Saturday, September 26, 2009

[Cookie 043] Cashew-Caramel Cookies


I've got to stop shopping. Let's not get confused, though--I'm referring to shopping for clothing, not groceries, despite the fact that as of right now all I have in my pantry to eat is a box of whole wheat pasta, some oatmeal, and several pounds of butter (sounds like a meal to me!). Yes, I desperately need to go to the supermarket, but instead I've chosen to spend my time (and money) perusing shops on Broadway and frequenting the various Salvation Armys around the city. I am addicted. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I don't have that much clothing here at college, so I have found an excuse to buy more more more.


But I think it's getting excessive. I've been to the Salvation Army at least 3 times this week alone. That's a little over the top, even for me. I went shopping yesterday, and got a shirt and a belt. And earlier in the week I got a great dress, some shirts, and a special fancy blouse, and another belt. Oh and some sunglasses. And a blazer. And I think you get what I mean when I say it's getting a little over the top. Oh and a crazy shiny super 80s "why did I buy this?!" wrap top...very necessary.


However, over the top isn't always bad, right? Like, cookie-wise it's okay, right? Yes, the answer is yes. Take these Cashew-Caramel Cookies for instance: they are totally over the top and extravagant. Like, "oh man I can only eat half of one at a time, but it's so worth it omg omg" extravagant. I think I should treat shopping for clothing more like I treat eating these cookies. A small amount every now and then, and sharing all the leftovers. Thanks Martha for the recipe, which indirectly has helped my impulsive shopping habit that has developed over the last week. Thanks, girl! Cookie therapy > retail therapy.


So, let's get to it, shall we? These cookies are quite quite good. It's not the fastest recipe to make, considering that you essentially have to make your own cashew butter, but it's worth it. I bet you could probably substitute the cashew-vegetable oil combination with some store bough cashew butter, but if you have a food processor it's really no big deal just to make it yourself.


But, more importantly I'd like to discuss the caramel topping. It's a great idea (unlike my metallic 80s wrap top), but it might be unnecessary (just like my metallic 80s wrap top). All the caramel topping really is is a bunch of store bought caramel cubes melted down into some heavy cream, to make an ultra-healthy, light as a feather addition to the cookie. That was sarcasm.


It's definitely a nice flavor combination, the caramel and cashews, but it's really bordering on too rich for me. The cookies are very tasty without it, so if you do make the caramel, I'd recommend drizzling them with a very light touch.


In conclusion, less clothing more cookies. Excess is excellent, in small doses. Yes, that is a total oxymoron/contradiction, but I think its pretty valid. Make these cookies. That's not an oxymoron or contradiction--it's a command. Go!


Cashew-Caramel Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups roasted salted cashews
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 24 cubes soft caramel candy (7 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour and salt together. Coarsely chop 1 cup cashews; set aside. Process remaining 1 1/2 cups cashews in a food processor until finely chopped. Pour in oil. Process until mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Put cashew mixture, butter, and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually add flour mixture. Mix in reserved chopped cashews.
  3. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; space 2 inches apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 6 minutes; gently flatten with a spatula. Bake until bottoms are just golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
  4. Melt caramels with cream in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring. Let cool. Using a spoon, drizzle caramel over cookies; let set. Store airtight in single layers.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 3.5/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 3/5 (You'll probably have to go shopping...)
Tastiness: 4/5
Attractiveness: 3/5 (The caramel drizzles spread out a lot, so it looks pretty goopy, but that's not really so bad, is it?)
Is it worth it?: Yeah, I would surely say so!

Drink: Milk, maybe, but then again that might be too rich...
Song: Rich -- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Activity: Shopping, to burn off the calories. See post for more info...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

[Cookie 042] Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies


Hey remember all that talk about autumn and cool weather and pre-storm winds and candy corn and leaves changing colors and October and all that stuff? Well, I don't know what's going on in Weatherland, but it's so gross and hot here in New York! 80ยบ? Humidity? Possible thunderstorms? No. I don't like it, and I feel sweaty all the time.


