TWD: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

I’m pretty darn  sure that this is the is the first cookie I have ever rejected warm from the oven.

Like a good lasagna, however, it was far better the second day.

almost candy bars

The batter has (or rather, batters have, since yu have to make the cookie dough and then the chocolate layer) just about everything: oatmeal, peanuts, craisins, chocolate and lots brown sugar. Bakers divide the cookie dough into two parts, spread one in the bottom of the pan, slather with a gooey chocolate mess, and then drop more cookie dough on top.  It’s fun. It’s ok if it’s sloppy. What’s not to like?

Maybe it’s the warm craisins, but these are just not good straight from the oven. Even The Other Eater in this Household said “they’re ok” – a significant rejection, given that his usual criteria for Dorie’s creations include 1) is it good? and 2) did it kill me?

So, I split the tray of cookies in two and took a plate to work with me the next day.  They were a hit!  I didn’t understand it, so I had to try another, and I agreed! Far better than the first day I had baked them.  Who would have guessed?

You can find the recipe here, at Confectiona’s Realm.  They are far easier to put together than the list of ingredients makes them look.

TWD: Sugar-topped Molasses Spice Cookies

These were a treat right around Thanksgiving, and given that I have a whole new bottle of molasses in the pantry now, I’m thinking they might be a treat again someday soon!

Spiced Ginger Molasses Cookies

These cookies were chewy and dense and certainly spiced well – you must like ginger snaps to like these cookies, because they offer FAR MORE than your grocery store variety spice cookies.  Also, they were a bit of a handful to get into the baking pan, so definitely chill the dough as Dorie recommends before trying to rol them out (I still ended up with a thin layer of dough on each hand after I rolled a dozen or so out). The woman knows her stuff!

I, of course, was drinking them with milk or weak tea, because that’s how I roll these days. But they would also be lovely with the last of the wine after dinner. They certainly are not overly sweet to where they might compete with the wine.  I served them after brunch (french toast, quiche, sausage and cocktails) with friends for the perfect ending to a delightful Sunday morning.

CEiMB: Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti

Another not-great cookie recipe from Ellie.

I like Biscotti, and I’ve now baked it successfully using Dorie Greenspan’s recipe.  But Ellie’s chocolate-sherry-almond-orange creations left me highly unsatisfied.

Cherry Biscotti

Here’s the problem: too much stuff!  The whole wheat flour added a certain depth in it’s own right, so then mucking it up with dark chocolate, tart cherries, orange zest AND nuts was just a little much for me (but others may like it – you’ll find the recipe here).  Of these flavors, I found the orange overpowering and not good for dunking these cookies in coffee.

To top it all off, the cookies were a mess to slice!  The outside baked WAY faster than the inside, and so while I was slicing it the inside was sticking to the knife while the outside was chipping off large chunks. I sliced them pretty thick to make the best of it, but they were still pretty ugly at the end: the inside was more dense and darker colored than the crusty rims (even after the third stage of baking) and the rims were all jagged.  I didn’t care to put them in many of my holiday dessert trays.

And so it is that I am withdrawing from CEiMB. I’ve enjoyed the challenges and the interaction with other blogging cooks, but I’ve disliked too many of the recipes to continue with this experiment.  Good luck to all of the other home cooks who will reap the health benefits of Ellie’s creations.

CEiMB: Triple Chocolate Cookies

Maybe my Tuesdays with Dorie experience has spoiled me, but I’m just not that into Ellie’s Triple Chocolate Cookies.

TRiple Chocolate

The cookies came out kinda flat and the crackled a little around the edges (even on my silpat), so they weren’t especially cute by themselves.  But they added a lot of color to the cookie basket I brought to my uncle’s home on Christmas day, and that can’t be undervalued. The basket also had blondies for the kids, eggnog bread, and some of Dorie‘s buttery jam cookies made with cherry jam and pumpkin pie spices. A separate box had mock turtles (pretzels topped with a melted Rollo candy and half a pecan) so that the nut oils couldn’t contaminate anything else that might otherwise be enjoyed by one allergic guest.

It’s not secret that I’m not a huge fan of overly chocolate stuff, but I thought the cookies had potential.  I wasn’t thrilled with them, but the kids were!  They were gone before we all got up from the table!  Points to Ellie for getting the kids to eat whole wheat flour after a H-U-G-E Italian dinner of stuffed shells, meatballs and sausage.

You can find the cookie recipe at The Feast Within, including the blogger’s improvements to make less flat cookies. Her photos highlight her beautiful cookies and successful modifications.

