Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chocolate Covered Cherries

A few weeks back, I held a contest on Facebook for flavor ideas. The winner was chosen at random, but there were so many good ideas I decided to keep a list and make them all. One of the suggestions was chocolate with cherries.

When I think of chocolate with cherries, it always reminds me of my Great Grandma, whose favorite candy in the world was chocolate covered cherries. We always got them for her for birthdays and holidays. I was pretty young at the time, but I remember her fondness for the little treats very well.

So I decided to tweak the idea a little and make a chocolate covered cherry cookie. This cookie does not contain actual cherry cordials, it is only inspired by the candy.

I have a couple of candy making books at home. It's something I have been interested in, but never really pursued. However, the books do come in handy when you need to learn how to temper chocolate or in this case, how a real chocolate covered cherry is made.

How these little treats are made is very important to deciding what kind of flavors need to go into the dough to replicate the taste. There are two common ways to make chocolate covered cherries. They both involve maraschino cherries. In the first you wrap the cherry in a layer of fondant before dipping and the second you wrap the cherry in a layer of marzipan before dipping. Both fondant and marzipan are mostly comprised of sugar, so the juice from the cherry actually dissolves the sugar inside of the chocolate shell, which is how you get the runny inside that you find when biting into them.

Since I have a long time love affair with marzipan and fondant wouldn't be very good in a cookie - the choice was easy. I began by getting a log of baking marzipan from the grocery store. I used about half a log for this recipe. I cut it up into small bits about the size of a chocolate chip. Then I drained a jar of maraschino cherries and chopped them in the food processor. While I was preparing everything else, I let the chopped cherries sit in a sieve to drain as much extra juice as possible - because as we've learned before too much liquid in a cookie is not a good thing.

Although chocolate covered cherries are typically made with milk chocolate, I decided to use semi-sweet chocolate in my recipe. I made a basic chocolate cookie, substituting almond extract for vanilla to bring out the marzipan flavor even more. At the end I added in the marzipan bits and cherries and popped them in the oven.

These cookies had a weird texture on the outside when they came out of the oven. It was almost a sticky feeling. The inside texture was wonderful though and the taste - to die for! The taste testers didn't seem to mind the outside and they all thought it was just like eating a chocolate covered cherry.

I think I will tweak the recipe a bit, playing with the ratio of white to brown sugar to try to get a crispier outer shell and also add even more cherries and marzipan, because it was so yummy.

These are definitely going to be a new favorite recipe! It's too bad my Grandma is not around to try some. I'm sure she would approve.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

After much anticipation on my part, I finally created a strawberry cookie this week.

I had been thinking about this cookie for a few weeks now. I knew fresh strawberries weren't going to work after my mush cookie experience with the blueberries. Although my local stores had quite a selection of dried fruits, none of them carried dried strawberries. I resorted to a google search, which led my to - quite possibly the best source for nut and fruits on the internet! They have such a wide selection of dried fruits, some of which I had never even heard of. Also, they shipped my order within 45 minutes of my placement and it arrived in 2 days. The dried strawberries were soooo delicious and full of flavor, I was dying to get to work on my new cookie.

I decided to begin with a cookie base similar to a chocolate chip cookie dough. In the first batch, I added about a cup of the cut up dried strawberries and half a cup of white chocolate chips - trying to imitate the flavor of whipped cream. Boy were those cookies sweet! So, so sweet. The kind that makes your teeth hurt when you're eating it. Also, they had hardly any strawberry flavor.

I went back to the drawing board to develop a less sweet cookie base. I adjusted the amount of brown sugar as compared to white sugar, since brown sugar gives less of a sweet taste. I also decided to add strawberry extract instead of vanilla. Since my original recipe had very little liquid and I liked the consistency, I decided to substitute part of the butter with shortening, which has less water than butter.

The result was fantastic! I've been sharing these cookies with taste testers all day. I got one vote to add some kind of icing, to mimic whipped cream. One vote to add nuts. Five votes that the cookies were perfect and needed nothing changed at all. And one person who proclaimed these the best cookies they've ever had in their whole life! What a compliment.

I think I've got a winner. Now, perhaps I will try some other fruits in this same recipe and see how they turn out.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

German Chocolate "Drop Cake" Cookies

My parents divorced when I was young. I spent the majority of my time with my mom, who was a single mother until I was thirteen years old. When I was ten, we moved to a new house. That meant I had to leave my old babysitter behind and begin staying home alone from 3 until 5pm each day.

Well, my mom's favorite cake is German Chocolate Cake. She usually kept the cake mix and icing in the cabinet in case she wanted to have some.

