Chocolate Orange Rounds

embossedchocolateMy dear friend Carrie gave me a lovely embossed rolling pin for my birthday this year. It has a folk art-type pattern of flowers, and I’ve been looking forward to using it for months now. As I’m on vacation this week, I’m baking up a storm, and decided to go with a chocolate orange roll-out cookie to test my embossed rolling skills.

While the cookies look absolutely delicious, they are too bitter for me. I used a King Arthur Baking recipe went with dark cocoa for my cocoa powder, but next time I’ll use regular unsweetened cocoa for a lighter chocolate taste. Mike proclaimed them as delicious and remarked that they’d be good with a pint of Guinness. Perhaps I’ll pick some up for him while running errands today.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of 1/2 a large orange
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preparation

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and powdered sugar. Add salt, vanilla extract, and orange zest and beat until fluffy. Add flour and cocoa powder and beat on low to combine, or stir in with a spoon. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.

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

Using a regular rolling pin, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness. Using your embossed rolling pin, roll the dough again to imprint the pattern. Using a round cutter, cut out circles and place on the parchment-lined sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 1-2 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Makes about two dozen cookies.

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Vanilla Pizzelles

vanillapizzelleMy Budapest-born grandma Zella made pizzelles throughout my childhood. I like to think that, in a city with proud ethnic heritage like Pittsburgh, she learned to make them from an Italian friend from her neighborhood or local church. In my imagination Zella and this friend swapped recipes, and right now there’s a girl of Italian heritage making apricot kolaches for her family’s Thanksgiving desserts, just as I’ve made pizzelles for ours.

However she learned to make them, Zella’s pizzelles were absolutely delicious. I have her recipe around here somewhere, and am determined to find it now that I’ve given these treats a try. I used the recipe that came with my pizzelle iron, and while they have a long way to go in terms of even color they do taste very good. I started with a basic vanilla, but plan to branch out to anise and almond, and perhaps even chocolate, over the holidays. We’ll see how it goes.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Preparation

Heat and prep your pizzelle maker according to the manufacturer’s directions; I let mine heat up while I made my batter and brushed it with vegetable oil just before making my first pizzelles.

In a mixer, beat eggs and butter until light and almost lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add melted butter and vanilla and beat until blended. Sift together 1 cup flour and baking powder, then fold into the egg mixture. Sift the remaining flour over the batter and fold in to combine; the batter will become thick and fluffy.

Using two tablespoons from your flatware, drop a rounded tablespoon* of batter onto the center of the pattern; close the lid and bake for about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Remove using kitchen tongs and cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. My recipe yielded 15 pizzelles.

*The original recipe called for placing 2 tablespoons of batter on each pattern, but when I did that they were far too large and spread out beyond the pattern part of my pizzelle iron. I recommend testing out what amount works for you based on your machine. 

Bailey’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

baileyschocolatechipcookiesEarlier this month I got the flu, even though I got (and still firmly believe in) my vaccine. The Original Gangster Flu, the type that knocks you out of commission for a solid week. During my flu experience Mike found this recipe courtesy of Baker by Nature, and I promised him once the plague lifted I’d bake it. I’ve been symptom-free for about a week now, so today I gave it a try. I adapted my recipe to use milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet because that’s what I had on hand, so I think you can go with either one.

While I don’t really taste the Bailey’s in these cookies, they are delicious. Bailey’s is one of my favorite things to bake with, but to me these just taste like rich chocolate chip cookies with a hint of something I can’t quite identify. Mike loved them though, and that’s all that matters to me. My only recommendation for next time is that I bake them for less time; I think they turned out crisper than I’d prefer, so I’ll pull them around 8 minutes in the future and let them finish baking while they cool.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 12-ounce package milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and espresso powder; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and Bailey’s and mix to combine; add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Stir in flour mixture, then stir in chocolate chips; batter will be fairly thick, but be careful not to over mix it. Cover and chill for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line four baking sheets with parchment paper and let your dough sit out at room temperature while the over preheats. Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop balls of dough and place on cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set but center still look puffy; remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature; makes about 32 cookies, depending on how generous you are with your scoops.

