperature, these cookies tend to dry out a bit faster. One taster said that he didn’t care for the chocolate in these cookies, compared to the N.Y.Times one.  However, I did use different chocolate chips in both, so had I used the same kind, the outcome could have been different.  Doesn’t make as many cookies as the other recipes.

Technique: The caramel, toffee, nutty taste comes from melting the butter and toasting it; rather, than the typical creaming method.  By melting the butter, you’re taking out some of the liquid found in the solidified butter and lends to a chewier cookie.  Also, by using one egg & one egg yolk, you create more chew and take away the protein found in the extra white, which cuts back the dryness factor.  I chilled this dough for 12 hours in the fridge and measured all the ingredients; as well as, measuring each cookie to 3 1/2 ounces to bake.

NY Times Cookie

Pros:  The tasters were unanimous about loving the texture on this cookie.  As one taster mentioned sheepishly, “It tastes like, don’t judge me, but like the Subway cookies, a bit of chew, softness, chocolate chunk, and melds together well.”  Another taster said, “as a chocolate chip cookie purist, this one wins for me.  This is what I think of when you say Chocolate Chip Cookie.”  For me, I did two tastings.  One at 36 hours of aging the dough and another at 41 hours, and I would say that this cookie tasted better the second time.  The first tasting I didn’t taste strong notes of toffee, caramel, or butterscotch like the article said it would have at 36 hours.  However, I did taste it at the 41 hour mark. They still have softness after sitting on the counter (wrapped up) 24 hours later.

Cons: They take 36 hours in the fridge before they’re ready.  And if you want more depth of flavor, leave them in there up to 72 hours (reminded me of how long a baby can stay in the womb once the mama’s water breaks–weird, huh?).  The flavor wasn’t as stand out as the Cooks Illustrated.

Technique:  What makes these cookies stand out is letting them sit in the fridge for up to 36 hours before baking them.  And you sprinkle sea salt on top to let the flavors pop.  By letting the dough age, you’re allowing the proteins in the flour meld with the butter, sugar & salt to create a broader flavor profile.  You also use two different flours (cake flour & bread flour), which create a wonderful marriage in the chemistry arena of the baking process.  Cake flour with low proteins doesn’t suck up liquid like bread flour; rather, cake flour’s low protein creates a softer, paler end product along with the protein creating steam with the liquids.  Bread flour with it’s higher protein browns faster and sucks up the liquid.  So if you only used cake flour, you would have a cakey cookie, lacking any chewiness or a bit of a crust.  However, if you only used bread flour, you would end up with a very brown, crisp cookie.  Hence the perfect marriage.  I also used 60% & 70% cacao, along with some milk chocolate chunks in this dough.

Not Without Salt Cookie

Pros: This was the least loved.  Tasters said it was fine, and a nice fall back option.  The dough was a bit above average (C+).  The sprinkling of sea salt added that pop flavor. I could note a bit uniqueness in the crust, which might be attributed to the use of Turbinado sugar.  I had a bit of caramel tones.

Cons: Too much chocolate (the recipe called for quite a bit), lacked anything special about it.  It was okay, but not the best.

Technique: I went ahead and let this one sit in the fridge for 36 hours too, but it never aged as well as the N.Y. Times cookie.  If I were to make these again, I wouldn’t use as much chocolate as the recipe called for, because it ended up feeling like you were eating chocolate with some cookie, not the other way around.  Sprinkling Fleur de Sal on top before baking lends something extraordinary to even the most ordinary chocolate chip doughs.

Results:  The tasters were not unanimous in their decisions.  One said her favorite was the Cooks Illustrated.  Three other tasters said the N.Y. Times one was their favorite.  And as one taster said, “Although the flavor of the C.I. cookie is superior to the N.Y. Times one, the N.Y. Times has great texture and slightly inferior flavor, but makes it a better cookie since it meets both standards–regardless if the flavor isn’t as superior.”

