Kitchen Sink Cookies

Adapted from Barb of Sweet Mac Shop

I loved the cookies from Sweet Mac Shop, but found them a tad too sweet to my tastes. So I made some adjustment to some of the measurements, but kept the interesting combination of pretzels, caramel bits and chocolate chips. I also subbed out some whole-wheat flour for the all-purpose flour for a bit chewier texture. These are hard to resist!

I buy these at Walmart.

Ingredients
1 cup butter, still a little cold, but soft
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped pretzels
1 bag Kraft Caramel Bits (11 oz)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place butter in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, then add both sugars and beat for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla and beat one more minute.

Mix together the whole wheat flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and add slowly to mixer on low speed. Add the all-purpose flour; mix just to combine.

Coarsely chop pretzels. Add chocolate, caramel, chopped pretzels to the cookie mixture and just mix until combined.  Over-mixing will break down the pretzels.

Sweet Mac Shop uses the OXO size 20 scoop to make all her cookies evenly shaped, and I did the same, scooping them out on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Pop into freezer for 10 minutes. (I store the tray of cookies in the freezer and bring them out in between to set up a new batch.)

Pull out 9 balls of dough at a time and space them on a half-sheet baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-12 minutes. 

Baclava (Baklava)

The tongue-in-cheek joke in our house is that this is known as “Elizabeth’s Award-winning dessert.” I was dating my husband at the time, and served some to him, proudly announcing that it had won a blue-ribbon at the fair. I was beaming. True to his scientific ways and analysis (in every aspect of his life), he asked, “And how many entries were there?” I pulled a face. He went on eating it. I’ll never tell how many entries in my category there were; to me it’s a blue-ribbon winner all the way.

Ingredients:
1 pound REAL butter, melted
2 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/8 cup sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 pound filo dough (found in frozen section of grocery store, thaw in fridge before using)

Method:
Mix together nuts, sugar and cinnamon, set aside.

Brush a cookie sheet with some of the melted butter. Place one sheet of filo carefully in the pan.  Brush the sheet with melted butter.  Repeat until there are 6 layers of filo.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top of this layer.

Layer two leaves of filo on top of nuts.  Brush with butter.  Layer on 4 more sheets, one at a time, brushing each with butter.

Sprinkle 1/3 the nut mixture on top of that last layer.

Layer two leaves of filo on top of nuts.  Brush with butter.  Layer on 4 more sheets, one at a time, brushing each with butter.

Sprinkle last 1/3 nuts on top.  Repeat layering of filo until all leaves are used.  Brush top layer with butter.  With a small sharp knife, score the top of the pastry with parallel diagonal lines about 1/2-inch deep and 2 inches apart, then cross them diagonally to form diamond shapes.  Bake in the middle of  a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 300°F and bake for 45 minutes longer, or until the top is crisp and golden brown.

Meanwhile, make the syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon FRESH lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and, stirring constantly, cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves. increase the heat to high and, timing it from the moment the syrup boils, cook briskly, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the honey.  Pour the syrup into a pitcher or other pouring container and set aside.

When the baclava is done, remove it from the oven and pour the syrup over it, slowly, up and down all the rows and across. Cool to room temperature, and just before serving, cut through the scored lines to the bottom of the pan, yielding diamond-shaped pieces.

Enjoy your blue-ribbon dessert!

Pumpkin Pie with Shortbread Crust

I served this to my pumpkin-pie-loving son Peter, a bit nervous to see if this new version — with a shortbread crust — would pass muster. It did, and it will be a long time before I go back to the other pie crust.

Prepare Pan:
Lightly butter/grease the bottom of a 9″ square metal cake pan. Using a longer length of parchment paper, line the pan so there is an overhang of paper on two sides of the pan (to facilitate the easy release and removal of the bars after baking).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Crust: Into the bowl of a food processor, place 2/3 cup whole pecans. Pulse a couple of times to break them up.

Add:
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Pulse a few times to further chop the pecans and to blend.

