Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

Cookies on the Fly Part II: Continuing Service to Nowhere

March 19, 2012

So I’m still stuck in the airport.  I’ve thoroughly explored concourse D, and now I realize why I’ve never bothered to go beyond gate D9:  gates D10-D15 are boring.  Of course, that doesn’t set them apart from the rest of the concourse much.  So to ease the tedium, I’m returning to my original intentions:  cookie-blogging & cherry-eating.  Yes, I bought another bag of the bloody expensive chocolate cherries from the gift shop.  I couldn’t help it.  After I picked up the first bag that spilled, they smelled so good sitting on the seat next to me that I wanted to eat them in spite of the fact that they’d been on the floor.  So here we go again.  I’m noticing now that the packaging has a little dotted line and a picture of scissors on top.  Note to the marketers:  don’t sell something that must be opened with scissors IN AN AIRPORT.  We’re not allowed to have scissors because we might threaten to snip rude airline employees.  Okay, the bag is open.  So far, so good.  Tasting…  Wow.  Go buy these.  Second row down, middle item.  Yummy.  My fellow passenger in standby purgatory agrees.

So, on to the cookies before poor Janice has an apoplexy.  This was a variation on a recipe from The Ultimate Cookie Book called Brazil Nut and Orange Cookies.  As I dislike Brazil nuts (and therefore had none on hand), I substituted macadamia nuts.  I also played with the icing a bit; I’ll address that when we get there.

Macadamia Nut and Orange Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp grated orange rind
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts  (So in other words, you need a full cup of whatever nut you use, but reserve 3/4 cup; only 1/4 goes in the cookie.)
Raisins  (Optional, and I opted against them. Seemed like a clash of flavors to me.)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar.  Add eggs and mix well.  Sift together dry ingredients and add to egg mixture.  Mix in orange rind, orange juice and lemon extract.  Fold in macadamia nuts and raisins, if desired.

Drop spoonfuls of batter onto cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  I didn’t grease the cookie sheets, and they stuck, so then I did grease them and they spread out too much and got too brown on the edges.  I’m going to say lining the sheets with parchment paper would be the better way to go.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Watch them carefully.  They’ll get a bit brown on the edges before they’re quite done, and that’s fine, but they can go from light brown to over-baked quickly.

Meanwhile, prepare icing.

Icing

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp lemon juice

I switched up the ingredients a bit.  I used orange juice instead of lemon because I had fresh oranges on hand, and since orange is a less intense flavor than lemon, I replaced half the water with orange juice as well.  It was still a faint flavor.  If I had it to do over, I would either use lemon as directed, or use all orange juice and no water.  Mix together confectioners’ sugar, water and lemon juice.  Spoon over hot cookies and sprinkle with chopped nuts; let cool.  I ran out of icing and wound up making two batches.  Even though the liquid to sugar ratio was the same, the first batch was runny; it just soaked into the cookies and disappeared.  If your icing consistency is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar so you won’t have to ice them twice like I did.  It should ooze or stream slowly to coat the surface of the cookie, but not run or soak in like a liquid.

So there you have it.  Enjoy!  Soon to come are recipes for my very favorite muffins (despite an infamous baking powder incident), and my mother’s awesome oatmeal cookies.

Cookies on the Fly

March 18, 2012

Since I’m currently starring in my very own version of “The Terminal” (which might be tolerable if I could hang with Stanley Tucci, but is rather miserable under the circumstances), I think my time is best served by blogging cookie recipes and eating the ridiculously expensive chocolate-covered cherries I bought in the gift shop.  Wait; scratch that last part.  The cherries turned out to be encased in standard consumer packaging, and when I attempted to open the bag, it refused to rip just long enough to make me put some muscle into it, then gave way suddenly, showering chocolate-covered cherries all over the carpeting of gate D9.  Denied.  I am depressed.

So anyway, cookies.  This recipe comes from 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies & Other Tempting Treats.  The cookie is extremely rich.  You know a cookie is rich when you have to use Nutella to cut the sweetness.  I’d double.  The daubs of dough are comparatively large, and the subsequent cookies disappeared fast.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Drops

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tbsp chocolate and hazelnut spread

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk and vanilla extract.  Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt into the mixture, add the ground hazelnuts and chocolate chips, and stir until combined.

