Pecan Toffee Snickerdoodles

Hey y’all. It’s been two weeks since my last post rather than the typical one. It wasn’t intentional, I’m just super preoccupied with the goings-on of RL and apart of RL for me right now is getting ready to finish out one stage of my life and transition into a completely different one. I’m a bit on the frazzled side most of the time, but in a good way. Just send me lots and lots of good vibes over the next few weeks.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to my preferences for cookies. It’s a texture thing for me. I do prefer to make them for myself at home just because my texture preferences for cookies are very particular, and I know that I have a better chance at getting the texture that I want in the cookie if I do it myself.

Snickerdoodles are one of those cookies where the texture is key and for that reason, if I want one, I’m more than likely just going to bake it rather than buy. I’d had my eye on this recipe to try out for a while and it really only needed sone modifications in the technique to get it to where it needed to be.

Most snickerdoodles are just flavored with cinnamon, but these have added flavor and texture with the addition of both toasted pecans and chopped Heath chocolate bars. I do recommend giving them the overnight chill in the fridge. There are very few cookie recipes where I don’t do this, as I find that chilled dough just results in a better textured cookie that won’t spread like a pancake when you bake it.

This is truly a next level snickerdoodle. The combination of cinnamon, chocolate and pecans just really works and I’m not sure if I’m ever going to be go back to making them the plain way every again.

Wear a mask. Social distance. If you haven’t already, get the vaccine when you can. Be kind.

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Pecan-Toffee Snickerdoodles

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extraxt
  • Five 1.4-ounce chocolate toffee bars, chopped 
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Directions

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl.

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 and vanilla extract and beat until just combined.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients. Beat on low until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate toffee bars and pecans and stir to combine.

Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup or a cookie scoop to scoop leveled mounds of cookie dough. Roll each mound into a ball. Transfer cookie dough balls to a plastic container (place a layer of wax paper, foil or parchment paper in between the top and bottom layer of dough balls so they don’t stick together). Cover the plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Arrange the cookie dough balls evenly spaced out on the baking sheets. Use the heel of your hands to gently press them down about 1 1/2-2 inches.

Bake the cookies on the middle rack of the oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the edges are rippled and golden brown and the center is soft. Lift the baking sheet up a few inches, then let it tap down once against the flat surface of a countertop.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat baking process with the remaining baking sheets.

Also linking this up to Fiesta Friday #379.

Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies really should be a separate ‘genre’ of baking all on their own.

I know that they’re a classic and with classics people tend to search for that One and Only Holy Grail of a recipe, but in my experience I’ve found that there are so many ways to make a perfect one.

My mom always used to tell me that in both cooking and baking, getting ‘good’ was a matter of getting comfortable with a base recipe and/or technique, then once I grew comfortable with it, experimenting with other flavors and seeing what worked and what didn’t. It’s advice that’s never steered me wrong in the kitchen.

The older I get, the more that I notice that my taste buds tend to prefer a counterbalance to the sweetness with either salt or bitter flavors. Salt and sweet is a combination that I’m growing increasingly interested in using in baking, and today’s recipe was eye-opening in showing me just how well it could work.

A chocolate chip cookie with pecans is already a winner so far as I’m concerned, but this recipe takes things a step further. First, butterscotch, butternut or butter-rum flavor is added to the dough, which I would best describe as a rich browned butter extract that pairs VERY well with chocolate. If you can’t find it in stores, it’s definitely available on Amazon. And if you can’t find it at all, that’s fine too. The cookies will still come out amazing because of the second element.

After the dough is made, chilled and portioned out into balls, it then gets rolled in a mixture of sugar and salt. As it bakes, that sugar and salt creates a sort of crackly, salty-sweet crust on the outside of the cookie.

And y’all: that crust is where the magic happens.

In the first place, it creates amazing texture to contrast with the fudgy, chewy interior of the cookie itself. And second, the flavor of the salt in that sugar crust is INSANE. Taken together with the sweetness of the sugar, the nuttiness of the pecans, and the slight bitterness of the chocolate, it literally hit every note.