Cut 6 Tablespoons of stick butter into smaller pieces, distribute around the flour mixture in food processor bowl. Pulse until butter is smaller than pea size. It will be loose in texture. Dump into the prepared pan, and with the back of a spatula, press into pan evenly. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, but do not let it burn. Remove from oven.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees F.

Filling (can be made while crust is cooking):
Mix together dry ingredients in a small bowl:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Into separate, large mixing bowl, blend:
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, yokes broken

Add in dry ingredients (sugar and spices). When blended, add in 1 12-ounce can light evaporated milk (see notes below). Carefully pour over prepared crust.

Place in 350 degree F oven, and bake for about 55 – 60 minutes, or until knife inserted about 1-1/2″ from the center comes out clean.

Let cool on rack to room temperature, then place in refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, gently loosen edge of crust from pan, then lift out and place on cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, to which 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar has been added before beating it into soft peaks.

Note: Instead of light condensed milk, regular condensed milk may be used. The original recipe called for 1 cup half-and-half along with 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, a shake of pepper and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I just went with the regular Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe, and it worked just fine.

Small Very Vanilla Cake

I read reviews of Simple Cake, by Odette Williams, and immediately purchased the book.  It reads, as my friend Bette says, like a novel. While I’m still trying to master some of the techniques and recipes, I feel confident in this little 6″ cake to put it up on my recipe blog.  I’ve made some changes to the recipe printed in her book and they are incorporated below; to get her original, I would recommend buying this book, for this is only one of the many delicious and excellent recipes.  I love that the cakes aren’t fussy, but can be beautiful in their simplicity.

You’ll need a 6″ diameter springform pan that is 3″ deep.  It’s perfect for making a cake for two people or a small family.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter the bottom and sides of your 6″ pan.  Cut out a parchment circle for the bottom, place in in the pan, then butter it again.

1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) real butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature

Mix together the whole milk and the lemon juice and set aside for five to ten minutes to let it curdle.

Stir together the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer with paddle beater, beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds, then gradually add the sugar.  Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes, scraping the bowl at the halfway point, until it is light in color and fluffy.

Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.  With the mixer on, gradually add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are well blended into the mixture.  Williams notes: “if the batter curdles, add 1-2 Tablespoons of the flour mixture to bind it back together.”  (I had that problem only once.)

Alternate adding dry ingredients with the milk: first add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then the milk.  End with the rest of the dry ingredients, but don’t overbeat.  Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl, blending well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake in the center of the oven for 55 minutes, checking after 50.  If you like a lighter colored cake, cover with tinfoil after 30 minutes.  Check for doneness when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and it bounces back after lightly tapping it.

Let stand for 10 minutes on a cooling rack.  Then release the springform pan ring (run a knife around the inside of the pan, if needed) and remove.  Turn cake over, and remove both the pan bottom and the parchment, then return it to the cooling rack, right-side up.

Glaze now, while it is still warm, pouring the glaze on the top, and letting it slowly drip down the sides. It helps to put a sheet of waxed paper underneath the rack and the cake to catch any drips.

A simple glaze can be made with 1 Tablespoon butter, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice.  Microwave this to melt the butter and heat the liquid. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well with a whisk to remove any lumps.  I start with these measurements, but found the glaze seems to work better when it’s on the thicker side.  (I added lemon rind to the cake above and won’t do it again–ugh.)

Next I want to try using water and a few drops of almond extract.  Williams has many variations of glaze in her cookbook, if you need more.

Gluten-free Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie

It is the 14th of July, hotter than blazes, and over in France they are celebrating their national holiday, Bastille Day.  But here in the U.S. of A. I’m all about making a giant cookie that is really more like a cake, but in modern fashion, it is “everything-free.”  That means is is dairy-free, gluten-free, but not chocolate-free or taste-free.  Enjoy.

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 blend)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 handfuls dark chocolate chips or chunks (about 3/4 to 7/8 cup)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

NOTE: I didn’t have an 8-inch oven-proof skillet, so used an aluminum cake pan instead; it was fine.

