Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

Sweets Bakeshop Macaron!

August 15, 2011

Macaron on the dashboard of my car.

Is anyone tired of reading about macaron? I don’t blame you if you are. I hesitated to bring them up again for fear that another blog post about macaron might make the Internet come crashing down around all of us. I decided to risk it for people living in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area who have not yet found Sweets Bakeshop.

In the comment section of my previous post about macaron reader Maria suggested I try the macaron at Sweets Bakeshop. Now I get it! Now I understand why people go gaga over these little french style cookies. I had one filled with chocolate ganache which was very good, praline also very good, and salted caramel which were the best. Next time I’m headed straight for the salted caramel.

For better or worse I’ve decided I’m still not going to make my own. They’re very good, but the next time I need a macaron fix I’m headed toward Sweets Bakeshop. You’ll find them (and maybe me) at 2042 Marshall Ave, St. Paul, MN, or 4747 Nicollet Ave S., Minneapolis, MN.  And like Maria said. Have a cupcake while you’re there. You won’t regret it.

Cupcake on the dashboard.

A CCC link

June 30, 2011

Lisa at Sweet as Sugar Cookies went on a baking quest to find her favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Being the baking geek that I am, I love her comparison tables and admire her for all the work she put into baking the cookies and blogging about the results. I know that most of you will also want to know how some pretty famous recipes fared. Check out Lisa’s post where she talks about her top four favorite recipes, shares the comparison table, and provides links to the recipes.

Sweet as Sugar Cookies CCC winner and comparisons.

Midwest macaron

June 24, 2011

Katrina from Baking and Boys suggested I do a google search for Parisian bakeries in my area. I live in Central Minnesota. There are no Parisian Bakeries here. Period. There is the ever popular Cold Spring Bakery 20 or so miles from here. If you’re looking for donuts, and sweet rolls, Cold Spring Bakery can’t be beat. The last time I was there I even saw some macaron but they didn’t look the least bit appetizing so I passed in hopes that I would find ‘the real deal’ sometime in the future.

Fortunately I make regular trips to Minneapolis and if a Central Minnesotan really wants a foodie item, almost anything can be found in the Twin Cities metro area. Following Katrina’s advice I googled ‘Parisian Bakeries Minneapolis’ and Chez Arnaud in Maple Grove is not only the closest to me, but pretty conveniently located not far off of I-494. It’s over an hour from where I live but since I was on my way to Minneapolis yesterday I decided to allow some extra time and hunt down my first ever macaron. It was an educational experience.

I’ve read about macaron everywhere, on the web, in cookbooks and in magazines. I’ve watched countless videos about how to make them, and I’ve read countless blog posts about them. I was insanely interested in this mysterious to me little cookie. My interest is now satiated. I had one. Okay I had more than one. I had to try each flavor that Chez Arnaud had to offer yesterday. No offense to Chez Arnaud but I’m underwhelmed. They’re beautiful to look at little cookies. They have a fascinating texture. Crisp or crackly on the outside. Soft and moist on the inside. The flavors didn’t grab me. The sales clerk told me the  yellow one is lemon, the pink is strawberry, and the orange is pineapple mango. I couldn’t detect any pineapple in the orange cookie. I think it’s mango. The lemon had the most flavor and was my favorite even though I’m not sure it was lemon. The strawberry was good, not great. Perhaps macaron are an acquired taste? Perhaps the flavor profile would have been better earlier in the day? I think I made my purchase a little after four in the afternoon so maybe they are better fresher?

If I have the opportunity to try macaron again I will definitely give them another try. I won’t hunt them down, and definitely won’t be trying to make them at home.

All of that said. I picked up a Pain au Chocolat and had it with tea this morning for breakfast. I would definitely return to Chez Arnaud to try their croissant, breads, and pick up another Pain au Chocolat. The Pain au Chocolate was absolutely excellent, even a day old.

Tate’s Bakeshop Chocolate Chip Cookies

May 28, 2011

Tate's Bakeshop Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I hunted down this recipe my intention was to make the cookies so that I could use them in Ina Garten’s Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake. I was going to serve it for dessert with friends, but once I made the cookies I realized that the cookies were too good to bury in icebox cake. No doubt the cake would have been good, but it’s hard to believe we would have enjoyed it more than we enjoyed the cookies.

The cookies are thin, buttery, and crispy. Normally I like to bake cookies on air bake cookie sheets, but these turn out best if you use non-insulated cookie sheets. I’ve never had an actual Tate’s cookie so I can’t compare these to the original but we thought these were fantastic.

