Category: cookies

Lemon pie with Duchy Originals ginger shortbread crust (& a giveaway, too).

Lemon pie with ginger shortbread cookie crust PLUS a Duchy Originals giveaway!

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Lemon pie? In February?” It might seem like a warm-weather dish, but this isn’t. Trust me. Want to know why?

Because of the crust.

I mean, winter is citrus season anyway, so you can use all those Meyer lemons instead of just starting at them in that pretty bowl on your table (not that I speak from experience). But it’s really the crust. The crust is made from Duchy Originals stem ginger shortbread; meaning it’s warm & spicy. Yes, the filling is cool & refreshing, as lemon is, but the crust gives it a new spin. It’s NOT a lemon meringue pie, it’s not quite a full-on icebox pie, and it’s not just a lemon cream pie. It’s somewhere in the middle. Clowns to the left, jokers to the right.

A lemon pie & ginger shortbread cookie crust made with Duchy Originals stem ginger shortbread cookies (plus a giveaway!)

That’s the pie sans the mess o’ whipped cream I piled on it. It’s even pretty that way, isn’t it?

It’s pretty amazing. And simple. I reserved some cookie crumbs from the crust & sprinkled them on top.  You could also use some finely chopped candied ginger,  but a piece of candied lemon zest would work too.

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Sweet little s’mores meringues.

I love making meringue. Ever since Lola came into my life, it’s been easier than ever. But even with my hand mixer (better known as He Who Must Not Be Named), it’s pretty simple. And fast. I haven’t made them in years, though. I figured it was time. And now that I have a new oven… Well, it doesn’t matter the reason. There’s never a bad reason for cookies.

So yeah, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a while: meringues.

Meringues turned into s'mores? YES.

And meringues- or meringue in general- is extremely easy to make, if you have a mixer. Even a not-so-strong mixer can handle making meringue. I do recommend a stand mixer, however. Mainly because you can walk away & just let the mixer do its thing, without standing there with your arm feeling like it might fall off. I will say, though, that meringue has been made in France & Switzerland since before 1692, and they didn’t have stand (or hand) mixers. So it’s definitely possible… it just isn’t as easy.

But its still easier than mixing cheesecake by hand. Did I ever tell you about the time I broke a mixer on cheesecake batter? It was cray x 100.

Okay, anyway. Back to the subject at hand. Yep. These are meringues. However… not just any meringues:

S'mores meringues: vanilla meringues dipped in chocolate and then sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.

Meringue cookies are actually quite simple. Even more simple than your average chocolate chip cookie, really. They require 3 ingredients, the mixing is 1-2-3 and the baking time isn’t very important to get perfect since they need to be “dried” in the oven anyway. The roughest part is the mixing- or the creation of the foamy egg whites (or worse yet, the notorious “stiff peaks”). And the chocolate sauce is really easy too, I swear.

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Figgy pudding bars made with Duchy Originals oaten biscuits!

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree!

Christmas is officially on it’s way. The big tree in Rockefeller Center has been lit for 2 weeks now, everyone has been shopping up a storm, and of course baking! Rightly so… it’s literally 8 days away! If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking of Christmas-y treats. Which brings me to today’s post. If you’re a longtime reader, you’ll remember both my figgy pudding cupcakes & also that last holiday season I made a recipe featuring Duchy Originals lemon shortbread cookies.

(If you’re a new reader- well, suffice it to say, one time I made figgy pudding cupcakes & another time I made a lemon cranberry cobbler recipe featuring Duchy Originals lemon shortbread cookies. Haha.)

Duchy Originals oaten biscuits... transformed into figgy pudding bars!

Anyway… the lovely folks at Duchy Originals wanted me to create a new recipe, this time for their Oaten biscuits. The oaten variety was the first one that was made for Duchy:

The Oaten Biscuit was the original Duchy Original – it was their first product back in 1992. Duchy Originals grow the wheat and oats themselves on farms in the UK. To get the perfect recipe and flavor, they teamed up with Walkers Shortbread who have been making shortbread in the Scottish Highlands for over 100 years.

Of course I said yes! I absolutely love the Duchy company & also the Walkers Shortbread company. In case you weren’t aware, Duchy was started by Prince Charles (yes-that Prince Charles!) in 1992 in order to promote organic food and farming and to help protect and sustain the local countryside and wildlife. it is one of the U.K.’s leading organic and sustainable food companies, producing a range of over 250 products from biscuits to preserves and gifts to garden seeds. A donation from the sale of Duchy Originals products is given to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. More than $1 million is raised annually in this way for distribution to charitable causes all over the world. Duchy Originals from Waitrose shortbreads and cookies are baked by the world famous Walkers Shortbread in the Scottish Highlands.

And I thought it appropriate that being that they’re an English brand, and it’s Christmas, I make a “figgy pudding” reference.

Easy figgy pudding cookie bars! Made with Duchy Originals oaten biscuits & fig butter. You can use store-bought fig butter if you need to.

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Spooky ooky cookies.

Boo!