I tried these on a whim and I can honestly say they’re my new favorite way to make chocolate chip cookies, and are definitely in my top three of cookies I’ve ever made. They’re well worth trying out.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups pecan halves
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup  granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon butterscotch, vanilla-butternut, or butter-rum flavor, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, mixed with 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, for topping* (The amount of salt depends upon how much of a salty-sweet combination you prefer. I went for the full 1 teaspoon, and it was perfect, to ME.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Place the pecans in a single layer in a pan, and toast until they’ve darkened a bit and smell toasty, about 8 to 9 minutes. Set them aside to cool, then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, butter, shortening, salt, espresso powder, baking soda, and extracts, beating until smooth and creamy.

Beat in the egg, again beating until smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is thoroughly combined.

Mix in the flour, then the chips and toasted nuts.

If you’re going to refrigerate the dough, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for about 4 to 5 hours; or overnight. Cookie dough refrigerated for 4 to 5 hours will spread moderately; chilled overnight, it will spread much less.

Mix the 1/3 cup sugar and salt for the coating, and put it in a bowl. Use a spoon (or a tablespoon cookie scoop) to scoop 1 1/2″ balls of dough into the sugar/salt mixture, rolling to coat. Then transfer to the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2″ between them on all sides; they’ll spread quite a bit. Or use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop 1 1/4″ balls of dough.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes — 10 minutes for smaller cookies made from unrefrigerated dough, 12 for larger cookies whose dough has been refrigerated (and something in between for other iterations of size and refrigeration). Their edges will be chestnut brown and their tops a lighter golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pan until they’ve set enough to move without breaking. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #370.

Brookies (It’s a Brownie and a Chocolate Chip Cookie)

Y’all. I have an announcement to make.

I’ve made a love connection.

No. Not *that* kind of a love connection. But it’s just as good. Maybe even better.

I’m in a phase right now where what I want most from my desserts is texture. Thick, chewy, fudgy texture. As a result, (and if you’ve been following along with the blog, you’ll have no doubt noticed this) I’ve been churning out a lot of thick cookies, brownies, blondies and whatnot from my kitchen because everything I make on the blog, we actually eat.

(Throwing away food is a no from me; but also, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, so we don’t go anywhere where I can give it away either)

This is another one of those recipes where I’d heard of it before, but I have no idea what took me so long to finally getting around to trying it out. It combines two of my favorite desserts–the brownie and the chocolate chip cookie into one truly perfect bite: the Brookie.

So how is it done? Pretty easily enough you may be surprised to find out. You make the recipes for the two desserts separately; first a cookie dough, then a brownie batter. The brownie batter is spread in the bottom of the pan and dolloped with cookie dough.

And then…a true love connection is made.

You’d think that the chocolate chip cookie layer would be overpowered by the  brownie layer, but it isn’t. It forms a crackly, brown sugar-y crust that evens out the richness of the brownie beneath perfectly. And don’t even get me started about what it tasted like with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Sinful I tell you.

You all absolutely have to try this. It’s become one of our new favorite desserts, and I guarantee that it’ll become one of yours too.

There’s a certain holiday coming up that celebrates love connections, and all I can say is that I think this a perfect dessert to make for one.

Brookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

For Cookie Dough Layer

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

For Brownie Layer

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Directions

For Cookie Dough:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter; line with parchment, leaving a slight overhang on long sides. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat butter with both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in egg. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture; beat until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Set aside

For Brownie Batter

Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; whisk in granulated sugar. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Whisk in cocoa and salt. Fold in flour until combined.

Pour brownie batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula. Crumble cookie dough evenly over batter.

Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake until just set, 20 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center (avoiding chocolate chunks) comes out with moist crumbs, 27 to 30 minutes more.

Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift brookies from pan using parchment; cut into squares.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #36.

Coffee Blondies

I have a love-hate relationship with coffee. And by love-hate I mean, I love drinking the stuff, but I also hate that I’m semi-addicted to it.

