Cookies Swap 2011: Toffee Cookies

Toffee Cookies

Welcome to my contribution for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011!

I had very different plans for this cookie recipe. I envisioned, specifically, an Apple Cider Toffee Cookie, with a pronounced apple cider taste, enhanced by buttery toffee. Unfortunately, I was left with a cookie with a strong toffee flavor and only a hint of apple – which, by all means, is not a bad thing, just not what I originally wanted.

My original plan was to use this recipe for Maple Syrup Cookies and produce an apple cider syrup to use instead of the maple syrup. Brilliant, I thought! I am a genius!

Except making apple cider syrup proved more difficult than I thought. With my first batch, I kept waiting for the cider to get a thick, syrupy consistency, and I ended up with a tasteless, sticky substance that became hard as a rock once cooled. With my second batch, the consistency was thinner than I would have liked, but it tasted great, so I decided to just go with it.

While making the cookies, I found that a more syrupy consistency would have been helpful. When I added the syrup to the wet mixture, there was a lot of separation that occurred. It came together fine once I added the dry mixture, but upon tasting the dough (before stirring in the toffee), I found with disappointment that the apple cider flavor was subtle at best.

But these cookies are still tasty. They’re just not apple cider cookies. It’s probably not worth the effort to cook down the apple cider and add the brown sugar just for this recipe, but I’ll include the instructions anyway, just in case. Perhaps I will purchase some honest-to-goodness boiled cider and see what that produces.

Toffee Cookies
Adapted from The Cooking Photographer
Yield: I can’t exactly remember. I think it was around 4 dozen.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup apple cider syrup [note: I doubled the recipe but used only 2 cinnamon sticks, and omitted the brandy]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 8 oz bag toffee bits/pieces (I used Heath; use less if you want a less pronounced toffee flavor)
Granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven. Sift or whisk the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl (I used my stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add egg, apple cider syrup and vanilla, and mix until blended. The mixture will separate a little bit, but will come back together once you add the dry ingredients.

Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Add the toffee bits and stir until well-distributed. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to an hour (optional, but I found it to be helpful).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar, and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, switching racks halfway through the baking time. Remove from oven and let cool, preferably on a wire rack.

Toffee Cookies

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

I like making cookies, and I like eating cookies, so I decided it would be fun to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

Here’s the schedule:

Sign Up Deadline: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Receive Your Matches: Monday, November 21, 2011
Shipment Deadline: Monday, December 5, 2011
Blog Post Date: Monday, December 12, 2011

If you or someone you know wants to participate, check out additional information by clicking the above image.

Cookies!

30 before 30: Oreos (for the 4th of July!)

Oreos

I’ve always loved Oreos. Either by themselves, or crushed up as a cookies-and-cream type concoction. I prefer to not split them apart and eat the filling first, as many do; I just eat the whole thing at once, and then immediately reach for another.

Oreos

I thought about homemade Oreos all week. I craved them whenever I was hungry, even though I’ve never tasted them before. I thought I knew, but actually, I did not – they were even better than I could predict.

Oreos

The homemade version of the classic Oreo is just as good as the store-bought variety, and even more rich and sweet and satisfying. The filling tastes just like the standard Oreo filling, only creamier; the cookies are just as crisp and satisfying, and made with love.

Oreos

Oreos

The decision to make Oreos as the next item on my 30 before 30 list at this time was somewhat fortuitous: it was the weekend of the 4th of July, so I decided to utilize some food coloring for some red, white and blue action in celebration of the holiday. We also doubled the recipe (for a total of 51 cookies) and brought one batch to Rock Band night and another to the Big Time Freedom Fest. They were well-loved by many.

Oreos

Oreos

This recipe is quite easy. Both the dough and the filling come together in a snap, and are very easy to work with. The only part that’s time-consuming is assembling the cookies once the wafers are baked and cooled and the filling is ready. That’s probably why I hadn’t made these before – because I was intimidated by the time and wondered if the payoff would be worth it.

It is definitely worth it, especially if you have a special event or holiday coming up. The adaptation possibilities are endless: different colors, different flavors for the filling (chocolate, mint, coffee, etc.), maybe even different flavors for the wafers!

Oreos

Oreos
Adapted from smitten kitchen

Chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

Filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set two racks in the middle of the oven. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric/stand mixer. While mixing on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Mix until everything comes together, stopping the mixer to scrape down the bowl if necessary.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon rounded teaspoons of the batter onto the sheets about two inches apart. Using moistened hands, lightly flatten the balls of dough.

Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. After 9 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and immediately remove the cookies from the pans to a counter or cooling rack. The cookies should cool down and crisp up fairly quickly. Continue with any remainder of the dough.

To make the cream filling, beat the butter and shortening at low speed and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Once incorporated, turn the mixture to high and beat for 2-3 minutes until it’s light and fluffy.

Now it’s time to assemble the Oreos. As smitten kitchen dictates, I used pastry bags to pipe the filling onto half of the cookies – however, if you don’t want to buy/use pastry bags, I imagine using a spoon would work just as well. Sandwich the other half of the cookies onto the iced ones, matching up by size as best as possible, gently pressing down to create the sandwiches.

