Octopus Cookies

Starbucks has these adorable octopus cut-out sugar cookies right now. I posted a picture of one on Facebook a few weeks back, and a friend of mine commented that I should make them. And so, I did.

I have a set of beach/sea life cookie cutters, and they just happen to include an octopus. The next time I make these, I may pipe their little eyes further down on their heads so they look more like real octopuses (much to my surprise, the plural of octopus is not octopi), but I think these turned out really well. I used a combination of piping/hand frosting for these, as it’s much easier to pipe the frosting onto the tentacles and up onto the body than it is to frost the whole cookie by hand.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • dash of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Blue food coloring
  • Green food coloring
  • Black food coloring

 

Preparation

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy; add eggs and beat well.

Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour.

Note: if your dough is too crumbly, you can add just a bit of water or another ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.

Divide dough in three portions and knead each just slightly until dough sticks together.  Form each portion into a disc and wrap in plastic.

Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut with an octopus cookie cutter, placing cookies a few inches apart on your baking sheets; I fit 6 cookies on each sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden.

Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Combine shortening, egg whites, salt, and one cup powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium, then high, and beat for one minute.

Add additional cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for one minute.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat on high speed for one or two minutes, until very well combined.

Check the frosting’s texture; it should be like very, very soft peanut butter and very easily spreadable.  If necessary, add one to two teaspoons of water to thin the frosting and beat well to combine.

Reserve a small portion (about 1/4 cup) of white frosting for eyes and suction cups; set aside.

Reserve a very small portion (just a few tablespoons) of frosting for pupils; tint black and set aside.

Tint remaining frosting using blue and green food coloring for a blue/green shade. Fit a large piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe frosting onto each cookie, filling in the tentacles first and piping up onto the rest of the body; use a small offset spatula to spread the frosting.

Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and fill with white frosting. Pipe on eyes, then pipe suction cups on tentacles.

Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and fill with black frosting. Pipe on pupils.

Allow frosting to set before storing; store cookies in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature for up to 3 days. The eyes and suction cups may flatten a bit, but that’s okay.

Makes about 36.

Dark Chocolate Crumb Bars

Sometimes recipes work out exactly how you plan. Sometimes…not so much. Such was the experience with these dark chocolate crumb bars, a recipe I got from the back of a bag of dark chocolate chips. I expected the middle layer, a combination of dark chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk, to bubble up and allow the top layer to bake into it, securing the crumbs, dark chocolate chips, and chopped almonds. Alas.

Much of the crumb topping fell off when I cut the bars, so if I make them again, I’ll either add a bit more crumb mixture to the bottom crust or press the top layer into the chocolate layer with the back of a spoon to help it hold. I adapted the recipe to include unsalted almonds instead of walnuts, but I suspect walnuts or pecans would be good as well.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate chips, divided
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup whole almonds, chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter for 1-2 minutes, until creamy. Add flour, sugar, and salt and beat until crumbly. With floured fingers, press 2 cups of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare chocolate layer. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate chips melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla; pour over hot crust.

Stir remaining chocolate chips and chopped almonds into remaining crust mixture and sprinkle over chocolate layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes; remove from oven and cool completely. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 24 bars.

Almond Joyful Cookies

The folks at King Arthur Flour came up with this wonderful take on the Almond Joy candy bar, an interesting blend of an almond coconut cookie, rich chocolate icing, and chopped toasted almonds. I suspect that the cookie base would also be delicious with an almond drizzle icing for those of us who can’t have chocolate, so I’ll have to try that next time.

While the original recipe was supposed to yield 39 cookies, my batch made about 28, as I used a 2-inch cookie scoop. I also adjusted the recipe slightly to use 1/2 cup of chopped toasted almonds instead of a full cup, which was more than enough.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract (or flavor)
  • 1/4 cup almond paste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2 1/3 cups flour

For the icing

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For the topping

  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted and chopped*

*To toast almonds, place them on a rimmed baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes; almonds will become golden brown and fragrant when done. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, salt, almond extract, coconut extract, and almond paste; batter will be slightly lumpy, but that’s okay. Add egg, beating until fairly smooth, then beat in coconut. Once coconut is incorporated, beat in flour.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto baking sheets and flatted with your fingers slightly.

Bake for 14-16 minutes, until the edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, combine chocolate chips, corn syrup, and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring well until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth.

Dip tops of cookies into icing, then top with chopped almonds. Allow icing to set before storing; store cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 28.