I go through these periods (I’ve gone as long as a few years at a time) where I can completely kick the habit and not even miss it. But then, out of nowhere the craving for it will settle in and suddenly I’ve got to have it and I fall off the wagon and go back to my dependency on it like nothing ever happened. It’s odd.

I’m regrettably back in my dependency stage at the moment. Every night before bed I ensure that I place the grounds and the water in my coffee maker and set the timer to make sure it’s ready for me in the morning. First thing in the morning after I wake up and brush my teeth, I go into the kitchen, pour out two in two mugs, then put them both in the fridge to chill for about an hour. I add a coffee ice cube to the mug (yes, I keep coffee ice cubes in my freezer) a little bit of milk, then a splash of vanilla syrup, and bam. That’s how I take it. Every day.

There’s usually at least a little bit of coffee left in the pot at the end of the day, and I try not to end up throwing it out–especially if it’s good coffee. As I said, my most common use for the ‘leftover’ coffee is to freeze it into ice cubes. The other is to try and bake something with it.

Coffee is an ingredient that can really enhance the flavor of chocolate, which is why sometimes you’ll see it included in brownie or chocolate cake recipes. But for coffee fanatics like me, sometimes you want a dessert that makes it the central flavor. I’ve experimented with coffee in desserts before on the blog, including this pound cake (one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted for what it’s worth), as well as with cookies and scones. Today, I’m trying something new.

I’m in a phase where I really want texture from my desserts. I like chewy richness, like the kind you can only get in a pie, or brownies, or thick cookies…or blondies.

The blondie itself is like a really rich, chewy cookie. Take a look at that shiny, crackly crust, would you? The nuts add another textural element to that chewiness. Best of all, because it’s a blondie and not a brownie, the coffee flavor stands out on its own. These are everything that my tastebuds want. They come together in minutes and bake in less than an hour, so it’s also a pretty fool-proof recipe too. Even if you don’t like coffee, I think you’d still like these.

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Coffee Blondies

Recipe Adapted from Canadian Living

Ingredients

1½ cups (213 g) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks; 170 g) unsalted butter, cold
1½ cups (297 g) packed brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temperature
1 egg
1½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup (86 g) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
¾ cup (128 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder with a fork and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee until well combined. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the pecans and chocolate chips and stir gently.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out with just a couple of crumbs.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut them into squares.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #364, hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Chocolate Turtles

A very significant part of the inspiration behind my doing this series every year on the blog in the first place comes from growing up in my grandparents’ house and my memories of the holidays there. 

Food is a personal thing for me, and cooking/baking food is even more personal because you’re providing sustenance and mere satisfaction to someone else, presumably someone else whom you care for. Most people who holiday bake, do so with the intention of giving it away to people they care about; it’s an act of love, which is really what the holidays should be about anyway.

All of that to say, my grandmother baked a lot during the holiday season, and so it always created this increased atmosphere of holiday giving and warmth and nostalgia that I try to recreate myself now every year now that I’m old enough and have discovered how much I love to bake. She pretty much did it all; cake, cookies, pie, peanut brittle, fudge, and another little nifty treat known as chocolate turtles.

For those who may be unfamiliar, chocolate turtles are a candy where pecans are mixed with a soft caramel, then dipped in chocolate. They’re VERY popular back where I come from in the Midwest, so much so that you can buy them much like you can buy a chocolate bar in a grocery store checkout line. Here on the West coast…not so much. So, my solution, as with a lot of things that I can’t find in stores out here is to just make it myself.

It may surprise you to know that the process for making chocolate turtles isn’t too complicated. There’s no need for candy thermometers, tempering, or any other complicated steps. You don’t have to use an oven to make them at all, since technically, you’re not ‘baking’ anything new. This really just comes down to assembly.

The most important things to stay on top of when making chocolate turtles are first of all, make sure you line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Not aluminum foil; parchment paper. Caramel is notoriously sticky, especially when it’s soft, and you will save yourself a lot of mess and frustration if you assemble these on parchment paper so as to ensure that they’ll actually come off when they’re set. Second, be diligent about ensuring that you’re not overheating the caramel in the microwave when softening it; don’t skip the step of pausing at the 30 second intervals to stir. That’s really about it. Enjoy y’all. One more day left in the 12 Days of Christmas. Any predictions on what we’ll close on?

