Just When You Thought You Couldn’t Love Chocolate More – A Recipe for Twin Chocolate Delights Cookies!

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I made the closest men in my life (my boyfriend, my brother, and my dad) very happy this past week.  I didn’t buy them presents.  Or give them money.  No, I baked and gave them cookies.  Double chocolate ones.  6 dozen of them on a total of 5 pans.  And it’s unanimous: out of all the recipes I’ve tried so far, this is their favourite cookie of all-time.  And I have to say, I freakin’ love these cookies myself.  They are heavenly.  But their love of chocolate borders on obsession (or addiction; it’s really almost the same thing in this context) baffles me.  I enjoy chocolate as much as the next person, but their addiction to chocolate is just on a whole other level.  I watch guys eat chocolate and it’s like they’re eating their last meal on earth.  My brother will excitedly chant, “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!” when I simply mention something about chocolate.  And I once scolded my boyfriend for eating too many chocolate chip pancakes because he wouldn’t stop moaning and groaning about how full he was from his chocolate chip pancake breakfast.  “Well why did you eat so many?!  Why didn’t you just stop at two??”  “They were so good…”  Cue deadpan expression.

Anyway, I made brown sugar shortbread over the holidays and while I will admit that they were just so-so (it needed a little finesse and a part 2 experiment), I ate my share while the boys just sniffed at them.  Sigh.  “Fine,” I said.  “I’ll make you guys double chocolate cookies next time.  Sound good?”  Eager bobblehead nods.

Boys.

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You don’t have to be a crazy chocolate addict to love these cookies though.  These epitomize cookie perfection in so many ways: they’re crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, the cracking on the outside is beautiful, the recipe doesn’t require a mixer, you can easily substitute the chocolate chips for other mix-ins such as chopped nuts, candies, or dried fruit, the recipe yields a very generous amount making them a perfect option for parties and cookie swaps, they freeze well, and they’re a cinch to make.  And did I mention they’re double chocolate and fudgy as heck?  WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?!  I thank another one of my beloved Joanne Fluke Hannah Swensen foodie murder mysteries for this amazing cookie recipe, courtesy of Blueberry Muffin Murder, the 3rd book from the series.

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Recipe for Twin Chocolate Delights (yields approx. 6 dozen/72 medium-sized cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (no need to sift)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use nuts so I simply substituted with extra chocolate chips)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

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Directions

  • Line several baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. (The dough needs to chill in the fridge so there’s no preheating of the oven at this point).
  • Melt butter in large microwave-safe bowl.  Add the sugar and mix. (*Deb’s Note: I just used a spatula for this step as well as for the rest of the recipe).
  • Add the cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla and stir until smooth.
  • Add the beaten eggs and stir thoroughly.
  • Mix in the flour, nuts (if you’re using them), and chocolate chips (*Deb’s Note: using the spatula, I gently folded the flour in until it was incorporated.  Then I used my hands (freshly washed hands!) to mix in the chocolate chips.)
  • Cover bowl with a piece of plastic wrap; chill cookie dough in refrigerator for about 30 minutes (*Deb’s Note: I added this step because the dough was still a bit too gummy to handle)
  • Place rounded teaspoons of dough on baking sheets, 12 to a standard sheet (*Deb’s Note: I used my hands to grab mounds of dough, gently shaping them into small rounds.  As well, I fit 15 on the first 4 pans and 12 on the last one.)
  • Heat oven to 350°F.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: this allows you to use the same pans for multiple rounds of cookies.  Two pans are enough.  I know because that’s what I did – I don’t actually have 5 baking pans at home!  While the first pan is in the oven, you work on shaping the dough balls for the 2nd pan.  When the first pan comes out and the 2nd goes in, there’s enough time between taking the cookies off the pan and re-filling with another batch for the pan to cool down enough to not cause your raw dough to start melting/spreading.)

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*****

Recipe adapted from Joanne Fluke’s Blueberry Muffin Murder.  New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2002.  Photographs taken by me.  The recipe can be found on pages 136-137.

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Tea Time Magazine & Delicious Cookie Recipes – Soft & Chewy Malted Chocolate Chunk Cookies!