TWD: buttery jam cookies

These cookies are good!  They are nearly cake-like, and thus not very popular with the other TWD bakers who like a few snaps in their cookies. But both the Other Eater and I are HUGE fans. These are buttery and sweet – but not too sweet – and delicate tasting but still dense and sturdy in your hand.  I’ve been popping the little devils like popcorn with whatever beverage I have in my hand – red wine, morning coffee, I’m not picky. I would never have tried these in my own (Thanks Randomosity!), but I am so glad to have found them!

a nice evening

The recipe is sort of a standard cookie base, with the expected butter, sugar and egg, but then you throw in a scoop of jam (I used apricot) and some ginger. Wow! I used Smuckers  Simply Fruit jam, and I’m not sure if that’s why they’re not as sweet as I expected them to be, but I really like these biscuits.  The ginger is subtle, but brings out the jam just enough so that you say “what’s different about these?” rather than “please pass me that pitcher of water.”

The dough rose just a little in the oven, but didn’t smooth out at all when baking, so the first tray I did came out just as spiky and uneven as they were were I dropped them from the spoon on to the cookie sheet.  For the second tray I chilled the dough (mostly because I was getting ready for an unexpected visit from a realtor – have I mentioned my house is still available for purchase?)and them rolled little balls of cold dough between my palms like meatballs to make them cuter.  They got dusted with a seasoned sugar before baking, and now they look like something you might purchase  by the pound from a plump lady in a hairnet, apron and white orthopedic shoes.

I’m already thinking about flavor substitutions.  I have some sour cherry jam in the fridge that might be nice with allspice or cloves rather than ginger, but several of the comments posted by my TWD colleagues suggest that the color was weird when they used raspberry jam.  I think I can live with that – it’s at least worth a shot. I think the apricot ginger cookies would be nice with champagne for New Years, and maybe the cherry cookies with a bourbon-based cocktail. (Sandra Lee must be rubbing off on me.)

**Also, many thank to my secret elf (via elfster) for the lovely holiday card and gift, which you see beside my plate of cookies.  The towel looks darling hanging on the oven!

Ginger chocolate chip bars: buy good spices!

I really like trying recipes I find in magazines, and I highly recommend  you seek out the cookie recipe I clipped from Real Simple magazine last weekend. You’ll find the recipe here.

Ginger chocolate chip bars

The cookies are flavorful like a gingersnap, cake-y like a good Toll House bar, and also a little bit chocolate-y. I used half semi-sweet chips and half white chips because that’s what I had in the house, but I think I would do that again – the white chocolate goes nice with the spice.

This is once instance where it totally pays to buy good spices – and you’ll know when you have good spices because the old stuff in your pantry will smell like the plastic bottle it’s packed in.  I buy all of mine from The Spice House, an Evanston store (well, there are several, actually) that reminds me of the land that time forgot.  The whole place is kinda musty, with spices and potions and herbs in big apothecary jars.  You have to ask someone to get you a small bottle from the bulk supply, but the people are all so nice and knowledgeable that it’s kinda nice to have their undivided attention while they fulfill your requests.  They also have some amazing blends for different meats vegetables, but I digress….

TWD: Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookies

Between my passion for eating sugar cookies (my favorites are the ones my office occasionally gets when Trotter’s To Go caters our events) and my last week spent away from the kitchen due to a near-deadly cold, I was fairly excited to work on this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie selection of traditional sugar cookies. AND I had a stash of colored sugars and sprinkles in my pantry that I’ve been ready to part with for a while, so I was ready for action when I pulled out the ole’ KitchenAid this weekend.

I made the cookies exactly as Dorie recommended, and it totally paid off. The cookies are the perfect creamy color, they taste clean and simple. I would buy them from a bakery if I didn’t know how to make them myself.

But here’s the thing: I used this experiment as a reason to clean all the old sugars and sprinkles out of my pantry. And while I share the Engineer Baker’s aversion to frosting and piping and rolling and cutting, I was prepared to go the extra mile this time for something cute. Well, maybe the extra half-mile.

Sugar Cookies, Two Ways

I rolled the logs of chilled dough in sprinkles before slicing some of the cookies, and for others mashed individual slices of  dough in a pool of sprinkles.  For me, this IS festive. Next time I need to find some prettier things to roll the dough in.

My TWD colleagues, however, went all out!  Check out their finished products.  for some great ideas. (The embedded links will take you to a few of my favorites!) Click over to this German TWD blogger for the recipe, and then visit the comments section of the TWD site hfor some great ideas for improvements, too.

TWD: the best biscotti ever

This week’s selection of the Lenox Almond Biscotti came from Canela & Comino, which means that this blogger is the only TWD participant who will post the entire recipe (that’s the rule that we all agreed to when we signed on for this wild ride). I highly recommend that you run there and print it now because I may never order hermetically sealed biscotti at a coffee shop ever again. These are that good.

