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.
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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.

Cracking My Mum’s Sweet Tooth Code – Holiday Baking and Soft, Rich Butterscotch Chip Cookies!

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The Christmas cookie baking fun isn’t over just yet – I have another great batch of cookies for you all today!  I really hope all of you liked the Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies I posted yesterday because I’ve certainly enjoyed eating them!  I’ve never done anything with peppermint or candy canes before so I thought it was the perfect way of doing something Christmasy and something new, and I’m really happy they turned out yummy – and pretty!  Using the same cookie batter base, I made another kind of Christmas cookie over the holidays: butterscotch chip cookies. 

I made these butterscotch cookies especially for my mum because, lo and behold, I finally cracked my mum’s sweet code this month!  Let me explain: out of everyone in my family, I have the sweetest teeth.  Everyone enjoys dessert, but not quite as much as I do.  And with my mum, it’s been difficult to pin down that one sweet something-something that really makes those taste buds prance and dance.  With my dad and brother, it’s easy.  They love chocolate, no questions asked.  And me?  My sweet teeth could live off of lemon, coconut, and vanilla.  But aside from coffee, there’s never been anything that has necessarily made my mum squeal.  Then I found out this past month that she adores butterscotch!  I felt kind of foolish for not knowing this.  After all, I have been her daughter for 26 years now.  But hey, I’ll take it!  She loves the aroma, and both her and my brother love the smooth creaminess of butterscotch sauce and the rich flavour of butterscotch chips.

Recipe for Butterscotch Chip Cookies (yields 3 to 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 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
  • 1 ¾ cups butterscotch chips, plus 3 to 4 dozen more for adorning the tops of cookies  

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.  My oven runs hot so I don’t use the bottom rack.  However, depending on how your oven is, you could definitely line 3 baking sheets and do them all in one shot)
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt using a large spoon.
  • 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.
  • Slowly beat in the dry ingredient mixture, then fold the 1¾ cups of butterscotch chips into the batter. (*Deb’s Note: I like getting my hands working in the dough, so I actually just dumped all the butterscotch chips in and mixed them in using my hands.  You could use a large spoon though if you don’t prefer this method).
  • Roll mounds of cookie dough into balls, about golf ball size.  Place the cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 15 balls to a sheet.  Take the 3 to 4 dozen butterscotch chips and press one butterscotch chip onto the top of each cookie dough ball.  Don’t press so hard the chip sinks in or the dough ball starts to crack, but put just enough pressure on it so that it stays in place.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: Mine took 14 minutes in the oven).

These cookies are incredibly simple and they’re super delicious!  They’re soft, chewy, and the butterscotch flavour comes out full force.  I’m so excited to expand on this recipe and make it into a butterscotch almond cookie!  That I will probably do in the new year, so look forward to that and many more cookies to come!

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