a monster of a cookie

Holiday baking is the best but it’s definitely more fun when it’s a shared experience, so I invited a friend and her 5-year-old daughter over to help me last weekend.  Little Sofia was a major help in the kitchen.  She deftly crushed the peppermint candies for the Double Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch Cookies, she almost mastered separating egg whites from the yolks on her first try (not easy!), and she is an expert stirrer as demonstrated below.  She even came with her own apron!  Love it. 12.8.12 006

One of the cookies we made were monster cookies from a recipe by the guys who run Baked in Brooklyn.  Monster cookies are basically everything you could ever want in a cookie all rolled into one: peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips, and M&M’s.  A few years ago I made them with another friend and we experimented with pretzel pieces and marshmallows as well and both were nice additions.  You should be able to have a little fun with recipes.  Go nuts!  (I did not intend for the pun but while on the subject I will say I’m not a fan of nuts in most desserts but those would certainly be a nice addition too, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

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The resulting cookie almost feels like it’s good for you– at least that’s how I justified it as breakfast more than one morning this week… The recipe makes a lot of cookies so it’s a great one if you are participating in a cookie swap or giving them away in care packages.  They also freeze well if you want to make them now and save them for later.  Enjoy!

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Monster Cookies (from “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup M&Ms

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add in the oats and whisk until evenly combined. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth and pale in color. Add in the brown sugar and the granulated sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, being sure to incorporate the egg fully before adding in the next one. Add in the corn syrup and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Scrape down the bowl and add in the peanut butter. Mix gradually until just combined. Very carefully add in your oat mixture in three separate additions, so you don’t overload your mixer. Mix until just incorporated (don’t overmix).

Fold in your chocolate chips and M&Ms. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. This is important for the texture of your cookies.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into balls the size of 2 tablespoons and place them on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart from one another.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning the pans once through the baking time. The cookies are ready when they are set and golden. Let the cookies cool completely for 8-10 minutes on the baking sheets before removing them and placing them on a new surface to cool completely. These can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for 3 days.

double chocolate peppermint crunch cookies

It’s that time of year again– time to bake Holiday cookies and try to share more of the resulting treats than you eat yourself.  I’m not doing so well on the latter part but I guess that is just a testament to how good they turned out… right?  I’m going with it.

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I’m not normally a fan of peppermint-flavored things but this recipe sounded so darn good I decided to give it a try.  And am I glad I did!  The first step is to melt down some bittersweet chocolate chips in a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water on your stove.

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Some of the melted chocolate gets mixed in with the batter which has a teaspoon of espresso powder to deepen the chocolate flavor.  It totally works.  In addition to the melted chocolate you also mix some of the (whole unmelted) bittersweet chocolate chips in with the dough which also has cocoa powder in it so these could probably be called Triple Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch Cookies.

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The crunch part comes in with crushed peppermint candies being sprinkled on top after the cookies have baked and you’ve drizzled a little of the leftover melted chocolate on them.  The dough also has a little peppermint extract in it to really bring the mint-chocolate combo home.  The cookies are fudge-y which makes for a great texture with the peppermint candies.  No wonder I had a hard time resisting sampling a few…

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Check back in later this week for another cookie recipe, this time involving peanut butter, oatmeal, and chocolate, aka all things good.

Double Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch Cookies (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)
  • 2 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (do not exceed 61% cacao; 15 to 16 ounces), divided
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 candy canes or 16 red-and-white- striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir 2 cups chocolate chips in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Measure 2/3 cup melted chocolate; transfer to small metal bowl and reserve for drizzling.

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy. Add sugar and both extracts; beat until smooth. Add eggs; beat to blend. Beat in melted chocolate from medium bowl. Add dry ingredients; beat just to blend. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Measure 1 level tablespoonful dough; roll dough between palms to form ball. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing cookies 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until cracked all over and tester inserted into center comes out with large moist crumbs attached, 8 to 9 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment paper to racks to cool completely.

Rewarm reserved 2/3 cup chocolate over small saucepan of simmering water. Using fork, drizzle chocolate over cookies. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over, arranging some pieces with red parts showing. Chill just until chocolate sets, about 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 weeks ahead. Store airtight in freezer. Bring to room temperature before serving.

mid week sweet treat

You might think the below image is of cookie dough about to be baked, but you would be wrong.  Have you ever had Buckeyes before?  Well below is a Buckeye before it gets dunked in melted chocolate.  What we have here are peanut butter balls.