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It’s time for a brand new spankin’ cookie recipe on Ate by Ate and this one is TOTAL keeper!  Trust me when I say that once you make these cookies, you may never want to use another cookie base ever again.  They’re moist, they’re chewy, they’re chocolatey, they’re adorable, they’re super easy to make, and they are the perfect cookies for picnics, kid lunches, care packages and gifts, and tea parties!  I’ve made two other variations of these cookies since I made the original ones here and I’ve been daydreaming of endless other combinations to try out for my next batch.  These cookies are made extra awesome because of one very special ingredient: Maltesers!  YES, Maltesers, the awesome crunchy chocolate malt balls in the iconic red packaging that we all know and love.  I’ve loved Maltesers since I was a little girl and I remember them being one of my favourite treats growing up.  Not only did/do I love the crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth interior and chocolate creaminess but in a weird way they give me this throwback connection to my mum eating these same morsels when she was a little girl.

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So, where did I get this fantabulous recipe?  From the May/June 2012 issue of Tea Time magazine!  Let it be known that I absolutely adore Tea Time magazine to itty bitty pieces and have been loving them for over a year now.  It’s strange how I never knew about or noticed Tea Time magazine until early last year.  As an avid magazine reader, you’d think that I’d at least be familiar with the publication having spent so much time in the magazine aisles all these years but nope, it wasn’t until last February that I stumbled on it at Shoppers Drug Mart.  And I’ve been smitten ever since buying every single issue thereafter and every single available back issue on the Hoffman Media website.

Tea Time magazine is all sorts of wonderful and a must-have and must-read for all tea lovers.  Amazing and informative tea articles, a plethora of teatime recipes, beautiful photos, and the most delicious stories and features on tea shops and afternoon tea venues from around the world.  It makes my heart flutter just talking about it.  My only wish?  That the magazine came out monthly!  It’s a bi-monthly publication so you can totally understand my impatient writhing while I wait for the next issue to come out (which, since we’re on the topic, comes out later this month for July and August!).  Here’s the recipe, everyone, enjoy it!

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Recipe for Malted Chocolate Chunk Cookies (yields approx. 3 dozen small cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunk morsels
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped malted-milk ball

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Directions

  • Heat oven to 375°F (*Deb’s Note: because my oven runs hot, I lowered mine to 350°F).
  • Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, whisking well.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars, stirring until creamy (*Deb’s Note: I used a handheld mixer to mix  the butter and sugars together; my arm muscles aren’t strong enough to just stir!).  Add vanilla and egg, stirring until incorporated (*Deb’s Note: again, I used my mixer)
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture, stirring until well mixed (*Deb’s Note: I used my mixer to mix just until blended; do not over mix!)
  • Add chocolate chips/chunks and malted-milk balls, stirring well (*Deb’s Note: I actually just use my hands to incorporate everything)
  • Using a levered 1-teaspoon scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets (*Deb’s Note: I don’t use a scoop for mine, I use my hands to grab chunks of dough, shaping them and patting them down just slightly so everything sticks together)
  • Bake until light golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes (*Deb’s Note: mine take 6 minutes).  Cool completely on wire racks.  Store in airtight containers.

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There’s No Such Thing As Too Many Cookies – Almond Kisses Cookie Bliss From Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Mystery Series

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Almonds and chocolate and sprinkles, oh my!  I had myself a fun and relaxing cookie baking and decorating party recently (if you consider running back and forth from the oven to the kitchen table with 4 baking sheets of cookies relaxing!), testing out a recipe for Almond Kisses from Joanne Fluke’s Lemon Meringue Pie Murder from the Hannah Swensen foodie murder mystery series (if you don’t know about these books and how much I love this series, you need to jump on the bandwagon, PRONTO!).

I love baking out of these books so much and it had been awhile since the last time I tried out something new from one of them so I jumped on the opportunity one Saturday morning to make these amazing almond cookies.  The original recipe uses Hershey’s Kisses for the cookie middles but unfortunately, I didn’t have any of my favourite cookies ‘n cream ones or the yummy milk and white chocolate swirly ones so I settled on testing out the base almond cookie recipe first and jazzing up a batch with chocolate chips mixed in and another batch dipped in melted chocolate and sprinkled with sprinkles!