 

Have I mentioned lately that this is my favorite time of year? I have? Oh. Well in that case… should we just get right to the cookies?

Because I’d hate to bore you with tales of how much I adore Halloween. I’d just hate to keep talking about it… I mean, it’s probably obvious. I live for monsters & zombies & black cats & witches. I’m the kid who went to Salem, MA at 8 years old & was fascinated by not only Laurie Cabot’s witch store (where I bought my own wand) but also the fact that there was an actual dungeon. I always loved Halloween. When I was 14, I wanted to go as The Bride of Frankenstein. Problem was back then they didn’t have pre-made costumes for that… so my mom, my uncle Pat & my cousin Tommy all helped to hand-make me a costume. My cousin & his girlfriend rented the movie for us to watch, then we all planned it out- my mother made a dress out of torn old white sheets. She spray painted silk flowers black, & she tied a black ribbon on them for my bouquet. My uncle took a “Vampira” wig & hung it upside down then sprayed that Stiffen Stuff on it to make it stick up. My cousin then spray painted two silver lightning bolts for either side. BAM! Combine that with white face paint, black exaggerated eyebrows & drawn on neck stitches… I won best costume at the party. Take that, parents of kids with store bought costumes.

She’s still my favorite, the Bride.

Have I bored you yet?

Are you just dying to see these cookies?

Soft, dark chocolatey sugar cookies with melted monsters made of royal icing & candy eyes!

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Blogging is hard. But there are cookies.

Most likely as you read that title, you thought to yourself, “Oh boo hoo. Rough life, baking/cooking & blogging about it. Cry me a river.” I wouldn’t be angry with you if you did, it’s a valid point. I do write about cupcakes, after all. And aside from that, I know a lot of people view blogging in general as superficial, silly, or self-indulgent. And that’s cool. Opinions are like assho- well, you know the rest. We’re all entitled. I do wish more people would understand what goes into blogging, or running a successful blog, before they made such a statement or held firmly to the thought that I’m just a vain, self-important ninny who likes to babble to herself on the interwebs.

Blogging is hard. Food blogging especially. But there are cookies...

Workspace.

I get it. I’m a punk rock kid grown into a woman who really could care less about what anyone else thinks (both about her & otherwise), and I have a blog. I’m not a professional chef, nor am I a writer. I’m not winning any James Beard awards or Nobel Peace Prizes… at least not that I know of. I’m not curing cancer, or inventing anything new & exciting. I’m pretty much just an average, every day home cook & baker with (a lot of) stuff to say. But believe me when I tell you- this is harder than it looks, it’s like a full-time job in and of itself and it doesn’t pay THAT well. But regardless of that, I wouldn’t stop doing it for the world.

You see, I didn’t start this blog with the intention of becoming Dooce or the Pioneer Woman. I have nothing against Heather or Ree, they’re both very interesting ladies, and hell yes I’d like to make enough money to retire & work from home strictly on blogging or have my own Food Network series & such. But that doesn’t happen to everyone, obviously, and I’m not stupid enough to expect it. I’ve been in the blog-o-sphere long enough to know these things happen randomly & are definitely not the norm. I’m what you would call the “accidental blogger”, or the reluctant blogger. See, before this blog, I’d had blogs in the past, many years ago. I thought that part of my life was over. I hadn’t gone anywhere near HTML except to build websites for people who were paying me to do so. I was just enjoying getting down in the kitchen, feeling my way through this weird new world of eating what you create (they frown upon that when you’re in art school, unless you’re on acid… in which case you get sent to a drug counselor & a therapist & your art probably gets hung in the lobby). When I began posting my baked creations on MySpace (ugh, I know, but it was 2006!) & people told me to get a blog… I dragged my feet. I eventually did, on WordPress.com. And I really liked getting back into it, but let’s face it: four people were reading my blog. And I knew all four of them. Which was fine with me! I was just enjoying it for myself, having fun with it. When I started getting comments from people I didn’t know and getting way more hits than usual, that’s when I was shocked. That’s also when I ended up with a domain & a hosting plan, courtesy of Jay, who saw something in it that I didn’t.

I guess sometimes you’re just meant to do things. And I’m meant to blog.

Joy the Baker: chasing the light
In this photo from Joy The Baker’s Instagram, you see a prime example of “chasing the light” (which I’ll discuss further in a bit)

 

So, there it was. March of 2008, I had a real blog again. With real responsibilities like installing the blogging software (this is before there was an instant installation option when you purchased your hosting plan), importing my posts from WP.com, installing “plugins”, learning PHP stuff (I was used to CGI), using widgets, finding a template for my layout, then designing it into a nicer layout, and so on. I also had to worry about spam comments, which soon began to drive me utterly bananas, leading me to install not one, not two, but THREE spam filters. My first camera wasn’t the best, and the next one I got had a flash that could blind a herd of elephants. My iPhone was a godsend when that camera broke, but it wasn’t until I got my DSLR just last summer that things really started to shine. But not everyone really cares about the photography (seriously, I don’t get it either ’cause that’s my favorite part of most blogs).