Well, when it came time for her birthday, I decided to come home from school and bake her a German Chocolate cake before she got home from work. I did quite well at following the instructions and the cake turned out great. I got the frosting on and had it waiting on the counter. Just about that time, I heard the garage door opening. I rushed to the kitchen to try to hide the cake in a lower cabinet, so she wouldn't see it right away (never realizing that the whole house probably smelled of cake). When I grabbed the cake plate off the counter, I dropped the whole thing. It splatted all over the kitchen floor and i burst into tears. My mom came in, saw me crying over a pile of German Chocolate cake on the floor.

She consoled me, telling me that she had just mopped the kitchen floor the night before so the floor was clean. We scooped all the cake off the floor and piled it back onto the cake plate and she ate it. She said it was the best "drop cake" she had ever tasted.

Whenever I see German Chocolate cake to this day, I am reminded of dropping the cake in the kitchen floor when I was a kid.

This week is my mom's birthday. She loves my cookies and doesn't get as many as she would like since she lives in another state. For this week's recipe, I decided to turn her beloved German Chocolate Cake into a cookie recipe.

I tried for many days to figure out how I could include the frosting inside the cookie or at least add ingredients that would impart the flavor of the frosting. I couldn't come up with anything. I asked a fellow baker from work and she didn't have any creative ideas either.

In the end, I created a german chocolate cookie by adapting the cake recipe using cookie ratios. I made my cookies into a sandwich using the german chocolate icing as filling. The recipe only made about a dozen big sandwiches.

Keith and I both had one and it was delicious. The cookie has a nice fluffy cake texture and the icing was the perfect touch.

I packed up a box of the remaining cookies and sent them to my mom today. Hopefully she'll get them just in time for her birthday this weekend.

Here is the recipe for those who are interested:

German Chocolate Cookies

4 oz. German Chocolate, chopped
6 TBsp Butter, cut into slices
1/3 C Sugar
1/3 C Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2 TBsp Buttermilk
1 C All-Purpose Flour
1/2 C Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Put chocolate and butter into a heat proof bowl and microwave on 50% power until melted. You should stop microwaving while there are still small chunks of chocolate. You can melt the remainder by stirring. This will allow you to take care not to overheat the chocolate. Allow to cool. You can also use a double bowler if you prefer.
3. Put flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda into a separate bowl. Mix lightly with a fork or whisk. Set aside.
4. In another bowl mix chocolate mixture, white and brown sugars on medium speed until well combined.
5. To chocolate mixture, add eggs and buttermilk and mix on medium low speed until combined.
6. Reduce the mixer to low speed, add the flour mixture 1/3 at a time, mixing until just combined. Take care not to overwork the flour, by doing the final mixing by hand.
7. Drop balls approximately 1 1/2" diameter onto prepared sheets. I like to use a ice cream scoop.
8. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on sheet for 1 minute. Remove to cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
9. Make sandwiches using german chocolate icing.*
*For this recipe, I actually used store bought icing to save time. It tasted great, but you can also use your favorite german chocolate icing recipe.

Makes approximately 15 sandwiches.

Blueberry Cookies Redux, Part 1

In addition to the new recipe I will be creating this week, I revisited the Blueberry Cookies from a couple of weeks ago, in hopes of creating something that wouldn't turn into a mushy mess.

This time, I decided to use dried blueberries. I still wanted to use the blueberry jam in the recipe, since it did add some blueberry flavor. I also thought I might turn this into an oatmeal cookie, with the idea that maybe the oatmeal would soak up some of the moisture.

Well, I worked out a recipe including both oatmeal and toasted almonds. I added in my dried blueberries. And waited for them to come out of the oven.

I was a bit disappointed with the outcome. They weren't bad, they just weren't anything to brag about. I found the oatmeal and nuts to be very distracting. Surprisingly the dried blueberries did still retain a lot of blueberry flavor, but one package (4oz) was not nearly enough to make this a true blueberry cookie. The cookies didn't turn to mush, but they had a weird texture.

I found them quite nice to eat for breakfast. I had previously had a lot of complaints about the previous batch being too sweet. This time I used mostly brown sugar, which imparts less of a sweet taste. Unfortunately, brown sugar also keeps the cookie from developing a nice cookie crumble.

I sat down and created a 4th revision based on the taste and texture of this batch. I decided to take all of these in to work to get rid of them in a hurry. I was surprised to find that several people thought they were good. Most commented that they had never had a blueberry cookie before. The regular tasters thought this new batch was better than the mush batch, but still not right.

Perhaps I will give it another shot this coming weekend.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Whiskey a Co-Coa

I didn't make it until next week. Last week in the cookie contest, there was a suggestion for a Whiskey, Raisin, and Walnut cookie. I wasn't sure at first, but as others heard about the flavor, they were very interested. I was intrigued.