Scoop out tablespoons of the batter and shape into balls, then place them on the baking sheets, spaced well apart.  Use the dampened handle of a wooden spoon to make a hollow in the center of each cookie.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.  When cold, fill the hollows with the chocolate and hazelnut spread.

Image

Om nom nom and repeat!

Holiday Baking: Sweets for the Sweet (and my family!)

January 31, 2012

Okay, so I am way behind on my blogging.  Since I last posted, I’ve tried 5 new recipes, not to mention all the batches of old favorites I’ve cranked out (Sour Cream Cookies and Margarita Cookies were back by popular demand).  I found two of my experiments (Brown Sugar Drops from the Betty Crocker book & Buttery Fork Cookies from the 1001 book) disappointing, so I won’t waste time posting them.  However, three of my holiday dessert projects are well worth the making, so here we go!

The first recipe I want to share is one I made with my dear friend in The Kelly Kitchen just before Christmas, in between giving bottles to her darling twin boys!  She’d clipped this recipe from a magazine and bought all the ingredients, but hadn’t had the time to make it what with becoming a mom a bit quicker than expected, so when I came to visit the new arrivals, we carved out a bit of time for baking while Daddy minded the boys.  I’m not sure which periodical published this one, but it was submitted by Carol Stuber, and it was yummy:  a perfect fall treat!

Caramel Apple Bars

Crust:
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
Filling:
4 1/2 cups coarsely chopped peeled baking apples (see my previous post for tips on good baking apples)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 package (14 ounces) caramels
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add flour, oats, salt and baking soda; mix well.  Stir in pecans if desired.  Set aside 2 cups.  Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan.  For filling, toss apples with flour; spoon over the crust.  In a saucepan, melt the caramels and butter over low heat; drizzle over apples.  Top with the reserved oat mixture.  Bake at 400° for 25/30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool before cutting into bars.  We were impatient and didn’t follow that last bit of instruction, and they fell apart into a crumbly mess.  They were still delicious though.

Caramel Apple Bars

This next recipe is one I had done previously, but never posted.  We buy fresh oranges from H & S Citrus every winter.  It is by far the best citrus I’ve ever eaten, and with such good fruit on hand, I decided to try the recipe for Orange Drop Cookies from Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book when my sister gave it to me last Christmas.  They were delicious, so I made them again this year.  It may become a Christmas tradition, but only if I get faster at it.  Once I promised cookies to my niece and nephew, I couldn’t disappoint, but apparently it was an excruciatingly long wait, if the number of times I was asked “Are they done yet?” is any indication.

The cookies have a cake-like texture, and the refreshing orange flavor really comes through.  I recommend using fresh orange juice for both the cookie and icing.  I know it’s a bit more work, but it’s worth it, and you need real oranges to get the rind anyway, so just do it.  🙂

Orange Drop Cookies

2/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. grated orange rind
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Orange Butter Icing (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 400°.  Mix shortening, sugar and egg thoroughly.  Stir in orange juice and rind.  Stir dry ingredients together; blend in.  Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough about 2″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until delicately browned on edges.  Mine always seem to brown quicker.  Watch them closely.  Frost with Orange Butter Icing.

Orange Butter Icing

2 1/2 tbsp. soft butter
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. grated orange rind

Blend butter and sugar together.  Stir in juice and rind until smooth.

Orange Drop Cookies

The last recipe I want to recommend is one I came across on Facebook.  It has already been blogged far more thoroughly than I could do it, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ll just link to it with this recommendation:  make these!  They are the perfect treat for those of you who eat so much cookie dough that you wind up baking very few cookies.  My darling nephew declared them “one of the best chocolate things I ever ate.”

And on that note, I’ll leave you to your kitchens.  I acquired three new dessert cookbooks recently (Chocolate, The New York Times Dessert Cookbook and Miette), so be on the lookout for new experiments to come!  Next on the docket is Chocolate Hazelnut Drops, from the 1001 book.  Wish me luck!