Fortunately, my roommates and I have found a way to remedy this terrible situation--which, by the way, is only worsened when I bake cookies and heat up the whole apartment. We set the air-conditioner on to environmentally dangerous low temperatures. Problem solved.


Okay, I just realized that I have no idea how to relate that little useless anecdote to this post's cookie, the Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookie, so I apologize. Let me talk about the cookie now. It's fair, nothing special. Exactly like the title suggests. I didn't have any sanding sugar (again) so I used granulated, but it probably would have been better with a chunkier grain to give the outside some texture. But good news!! I got measuring cups and a cookie sheet so baking is easy again!



Anyway, I realize that this is a marvelously pathetic entry (yes, I once again forgot to photograph the final results of the baked cookies!), but I don't really feel like putting my all into it--and anyways, I have a much tastier cookie to blog about next. So get excited, it's going to be very decadent.

But before I part, I'd like to ask you, readers, a question. I bet you can already guess what it's going to be. Here it is: What cookie/type of cookie should I bake next/more of??? Love to hear your responses, lovelies! Until later...

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
Makes about 20 (3 1/2 inch) cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
  2. Put sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon juice. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
  3. Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop; space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula. Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar.
  4. Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 1/5 (Very simple, as you might guess)
Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
Tastiness: 3/5 (The lemon zest is a nice touch, but otherwise these are just your traditional sugar cookie)
Attractiveness: 3/5
Is it worth it?: If you want sugar cookies, I guess they are. I'm feeling rather apathetic right now, sorry!

Drink: Maybe apple juice, to bring back memories of kindergarten snack time?? Yeah!
Song: Raw Sugar -- Metric
Activity: Arts n' Crafts! Beads! Friendship bracelet making session! Nap time!

Friday, September 18, 2009

[Cookie 041] Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies


Yo, I know. I'm slackin' big time. But it's all going to change starting right now. A blog post! Yes, it's really here. Because I'm sure you just can't live with out it, right--right?! Yeah!


Well, on the topic of living without things, I come to today's cookie adventure. I definitely had to do some serious baking wizardry to produce these cookies because it just so turns out that all of the cooking gadgets I had last year didn't actually belong to me. I own nothing. But I was just so excited to devirginize (sorry, is that crass?) the new oven in my dorm that I jumped into the recipe for Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies so fast I didn't even realize that I was missing: measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a cookie sheet. Whoa--mentally lapse, anyone? Honestly where was my mind?? But, I really really wanted to make the recipe (and my roommates really really wanted to eat the results) so I pushed onward into the unknown.


In fact, it wasn't all bad that I didn't have some key tools. I met some other students living on my floor by asking them if I could borrow their measuring cups! So wouldn't ya know, a problem solved with an added bonus! As for the cookie sheet, well the pictures should give you an idea.


First, I used my two Pyrex baking dishes, but that didn't work so easily because they could only fit 5 and 2-3 cookies on each, respectively. And because I didn't feel like baking for 9 hours straight, I decided to take a little risk and put the cookies on my Silpats sans cookie sheet. Technically it worked, but getting the Silpat out of the oven without dropping the cookies was quite a little feat. But I prevailed, and with the help of my friends/roommates/sous-chefs, we had a bunch of deliciously soft, sweet, and ever-so-autumny cookies.


Onto the specifics of the cookie. These guys are simple to make and are a real comfort-cookie; one that you want to eat straight out of the oven on an overcast October late-afternoon, while the wind just begins to pick up like it does right before a huge storm (sorry I'm getting carried away--I know I'm a total romantic, nostalgic grandmother). We ate a couple without icing, and at first thought that we didn't even need to make the icing because they were sweet enough, but the icing is actually a really nice touch. It's really maple-y and nice, and definitely not overpowering. It works great with the apple flavor of the cookie.