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Day 11: Chocolate Turtles

 

Chocolate Turtles

Recipe Courtesy of Averie Cooks

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces roasted pecan halves
  • 25 soft candy caramel squares (about 1 heaping cup; note, make sure you are not using hard caramel candy, they have to be the soft chewy ones)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half, divided
  • 16 ounces of your favorite chocolate bar (You can mix them up like 8 ounces milk and 8 ounces dark, if that’s your preference; I used Hershey’s milk chocolate bars for the whole thing)
  • Sea salt, optional for sprinkling
  • Nonpareil sprinkles, optional

Directions

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Arrange pecan halves in small piles on the paper, about 1 inch apart, in bunches of about 4-5 pecan halves per pile. Try to make them overlap so that the caramel doesn’t seep through.

In a glass measuring cup or microwaveable safe bowl, heat the soft caramels with a few tablespoons of the heavy cream or half & half for 3-4 minutes, pausing every thirty seconds to stir it so that they do not burn (This is important). You also may not need to let it go the full 3-4 minutes, you don’t want it to be liquid, you just need the caramel to be soft and loose enough to drizzle off the spoon, but still hold it’s shape around the nuts.

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the caramel over each pecan pile and set aside for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt about 8 oz of the chocolate in another glass measuring cup or microwaveable safe bowl. Heat in 15 second increments until it’s smooth. (Melt the additional chocolate as is necessary.)

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the melted chocolate over the caramel pecans, trying to ensure it encases the whole thing.

If desired, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and the nonpareils over the turtles.

Allow the turtles to firm up at room temperature (this will take several hours, I recommend letting them rest overnight).  After an hour at room temp, you can place them in the fridge before serving, and to store.

Snickers Cookie Bars

I’m really not too much of a ‘candy’ person anymore, with one very important exception: chocolate bars.

I don’t think I will ever stop loving chocolate bars. I still remember the first one that I was ever allowed to have as a kid: a Nestle Crunch Bar. After that, I think it was a Payday. I’m also a fan of Twix, 100 Grand, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s with Almonds, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream, Krackle, and Butterfinger.

Major pass on Almond Joy, Mounds, Milky Way and Three Musketeers. Those I don’t like.

You may have noticed one glaring omission from that list. It was intentional, for reasons that you’ve probably guessed. I’ve been considering making today’s recipe for several weeks now, but I was nervous about it. Finally, I made a split second decision and just decided to go for it.

And here we are. My tribute to the best, the ULTIMATE candy bar ever made.

I think I was nervous about trying this for several reasons: first, the candybar it’s inspired from is just so perfect all on its own. Nougat, caramel, peanuts and chocolate; why mess with that kind of sheer perfection?

Second, no matter how many times I’ve done it, and done it successfully, the process of making caramel still makes me nervous every time.

Still, since I had all the ingredients I needed on hand I decided to just go for it. Couldn’t hurt to try.

There’s not a whole lot of labor required for these, but I do recommend giving yourself time to do it in stages. Unlike our favorite candy bar, the first and bottom layer of these is a very rich cookie. The dough comes together in minutes. Once it’s baked and cooled off, you can move on to the tricky part: the caramel.

Here’s the thing about caramel: as much as making it makes me nervous, the truth is that if you have a working thermometer that you pay close attention to, you’ll be just fine. This one is far from the most difficult I’ve made and because we’re making caramel and not candy, it doesn’t take very long. After the caramel peanut layer has been given time to set, things get super simple. You melt some chocolate, spread it on top and sprinkle some peanuts on top of that and you’re done. Waiting for the whole thing to set up before cutting into it is the hardest part, honestly. Because these are very sweet and rich, a little bit of one goes a long way in satisfying a sweet tooth, which means there’s more to go around.

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Snickers Cookie Bars

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

For Cookie Layer

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp and cubed
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Caramel Peanut Layer

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup, light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup salted roasted peanuts

For Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • One tablespoon of softened butter, cubed.
  • A couple tablespoons of chopped peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and spray well with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until just combined.