The recipe is available numerous places on the web including  Cookie Madness and Wives with Knives.

American Style Vanilla Biscotti

March 8, 2011

Vanilla Biscotti

A few days ago I mentioned that I had come across two wonderful biscotti recipes. Today I’m writing about the second of those two recipes. Before I start talking about this particular biscotti I want to say that biscotti are no more difficult to make than drop cookies, and in some ways they’re easier because you can do more multi-tasking during their longer bake cycles.

These cookies aren’t the classic super hard biscotti. They’re crispy and great for dunking… or eating straight up if you don’t like to dunk.  I’ve made them with and without add ins, but I have to say that I’ve decided I like them best with no more than the flavor of vanilla. That said, I haven’t tried them with anise, and I think these might be a really good place for anise.

Tea time!

The recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour website. If you’re a novice biscotti baker you might want to check out the blog where PJ Hamel wrote about them. There are step by step photos that you might find helpful. One of the tips I like best is where you spray the baked log lightly with room temperature water before slicing the log into cookies.  This really seems to help in the quest for nice clean cuts.

The recipe with tips and variations can be found here. One more tip I’d like to share with you is that if you have vanilla bean paste this is a great place to use it in place of the regular vanilla. There’s something wonderful about those vanilla bean specks. I used Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, which I ordered from King Arthur Flour.

If you love vanilla bean paste, here’s another good recipe where it really shines. Vanilla Ice Cream

Chocolate Surprise Cookies

March 6, 2011

Chocolate Surprise Cookies

I’ve wanted to try these cookies for a few years because they look a little like my grandma’s chocolate sundae cookies. There are two things I liked about these. The first is the frosting. It has a nice flow to it when you frost the cookies and it sets so that when you hold the cookie your hands don’t get sticky. The frosting also happens to taste good.

The second thing I like about this recipe is that the cookies are baked until firm and then a marshmallow half is place on the cookie while it’s still warm and then returned to the oven for 2 minutes more. When the cookies are removed from the oven you gently press down on the warm marshmallow to flatten it slightly. This makes the marshmallow cover the cookie a little more making them easier to frost, and you get a better marshmallow to cookie ratio as you eat them.

I added some chopped maraschino cherries to the dough to make them more like the chocolate sundae cookies. The first day I thought I liked these cookies better than the chocolate sundae cookies, but by the second day the texture wasn’t as good as the first day and I decided to stick with the chocolate sundae cookie recipe. I will use this frosting and I like the idea of flattening the warm marshmallows.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart. You can find it here.

Gingerbread Biscotti

March 5, 2011

I have recently stumbled upon a couple of really great biscotti recipes and today I’m sharing the bolder one of the two. This is the cookie I wish I could keep on hand at all times, and I could if my husband and I could only keep our hands out of the cookie jar. It has a satisfying crunch and a mouthful of flavor. It’s firm but not too hard, and has chunks of crystallized ginger. You can dunk it in your afternoon tea or coffee if you’d like, but you’ll enjoy it even if you’re not a dunker. With no eggs or butter you can even keep it vegan to share with your vegan friends if you use a non-dairy milk like almond milk. The recipe appears several places on the Internet. It was of course brought to my attention at Cookie Madness. You can see Anna’s post and the recipe here.

The first time I made them I used regular dairy milk, but next time I’m going to try almond milk.

Gingerbread biscotti

These are excellent and I won’t be limiting them to fall or holiday baking. I love ginger and think it’s a flavor to be enjoyed year round.

My first post in the New Year

January 2, 2011

Christmas Spice Rollout Cookies

It seems a little odd to post this recipe for Christmas cookies in the New Year, but I want the recipe and the post here so next year I remember that not all roll out cookies have to be regular sugar cookies. Not that there is anything wrong with regular sugar cookies, but we had some bucking tradition at our house this year and this recipe was my little way of reacting to change. Sometimes change is good, and sometimes it isn’t as bad as we fear it will be, but this post isn’t about all of that. It’s about cookies.

These cookies get their flavor from ground nuts, cloves, ginger allspice and cinnamon. They also make your house smell great while they’re baking. They have the added bonus of not needing to be frosted. I love the look of frosted Christmas cookies, and I enjoy frosting them with my family, but doing it by myself is a real drag so I love that these are festive and attractive with nothing more than a sprinkle with some colored sugar.

I should also add that if you’re not a big fan of honey, neither am I. The spices balance out the honey flavor so that you don’t get that ‘honey’ flavor on your palate.