Not-So-Challenging Baking: Drop Cookies

September 10, 2011

This has been a tired & lazy kind of week, so when it came time to bake, I wanted something quick and easy (and when it came time to blog, I procrastinated).  Easy baking generally means drop cookies.  This is the cookie group traditional chocolate chippers fall into.  Most cookie books have a section for them, or specify which ones they are.  Drop cookies are about the simplest thing you can make and still be baking from scratch.  You just mix them up and toss them on the pan; there is no rolling, cutting or filling involved.  The drop cookie du jour is a favorite of mine, though I’d never made them myself before:  macadamia nut & white chocolate cookies.  I get them from Subway all the time, and I figured it was high time I added them to my repertoire.  This recipe is a variation on the chocolate chip cookie recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  It turned out well, though the cookies didn’t keep for very long.  After a few days they got a bit dry & crunchy, though that may have been because I over-baked them just a bit.  They don’t really brown on top much, and if you take them out a minute or two before they’re totally done, they’ll probably have that moist, chewy texture suited to this type of cookie.

Macadamia Nut and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 12-ounce package (2 cups) white chocolate chips
1 3 1/2-ounce jar macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.  In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening and butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and baking soda.  Beat mixture till combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla till combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in remaining flour.  Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or till edges are lightly browned.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.  Let them cool on the pan for at least a few seconds before you try to transfer them, or they’ll fall apart.

When it comes to cookies, do as Subway says:  “Eat fresh!”
See you next week!

Baking Challenge: Chocolate Marzipan Cookies

August 29, 2011

Last week’s recipe comes from one of the books I appropriated from mom’s collection, aptly and creatively named Cookies.  I only bake cookies involving a rolling-pin when I have extra time and patience, and it’s been a boring week, so fortunately I had both.  Given the double rolling and cutting involved to make a top and bottom for these cookies, I was questioning somewhere in the middle of shouting at my sticky dough (which had perversely and deliberately adhered itself to the rolling-pin) whether they’d be worth it or not.  They actually were.  The marzipan punches up the mildness of the chocolate cookie nicely.  It was a good flavor complement.  Time and patience allowing, I would definitely make these again.

Chocolate Marzipan Cookies

scant 1 cup unsalted butter (I used salted; it was fine.)
generous 1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
7 ounces white almond paste (I used actual marzipan, which apparently is a type of almond paste with more sugar added which makes it easier to mold, but it seems there is disagreement in the culinary world as to how each is defined.  Surprise, surprise.)
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped (Just buy chips.  Eliminate the chopping.)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease two large baking sheets.  Cream the butter with the sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well.

Sift the flour and cocoa over the mixture.  Stir in, first with a wooden spoon, then with clean hands, pressing the mixture together to make a fairly soft dough.  If the dough is too sticky to roll, chill it for about 30 minutes, then try again.

Roll out about half the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Using a 2 inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds, re-rolling the dough as required until you have about 36 rounds.

Cut the almond paste into about 36 equal pieces.  Roll into balls, flatten slightly and place one on each round of dough.  I found 7 ounces of marzipan was more than I needed.  The balls need to be small enough that you can put the second dough round on top and still have room to seal the two together.  Leave about half an inch of clearance around the marzipan ball so you can seal the two cookies without stretching the dough too much and tearing it.  Roll out the remaining dough, cut out more rounds, then place on top of the almond paste.  Press the dough edges to seal.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies have risen well.  They don’t rise much to speak of, but the baking time is accurate.  Cool completely.  Melt the white chocolate, spoon into a paper piping bag and pipe onto the biscuits.  I couldn’t find our pastry bags, and I’ve never used paper for this.  I just spooned it into the corner of a Ziploc bag and snipped the end.  Don’t snip too much though.  You want the hole to be very small, or it’ll all just ooze out.

Chocolate Marzipan Cookies

Until next week then!

