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).

*****

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

White Chocolate Heaven – Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip Viking Cookies Hot Out of the Oven

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One of my weaknesses is white chocolate.  I remember how ecstatic I was as a kid when I went over to a family friend’s house and saw white chocolate chunks in a candy bowl in their living room and how squealy I was when my friend gave me homemade white chocolate almond bark for Christmas this past holiday.  I’ve had many a birthday cake with white chocolate shavings on top, and I’ve never turned down a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie or a Hershey’s cookies ‘n’ creme bar.  It’s any wonder why I haven’t gobbled up the white chocolate cupcake at Short & Sweet Cupcakes yet given my love for the decadent stuff.  Anyway, I picked up some white chocolate chips awhile ago with the intention of creating and testing out my own original cupcake recipe but because I hadn’t finished tweaking measurements for it, I opted to use them to bake cookies for the time being instead!

This time around I chose a cookie recipe from Joanne Fluke’s Carrot Cake Murder, which was actually the first book from the murder mystery series I purchased nearly two years ago.  The recipe worked out perfectly with what I had on hand.  I already had white chocolate chips in my baking bag and I had oatmeal oats left over from the cranberry oatmeal crunch cookies I baked last month.  I LOVE these cookies so much!  These cookies have such a warm, creamy sweet flavour to them and I’m so happy they turned out well as I halved the recipe.  I adore the crackling on top and really, I would recommend this recipe to anyone who needs a simple, uncomplicated cookie recipe that is still decadent with that “wow” factor.  I ate 3 yesterday and another 2 today 😀  Why the cookies are called Viking cookies I’m not entirely sure though.  Your guess is as good as mine!

Recipe for Viking Cookies (Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip, yields 10 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups butter (4 sticks, melted)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (nutmeg will also work)
  • 4 ⅟₂cups flour (**Deb’s note: I used regular all-purpose white flour)
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips (make sure you use real white chocolate chips with cocoa listed as an ingredient, not vanilla chips.  If you can’t find chips, you can chop a block of white chocolate into chip-sized pieces)
  • 3 cups rolled oats (uncooked oatmeal)

Directions:

  • Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl, or on the stove in a small saucepan.  (**Deb’s note: I microwaved my 2 sticks of butter in a bowl for 1 minute on high).  
  • When the butter is cool, mix in the white sugar and the brown sugar.
  • Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, vanilla, and spices.  Make sure it’s all mixed in thoroughly.
  • Add the flour in half-cup increments, mixing after each addition.  Then add the white chocolate chips (or pieces of white chocolate if you chopped up a block) and stir thoroughly.
  • Add the oatmeal and mix.  The dough will be quite stiff.
  • Take the cookie dough in your hands and roll the dough into 1-inch balls (or however big or small you’d like depending on how big you want your cookies) and place them on a greased cookie sheet or on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Flatten the cookies with the back of a spatula or with the palm of your hand.  You don’t need to smush them all the way down so they look like pancakes, just one squish will do.
  • Bake at 350°F for 11 to 13 minutes or until they’re an attractive golden brown (**Deb’s note: mine took 11 minutes).
  • Cool the cookies for 1 to 2 minutes on the cookie sheets and then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

*****

Recipe taken from Joanne Fluke’s Carrot Cake Murder.  New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2008.  Photographs taken by me.  The recipe can be found on page 10.

OMG, Marshmallows! Chocolatey, Ooey Gooey Rocky Road Cupcakes

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Who doesn’t get giddy over marshmallows, especially mini ones??  They’re adorable and really, marshmallows bring back a lot of childhood (and even adult!) memories for a lot of people, including myself.  Memories of watching them float in a mug of warm hot chocolate, roasting them over a fire and letting the toasty, ooey gooeyness melt in your mouth, using them to make Rice Krispy square treats, playing Chubby Bunny with them (oh man are there ever hilarious memories of this!  haha!), and just plain popping the white pillowy squishies in your mouth.  Those are reasons why marshmallows kick serious ass and why they continue to tug on our heartstrings and our tastebuds. 

And they’re irresistible in these chocolatey Rocky Road cupcakes.  The white chocolate and marshmallows make the chocolate cake super moist and melty, mmmm.  My apologies for the lack of frosting again; family is weird and does not like it.  That however did not stop me from topping mine with chocolate chip and marshmallow goodies.  Enjoy! 😀

Ingredients (Makes 12 cupcakes)

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons milk (*I used 1% milk)
  • 1 oz. white chocolate chips (or 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds or brazil nuts (*I didn’t use them in mine, but it’s up to you!)

Frosting to Decorate

  • 3 ⅟₂oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (approx. 100 grams)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds or brazil nuts
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • mini marshmallows

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, then line cupcake/muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture and fold in.  Stir in the milk, followed by the white chocolate chips, marshmallows, and if using, nuts.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the cups and bake for about 18 minutes until risen and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. For the frosting/topping: put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir until smooth and creamy, then let cool for about 30 minutes until thick and glossy.
  5. Spread the chocolate mixture over the cupcakes and sprinkles with nuts, chocolate chips, and marshmallows.

*****

Recipe from Cupcakes by Susannah Blake, 2007.  Photographs taken by me.

Love Potion #31

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Pft, like we need a scientific concoction to convince us to love ice cream, right?  😀  I’ve had a ton of fun skipping around town to different gelato places and ice cream pop shops throughout the years and since I haven’t posted any ice cream photos on the blog so far, I’m starting a new series: Scream for Ice Cream!  I’ll be posting everything from frozen yogurt to gelato to sundaes in here, so along with cupcakes and cookies, a little something else to sweeten the tooth!  And today’s special: Love Potion #31 ice cream from Baskin Robbins!  White chocolate ice cream swirled with raspberries and chocolate chip chunks.  Not that I’ve ever met an ice cream that I didn’t love, but this one is especially yummy and decadent ❤ 

*****

Photos taken at Scarborough Town Centre.