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.

Espresso helps…

 

But all of that is really irrelevant and no one out there reading this cares… unless they’re a fellow blogger. The point I’m trying to get across: blogging isn’t as easy as it appears.

For example: recently, hackers have been attacking WordPress blogs. Why? No idea. Just because they can, I guess. So GoDaddy‘s team started working overtime to prevent any damage, and because of that my site was down off and on for three days, and when I got access I had to change my password and then delete my ‘admin’ user account and create a whole new account, as well as install even more security plugins to detect/prevent malware and all that other evil stuff. This is after already going nuts to install numerous security programs last year after my friend Yoyo’s blog was hacked. If I didn’t do all this, you might have come here & gotten a virus or had a terrible attack on your computer because someone hacked my site. On top of all of that? Google’s changes to it’s image search has drastically reduced the number of hits to blogs & websites. Most blogs are experiencing anywhere from a 40% – 75% DECREASE in hits. This is because of a few things, mostly the fact that the image search now allows you to just view the image as it is instead of clicking through to the website it’s from. But also because of Google Panda and changes to the search algorithms. Lower hits – lower money from advertising. Now I personally don’t care much, I’m not in this to make a fortune. But that’s not to say the extra money doesn’t come in handy, both to counteract hosting costs & fund other things blog-related. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging- HELL NO. It’s just a small piece of the blogging pie (pun intended) that I’m attempting to explain the joys & downsides of.

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.
… and Kraft paper helps make things look neat on your blog when your entire real life is in shambles.

It’s not all magic. There’s a lot of work that goes into this, and there are no elves or trained monkeys helping.

Another thing? The work that goes into preparing a decent blog post. Creating the recipe, writing it up, making it, hoping for good lighting by the time it’s done, possibly setting up a ridiculous “faux tableau” on the floor near a door or maybe even on a dresser, taking the photos, putting the photos on your computer/laptop, fishing out the decent ones, photo editing, photo re-editing, photo re-sizing, photo uploading, writing the blog post, re-writing the blog post to make it more interesting & less textbook, reading it & noticing grammar errors… you get the idea. That’s a lot of work. A LOT. If you’ve never done any of it, you can tell just by reading that; it sounds like a lot of work. It’s like being a photo editor, food stylist, and regular editor all at once. I happen to enjoy the photo editing & photo stuff- that’s all part of graphic design & my art background. I spend my time behind a laptop (on any given Adobe program) most of the day anyway. But still, don’t tell me it’s not work. It is. Essentially I, and most of my fellow bloggers, work on our blogs for free. Joy the Baker recently added part 2 to her original post about “Real-Talk Blog Tips” and that lays a lot of it out there for you non-bloggers in terms of what our concerns are & what kinda stuff we’re always thinking about. How we wake up early on days off to bake/cook & take good photos, and stay up late to write a clever blog post… for you.

So yes, it’s like working a second job, and for most of us it’s unpaid. But that’s all okay. Because there are cookies involved. Sometimes.

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.

There’s a lot of heartache, stress, & bullshit involved. But I really do enjoy it. If I didn’t, I’d stop. Plus… the cookies do make it worthwhile, especially on a rough week.

So here are some really easy sandwich cookies that you can throw together at the last minute. You know, for when you need something to blog about uh, snack on.

EASY JAMMY “SAMMY” (SANDWICH) COOKIES (adapted from Martha)

Makes about 30 cookie sandwiches using a 2″ cutter, recipe can be halved

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • a variety of jams/jellies… or Nutella/Fluff/peanut butter… for filling

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Remove from the mixer and and knead until a dough forms.
  2. Divide in half. Flatten each piece of dough into a disk, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Bring to room temperature, about 10 minutes, before rolling.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in top and lower thirds. Roll out each disk of dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment to just under 1/4 inch thick, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cut out shapes, making sure you’ve got an even number, rerolling scraps once. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  4. Bake until barely golden brown around edges, about 8 minutes for 1-inch cookies, 10 minutes for 1 1/2-inch cookies, and 12 minutes for 2-inch cookies, rotating halfway through. Let cookies cool completely on baking sheets set on wire racks.
  5. Spread (using an offset spatula) or pipe (using a pastry bag and a small plain tip) filling onto bottom side of half the cookies, and sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently. Repeat with all the cookies. Now turn on some Bad Religion, arrange the cookies on a plate or in some other cute display, take some photos of ‘em (find the good light!) and then edit the photos. Once you’re finished, then & only then you can eat.
  6. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.

These cookies are very delicate, like shortbread, so be careful in the cooling/filling phases. It’s got a really delicate vanilla flavor that’s pretty adaptable to any filling, but can be customized as well. You can just dip half of each cookie into a chocolate coating, you can add a sprinkling of crystal sugar on top before baking, etc. I like them for sandwich cookies, because the texture isn’t chewy, it’s got a snap & a crunch that reminds me of Oreo’s or those vanilla sandwich cookies.