Baking Challenge: Pecan Shortbread Melts

August 18, 2011

I didn’t get around to baking last week since I was too busy simultaneously developing a sinus infection and working overtime, but I’m on the mend now, and I believe cookies will help keep me on the path to good health.  After all, a balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.  A friend of mine slaps his forehead in exasperation whenever I say that, but I still maintain it’s true.

I went rummaging on one of Mom’s cookbook shelves not long ago, and I came across two intriguing and heretofore unused cookie books:  Cookies (formerly titled The Great Big Cookie Book; not sure why they changed that) and The Ultimate Cookie Book.  I asked for, and received, permission to appropriate these books, and found dozens of recipes I want to try, starting with this one from the “Ultimate” book.

The aroma wafting out of the oven while these baked was unlike anything I’d ever smelled.  It was so rich and delectable I liked this recipe before I’d even tried one, and they did not disappoint once I had.  This is a very crumbly melt-in-your-mouth kind of cookie.  Think Keebler Pecan Sandies, only lighter, not as hard and slightly less sweet.

Pecan Shortbread Melts

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
superfine sugar (I once again ignored this and used granulated; seemed fine [har!])

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream butter in a large bowl.  Blend in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.  Sift flour and salt into creamed mixture.  Blend using wooden spoon.  Fold in pecans.

Shape dough into small balls the size (and shape; more like logs than balls per the picture in my book) of dates, and dredge in superfine sugar.  Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets.  You can put these pretty close together on the sheet.  They spread out slightly, but not much.  I got most of them on one large cookie sheet.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes.  Mine browned lightly on the bottom in 20-25 minutes.  If desired, broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned.  As far as I can tell, this is just for looks.  I didn’t broil most of mine, though I tried it on the last few.  There was no discernible difference in taste.  When done, transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Pecan Shortbread Melts

Uncle Paul evaluates the result of my efforts

So that’s it for this week’s challenge.  Time & health permitting, I’ve got something ambitious in mind for next week.  See you then!

 

Baking Challenge: Sour Cream Cookies

July 21, 2011

There is a wondrous place in the mall where I work.  It’s a bakery stand.  It opens every Friday and Saturday.  I patronize this business much more often than I should, and I’ve gotten friendly with the man who runs it because I’m there so much (and because he’s so nice).  He sells pies, cakes and cookies of all sorts, but the one treat I always come back to is sour cream cookies.  They are delicious.  But they’re also a bit on the pricey side:  $4.50 for a bag of six.  I’m usually willing to spring for them since I love them so much, but I’m trying to watch my spending, so I decided to see if I could recreate them at home.  What I turned out today was by no means an exact replica.  I was going to tinker with it a bit to try and get it closer, but my sister and my boss claim they’re better than the ones from the bakery, so who am I to argue?  They were pretty good, if I do say so myself.  The cookie recipe is from my Betty Crocker book, but it did not call for icing, and since the best thing about those cookies is the icing, I tried to reverse engineer it using the ingredients from the label on the last bag I bought.  I just had to guess at the amounts.  The consistency of my icing was slightly thicker and a bit more creamy.  Thinning it with just a bit more water would probably make it run and harden, which would be more consistent with the original I was trying to duplicate.

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies

1/2 cup shortening (part butter or margarine)
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup granulated and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (Fresh grated nutmeg intensifies the flavor.  Microplane!)
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla thoroughly.  Blend dry ingredients; add to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream.  Divide dough; roll out to 1/4″ thick on well-floured pastry cloth.  A lightly floured board works fine, too.  The purpose of the cloth is to keep the dough from picking up too much extra flour, or so my mother tells me.  Cut with a 2″ cutter; place on greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sugar.  I omitted this step, because I wanted to ice them and sprinkle them with sugar afterward, as the bakery does.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Mine browned within 5 or 6 minutes.  Watch them closely.

My Icing

1 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted  (you can skip sifting, but you’ll just have to use more elbow grease to get out the lumps later)
1 1/2 tbsp. margarine
1/4 tsp. butter flavoring
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. water

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Icing is not an exact science.  You can do whatever you want with it.  For a thicker icing, add more powdered sugar.  For a thinner icing, add more water.  If you want it richer, use cream or milk instead of water.  For more intense flavor, add another splash of vanilla.  Make it to suit your tastes.  And always taste it!

