Vanilla Wafers

This week’s episode of the Cooking is My Sport show is entitled “But Jess…Is It Really Worth It, Though?”

Thank you for tuning in. It’s going to be a good one.

Over the past few years on the blog, I’ve shared recipes for things that many of us could, theoretically buy from elsewhere rather than make ourselves. It is easier and more convenient go to our local grocery store and buy something with little to no trouble.

I could buy quite a few of the things that I post here–if not from a grocery store, then from a bakery or something. And though even EYE I am not going to go to the trouble of making something like, puff pastry, for the most part, I really do cook or bake most of what we eat. Why do I do this?

Because I believe it’s worth it. I really do.

If you ask, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake Christmas cookies rather than just buying some in a store, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Ask “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake your own cake from scratch, then go to the trouble of making your own buttercream and skip the store bought cake with that greasy, lardy crap, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Come to me with, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to make biscuits from scratch when they’re available at the local chicken joint, I am DEFINITELY gonna say, yes. It’s worth it.

(My biscuits are better than any others that you can buy anywhere else anyway. Including Popeyes. Yeah, I said it.)

I shared the recipe for my grandma’s banana pudding on the blog years ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever made–but up until recently I had always made it with store-bought vanilla wafers. I’ll be honest and admit that is the way that she makes it, and it tastes fantastic. But recently, I decided to see what it would be like if I went the extra mile and made the pudding with vanilla wafers that I made by myself. Any guesses on how it went? Anyone?

OHMYGODGAMECHANGER.

From the beginning, I had two major concerns for the recipe as a whole: the short, crisp texture of store-bought wafers and the intense vanilla flavor. If I wasn’t going to get a comparable or superior result to the store-bought version, it just wouldn’t be worth it in the long run to make them. I’m pleased to report that this recipe delivers on both. They are crisp, but the butter keeps them from being too crunchy or crumbly. They’re not too sweet, and that vanilla flavor is spot on. Even if I had no intention of making banana pudding at all, I still would’ve considered this time well spent–it’s that tasty a cookie.

Go ahead and ask me: “But Jess…is it REALLY worth it, though?”

Yes. It’s worth it.

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Vanilla Wafers

Recipe Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the salt, stir together with a fork and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a hand-held one) cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Stir the flour into the butter mixture, just until blended. (If it’s a little dry, you can add a few tablespoons of milk, one at a time, just until it holds together.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Sprinkle a rolling pin and clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper) with powdered sugar.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Keep the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the 1 portion to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a small (1 1/2 inch), round cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Place the rounds on the sheet pans.

Refrigerate the cookies on the pans for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle each one with white sugar, then bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the edges and bottoms are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks and let cool completely.

(Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #242, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Jen @ Apply To Face Blog.)

Blackberry-Nectarine Cobbler Bake

As the summer winds down and school starts back up, I experience a craving for cookout food. It’s probably just to get one last ‘taste’ of summer (no pun intended) but it always happens.

Charcoal grilled chicken and hotdogs. Potato salad. Baked beans. I want it all. Of course, desserts are also an essential part of that craving: pies, cobbler, trifle, pudding. Anything I can spoon ice cream or whipped cream on, really.

Maybe you too would like to take one last bite of summer this Labor Day weekend with a cookout of your own–or maybe you’ll just see this post and want to make it for yourself. Both reasons are valid, because this? This is truly something special.

It’s been a while since I last had a fruit dessert, more specifically a cobbler. Can’t remember the last time I had one of those. So this week, in my quest to eat my summery dessert I decided to go with this, then decided it was tasty enough to share here on the blog.

When I was putting this together, I thought that it would be like an upside down cake. It’s not. And although ‘cobbler’ is in the title, it isn’t a cobbler either.I think of this as a hybrid between a cobbler and a buckle. (As an aside, a buckle involves a cake batter that is placed underneath the fruit, then baked in the oven until the cake batter puffs up and the fruit begins to sink/BUCKLE inwards–hence the name.)

