Category Archives: Cookies
I know, I know. I’ve been very bad about posting lately—I can explain, I swear!
Actually, my explanation is a total cop out. I haven’t been posting because I’ve been tired. Work is ridiculous right now, with lots of things to do and not enough time to do it in. Half the time, I’ll come home from work and just not want to cook. And the other half of the time, I start cooking without writing down what I’m doing. Let’s not even talk about the lack of photo taking.
But I’m back and my night shift buddies once again have something to read on their down time.
The fun thing about being able to cook and bake is that when birthdays roll around, you don’t have to buy gifts, you can bake gifts! And such was the request of PWS (Platonic Work Spouse, for the uninformed) when his birthday rolled around last week.
I’d like the opportunity to announce that PWS is now officially old. (Backstory: I’m two months older than PWS, nearly to the day. For the past 60 days, he’s made old woman office cougar jokes, all at my expense. Pay back is sweet. Sweet like cookies.)
During our near-daily coffee date, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday cookies.
“Plain cookies.” Plain cookies? What the hell did that mean?
“I don’t understand.”
“Plain, chocolate chip cookies. No health food!” PWS beamed a smile and paid for our coffees. I rolled my eyes.
Whenever I bake for the office, I make sure to save a handful for my closest friends on my corporate team. For the non-DC area residents, government contracting is different than working in a normal office. As a contractor, I work along side with multiple other companies to get the job done. My corporate team is actually scattered throughout the building in a strangely cooperative conglomeration of contracting joy.
Like I said, with my corporate team sprinkled about on other programs within the building, I always make sure to save a few cookies for them. I love messing around with recipes and exploring unique flavor combinations, and much to PWS’s heartbreak, this has stretched into incorporating fruit into the batter.
PWS hates all things healthy. He detests fruits, vegetables, and whole grain anything. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. He likes vegetables, but in his mind, anything green is a vegetable.
This includes green M&Ms and cupcakes with green icing.
Ordinarily, I love sneaking in a little nutritional value into something I know he’ll be eating, but with it being his birthday, I decided to indulge his poor eating habits a little.
And so I give you…
PWS’s Birthday Cookies
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups Reeses Pieces
In an electric mixer (currently taking suggestions on what to nickname mine), cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until it looks like that delightful dairy cloud of happiness. (Remember from the hazelnut cookies? It’ll look like that, just darker due to the addition of the brown sugar.) The mixture should be as uniform as possible—if the batter isn’t even, the flavor won’t be even either. Add in the vanilla and continue to mix.
Slowly add the eggs, one by one.
I suck at cracking eggs. Like, a lot. I can never break them cleanly. Undoubtedly, no matter how hard I try, I get eggshell in that damn egg white. If they’re small chunks (which they always are), it’s a bitch and a half to get those shards out. But it’s near impossible to pick them out of dough. I’ll take damn hard over impossible any day of the week, so prep bowls are where it’s at. So there.
The mixture is going to get a little mushier at this point. You’re adding liquid, duh! Give it a second to incorporate fully into the rest of the batter, and things should begin to firm up.
In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients, minus the Reese Pieces. Very carefully, slowly add small amounts into the batter. When this is all done and happy, remove the bowl from the mixer. Add in the Reeses Pieces, and mix together by hand. I guess if you don’t want to do it the old fashioned way, you can still use the mixer at this point. I don’t because I don’t like the noise it makes when the chips are slammed against the side of the bowl by the mixer paddle.
10 minutes in a 350 degree oven (rotated halfway through), and life is good.
Happy birthday, PWS!!
Today was an annoying day.
Have you ever had one of those days where some things are really super duper good, but the other things are super frustrating? That was me today.
I don’t want to make this a big bitchy blog post, but today had some borderline suckitude. I rocked my client work, but then little things would happen that kept me from fully enjoying the rockingness. Then I came home to find that Barfy Cat had struck again.
That’s actually been the theme of the week, actually. And I’m ready for it to be over. Oh. Ver.
And so, instead of burying my problems deep down inside, I bake.
Mango Coconut Macaroons
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cup cake flour
2 mangoes, pureed
1 bag sweetened coconut, about 3 cups
Last night, I peeled, sliced, and pureed two large mangoes. I love mangoes—I could probably eat two or three a day for the rest of my life and still die happy. There’s something about them that just says ‘delicious.’ I left the mangoes to drain through a sieve over night…and found less than a teaspoon of juice in the bottom of the bowl this evening. Sooo note for the future: draining is a needless step.
Next, I whisked the egg whites, sugar and salt in a metal bowl over simmering water.