Fold the flour in, in about 2 increments, mixing just until blended and a soft dough forms. Press the dough into a pan and use a spatula to make the top as smooth as you can.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and firm. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour while you make the caramel.

Melt the butter in a high-sided saucepan with at least 2 qt capacity. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar and heavy cream. Cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until sugar dissolves completely and liquid comes to a boil.

Cook until caramel reaches temp of 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit. (I STRONGLY recommend a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer for this). Remove from heat.

Stir in the peanuts. Spray a spatula with cooking spray and spread the caramel over the cooled cookie layer. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes (I let mine sit overnight just to be on the safe side).

Melt the chocolate chips over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and keep stirring until the butter dissolves completely. Spread the chocolate quickly and evenly over the caramel layer with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

Let sit for an additional 2 hours to allow the chocolate to set and harden up before using the parchment paper to lift up out of the baking dish and cutting into squares.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #261, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

Chocolate Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

Call it old school or whatever you like, but I was raised to believe that when someone invites you over to their house for a gathering, it’s just good manners to bring something to eat to share.  At the very least, you need to OFFER to bring something. And to be honest, even if they say you don’t have to, you should still bring a bottle of something something to drink with the meal–alcoholic or non-alcoholic, it doesn’t matter.

What you don’t do is show up to someone’s house to eat empty handed.

Being an introvert I don’t get out very much, but if I am going to go over to someone else’s house for a gathering then I’ll offer to bake something to bring. Just about everyone has a sweet tooth and just about everyone loves pound cake and butter cookies. (My deepest sympathies with those who don’t. I hope you get the help you need.) Often it’s either pound cake or butter cookies that I’ll bring, as those are both delicious desserts that don’t take a huge amount of effort and I usually always have the ingredients on hand in my house already.

Sometimes though, I’ll switch things up.

I went to a gathering for my niece’s preschool recently and since I was going to someone else’s house, I knew I’d have to bake something to bring along to eat. I knew I could’ve just made pound cake or butter cookies–but I made a last minute decision to take a different route and bake bread instead. I really liked where we ended up. I made two different kinds, the first of which I’m sharing with y’all in today’s recipe.

Pull Apart Bread gets its name from the way that the loaf is assembled. The dough is cut into imperfect layers that are easy to pull apart into portions, which makes it great for gatherings and sharing. The layers are usually stuffed with some kind of sweet or savory filling. It can be made with just about any sturdy yeast bread recipe. I went with the go-to Challah recipe that I use. It does make two loaves so either make sure you have two loaf pans or cut the recipe in half. (Although I would definitely make the whole recipe, share one loaf then just keep the other at home all for me, but that’s just my kind of lifestyle.)

Don’t get intimidated by the step of layering the dough in the pan. It’s not complicated. You’re going to roll out the dough into one large rectangle, then spread the top with softened butter, chocolate and cinnamon. After that, you divide it into 16 squares. Make four towers from the sixteen squares. Layer those four towers into the pan–don’t worry about making them perfect, because they’re honestly not supposed to be. The more ‘imperfect’ they are, the more ‘perfect’ they’ll be for tearing off and sharing into thick slices. I will say that this loaf proofs HUGE and it will keep growing while it bakes, so it may not need the full second hour to double in size.

It took me a while before I learned to appreciate the flavor combination of chocolate and cinnamon, but once I learned my lesson, I never had to learn it twice. It works. I find that the cinnamon works to counter the slight bitterness of the chocolate and the flavor kinda reminds me of something I’d buy in a coffee shop. I sprinkled the top of the loaf with cinnamon sugar to give it a crunchy contrast of texture with the pillowy inside of the bread, which in true Challah fashion, doesn’t disappoint. This stuff went over like gangbusters and I think it’s a treat kids in particular would love, for obvious reasons. Though I can also see more sophisticated re-purposing uses for it like, say…French toast or bread pudding? Yum.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #223, co-hosted this week by the fantastic Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For Filling

  • 8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped (you can also just use chocolate chips/chunks)2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Sprinkle white sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until proofed and frothy.

