Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shortbread Brownies

When I signed up for my subscription with Better Homes & Gardens, I was emailed a copy of their best desserts (all with pictures to go along with the recipes!). This is the first one I tried, and it turned out beautifully. Not only does it taste great, but it looks a good, too. Normally I don't like recipes that require blind baking (I don't want to wait that long!), but this did not end up being too difficult or time consuming. The shortbread layer bakes on its own (just very lightly browned) for eight minutes, giving me precisely enough time to prepare the brownie portion of the recipe. The mix of textures is my favorite part of this dessert. The edges are particularly good (super chewy and crispy all in the same bite)! I fully intend to bake just the brownies or just the shortbread on its own since both portions are so tasty.

1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
1⁄2 cup butter
3⁄4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
1 1⁄3 cups granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1⁄3 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9×2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Set pan aside.
For crust, in a medium bowl stir together 1 cup of the flour and the brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup of the chocolate pieces. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake
for 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together the remaining 3/4 cup flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, the 1/3 cup melted butter, and vanilla; beat by hand until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate pieces. Carefully spread mixture over crust.
Bake for 40 minutes more. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Use the foil to lift brownies from pan. Cut into bars.
Yields 16 servings.

Monday, March 26, 2012

M&M Cookies

I think you all know how much I love M&M cookies. The chocolate burst they provide is so much bigger than just a regular chocolate chip. I love the crispier texture of the candy shell, too. This recipe produces a somewhat cakey cookie that balances well with the crunch of the M&Ms. I could not get enough of them! 

1 1/4 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3/4 cups M&Ms

In a small bowl whisk cups of flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add in vanilla and eggs.
Gradually add in the flour mixture. Stir in M&Ms. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare baking sheets.
Roll dough into balls and place onto cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 12 minutes until light golden brown.
Yields 18 cookies.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

King's Hawaiian Cookies

I love King's Hawaiian sweet rolls! I have no problem polishing off a dozen rolls in a weekend. I was so excited to try the King's Hawaiian Bakery Restaurant near their United States distribution center in Torrance. Factory stores with all of their specialty products and low prices are the best.
I was amazed by the bakery delights I discovered there! Not only did they sell fancy cakes and a wide variety of breakfast pastries and other rolls and breads, but they also sold bags of cookies! The bags of roughly twenty cookies (about two inches in diameter) are $4.50 each. I passed on the plain macadamia nut variety and went with one bag of chocolate chip macadamia nut and one bag of chocolate chocolate chip. Both varieties were delicious, crispy and full of flavor. I preferred the chocolate chip macadamia cookies since the double chocolate chip ones were slightly grainy.
The bakery store is located at 2808 West Sepulveda in Torrance. Visit for more information.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip

When cookie dough tastes as good as this, you know the finished product is going to be great. The resulting cookie was very chewy with great chocolate and coconut flavor. The dough itself does not hold together well, so don't be alarmed. The cookie will hold together well. I refrigerated some of the dough for an hour before baking, and it does not alter the result.

I rarely use toasted coconut in my recipes, but I have forgotten how great it is! The kitchen smelled amazing all day. Do you have any recipes that call for toasted coconut?

1/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted and cooled
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the toasted coconut, rolled oats, and mini chocolate chips. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the canola oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Next add in the egg. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the oat mixture.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving at least one inch between each cookie. Bake for 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.
Transfer immediately to a cooling rack and cool completely.
Yields 24 cookies.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Green & Black Chocolate Brazil Soft-baked Biscuits

While we were in London last November, we did an amazing Green & Black's chocolate tasting on the London Eye. I left with a new appreciation of Green & Black's chocolate plus some tasty samples and this cookie recipe. I had never baked with brazil nuts before, and I liked the nutty, but not salty result. Be sure to chop them well, though. These cookies were very cakey, but they could have used a bit more chocolate. 

3 ounces butter (6 Tbsp)
2 1/2 ounces caster sugar (scant 1/2 cup sugar)

1 egg
6 ounces self-rising flour (I used 1 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp milk (I used 1)
3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

2 ounces brazil nuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a baking sheet with melted butter.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sift the flour once, returning the bran to the sifted flour, then fold it into the mixture.The bran gives a distinctive flavour and texture to the biscuits. Beat well, adding the vanilla extract and sufficient milk to make a pliable dough. Mix it with your hands, adding the milk in stages until the dough is fairly soft, but not sticky. Add the chopped chocolate, nuts and salt and distribute evenly through the dough. Roll out on to a lightly floured board to a thickness of about 5mm (¼in). Stamp into rounds and place the biscuits, spaced well apart, on the greased baking sheet.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don't overcook. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yields 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pinwheel Cookies

Over the holidays, I tried some great cookies from Joan's on Third and was inspired to make my own. I don't normally do sliced cookies since I don't want to wait, and the result is not always what I want. I was pleasantly surprised with these, though. Mine definitely do not look as pretty as Joan's, but they have nice crispy edges and soft middles.
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup cocoa powder

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Cream together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg. Gradually add in the flour mixture.
Remove half of the dough and place on wax paper or plastic wrap. In the remaining dough, mix in the cocoa powder. Put the chocolate dough on a separate piece of wax paper or plastic wrap. Seal both and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Roll out the dough into two rectangles. Make one rectangle about one in larger on all sides. Put the smaller rectangle on top of the larger rectangle. Roll the dough lengthwise into a log. Make one inch slices and put the dough on the cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely on the cookie sheet before serving. 
Yields 18 cookies.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Valerie Confections

I had been to Valerie Confections a couple of times, but for some reason, I had never noticed their cookies! The selection is small (sugar or the durango cookie), so that will be my excuse for missing them.

The sugar cookie looked very plain, so for $2.00, I tried the Durango Cookie. This was basically a cookie with pieces of their durango bark (milk chocolate with roasted almonds, cocoa nibs, and hickory smoked salt) mixed in. Delicious! I was sad I only got one. The cookie itself was thin and chewy with LOTS of finely chopped bark mixed in. Sometimes cookies that are this thin are overly buttery or greasy, but this was not the case here. A great find!
Valerie Confections is located at 3360 West First Street in Los Angeles. You may also order treats from their website ( Their toffee is amazing, too!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Cookie Sleuth!

The Cookie Sleuth blog is turning 2! Time certainly does fly by. I have so enjoyed getting to know everyone and experiment in the kitchen. Thank you for your support! A few things I've learned over the past couple of years...

For Flat Cookies- Flat=Fat. The more fat (real butter) in your cookie, the more it will spread. If you want a flatter cookie, use butter instead of margarine or shortening. Replace some of the brown sugar with granulated sugar. Also, bring your dough to room temperature before baking. Try White Chocolate Macadamia Nut or M&M.

For Puffy Cookies- You know when the brownie mix package says for cake-like brownies, add an extra egg? The same applies for cookies. Or, you can use margarine in place of butter. Reducing the amount of white sugar in the recipe works, too. Try Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip or Apple Pie or Sour Cream Cookies.

For Chewy Cookies- Use brown sugar or honey in place of white sugar. Let the cookies cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Try Coconut Oatmeal or Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies.

For Crispy Cookies- Use butter instead of margarine for crispy cookies. For recipes that call for two eggs, instead use one whole egg and one egg yolk. Immediately transfer cookies to a cooling rack after removing them from the oven. Try Oatmeal Butterscotch or Lime Sugar Cookies.

Do you have a baking lesson you would like to share?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

See's Gooey Chocolate Brownies

The "gooey" in the name of these brownies does not really tell you how gooey they are going to be. Even though I cooked them through, the texture was more like fudge than like a brownie. The edges did have the same chewiness as a brownie, though, and a day later the brownies were more fudge-like and less gooey. Based on the ingredient list, I was expecting a rich final product, and these definitely were. Due to the texture, I used the remaining brownies in a trifle, and they worked beautifully. I would not recommend this recipe if you have a brownie craving, but if you are in the mood for a decadent chocolatey treat and want something a little firmer than fudge, go for this.

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon of butter, divided
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish.
Over low heat melt chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and tablespoon of butter. In a separate pan, melt butter and dissolve sugar. Add this to the chocolate mixture. Beat in the egg. Stir in vanilla, flour, and salt.

Bake for 25-30 minutes and cool completely before serving.
Yields 16 brownies.

This recipe is also a great way to use up 1/2 of a can of sweetened condensed milk! What are some of the ways you use up a can of this ingredient?