I don’t usually prefer thin crispy cookies, but for some reason I was craving something different. I was craving crispy but chewy cookies. These cookies have crispy edges with a perfect chewy center and they bend when you tear off a piece. Replace the chips with m and m’s for kid style cookies if you like. They are the kind of cookie you indulge in when curling up in your favorite comfy chair with your favorite fluffy blanket and a cup of ice cold milk. If you don’t want to bake off all the batter then freeze the measured pucks of dough on a cookie sheet until frozen solid and then place the cookie pucks in a ziplock freezer bag. When you want a cookie or two you can bake off as many as you like. They are the perfect weekend escape (culinary speaking).
Monster Crispy-Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(yield: 2 dozen 5 inch cookies)
3 1/2 Cups All purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/4 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 Cups (packed) light brown sugar
1 Cup granulated sugar
2 lg. eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 Cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/4 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 Cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F with the baking rack in the middle of the oven. Prepare sheet trays with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy; about 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in eggs one at a time; stopping to scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixer bowl. Beat in vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 increments and beat on medium until combined. Stir in the chips and nuts.
2. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup measure level scoops and place the cookie pucks onto prepared cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with your fingers. Place only 4-5 cookies on the tray at a time; leaving at least 3 inches of space in between as they will spread quite a bit. Bake only one tray at a time. I placed a cookie near each corner and then one in the middle and it was perfect spacing.
3. Bake at 350° F for about 17-18 minutes until the edges look browned; the centers will still be soft but the cookies will firm up once cooled. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet over a wire rack until almost completely cooled; then let cool the rest of the way over the rack.
I don’t know why but I’m not one to start early on making Christmas cookies. For some reason I tend to trudge along until about the week before Christmas and then suddenly the mood strikes me with full force to start making cookies. Once it grabs hold then I’m in deep. Today the mood finally struck me and I went all out in serious cookie mode. I’ll admit I don’t usually make gingerbread men or gingerbread cookies for that matter, but when I saw a picture in Donna Hay magazine with them strung along on a cute ribbon as gingerbread garland, it was so cute I had to make them.
I adapted this recipe from Sweetopia’s recipe for her gingerbread.
Gingerbread Trees frosted with Royal Icing, Sanding Sugar and Edible Glitter
It’s a “White Christmas!”
recipe: adapted from Sweetopia
yield: ~ 5-6 dozen cookies, depending on size
1/2 Cup + 1 Tbsp. (125 gm) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1/4 Cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 Cup molasses (I use Grandmas brand)
3 1/4 C (400 gm) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Cream together the sugars and butter until fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the molasses and beat until combined. Note; the mixture will initially look like it will not mix together, and will remain a bit grainy looking until the flour mixture is added.
2. In a medium bowl whisk the flour and spices and salt. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Remove the cookie dough to a large bowl and separate into 3-4 balls and knead each ball of dough lightly in your hands to combine if any flour spots remain. Flatten each ball and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
3. Roll out cookie dough to 1/4 inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper. Chill shapes for 15 minutes before baking. Bake at 350° F for about 14-15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.
4. Decorate if desired with royal icing. I use her technique for “10 second icing” for both outlining and flooding the cookie. Check out the blog for sweetopia.net as she has amazing tutorials and how to’s for decorating with royal icing.
4 Tbsp. meringue powder
1/2 C cold water
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. clear vanilla
Combine the meringue powder and H2O until foamy. Add the sugar a cup at a time [if the sugar is lumpy; make sure to sift it first] and beat on low until combined. Once all the sugar is combined, turn up the mixer to high and beat for about 5 mins. until the meringue forms stiff peaks. To thin frosting for outlining and flooding; add cold water one tsp. at a time until the mixture is thinned to consistency of heavy cream. Ice the cookies and let the icing dry until the icing is totally dry.
Rugelach for some is one of those Holiday cookies that must make an appearance. I for one did not grow up making rugelach, but certainly have come to love these little gems. Some of my Jewish friends may know them better than I and I’m sure their Mother or Grandmother has a favorite recipe. I’m giving a shout out to all my Jewish friends-and you know who you are. Woot woot! They really aren’t so much of a cookie but a flaky little pastry bite. I love the dough as it has cream cheese in it and it gives them the flakiness that these little gems are so popular for. There are many types of fillings you can choose from; if you cruise the web you can find a myriad of choices. Some fillings have raisins or chopped fine nuts. I found this recipe from food network that has no nuts, but tweaked it a bit by adding in some finely grated chocolate. Enjoy~
Cherry Chocolate Rugelach
recipe: food network
yield: ~ 36 cookies
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1/3 Cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
2 sticks (1 Cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 Cup dried tart cherries
1/3 Cup apricot jam
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated
2 Tbsp. milk (for brushing top)
granulated sugar (for sprinkling on top)
Make the dough first so it can rest while you make the filling, as the dough needs to rest for one hour before you can roll it out. Note: you can also make one or both parts the day before and assemble and bake the day of.
1. Pulse the cream cheese, sugar and both extracts along with 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor until smooth. Add the flour and butter and pulse until the butter is in pea size pieces. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, shape into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill for one hour.
Put the dried cherries in a shallow bowl and cover with about 1/3 cup boiling water. Let sit for about 15 minutes to re-hydrate. Drain any water and add the cherries to a clean food processor along with jam, cinnamon, allspice and the pinch of salt, and pulse to make a paste.
Let dough soften slightly at room temp. Roll out each piece on a floured board into a 9 inch round circle; transfer to the refrigerator while you roll out the next piece. Spread a generous 1/4 cup filling on each dough round in a ring, but leaving a 1/2 inch border along the outer edge. Sprinkle with 2-3 Tbsp. of grated chocolate. Using a pizza wheel or cutter, cut 16 equal wedges (cutting like you would a pizza pie) and starting at the outside edge, roll each wedge toward the point. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm; about 30 minutes. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.
One of the things I discovered when I was in pastry school was passion fruit. Yes I had heard of it, but living in the West I could never get my hands on an actual fresh passion fruit. The best I could do was buy frozen passion fruit puree (at a premium price) through a high-price store when we lived in San Francisco. When we finally made the concrete decision to move here to Taiwan–I was giddy just in the fact knowing I could get my hands on fresh passion fruit. Moving to Taiwan and being able to get passion fruit alone is worth the daily struggles I face each day in a foreign land. Passion fruit is in season now and one block from where we live I can buy these little gems. Iced tea stalls are abundant in Taiwan and they sell wonderful sweet fruit tea. Down the street from where I live there is a woman who combines different fresh fruit with ice tea. I knew she made passion fruit iced tea from the picture of the passion fruit on the front of her stall, and even though I did not know how to say passion fruit in Chinese I bit the bullet, tossed all shame aside and ordered the tea by pointing. Luckily the sweet lady understood enough English and with some creative pantomime gestures between the two of us, we sealed the deal. When I got home, I jumped on the internet and I vowed to learn how to say passion fruit in Chinese as perfect as I could so I could order that wonderful tea all over Taipei.
Passion Fruit Yo Yo’s: Passion Fruit Cookies with Passion Fruit Buttercream
recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveler
180 gm unsalted butter
90 gm Icing sugar
80 ml passion fruit juice (1/3 cup)*
*(to make passion fruit juice place passion fruit pulp in a strainer over a bowl and push the pulp back and forth with a flexible rubber spatula to release the juice from the black seeds which are enclosed in a thin membrane- to make juice).
2 teaspoons lemon zest
225 gm all-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups)
100 gm cornstarch
pinch of salt
1. Beat butter and sugar in mixer until light and fluffy. Add passion fruit juice, lemon zest and combine. Add flour, cornstarch and salt and combine until dough comes together. Shape dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
2. Preheat oven to 160º C or 325° F. Roll dough into 1/4 inch thick or 8mm thick. Cut out rounds with a 1 1/4 inch round cutter or 3 cm round cutter. Bake for 7-8 minutes until just starting to turn light golden around the edges. Let cookies sit on the sheet pan to cool completely. Place cookie sheet on a wire rack to cool. Once cookies are completely cool sandwich with buttercream.
Passion Fruit Buttercream
90 gm. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 Cups confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp. passion fruit juice (the pulp of one passion fruit pressed through a fine mesh strainer= 1 Tbsp. juice)
1. Whip the butter and sugar until fluffy, add in the passion fruit juice. If filling is too loose add a bit more confectioners sugar until thick.
I’ve never been a big fan of banana pudding. Not that I don’t like it, it’s just not something I ever had a big taste for. That all changed a few years ago when I set foot in a BBQ place called Baby Blues in San Francisco. The first time we went there was on our wedding anniversary. I know, I know, not exactly romantic-but we went for the great food. We let it slip to the waitress that it was our anniversary and the next thing you know she was coming out with this banana pudding with a candle in it. I was pretty full from the amazing ribs we had shared, but I figured okay-it’s our anniversary and the pudding is FREE, so we have to eat it, right?
I figured one ceremonious bite and I would call it good. One spoonful of that luscious, sweet, intensely banana flavored pudding and I was hooked.
The Husband took a bite.
He looked at me and just stared for a second and didn’t say a word, and then he dove back into the bowl with the spoon.
We went back and forth like this until that entire bowl was bare. Without a word. You know when something is supremely good because it gets REALLY quiet.