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I had the best time making these cookies and they turned out perfect!  And oh  my goodness they taste fantastically delicious.  Trust me when I say that they test the most delicious straight out of the oven.  I know you have to let them cool to dip them in chocolate if you want to follow my lead, but I really just mean within the first day or so.  They taste totally fine even a week after (providing you store them in a sealed container of course), but to really get the full food orgasmic effect, you need to taste them soon after they’re baked because they are just divine.  Like marzipan on cloud nine.  This is the type of recipe that can spawn 10 others simply because it’s so simple and versatile.  You can mix in chocolate chips (regular, white, butterscotch, whatever you like!), small sprinkles and shredded coconut, dip them in melted chocolate, or glaze them.  Or just leave them plain.

I was beaming with pride looking at all my cookies when I had the most bizarre and ridiculous exchange with my dad though.  Me: *wearing oven mitts, beaming* “Look how cute these cookies turned out!  They’re sooo good!”  Dad: “You didn’t make enough cookies.”  Me: “What do you mean I didn’t make enough cookies?!  I made 54!  Well, 52.  Dan and I just ate one each.”  Dad: “Yeah, but you’re giving away two dozen.”  Me: “Which leaves us with 28 still!”  Dad: “Exactly.  That’s not enough.”

I was so offended.  Hmph.  IT’S NOT MY FAULT THEY’RE SO YUMMY THEY DISAPPEAR LIKE CRAZY!

Anyway.

This is a must-try recipe, everyone, enjoy!

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Recipe for Almond Kisses (yields approx. 4 dozen small cookies)

Ingredients (*Deb’s Note: the recipe below was actually cut in half.  The original recipe uses double the amounts)

  • 3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (*Deb’s Note: if you prefer to follow the original recipe’s ingredient list, substitute the brown sugar with 1 tablespoon molasses and increase the granulated sugar to 1 cup.  If you wish to follow the original recipe in its entirety, double the ingredients.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cups flour
  • your choice of add-in should you wish to use it!

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Directions

  • Heat oven to 350°F (*Deb’s Note: because my oven runs hot, I lowered mine to 325°F).  
  • Melt butter in microwave in mixing bowl.  Add sugars, vanilla extract and almond extract (Deb’s Note: if you are not using brown sugar and instead using molasses (see note in ingredient list), add the molasses after the adding the almond extract); mix with electric mixer until blended.  Add baking soda, baking powder and salt; mix well.  Add ground almonds; mix well.
  • Pour in beaten egg; mix until blended.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time; mix until just blended after each addition.  (Do not over mix).  (*Deb’s Note: If you are using add-ins like chocolate chips, add them after adding and mixing in the flour.  Mix them in gently with your hands so you’re not overworking the dough.)
  • Chill cookie dough in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  • Roll dough into small, walnut-sized balls.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 15 dough balls to a sheet.  Flatten dough balls slightly using the palm of your hand.  Use the tines on a fork to make an indentation if you wish to jazz up the tops.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes (Deb’s Note: I baked mine for 8 minutes).  Cool on baking sheets for several minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Proceed to stuff your face with delicious fresh baked cookies.  Go the extra step and decorate using melted chocolate and sprinkles – like me!  Rinse and repeat.

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*****

Recipe adapted from Joanne Fluke’s Lemon Meringue Pie Murder.  New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2003.  Photographs taken by me.  The recipe can be found on page 55.

Mini Marshmallow Mania! Ringing in the New Year with Cookie Bar Baking – Marshmallow-Rainbow Chip Cookie Bars!

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Happy new year, everyone!  Despite the awful weather we had over the holidays here I hope everyone was still able to celebrate and have a happy holiday in some way, shape or form with family and friends.  Even though it was beyond frustrating to have an event of this magnitude happen just before Christmas (the scrambling, the worrying, the damage, everything.  I have never seen so much ice, so much white and so many streets blocked with yellow tape in my life) I know it could have been much worse.  My house didn’t lose power during the ice storm (a few outages here and there for a minute or so at a time but nothing serious) so I am beyond grateful and thankful that I was able to stay in my home during the aftermath.