Inspired by that flavor suggestion and St. Patrick's Day, I decided to try to make an Irish Carbomb cookie. The Irish Carbomb is a shot of half Bailey's Irish Cream and half Whiskey dropped into a glass of Guinness Beer. Liquid is very difficult to add to a cookie and still maintain a cookie texture. I couldn't come up with any way to get all three liquids into one cookie, so I decided to go with the two strongest - Bailey's and Whiskey.

I threw together a chocolate cookie with a little less than a shot of whiskey in the batter. Of course, the alcohol cooked off a bit, but the cookie was left with a nice unusual flavor. I topped the cookie off with a flat icing made of Bailey's Irish Cream and powdered sugar. It added just a little kick of alcohol to the cookie.

I didn't really have any trials in making these cookies. They turned out just like I expected on the first try.

Keith was not a big fan of the cookies - he only thought they were OK. I was pleasantly surprised and thought the flavor was better than I expected. Both Keith and I took the cookies to our coworkers, who all seemed very pleased.

Of course, after making the cookies, I had the perfect idea for making an actual carbomb cookie - so I am going to save that for another day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And the winner is...

This week I decided to run a contest on my facebook fan page for a new cookie flavor. The winning idea to be turned into a cookie and the winning entrant to receive a dozen of their cookies for free.

I received a little over 20 entries in 24 hours. There were a lot of very interesting flavor ideas, like: beer and chocolate, whiskey with raisins and walnuts, orange dreamcicle, fluffernutter, and on and on... A few of the suggestions were cookies I had already made, so those were immediately disqualified. I randomly numbered the remaining entries and made Keith choose the winner. He was pulling hard for waffles with maple syrup, but ultimately the winner was Butterscotch.

I actually prepared a couple of butterscotch recipes, since I wasn't really sure how far I could go - because butterscotch is soooooo sweet.

I started with a butterscotch flavored cookie. It was a nice golden color and about the texture of a peanut butter cookie. I used butterscotch pudding in the cookie batter, which added the majority of the flavor and was a trick I came up with a few months back on a different recipe. The cookies were good, but the butterscotch flavor wasn't that strong, so I took the remaining dough and added some butterscotch chips. Boy were these butterscotch cookies! My whole house had a sickeningly sweet smell while they were baking and it was burning my nose a little. The taste was good though.

Then I decided to go a completely different route. I mixed up a batch of plain oatmeal cookies. I used the hidden filling trick with butterscotch ice cream topping. Having only ever bought hot fudge ice cream topping, I expected the consistency to be thick and to melt when baking. When I opened the butterscotch I found out it was actually very runny. Still I forged ahead and what came out of the over was a hot mess! Here's a picture just for your enjoyment:

The cookies basically oozed butterscotch all over the cookie sheet and they barely had any butterscotch flavor at all. Before I saw that the cookies weren't going to work, I had already made up a second sheet in the same manner making an even bigger whole for the filling and putting double the amount of butterscotch. They were even more of a mess. Even after cooling they wouldn't come off the cookie sheet. They broke into pieces, had sticky gooey stuff all over the outside, but they tasted better. With the last bit of oatmeal dough, I just took the easy route and put in some butterscotch chips to make oatmeal scotchies. Not real creative, but you have to work with what you got.

the one in the front was the overall winner from the testers

So I passed along the three edible flavors to the winner, Paige, and she enjoyed the butterscotch with chips the best. Keith also took some to his work and the consensus was the butterscotch with the chips was the best. Out of his coworkers, he found that at least 3 people didn't like butterscotch at all and there was one butterscotch fanatic - who just loved the cookies. I guess it's an all or nothing kind of cookie.

I still think butterscotch is too sweet to make a whole cookie butterscotch flavored, but the lovers thought they were great! I guess that's all that matters.

Until next week...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Flipside Mocha Cookies

This week, my boyfriend and faithful taste tester, Keith, requested cookies with coffee. Keith loves coffee - drinking it from the time he wakes up until after 5 pm everyday. Since I think coffee smells delicious but tastes absolutely awful, I have a hard time understanding how he can drink so much of it. However, I am surrounded in both my personal life and work life by a bunch of coffee lovers, so I decided to oblige him and make a mocha (coffee and chocolate) cookie.

To start with I checked my cookbooks. I found a recipe in the All American Cookie Book for a Mocha Cookie with White Chocolate Chips. It looked good in the picture and since I recently found I had an abundance of white chocolate, for some weird reason, I decided to try it. I didn't want to put chips in the cookies, so for a different look I thought I would try to dip them in white chocolate.

