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.
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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.

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

Indulging My Inner Bake Sale Fanatic! Soft, Chewy Cranberry Cookies With White & Semisweet Chocolate Chips

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It feels like forever since I last baked cookies!  I know it’s only been about two and a half months, but I have a constant baking itch that makes it seem like eons between batches.  I go through phases where I’ll bake cookies five times in a row, jump over to muffins, daydream about cake pop flavours and cupcake frosting, and then come back to my beloved cookies.  October was filled with apple baked goods and fall flavours and it was so much fun baking cute little tea muffins stuffed with juicy apples.  I’m sad that I didn’t get any pumpkin baking in, but November is still young so I’m crossing my fingers that I can still get some pumpkin baking in alongside all the holiday goodie recipes dancing in my head.

I got this recipe from my November issue of Food & Wine magazine and I was ecstatic to find holiday cookie recipes in their article “How Baking Can Change the World”, which highlights the fusion of bake sales and charitable causes.  I have cookie cookbooks, yes, but it’s always exciting to find random cookie recipes in magazines since they don’t always have them.  I’m crazy about bake sales and I go crazy for cookie articles and recipes in food magazines because there’s so much inspiration to gain from them: ways to package them, pretty decorative paper packaging, and all the different types of cookies you can try your hand at baking!  Bake sales have always been special to me because along with craft and artisan sales, I really enjoy supporting independent businesses and homemade/handmade things. 

I’ve been thinking more and more about holiday cookie exchanges and I love the idea of cookie exchanges in general.  Swapping cookies is a heck of a lot easier than trading cake!  And sure, many of us are cupcake lovers, but not everyone has the fancy tools and supplies to make frostings and decorations.  Cookies can be simple in composition and taste amazing though, so it’s win-win.  Baking batches of cookies to trade with your friends?  FUN!  Coming home with a dozen different cookies to nosh on?  EVEN MORE FUN!  I’ve never actually done a holiday cookie exchange before but I really want to, so we’ll see if anything pans out over the next and a half during the holdiays! 

Given how the holidays are nipping at our heels, I felt that baking with tart cranberries would be the perfect way to straddle both the fall and upcoming winter seasons.  I love cranberries, both fresh ones and dried ones.  I know some people find cranberries way too fish-face sour, but I love cranberries and cranberry juice (and I do mean juice, not the oversweetened cocktail variety!) and I take advantage of cranberry juices and flavoured things whenever I can.  If you love chocolate chips and fruity flavours, you have to try this recipe!  These cookies are so super soft and chewy and you get such a such a beautiful flavour contrast between the cranberries and the chocolate.  The tartness of the cranberries and the rich sweetness of the chocolate don’t overpower each other so you get the best of both worlds.  They are delicious!

Recipe for Dried Cranberry and Chocolate Cookies from Food & Wine magazine (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 light 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
  • 1½ cups semisweet or white chocolate chips (*Deb’s Note: I used both!) 
  • 1½ cups dried cranberries

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: My batch of cookie dough made 39 cookies so I actually ended up reusing one of the two baking sheets to bake the extras after the first batch came out of the oven).
  • 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 chocolate chips and cranberries and beat until incorporated (*Deb’s Note: I don’t prefer beating chocolate chips and dried fruit, so I used a large spoon to fold everything in instead).
  • Spoon heaping teaspoons of the dough 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 rolled my cookie dough into balls a little smaller than golf ball size and placed 15 on each baking sheet.  Mine took about 14 minutes in the oven).

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