I used caramel apple jamchocolate plum jam & vanilla-strawberry jam to fill mine, but I won’t judge you if you choose to fill your cookie sandwiches with both Nutella and a delicious jam. Do yo’ thang. Fluff goes with anything, too. Strawberry jam + Fluff, cherry jam + Nutella, grape jelly + peanut butter, peanut butter + Fluff… whatevs. Marmalade, if it’s on the thick side, works too. As does lemon curd.

Here’s a little diagram breakdown of my jamminess:

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with a variey of jams- although Nutella, Fluff & peanut butter work too.

Have fun. Meanwhile, I’ve gotta go do some more blogging. See ya at the next post.

Naughty, naughty.

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No idea how this got started, really. But every year since we started “dating” (can it still be called that after 9 years?), my mother or myself or both of us in tandem have bought Jay a little bag or a little tin of coal and put it in his Christmas stocking. It was just an ongoing joke about him being naughty that we both found hilarious, and over the past 8 Christmases, the poor guy ended up with a drawer full of coal because he didn’t want to just toss it. I hated to give up the joke, because it really was funny to see him get halfway through the stocking & pull out ANOTHER container of coal… but I felt bad. That’s a lot of coal. And it really does just end up in the trash.

But it was pretty funny. My poor Jay. Picture it: he’s opening gifts, all happy and excited, and he gets halfway through his stocking and BAM! There it is. Another. Freakin’. Piece. Hilarious. Once I even stuffed the stocking with other random crap like weighed-down tissue paper instead of gifts, leaving just the coal at the bottom! Ohhh, Christmas coal. Providing laughter… and tears… for centuries.

The practice of giving coal to naughty children dates back to one of (at least) five possible origins:

Sicily

One of the many origin stories begins in Italy where they believe in La Befana (a witch who delivers presents) instead of Santa Claus. When Jesus was born, La Befana saw a bright star in the sky and gathered some toys and other presents to give to the baby Jesus, but she couldn’t find the stable. Every year she goes around looking for Jesus and leaves toys for good children, and coal for bad ones. These days, Italians use a candy, called Carbone Dolce, to turn the legend into a joke. The dark, rock-like candy looks exactly like lumps of coal.

Holland

Some people say that the lumps of coal story started in Holland in the 16th century. Before Christmas, children would put their clogs by the fireplace before stockings were used. When a child was bad they got a lump of coal, but if they were good they got a small toy, cookies or candy.

England

In the 19th century, most of Europe was powered by coal, and most household furnaces were coal burning. A pan of hot coals would often be kept under the bed to generate heat in the middle of the night. In England, while the children of rich families got candy and toys in their stockings, those who were poor (believed to have been made poor by God, as punishment for their family’s bad deeds) would get coal, if they were lucky.

The Nobleman

A proud but poor nobleman had three daughters ready to marry. The problem was, he had no dowry to give them. Saint Nicholas secretly gave the family enough money so their daughters could start their lives out with their new husbands. He did this by placing the money in some stockings that were drying by the fireplace. When word spread about this miracle, everyone started hanging their stockings by the fire in hopes that the secret benefactor would visit them. He did visit those houses, but for those who Saint Nicholas knew to be bad, he left them with a lump of coal instead of gold.

Krampusnacht

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Christmas season, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards nice ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair. The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on December 6. In Alpine countries, Saint Nicholas has a devilish companion named Krampus. On the preceding evening, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses.The Saint usually appears in the Eastern Rite vestments of a bishop, and he carries a ceremonial staff. Unlike North American versions of Santa Claus, in these celebrations Saint Nicholas concerns himself only with the good children, while Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and the ruten bundles. 

-eHow.com

So it’s been around a long time, and a lot of people have been getting a lump or two of coal in their stockings in the last couple of hundred years. But this year, I think Jay will be far more pleased to find a big ol’ jar of it in his stocking. Because this year it’s not real coal, just chocolate cookies that look like coal.

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What a great offbeat- and a little bit edgy- Christmas cookie idea. You know I have a tendency to lean towards a dark side. And this time of year, there really isn’t a lot of room for that, unless you do the Nightmare Before Christmas angle which is a bit overdone (I love the movie, but seriously…). These cookies, however, have a bit of a sinister twist to ‘em. Especially given the history of the coal, but also because they’re black. You don’t see a lot of black around Christmastime, do you?

What I did was I baked up some dark chocolate cookies, shaped ‘em all rough and then put them in a jar I decorated with a label I designed and topped with a black-painted lid. Super easy. I just took one of my mason jars, glued the two-piece lid together, and painted it black. But you could also use an old, cleaned-out spaghetti sauce jar and paint the lid, or buy a mason jar with a one-piece lid at a craft store. I just made a 2″ x 2″ round label & printed it out, then used Elmer’s glue to attach it to the jar since Elmer’s is water soluble & will come right off. You could also print it out on a self-stick jar label if you’ve got ‘em (Attention fellow geeks: the font I used in the label is called ‘Stamp Act’). You can also download a printable label from eighteen25.blogspot.com if you’re not as savvy with Photoshop as I am.