Use the paddle attachment to beat in honey, oil, eggs, and salt. Mix until just combined. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating switching to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all 8 cups, this varies according to location and time of year)

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and use your hands to knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.  Grease the standing mixer bowl, place dough back inside and cover with plastic wrap and a damp clean cloth. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the chocolate with the white sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Combine the softened butter with the vanilla and salt in another small bowl until it form a thick paste.

When the dough has finished rising, turn out onto your floured work surface and punch down the risen dough. Divide in half and keep one half covered in the bowl while you work with the other.

Roll the half out into a 12 inch square. Use a spatula to spread HALF of the butter mixture over the dough. Sprinkle HALF the cinnamon chocolate mixture on top of that, using your fingers to press the chocolate down into the dough. Use a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the square into 16 small squares. Make 4 stacks of 4 squares each. Place each stack on its side into one of the greased loaf pans. Gently separate the dough layers so the dough fills the pan (it doesn’t have to be neat).

Repeat this step with the other half of dough and the other half of the butter mixture and cinnamon chocolate mixture.

Cover both loaves with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towels and allow to rise in warm places until dough rises by half its size, about 1 hour. Just before baking, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake until loaves are browned & cooked through (195-200 degrees F inner temp), tenting with foil if browning too quickly. Allow to cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then loosen with a knife around the sides. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 30 more minutes before serving.

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. )

Coffee Pound Cake

Coffee and I have a long, complicated history with each other. I’ll swear it off for a while, feel like I’ve finally kicked the habit once and for all…then have just the right kind of bad day to where I’ll say “Screw it” and just throw myself back into the java river with no regrets. Until the time comes when I’m ready to swear it off again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s a cycle that never ends. I should just stop trying to pretend like it will. Coffee and me may have a turbulent history, but we’ll always end up going back to each other. We break up to make up. And boy, do we know how to make up.

I’ve now reached the point in my fixation with coffee where I look for ways to use it for more than just a beverage. Because as it turns out, coffee is a great ingredient for use in both savory cooking and sweet baking.

Did y’all know that? No? Well, you do now. Even if you don’t like it all on its own, I think you’d still be hard pressed not to like the way it’s used in today’s recipe. It’s a real keeper.

When a special occasion comes around, I like to commemorate it by making a cake. My 28th birthday was the last week in September AND, this week will mark the fourth anniversary of Cooking is My Sport. I’d say those were kind of special occasions. Special enough to celebrate with a great cake, anyway.

I don’t feel twenty eight (two years from thirty, yikes) and it certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been blogging for four years. I’m grateful that I’m one year older, and (hopefully) one year wiser. It’s been a HUGE year of change–the good kind. I’ve been able to continue cooking, baking and blogging through that change in location and routine, which has been a relief and an outlet for me. Y’all have been great. Thank you to everyone who follows, likes and comments on CIMS. It’s very, VERY much appreciated. I mean that.

Pound cake is the best cake there is. This isn’t just because it’s got a lot of butter and sugar in it (though that’s certainly a good enough reason). It’s also because pound cake is a blank cake canvas on which you have the option of either eating plain, or testing out MANY different flavor profiles most of which will turn out great. You can make a cake that’s already delicious on its own taste even better by adding your flavor of choice. A moist vanilla pound cake is unquestionably perfect, but in my own experimenting, I’ve found that almond, lemon, orange or marble flavored ones are equally scrumptious.

I can now also add coffee flavored pound cake to that list. After you try this recipe I’m pretty sure you’ll be ready to add it to yours too. A few notes for those who are ready to break out their mixers and have already preheated their ovens:

As you can see, this cake is big. VERY big. Any cake with seven eggs is going to rise high and I’m glad I followed my instincts and went ahead with my 16 cup tube pan rather than the 10 cup bundt pan. I’d have been left with a huge mess in my oven otherwise. If you don’t have a pan that big, I recommend you splitting the batter up between two loaf pans or two 8 or 9 inch round pans.

So far as the star ingredient here goes, I’ll say the same thing I do when using booze as an ingredient: don’t use something you wouldn’t be okay with drinking all on its own. If you buy and use a generic coffee with a flavor that you’re not fond of, chances are you’re going to end up with a cake flavor you’re not fond of either. Don’t use dark roast if you don’t like dark roast coffee. Don’t you light roast if light isn’t your fave. I do also recommend you use a coffee with its own unique taste; I used one that was a medium roast Creme Brulee flavor that I LOVE to drink.

Get the point? Good.

I used a mixture of brown and white sugar in the batter to give it a richer sweetness. The cinnamon works well with the bitterness of the coffee; you’re going to taste it but you likely won’t be able to place just what ‘it’ is. You’ll just know that you like it.

The cake bakes up so moist and rich. You could eat it totally plain and be satisfied, but I decided to go a step further and add a drizzle of icing flavored with some of the leftover coffee, and then a layer of melted semi-sweet chocolate drizzle. This bumped up both the look and taste. This really is one of the best cakes I’ve had in a good long while. I hope some of you fellow coffee lovers choose to give it a try.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #193 co-hosted by Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Coffee Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Kraft.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamom
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark, it’s up to you)
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly brewed coffee, divided and cooled (use something you would drink with its own distinctive flavor)

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooled coffee
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °, Grease and flour a 16 cup tube pan or 2 loaf pans.

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

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light & creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and 1 cup of the coffee to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the batter into the tube pan, spreading the top with a spatula. Lift the pan up a little and let it tap down onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles. Place the pan on a half sheet pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted deep into the cake comes out clean. (Pound cakes are done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit)

Allow to cool in pan for about 25 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar with about 1 tablespoon of coffee at a time, mixing thoroughly until it forms a smooth but thick icing. (You probably won’t need to use all the coffee, it all depends on how thick or thin you like your icing to be.) Use a fork to drizzle the coffee icing over the cake and alternate between drizzling with the melted chocolate. Allow to harden/set for about one hour before serving.

Checkerboard Cookies

I’d be lying to you guys if I said I wasn’t kinda ready for the summer to end. In the first place, I don’t much care for extreme heat and as I’ve said in a couple of recent posts, the heat here has been unnecessarily extreme to the point where I’ve retreated to whole different cities for the day because this desert valley we’re in feels too much like a…desert valley. In the second place, the sooner the summer ends, the sooner we can get to the autumn which is my favorite season. The sooner autumn comes around, the sooner we can get to December and my favorite holiday of Christmas.

Because yes, my thoughts are definitely already drifting towards Christmas.

To be honest, I usually start getting the ‘itch’ for Christmas in July. It’s like a Christmas in July effect takes over and suddenly I’m listening to my holiday playlist again and planning what new stuff I’m gonna try to cook and bake for my family and the blog. As some of my followers know, I do a yearly Christmas series of recipes and although it’s a heavy undertaking, it is one that I still look forward to doing. I’ve already got a few pegged in my mind for the series, but one of them in particular was one that I thought would be a good idea to practice with first, as it is one I’ve never done before and would require a little bit more effort.

When I was little, I loved checkerboard cookies. I thought they just had to be some kind of food wizardry that could only be done in a huge Keebler-Elf style factory with a fancy machine.How else could they arrange those two different colors/flavors in such perfect patterns? I also may as well as admit that until only recently I had no idea how it was done or that it COULD be done by a home cook/baker in their own kitchen.

But I learned. And then after studying the technique a bit, thought “Well, might as well try it out. What’s the worst that can happen?”

(Waste of dough and ingredients was the answer, but that’s kind of obvious.)

I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be necessarily easy and I will keep it one hundred with you guys: I wouldn’t recommend trying this recipe if you don’t genuinely like to bake, have some experience with working with cookie dough and are willing to be patient with yourself and the process. I’m a decent baker with quite a bit of experience working with cookie dough, I love doing it and (as you can see) my first try at checkerboard cookies still wasn’t exactly perfect.  Nevertheless, I’m still pleased with how these turned out and that I decided to do a test run before trying to make a ‘Christmas-themed’ version for the 12 Days of Christmas series.