Raspberry Crumb Bars

A while back I made these amazing chocolate raspberry walnut bars, and ever since I’ve wanted to make a non-chocolate version. These bars, which I found at Cooking Classy, are a delicious treat for those of us who live chocolate-free lives.

What I really like about these bars is that you use raspberry jam, rather than fresh raspberries, for the filling, making these a year-round possibility. I suspect they’d be delicious with blackberry or apricot jam as well; I’ll have to give those a try sometime. I might also incorporate some chopped walnuts into the crumb mixture next time.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes and softened
  • 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with foil, extending foil over the sides. Lightly grease foil or spray with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, oats, and light brown sugar. Mix with a fork until completely combined.

Add butter and toss to coat the cubes, which will make it easier to rub into the dry ingredients. Rub the butter into the dry mixture with your hands to incorporate it very well; you’ll have a crumby texture, but it should stick together if you press it between your hands when it’s ready.

Place 2 cups of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing into an even layer. Spread jam on top, leaving about 1/4 inch border around the edges. Top with remaining crumb mixture and press it into the jam layer just slightly.

Bake for 34 minutes, until top is light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan; lift bars out of the pan by the foil, then cut into squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 16.

 

Butter Pecan Blondies

Blondies are easy to make and easy to customize. Start with a basic batter and pick flavors that you like for your add-ins, then stir it all up, pour it into a pan, and bake. Simple, low-maintenance, and delicious – three of my favorite things! Just remember to keep your stir-in portions under control; you don’t want to crowd your dough too much, and you can always sprinkle more of the add-ins on top for extra flavor and texture; that’s what I always do.

Blondies are also a wonderful option for those living chocolate-free lives like me. I’ve always been a huge fan of butterscotch, so I’ve been thinking about a butterscotch blondie for a while now. Then I remembered the amazing combination of butterscotch chips, toffee bits, and pecans from these butter pecan cookies I made a while back, and it seemed like a great idea for blondies, too. I’m pleased to say that they turned out very well, with excellent texture and flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butterscotch chips, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons toffee bits, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped pecans, divided

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan completely with foil and lightly spray with baking spray.

Reserve 2 tablespoons each of the butterscotch chips, toffee bits, and chopped pecans for sprinkling on top of your batter; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar; mix well to combine.

Add melted butter and stir to incorporate slightly; add eggs and vanilla extract and stir well to fully combine. The dough will be fairly dry, so you’ll want to use your hands to fully incorporate your ingredients.

Add 1/4 cups each of the butterscotch chips, toffee bits, and chopped pecans; stir very well, using your hands if necessary to fully incorporate the ingredients.

Press dough into the prepared pan, then sprinkle the top with the remaining chips/bits/nuts and press them into the dough.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then lift out by the foil and place on a wire rack; peel foil back slightly and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, remove foil entirely and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 24.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Filling

Today’s snickerdoodle sandwich cookies left me with about a cup and a half of vanilla cream filling, and I could think of nothing better to do with it than to pipe it into some dark chocolate cupcakes, Hostess-style. You remember the Hostess cupcake…dark chocolate cake, fluffy filling, waxy (in a good way) chocolate icing and that signature white loopy swirl. I actually preferred the orange version to the chocolate version, but both were quite a treat.

These cupcakes are a take on the classic store-bought version, minus the white loopy swirl (though I really want to do that next time). Mike proclaimed them better than the Hostess version, without intending any offense to the fine folks of Hostess, of course.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting. Make filling; reserve leftover portion for another use.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch plain tip with about 1 1/2 cups filling. Insert the tip into each cupcake, piping in filling until the top of the cupcake starts to puff up.

Prepare icing; using a teaspoon from your flatware, scoop about 1 teaspoon of filling onto each cupcake and quickly frost with a small offset spatula.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 15.

 

Glossy Chocolate Icing

If I could still eat chocolate, I’d make a batch of this and eat it with a spoon. Made with cocoa powder, this glossy chocolate icing is easy to prepare and makes a wonderful companion for a variety of treats. Today’s batch went onto these chocolate cupcakes with vanilla cream filling, pictured at left.

I’ve made this icing once before and it turned out a bit more drizzly then than it did today, but today’s consistency was much better for my cupcakes. Just be careful to work quickly, as it sets pretty fast. If you’re not able to spread it, add just a bit more milk to thin it slightly, about a half-teaspoon at a time. You can always add more if you need to, but remember that you can never take the liquid back out of an icing once it’s there.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in cocoa powder, then remove from heat.

Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk and stir well until you reach a very smooth consistency; it will become glossy once it’s done. Use immediately, as it sets very fast! Makes enough for about 16 cupcakes.