So, what I'm trying to tell you is, it worked! Yes, my oven is off by a good 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but it bakes cookies. And these ones were good. And you should make them in celebration of the changing of the seasons. Soft, sweet, chewy, aromatic--and pretty cute too. Having said that, you should now turn off your computer and make them, and I'll go make that apple cake I've been meaning to make....and eat some more candy corn. Ta!


Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup chunky-style applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  1. Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350. Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined. Add egg and applesauce, mix until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix in raisins.
  2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden and just set, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack set over parchment paper; let cool completely.
  3. Make icing: Whisk confectioners' sugar, syrup, and 3 tablespoons water until smooth. Drizzle over cookies, let set.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 2/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
Tastiness: 4.5/5
Attractiveness: 4/5
Is it worth it?: Yes, indeed.

Drink: Hot apple cider! Aw yeah!
Song: Apple Orchard -- Beach House
Activity: Huddling over a hot cup of apple cider and one of these cookies right after coming inside on a chipper autumn day...siiiigh

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Favorite Cookie [031-040]


WHADDUP BIG 4-0!!! Yeah, that's right, forty entirely different types of cookies have landed pleasantly (or not-so-pleasantly) in my tummy since February of this very year. Not to toot my own horn, but I am quite impressed with my dedication. I'm great. Okay, sorry that's totally untrue and unnecessary, but still, I can't believe I've really stuck with this. And I show no sign of slowing down.

Round 4 was ripe with delicious recipes, that's for sure. My favorite? Read on...


1st place (Blue Ribbon!): Prune Rugelach
Winner! True, these cookies are a little process heavy, and do take a bit of time and dedication, but Martha never asks too much of you. A definitely do-able recipe, these Rugelach are really delicious and rich, with a flaky and light crust. Plus, they look like something you could pick up in a tiny French patisserie right next to the pain au chocolate and tarte aux cerises! Excellence...

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sour Cherries

These are not for the faint of heart or dainty of palette (?). Dark chocolate combined with sour cherries is my new favorite combination, but it is slightly lethal. These are a real powerhouse of flavor that will leave you wanting a glass of milk like a hungry infant. But man, if you're a chocolate lover, you will freak out. These are insanely good. Don't even get me started.

Cornmeal-Thyme Cookie Dough

For sure, these win for the most unusual flavoring in any cookie I've had for some time. Thyme, which is so rarely seen in sweets, works wonders in this soft (and ridiculously simple) recipe. Plus, the addition of cornmeal and currants make the cookie both texturally and visually fantastic. I was truly pleasantly surprised when I first tried these; who knew that such an unbelievable easy recipe could yield such unique cookies!


Oh hey, these are pretty rockin' too! These are just one straight up delicious chocolate cookie. They are exactly what you expect, but fulfill everything expectation to its max. They are chocolatey enough for a chocolate lover, but not so dark to scare off those who aren't dark chocolate fans. Plus, they're rolled in sugar, so they look cute too! All around a great cookie that everyone will love.

Blueberry Bonanza Bars

Woof, these are ridiculously good, but they take a long while to make! Sure, you can totally ease up the amount of work by buying your own pre-made granola, but making your own is just so satisfying! I love these because they almost could pass for a breakfast cookie, which is really all I want in life. Cookies for breakfast. Plus, there are so many ways to switch up this recipe: change the flavor of jelly, add some different nuts and dried fruits to the granola, you name it. Awesome, no doubt.

Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches

If you need a great Gingersnap recipe, make these and you'll be more than satisfied. However, if you want to sandwich them, maybe you should make them a little smaller because 2 of these guys and jelly is pretty much a full dessert. Plus, they're a total mess, but really who doesn't secretly love that?