So if you have time on your hand (41 hours to 72 hours), make the N.Y. Times cookies.  However, if you want warm cookies right now, make the Cooks Illustrated. The comparison between the two reminds me of Michael Phelp’s Miracle finish.  So you be the judge and make both–let me know what you think.

Overall Scores:

Gold to N.Y. Times

Silver to Cooks Illustrated

Bronze to Not Without Salt

Update (2/28/2010):  I did not use the feves talked about in the N.Y. Times recipe.  Instead, I bought a pound of chocolate from Trader Joe’s (70%) and cut it into smaller chunks with a serrated knife.  I did the same with some milk chocolate I have in bulk.  You could use packaged chocolate chunks as well.  I feel like the chocolate chip texture doesn’t hit the spot as well as chunk form.


Homemade Graham Cracker Sandwich Cookies

I feel like there are definitely those that fall under the LOVE graham cracker category.  I’m in the other camp, the “meh” camp.  I can recall old roommates getting their sugar craving quenched by putting frosting on graham crackers.  If there are graham crackers in our home, Ben will spread peanut butter on them.  As for me, I would rather have nothing.  The boxed graham crackers tend to have that mass produced taste and lacking in the honey factor (even though the box says ‘Honey Graham’).

So if you’re in the “LOVE” category, you need to make these and your admiration will increase exponentially, making you wonder what you were doing having a love affair with such second rate calories.  If you’re in the “Meh” category, then this might be the start to a “beautiful friendship.”  When you bite into these gems, you taste honey, then cinnamon, then a bit of nuttiness from the whole wheat, the richness of the butter with the bit of salt tying it altogether.  That’s the graham without the frosting, so by adding the frosting it sends you over the top.  Wow your family or guests with these nostalgic childhood snacks and I guarantee that in this instance–simplicity wins out.

Homemade Graham Cracker Sandwich Cookies

(printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook, The Grand Central Baking Book, which is a bakery located in Seattle, WA & Portland, OR. The recipe calls to bake 15-20 minutes, but I found that a 15 minute baking time produces a softer graham (not as golden, but still wonderful).  So start at 15 and add more time if you want them more crispy.

Graham Cracker Ingredients

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour, unbleached
  • 1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (3 ounces) honey

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tb heavy cream, 1/2 & 1/2, or whole milk

Directions

  1. Combine the dry ingredients: Measure the flours, baking soda, salt & cinnamon into a bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and honey: Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, both sugars & honey on medium speed for 3 – 5 minutes until light in color and fluffy.  Stop the mixer and scrap the sides and bottom of bowl.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and chill the dough: With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or up to 3 days.
  4. Shape the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Lightly dust a work surface with flour and coat a rolling pin with additional flour.  Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness, then use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the dough into rectangles (however large or small you of rectangles you would like, I varied mine between 3×5 and 2×3).  Prick the dough with a fork.  Place the rectangles about 1 inch apart on the parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake: Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.  The cookies should be dry, firm to the touch, and deep golden brown.  Let them cool completely on the baking sheets.
  6. Make the frosting: Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and powdered sugar on low speed until well blended, then increase to medium speed and beat for 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and 2 Tb cream, and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
  7. Fill & assemble the sandwich cookies: Find matching size graham crackers and using an offset spatula (or butter knife) to spread a layer of frosting on the inverted graham cracker.  Put enough frosting to fill the middle and place the other graham cracker on top squeezing slightly until the frosting spreads to the edges.

Cardamom Orange Cookies

The other day I heard these words from my very imaginative daughter’s mouth, “Put in some nutmeg, then cinnamon & CarDAmom in the crisp!” She was playing with her kitchen stuff, while replaying the time we made the P.A.C. Crisp together. It was a proud moment as a mama & lover of all things culinary…my almost three year old remembering the key ingredients to make a crisp “pop.”