Well, I should have known something would not be right when I saw the recipe only contained 1/4C of flour. As I said, the cookies in the photo looked good, but when they came out of the oven they had a meringue cookie shell and gooey chocolate center. I took a small bite and the coffee taste was so overwhelming, I very nearly spit it out. But I decided to be a big girl and just down a huge glass of milk to wash the coffee away.

I set out to dip the cookies. Mind you, in all my cookie making experience, I have never dipped anything in chocolate. So I heated the chocolate in my double boiler and dipped the first cookie - it came out looking beautiful. Then I stuck in the second cookie and it completely fell apart. I grabbed the broken pieces out with a fork. The third cookie also broke into pieces. These cookies were very delicate. I ended up with a big pile of white chocolate covered bits.

The cookies were breaking apart so badly, that I decided to only try to dip half of the cookie (a black and white cookie look). Well, at one point I accidentally touched my finger to the chocolate and it was like lava. Come to find out this was the whole problem. The cookies were probably too delicate to dip, but the chocolate was also way to hot. I found this out by reading my candy making book, which says chocolate should only be about 85 degrees F for good dipping consistency. Here is what the first batch looked like.

When Keith tried the cookies, he thought they were wonderful. Basically the recipe contains the equivalent of 4 cups of coffee in 20 cookies - so you can imagine how strong the flavor was. He and I both took some to work to share and they were very popular.

I didn't like how delicate the cookies were and was ready to retry the dipping process. So I tweaked the recipe. The second batch came out much better. The consistency was like a normal cookie. Although they contained the same amount of coffee the flavor was less intense. I was able to dip them succesfully by heating the chocolate only to the melting point (I used the microwave this time) and then just let it sit on the counter while working. I only dipped the bottom of the cookies, as you can see in the picture.

These got very good reviews. Between my coworkers and Keith's, there were three complaints about less coffee flavor. This time, non-coffee drinkers also enjoyed the cookies. In fact, Keith took some to work and they were gone before he even got to have one. I was told by one taster that these were their absolute favorite and they wouldn't change one thing. It's nice to be able to make something others enjoy so much, when I couldn't even stand to taste it myself.

Now I just need to find something to use up the rest of my white chocolate stockpile.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blue Blue Blueberry

This past weekend, I was stumped. A few months ago, when I started this blog, I made a list of all the ideas I had to turn into cookies. Well, I referred to my list this past Friday and found, I had completed them all. Some still need some tweeking, but overall the list was done. So I asked my boyfriend and faithful cookie tester, Keith, what kind of cookies he would like to have this time. His answer was blueberry - followed by the comment "if anyone can make a blueberry cookie, it's you." Ahhh, such a sweet guy.

So, I hit the store in search of blueberries. Don't ask me why I've been on this summertime fruit kick lately. Maybe it's the terrible winter we've been having. I just want something to remind me of warmer and less snowy days. While I was thinking about my blueberry cookies, I decided to also grab some blueberry jam - since I wasn't sure exactly what kind of recipe I was going to come up with.

Well, I have made a blueberry cookie before, which also contained dried cranberries. They were only good warm, had a texture more like a scone and didn't have a whole lot of blueberry flavor. Although my dad and I found they were very good right out of the over with a dollop of whipped cream - but what isn't good with whipped cream?... Anyways, I digress.

I wanted my cookies to actually be cookies and taste blueberry through and through. Since I had plans for almost the whole weekend, I decided to bake on Friday night. So, I threw together a recipe and set to baking. I've been told many times that blueberry and lemon goes great together, so I decided to try to incorporate some lemon into my recipe. Also, while I was at it, I thought I would use almond extract instead of vanilla for a little different flavor. Since blueberries and lemons are both acidic, I threw in a little baking soda to cut the acidity.

In the first try of the recipe, I put about 1/2 cup of blueberries into the food processor and then ran them through a sieve. So I was left with a little more than 1/4 cup of blueberry juice, which I mixed into the cookie dough. I put the remaining 3/4 cup blueberries whole into the mix at the very end. I used a little lemon zest for flavor. The cookies tasted good, but were really sweet. The almond extract was very strong and there wasn't much blueberry flavor. The juice really did nothing for the taste and there ended up only being 1 or 2 blueberries in each cookie. Also, the cookies spread very thin and were very buttery. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of trial #1, because I gave them all out to taste testers for feedback. So I decided to go back to the drawing board...

For trial #2, I decided to skip the blueberry juice and just add 1/4 cup of the blueberry jam I had purchased (a good move on my part). Then I was able to add the entire 1 1/4 cup of whole blueberries to the recipe. Since there is sugar in the jam, I cut my sugar by about 1/4 cup. I also cut the butter and almond extract. I decided to use a little less baking soda and add baking powder instead to reduce the amount of spread.

The second trial came out much better. The jam even made the cookies turn blue. I received several comments from testers about the color being a little strange, but really there is not enough blue food in the world, if you ask me. So the flavor was good when the cookies were fresh from the oven. Lots of blueberry flavor. Keith said he thought they still were a little sweet or buttery, but the main thing I could still taste was the almond extract. Keith and I both took cookies to work for sampling. Unfortunately, overnight something magical (in a bad way) happened inside the cookie jar. The cookies became very soft, I suppose absorbing the juice from the berries and the blueberry flavor faded away a bit. On the upside, the almond flavor also mellowed. Both my and Keith's coworkers felt that the cookies were still too sweet and everyone commented that they were now too soft. My coworkers thought there was not enough blueberry flavor and said I should try dried blueberries or possible candy the blueberries before putting them in. Obviously, I'm going to need another trial.

Even so, we enjoyed eating them and they made cute pictures. I haven't seen very many blue cookies in my lifetime. :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Corn & Raspberries

For the week of February 22nd, I was inspired by a muffin I had made for a coworker's birthday about 6 months ago. The muffins were a sweet corn with raspberries and blackberries. I had never been a huge fan of raspberries, because I had mostly only ever eaten things with raspberry filling, etc...anyways, I figured I would enjoy the muffins with the blackberries. Turns out the raspberry ones were delicious and I couldn't stop eating them. The corn and raspberry combo was so good together.

So I woke up early on Saturday morning, despite my best efforts to sleep in. I looked in the fridge at the remaining raspberries from last week's disasterous chocolate raspberry cookies and thought - why don't I turn that muffin recipe into a cookie? So I went to work calculating the ratios of ingredients for the corn muffin portion. Once I had a recipe put together, I spent some time thinking about how I wanted to incorporate the raspberries into the mix. I decided to make it a hidden pocket of raspberry in the middle of the corn cookie. If you've never had a hidden surprise in the middle of the cookie - it is a little extra work, but if you're careful about putting the cookie together so none of the filling peaks out, then it makes a really cute cookie. Basically, you take a small piece of cookie dough and make it into a ball. Put it on the sheet and press your thumb in the middle. Put your filling in the hole. Now take another piece of cookie dough and flatten it out, place it over the filling and press it together around the edges. If your filling is liquid, like in these cookies, be careful when you're pressing, because if you mess up your thumbprint, the liquid will run out the sides.

Just look at how these turned out.

Anyways, the cookies were delicious. They turned out a little sweeter than I wanted, but all in all a sweet cornbread flavor in the shape and size of a cookie. The raspberry filling was very good when the cookies were warm out of the oven, but turned out to be too little raspberry for the amount of cookie. Also, after a couple of days in the cookie jar, the liquid was absorbed from the raspberry into the cookie part. Although this kept the cookies from getting stale, the raspberry turned into a solid piece in the middle and was not very good. I think when I try this recipe again, I will use raspberry jam or something similar (which has a little more substance than pureed raspberries).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Disaster

About a week ago, I was looking through my Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook and I noticed a white cookie with raspberry filling and on the very next page a chocolate cookie with white filling. Well, I thought - wouldn't it be great to make a chocolate cookie with raspberry filling. I figured it would be chocolate-y and the filling would be pink and it would be terrific for valentine's day.

Well, it is not exactly easy to find raspberries in the middle of the snowiest winter in 15 years. However, I did manage to find a pint. I gathered all the other ingredients and had a plan to make these over the valentine's weekend.

Despite my best efforts, I did not find time to make these cookies in time for valentine's day. I didn't find time to make them the day after either. So by the third day, I was really ready to make these cookies. I had this very clear idea in my head of how the cookies would turn out. Boy was I wrong.

I began by making the chocolate cookies. I followed Martha's recipe exactly. First problem with the recipe - it tells you to use a glass dipped in plain sugar to flatten the cookie balls. Well, whoever wrote this recipe obviously never tried to dip a glass in sugar or they would have known that sugar doesn't stick to glass. I solved this problem by using a tiny bit of water on the bottom of the glass to make the sugar stick. Despite the sugary coating - after a few cookies the glass does stick to the dough, so it was necessary to pry it away and try to reshape the cookie.

After they were prepped they went in to bake. When they emerged from the oven, I was astonished to find they didn't look like the photo at all. If you refer to Martha's cookbook - you will see an almost black, smooth textured cookie that looks to be about 2 inches across. As you can see from this picture, that's not at all how I would describe my cookies.

My cookies turned out a light brown color, completely coated with sugar and cracked on the outside. They got huge during baking, more than 3 inches across and when I removed them from the oven, the centers fell - so they turned into craters.

Despite this, I trudged on.