Christmas Spice Rollout Cookies

1/2 c. toasted pecans
2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 c. room temperature butter
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. honey
1 egg
colored sugars for decorating

Grind the nuts until they’re fine using a food processor, blender, or a hand held rotary grater. Add 1/4 c. flour, and 1/4 c. brown sugar and grind to a powder. Set this mixture aside.

Whisk together the remaining flour, spices, and baking soda and set aside.

Using a mixer cream together the butter, vanilla and remaining brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the honey and the egg. Stir in the the flour spice mixture and the nut mixture and mix just until everything is incorporated. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally butter baking sheets. Flour disk and place between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies with your favorite cookie cutters and transfer them to the buttered cookie sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar and bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.

Gather the scraps and chill. Repeat with the other disk, and then gather together all of the scraps repeat with the scraps.

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Mexican Wedding Cakes

December 17, 2010

Mexican Wedding Cakes

It has been years since I’ve made these cookies. They go by a lot of names. Russian Tea Cakes, and Snowballs are two other names that immediately come to mind. I can’t imagine why so many years have passed since I last made these. Maybe it’s because I love them so much that I can’t keep my hand out of the cookie jar!

This year I made them entirely in the food processor. It was super easy! The only drawback is that I really dislike washing the food processor, but the speed with which these came together was a good trade off. You can just as easily make them with a mixer or by hand, but you will need to grate or grind the nuts to a fine powder first.

I recommend rolling the cookies twice in the powdered sugar mixture and then sprinkling them with just a little more of the powdered sugar just before serving. They’re super pretty that way.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1/2 c. toasted pecan halves
1 c. powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/8 t. cinnamon

Using the metal blade of the food processor process the toasted nuts with the sugar and salt until the pecans are very finely ground. With the motor running add the butter a little at a time until smooth and creamy. Scrape the bowl and add the vanilla. Pulse in the flour until the dough starts to cling together.
Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough in the refrigeratorfor an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Form the dough into 1 inch balls. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for a couple of minutes and then roll them in the powdered sugar mixture. When you’ve rolled them all once repeat the process. Save the excess powdered sugar mixture, and sprinkle it over the cookies just before serving.

Monster Cookies and Texas Sheet Cake

July 25, 2010

One of the reasons on my list to blog is to have an easy place to share favorite family recipes with my kids so despite the lack of photos I’m blogging about these recipes.These are both recipes that are super easy to make, and are a hit wherever you take them, so I think the kids will want to know where they can find the recipes. I made both of these for a large family gathering this weekend and received a lot of compliments and a lot of requests for the recipes. That’s always a good sign.

Monster Cookies aren’t something I make very often. In fact I only make them every couple of years for this particular family gathering. The recipe makes an enormous batch of cookies, but can easily be halved. I don’t know what it is about these cookies that people love so much. I like the cookies just fine, but other people, particularly my nephews love them, which I always take as a compliment because their mother is a wonderful baker, and these young men know a good cookie when they eat one.

The other thing I made was Texas Sheet Cake. I haven’t made it in years. I have a couple of recipes for it, but this time I went with the version that Anna posted Memorial Day weekend and I’m so glad I did. It was a huge hit and adults and kids both wanted the recipe. It is moist, with a wonderful rich frosting, that is a little flaky on the top. It serves a lot of people and is so simple to make. Instead of retyping the recipe, I’m going to link to Cookie Madness for the recipe.

Back to the Monster Cookies. Whenever I read the recipe, my instinct is to put in more chocolate chips and M & M’s than called for but I always go ahead with the recipe knowing I can add more if needed. Extra chocolate isn’t needed here. Somehow they end up being just right with peanut butter, and oatmeal goodness balanced with just the right amount of chocolate from the chocolate chips and M & M’s. The day I made these I had a lot going on and was only able to bake about half of the cookies before I had to leave the house to tend to some other chores. I put the dough in the refrigerator and baked the other half later in the day. I liked the texture of the cookies baked later in the day a little better. The chill time seemed to make them a little sturdier without making them hard. If you have the time to chill the dough go ahead, but if you don’t, don’t worry about it.

Monster Cookies

8-10 cups old fashioned oatmeal
4 t. baking soda
2 2/3 c. crunchy peanut butter (I used Skippy Super Chunk)
1 c. softened butter
2 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 c. sugar
6 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 t. corn syrup
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 8 oz. pkg. M & M’s
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats and soda and set aside.
In a very large bowl combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Stir in the eggs, corn syrup and vanilla. Stir the oat mixture into the peanut butter mixture. Mix in the candy pieces and the chocolate chips. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until just brown. Do not over bake. (Baking might take anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on your oven.)