(The poor girl’s double boiler!) This thickens the mixture without outright cooking them, which is good. Who wants a scrambled egg white cookie? That’s gross.
Tip: when separating egg whites, use two bowls. Crack the egg and separate it over one bowl, then poor the whites into the second. This may seem stupid, like you’re just creating more dirty dishes to clean, but trust me. The egg whites are meant to keep the batter light and fluffy…light and fluffy doesn’t happen if you have broken bits of yoke floating around in it.
When the mixture is warmed through, remove it from the heat. Whisk in the flour, vanilla, mango and coconut. After this looks is well mixed, chill it in the fridge for about two hours. I used a small ice cream scoop to portion out my cookies onto a non-stick cookie rack.
Another tip: Put the batter immediately back into the fridge. If it goes back to room temperature, it gets a little too runny, and that makes it difficult to scoop. Trust me on this one. Oops.
15-20 minutes in a 325 degree oven (rotating and switching racks at about the 7 minute mark), and bliss reigns once more!
Big things are happenin’ in the studio this week! First, my good friend Jaime and her boyfriend Paul helped me put
together a new Ikea bookcase to act as a pantry. I now have storage! It’s no where near my kitchen, but hey, it’s a 500 square foot apartment. “Near” is relative.
Second, tomorrow I FINALLY GET CABLE SERVICE! Like I’ve said before, I never transferred my service from my old apartment after moving. I was interested in saving money for a bit. I’m officially on my own. There is no one splitting the bills with me, so I am the single point of failure. I wanted to give it a few months until I had bought my new furniture, gone through a few utility cycles to get a feel for what the costs will be, and generally relax about being on my own. I knew I could afford the costs on paper, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that affording it on paper and affording it in real life are two completely different things.
I’m going to be able to watch food again, not just write about it!
Third, tomorrow is The Day. That’s right, yours truly will be taking her very first cooking class ever. Three hours, all about shellfish. I have absolutely no idea how this will be set up, how the class will be conducting, or even if I’ll emerge from this experience alive. But there will be a blog about it soon, I promise.
Fourth, I made cookies! Again.
For the past few days, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a fruit sugar cookie. I attempted some mango cookies a while back, and they were alright, but they didn’t say MANGO when you ate one. I was planning on trying them again tonight, but then I realized I ate my last mango yesterday.
I had an informative IM conversation with my coworker, David (another shout out, dude!), about the ins and outs of baking. He’s a master baker, and had it not been for my grueling work out schedule last year, would have added more than one pants size to my wardrobe, what with his awesome cakes and breads he’s brought in.
I want to be able to come up with a healthier cookie recipe that relies on less sugar but doesn’t taste like crap. After reading his advice, I have decided that this is going to be left for another blog way down the road. There is lots of experimenting to do.
So for now, I’m sticking with the same, good ol’ fashioned, spike-your-blood-sugar, block-your-arteries, sugar cookie.
Strawberry-Pomegranate Sugar Cookies
3 ½ cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
¼ cup pomegranate juice
Handful of strawberries
I broke out my previously blogged about trusty Kitchenaid mixer for this recipe. I’d like the arm workout that hand mixing can give the biceps, but well, it was super late at night when I started baking. After a long day at work and a tiring commute home, hand mixing can suck it.
I cut the tops off the strawberries and blended them into a delicious-looking puree with a stick blender. Using my brand new, uber cool (and most likely over priced) sieve I bought the other day at William Sonoma, I strained the puree over a bowl for about half an hour. You should let yours strain until all the excess liquid is in the bowl…or until you got bored and couldn’t wait any longer like me.
I creamed the butter, sugar, and strawberry puree together. Remember the dairy yellow cloud of happiness I wrote about
with the hazelnut cookies? Yeah, this is going to look nothing like that. Nothing at all. In fact, it’s going to look pretty gross. Ignore this grossness and keep on truckin’ with the baking.
When this was all happy and gross looking, I added the milk and egg. The extra liquid is going to make the batter a little sloshy, but keep mixing until it starts to firm up again. I had to stop the mixer a couple times and scrape the bowl so everything mixed up together the way it was supposed to.
At this point, I tried the batter to taste for sweetness and it just wasn’t…right. It was alright. It just wasn’t right. The strawberry taste really didn’t come out at all. The pinkness of it didn’t even look appetizing. I was about the pitch the whole thing when I remembered—I had a bottle of pomegranate juice in my fridge! I drizzled in about a quarter of a cup, tasted it, and smiled. Life is good once again! Hooray!