I began making up the white chocolate raspberry filling. The recipe directed me to put the raspberries in the food processor and then pour it through a sieve to remove the seeds. Well, processed raspberries don't pour through a sieve. They actually require you to work them through the mesh with a spatula, which takes longer than you might think. While I was sieving my raspberries, I had the white chocolate melting in a double boiler. Reading the recipe, which involved mixing melted chocolate with heavy cream, it seemed like it would produce a ganache type mixture. However, in ganache, you usually heat the cream and then mix in the chocolate - so this was a little backwards.

Once it was all done, I mixed the raspberries into the white chocolate mixture and put it in the refrigerator, as directed. The recipe called for a 30 minute chill. However, after more than 2 hours, I found the filling still had not stiffened to an icing consistency.

I was tired of waiting, so I decided to go ahead and fill my sandwich cookies. I got a little of the icing on my finger and even though it was very runny it had good flavor. I was very excited to try out the cookies. All of this excitement is what led up to the big letdown.

Keith was with me as I filled the cookies. We both tried it together and I think we made two of the most awful faces I've ever seen someone don while eating cookies.

The chocolate cookies were hard, chocolate-y in a weird way (like hot chocolate instead of a chocolate candy bar) and the icing was so runny it just dripped out of the sides of the cookies. Neither of us could even eat a whole cookie - it was that bad! I told Keith I was going to keep them in the fridge for a day or two so I could take pictures for the blog and then I would throw them out. He offered to take them to his co-workers, but I was embarrassed to be associated with something so awful. We joked about bagging them up and leaving them on a counter somewhere - just walking by and saying "wow, someone brought in some cookies", but I felt bad for tricking anyone into eating these disgusting cookies - so they were fated for the garbage can.

I plan to retry this cookie, but I think next time I am going to make up my own recipe, prepare the ganache according to standard practices and see how it goes. Stay tuned for a redo!

Overall, the pictures turned out better than the actual cookie. So learn from me - skip these two recipes from the book and just enjoy my photos.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentines Day Cookies

For a couple of years, one of the cookies I am most asked for is a red-velvet sandwich cookie, recipe courtesy of Paula Deen. These cookies are delicious and very much like eating a piece of cake. The problem with the original recipe is 1. It has a thick layer of cream cheese icing, which while delicious is not safe for shipping and 2. The cookie layers are very much like cake and they tend to stick together, stick to your fingers, just generally make a mess. None of these are good qualities for a cookie sold on the internet and often shipped to family and friends.

Last night, I accepted my own personal challenge to turn the original sandwich cookie recipe into something a little easier to work with. Using my personal cookie ratio, I made adjustments to the recipe (mostly removing wet ingredients). The first batch was delicious, but still a little poofy and cakey (as you can see in the photo below):

By the time these came out of the oven, I was so psyched up for having a new recipe in the bag that I became really frustrated about the cakey-ness and immediately set to work making more adjustments to the recipe.

One ingredient that has a big effect on the texture of the cookie is eggs. The original recipe called for 2 eggs and that seemed like it might be too much for a chewy cookie texture. I also adjusted the leavening and sugar. After deciding on my adjustments, it was back to the mixer for batch #2.

Finally, success!! A red velvet "cookie" that is truly a cookie. Although the texture is no longer like cake, I managed to retain the delicious flavor of red velvet cake.

I googled online to find out if there was a way for me to prepare a cream cheese flavored royal icing, but apparently that concoction is a chemical impossibility. So, I settled for cream cheese icing on these. Here's a sample of the finished product:

These turned out cute and just in time for valentine's day. I am still working on the icing issue - since cream cheese icing doesn't set up and cream cheese spoils, these are not ideal for storing or shipping. I had a great idea this morning for an alternative to standard cream cheese icing and I plan to try it out tonight. I'll keep you posted on the results. As soon as I nail an icing solution these will be available on the website.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pucker Up Keylime

About two years ago, I began working on a keylime cookie at my father's request. I spent several months baking and adjusting and taste testing several cookies. Finally, after about 5 months, I found the perfect flavor combination. Believe me, creating a keylime recipe is no easy task. There is a lot of time involved in zesting and squeezing tiny limes - in general, I try to do a couple of pounds at a time and freeze the leftovers. Lime juice and zest will both last for a while in the freezer in an airtight container (although sometimes the zest can get a little discolored).

Anyways, despite having created a delicious cookie, my recipe produced a cookie that was just a little too delicate. In fact, I sell this cookie on my website, but find that some of the cookies usually end up broken with each shipment, which is not good service. So this week I set to work trying to create a better constructed keylime cookie with the same great flavor.