Except in this case we are not dunking the peanut butter balls into melted chocolate but rather placing them on top of a fudgy cookie.  These are Buckeyes in cookie form… genius!  (Thank you Joy the Baker for your brilliant concoction.)

The cookie dough is kind of runny and has to be dribbled on a parchment-lined baking sheet with a spoon.  At first I was a little nervous about this because I was afraid they weren’t going to bake up properly but indeed they did.  They result in a fudgy, soft cookie that makes for a perfect vehicle for the aforementioned peanut butter balls.

You place the pre-made PB balls in the center of the cookies when they are fresh out of the oven so that they meld together into a beautiful final piece that is greater than the sum of its parts.

There is no better combination that exists than peanut butter and chocolate together.  Perfection.  In cookie form.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookies (from “Joy the Baker Cookbook” by Joy Wilson)

For the peanut butter balls:

  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons peanut butter

For the cookies:

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make the peanut butter balls: in a large bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter, and peanut butter.  With clean hands begin to work the mixture together.  The butter and peanut butter should come together to create a stiff but pliable dough.  (I had to add 2 additional tablespoons of peanut butter to make the dough come together but I think that’s because I use natural peanut butter which tends to be a little more dry.)  Roll dough between your palms to create 16 small walnut-sized balls.  Place on a clean cutting board or cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

To make the cookies: in a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until thick and pale.  Set aside.

Place about 2 inches of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  In a heatproof bowl, combine butter and chocolate chips.  Place the bowl over but not touching the simmering water.  Heat until chocolate and butter have melted together.  Remove bowl from heat.  Add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture and fold together.  Once entirely incorporated, stir in the vanilla.  Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula until thoroughly incorporated.  The mixture will be glossy and loose.

Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of cookie batter onto the baking sheet, spacing the batter 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minutes until crackled on top, but still fudgy in the center.  Remove from oven and immediately press a peanut butter ball into the center of each cookie.  The warmth will help meld the two together.  Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 days.

zucchini brownies, gluten-free and almost vegan

A coworker of mine has been very generous with sharing her garden with me this summer and lately she has had an abundance of zucchini.  Apart from zucchini bread I have only ever had zucchini in savory dishes so when she mentioned to me that she had recently eaten a delicious brownie made with zucchini I was intrigued and did a little interweb research.  The best-looking recipe I came across also happened to be gluten-free and refined-sugar-free.  What?!  Since I have been getting myself out of bed at 5 in the morning three days a week lately for a bootcamp class both of these things appealed to me so as not to undo all the good I’ve been doing.

Now, normally “healthy” and “baked goods” are not words that should be used together in a phrase but in this case it works.  And the brownies were so easy to make!  Four simple steps.  Anyone can handle that!

In place of sugar the recipe called for raw honey and instead of flour there was almond butter.  I happen to love almond butter and generally keep it in stock when I want a break from peanut butter so already had some on hand.

The results were moist brownies with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you want a rich, dense, chocolate-y brownie, look elsewhere, but if you want a sweet treat that actually isn’t that bad for you health-wise, this is your dish.  I think it may inspire me to sneak vegetables into sweet baked goods again…

Flourless Zucchini Brownies (recipe found at http://fastpaleo.com/zucchini-brownies/)

  • 1 cup of almond butter
  • 1 1/2 cup of grated or chopped zucchini (I used food processor)
  • 1/3 cup of raw honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1 cup of dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix everything together.

Pour into a greased 9×9 baking pan.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

the best part about chocolate chip cookies

I have a friend, let’s call her Cheri* (*not her real name), who has a serious cookie dough problem.  The kind of problem where she buys cookie dough from the freezer section in the grocery store just to munch on.  Raw.  I understand the appeal, I mean, who doesn’t like to lick the beaters clean while baking?  But they always warn you about that raw egg thing… and no one wants to risk salmonella.  So when I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs for cookie dough that is made without eggs and is meant to be eaten raw I knew just who to make it for.

The original recipe went one step further than I have here and dipped the cookie dough balls in melted chocolate for a Buckeye effect but my cookie-dough-eating-friend is a bit of a purist and prefers them sans melted chocolate.  It’s very good that way but if you’re more into the salty-sweet thing than overly sweet stuff, this is the way forward.  Trust me on this.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls (adapted from recipe from www.joythebaker.com)

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about three minutes in the machine.  Beat in yogurt along with the vanilla extract and stir to combine.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add all at once to the butter and sugar mixture and stir until incorporated.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop large spoonfuls or ice cream scoops onto a  waxed paper lined cookie sheet.  Place in the freezer overnight or until frozen, at least three hours.  Serve cold from the freezer.