Add a small dollop of icing to the center of each cookie, and spread it outward towards the edges in a circular motion with a spoon.  Sift granulated sugar (colored, if desired:  just a few drops of food coloring and a lot of mushing in a Ziploc bag will do it) over the iced cookies.  Allow icing to set.

And now, an anecdote about nutmeg graters, since it sprung to mind as I was grating my nutmeg this afternoon.  When I was young, I went on a trip with my parents, and for some reason we were driving two vehicles.  I was riding with dad, and someone else was riding with mom.  As we drove down the highway, I remarked on all the thistles growing wild along the roads, and dad recited a little ditty for me:

Tender handed touch a nettle,
And it stings you for your pains,
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.
So it is with common natures,
Treat them gently they rebel,
But be rough as nutmeg-graters,
And the rogues obey you well.

This verse was printed in a dictionary by Samuel Johnson under the entry for “Grater,” and was attributed to A. Hill.  Dad had read it there and remembered it.  In due course we arrived at our destination, dad’s vehicle leading.  He bypassed a choice parking spot to allow mom to park there, but she overlooked this and followed him through the lot.  He exclaimed in frustration, whereupon I grinned at him and said, “Treat them gently, they rebel.”  And he grinned back, his temper for once neatly defused by his youngest daughter.

And so I leave you to contemplate what treat I may concoct next week.  Happy baking!

Baking Challenge: Margarita Cookies!

July 14, 2011

Number 312 from my “1001” cookbook turned out to be a delightfully refreshing summer treat.  These shortbread-like cookies are just bursting with citrus flavor, and are so quick and easy to make!  Everyone in the house liked them a lot, and we’re a finicky bunch.  My nephew, who is a big fan of Guy Fieri and his show “Triple D” on Food Network, took one taste and said they were “killer.”  But no worries; you won’t die.  In fact, they were so good I’m going to bake another batch.  I recommend you double this recipe, because it isn’t going to make nearly as many as you’ll want.  There are two variations:  one with alcohol, one without.  I did the latter since I’ve got a 7-year-old under my roof, but I’ll post both for the more adventurous palates among you.

Margarita Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup superfine sugar (again, I used regular granulated; works fine)
finely grated rind of 1 lime (a microplane is handy for this)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tsp orange liqueur or 1 tsp orange extract (I used the latter)
2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place the butter, sugar, and lime rind in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk and orange liqueur.  Sift together the flour and salt into the mixture and stir until combined.  Scoop up tablespoons of the dough, place them on the baking sheets, and flatten gently.  The bottom of a glass dipped in sugar is a simple, non-sticky way to do this.  However, make sure said glass has a flat bottom and is not even slightly concave.  I chose a beer glass I thought to be flat once, but I realized later it was slightly inset after it yielded cookies with a sort of hollow in their bottoms.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Let cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Icing

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp white tequila OR two tbsp fresh lime juice (again, I used the latter)

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl, and stir in enough tequila or lime juice to give the mixture the consistency of thick cream.  Leave the cookies on the wire racks and drizzle the icing over them with a teaspoon.  Let set.

Join me again next week, when I’ll attempt to unravel the secret of sour cream cookies!

Baking Challenge!

July 12, 2011

I love baking.  It appeals not only to my sweet tooth,  but to my O/C tendencies.  Baking is very precise.  You follow the recipe, add exactly the right amount of each ingredient in the right order, and voila!  Tasty treat.  The only trick is learning when to take things out of the oven.  Baking times in recipes (much like yields) are almost never accurate, so you’ve got to watch things and learn to recognize when they’re done.  But once you’ve got that down, you’re golden.  A light golden brown, to be exact.  I haven’t found general cooking to be the same.  Cooking is more intuitive.  You can leave this out, throw that in and play with your recipes a little.  I’m not good at improvisation.  I like to know exactly what I’m doing, step by step.  So though I’m making an effort to learn basic cooking, I prefer to bake.