There are three books I have been reading and absorbing over the past couple of months - Ratios, Bakewise, and How Baking Works. All three books address the chemistry of baking and teach how ingredients work. The book, Ratios, was quite interesting in that the author proposes any recipe can be changed from crepe to pancake to biscuit to cookie to cake with just an adjustment of the ratio of ingredients. He proposes a couple of basic cookie ratios in his book - while I didn't find his ratios to be perfect for my purpose, I was able to use the information to find a common ratio among my favorite recipes, which has helped me to find my own perfect ratio for the chewy cookies I love to eat! -- I mean bake. :)

So, after working on juicing the tiny limes, I set to work on my new recipe. I adjusted the butter, flour, sugar and amount of lime juice. I was worried about adjusting the amount of juice, because I didn't want less lime flavor, so I added a little extra zest. As it turns out the new recipe was fantastic. The cookies are stronger - so far only one has broken in my cookie jar - and they still taste delicious. My keylime recipe also incorporates white chips for a little bit of sweet taste to offset the tanginess of the lime. I did find that with less lime juice, I may need to cut back a little on the chips, because these were a little too sweet.

Despite too many white chips - the cookies were wonderful. This is one of my most favorite recipes! I find that ironic, because I am not really a fan of lime flavor. In fact, I have never eaten keylime pie - but I am told the cookies taste just like it. There were only enough cookies to give to one taste tester - because my boyfriend's favorite dessert is keylime. So these are going fast!

If you want to try some, visit my website

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cashews & Caramel

For the week of February 1, I decided to make a Cashew Caramel cookie also found in the Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook.

My boyfriend, Keith, is allergic to peanuts, so I never get to make any of my old standby peanut butter cookie recipes. He loves cashews, so I was looking for a recipe which would be like a peanut butter cookie but utilize cashews instead. This was the one.

Also, I had some Kraft Caramel baking bits, which I wanted to use - but I hadn't come across the perfect recipe for them until now.

The actual recipe calls for preparing the cookies and then melting down a bunch of the little caramel squares and making a drizzle on the top. For one, the drizzle seemed like it was going to make a mess of gooey cookies that would be stuck together in my cookie jar. Two, I really wanted to use the caramel bits, so I altered the recipe and mixed the bits in just like chocolate chips would go in a cookie.

The recipe was pretty straightforward - you make your own cashew butter, which called for Canola Oil (which I didn't have) so I just used plain vegetable oil instead. You make up the cookie, which comes out the same consistency as a peanut butter cookie recipe. According to Martha, you are supposed to drop the cookies in a ball on the sheet cook for 6 minutes, then open the oven and flatten them and cook for 6 minutes more. I am not a fan of opening the oven in the middle of the baking process or touching piping hot cookie dough - so I opted to flatten them before sticking them in the oven. The baking time was incorrect again, so you would just have to keep an eye on them to see when the edges are getting brown. I felt like it took at least 13 minutes.

The cookies turned out fantastic! They look a lot like a pecan sandie cookie. They don't have a really strong taste of cashews, despite having over 2 cups of cashews in the mix, which was disappointing. They were pretty delicious though. Eating them right when cooled was the best time because they were still soft and the caramel was melted. The next day I found the cookies to be very hard (more like a shortbread) and the caramel bits also got a bit chewy, which made them get stuck in your teeth. I am not sure why Martha had this categorized as a chewy cookie, because the chewy-ness was gone after they cooled. Here's a picture of the final project:

These were very popular. I didn't take them to work. My boyfriend ate a bunch of them and shared them around his work. All of his coworkers really enjoyed them.

My only tip would be to pop them in microwave for about 10 seconds if you're eating them after they're cooled. It makes the fresh and chewy like just out of the oven and the caramel gets all melty again, which is delicious.

Another thing which was nearly as exciting as these yummy cookies what the final completion of my lightbox - which I used to take these photos. I am working on my presentation as I am new to food photography, so any comments or suggestions are welcome. I am expecting to post beautifully lit photos from now on with each recipe. Until next time...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies

For the week of January 11th, I made a Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookie. A recipe I found in the Martha Stewart Cookies book. I was looking for something simple and when I flipped to this recipe, it called for 1 ripe banana, which I just happened to have. In fact just minuted before finding the recipe, I was thinking the banana looked like it was getting a little too ripe and I needed to find something to do with it - so this seemed like a perfect match.

The cookies only call for 1 banana in about 3 dozen cookies, so it didn't seem like there would be much banana flavor, but boy was I wrong! These cookies were amazing. I made them at 1pm in the afternoon and they didn't last through the evening. They definitely didn't make it to work or any remote taste testers.

Unfortunately, with the quick disappearance of the cookies, I didn't get any photos. So a few days later, I decided to make another batch to take to work. Once again these cookies were very popular at the office.