Amidst all the craziness I managed to squeak in a little bit of baking, photographing and food blogging (not as much as I had initially planned but there was no way around it, not with entire neighbourhoods, streets and streetcars without power!) so I’ll be sharing the goods with you all over the next little while.  It may be back to the grind for many folks tomorrow but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have some holiday fun here!

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2013 was full of so many highs and not-so-highs and while the latter part of the year didn’t exactly end the way I wanted or expected it to (in more ways than one), I do have some really awesome memories to look back on: taking my very first plane ride ever to Florida in February (and eating macarons from the Miromar Outlets in Fort Myers!), being a Macaron Day ambassador in March, attending and being a part of FBC’s first food blogging conference at Hockley Valley in April, taking the train for the first time to Ottawa in May, meeting Chef Michael Smith in June (I had the honour of eating hand-shucked oysters from him!), doing Summerlicious in July, celebrating my birthday in August, having one of the most amazing afternoon teas with my best friend in September (blog post in the works!), meeting Rosie Daykin at a food blogging event promoting her new Butter Baked Goods cookbook at Random House in October, buying teacups at my favourite antique market in November, and of course, celebrating Christmas in December with my best friend, my boyfriend and other friends in true foodie fashion.

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Sometimes I let the negative energy get to me (struggling to balance full-time work and blogging and everything/one else in my life and the not-so-highs that happened this year that I won’t care to repeat or hash out here) so much so that at times it feels crippling, emotionally and mentally.  I know I’m surrounded by so many good, wonderful and happy things though so I try my best to focus on them and I’m determined to make just as many, if not more, happy memories in 2014.

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Baking is therapeutic for me so I had a little fun experimenting over the holidays and this is what came out of it!  I wanted to play around with the Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookie Bar recipe from my Food & Wine magazine again using some of the baking goodies I had in my cupboard.  I really wanted to make it look festive so I swapped out the plain chocolate chips for rainbow chips in red, white and green, added a layer of miniature marshmallows and a layer of graham crumbs.

So what I did was crush some Honey Maid graham crackers and mix it with some melted butter.  I pressed the crumb mixture into an even layer in a parchment-lined 13×9-inch pan.  I topped it with an even layer of miniature marshmallows and then topped it with the cookie bar batter.  Voila!  A golden, ooey gooey cookie bar dessert!  I honestly just wanted to play around with the miniature marshmallows to see how it would turn out.  They completely melted into a gooey caramelized layer making them super fun to eat.  Keep in mind that this was just a fun experiment on my part, if we want to actually see a distinct layer of white marshmallows, we’ll have to tinker with the recipe.  Try them out and see how you like them!

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Recipe for Holiday Marshmallow-Rainbow Chip Cookie Bars (adapted from Chocolate-Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars recipe from March 2011 issue of Food & Wine magazine).  

Makes 12 big squares or 24 smaller rectangular bars.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened, divided (1-1/4 sticks or 10 tablespoons)
  • 2 cups graham crumbs (if you are crushing graham crackers from scratch, it’ll take about 28 crackers)
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for whole wheat pastry flour but I didn’t have any and also didn’t feel like buying any so I just used regular all-purpose flour!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rainbow chocolate chips (*Deb’s Note: I used a holiday mix of red, white and green.  The original recipe called for semisweet chocolate chips)

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350°F.  Line the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons) for later use; melt remaining butter.  Mix graham crumbs with melted butter.  Press graham crumb mixture evenly onto bottom of prepared pan.  Top with miniature marshmallows.
  • Beat the reserved butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.  In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt; beat the dry ingredients into the wet mixture at low speed.  Gently fold in the rainbow chips until combined (*Deb’s Note: I just mixed the chips in with my hands so the dough wouldn’t be overmixed)
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer over the marshmallows.  Bake 16-18 min. or until lightly browned and toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 min.  Using parchment paper “handles”, lift out and cut into squares or bars.

The 2nd Time’s the Charm – Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies & Holiday Cookie Baking Fun

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I have eaten an absurd amount of cookies this past week.  One of my vendors gave me a gorgeous jar stuffed with 6 different kinds of homemade cookies (chocolate crackles, shortbread, cranberry biscotti, Italian walnut cookies, iced snowflake sugar cookies and adorable chocolate chip minis) last Wednesday, one of my coworkers happily fed me a smiling gingerbread man shortbread sandwich cookie filled with cream cheese candy cane frosting for dessert during lunch today, and I have eaten at least half a dozen of my own cookies between Sunday afternoon and today.  I’m surprised I haven’t turned INTO a cookie!

The smell of cookies is just intoxicating though and truly one of the happiest, yummiest things to have in your home.  Cookies have always given me a run for my money since I started to seriously bake in 2011 (as you will soon read below), working out only half the time and either burning or tasting blah the other half.  But I love cookies to pieces (eating, baking, photographing and scrapbooking about them) and there’s nothing like the sound of cracking eggs and a whirring mixer, the smell of chocolate, the feeling of cookie dough delicious enough to eat all on its own between your hands and the feeling of mastering a cookie recipe and being rewarded with fresh cookies that are perfect and tasty to boot!

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We are knee-deep into the holiday baking blitz and this is the first of hopefully a handful of new recipes that I’ll be posting in the next little while.  What I have for all of you today: CHOCOLATE SNICKERDOODLES!  A classic cookie (snickerdoodle = cinnamon sugar cookie) made that more more awesome with the addition of chocolate!  While the recipe isn’t exactly brand new (it’s from Food & Wine’s November 2011 issue), it’s a recipe that definitely deserves to be kept in the holiday cookie recipe vault.  It’s gorgeous, it’s delicious and best of all, it uses the most basic of ingredients.  No need to schlep out into the snow to pick up some hard-to-find, expensive ingredient that you’ll only end up using once.  I was so grateful for this when the cookies didn’t work out for me the first time 2 weekends ago.

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I don’t know what it is about my oven.  I can bake cake.  I can bake quick breads.  I can bake muffins and bars and squares without so much as a lick of trouble.  But cookies?  It’s like my oven has a freakin’ mind of its own.  Half the time my cookies work and half the time they don’t and I’m constantly having to course correct as I go.  Which in and of itself is fine!  Baking and cooking are learning experiences and you won’t become a better baker or cook unless you flub up and learn from your mistakes.

But!  It’s so frustrating for me when it doesn’t work because I don’t get to bake all the time.  The whole point is for me to take photos and share recipes that I’ve tried with you all and to post about them, which completely eliminates workdays and weeknights and weekend nights (too dark to take photos).  Add to that the days when I’m out and about gathering content for Ate by Ate and not actually at home.  So my window of time is limited and when a recipe doesn’t work, I have to wait a whole week just to be able to try it out again.  Which I did for this one because I refused to admit defeat and I refused to believe that the recipe was bad.

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What happened the first time was that the bottoms of the cookies burned.  To a crisp.  Black as hockey pucks burnt.  My mom had to frantically shut the oven off earlier than the stated bake time so smoke wouldn’t start billowing out for real.  And I stood there looking at them completely befuddled because I had followed the recipe to a tee.  My heart sunk.  I had promised my dad and brother chocolate cookies and now I had to tell them that they had burned and that they’d have to wait a week before I could try again.  We sadly chucked them all in the green bin garbage and while I sat at the dinner table fuming, I thought about how I was going to change the recipe to make it work: lower the temperature, decrease bake time, and double pan my baking sheet.

The result one week later?  PERFECT Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies!  Score one for team Cookie Bitch.

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Recipe for Chocolate Snickerdoodles (taken from November 2011 issue of Food & Wine magazine)

Makes 36 small cookies or 24 medium cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons), softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar, divided (*Deb’s Note: you really don’t need this much, 1-1/4 cups is enough)
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted, cooled (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t have unsweetened so I just used Baker’s Bittersweet)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

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Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (*Deb’s Note: to make this recipe work for me, I lowered it to 375°F the first time since I knew my oven ran hot.  When that still didn’t work, I lowered it to 350°F for the 2nd time)
  • In a bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • In another bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with 1 cup of the sugar until creamy (*Deb’s Note: seriously, beat the heck out of it.  Don’t stop beating until it’s literally almost white).  Add the melted chocolate and the egg and beat until smooth.  (*Deb’s Note: because it’s winter and it’s cold, I found it was better to melt the chocolate after creaming the butter and sugar and just stirring until slightly cooled.  I melted it before creaming the butter and sugar the first time and by the time I was ready to use it, it had hardened again).  Beat in the dry ingredients until incorporated.
  • In a shallow bowl, mix the remaining sugar with the cinnamon.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar.  Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets and flatten to 2-inch rounds (*Deb’s Note: I did this the first time and didn’t like the way they turned out so what I did the 2nd time was roll them into balls, place them on the baking sheet, flatten them with my palm, THEN dip one side in the cinnamon sugar, placing them back on the baking sheets with the sugar side facing up.  I found that rolling them and then flattening them removed some of the sugar as it stuck to my palm and just made a mess out of the baking sheets)
  • Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and cracked (*Deb’s Note: I decreased the bake time for mine by a lot.  Mine were perfect and done in 8 minutes).  Transfer to racks and let cool.

Happy First Day of Fall! Whipping Up a Batch of Butterscotch Pecan Cookie Bars

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Happy first day of fall, everyone!  Well, for those of you who enjoy four seasons that is.  The tree leaves have been changing to reds and oranges, it’s chillier, I’ve started shopping for new sweaters (my selection of cardigans is rather sad), and my craving for fall comfort food is just getting started.  So, how did I celebrate the first day of fall, my favourite season?  By sleeping in (I can’t even remember the last time I slept in until 10:45) and then hauling out my baking bags of goodies and electric mixer for some good old fashioned fall baking!  I’m already thinking well ahead into the holiday season but before I got too ahead of myself, I thought it would be nice to bake another batch of cookie bars and what better way to ring in the new season with a batch of yummy butterscotch pecan cookie bars? 

I’ve been so inspired by fall food that I’ve been doing a ton of research on restaurant items around the city including searches for apple menu items (both sweet and savoury), pumpkin, butternut squash, and pecan.  I think I’m covered on the pumpkin and butternut squash for the time being, but I’m still searching high and low for some standout pecan dishes.  Pecan pie is wonderful and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some, but aside from that, all I’m really finding is salads with candied pecans and while that’s nice, it’s hardly what I’d consider out of the ordinary, you know?  I’m going to keep digging around, but in the meantime, here’s some fab butterscotch pecan cookie bars to celebrate our first taste of fall!

Recipe for Butterscotch Pecan Cookie Bars (adapted from Chocolate-Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars recipe from March 2011 issue of Food & Wine magazine).  

Makes 12 big squares or 24 smaller rectangular bars.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1/2 a stick)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for whole wheat pastry flour but I didn’t have any and also didn’t feel like buying any so I just used regular all-purpose flour!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for semisweet chocolate chips)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for about 8 minutes until golden.  Chop the pecans and let cool.  (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t toast my pecans and went straight to coarsely chopping them as they were.  It’s entirely up to you if you want them toasty or not!)
  • In the bowl of a standing electric mixer (*Deb’s Note: I used a hand-held electric mixer and a plain old mixing bowl), beat the butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.  In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt; beat the dry ingredients into the wet mixture at low speed.  Add the butterscotch chips (or chocolate chips if you’re following the original recipe) and pecans; beat just until incorporated (*Deb Note: I didn’t use my mixer for this step, I just mixed it all with my hands).
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned and nearly set in the center (*Deb’s Note: I baked mine for 18 minutes).  Let cool completely.  Using parchment paper “handles”, lift out and cut into squares or bars.

I sprinkled mine with cinnamon just before I popped the baking pan into the oven because I felt like it, but you could also drizzle some melted white chocolate over top after they’ve finished baking and cooled to jazz things up.  These would so good with some vanilla ice cream too!  For next time though, I would adjust the bake time.  I know the original recipe called for a 20 minute bake time, but I never follow it to a tee because my oven runs hot so I normally knock 2 minutes off.  I would even do for around 16 minutes the next time, just so they can be a little gooeier on the insides and a little more chewy.  I loved using the butterscotch chips though because the squares tasted like a cross between rich caramel and butterscotch brittle.

*****

Recipe adpated from Food & Wine magazine.  “Dessert Redux: Chef Recipes Made Easy”.  Food & Wine March 2011: 86.

Raising the Baking Bar – New Recipes, New Loves & *NEW* Cranberry Chocolcate Pecan Oat Squares!

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I’m on cloud nine.  I just had one of the best baking experiences EVER over the weekend and I’m so excited to share the goods with you all!  Ate by Ate has been starving for some baking love for a few months now and while I’ve been collecting recipes and thinking of new ideas, I haven’t put on oven mitts in goodness knows how long.  And if I have, it’s only been to open and shut my beloved George Foreman grill!  It feels SO good to bake.  I’ve missed it and even though it’s really only been a few months, it feels like an eternity to me.  And it felt so fabulous trying something new! 

Everyone knows I love cookies and cupcakes, but for the first time in my life, I took a crack at baking squares and bars!  It sounds ridiculous, I know.  “You’ve never made brownies?!  You’ve never used a 9×13 pan?!”  Sad, but true.  But there’s a first time for many things in life and this is mine.  I used my brand new 9×13 pan to make cranberry chocolate pecan oat bars and squares and they turned out amazing! 

I got the recipe from Kraft Foods ‘What’s Cooking’ magazine (Festive 2007) and I fell in love with the recipe the second I saw it.  And for those of you who might be unfamiliar with Kraft’s magazine, ‘What’s Cooking’ is a quarterly publication available through subscription only.  Not to fret though because all of these magazine recipes are also available online on their website at kraftcanada.com.  There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of recipes of all kinds on their website (dinner ideas, sandwiches, desserts, pasta, meats, barbeque, you name it!) so if you’re interested in online recipe surfing, that’s your way to go.  But you know me – hard copy rules my heart!  

After making these, I am so in love with making bars and squares.  They are so incredibly easy to make and they’re almost like one of my favourite cookies, cranberry white & dark chocolate chip cookies, only in square form!  Beware if you’re allergic to nuts though; these have pecans in them so if you omit them you can substitute them with different dried fruit.  Or, you know, some more chocolate!  

Recipe for Chocolate, Cranberry & Oat Bars (makes 32 squares or 16 bars):

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (*Deb’s Note: I actually omitted the orange juice from the recipe because I ran out of it.  My brother, um, kind of drank it all.  So I didn’t use it!)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 tsp. Magic Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (*Deb’s Note: I used butter because I prefer it over margarine and the squares turned out fabulous, so use whatever you feel most comfortable with.  3/4 cup butter equals 1-1/2 sticks of butter, just for reference.  And make sure it’s at room temperature!)
  • 1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine cranberries and orange juice in microwaveable bowl.  Microwave on HIGH 30 sec.  Let stand 10 minutes.  (*Deb’s Note: remember, I didn’t use orange juice so if you find yourself in my shoes, just measure out the cranberries and put them aside for later).
  • Meanwhile, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt; set aside.  Beat margarine and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  (*Deb’s Note: I used a handheld mixer and I also used butter as opposed to margarine).
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in cranberries (and orange juice if you’re using), chocoate and pecans.
  • Spread dough firmly into 9×13-inch baking pan sprayed with cooking cooking spray (*Deb’s Note: I lined my baking pan with parchment paper and had “handles” hanging off the sides so it would be easy to lift out the giant baked bar after cooling).
  • Bake 20 to 22 min. or until centre is set.  Cool completely on wire rack before cutting to serve (*Deb’s Note: mine took 21 minutes and I left mine to cool for an hour before cutting.  Cooling is absolutely necessary because it will literally crumble if you try to take it out too soon).

*****

Recipe taken from Kraft Foods Canada ‘What’s Cooking’ magazine, Festive 2007, page 23.