In a separate bowl, I combined the remaining dry ingredients. Slowly, I added the flour to the batter and mixed well. When the flour has been incorporated, give the batter a small taste. Add more sugar or juice if it need it—but remember, if you add more juice you’ll probably have to add in a little more flour to keep the consistency the same. Play around with it. It’s basically a sugar cookie, not a hydrogen bomb. You can experiment with trial and error. Nothing is going to blow up.
I stuck the bowl in the fridge for about half an hour (or however long it takes me to write this blog entry). I knew the cookies were going need an extra little bit of zing, so I poured a few tablespoons of the pomegranate juice into a bowl, and whisked in just enough sugar to make a glaze. This will really make the pomegranate taste pop out more, since it’ll be the first thing that will hit your taste buds. I popped that in the fridge too for until after the cookies are baked.
At this point, you can roll out the dough, cut the cookies, and place them on a baking sheet a few inches apart. Or, if you’re like me and crushed for space and/or don’t want to clean up a ton of flour on the counter, you can drop them in one or two tablespoon dollops on a baking sheet. Fold over a piece of foil, lay it over the cookie, and flatten with a soup can. Ten minutes in a 350 degree oven should about do it. After a bit, transfer to a rack or some kitchen towels to cool the rest of the way.
When all the cookies are done baking and have cooled, drizzle the chilled glaze over the tops and allow to harden.
When they’re ready, transfer to a suitable container for transport to your office since you have way too many cookies for one person to eat.
My first guest blog!!
My good friend and former coworker, Sara, made some awesome ice cream sandwiches prior to her departure from our office. (She used to sit in my cube pod, and we’d chat about fashion and relationships. Now it’s a hot desk and is usually filled with a quiet programmer. I’m not 100% sure I’ve forgiven her for leaving me yet…) Sara has been nice enough to write a guest blog for me…so here it is!
1) Bake the cookies according to directions on the pre-made cookie packet. Usually 350 degrees for average sized cookies for 12 minutes. I had extra large cookies, which were baked for 15-20 minutes at 375.
2) Let the cookies fully cool on a rack or a brown paper bag.
3) When the cookies are completely cool, take the ice cream out and let it soften so that its slightly pliable. Do not allow the ice cream to become melty soft.
4) Spoon ice cream on the back of one cookie and smash them together
…there were no left overs.
Well I’m obviously not going to sleep anytime soon, so here’s another post. (Late night posting will probably be a recurring theme in this blog. I have crappy sleeping habits.)
So lately I’ve really gotten into baking. I think it’s because it’s a throw back to my childhood. Whenever the weather was too cold or rainy to play outside, and my brother and I were driving my mother nuts, she’d say to us “why don’t you two go bake some cookies?” They were always one of two kinds—Nestle Tollhouse or peanut butter. And always delicious. So now when I’m bored or stuck inside, I bake.
I baked a lot last week, thank you to the pain in the ass snowstorm, which transformed a 45 minute commute into 8 fucking hours.
Not like I’m still bitter or anything.
PS Props to my buddy Romel. It took me 4 hours to drive 2 miles. He kept me company via text, and at around hour 4.5, he graciously let me escape to his apartment, which luckily was not far from where I was stranded. He even fed me, heading off a disastrous blood sugar fiasco. I hung out at his place for a few hours, saw The Big Lebowski for the first time, then took back roads home around 1am. When I exited his complex, I saw the same cars I had been stuck with many hours before. I never would have moved.
Anyway. On Friday night, I was thinking about food, as usual, when I had a stroke of genius. Why not take something wonderfully chocolate-y and hazelnut-y, like, oh, I don’t know…NUTELLA!!!…and put it in a cookie.
I was so giddy I couldn’t sleep.
Kinda like now.
On Saturday, I did some research, found a cookie recipe that seemed simple enough, and went to work. The cookies were…ok. I mean, for Ordinary People, they were fabulous. But I am not Ordinary People. I thought the cookies were way too thin, and they were just missing that Certain Punch. You know what I mean—that special thing that makes you forget what’s wrong with the world, even if only for the 30 seconds it takes to eat a cookie.
Sunday changed all that.
Sometimes, I think the best baking in the world is done on Sunday. I don’t know why, but every single one of my culinary homeruns occurred on a Sunday.
I drove home to my parents’ house to borrow their kitchen. They let me do this from time to time with the understanding that they get to eat whatever they want from the resulting baked goods. I’m usually ok with this arrangement until they eat most of what I’m making for whatever party I’m attending that night. And they’re usually ok with this arrangement, until I accidentally put their non-dishwasher safe mixer paddle into the dishwasher and strip it of its non-stick coating. Completely.