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

Flavor-wise, these were great cookies, but they didn't really turn out like biscotti for me. Plus, I found the recipe a little misleading, because it has you cut the dough into biscotti when it's only half baked, so it falls apart like no other! Pretty frustrating, but if you are already a biscotti expert, I'd totally recommend these ingredients. Also, they are very beautiful together, the pistachios and cranberries...good for Christmas gifts.


Hmm, these were good, but a little too buttery in my humble opinion. Plus, they didn't hold their shape in the oven, so they spread out and looked a little sad. But I definitely didn't have trouble eating them, duh.


Ah, the theoretical brownie. Yes, in theory these sounded awesome, but without any baking soda or powder they were oddly dense and gummy...and not in a delicious fudgy way. Maybe, if you're up for it, you could give these a go with a bit of baking soda and they'd work! Who knows...

Coconut Biscuits

10th place (Brown Ribbon!): Coconut Biscuits
Yeah, uh, right. Flour and water do not constitute cookie dough. Nuff said.


Ta-da! Okay, that's that. I've got 2 recipes just itching to be posted about, so keep your eyes out. I think I'll post the next one tomorrow...Until then, lovelies, keep bakin' bacon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

[Cookie 040] Prune Rugelach

Prune Rugelach

It is with a heavy heart and heavy cookie that I say adieu to summer--and Guten Tag! to autumn (my favorite season!). Summer was pretty swell, though, and I was able to make 27--count 'em: twenty-seven!--different cookie recipes from The Book during my time at home. Results varied, to be sure, but on the whole I think I made my family and friends very happy/weight-conscious. Mission accomplished.


Anyway, I found it particularly interesting that I started and ended this summer's cookie madness with two of the best recipes I've come across in The Book thus far. Remember the legendary Pecan Bars? Well, the last cookie I made at home in sunny California was these delicious Prune Rugelach, which I dare say stand up quite well next to summer's first cookie.


I chose this recipe to make with my dad, because we wanted to close the summer with a special, more involved recipe, and he had been eyeing these for several months. They definitely take a while to make, especially because you have to soak the prunes overnight, but on the whole the recipe isn't that crazy. And all the effort you put in is worth it in the end!

BUTTERButter for Prune Rugelach dough

We were a little confused in the beginning, however, with the procedure that Martha developed to make the dough. She has you combine cold butter with room-temperature cream cheese with your hands, but we found it easier to use 2 butter knives held like scissors (a pastry cutter would probably work just as well). Basically, the dough is just like a pie crust dough, and because my mother is the Queen of Apple Pies, I applied her techniques of pie crust composition to this dough. Success! The key is NOT OVERWORKING THE DOUGH, because the last thing you want is a dense dough combined with the already dense prune filling of the Rugelach. You want the dough to be light and flaky, and in order to achieve this you basically have to work the dough without touching it at all (Harry Potter, anyone?).

Dough for Prune Rugelach

Once you have the dough completed, you chill it in 2 batches for a while, and then roll it out flat and thin. This can be tricky, especially if you followed the directions and didn't overwork the dough, because then the dough should be fragile and break easily. Just work fast, and don't get too frustrated. It's gonna be a-ok!

Spreading the Prune filling
Prune Rugelach Pizza!Prune Rugelach dough

Then you spread out the prune filling that you made earlier, sprinkle on some sugar-breadcrumb mixture, slice the dough like a pizza, and roll roll roll. Sprinkle the cute little croissants with more sugar and cinnamon and chill them again. Then stick 'em in the oven. Then voila. That's the gist of it!


Now, like many Martha recipes, we found that these cookies improved after they were 100% cooled. Don't get me wrong, they are delicious straight out of the oven, but let them cool so the dough can get flaky and crispy. Then eat them ALL!! AHHH!

So, in conclusion, these are fantastic. Fancy, yes. Fun, yes. Adorable, to be sure. And you should make them for a dinner party to impress your friends and family. But, alas, I won't be making too many super fancy cookies for a while, friends. Now that I am settled into my dorm, my budget is no longer as superfluous and my oven no longer as fantastic. But don't worry: I've already made 2 recipes here and they both were successes! So, here's to autumn! May it be filled with pumpkin, cinnamon, and ginger-flavored cookies!