I would definitely suggest this recipe. It has a surprising amount of banana flavor, it's an oatmeal based cookie (even though you can barely tell there is oatmeal inside) and it calls for chocolate chunks. However, if your store is like mine, they don't always keep the chunks in stock, so I just substituted regular chocolate chips. The baking time is wrong in the recipe (at least for my oven) which produced a few overcooked ones in the first batch. Even the overcooked ones were delicious, as they had a little bit of a crunchy outside.

The cookies are cakelike and soft. I am more of a chewy cookie girl, but honestly, I couldn't stop eating these. The recipe says they're only good to store for 3 days, but they won't last that long - so make extra!

With all the busy holidays, my light box is still not complete. I wanted to get pictures of these, but there was a very small window before they were all gone. Maybe I will make them a third time and post up some photos for you to see.

Christmas Time Cookies - Cherry Cheesecake

Ok, I didn't post in a timely manner. I'm catching up now. I will admit that for the week of December 21st, I did not bake anything for this blog. The reason being, my website had a ton of Christmas orders and I literally spent the entire week prior to Christmas mixing, baking and packaging every night. I could have never gotten it all done without the help of my sweetie, Keith, who learned how to use the sealer and packaged over 15 dozen cookies for me in one sitting.

Other than Christmas cookies, I have been trying to formulate a new recipe for Cherry Cheesecake cookies, which hasn't been going so well. I have made about 5 attempts over the last several weeks and they have nearly all come out either too gooey or too sweet (tasting more like a sugar cookie than cheesecake). I have a great recipe for a lemony cheesecake cookie, which is a slice cookie and comes out with a shortbread texture. The taste is good, but I was looking to create a drop cookie with a hint of some kind of fruit topping.

For my first idea, I thought I would use cherry pie filling, which I had pureed in the blender as my fruit topping. I wanted to make a cookie dough, which just had ribbons of fruit topping mixed in. I made up my dough and gently folded in about 1/4C of the pureed fruit just a couple of times. Here's what the cookies looked like when they were baked:

Although they had the look of a cookie with a ribbon of cherry filling running throughout, the consistency was very moist and not at all cookie like. So I went back to the drawing board, trying to work out the moisture issues with the recipe. The first problem is that cream cheese, which is essential to making a cheesecake tasting cookie has more water than butter. Second problem is a little of the moisture from the cherry puree was also getting into the cookies - all this equals too much moisture and not good cookies.

So I adjusted my recipe, tweaking the amount of butter and cream cheese to try to get a desirable moisture level. I also decided to try making them in to thumbprint cookies, so the cherry puree wouldn't actually be added to dough mixture.

Although these cookies came out less moist. They had lost the cheesecake flavor from reducing the amount of cream cheese. The cherry puree thumbprint idea worked well. I may use this in my next attempt. Alas, after several tries, we grew tired of eating bad cherry cheesecake cookies, so I decided to put these on the back burner and move on to something else.

There will be more cherry cheesecake posts to come.

No, I haven't been cheating on my plan...

Okay, so I haven't posted in more than a month. I know, I'm a slacker. The holidays were busy and I was sick for a while. I did do some baking, I have just failed to write about it here.

So here goes:

For the week of December 14th, I prepared Rolled Sugar Cookies from the Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies magazine (circa something like 2003). I've had this magazine around for years and this has been my go to sugar cookie recipe, when I have the time to mix and chill and roll and chill and cut and chill, does take a tremendous amount of time to prepare these cookies. However, if you carefully follow the steps outlined in Martha's recipe, you will prepare a perfect sugar cookie in any shape you desire.

For all the years I have prepared these cookies, I have been told they were the best sugar cookies ever. For a few years I put them into Christmas cookie baskets that were given away to friends and family. One year, I asked my dad if he enjoyed the snowflake shape sugar cookies from his basket and he said he hadn't seen any cookies like that. Turns out my step mom ate them all before he got home from work. I've also had people tell me they hate sugar cookies, try these and change their tune.

This year, I decide to bake these cookies not only for the purpose of blogging about them, but also as a activity for Keith and his kids. So, I spent an evening preparing and chilling and baking cookies in various holiday shapes.

As you can see, the shapes came out great! That's all thanks to Martha's tip of rolling the dough out flat and putting it in the freezer before hitting it with the cookie cutters. The colder the dough is when you put it on the sheet, the better the shape will hold.

Well, Keith and the kids came over and we outfitted several bags of colored icing. Everyone had fun learning how to ice cookies. Unfortunately, I beat the icing a little too much and it was a little stiff. The kids had a little trouble squeezing the bag hard enough to get the icing out at first, but once we got them started they were having a great time.

Everyone made their own little pile of decorated cookies to enjoy. Here is my finished product.