Another gifting idea for these? Use a little cheesecloth/muslin/burlap bag instead of a jar. There’s a little how-to at chicaandjo.com that can help you out with that. But, you know I love anything in a jar. Especially cookies.

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And… this little coal concept also takes the edge off taking photos of misshapen dark chocolate cookies. You know, they either look like poop or, well, lumps of coal! Might as well capitalize on it, right? Thanks so much to Make Bake Celebrate for the idea, and to The Salty Spoon for the (adapted) recipe. Also these cookies are gluten-free, so they’re perfect for anyone you may know with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

It’s such a cute idea it makes you wonder why you never thought of it yourself. Unless you have.

LUMP OF COAL COOKIES (adapted from The Salty Spoon who adapted it from Bon Appétit, June 2008)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder- preferably dark (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black food coloring (probably less if you’re using Americolor)
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat. If you have more than one cookie sheet, prep another as well. This recipe makes more than a single sheet’s-worth of cookies and will necessitate baking in two batches. If you don’t have two cookies sheets, don’t worry about it – just let the sheet cool down a bit between batches.
  2. Measure 1 cup of the chocolate chips into a glass bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, stir, then zap for another minute while watching closely. When things start to look really shiny, pull it out and stir again until the chips are completely melted. Stir in the black food coloring. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric (or stand) mixer. Leaving the mixer running on medium, sprinkle in the sugar in three or four additions so you work it in gradually. Crank it up a notch and keep beating until it looks thick and creamy.
  4. In another medium bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Crank the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients in a few batches until fully incorporated.
  5. Stir in the (now slightly cooled) melted chocolate and the remaining chocolate chips. If the dough seems stiff at this point, proceed to the next step. If not, set it aside for 10 minutes or so – it will continue to gain body as it sets up.
  6. Plop them by the teaspoonful on a prepared cookie sheet, 2″ apart. Bake 10 minutes, until they are puffy and the tops have cracked.
  7. Once you pull them from the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Then, take each cookie and smoosh them into a “coal shape” (basically a rough, uneven, lumpy ball). They might still be hot inside, so put them back on the rack for another 5-10 minutes once they’re shaped.

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DON’T OVER BAKE THESE. If you over bake them, they’ll be too hard once you form them into “coal” and your children will break their tiny little teeth.

I used my hand mixer to make these, from the egg whites all the way through to the final dough, but I will say that most of you should opt for using a stand mixer. The dough gets very stiff when it “sets up.” That means it might be too much for the average hand mixer. My hand mixer- also known as “He Who Must Not Be Named”- happens to be a beast: a KitchenAid digital 9-speed Architect model. But if you’ve got a not-so-powerful one, you might want to just go right for the big guns. I’ve ruined many a hand mixer overestimating it’s power. Learn from me.

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And there you have it. They taste just like brownies, look like lumps of coal, but they’re cookies. Figure that one out, Santa!

Happy December.

©Ralph Hulett

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The annual Cupcake Rehab blog snowstorm is here!

Alright, alright, so it’s been going on since the weekend after Thanksgiving. But you know what that means? That means it’s officially Christmas-time. And of course, there are loads of things on the blog that can give you some holiday inspiration. The Christmas category is a great place to start, and if you’ve got more time or want to look at recipe names, the Recipe Index is also great. But if you’re lazy, or you just like me to cut to the chase, then check out my holiday compilation post from last year; it’s not inclusive, it’s mainly cupcakes (with a few other things listed at the bottom). But it’ll give you a kick in the pants if you need a holiday boost. And who doesn’t, really?

But around here, we’re gonna ease into Christmas this year. A few things are coming up this week, but it’s a slow week recipe-wise. Next week… we’ll kick it into second gear.

I’m going to sit & go through all these foodie magazine Christmas issues while I catch up/refresh my memory watching Downton Abbey season 2. So for now, you enjoy the snow. I’ll work on the other stuff.

White chocolate peppermint cookies from the December Food Network magazine

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Snap, crackle, Snackle Mouth.

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Snackle Mouth is an awesome company. I’ve done two different posts with their delicious granola snacks before, and I had so many more ideas floating around my head. So I was thrilled when they offered me some boxes of their new varieties: Bacon Maple and Salty Chocolate. BACON. MAPLE. Did you read that? Bacon maple. And salty mutha’f’n chocolate. WHAT. Yes.

Sweet and Salty….we get it and we likey!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, snack time – seriously, any time is the right time to eat Chocolate.  So, we baked in loads of yum and sprinkled just the right amount of sea salt for a little zippy-do.

-Snackle Mouth

They sent these to me around a month ago, perhaps longer, and I couldn’t wait to start experimenting. But first comes the taste testing! And after thoroughly testing each one, I had some serious thinking to do. I had already done a coffee cake, and made parfaits with it. And being early August at the time, there weren’t a lot of “cozy” moments; it was hot as hell. So I was a little hesitant to bake. But that’s what I do, yanno? I bake. I get down in the kitchen with a wooden spoon and beat batter & people with whisks. Plus, fall is swiftly coming upon us. And I know the warm, late-summer days & nights are numbered. In a few weeks, maybe even days, things will change; I’ll be cooking up (& eating up) fall treats & I’ll want to wear toasty, fall-y clothes.

