Joe Frogger Cookies

froggersJoe Frogger cookies have a long history, dating all the way back to 1700s  Massachusetts. According to various sources, Joseph and Lucretia Brown owned Black Joe’s Tavern, and Lucretia originally baked these treats in a skillet, so they were pancake-sized. Some say these cookies were called froggers because they were as large as the lily pads in the nearby pond, while others believed the batter looked like a frog when it hit the skillet. Whatever the reason, I wonder why they’re not called Lucretia Froggers, since she’s the one who invented them. The patriarchy, man. It’ll get you every time.

Regardless of why they’re called what they’re called, they are absolutely delicious. They’re quite large – I baked no more than five or six on one baking sheet at a time – and made with molasses, rum, and warm spices. Really, how can you go wrong with such amazing ingredients? The recipe below comes from my trusty King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, though the size in the original recipe is “somewhere in size between a table tennis ball and golf ball.” I just used my 2-inch scoop, and it worked really well.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum

Preparation

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt butter, brown sugar, molasses, and rum, stirring until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and stir to completely combine; the batter will be very thin, like cake batter, but will firm up once chilled. Chill the batter for about 1 hour, until firm enough to scoop – it will still be quite sticky.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough into prepared sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between them. Lightly spray your fingers with baking or cookie spray and press to flatten slightly; the cookie dough is very sticky, so it helps to grease your fingers.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until edges are set but centers still look a bit puffy. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks for several minutes; the cookies are very fragile when they’re first out of the oven. Once cookies are firm enough, remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. My recipe made 17 cookies, but the original was supposed to yield 16.

Dutch Apple Pie Squares

dutchappleconcoctionThere’s a pretty big difference between sliced apples and diced apples. Slicing means to cut, while dicing means to cut into small, uniform pieces. And if I’d read the King Arthur Flour Dutch Apple Pie Bar recipe correctly, I would have diced, rather than sliced, my Granny Smiths. Eh, live and learn.

The funny thing is that I thought I’d done something wrong when I poured my filling into my baking pan, but I went with it anyway. The good news is that Mike thinks this concoction is absolutely delicious, though the bad news is that it’s definitely not something I can slice into squares and send to work with him. Not that he’s upset about this; apple pie is one of Mike’s favorite things ever, and this is essentially a rectangular apple pie. Next time, I’ll dice my apples and see how it goes.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Granny Smith Apples, sliced*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the topping

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking tin with baking spray and set aside.

To make the crust, whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut cold butter into pieces and rub (or cut in with a pastry blender) into the flour mixture until the mix looks like coarse crumbs. Drizzle beaten egg over the top and toss with a fork to combine. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing to combine until the dough starts to clump together. If you take a handful and it sticks together, you’ve added enough water.

Roll out your dough to a rectangle, large enough to fit in your baking tin; I roll my crust between two sheets of parchment to make it easier to handle. Prick all over with a fork, then bake crust for 10-12 minutes, until just set.

In another large bowl, combine flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Add apples and toss to coat, then add vanilla extract and heavy cream, stirring to combine. To make the topping, combine flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir in melted butter, then vanilla and almond extract. Stir until fairly even crumbs form.

Pour filling over crust, then sprinkle with topping. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and cool in the tin; if you actually dice your apples you could slice this into squares for individual servings, but I’m just leaving mine in one rectangular slab and Mike will cut slices in whatever size he likes. I suspect this would be delicious when served warm, with some vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Caramel Pumpkin Cupcakes

caramel pumpkin cupcakesAmy Bakes in the ‘Burgh finally has a new kitchen! After about seven weeks of renovations, our new kitchen is complete. We have basically the same footprint, just with upgraded cabinets, countertops, and appliances, in a neutral color palette that makes me incredibly happy. And for the first time in 13 years, we have a dishwasher. I didn’t realize how much I missed having one until I got one back – it’s such a time saver.

My first bake in my new oven was actually a batch of chocolate chip cookies a few weeks ago, before everything was even finished. But these caramel pumpkin cupcakes were the first treats I baked in the fully finished kitchen, using the convection setting on my oven. Delicious and appropriate for the season, they were a huge hit at Mike’s office last week.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 – 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 3 tablespoons caramel sauce,* to taste

*I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping to save time. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well-combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about 2/3 full.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar all at once and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon caramel and beat, continuing to add additional caramel to taste. You may need a bit more powdered sugar if you go for three full tablespoons like I did.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Store at a cool room temperature for 2-3 days; these cupcakes are very tender and will get a bit sticky if they’re left out much longer.