Autumn Leaf Shortbread

leafshortbreadThis morning Tucker and I had a lovely walk at North Park, one of our favorite local places. North Park sits on more than 3,000 acres and includes a manmade lake for kayaking, paddling, and fishing, miles of hiking trails through beautiful woods, an ice rink, a swimming pool, various ballfields and tennis courts…pretty much everything you’d expect from a suburban park.

The trees at North Park are stunning at this time of year, and this year especially. Cooler weather has brought out vibrant reds and oranges, which are some of my favorite shades. These shortbread cookies, inspired by a recipe I found at Tastemade, are inspired by Mother Nature’s lovely fall showcase; while they look beautiful, they weren’t quite as flavorful as I would have liked. They have a lovely crumbly texture, but I think they need more vanilla extract – or even vanilla paste – to give them a richer flavor.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Yellow, orange, and red gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix to combine completely; this takes a few minutes. Divide dough into three portions and tint each portion a different color, then marble your dough together. If necessary, you can chill your dough, but I skipped this step because it was cool enough in my house today and the dough didn’t get that soft.

Roll your dough into a log, then roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut cookies using a leaf-shaped cutter; press lines for leaf veins into each cookie using a sharp knife. Place on baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until bottoms are very light golden brown.

Remove from oven place on a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about a dozen, depending on the size of your cutter; I used a maple leaf shape that’s about 2 inches wide. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Bites

cinnamonpumpkinbitesAhh, fall baking. Time for some of my favorite  flavors, like pumpkin, maple, cinnamon, and ginger. Interesting ingredients like cinnamon chips, which I used in my maple cinnamon scones. But what does one do with leftover cinnamon chips? Whatever she wants…including stirring them into pumpkin cookies.

This recipe is one I’ve made before with butterscotch chips (which was absolutely delicious), and you could use semisweet or dark chocolate chips as well. The end result is a very tender, almost cake-like cookie with great flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg; set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add pumpkin puree and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Batter will be clumpy, but this is normal.

Add flour mixture in two batches and beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times. Stir in cinnamon chips.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes; cookies may look slightly underdone, but they will continue baking as they cool. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days; as these cookies are so cakey, they’ll start to get too soft after a few days. Makes about 3 dozen.

Orange Shortbread

orangeshortbreadTo me, a basic shortbread recipe is like a blank canvas: you can add whatever you like to create your masterpiece. I’ve adapted the Essential Shortbread recipe from King Arthur Baking countless times, adding citrus zests, chocolate chips, toasted pecans, maple extract, almond extract, whatever struck me as a good idea. This week’s treat is a simple orange shortbread made with about a teaspoon of the leftover orange zest from the walnut torte I baked on Monday. Citrus zest will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days before losing its flavor, so you can make the most of your zests when you only need a small amount for a recipe.

Rather than baking this in a round tin as I usually do, I chose to scoop out my portions and roll them into balls, then roll them in sugar and press them down using the pretty pattern on the bottom of a glass. They remind me a bit of the kind of cookie you might see at a wedding or other special event, something simple but elegant that tastes great and makes you want the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 5 ounces flour (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons)
  • Sugar for rolling

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line one baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sugar for rolling in a small bowl and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, salt, sugar, vanilla extract, and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix to completely combine. Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, then roll in sugar. Place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart and press down using the bottom of a glass – I used a pretty crystal highball-style glass from a set my mom brought back for us from her trip to Ireland many years ago.

Bake for 30-32 minutes, until edges are just golden. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 2 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 16.