I was given two very nice recipe books this year:  “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book” (a re-print of the original from 1963) and “1001 Cupcakes, Cookies & Other Tempting Treats.”  Both of them are excellent.  They have many unique recipes, and it’s fun just thumbing through them.  I’ve experimented with some recipes over the last few months, but there are still many I want to try!  So, like my good friend over at The Kelly Kitchen, I’ve decided to set a baking challenge for myself.  My goal is to try one new recipe each week, and post it here with my own notes.  I’m a terrible procrastinator, so if I actually meet my challenge, I’ll probably wind up baking every Sunday night.  If you know where I live, feel free to drop by of an evening for some sweets and a glass of milk!

I started off gung-ho, and actually did two recipes in one night, but then I stalled out and didn’t bake for two weeks, so I guess that evens out.  We’ll see how I do this week.  The first recipe is a variation on a traditional peanut butter cookie from the Betty Crocker book.  It substitutes honey for the brown sugar, and eliminates half the shortening.  I found they browned much quicker than the peanut butter cookies I usually make, and they had a more chewy texture.  They got kind of stiff after they’d been in Gladware for a week, but I microwaved them for 10 seconds, and they tasted perfect.  So here’s the recipe, as printed in the book.  My own notes are in italic.  The Betty Crocker book sometimes has amusing little commentaries and anecdotes under the recipe titles, and I’m including them just because I get a kick out of them.

Peanut Butter Cookies
So rich, good with anything; a favorite with men and children.  Many homemakers double the recipe since these cookies disappear quickly.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix shortening, peanut butter, sugars, and egg thoroughly.  Blend all dry ingredients; stir into shortening mixture.  Chill dough.  Skipping the chilling step makes it very sticky to work with, especially if you do the honey variation, but I’m impatient, so I did it anyway.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll dough in 1 1/4″ balls.  Place 3″ apart on lightly greased baking sheet.  Flatten crisscross style with fork dipped in flour.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  I don’t do the fork thing.  I roll the dough into balls, and flatten them with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.  It makes the cookies more uniform, and gives them a nice sugar-crystallized top.  Dip the glass in a bowl of sugar between cookies.  Otherwise they’ll stick.  Also, they don’t take nearly that long to bake.  Mine took 6-8 minutes.  Watch them closely, and when they begin to brown on the edges, take them out!  They are easier to remove from the pan if you let them cool for a few seconds first.

Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

Make Peanut Butter Cookies (above) except use only 1/4 cup shortening and use 1/2 cup honey in place of brown sugar.

The second recipe I baked that night was simple vanilla cupcakes with basic buttercream icing.  I hadn’t made cupcakes from scratch until I got the “1001” cookbook for my birthday.  I’d always used a cake mix and had good results.  I tried one recipe in the book before doing these vanilla cupcakes (peanut butter cupcakes with cream cheese icing) and they didn’t turn out particularly well because I misread the recipe and divided it into 24 cupcakes instead of 16.  They were too small, so they baked too quickly, overcooked, and dried out.  So I made sure to fill each cupcake paper 1/2 to 3/4 full for the vanilla ones so they were big enough.  These recipes yield a more dense type of cake than I’m used to from cake mixes.  They aren’t as light and fluffy.  They’re almost more muffin-like, but they’re still tasty.  Here’s the recipe:

Vanilla Cupcakes

generous 8 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup superfine sugar (I used regular granulated; it was fine)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
scant 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (if you don’t have self-rising, sift 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder into every 1 2/3 cups regular flour)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two 12-hole muffin pans with 18 paper liners.  I only did 13 or 14, but some of them were big; you could probably stretch to 18.  Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, then sift in the flour and fold into the mixture.  Spoon the batter into the paper liners.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch.  Mine took a few minutes more since I only did 13 or 14.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Top with buttercream icing.

Buttercream

1 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp cream or milk (Cream is richer, but milk works just fine.)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Place the butter and cream in a bowl and beat together.  Gradually sift in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth.  I also added a teaspoon of vanilla to give it more flavor.

Stay tuned for this week’s challenge:  margarita cookies!  I’ve got limes chilling out in the fridge; should be quite a party!