This starts out with a cake-like batter. Most of it will then get layered into a 13 x 9 baking dish, then the fruit gets layered on top of that. Now, I went with nectarines and blackberries, but I think that this will work with just about any pair of stone fruit and berries that tickles your fancy, or that you can get your hands on.

I will say this though: the amount of baking time this will require is going to strongly depend on which fruits/berries you use, and how ripe they are at the time that you use them. Raspberries are softer and release more juice than most of the other berries. Also, riper fruits will release more juice, which is going to take longer to cook through to avoid the center being runny. I’ll try to make it easier by just advising you to conduct a ‘wobble’ test on the bake: if it wobbles too much in the center when you give the dish a shake, it’s probably going to need a little bit more time in the oven. (Or it’ll be runny in the middle, just like a cobbler but if that doesn’t bother you, no harm no foul.)

After it’s had enough time to cool, you should be able to cut into it and serve it in squarish portions. The top has a glorious sugary crackly crust that’s a perfect textural contrast to the softness of the fruit and the cake below. When you put a scoop of vanilla ice cream or plain whipped cream on top, what you’ll have is a perfect end of summer dessert that gives it the sendoff it deserves. So get into it before it’s too late.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #239, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Lathi @ From Lathi’s Kitchen.

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Blackberry-Nectarine Cobbler Bake

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 3 (6 oz.) packages fresh blackberries (about 4 cups)
  • 4 cups sliced, peeled fresh, firm & ripe nectarines

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 13 x 9 baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside. Combine the baking powder, salt and 3 cup of the flour together in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Beat together the first 2 ingredients and 1 cup of the white sugar together in the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just until blended. Add the vanilla.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, in about 1 cup increments, mixing just until blended.

Stir together the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of flour together and pour over the nectarines in a medium size bowl; stir to coat.

Use a spatula to spread 3/4 of the batter in the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle the blackberries over the batter. Spread the nectarines over the blackberries. Use the spatula to spread the rest of the batter over the fruit. Sprinkle the top with a thin layer of white sugar.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the top is golden and bubbly and the center no longer wobbles when you shake the pan. (You may have to cover the top with foil to prevent over browning.) Cool completely on a wire rack before serving (about 1 hour).

Summer Berry Shortcake

So a couple weeks ago after dinner, I got this crazy hankering for shortcake. I really, really, REALLY wanted it.

I know that when a lot of ‘y’all think of shortcake you think of those spongy pre-made mini ‘dessert shells’ with the indent that you can find in the produce section of the grocery store near the strawberries. Y’know the dessert shells that should really just get called by their true name: sponge cake. I’ve seen some that are just straight up angel food cakes. Not that I have a problem with them per se. There’s no judgment here; depending on the company, those can actually be pretty tasty.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

In the first place, sponge cake isn’t shortcake. It’s light and airy and spongy. It’s…sponge cake.

All of the above adjectives contradict shortcake by it’s very definition. Shortcakes are actually very similar to an American-style biscuit, both in texture and the baking method. In a sponge cake, egg whites are beaten until they’re stiff to make the crumb as light as possible. The point of a ‘short’cake, is actually to make a ‘shorter’, denser crumb.

If you’ve tried any of my biscuit recipes on the blog already, then this ,method will look very familiar to you. The frozen butter (and we’ve already established why it’s important that it is frozen) is grated directly into the dry ingredients. I used cake flour to give it the best texture, then in addition to the sugar, flavored the dough with vanilla, ground ginger and cardamom. The spices aren’t overpowering–they’re just going to give the shortcakes a little something extra flavor-wise. You’re going to like it, promise.

The result is a shortcake that has just the right texture. It is slightly dense, but it’s also buttery and tender, with enough height to split it in two and sandwich with the good stuff. Now what that ‘good stuff’ is, I’m going to leave entirely up to you. This is summertime, which means there are plenty of delicious fruits that are in season that are perfect for shortcake; strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apricots. All are excellent choices. I went with the strawberries and blackberries, but it’s your shortcake so go with what you like best. And of course y’all know to make/use a ton of good whipped cream to cram inside and dollop on top.  It’s the summer–get downright nasty with it.