Sparkling Under the Sea Cookies

sparklingundertheseacookiesDo cookies ship well? I certainly hope so. I send them around the country to various friends and family members, and I sincerely hope they all arrive in one piece. Some cookies, like sugar cut-outs, are more conducive to shipping if you coat them in sugar instead of frosting them. Especially in summer, I wouldn’t trust frosted cookies to fare well through the mail.

These treats are for Mike’s friend Jackie, who lives in Maryland and has been perusing my blog with her little boys. Enjoy, Jackie and family!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • White, aqua, light blue, dark blue, and orange colored sugar
  • 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.

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, whales, sharks, octopuses, and starfish and chilled my dough a second time after I cut my shapes, because it’s quite humid here today and the dough was more fragile than usual.

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). I used dark blue for the crabs, light blue and white for the whales, aqua for the sharks, and blended aqua and light blue for the octopuses. Carefully place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets and add chocolate chip eyes.

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 24 cookies because the crab, whale, and shark cutters are fairy large. I also recommend baking similar-shaped cookies on each baking sheet – for example, crabs on one, whales and sharks on another, starfish on another – to keep them from browning at different rates.

Maple Cinnamon Pecan Sandies

maplecinnamonpecansandiesMost baking books include a recipe for pecan sandies, sometimes called sand tarts, a lovely shortbread-type cookie made with chopped pecans. Because I love to experiment with flavors, I wondered what would happen when a pecan sandie met a maple cinnamon shortbread. The end result is absolutely delicious, something I know I’ll make again.

I used maple sugar in this recipe, and you can likely buy at Whole Foods and from many retailers online. I typically buy mine from High Country Creamery & Market in Granstville, Maryland, just a short trip from Deep Creek. The market features local maple sugar and maple syrup, and I pick up a package whenever we visit. If you don’t have maple sugar, you can use regular and just add a bit more maple flavoring to make up for the taste. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup maple sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract/flavoring
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted, cooled, and finely chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, salt, maple sugar, and maple extract until fluffy. Add flour and mix to combine, then stir in pecans.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheets; you should have 10 cookies per sheet. Flatten slightly with your hand. 

Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet and bake for another 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes on the baking sheets, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. Makes 20.

Chocolate Walnut Cookies

chocolatewalnutcookieInterested in a cookie that tastes like a brownie? Look no further than these treats, which reminded me so much of a brownie I almost called them brownie cookies.

The original recipe from King Arthur Baking was called Mocha Walnuts, but to me, they’re far more chocolate than mocha – the espresso powder adds depth to the chocolate flavor without really making these taste of coffee. I adapted the original recipe to use mini chocolate chips, finely chopped walnuts, and just a one-inch cookie scoop for my treats, yielding a batch of about just about three dozen. The end result has a lovely brownie-like flavor and nice crunchy edge with a soft center, one of my favorite types of cookie textures.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line four baking sheets with parchment.

Melt 1/2 cup of the miniature chocolate chips; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars, baking soda, and salt until very light and fluffy. Add egg and beat to combine, then add melted chocolate and espresso powder. Stir in flour, walnuts, and remaining 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are just set and tops are still puffy. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 36.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

bananachocolatechipcookieMike and I had some sketchy-looking bananas on our countertop a few weeks ago, and I’m just getting around to blogging what I made with them. Behold, banana chocolate chip cookies! Yes, those leopard-like bananas can be made into much more than bread. Not that there’s anything wrong with banana bread, of course. It’s a classic, easily adapted to include walnuts, chocolate chips, or whatever else you may like. 

I found this recipe over at Mom in Time Out and adapted it to include just chocolate chips, rather than the original chocolate and peanut butter chip combination, at Mike’s request. He loved them, and now I have a new go-to recipe when our bananas go south. If you’re looking to add some crunch, I’d suggest stirring in a half-cup of chopped walnuts or pecans to your batter. 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips 

Preparation

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, corn starch, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, bananas, and sugars until combined, then add vanilla extract and mix to combine. Stir in flour mixture, then chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough on prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until very light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days. Makes about 2 dozen.