Tasty little soldiers

I prepared the dough as Dorie suggested in the recipe and then formed it into two logs on my cookie sheet. They seemed really skinny for biscotti, but I went along with it.  The dough was quite sticky, as the other bloggers had suggested earlier in the weekend, so I chilled the logs before I baked them. Nevertheless, the dough spread like hot gossip on Monday morning, and nearly filled the whole baking sheet.  I added 10 minutes to the cooking time before I took them out to cool, slice and line up like soldiers for the second bake (biscotti means “twice baked”, you know).

like hot gossip

The best part about this was that the book says to cut off the ends of the loaves, so I ate them before the inside pieces took their second trip to the oven, and they were delicious!  I can’t wait to eat the rest tomorrow.  I’m thinking a nice cinnamon tea with honey would be the perfect pairing. Or maybe a tall glass of cold milk with a little Starbucks liquor. For dunking.

Others have recommended that these would be nice dipped in chocolate.  I honestly don’t think they need it, but it would make for a nice holiday presentation.  Maybe add mini chocolate chips to complement the almond flavor. But seriously, it doesn’t need it.

Good job, Dorie!

TWD: Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops

I’ve already revealed that I prefer my cookies cakey, rather than crispy, and now I’ll add this: I don’t like them too chocolatey. I prefer, for example, that my cupcakes be yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and that my oven produce chocolate chip cookies rather than chocolate-chocolate chip cookies. But I tried my best with these uber-chocolate creations and I was pleasantly surprised.

Whopper Cookies: before

First problem: I could not find the recommended malted milk powder in any of the three markets I visited. I used chocolate Ovaltine and it seemed to come out ok, but now I’m not sure what to do with the other 17.5 oz. of mix in the Ovaltine canister.

Then, I had the Whopper dilemma. I ended up buying bulk milk chocolate malted milk balls from an upscale grocer I visited near my office while searching for the malted milk powder, and I think they were a huge bonus to the final product. Far better (and also more expensive) than the box of stale Whoppers I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond a few days later while I was looking for a new mildew-resistant shower curtain.

Would you believe I even got the other eater in my household to help chop the Whoppers? I spent a few minutes bagging the bag of candy with a stainless steel spoon, and nothing broke! Not even a chip! So I had to individually cut the candies into quarters with a paring knife. I think the fruitless banging The Other Eater had to endure won me the sympathy vote and we chopped candy side by side. I am proud to report that no blood was lost (unlike the bloody cheese incident of 2004) on the Whoppers and that we remain friendly.

Finally, the whole milk. I used 1/4 cups. I have a lot more in the fridge. I’m thinking quiche is in order this weekend.

Whopper Drops: After

But, the cookies turned out soft and cakey and perfect with a glass of milk. I’ll totally make them again for a chocolate lover in my life. Any takers?

TWD: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

How could this be bad? It has oatmeal, peanut butter, cinnamon and chocolate all rolled into one cookie.

And yet, I don’t think I’ll make them again.

I’m not a huge fan of drop cookies to begin with because I feel like mine and never similarly enough sized to bake evenly, and then they generally turn our more crispy than I like my cookies to be (I prefer bar cookies, in case you were wondering) because they didn’t bake evenly, and so I’m left with a huge amount of cookies that I ‘m not overly proud to pawn off on my coworkers. And then I generally bake something I am proud of a few days later just to prove I’ve still got it. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I was optimistic about these cookies from Dorie, in part because of the featured ingredients but also because of my success with the Cornmeal and Fruit Loaf. So, I gathered my ingredients on a Friday night and made the batter, and then put it in the fridge to chill as Dorie recommended. Saturday afternoon I went to work, with the anticipation that I would have a lovely plate of delicious cookies to take to a BBQ Sunday afternoon.


The cookies turned out flat and crispy, and just not for me. I baked two trays at a time, one on a silicone mat and one with parchment, and it make no difference. In the end, I had a mess of flat cookies all over my kitchen. They were tasty, but no flat and free cracker-like I didn’t really savor eating them like I do the Christmas cookies (first my mother and now) I have been making for as long as I can remember.

To top it all off, I brought my plate to the BBQ and nobody ate them. They were on a sweet table with chocolate covered strawberries and key lime pie and cheesecake and two plates of cookies that I swear were from the grocery store bakery and delivered on a paper plate to make them look homemade. My sad, flat cookies remained untouched, even as the grocery store cookies were wiped clean.

look good?

  So, I’m left with a plastic tub full of cookies. I’ve dunked them in milk, brought them to my mother-in-law, packed them for the BBQ, smuggled them into a movie with a friend, and brought some to work, just to get them out of my house. I’m looking forward to next week’s recipe.