Linking this up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #230, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Summer Berry Shortcake

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Shortcake

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, frozen
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed

For Berries

  • 2 quarts of your choice of berries (I used a mix of strawberries & blackberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Directions

For Berries: combine the sugar and lemon juice together with the berries and allow to sit for one hour.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl combine the egg with the buttermilk and vanilla extract, set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cardamom and sugar—stir with a fork until combined. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture and stir to combine with a fork. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the shortcakes to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut shortcakes, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough.  Place shortcakes slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Just before serving, split open the shortcakes, spoon half the berries and whipped cream on the bottom half, top with remaining shortcake halves, and spoon on the remaining berries and cream.

Perfect Butter Cookies

Some of you may have noticed that there was no new post last week–or maybe you didn’t. I took a break last week from posting for no particular reason, but as I’m going to be taking a trip this coming week, I wanted to make sure I got one up today so that I didn’t let another week go by without updating the blog. I’m a stickler for consistency.

Having said that, because I am getting ready to travel, the theme of today’s post is short, simple and sweet.

Although I do like taking on hefty baking projects like layer cake, they do take a lot of time and effort. There are some times when I don’t have the time or energy to put in all of the work–but I’ll still want dessert. A good one.

So, what do I do?

I keep it simple. I keep it sweet. And I make butter cookies.

I don’t know, y’all. There’s just something so special about a butter cookie that’s executed perfectly. They have practically no embellishments at all, which means there’s no room for error and no other components to hide mistakes. Either that butter cookie is going to taste good, or it isn’t.

These do. In fact they’re more than good; as I’ve chosen to call them in the recipe, they’re perfect. You can call that choice over-confidence. I prefer honest. Tomato tomato.

You ready to find out how to make them? It couldn’t be easier.

There are several things that make these the ‘perfect’ butter cookie to me. The flavors are simple, but pronounced: vanilla with hints of a citrus of your choice (I chose orange.) The flavors are also going to improve in the next few days after the cookies are baked. They’re not overly sweet, but if you’re using a good quality butter you’re not going to need them to be.

The texture of these is also what I was going for. I do like soft, cakey cookies but when I want a perfect butter cookie I do prefer it to have a light crispiness. These have got it. If you’d prefer them not to, just take them out earlier.

Lastly, if y’all have been following this blog and seen a good number of my cookie posts before, you know that one of my baking petty peeves is when the cookies spread too much and become warped. I hate that. Because butter cookies are so simple, I like mine to look as clean and neat as possible. The cookies in this recipe hold their shape perfectly which means they’ll work for ANY cutter shape you want to use (hint, they’d make perfect Christmas cookies).

Okay. I think my work here is done. Have a good weekend y’all. Try the cookies–you’ll like ’em. Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #228.

R.I.P to Anthony Bourdain.

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Perfect Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O Lakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (preferably LorAnn’s Butter Vanilla Emulsion )
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg, orange juice and vanilla and combine until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the dough out and onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to your desired thickness (I wouldn’t go thinner than 1/4 inch) Cut into whatever desired shapes you like. I used a 2- to 2 ½-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes and placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. I then used a ¾- to 1-inch  cookie cutter, and cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary. Also don’t throw away the centers, as they make delicious mini cookie bites.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the sugar, and bake for 6-10 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Honey Cardamom Cut Out Cookies

I’ve been making a lot of cookies lately. The reasons are varied, but as that’s just where things have been at in the kitchen, y’all can expect a few of the next posts in the coming weeks to be cookie-themed. Personally I think it’s impossible for there to be too many cookie-anything, but that’s just my opinion. And while you’re here, I might as well give another one:

Cut out cookies are the best kind.

What ARE cut outs?