But now? Now there are still those hot, sweaty & humid days. Except now there are more of the much cooler, lovely nights. And I like to spend those nights drinking an Octoberfest or Pumpkin Ale, sitting around the fire pit. The smell of burning wood & toasting marshmallows, the crackling & snapping sounds, the need for a (light) sweater. So with all that in mind, I decided to bake something with the Snackle Mouth after all. And I came up with these babies:

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Salty chocolate granola campfire bars. The granola’s name, Snackle Mouth, kind of reminds me of the crackle of a fire. So I thought, why not incorporate their salty chocolate granola into a more portable version of the classic campfire treat: the s’more. You all already know I love s’mores. But they can be messy, you know? And yeah the messiness can be the entire point, and even what makes it so fun, but what if you want a s’more at like, 12 noon on a random Thursday? Or while you’re at school… and there’s no campfire? That, my friends. That’s why you make these.

The bottom “cookie” layer has a graham crackery taste, but yet it’s soft, like a chewy chocolate chip cookie base. The chocolate chips melt just enough and the saltiness of the Snackle Mouth combined with the marshmallows… UGH. So delicious. And sweet. And a little salty.

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I made this recipe three times, each a few weeks apart, and wrote and rewrote it numerous times before I got it to the point where it was good enough to write up for you guys on the blog.

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I think this is it.

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SALTY CHOCOLATE GRANOLA CAMPFIRE BARS

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted & cooled to just slightly warm
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box Salty Chocolate Snackle Mouth granola
  • 1/2 bag mini-marshmallows
  • 6 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line an 8″ x 11″ brownie pan (or a 9″ x 13″ pan) with parchment paper & spray lightly with PAM, or brush a little of the melted butter on it. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter, sugars, flour, vanilla, salt and honey in a bowl with a hand mixer. Once it’s thoroughly combined, pat the dough into the prepared baking pan, a handful at a time. It will be very moist but very crumbly. Using your (clean!) hands, press it and push it together to form a cohesive dough. Make sure it’s as even as you can get it so it bakes evenly. I made it slightly lower in the middle, making a little “crust” on the edges like a deep dish pizza, but you don’t have to do that.
  3. Spread the chocolate chips on top in an even layer, pressing them into the dough just slightly. Bake it for about 15-20 minutes, or until the chips are almost but not yet completely melted. Remove from the oven and add the Snackle Mouth granola, pushing it down in between and on top of the chips.
  4. Bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is baked through. Remove the pan from oven. On top of the granola layer, arrange the marshmallows evenly while it’s still hot.
  5. Turn on the broiler and place the pan under the broiler until the marshmallows begin to toast & melt slightly. Remove immediately and let cool completely to room temperature before slicing.

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If you drape the parchment like I did, it helps when you’re taking them out of the pan. If you’d rather cut them on a board instead of in the pan, just lift them up & out. Once they’re 100% cooled that is. Look at this melty goodness.

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They were sweet, messy (when eaten on the warmer side as I did- I couldn’t help it) and perfectly campfire-y. I guess I’m just on a toasted marshmallow kick lately, huh? So I hope by now you’ve realized that granola, especially Snackle Mouth, isn’t just for snacking on right out of the box or for making into granola bars. You can use it in all sorts of different ways- coffee cakes, parfaits, cookie bars. And there’s more to come! I have tons of ideas. But these will tide me over until I come up with an appropriate Bacon Maple recipe. Hmm…

I think it goes without saying I lit a fire in the fire pit, settled in next to it and ate these until I couldn’t stand it anymore! And I hope that this Labor Day, you do the same, hopefully while remembering the reasons you have off from work.

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It’s cheesecake. It’s ice cream. It’s delicious. & ridiculous.

The last week or so, it was hot. Okay, let me rephrase: it was GODDAMN hot. So hot, an ice cream truck could melt.

The handy Weather Channel app on my phone informs me of this as if I haven’t noticed. As if my t-shirt sticking to my back as I water my vegetables wasn’t a clue. Or as if the fact that even when the A/C is on high it isn’t quite cold enough wasn’t a clue, either. Yeah. I’m pretty much uninterested in anything unless it involves air-conditioning, eating ice cream, eating ice pops, or swimming. Or listening to my summer music on full blast; Dr. Dre, Snoop, Incubus, Sublime, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan and of course, the Notorious B.I.G. (those just scream summer to me for one reason or another). I also try to avoid the 6 million mosquitos that want to feast on me like I’m one of those naked sushi-platter chicks. Yeah, I know I’ve said it before, but that’s pretty much all I want to do in a nutshell.

‘Cause really… when it’s this freakin’ hot, who wants to cook? Or bake? Not I, says the girl who runs the BAKING BLOG.