Not only does she remember these sorts of things, but her delight in food is music to the ears. After baking the Cardamom Orange Cookies with her help, she eagerly awaited their arrival out of the oven (don’t you love how kids are really saying & doing what we as adults restrain). Once it was cool enough to handle, I put some of the citrus glaze on top and asked, “Is there any little girls who would like a Cardamom cookie?” She ran up & volunteered herself for the feat. Upon the cookie entering her mouth (as she is with most food she enjoys), the sounds of satisfaction like, “MMM…OH MY…(another)MMM, this is DElicious!” And so forth.

She has never been shy vocalizing her love for good food. When she nursed she let out big “MMM’s” and her first tastes of solids are equated with Bob Wiley eating Faye’s handschuked corn. I love this about her, which makes baking with her all the more enjoyable. I also love that she knows what cardamom is & how orange zest pairs well with it. So, in honor of cardamom and all things that go, “MMM,” I hope you’ll make these over the holidays to share (but don’t feel too bad if you eat more than you give away).

Cardamom Orange Cookies (printable version)

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious. I chose to take out the roll & cut method and simply rolled them into a log & cut slices from them instead. YUMMY!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom (I used a mortar & pestle to grind the cardamom from the pod)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Citrus Glaze

  • juice of one orange
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • splash of orange oil essence (or extract)
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, zest, cardamom, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Put the dough on parchment paper.

Mound the dough together and roll into a log. Once you get a basic log shape, position the dough in the middle of the parchment. Then, take the parchment that’s north of the dough and cover it over the dough. Take a bench scraper and push the edge of it at the base of the parchment covered dough, trying to make a concentric log. Roll the log so the parchment covers the whole thing and twist the edges. Refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight.

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Remove firm dough. Unroll the parchment so the dough is still sitting on top of the paper. Place on a cutting board. Cut the dough into 1/8 inch. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 12-15 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then slide cookies, still on parchment, onto a rack to cool completely.

Make Icing:

Combine powdered sugar, juice orange, orange zest & splash of orange oil (or orange extract). Glaze atop cookies.


Grandma’s No Bakes

I can recall Christmas time in AZ as a little girl typically wishing I was someplace in the movies where snow wasn’t a foreign concept.  But, despite my lack of cold powdery stuff anywhere within my perimeter, one of my fondest memories entailed a box awaiting my departure from the school bus.

My parents owned a mattress/bedding store growing up.  I would ride the bus home, or shall I say, ride the bus to the store everyday.  I was in the first grade, walking to the store anticipating the coming Christmas break (I was a huge daydreamer, so not being in a routinized setting meant the world to me).  Upon my arrival, there was a package waiting for all of us to open.  It was a big cardboard box from Oregon, which meant it was from Grandma Cox.

My grandma was one of those iconic grandmother types.  She embodied everything grandmotherly (i.e. warm hugs, cards sent for every holiday, and that aura).  I loved her more than just for what she gave us, but how she loved.  She loved with an unconditional love.  If she didn’t like someone, you would never know it, because she loved them immensely.  So, whenever we received anything in the mail from her, it was as if we were getting a bit of her there with us.

And on that December day, when I walked through the store’s back door and scrounged through that box with my brother, the round tin was our golden ticket.  My mom trying to enforce some constraint on our behalf, but I can still recall the chocolate peanut butter no bakes.  I feel like these are the quintessential Christmas nostalgia cookie for me, because of my grandma.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bakes (printable recipe)

I used gluten-free oats, in order for my gluten intolerant friend to eat them.  However, I did notice these had a bit of a chew to them.  I think it’s because they were Bob’s Red Mill Oats.  They were still wonderful and reminiscent of Grandma’s.  This recipe is adapted from here.

Ingredients:

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups oats (I used gluten-free)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa & milk and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook until mixture begins to boil.  Allow it to boil without stirring for 2-2 1/2 minutes.  Then, add the peanut butter, vanilla & oats, stirring it all together.  Remove from heat and continue to stir to allow the mixture to coat thoroughly.  Using a teaspoon or tablespoon (depending on what size you want), drop mixture onto wax paper.  Allow to sit and firm up.  Eat & drink with milk.