Using a pastry brush, lightly grease an 8-inch oven-proof skillet with olive oil, brushing the oil around the sides of the pan as well. Set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, tahini, the egg, and vanilla extract.  In a separate small bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients and stir to combine completely.

Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts and place the mixture in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When you’re ready to bake the cookie, spread the dough in an even layer across the prepared pan and bake.

Although the original recipe says to bake for 16 to 18 minutes, and until just baked through but slightly underbaked — my cookie-cake took about 25 minutes to get to that the-top-is-still-shiny, slightly underbaked, gooey status.  It could have been my use of the aluminum pan, or maybe not.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before inhaling.

Bastille Day Flyover

This is modified from Joy Wilson’s recipe of  Gluten Free Tahini Dark Chocolate Skillet Cookie, from her Joy The Baker website.

Peppermint-Chocolate Layered Dessert

This uses three ingredients.  Now that’s a quick dessert.  However, it does need to spend some time in the freezer.
So, please, begin this the night before your event, in order to let this freeze solid.

Ingredients
One 14 oz. package chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreo type)
1/2 cube (4 ounces) melted butter
One 1-1/2 quart container of peppermint ice cream

Preparation

Prepare the pan by lightly greasing the bottom only of a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Fold a length of parchment paper in half, creasing well.  Use that crease to center the parchment paper, then smooth out, letting the paper overhang the long edges by about 2-3.”  Set aside.

I’m crushing them more!

Put all the cookies into a zipper plastic bag, OR into a bowl OR into your food processor (easiest).  Crush them thoroughly, or if you have a food processor, pulse until the texture of fine gravel, or chunky sand.  The crumbs should be small, with no obvious big chunks of cookie.

Reserve one cup of the this pulverized mixture for the crumble topping, and if it’s not really fine, do some more crushing.  Set aside.

Place the remainder of the crushed cookies into a mixing bowl, and add 1/4 cup melted butter.  (I like the real thing.)  Mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan, and press firmly with the back of a spoon to even out the crushed cookies.  Place in freezer until solid, about 2 hours.

Set out one carton of ice cream on the counter for about 15 minutes, or until the carton yields slightly when squeezed.  Dump (squirt, sort of ) into a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle beater, let sit for about another 10 minutes.  Turn on mixer slowly, then up to medium, while you beat the ice cream into a creamy mixture.  If you don’t have a mixer with a paddle attachment, use a bowl and a sturdy spoon.  You don’t want the mixture to melt; it should be creamy, not runny.  Work fast if you are doing it by hand.

Spoon it out onto the frozen layer of crushed cookie in glops; spread evenly.

Sprinkle with the reserved cookie crumbs, and refreeze.  It will take at least four to six hours for the ice cream to freeze properly.

Why the overhanging parchment paper?  When you are ready to serve, lift it out onto a board, cut with a knife, then replace remainder back into the pan. Store dessert in the freezer, either with the lid to your 9 x 13, or with foil.  (This is shown just before it received its crumb topping.)

Cranberry Curd Pie

I first saw this on the New York Times website, then saw it again on the Bon Appetit website, then about a bajillion other bot-driven websites (all looking the same, all “authored” by a single-named woman, who promised hearth and home and happiness while inundating the viewer with ads-ads-ads).  What is it with these robot websites??

I read about 90% of the comments on the NYTimes recipe site pertaining to this recipe, and have incorporated my changes below.  This pie is gluten-free because I wanted to make it for a woman at my church who can’t eat gluten, and has not had a dessert at a church dinner in a millenia.  This is my holiday gift to her, and to you.  First, the recipe, then the photos (reverse of the usual).

Cranberry Curd Pie

Almond Crust
2 cups almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
Place in medium bowl, stir to mix (or use food processor).

