Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mini Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Perfect for a holiday party, these mini mint chocolate whoopie pies are a hit. The chewy cookie sandwiches are the perfect combination of mint and chocolate. They can be made the night before, too. Just be sure to refrigerate them overnight and let them warm up for an hour or so.
Chocolate Whoopie Pies
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup of cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla 
Mint Filling
2 cups confectioners sugar sifted
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Green food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla.
Gradually add in the flour mixture and buttermilk in stages, starting and ending with the flour.
Spoon tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets.
Bake 11-13 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the filling, cream together butter and confectioner sugar. Add milk until filling is at the desired consistency. Stir in peppermint extract. Add green food coloring until the desired color is achieved. Spoon one tablespoon of filling onto a cookie and press another cookie on top to form the whoopie pie.
Yields 24 mini whoopie pies.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! What a weekend! Thanksgiving through Christmas is my favorite time of year. I'm still in pumpkin mode, but soon it will be time for chocolate mint. Yum!
Here is another recipe from Anna Ginsberg's The Daily Cookie (add this cookbook to your holiday wish list!). The bars had a great flavor and were very chewy. The cream cheese frosting is a must since they are not very sweet otherwise. I omitted the pecans.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup toasted and chopped pecans

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center. Line a 9 by 13-inch metal pan with nonstick foil or just spray the pan with flour-added baking spray.
Make the base: Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, using a handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until well mixed. Add the vanilla and orange zest. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Stir in the pumpkin, followed by the pecans. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until set. Let cool completely in the pan. 
Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl, using a handheld electric mixer. When smooth and creamy, beat in the vanilla and the orange zest. Add the confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl, until you get the consistency you like. Spread on the cooled bars. Using the foil (if you have lined the pan), lift the bars from the pan, set on a cutting board, and cut into 24 bars.
Yields 24 bars

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cheryl's Cookies

While I was in Chicago, we headed over to Oak Park (just a 40 minute train ride from downtown) to see some of the Frank Lloyd Wright architectural sites. I was so excited to discover a Cheryl's Cookies store. Until I went in, I didn't believe it really was a store with the amazing Cheryl's Cookies I have seen in catalogs. Cookie Heaven! With so many flavors, it was hard to decide what to try. Beautiful boxes were available for packaging gifts. Cookies were $1.60 each or 5 for $5. I tried 11 :) Take a look... 
Chocolate Chip- average, better off sticking with specialty cookies
Celebration Chocolate Chip- just like the chocolate chip cookie with pretty colorful chocolate candy pieces
Banana Split Cookie with Walnuts- expected more of this cookie- tasted just like banana cookies I make with chocolate frosting on top
Carmel Chocolate Pecan- fantastic chewy carmel with ground pecans mixed in
Buttercream Frosted Peanut Butter Candy Cookie- soft peanut butter cookie that's not grainy, great chocolate frosting, candies add a nice crunch
Salty Carmel Chocolate Chip- lots of chocolate and carmel without too much salt
Honey Roasted Chocolate Peanut Butter- messy with a strong peanut butter flavor and lots of chocolate chunks
Buttercream Frosted Cut Out- delicious buttercream over a soft cookie (equal parts buttercream and equal parts cookie!)
Buttercream Frosted Cinnamon Pumpkin- great fall cookie with strong cinnamon and pumpkin flavors
Buttercream Frosted Chocolate Peppermint- perfect for the holidays, wonderful peppermint frosting
Lemon Blueberry- fresh, light lemon flavor, but in need of more blueberries

Order cookies at www.cheryls.comHave a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chicago Cookie Finds Part 2

More from Chicago! What is a trip to Chicago without deep dish pizza and catching a game at Wrigley Field? As if I weren't having enough fun already, I tried cookies at a couple of pizza places and at the Cubs game. Here's the scoop:

Lou Malnati's- Before I went, several people told me this was the best deep dish pizza in town. It certainly did not disappoint on the pizza side, but the deep dish cookie did. I guess their focus is on their pizza, since this tasted just like undercooked refrigerated cookie dough. It is $3.25 for an individual size and $6.25 for a larger cookie.

Pequod's Pizza- This was our favorite pizza of the trip. I wish they shipped to California! For $2.25, we tried their warm chocolate chip cookie. It was a large saucer-sized cookie with milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunks- a very nice way to end our meal.

Prairie City- The Official Cookie of the Chicago Cubs- As if I need one more thing to eat at a baseball game, I found a great cookie that I will have to have if I'm ever back at Wrigley Field. The soft cookie needed some more chocolate chips, but the brown sugar and vanilla undertones were pleasant. $3.25 per cookie is not bad for a baseball game.

Fannie Mae- Just an aside... Great chocolate here! Their carmash (carmel marshmallow covered in chocolate) is especially tasty. I purchased two of their cookies (chocolate with buttercream and toffee chocolate chip, $1.50 each), which tasted just like the Cheryl's Cookies I will review next week. The packaging was eerily similar, too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

I think people either love or hate pumpkin. I'm one of those who loves it! I cannot get enough of the pumpkin flavored drinks, treat, soups, breads, etc at this time of year. My favorite is the pumpkin spice frappucino at Starbucks. I've also had pumpkin bread every day for breakfast the past two weeks... I guess there could be worse addictions. :)
1 box of fudge brownie mix (sized for a 13x9 pan)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray.
Prepare brownies per the instructions on the box. Pour the batter into the prepare pan.
Using a hand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and pumpkin. Add in the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well.
Spoon dollops of the pumpkin cream cheese mixture into the brownie batter. Using a knife, lightly swirl the pumpkin cream cheese through the brownie batter. Do not mix it in. Just lightly swirl.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.
Yields 36 bars

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Fall is here! These bars are a great way to welcome the season. They made my whole house smell like pumpkin yesterday afternoon. This slightly modified Martha Stewart recipe was very easy and produced a bar that was a cross between pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies (more on the bread side). The bars were not too rich or sweet, and the mini chocolate chips provided just the right amount of chocolate and added a nice texture. I will definitely be making these every fall.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
With a stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix well. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake bars for 30-35 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan.
Cool bars completely in pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Yields 24 bars

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicago Cookie Finds

Earlier this fall, I took a great trip to Chicago. I had never been (except for changing planes in the airport). It is a great city with so much to do. We also got really lucky and had amazing weather throughout the week. Let me know if you have any favorite things to see, do, or eat in Chicago, and I'll add it to my list next time I go!

I HAD to try some cookies while I was there. I went a little crazy, so I will have a couple more posts to wrap things up. To get things started...

Adler Planetarium- What a neat planetarium! We had great view of Chicago from here, too. In their Galileo cafe, I had a surprisingly good and freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. This classic cookie was soft and had a good amount of chocolate. For $2.25, it's definitely worth it.

Ben & Jerry's at Navy Pier- Navy Pier was so fun to walk around and was the departure point for a fun boat cruise. Of course, everyone knows Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but this was the first time I had seen cookies being served there. I wish more of their ice cream parlors offered them since they were only $2 and super chewy with lots of chocolate chunks. They even offered to warm it up for me, which made it even better!

Hershey's- I almost didn't go in this store located off of Michigan Avenue, but I'm so glad I did. They had an amazing cookie/brownie/decadent treats selection. I tried the S'mores Brownie (indulgent chocolaty brownie with toasted marshmallows on top- a little marshmallow heavy, but still good, $3.25), Dark Chocolate Cookie (I must find a copycat recipe, $1.75), and a Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwich with chocolate buttercream (excellent, could not stop eating it $3.95). You must go here!

More to come soon about the rest of my Chicago Cookie Finds...