Cut out cookies are cookies that are baked with the intention of holding a particular shape. Mostly, they tend to fall on the sugar cookie flavored spectrum. This is different than say, a drop cookie (like chocolate chip cookies), where the dough is dropped from an ice cream scoop or teaspoon. Most cut out cookie doughs are sturdy and durable in order to be able to withhold being rolled out by a rolling pin and pressed out by cookie cutters.Drop cookies are undoubtedly less laborious than cut outs, as you don’t have to bother with cutting out the shapes. Because sugar cookies tend to be my favorite, I still prefer cut outs. Provided you have a tasty flavored dough, I feel that they are worth the extra effort.

I’ve said it dozens of times before and I’ll keep saying it for anyone who may be reading this post and thinking that cut outs are too hard to attempt: it really does come down to how you treat the dough. Cut out cookie dough (heck, MOST cookie dough) requires very specific treatment in order to get the pretty, magazine quality aesthetics that you want. I’ve baked hundreds (maybe even thousands at this point) of cookies at this point in my baking adventures and I’ve been truly mortified to find that too many of the recipes out there omit what I believe is the most important step in cookie baking:

Chilling the dough.

I just don’t understand it. SO many cut out cookie recipes I’ve seen instruct you to bake the cookies just minutes after putting the dough together.

This is just…not good advice.

In the first place, the fat (butter) in the dough should be thoroughly creamed and softened by the time that you’re finished mixing it. This is what makes the dough sticky. Room temp, sticky cookie dough WILL produce cookies that spread, and spread a lot. This completely defeats the purpose of cut out cookies–the more that they spread, the more that the shapes you spent all that time cutting out will be warped by the heat of the oven. Even drop cookie dough that is baked when too warm will produce cookies that are flat as pancakes instead of puffy, craggy cookies that at least resemble domes. Ask me how I know.

Cookie dough should be VERY cold when it hits the oven. Not warm and sticky. Not cool. COLD. The colder it is, the easier it will be to cut out, and the better your shapes will hold up.Therefore, In almost every single one of the cookie recipes I share, I will tell you to refrigerate the finished cookie dough for at least one hour (but preferably overnight) in order to give the butter in the dough plenty of time to firm up. Additionally, whenever I make cut outs, I take it a step further and chill the cookies for a few minutes after I’ve cut them out. Excessive? Maybe. But I’d prefer to let the results speak for themselves.

I made these primarily because they were a departure from the usual vanilla sugar cut out cookie that I make and I was curious as to how they would turn out. They’re sweetened with both white sugar and honey, and spiced with cardamom and ground ginger. After cutting them out, I also sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar to give them a bit of texture. You don’t necessarily need to cut out the middles if you don’t have a tiny cutter, or if you just don’t want to. Just please give your dough the proper amount of chilling time in the fridge so that the shapes you cut them in will hold up.

These aren’t overly sweet, and the spices do most of the work flavor-wise. I also found that they also improve in flavor the longer that they have to sit, so they may taste even better on the second or third day after you make them then they do on the first. Just place a slice of bread in the container you store them in, and they’ll be sure to stay soft (that’s a tip from my bag of tricks that works for any baked cookie, actually).

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #222, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Honey Cardamom Cut Out Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the cardamom, ginger, salt and baking soda with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolk, honey and vanilla and combine until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the dough out and onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to your desired thickness (I wouldn’t go thinner than 1/4 inch) Cut into whatever desired shapes you like. I used a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and placed on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. I then used a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, and cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary. Also don’t throw away the centers, as they make delicious mini cookie bites.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar, and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

D.I.Y. Dunk-a-Roos

Alright. Allow me to set the scene for y’all.

Picture it. Michigan, 1996. I was in elementary school. My mom hadn’t given me the option yet of choosing to eat a ‘Hot’ lunch that the school provided. For a while, we were sent to school with ‘Cold’ (Packed) lunches from home. On one hand I was annoyed that I didn’t get to eat the food that most kids love. On the other hand…I got to bring along snacks from home to eat at lunch that weren’t served in school.