If you want to work with different-colored icing, decide how many colors you’d like to use and divide up the filling accordingly. For each color, beat one portion of the filling with a few drops of food coloring until incorporated, adding more drops as needed.

Cornmeal-cherry cookies

Cornmeal cherry cookies

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed a Good to the Grain recipe. And oh my goodness – this one certainly measures up to all previous efforts. In the book, these cookies are presented as Cornmeal Blueberry cookies – I decided to go with cherries, since a) I had a feeling they’d taste like Arizmendi‘s cornmeal-cherry scones in cookie form (and they did!), and b) I only had dried cherries at my disposal. If you’d like to see the original recipe with blueberries, Lottie + Doof has it.

Cornmeal cherry cookies

These cookies were delicious. Perfect buttery mounds of sweet cornmeal, nicely offset by the tart cherries.

Cornmeal cherry cookies

Cornmeal-cherry cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain

2 cups corn flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (Good to the Grain says to use only “finely-ground” cornmeal; I only had standard cornmeal and it tasted just fine to me)
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position the two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small (1/2 inch) pieces. In another bowl, mix the butter and sugar together using a mixer (I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment) on low, until they are just combined, then increase the speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl using a rubber spatula.

Mix in the eggs one at a time, until each is combined. Add the flour mixture, blending on low speed until barely combined (roughly 20-30 seconds). Scrape down the bowl again, then add the milk and the cherries. Mix until the dough is combined.

Butter two baking sheets and set aside. Pour the sugar into a small bowl. Scoop out mounds of dough 3 tablespoons in size, form them into balls, and dip each ball into the sugar, coating lightly. Place the balls on the baking sheets with about 3 inches between each cookie – any extra balls of dough that don’t fit on the baking sheets should be chilled until ready to bake.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the cooking time. The cookies will bake into lovely little mounds, complete with cracks on top, and are done baking when the sugar crust is golden brown (but the cracks still a bit yellow).

Whole wheat white chocolate chip toffee cookies

Whole wheat white chocolate toffee cookies

And thus continues my obsession with Good to the Grain. I’ve made Kim Boyce’s whole wheat chocolate chip cookies before (the first recipe listed in the book) and they’re now the only chocolate chip cookies I ever want to eat. Those interested in trying them out at home (please, please do) can find a close version of the recipe via A Sweet Spoonful.

This past weekend, between Noise Pop gigs and working on work stuff, I decided to bake – only I didn’t have any high-quality bittersweet chocolate lying around, as dictated by Kim. I did, however, have some white chocolate chunks and toffee bits left over from previous baking efforts, and decided to roll with it.

The result was really, really awesome. I’ll still call the original version of the recipe my favorite (because OMG), but these are pretty fantastic. The white chocolate is plenty sweet (nicely offsetting the kosher salt), and the toffee melted down into each cookie, making them moist and chewy.

Whole wheat white chocolate chip toffee cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract [note: I was out of vanilla extract, so I just mixed some additional brown sugar with some water and threw that in there instead]
1 cup white chocolate chips/chunks
1/3 cup toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt into a large bowl (I used my mesh strainer).

Cut the cold butter into small pieces (1/2 an inch or so) and add to the bowl of a mixer along with the sugars (I used my stand mixer with a paddle attachment). Beat the butter and sugars on low speed until just blended (2 minutes or so). Add the eggs and the vanilla one at a time, mixing until combined. Stop the mixer and briefly scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture until just about combined (should take less than a minute). Scrape down the bowl again, then add the white chocolate chips and toffee bits. Start the mixer again for a few seconds, until the chocolate and toffee are mixed in. Use your hands if need be to make sure all the flour and chocolate/toffee are incorporated with the dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop the dough onto the sheet – the scoops should each be the size of about three tablespoons, spaced three inches or so apart.

Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes. You can bake two sheets of cookies at once – just position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and rotate the cookie sheets halfway through the cooking time. When I made these, I ended with up two and a half baking sheets’ worth of cookies (15 total).

The final puzzle party . . . and the food that helped solve it

Unfinished puzzle

Jeffrey bought a puzzle last year. Actually, it’s not a puzzle. It is a giant beautiful beast of confusion and headache parading around in the form of a puzzle. It is Baffler #1000, also known as “The Test,” created by an artist known as Chris Yates.

We started throwing Puzzle Parties at my house after Jeffrey first bought the puzzle, since we knew it would be much more fun to have lots of people attacking the puzzle versus just one or two. (More like one – I wasn’t particularly helpful in the beginning after looking at the giant pile of 1200+ puzzle pieces with no easily discernible pattern staring back at me).

We held a total of five puzzle parties. The above photo is from Puzzle Party #4, where we almost (almost!) finished it. We threw the final Puzzle Party this past Saturday, where we finally finished “The Test” (and celebrated with champagne!) and enjoyed some tasty food along the way.

And so I present: the menu for Puzzle Party #5, THE FINAL!

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