Cut in 6 Tablespoons of softened butter, until crumbs are fine, and you can gather the dough together in your hands.  If too dry, add 1-2 Tablespoons water, a bit at a time.  Press dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan with removeable bottom; use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom.  Prick all over with a fork.  Tear off a piece of aluminum foil the size of the tart pan, and butter the dull side.  Press onto your tart butter-side down; freeze for at least 30 minutes.  This can be made a couple of days ahead.  Just make sure the aluminum foil seals the tart well. (photos below)

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chilled tart shell with the foil into the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully take off the foil.  Finish baking for another 5 minutes.  Cool.

Cranberry Curd Filling
12 ounces cranberries, washed and picked over (almost 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
Peel of one orange, removed with a vegetable peeler, in strips (then rip into about 2″ pieces)
Juice of one orange, or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1-1/2 Teaspoons cornstarch
4 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, softened

Put cranberries, sugar, orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, and liquid has diminished, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove orange peels.  Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until berries are not noticeable in the pan.

Set a medium mesh sieve over a bowl, and spoon the cranberry mixture into the sieve, pressing it into the bowl. (See note below about what remains in the sieve.)

Wash the pan (or get another).  Break in the two eggs, then add in the two egg yolks.  Stir to break up yolks.  Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons (1/2 Tablespoon) cornstarch until blended.  You may see some white bumps; ignore.

Spoon cranberry puree into the yolk mixture.  Set over low heat, and constantly whisking/stirring, bring mixture to a temperature of between 140 and 160.  The commenters noted that when properly cooked, the curd should coat a spoon.  This took me about 15 minutes.  I did keep it constantly stirring, but I wasn’t beating it.  I didn’t want to incorporate any air into the mixture and disrupt the anticipated color.

Remove from heat, and stir in the butter a bit at a time, whisking well in between each addition.  Again, don’t incorporate air in your mixing.  Let cool to room temperature (mine was a little warmer), and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, in order to set the curd.  Cool on a rack.  Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Sugared Cranberries for topping

Boil together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water until mixture is at a full boil and looks clear.  If you have time, let the syrup cool.
Wash and pick out your best handful of berries (3/4 to 1 cup), and stir into the syrup, making sure they are well coated.  Remove to a fine rack (or into a strainer).

Sprinkle some sugar onto a square of waxed paper, and sprinkle some more over the top.  Then roll the berries in the sugar.  If they are well-drained, you won’t get clumps of sugar, but a nice, even coating.  Let cool and dry, then decorate the top.  I meant to clip some mint sprigs to place at the center berries; you might want to consider this.

Cooks Notes:

After all was said and done, I had about 1/2 cup left of the cranberry mash in my sieve from making the curd.  This went nicely with a slice of Cranberry-Orange Bread that I had in the freezer, as it’s like a jam. Store in the refrigerator.

If using the almond crust, best eaten on the day you make it.
Day One: it was perfection.
Day Two: crust was really soft, but curd was still good.

Alternate crust: Sweet Tart Dough (more like a shortbread cookie)

Curd can made be ahead.  Cover curd with plastic wrap (pressing it against the surface of the curd) and refrigerate up to one week.

Now the photos!

Texas Sheet Cake

Since this is one of those recipes that my mother gave to me, probably about thirty-five years ago, you can imagine my disgust when a famous cowboy-cookbook-authoress put it in one of her cookbooks and claimed it as her own.  I don’t even think she was born when this started making the rounds.

In an article in Texas Monthly, Courteney Bond writes that “Texans clearly have a proprietary interest in the enormous rectangle of thin, flat chocolate cake slathered in deliciously sugary, pecan-studded chocolate icing. But what exactly makes it a “Texas” sheet cake? Some say it’s simply because the cake is huge. Others maintain it’s because it’s flamboyantly rich. Still others point to the addition of Texas-y ingredients like buttermilk and pecans, or to the fact that the recipe is similar to one submitted to the Dallas Morning News in 1957 that subsequently swept the country.”  You can trace the timeline of this treat here, or have a look at the full range of the Food Timeline, tracing more treats.

The proportions may vary slightly.  Some use walnuts instead of pecans (it doesn’t really matter to my way of thinking), but all recipes include buttermilk and cocoa.  Yield: 1 half-sheet-cake pan (about 15″ by 10″), in less time than it takes to drive to the big box store and pick up a cake.