But honestly. I know I’ve posted a lot of baked stuff lately; pie, cupcakes, galettes, etc. In spite of all that even I sometimes really can’t face turning the oven on. Not in this heat, not even with my A/C on full blast and not even at night when it’s slightly cooler. So when you want something sweet, what else is there to have? Ice cream! Ice cream screams summer, too. And coincidentally, July is also National Ice Cream month (thanks to Ronald Reagan; it was probably the best thing he did as President). And I decided that I wanted to make some ice cream inspired by cheesecake after seeing an ad for ice cream made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. So I adapted it a little to suit my needs.

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Hey, it’s also my birthday month. If I want ice cream, I’ll have ice cream. Not only is it my birthday month, but my birthday is in just 9 days. Ice cream is practically a requirement right now! But first, a little history:

In the Persian Empire, people would pour grape-juice concentrate over snow, in a bowl, and eat this as a treat, especially when the weather was hot. Snow would either be saved in the cool-keeping underground chambers known as “yakhchal“, or taken from snowfall that remained at the top of mountains by the summer capital — Hagmatana, Ecbatana or Hamedan of today. In 400 BC, the Persians went further and invented a special chilled food, made of rose water and vermicelli, which was served to royalty during summers.[4] The ice was mixed with saffron, fruits, and various other flavours.

Ancient civilizations have served ice for cold foods for thousands of years. The BBC reports that a frozen mixture of milk and rice was used in China around 200 BC.[5] The Roman EmperorNero (37–68) had ice brought from the mountains and combined it with fruit toppings. These were some early chilled delicacies.[6]

Arabs were perhaps the first to use milk as a major ingredient in the production of ice cream.[citation needed] They sweetened it with sugar rather than fruit juices, and perfected means of commercial production. As early as the 10th century, ice cream was widespread among many of the Arab world’s major cities, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. It was produced from milk or cream, often with some yoghurt, and was flavoured with rosewater, dried fruits and nuts. It is believed that the recipe was based on older Ancient Arabian recipes, which were, it is presumed, the first and precursors to Persian faloodeh.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat asserts, in her History of Food, that “the Chinese may be credited with inventing a device to make sorbets and ice cream. They poured a mixture of snow and saltpetre over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup, for, in the same way as salt raises the boiling-point of water, it lowers the freezing-point to below zero.”[7][8] Some distorted accounts claim that in the age of Emperor Yingzong, Song Dynasty (960-1279) of China, a poem named Ode to the ice cheese (詠冰酪) was written by the poet Yang Wanli. Actually, this poem was named Ode to the pastry (詠酥; 酥 is a kind of food much like pastry in the Western world) and has nothing to do with ice cream.[9] It has also been claimed that, in the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan enjoyed ice cream and kept it a royal secret until Marco Polo visited China and took the technique of making ice cream to Italy.

In the sixteenth century, the Mughal emperors used relays of horsemen to bring ice from the Hindu Kush to Delhi, where it was used in fruit sorbets.[10]

When Italian duchess Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans (Henry II of France) in 1533, she is said to have brought with her to France some Italian chefs who had recipes for flavoured ices or sorbets.[11] One hundred years later, Charles I of England was, it was reported, so impressed by the “frozen snow” that he offered his own ice cream maker a lifetime pension in return for keeping the formula secret, so that ice cream could be a royal prerogative.[12] There is no historical evidence to support these legends, which first appeared during the 19th century.

The first recipe in French for flavoured ices appears in 1674, in Nicholas Lemery’s Recueil de curiositéz rares et nouvelles de plus admirables effets de la nature.[11] Recipes for sorbetti saw publication in the 1694 edition of Antonio Latini’s Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward).[11] Recipes for flavoured ices begin to appear in François Massialot’s Nouvelle Instruction pour les Confitures, les Liqueurs, et les Fruits, starting with the 1692 edition. Massialot’s recipes result in a coarse, pebbly texture. Latini claims that the results of his recipes should have the fine consistency of sugar and snow.[11]

Ice cream recipes first appeared in 18th-century England and America. The recipe for ice cream was published in Mrs. Mary Eales’s Receipts in London in 1718.[13][14]

-Wikipedia

Before modern refrigeration techniques, ice cream was a rare treat to be consumed only on special occasions. Luckily now it’s something we can have any time we want, in any flavor we want, morning, noon or night. Birthdays or not. And we’re most especially lucky to have it in cute little ice cream cups like I have. ¡Viva Mes Nacional del Helado!

CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM (inspired by & adapted from a recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese)

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 graham crackers, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Mix the first four ingredients in a stand mixer until thoroughly blended. Freeze for 4 hours or until almost solid.
  2. Re-beat the mixture with the stand mixer until creamy. Add graham crackers to mixture, mix well.
  3. Freeze for 8 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer around 15-20 minutes before serving. Let stand at room temperature to allow it to soften before scooping into bowls.

And that’s basically that’s all. You can sit back, relax, and have a refreshing dessert that doesn’t require an ice cream maker, an oven or a stove-top at all. Hallelujah! It reminds me of the kind of ice cream you get at one of those super cute little retro ice cream parlors. Smooth, creamy, delicious.