One of those snacks served as the inspiration for today’s post. I’m quite sure that a few of you will know exactly which one it was, as it was as treasured part of your childhoods as it was mine.

I’m talking about Dunk-A-Roos.

Dunk. A. Rooooooooos, y’all. Those that know, *know* why I just had to say it again. For those that don’t, I’ll press pause and give some background info.

Dunk A Roos are a snack food; when they were first released it the early 90’s, they were small crisp vanilla flavored cookies that came with a few scoops of sweet white funfetti dip that you could DUNK them in. (Get it? DUNK-a roos.) Later on when they became more and more popular the company started making chocolate flavored ones too.

Well, every kid I knew was crazy about them–myself included. Dunk-a-Roos were THE snack. If you brought them with you to lunch, it was guaranteed that you were gonna be swarmed by others who would encourage you to share. Except if you were like me, you were greedy and kept them all for yourself, because…no.

Unfortunately, Dunk-a-Roos were discontinued by the company that made them years ago. All good things and whatnot. On one hand it’s a shame that my niece and other kids her age will never be able to know the deliciousness of mass marketed Dunk-a-Roos. On the other, she does now know the deliciousness of today’s post.

Boys and girls of all ages, I give you: Do It Yourself Dunk-a Roos.

I mean, c’mon. Doesn’t this just look like fun? Not only was it fun for me to make this, it was also so easy. The process is actually similar to making crackers. The dough is one of the least finicky I’ve ever made–it’s not a whole lot and it comes together in minutes. You’re going to want to roll it pretty thin in order to get the crisp texture and ‘snap’ that you want from the cookies. Of course, if you would prefer them softer you could always roll them thicker or just bake them for less time. If you don’t have tiny cookie cutters, I wouldn’t worry about it either. Just use a pizza wheel or a sharp knife to cut them into squares; I promise you it won’t make a difference.

The ingredients are minimal and you most likely have them in your house already; the brown sugar and cinnamon are there to give them the richer, caramel-y flavor that I remember the Dunk-a-Roos from my past having. The cookies themselves aren’t overly sweet and I really don’t think they need to be considering that they’re meant to be eaten with the funfetti dip, which (trust me) is plenty sweet enough on it’s own. My version is made with a butter base and flavored with vanilla extract, BUT, if you wanted to get a little creative with it I can see variations made with almond extract, or cream cheese and citrus extracts instead and coming out fantastic.

This was a really fun little project that me and my niece did together and it turned out really yummy results. It received her stamp of approval and seeing as 5 year olds are some of the toughest critics out there, I’m more than satisfied with that. Try it out with your little ones—or just make it for yourself. Somebody’s tummy is going to be happy regardless; I guarantee that.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #221, co-hosted this week by Jenny @ Dragonfly Home Recipes.

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DIY Dunk-a-Roos

Recipe Adapted from Delish.com

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Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

For Cookie Dip

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

 

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg, and vanilla and mix until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the dough out and onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into whatever desired shapes you like, but I would keep them small. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the white sugar, and bake for 5-8 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

For Cooke Dip: Cream together the butter and powdered sugar In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) until it’s light and creamy. Add the salt and vanilla. Add the milk until it’s fluffy and not too stiff. Gently stir in the sprinkles. Serve the cookies with the cookie dip when they’ve cooled and store the dip in the fridge when not in use.

Vanilla and Mocha Cookie Sandwiches

Okay, so look. I know what you’re thinking. What is the point in taking the time and effort to make your own sandwich cookies when there is a big name brand company that pretty much has the monopoly on sandwich cookies, and have gone out of their way to mass produce just about every possible flavor known to man and tried to jam it into a sandwich cookie you can run to the store and just buy?

I can think of several reasons.