Here you can see the difference between the Dutch-process cocoa and regular cocoa powder. I think the taste difference is dramatic (think more chocolatey and rich).

Grease a half-sheet-cake pan: 15 1/2″ by 10 1/2″ by 1″  This is also known as a “rimmed cookie sheet.” [Note: some say to flour it too, but I never have.]

Sift into bowl:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups sugar

Bring to boil:
2 stick butter or margarine
4 Tablespoons cocoa (I like using Dutch-processed cocoa the best)
1 cup water

Pour boiling liquids over dry ingredients and stir.

Add:
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

After cake comes out of oven, bring to boil:
1 stick butter
4 Tablespoons cocoa

Mix in: 6 Tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 -1/2 cups chopped nuts, pecan or walnuts

Combine and pour on slightly-cooled cake, spreading to cover evenly.

Cheesecake Diamonds – or – Squares

Mom used to make these long ago, and recently I had cause to resurrect them from the recipe graveyard.  Yes, they are really 1980-ish, but yes, they are really good.  I’ve updated the recipe to our more modern methods.

Cheesecake Diamonds, 9 x 13 pan (quantity can be halved)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor place:
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup walnuts
Process until walnuts are small bits, but still recognizable.  Melt 10 Tablespoons butter, then, with food processor running, pour melted butter into flour mixture, letting it mix about 20 seconds.  Don’t overmix–you want it to remain kind of loose.  Pour this out into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Scoop out 1 full cup of this topping and reserve.  Press the remainder down firmly and evenly into pan.  Bake for 12-15 minutes in hot oven.  [NOTE: if using a glass pan, set oven temperature to 325.]

In a separate bowl, mix together:
2 softened 8-ounce packages cream cheese (I use Trader Joe’s), and 1 cup granulated sugar until creamy.

Add:
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup milk (4 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat well. Spread over baked bottom crust (crust doesn’t need to cool).

To reserved topping, add 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, mix.  Sprinkle over the filling.  Return to the oven and bake 25 minutes more.  Cool, then cut into diamonds or squares. Keep refridgerated.

To cut into diamonds, make parallel cuts the length of the pan.  Then cut across them at a 45 degree angle, forming diamonds.  There will be odd-shaped pieces in the corners: Cook’s taste!

Store in refridgerator.

(You know how to cut into squares.)

Gingerbread Cookies

I was visiting Matthew’s house at Christmastime, when we decided to rustle up a batch of Gingerbread Cookies, for eating and for sharing.  I found this recipe online at the King Arthur Flour website, and they all turned out so well I wanted to put it up here (I own the King Arthur cookbook).  We made a few modifications for ease in preparation, which I’ve incorporated into the recipe below.

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice or cloves
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Instructions
In a large mixing bowl, place the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and spices.  Melt the butter in a microwave, and add to the sugar/molasses mixture.  Beat in the egg.

Whisk the baking powder, soda and flour together, then to the molasses mixture about a quarter at a time.

Place the dough in a gallon-sized quart bag, shape it into a flat disk, zip closed, and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. The dough may be sticky and hard to roll if not thoroughly chilled, so make sure it’s cold before continuing.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get out several baking sheets; line with parchment parchment paper.

Once the dough has chilled, take one-half of the dough out of the refrigerator.  I always use a floured pastry cloth and a stockinette on the rolling pin, but if you don’t have this, work on a well-floured surface, and roll the dough 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick; the thinner you roll the dough, the crispier the cookies will be.

Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, cutting them as close to one another as possible to minimize waste.  Roll scraps into a ball, and re-roll and cut out again.

Transfer the cookies to prepared cookie sheets. Bake the cookies just until they’re slightly brown around the edges 8 to 10 minutes, or until they feel firm. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for several minutes, or until they’re set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Cook’s Note: We doubled this with no troubles at all, but worked with only 1/4 of the dough at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated.