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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The Cookie & Baking Scrapbook Project – Sparkles & Crushed Oreos for Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Scrapbooking materials used: Fruit punch pink cardstock (Choco-Mod Patterns by Stemma); teal cardstock (Best Occasions); sky blue cardstock (Recollections); “Sugar” adhesive embellishment (Sweet Stack by DCWV), cooking and baking stickers (Sticko); cookie embellishments (handmade); alphabet stickers (Choco-Mod Patterns by Stemma); sparkly pink, blue, and lime green polka dotted ribbon (Celebrate It by Michaels); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft).

Banana Buttons and Baking With Love – Squeaking Out the Last Layout for National Scrapbooking Month

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Scrapbooking materials used: powder blue, sky blue, pale yellow, buttercup yellow, cappuccino, and chocolate brown cardstock (Recollections); blue and brown patterned paper and green, brown, pale blue and pink circles patterned paper (Choco Mod scrap pad kit and stack by Stemma); baking stickers and embellishments (Jolee’s); chocolate chip cookie embellishments (handmade); sparkly banana button (De Serres art store); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); medium and small scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft); black fine point Sharpie pen.

Baking From the Pantry – Dried Apricots, Pecans, and White Chocolate for Nutty Apricots & Cream Cookies

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I did something a little bad today.  I bought two new cookie and cupcake magazine cookbooks because they were on mega sale and because only a fool would pass up a sale as good as the one I stumbled on today.  “Bad?  What’s so bad?” you ask.  “Sales are great, you love to bake, and two more magazines of recipes doesn’t sound so terrible” you say.  But it is.  Because I already have a stack of food magazines and paper inspiration almost up to knees.  I know I’m short, but the stack is UP TO MY KNEES.  I am an uncontrollable cookie monster!  If I’m not reading cookbooks and magazines and thinking about future scrapbook layouts, I’m thinking about the next batch of cookies I want to bake and creating new spin-off recipes in my head.  I’ve been putting stars next to all the ones I want to try in my Hannah Swensen foodie murder mysteries and I’m even mulling over different flavours of cookie sandwiches with frostings and fillings.  At this point, I’m surprised I’m not swimming in cookies and cake. 

I recently baked new cookies for my grandparents again (new ones for my grandpa to take with him during his dialysis trips and cookies for my grandma’s birthday!) and I am so happy the cookies make them happy because it totally and completely justifies the incessant urge to bake.  At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before my house looks like the one in Hansel & Gretel.  Only instead of the evil woman, I’m the cookie princess who wishes I could share my treats with the world instead of just photos.  Until I have that dream cookie bakery of mine though, the internet will have to do.  I have two new batches of cookies for you all and this is the first of the two, coming straight from my pantry!

We always have some form of dried fruit in our house now.  Ever since my mum and I started eating yogurt, cereal, and fruit and granola on a regular basis (and I do mean all three at once!), we’ve always had dried fruit and plenty of nuts on hand.  Dried apple rings, dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, you name it.  Baking straight out of my cupboards, I came up with this yummy combination: dried apricots with pecans and white chocolate to create nutty apricots and cream cookies!  I love dried apricots and I love using white chocolate and oatmeal in everything so I wanted to see how the all of them would work out in a cookie.  At first, I was only thinking of doing an apricots and cream one (kind of like peaches and cream), but then I realized we had way too many pecans and figured I would give them a shot too.

The cookies turned out fab!  Aside from making them bigger and using the drop method as oppose to the dough ball method, I wouldn’t change a thing.  The pecans give the cookies such an amazing crunch and aroma and the white chocolate and apricots cut through the slight taste of toasty savouriness from the pecans to keep them sweet.  The cookie experiment was a success!

Recipe for Nutty Apricots & Cream Cookies (yields 3-4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of dried apricots, chopped (measure after chopping) 
  • 1 ½ cups of pecans, chopped (measure after chopping)
  • 1 ½ cups of white chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls or spoonfuls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary (*Deb’s Note: I don’t have a standing mixer so I used a handheld).
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the chopped apricots and pecans, followed by the white chocolate chips.  Using a large spoon or your clean hands, fold in until evenly distributed. 
  • Spoon heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I rolled my cookie dough into golf ball size balls to create bon bon size cookies.  Use the drop method if you want them bigger and flatter.  As well, I placed 15 on each baking sheet).

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Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

The Winter Cookie Party, Part II – Lemon Coconut Almond Cookies and Why Cookie Baking Means So Much

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It’s a cookie party in the Ate by Ate kitchen!  You all know how much I love baking cookies (and how much I love eating them!), but these days, I love baking them even more than usual because it gives me a renewed sense of joy and purpose: I bake cookies to make my grandma and grandpa happy.  I’m lucky to still have my grandpa.  A number of years ago my grandpa had kidney failure and because of the nurses and doctors who saved him that day, he was given many more years of life.  And cookies!

Here’s the story: when I started baking a few years ago, I would bake extras for my grandparents when I knew I was seeing them that day.  I’d bake little tea muffins or cupcakes without frosting, put them in a tupperware container, and carry them with me in the car like a prized possession.  I eventually began baking cookies with a venegeance and little by little, muffins and cupcakes were squeezed out in favour of cookies.  And my grandparents loved them.

My grandpa loved them so much he ended up bringing one or two with him every time he went to the hospital for his dialysis appointments.  For anyone who has a family member, loved one, or friend who visits the hospital on a regular basis, you know just how draining it can be.  My cookies not only gave him the little sugar boost he needed after his appointments (which would make him feel a bit weak and tired afterward), but they also gave him a little part of me and my joy.  So now, I bake more cookies so my grandpa has something happy and yummy to enjoy during those dreary hospital visits.

This past weekend, I saw my grandma and grandpa for Chinese New Year and I gave them a fresh batch of new cookies to enjoy because I knew it would make them happy.  My grandpa pulled me aside and said to me, in Chinese, “when Debra is here, grandpa feels rich”.  On top of the happiness I feel when I bake, this is all the validation I need to keep doing what I’m doing.

Recipe for Lemon Coconut Almond Cookies (yields 4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon 
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded or desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by the egg yolk, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon juice, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the lemon zest, shredded coconut, and sliced almonds, folding them into the cookie dough mixture (*Deb’s Note: alternatively, you can roll your cookie dough balls in the coconut if you want after the next step).
  • Using your hands, grab handfuls of cookie dough and shape into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
  • Place cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I placed 15 on each baking sheet, but it all depends on how big your want you cookies.  If you roll them into bigger balls, only place 12 on each sheet.  Mine took about 14 minutes in the oven).

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Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

Dark Brown Sugar, Meet Butterscotch – Butterscotch Brittles and a Winter Cookie Party, Part I

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Remember the butterscotch chip cookies I baked during the holidays in December?  The ones I photographed with cute snowmen in the background and the ones my mum went all cookie crazy over because she admitted she had a weakness for butterscotch?  Okay, so imagine those cookies, but crunchier in texture, richer in flavour and aroma, with more beautiful crackling, and just as delicious if not more!  It was cookie baking day in my house on Saturday and I was prepared to bake two kinds of cookies: another batch of butterscotch chip and a new lemon coconut almond cookie I was trying out.

I was so excited to bake cookies (like there’s ever a time when I’m not!) I literally went out during a snowstorm to buy extra butterscotch chips because another store I had visited earlier in the week had run out.  My mum thought I was crazy.  I call it determined.  And maybe a little stubborn.  But if the cookies we baked were any indication, walking around town with snowflakes hitting me in the eye was worth it.

I couldn’t believe how fabulous these cookies turned out!  You must be thinking though, “why were you surprised?  You baked these cookies before!”  That is true.  But there’s an important difference between these cookies and the ones I baked during Christmas: these ones have dark brown sugar in them, not light or golden.  The darker the sugar, the more molasses it has in it and you can clearly see and taste the difference.  I knew the amount of molasses in brown sugar would make a difference in baking, I just didn’t know how obvious the difference would be.

The ones I baked in December were chewier and lighter in colour while the ones I baked on Saturday turned out incredibly golden, like my cookies had been sunbathing on their parchment paper beach towels on the cookie sheet beach.  Not only was there a difference in appearance (check out the crackling!), but there was also a change in texture and taste.  These cookies were crunchier and the flavour was so incredibly rich!  It was like a cross between rich butterscotch fudge and brittle.  Hence, butterscotch brittles!

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The recipe for the butterscotch chip cookies can be found here.  For chewier, lighter cookies, follow the recipe as is.  For cookies like the ones I showed you all here, substitute the brown sugar with dark brown sugar.