Chambord Brownies

chambord browniesAmy Bakes in the ‘Burgh will be on hiatus for a few weeks while Amy’s Kitchen Gets Remodeled. Friends, this has been years in the making. Thirteen years, to be exact, when we first bought this house and I said “someday we’re going to redo this kitchen.” At last, someday has arrived.

As a last bit of baking before the Great Demolition Project begins this week (I cannot wait to swing a sledge hammer, let me tell you), I decided to bake these Chambord brownies. If you’re not familiar with Chambord, it’s a raspberry liqueuer that’s been made in France, and its bottle looks a bit like that orb thing kings and queens have to hold along with a scepter when they get crowned. It’s also delicious, though I don’t think the raspberry flavor was quite strong enough in these treats. I’m also not totally convinced about my decorating skills on these, as the chocolate drizzle against the pink looks a bit like animal print…and that is definitely not my jam.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 ml Chambord (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

For the Chambord icing

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 50 ml Chambord (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)

For the chocolate drizzle

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa
  • 2-3 teaspoons water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs, Chambord, and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add the Chambord, stirring to combine; you may need to add just a bit more powdered sugar if your mixture is too runny – you want a consistency that’s thicker than honey, but still pourable. Spread over brownies, covering the top completely. For the drizzle, stir together powdered sugar and cocoa, then add enough water to make a drizzling consistency. Place in a piping bag, snip the tip, and drizzle over the icing. Allow icings to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Oatmeal Bars with M&Ms

oatmeal mm barsOur kitchen remodel begins in 15 days. This weekend, in an effort to clear out our cabinets, I baked zucchini bread, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, brownies, and these oatmeal bars with miniature M&Ms.

Fun fact about this recipe: it was originally written for cookies, as a “make it mine” recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book. Wanting to save a bit of time, I decided to bake my adapted recipe, which uses peanut butter as part of the fat content and miniature M&Ms as the stir-in ingredient, as bars. Some cookies convert easily, but if you’re not experienced with this, check out this very useful post from King Arthur Baking for tips on how to figure out the right size pan and baking time.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups M&Ms miniature baking pieces

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Note: next time, I might not spray the foil and see what happens; the bottom of the bars were softer than I expected and I suspect the baking spray is the reason why.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat, then beat in flour and oats. Stir in miniature M&Ms.

Press dough into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, until top is light golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center  comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then lift the foil out and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars; store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.

French Toast Cookies

french toast cookiesOur kitchen remodel is three weeks away, and I’m trying to use up as many of my baking ingredients as possible so there will be less to pack away and store during construction. This week’s effort included maple sugar, so I scoured the internet for recipes and came up with a maple snickerdoodle, which tastes uncannily like French toast. Hence, French toast cookies.

This recipe comes from a place where they really know maple: the State of Vermont. While I chose to just bake my cookies without flattening them with the bottom of a glass as the original recipe stated, I can definitely see why you should – I felt like my cookies looked a bit like tiny potatoes. In any case, these were a big hit in Mike’s office today.

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 cups maple sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the coating: 

  • 1/3 cup maple sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preparation

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups maple sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat; add flour mixture and beat to form a smooth dough. Chill for about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir together 1/3 cup maple sugar and cinnamon for coating.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop generous portions of dough and roll into balls, then roll in coating. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 1-2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. 

Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 dozen, depending on how generous you are with your scoops of dough. 

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

pumpkin choc chip cakeWho bakes with pumpkin in July? A woman who is one month away from her kitchen remodel and trying to use up as many ingredients as possible so she doesn’t have to pack them away. Also a woman who hasn’t been very fond of July for many years and wishes it would pass quickly. Basically, me. I am the woman who bakes with pumpkin in July.

While I have some very dear friends who celebrate birthdays this month, July is a melancholy month for me. My dad passed away in July 16 years ago, and a few weeks ago Mike and I said goodbye to our beloved Millie, the best dog who ever lived. So today, as I look forward to fall, to cooler weather, to a complete kitchen, and hopefully, to a new four-legged friend, I present this pumpkin chocolate chip cake. It is beyond delicious, made even better by the abundance of chocolate chips. I hope Mike’s coworkers enjoy it.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar and oil until very well-combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing very well after each.

Stir in flour mixture and pumpkin alternatively, stirring until well-combined and smooth. Fold in chocolate chips, then spoon or pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes, then check with a cake tester or toothpick; continue baking for a few minutes at a time, checking frequently, until the cake tester comes out clean. My cake baked for about 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Flip out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Makes about 12-16 slices, depending on the size.