Community Meals

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As I was perusing the internet I came across this quote:

Churches that have not nurtured a common life among members will find hospitality to strangers difficult.  The table is central to the practice of hospitality in home and church.  The nourishment we gain there is physical, spiritual, and social.  Whether we gather around the table for the Lord’s Supper or for a church potluck dinner, we are strengthened as a community. Meals shared together in church provide opportunities to sustain relationships and build new ones. They establish a space that is personal without being private, an excellent setting in which to begin friendships with strangers.

I don’t remember where I got this or who wrote this, but I find the statement appealing.  One it makes me wonder how my church family is doing in this area of life (and how I am doing within the church body).  For me, it’s fairly easy to invite people into my home, or my life, to share a meal or drink coffee, in order to know one another.  I have the ability to make friends wherever I find myself and (not boasting) if you were to ask Ben, he would tell you, “Kamille has an inquisitive nature to draw people out by asking questions and putting them at ease.”  This type of hospitality and welcoming doesn’t scare me, but I know it scares other people (and that’s okay if it does).

However, what’s hard for me in my idealist/dreamer ways is seeing a need for hospitality & community meals in the larger church gathering; yet, it stays fairly idle.  I get discouraged, because I read quotes like the one above and say, “YES, we need that to survive, to breathe, to truly know one another.”  I get discouraged, because I see people on the fringes not knowing how to make their way in and I’m only one person (who just happens to have two little ones and by default it makes me less available).  Does anyone else feel like this?  Whether, it be the outsider trying to make your way in or the insider trying to find an opening?

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But, in trying to live in the “glass half full” mindset, I see how amazing a meal can bring people together.  It’s not HUGE; yet it is!  I know I felt incredibly loved & cared for in my postpartum stage with my two girls through people bringing meals.  For one, I was simply famished like any mother nursing a schizophrenic sleeper.  And two, it’s something I didn’t have to think about.  Blessing.  We are community friends with four Japanese students who are studying at Western for about six months.  We can alleviate some of the language barriers and anxiety by feeding our bellies, and ultimately our souls.  Blessing.  There’s a young adults gathering called ‘Soup & Story’ through our church body.  People who don’t know one another are able to find friendship & be friendship through something simple as soup and bread.  Blessing.  And I got to make some wonderful pumpkin whoopie pie cookies last week for the new group of freshman at Western.  A time when they’re possibly feeling insecure or fearful about being away from home, I can put my baking skills to good use.  Blessing.

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As I share this recipe with you, I hope you will see the many blessings in your life and ways to shower down blessings on someone else.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Marshmallow Cream Filling (printable version)

Adapted from this recipe by Two Fat Cats Bakery, Portland, Maine My changes were adding ground ginger and using rapadura sugar in place of the granulated sugar.  I found this from Bon Appetite.

Ingredients

FILLING

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract

CAKE

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup rapadura sugar (you can use granulated)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 15 oz pumpkin puree or 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used whole)
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

FILLING

  • Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add marshmallow creme and maple extract; beat until blended and smooth. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

CAKE

  • Sift first 8 ingredients into large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in another large bowl until blended. Gradually beat in oil. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in pumpkin. Add dry ingredients in 2 additions alternately with milk in 1 addition, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Cover and chill batter 1 hour.
  • Arrange 1 rack in bottom third of oven and 1 rack in top third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment; spray lightly with nonstick spray. Spoon batter onto baking sheet to form cakes (about 3 level tablespoons each; about 12 per baking sheet), spacing apart. Let stand 10 minutes.
  • Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool cakes completely on baking sheets on rack. Using metal spatula, remove cakes from parchment.
  • Line cooled baking sheets with clean parchment; spray with nonstick spray, and repeat baking with remaining batter.
  • Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling on flat side of 1 cake. Top with another cake, flat side down. Repeat with remaining cakes and filling. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature.