Monday, April 29, 2013

Ritz Thin Mints

A colleague introduced me to this quick way to make Thin Mint copycats. Don't worry about the cracker taste coming through too much or being too salty. Besides the more crumbly texture, you can't tell a difference between this and the original Thin Mint. I used melted Nestle chocolate and mint chips, but you could also melt chocolate and add a couple of drops of mint extract. My friend used mint chocolate candy melts. Either way, it's dangerous how easy these are to make!

24 Ritz crackers
1 1/2 cups chocolate and mint chips
1 Tablespoon Heavy cream, if necessary

Melt chocolate over double boiler. If necessary, use heavy cream to thin out the chocolate. Remove melted chocolate from the heat.
Dip each cracker in the melted chocolate. Place dipped cracker on a cooling rack (with wax paper or parchment underneath) while the chocolate cools and hardens.
Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Yields 24

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vosges Sugar Cookie Mix

I love the Vosges Chocolate Chip cookie mix, and for a nice spring treat, I tried the Vosges sugar cookie mix. Unfortunately this was not the delightful spring dessert I was hoping for. The $12 box includes a dry ingredient pouch and sugar crystals plus instructions. The mix is easy (just add two sticks of butter, one egg, and vanilla), but the resulting cookie does not have much flavor. The sugar crystals that come with the mix are a cute decoration, but this cookie still disappoints. I'm glad this wasn't my first experience with Vosges because based on this experience alone, I would not be trying any more of their products.

Monday, April 22, 2013

'lette macarons & Lucca Cafe

I finally had a chance to try 'lette macarons last week. The best option was the 12 macaron gift box (really cute packaging by the way) for $19.50. Individual macarons are $1.75 each. The passion fruit and rose flavors weren't that great (slightly artificial tasting), but the chocolate, vanilla, and salted caramel were fantastic. Overall the macarons had the perfect cookie to filling ratio, and the cookies were chewy with a slightly crispy outer layer.

Another place I finally got to cross off my list of places I wanted to try was Lucca Cafe. While my dinner was just OK, the cookie I took home was worth going back for. I tried chocolate chip (peanut butter and oatmeal raisin were also available) and was pleased with the soft texture and crispy edges. There was just the right amount of chocolate chips, too. Large, saucer-sized cookies are $1.95 each.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hurricane Irene Cookies

I had such success with the recipe from Kathleen King's Baking for Friends that I had to try this delicious sounding recipe as well. This was a great cookie, but I wasn't as amazed by it as the Chubby Tate's. I used shredded coconut instead of the coconut flakes. I also used mini chocolate chips, but I really should have gone with the regular sized.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups whole oats
1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1/2 cup toffee bits

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare sheet pans with parchment paper or silpat.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and whole oats. Stir till combined and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar and sugar with a paddle attachment until just combined.
Add eggs, vanilla and water, and mix until combined. Scrape down bowl.
Add flour mixture from medium bowl and mix until just combined.
While the mixer is running on low speed, add chocolate chips, coconut flakes, pecan pieces and toffee bits. Mix until just blended.
Using a 2-tablespoon ice cream scoop, pan out cookies a few inches apart. They do not spread much.
Bake cookies for 17 minutes; Do not over-bake -- they should be soft.
Cool cookies on the sheet pans or remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Yields 52, 2-inch cookies.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M&M Cookie Butter Cookies

As you all know, M&M cookies are some of my favorite! These are no exception. The cookie butter flavor works well with the chocolate punch from the M&Ms. I will have a hard time not eating spoonfuls of cookie butter with M&Ms on top when I don't have time to make these cookies! I originally made the recipe with less M&Ms, but I recommend using the full 1 1/2 cups to get more chocolate into your cookie.

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup cookie butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
Mix the butter and cookie butter until smooth. Add in sugars. Then stir in the egg.
Gradually add in the flour mixture. Stir in M&Ms.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Let sit on cookie sheet to cool for 5 minutes. Then move to cooling rack to cool completely.
Yields 3 Dozen

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chubby Tates

When I bought the gift box from Tate's Bakeshop, I also bought a copy of Kathleen Kings's Baking for Friends cookbook. I knew this was the first recipe I had to try. The result was a thin, chewy, soft cookie with crisp edges. They are so hard to stop eating!

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Position the oven racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter, granulated sugar, and corn syrup with an electric mixer set on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture, just until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.
Using 2 Tablespoons per cookie, drop the dough about 3 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating the positions of the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, about 18 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough, on cool baking sheets.
Yields 3 dozen cookies.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Peanut Butter Chip Brownies

These rich, fudgy brownies tasted better the second day. Do let them cool completely before eating them. They tasted much better at room temperature. 
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 8x8 pan with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a saucepan, put in the chocolate and oil and melt together over low heat. Remove from heat and cool.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Add in the chocolate mixture. Gradually add in the flour mixture. Pour into the baking pan. Top with peanut butter chips. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.
Yields 16 servings

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tate's Bakeshop and Rocq Cafe

I have been eager to try Tate's Bakeshop cookies and was thrilled to find a discounted gift box plus cookbook through (regularly price at $49.00 through the Tate's website). The gift box came with about 14 cookies each of chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and oatmeal raisin flavors plus Kathleen King's book Baking for Friends. While the flavors of all three cookies were excellent, they were too crispy for me. Baking for Friends is a fantastic book with lovely pictures and helpful tips plus stories about each recipe. There are so many recipes I want to try, and I will be sure to share them with you when I do.

I had not heard about Rocq Cafe macarons until a deal came through for them on Groupon. Of course when I went I used my Groupon deal ($9 for one dozen), I bought a dozen more since there were so many fun flavors to choose from (lavender, peach mango, red velvet, etc), and they are only $1.60 each. My favorite was the chocolate- deep dark chocolate flavor. Yum! Some of the fruit flavors tasted artificial, but all of the macarons had a great texture and cookie to filling ratio. They are not to the level of the ones I had from Laduree in Paris, but they are a great local substitute. Be sure to eat these on the day you get them. The ones I saved for the next day were dry.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Giant Oat Bars

I found this Betty Crocker recipe and made a few changes to create these great not too sweet bars that are a perfect morning snack.

2 tablespoons margarine, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1/6 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups Cheerios cereal

Preheat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until blended. Beat in oil, vanilla and eggs until well mixed. Gradually add in flour, oats, baking soda and salt until dough forms. Stir in cereal.
Press dough into an 8x8 baking pan.
Bake 11 minutes or until light brown. Cool completely before slicing.
Yields 16 bars