First, when it comes to store-bought sandwich cookies, I feel like it’s a real hit or miss situation–there isn’t much space for ambiguity. They’re either really really good, or really bad. Both the cookie and the filling has to be right and that’s a harder thing to accomplish than you might think. That huge company has put out a LOT of different flavors of sandwich cookies, but in my opinion there are only a select few that have achieved that perfect sweet spot of delicious cookie and filling. The filling is where many mass produced sandwich cookies go terribly wrong–it either tastes too sweet, too artificial, or both.

I think that making your own sandwich cookies gives you the chance to correct the mistake of overly sweet and artificial filling, while also giving you the opportunity to get creative with your own taste buds and create something that you may not be able to find in stores. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll be able to pronounce every ingredient that’s in them.

And if none of the above are good enough reasons, then there’s always bragging rights–which, is more than enough for me.

I decided to make my own sandwich cookies, two ways. I knew going into it that I first wanted to make a perfect vanilla sandwich cookie. Most of the ones that are on the market now just don’t do it for me. (Yes, including the one from the huge name brand.) The cookie itself is usually okay, but that filling just kills it for me every time. I knew that what I was looking for was a cookie that was delicious enough all on its own, and a filling with a robust vanilla flavor and a smooth, non-pasty consistency.

The base is a butter cookie that I’ve made many times in the past. It’s quite simple, but you’d be surprised how the simply made baked goods will knock the fancy ones down from the pedestal. It has a buttery rich flavor and a tender crumb that melts in your mouth. For the filling I used a mixture of powdered sugar, butter, milk and vanilla. And listen guys. I want you to use REAL vanilla bean paste. I’m not above using extract but I insist that this time you go with the good stuff. You really can taste the difference and your taste buds will thank you for it.

The second flavor is where the coffee addict in me finessed its way into these cookie. I kept the same butter cookie for the base, but the filling gets a few teaspoons of instant espresso powder and liquid coffee in place of the vanilla and milk. Then, because coffee and chocolate flavors enhance one another, I decided to drizzle the top of the cookies with melted chocolate. What do you get when you combine coffee & chocolate? Mocha, that’s what. And there you have it.

I knew that these would be pretty good when I made them, but listen. They are REALLY good. They surpassed my expectations. They’re better than anything I’ve had from the store and I’m not trying to brag by saying that; I’m just being honest. I made these a while ago and I’m still giving myself a pat on the back for how they turned out, so if you’d like those kinds of bragging rights I’d suggest you give these a try yourself. Sharing at the Fiesta Friday #215, co-hosted by  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Alex @ Turks Who Eat.

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Vanilla & Mocha Cookie Sandwiches

Recipe Adapted from Genius Kitchen

Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 2 cups unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

For Vanilla Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • At least 1/4 cup of milk, divided

For Coffee Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • At least 1/4 cup of your favorite flavor of coffee, divided
  • Melted chocolate, optional

 

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla.

Gradually add the flour mixture in about 1 cup batches, stirring just until combined. (It may be a little dry and if so, you can add in a few tablespoons of milk at a time, just until it comes together.) Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight,

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you work. Dust a clean surface (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.  Note: Make sure you’re cutting a ‘top’ cookie and a ‘bottom’ cookie each time you stamp, just to make sure you have an even number of cookie sandwiches. Also, don’t throw away the centers: they make wonderful mini cookies. 

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with white sugar. Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 14-16 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Allow to cool on sheet pans for 60 seconds, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For Fillings: In two separate bowls stir together the sugar, butter, and/or vanilla and/or espresso powder. Drizzle in the milk in the vanilla bowl 1 tablespoon at a time and the coffee in the other 1 tablespoon at a time until the filling reaches a smooth and desired consistency.

Divide the cookies in half (half for vanilla, half for coffee) Spread about a heaping 1/2 tablespoon of filling onto each bottom cookie (make sure the bottoms face up), then place on the tops (bottoms facing down). Gently press to make sandwiches. You may drizzle the coffee flavored sandwiches with melted chocolate if desired, then allow them to set for about 15 minutes until chocolate has hardened.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same. )