Prune Rugelach
Makes 32

  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar (save 1/2 cup for prune filling)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs from soft white bread (save 1/2 cup for prune filling)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup prunes
  • 1/2 cup brandy

  1. Mix butter, cream cheese, and salt in a large bowl with hands until crumbly. Add flour, and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk; wrap each disk in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours or up to overnight.
  2. Stir together breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl; set aside. Stir together remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon in another small bowl; set aside.
  3. Roll 1 disk to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out a 12-inch circle. Brush beaten egg in a 1-inch border around circle. Put half the prune filling in center, and spread out to beaten egg border. Sprinkle 1/2 cup breadcrumb mixture over filling. Cut circle into 16 wedges. Starting at outside edge of each wedge, roll up into a crescent shape. Space 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining disk and filling. Refrigerate rugelach until cold, about 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake rugelach until golden brown and cooked through, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks. Rugelach can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.
  5. To make filling: Put prunes and brandy in a small airtight container. Let soak at room temperature overnight. Drain prunes. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 day ahead.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 4/5 (Don't be intimidated! This is totally do-able!!)
Ingredient Accessibility: 3/5
Tastiness: 4.75/5
Attractiveness: 4/5
Is it worth it?: Yes yes yes. Hard work totally pays off, 100%.

Drink: Irish Breakfast Tea, or coffee.
Song: Fold -- Jose Gonzalez
Activity: Dinner party...something fancy! A celebration! End of summer fete!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

[Cookie 039] Cornmeal-Thyme Cookies


I am not dead! Just in New York.

Sorry I haven't been posting that regularly, but it's been rather hectic since I arrived here on the right-hand coast of the country. I simply love where I'm living this year, but one of the more difficult things about my location is that I no longer live around the corner from Trader Joe's. Sure, there's a Whole Foods a few blocks away, but seriously--you think I'm made outta money or something?? I did manage to find a supermarket in Chinatown, which is pretty decently priced, but doesn't carry everything I need.

But don't worry; I know where to buy alligator claws now. More on this later.

Cornmeal-Thyme Cookie Dough

Anyway, I'm going to make this post a short one. These Cornmeal-Thyme Cookies are really really really good. I'm a big fan. Their so good, in fact, that I didn't get a chance to take a photo of the finished cookies before they were all consumed! Tragic, I know. But they were that good.


I really wanted to make them before I left because my mom was growing some Thyme in her garden--but it was actually Lemon-Thyme, which obviously has a slightly more lemony flavor. But it worked really nicely with the currants that are also in the cookie. All in all, these cookies have a great unique flavor at first bite, and a nice soft texture that contrasts the crispiness of the cornmeal inside the dough.

Cornmeal-Thyme Cookies

So, while you go off and make these, I'll go off and try to find a place to buy some more cookie-baking ingredients. My roommates are gettin' antsy! (And apologies in advance if I don't post for a few more days--still getting settled in! Exciting!)

Cornmeal-Thyme Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cornmeal, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; cream on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time. Add flour mixture; mix on low speed until just combined. Mix in currants and thyme.
  3. Using a tablespoon or a 1 1/2-inch ice-cream scoop, drop rounded balls of dough onto lined sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating and switching positions of sheets about halfway through, until pale golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer cookies, on parchment, to a wire rack. Let cool completely.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 1/5 (Insanely simple, really.)
Ingredient Accessibility: 3/5
Tastiness: 4/5
Attractiveness: 3/5 (Meh...not stunning)
Is it worth it?: Yes! I've never had a cookie flavored with a savory herb, but it works very nicely!

Drink: Earl Grey Tea.
Song: Time -- Cat Stevens
Activity: These would be great at an English/Garden Tea party!