I swear, had I been home alone with that pudding I would have licked the bowl. It was THAT good. Ever since that day I vowed to come up with a banana pudding to do it justice. This is it. Note: you can certainly use store bought Nilla wafers in place of homemade. Enjoy.
2 1/2 Cups whole milk
2 very ripe bananas
1/2 Cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Homemade vanilla wafers *(recipe below)
3 ripe (but not overripe) bananas
1 Cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar
garnishes* (optional): salted chopped peanuts, chocolate shavings, vanilla wafers
1. Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the two “very ripe” bananas and let stand to steep for 1.5 hours.
2. In a blender place the steeped milk, yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt and blend to combine about 30 seconds until smooth.
3. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, pour the contents of the blender and whisk continuously until pudding becomes thick. Once pudding starts to thicken- whisk vigorously and continue to cook for about another 30 seconds. Total cook time will be about 5-7 minutes. Pull off the heat and whisk in the vanilla and the butter until all of butter is melted. Pour into a heat proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly onto the pudding. Chill pudding in fridge until cold.
Homemade “Nilla” Vanilla Wafers
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or seeds of one vanilla bean)
1 1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars. Add the milk and vanilla and stir to combine. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the bowl and stir until combined. Scoop out measured 1 tsp. of dough. Roll the dough into balls. Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Flatten the balls of dough into 3/16 inch (1/4 cm) thickness. Bake for about 7-8 minutes until the cookies appear golden brown around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack. The cookies will be about the size of a quarter.
1. Whip 1 Cup heavy cream and the 2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar until medium stiff peaks form (be cautious not to overwhip the cream). Set aside and keep cold for assembly.
2. Cut bananas into slices and toss with 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice in a small bowl; just enough to coat the bananas so they don’t turn dark.
3. Use small dessert glasses, crumble 2-3 cookies in bottom of each glass. Top with a layer of banana pudding, then sliced bananas, then whipped cream. Repeat layering until desired (depending on size of glasses). Top with a swirl of whip cream and top with salted peanuts, salted caramel drizzle or shaved chocolate if desired. Serve cold. Note: you can layer this as one big dessert in a bowl if you like instead of individual parfaits.
Peanut butter and sesame seeds have an affinity for each other; they are kind of like kindred spirits or best friends. I wanted to come up with a peanut butter cookie but something slightly different. Enter the sesame seed. These cookies are great on their own without the filling, so don’t feel compelled to sandwich them if you don’t want. If you want to try other variations you can leave out the sesame seeds and sesame oil and mix in some mini chocolate chips, or (leave out the sesame flavors) and just roll the logs in raw sugar before baking. Feel free to play with the recipe and make it your own! Enjoy~
Peanut Butter Sesame Seed Sandwich Cremes
Peanut Butter Sesame Seed Cookies
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup smooth peanut butter
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds + more for rolling
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1. Cream the butter and peanut butter together until combined. Add sugars and cream until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, sesame oil and beat. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl then add all at once to rest of dough and stir to combine. Divide dough into two equal portions and place each dough portion onto plastic wrap and shape into a square log that is about 10.5 inches long by 1.5 inch wide. Roll in sesame seeds. Chill dough logs in fridge until firm.
2. Preheat oven to 325° F. Let dough logs sit out for about 10 minutes before slicing (they crumble less that way).Cut off 1/4 inch thick slices (they crumble slightly when slicing-so just push back together if needed with your fingers) and place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake (one sheet at a time) for 8-9 minutes until no longer wet looking. Note: some of the seeds that fall off while slicing I use to place on top before baking. Cool cookies completely on wire rack. Sandwich with about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter cream filling.
Peanut Butter Cream Filling:
1/3 Cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar, sifted
4-5 tsp. heavy cream
(Stir together filling ingredients vigorously in small bowl until combined. Use to sandwich cookies together).
I was very bummed when Gourmet magazine stopped producing its magazine. For years I always looked forward to their recipes and the amazing travel articles in each issue. It took me a while to get over it, but the good news is you can find recipes through their app called Gourmet live, as well as through Epicurious.com. I came across this recipe, and being the jam hoarder that I am and having a jar of blackberry jam in pantry I thought it would be a good way to put it to use. Enjoy~
Walnut Crisps & Blackberry Jam Cookies
Recipe: Gourmet December 2008 issue
yield: 20 cookie sandwiches
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup walnuts, toasted, cooled and finely chopped
About 1/2 Cup seedless blackberry jam
Garnish: confectioners sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in the middle position. Cream together butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt. Stir in flour and nuts by hand. The dough will be sticky.
Form level tablespoons of dough into balls (total of 40) and arrange 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Flatten balls to 1/3 inch thick using the bottom of a glass dipped in flour. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, about 16-20 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Sandwich flat sides of cookies together with about 1 teaspoon of jam. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.