I tried to make the directions for these as clear and detailed as possible. So, should you want to make these for yourself (and I do think you should), a few pointers: a ruler is a must here. You’re making two different cookies doughs and when you cut them, you want the portions to be as straight as possible so that when you arrange the strips, they actually look like squares. It doesn’t have to be fancy invested in a regular old blue plastic ruler that measures inches/centimeters that I bought from Target and use strictly for baking; it does the job just fine. Also, when you’re putting the doughs together to create the pattern, don’t beat yourself up if your squares don’t line up perfectly in a row. Mine don’t and I still think the integrity of the ‘checkerboard’ is preserved in the overall aesthetic of the cookie. I plan to get better the more I practice this and I’m sure you will too.

You don’t have to make the two outer ‘wrappings’ for the cookies. I just thought it looked prettier so I decided to go ahead and make some. All you’ll need to do after making the cookie recipe is halve the base recipe and use the two different doughs from the halved recipe to wrap the cookies. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Just read the recipe closely ahead of time and you’ll do fine.

Finally, don’t you dare throw out those scraps after you trim your dough logs! Cut them into mini pieces like I did and bake them off so that you get ‘bite sized checkerboards’ like the ones you see in the picture above. Aren’t they just as cute?

The labor alone involved in making these cookies make the finished product worth it–but I gotta say, the taste wasn’t a letdown either. Checkerboards have a close texture that’s slightly crisp on the outside, then buttery melt-in-the-mouth tender on the inside. The real dilemma here is going to be deciding which flavor you like better: the one where the vanilla dough is dominant or the one where the chocolate one is. I think I’m partial to vanilla, but that could very well change by Christmas time. We’ll have to see.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #186, co-hosted this week by Colleen @ Faith, Hope, Love & Luck and Alex @ Turks Who Eat.

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Checkerboard Cookies

Recipe Adapted from “Classic German Baking” by Luisa Weiss

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Ingredients

  • 20 plus 1 tablespoons (300g) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 18 tablespoons (150g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups, minus 2 tablespoons (400g) all purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat butter until it is light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar and salt and continue to beat about 1 minute more until creamy again. Add the vanilla extract and beat until just combined. Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments, until just combined. (Use a rubber spatula throughout mixing, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing)
Scrape out half of the dough, form into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining dough in the bowl and mix until combined. Form the dough into another flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place both in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove dough from the fridge. Unwrap one of the discs, then place in between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll out into a rectangle, about 8 x 5 inches long. Repeat with the second dough. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the bottom rectangle of dough. Place one rectangle on top of the other. Press to adhere them to each other. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and save the striped strips in the fridge. Divide the rectangle lengthwise in half. Refrigerate the halves for about 15-30 minutes to allow to get firm.
Divide each of the halves into fourths, lengthwise. (A ruler or bench scraper works GREAT for ensuring straight lines) Use the four layers to make TWO checkerboard logs: Brush the tops of two of the layers with the egg wash, then place the other two on top of them. Make sure that you flip the top layers upside down before adhering so as to create the checkerboard pattern. Use your fingers or a spatula to press the logs together and smooth out the edges/corners, try to make them as square as possible. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°.

(If you would like to create the ‘outer wrapping’ for the cookies: halve the original cookie recipe and follow the same instructions, dividing the two colors, wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator. After you’ve finished creating the two checkerboard logs, roll one of the reserved dough discs out between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper into a long rectangle. Place one of the chilled logs on the rectangle, on the edge closest to you. Wrap the dough around the log, press lightly on the bottom to seal and trim any excess. Repeat with the other color and log. Refrigerate both for about another 30 minutes to allow to firm up.)

Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the log cross-wise into slices. Place sliced cookies on prepared baking sheets lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes, until just light golden brown. Allow to sit on baking sheet for about 60 seconds removing to wire racks to cool completely. Cut the reserved trimmings into bite sized nuggets and bake for about 13 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

(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.)