Patriotic Flower Cupcakes

patriotic floer cupcakesHappy Independence Day, Americans! I’m grateful to be an American, even though our country has astonishing problems yet to fully acknowledge, let alone solve. Today I’ve made some patriotic flower-themed cupcakes to celebrate, which will go to work with Mike on Tuesday. They’re a classic yellow cupcake with almond buttercream, a request from one of his colleagues.

One skill I acquired during quarantine was the ability to pipe buttercream flowers, and I used that skill with varying degrees of success for these cupcakes. I piped various blossoms and other shapes, but my favorites are actually the plain, sort of hydrangea-looking ones that I made with a medium closed star tip, like the red cupcake at the bottom center of the photo above.

Ingredients

For the yellow cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/3 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the almond buttercream

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Red, cornflower blue, and moss green gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line two muffin tins with paper liners; you’ll need 15.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for one minute. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined, then add egg and beat well. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beating until combined.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling about half-full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make almond buttercream, in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine.

To frost, divide your frosting into portions of red, blue, green, and white and tint to your desired shades. Use whatever tips you like to create your flowers; I used a medium closed star, small open star, petal tip, plain tip, and leaf tip.

Store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 15.

Under the Sea Cookies

under the sea cookiesAquarium-inspired baking continues with these under the sea treats. Mike’s coworkers actually asked if there would be treats this week, and indeed, there will. A variety of whales, octopuses, crabs, sand dollars, starfish, and sea life motifs that feature kelp, anemones, and jellyfish will join Mike in the office tomorrow.

These cookies took me forever to ice, but it was nice Zen time, which I greatly needed. Although my whales look a bit crusty (I suppose whales actually are a bit crusty?) and my sand dollars (not pictured here) left a bit to be desired, I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. I hope Mike’s coworkers enjoy them.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • Triple batch Zella’s icing
  • Royal blue, pale blue, teal, copper, brown, and moss green food coloring
  • Miniature chocolate chips (for eyes)

Preparation

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

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg 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 half and knead each just slightly until dough sticks together.  Form each half 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 parchment paper.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes; I used a crab, whale, star, octopus, and two round cutters (small to make sand dollars, large to make the sea life motifs). Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart; for the starfish, gently bend the tips of the star to make them more like a starfish.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden brown at the edges. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

To ice, divide the icing into six portions: royal blue, pale blue, copper, green, and brown. You’ll need two small plain tips for the white and brown icings, a small open star tip for the green, and a small closed star tip and plain tip for the copper.

For the crabs, use royal blue icing and add miniature chocolate chips for eyes. For the whales, use a base coating of pale blue, then add royal blue and swirl – don’t wait to long to add your coating of royal blue or your whales will turn out crusty like mine! Add a circle of white and a miniature chocolate chip for the whale’s eye. Combine the blue icing portions and add some teal for the octopuses, then pipe on suction cups with white and use miniature chocolate chips for the eyes. For the starfish, use copper and pipe on white details. For sand dollars, use white, then pipe on pale brown details (mine didn’t turn out as well, so I didn’t include a photo of them). For the large round cookies, frost the base with the remaining blue/teal icing, then pipe on kelp using a small star tip and the green frosting, add anemones using a closed star tip and the copper frosting, and add jellyfish or other sea life with a plain tip with the copper frosting. I realize now that I should have made my jellyfish white, but that’s okay. I can always make these again.

Allow icing to set before storing in between sheets of waxed paper. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sparkling Sea Life Cookies

sparking sea lifeMike and I visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore last weekend after a family party. I love an aquarium – the serene sharks and stingrays gliding through enormous tanks, the colorful tropical fish, the varieties of coral. I don’t scuba dive, but aquariums make me want to. Actually, I always just want to hop into the big tank and swim with the sharks, but I realize such behavior is both a) frowned upon and b) likely dangerous.

This weekend’s baking is inspired by our aquarium visit in these travel-friendly sparking sea creatures, which are basic sugar cookies in aquatic shapes covered in sparkling colored sugar. Easy to make and ship, these treats are on their way to Maryland for Maureen and Margo along with some books. Although the pink ones were supposed to be starfish, they didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped – but fortunately, they could be any kind of interesting aquatic plant.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • Pink and blue colored sugar

Preparation

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

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg 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.

Knead just slightly until dough sticks together, then flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes – I used crabs and what were supposed to be starfish, as I bent the tips of the stars a bit, but actually look more like some kind of aquatic plants. Place colored sugar on a plate and carefully dip each cookie into the sugar, pressing so the sugar sticks (this provides better coverage than sprinkling the sugar on top, but you could do that too if you prefer). Carefully place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are just golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for about 4-5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Quantity varies based on the size of your cutter; this batch yielded about 20 cookies because the crab cutters are pretty large.