And it tastes just like a slightly melted cheesecake!

It reminds me of a much richer, higher fat version of the Red Mango plain yogurt + crushed graham cracker combo I usually get. You can substitute crushed Oreo cookies for the graham crackers too, kind of like an Oreo cheesecake. Or, incorporate fresh berries into the mix before freezing.

Serve it with anything you’d top a cheesecake (or ice cream sundae) with: fresh berries, strawberry sauce, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, salted caramel sauce, crushed Oreo cookies, etc. I had some fresh raspberries so that’s what I put out for a topping. But even sprinkles are fun. Go nuts. Like I said, it’s National freakin’ Ice Cream month. Do I really need to elaborate further?

No. No, I do not.

Cookie jars, pink cookies, and a giveaway.

COMMENTS CLOSED & GIVEAWAY OVER!

Okay everyone… the winner is… SARAH! Comment #73 (the last comment)! Congrats Sarah! I’m e-mailing you now. Thanks everyone for entering.

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I have a kind of obsession with cupcake cookie jars. I love all cookie jars, actually, and one of my favorites- not to mention my pride & joy in this particular arena- is a vintage 1930′s Minnie/Mickey Mouse one that belonged to my great grandmother Mary (whom I’m named for, kinda sorta). But I really love ones shaped like cupcakes, for obvious reasons. I’ve got four so far: one pink & blue, one black/orange/white for Halloween, one that’s all patriotic & red/white/blue and then this, my newest addition from Sourpuss Clothing.

So… you wanna see my new addition?

HOW CUTE IS THAT. Adorable. I’ve been lusting over a cupcake cookie jar with a skull on top forever now! And one that isn’t in Halloween colors. That’s kinda hard to find, ’cause for some strange reason people associate skulls just with Halloween. Weird. Oh, and you see those super cute little pink gingham cupcake towels underneath it? Yeah, I got those too. And an apron to match! CCO. Crazy cuteness overload.

Me & Sourpuss Clothing go back a long way, back to when Cupcake Rehab was just a baby blog. They have the most unique housewares for the most unique homebodies among us. I love them. So much so, in fact, that in addition to a Cupcake Rehab sticker, Lola actually sports a Sourpuss sticker too!

So yeah, they’re pretty freakin’ awesome. And they sent me this awesome cookie jar. And when I get a new cookie jar, it makes me want to make cookies to fill it with. And what cookies would I fill it with but pink cookies!? And what’s better than cookies with M&M’s? And how about if they’re coconut M&M’s? Pretty much makes them automatically awesome. Yep, I braved the high humidity & to make cookies just to fill my new cookie jar. I’m kinda insane. But you knew that.

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Now, you probably don’t need another cookie recipe (but I’m gonna give you one anyway). Come on. THEY’RE PINK.

PINK COCONUT M&M COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • a dash of Wilton Rose or Christmas Red food coloring gel, or another color if desired
  • 1 small bag coconut M&M’s (for these I only used the white & brown colored ones) or regular M&M’s, or chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips… or whatever the hell you want!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. Prepare baking sheets by covering them with parchment.
  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat together shortening, sugars and vanilla in a seperate, larger bowl until creamy. Add egg whites, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Add food coloring, mix until combined. Adjust until you get the desired color. Stir in M&M’s.
  4. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonful on to greased baking sheets. Add more M&M’s on top, if desired.
  5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden on the bottoms & puffy. Cool cookies on sheets on wire rack for 2 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Side note: striped paper straws make everything, including milk, taste better. True story. Thanks Yoyo for sending me a bunch, I love them.

So maybe you didn’t need that cookie recipe.

What you do need, however, is that cookie jar. Amirite? You totally, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt need that cookie jar in your life. And I want to give it to you. I really do. ‘Cause I’m nice like that. And Sourpuss Clothing is nice, too, which is why they’re making it possible that one of you lucky dogs out there will in fact end up with a cookie jar.

You will not, sadly, get the cookies too. Those you have to make yourself. So… what do you have to do to get this cookie jar?

  • First, and most important, you have to tell me something: if you were to win this cookie jar, would you like it in aqua or pink? And why? ‘Cause it matches your mixer? Your kitchen? It’s your favorite color? Do tell.
  • Finally… tell everyone in your social network about it! Copy and paste the following into a tweet or post it on your Facebook page for an extra entry (then come back & let me know)-

I just entered to win a cupcake cookie jar from @SourpussBrand at @CupcakeRehab! And guess what? You can too: http://cupcakerehab.com/2012/06/cookie-jars-pink-cookies-and-a-giveaway

And that’s it. Super easy peasy. Two different chances to win for each of you. I’ll select a winner at midnight via random.org. This little giveaway ends at midnight on June 19th. I’ll announce the winner here and also e-mail them right away to let ‘em know the awesome news- so make sure you leave a valid e-mail address with your comments. ‘Cause I know you’ll be having trouble sleeping with excitement.