And so, my Dear Readers, I present to you my first published recipe ever—Hazelnut Sugar Cookies. This is, in part, based off an old family recipe for sugar cookies my dad’s mother, Maria, would make a lot. Enjoy—if you repost, please throw some credit (and maybe a link!) my way. And if you make it, please let me know how they turned out!
Hazelnut Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup Nutella (oh, beautiful, wonderful Nutella! Every PMSing woman’s love!)
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
4 tsp baking powder
4 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 T cocoa powder
The How Tos:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar together until it looks like a delightful, dairy yellow cloud of happiness. (I prefer the Kitchenaid mixers. My parents have a new super turbo charged one, but I like mine better. It’s a hand me down model my folks got as a wedding gift. That sucker is older than me, and it keeps on chugging! But I digress…) The dairy yellow cloud of happiness should be as homogeneous as possible—if you can see bits of butter, keep beating.
I should note that you could use the Crisco baking sticks instead of butter. I do use them (on occasion) but I don’t think they’re that fabulous. Why use something called “butter flavored” when you could use real butter? You’re just trading out one fat for another, and I’d rather have a natural fat in my body than one made in a lab.
Slow the mixer speed down a smidge, and add your eggs one by one. When this is well blended (and not sloshy—adding the eggs will liquefy the cloud of happiness a little, so wait until it firms back up), throw in the Nutella and vanilla and keep mixing. Again, this is all about the look. Keep going until it’s all one color. You may need to push the batter down the sides of the bowl so everything gets a chance to dance together.
Now it’s time for the dry ingredients. You can sift everything together first, and your cookies will come out a lot lighter and more airy than if you just dump it all into the bowl at once. Personally, it’s six or one half dozen of another to me. I’m a rustic type of girl, so I tend to go the dump-it-all-in route. I like my cookies like I like my men. Dense and lumpy. (Wait a second…)
I like to add my dry ingredients excruciatingly slowly. Not because it makes for a better batter, but because it makes for a cleaner kitchen! More than once, I’ve gotten a face full of flour from being over zealous with the mixing speed, and let me tell you, it is not fun. Try adding in ¼ to ½ cup increments. Keep the mixer going until it’s all well blended—this is a pretty dense batter, so don’t be afraid if it comes out a little thick. If you think it’s too dry to make a pretty cookie, you can always drizzle in some milk for moisture.
If your oven hasn’t preheated by now, buy a new oven because it’s broken. Drop your cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet (Silpats are amazing. Just saying.) and bake for about 15-18 minutes. Cookies should be about 1 tablespoon worth of batter. I like uniformity, so I try to use an actual cookie scoop.
Check them at 15 minutes. If they look almost done, but not 100%, trust me, they’re done. If you bake more than one sheet at a time, rotate them around the 7 minute mark, and make sure you switch racks. (Put the sheet that was on top on the bottom rack and vice versa.) That’s the only way I can keep my cookie bottoms from burning.
The cookies by themselves are downright amazing. And I may or may not have eaten 1 (…or 3) as soon as they were cool enough to not burn my mouth out of my face.
So there I was, sitting at the table, chowing down on these totally low calorie [rolls eyes] cookies with my mom, gossiping about whatever when it hit me. These little discs of hazelnut joy were great. Down right amazing (as stated above). But they weren’t FABULOUS. They just looked like they were made in someone’s home kitchen.
And so I made a…wait for it…glaze, per my mother’s encouragement. From Nutella. (I still don’t eat a lot of sugar, so at this point I was in sugar overload and shaking like a Parkinson’s patient. I didn’t care. There was a glaze to be made. This is Sparta, bitches.)
For the glaze:
Eyeball about ¾ cup to a full cup of Nutella into a double boiler on the stove. Drizzle approximately 2-3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream (see, I told you it was low calorie!) and turn the flame to medium low. Whisk this together until it looks like chocolate sauce. Add about ½ tsp of vanilla extract—the vanilla is really to taste though.
Taste the glaze every so often (damn, such a hard job) and adjust the flavor. When it’s done, whisk in a small pinch of salt. This will make the sweetness of the hazelnut and vanilla pop out just a little more.
Nutella really isn’t made for heating on its own, you have to mix it with a richer liquid to give it that smooth silkiness, hence the heavy cream.
Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies from the back of a spoon. I’m a big fan of thin stripes, but if you prefer a full coating, go ahead and pour. It’s your cookie. Make it what you want!
So there you go. Hazelnut sugar cookies. Enjoy!