Chocolate Dreams (aka Surprise Cookies)

Chocolate Surprise Cookies

Wow, could it possibly be May already?  Well, considering that today is Mother’s Day, then yes, it must be.  I completely missed posting in April all together – I think that may just be a first for me – but I have not given up.  I am just slowing down a bit as the other parts of my life have been ramping up.  There are only so many hours in each day, and in order to try and stay sane, I have decided not to do it all.  Boy does that feel good to get out in the open.

Last month I forgot those words though, and I signed up for Book Larder’s Cookie Contest.  I knew it was the last possible thing I needed to do in my life, but I knew the girls would love it, so I gave in.  A few days before the contest, I still hadn’t decided what to make – and that’s where my very capable daughter came to the rescue.  She decided to test out a recipe that looked just AMAZING from the Martha Stewart’s Cookie book – and we were all sold.  They were moist, chocolatey, and had a fluffy marshmallow in the center.

Unfortunately we didn’t win, but that’s not at all why I did this.  We had a fun couple of hours stressing out trying to finish these cookies in time to get there for the judging – it was exactly my style – nothing like getting there just in time.  But we did, and it was super fun.  I must say that there are a lot of awesome bakers in Seattle.

So to all the mother’s out there – today is your day – and I hope you thoroughly enjoyed yourself.  Maybe next weekend you can bake these cookies for your kids to thank them…Happy Mother’s Day!!

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally

Chocolate Frosting

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 t. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T. milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add reserved flour mixture; mix on low speed until combined.

Using a tablespoon or 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies begin to spread and become firm, 8 to 10 minutes. (I think next time I’ll only bake them 7 minutes)

Remove baking sheets from oven, and place a marshmallow, cut-side down, in the center of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Return to oven, and continue baking until marshmallows begins to melt, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Place confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in butter and cocoa powder. Add milk and vanilla, and whisk until well combined. Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting over each marshmallow, starting in the center and continuing outward until marshmallow is covered.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Dreams

Chocolate Chunk-Pumpkin Seed Cookies

Chocolate Chunk-Pumpkin Seed Cookies

I have some exciting news!  First Look, Then Cook has finally joined the Instagram revolution!  I know I have been horrible about posting this year, and if you could shadow me for a day, you would completely understand why – but I figured this would be a great way to be able to share more with you – and not just what I am posting on the blog – but the amazing sandwich I ate yesterday, and other foods that I find when I travel.  I am super excited about it – so please check it out!  Right now I don’t have any followers – who will be my first?  Now for the post, as you can see by the picture, that has been ready now for a while…but is there ever a bad time to make cookies?

Making a decision is tough enough.  But imagine if you felt like everyone should have a say in every decision made – and worse, that everyone needs to agree.  You might feel good because your opinion really does matter – but imagine how often in life you can get everyone to agree on something.  Sometimes it is good for someone to make a decision that you don’t agree with – it opens your mind up to new ideas, to take risks, and to grow as a person.

Now think about applying that strictly to food – can you imagine if everyone in your family had to agree on what you made for dinner every night?  Wow, what a nightmare.  I would say that we have a 70% hit rate at home – where the majority of the time, everyone is happy with the dinner options – but there are definitely some times when my children are not happy.  Then out of those times, I would say that 50% of the time, they end up really liking it anyway.  Those are pretty good numbers right there.  And because of that, I continue to stretch the boundaries – making sure they are continuously trying new things.

There are other times when everyone is super excited about what I am making, and then the outcome is not what was expected.  I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, and it had been a while since I made some cookies – so I decided to give them a try.  The batter was delicious, but I decided to make the cookies smaller than they suggested in the recipe – and unfortunately I probably cooked them a little longer than I should have.  It did not impact the flavor at all, but these were definitely more on the crispy side.  My older daughter LOVED them, but my younger one, not so much.  She only likes soft chewy cookies, and although she did give them a try, they were just not her favorite.  Oh well, you can’t please everyone all the time – but that’s ok.  It was still an excellent decision to make the cookies.

Please note – I left the recipe exactly as it was printed below, and if you decide to make the cookies smaller, I would only cook them about 8 minutes max.

Ingredients

  • cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
  • cups (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • cups bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
  • Flaky sea salt

Preparation

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Toast pumpkin seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet on upper rack, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, whisk flour, cocoa powder, kosher salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and paprika in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing until well blended after each. Fold in chocolate and pumpkin seeds.
Portion dough into 18 balls (about ¼ cup each) and divide between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 3″ apart. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake cookies, rotating pans halfway through, until edges are slightly browned and firm but centers are still soft, 18–20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.
For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Chunk-Pumpkin Seed Cookies

Chocolate Muscat Cookies

Chocolate Muscat Cookies

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you could actually see what was going on in people’s heads?  I am sure someone created a television show on that at some point, but think about it – so often people convince themselves of something that really deep down inside, they don’t believe for a minute.  Transparency is a very powerful tool.  It just goes to show you, that everything is more complex than it seems.  Just when you think you understand exactly what it going on, think twice. It’s what makes life extremely interesting.  It is the people that can navigate well through ambiguity that deserve all the credit in the end.

The same can be said about food – what if you always knew exactly what you were eating – not just that you were eating a chocolate cookie, but exactly what ingredients were.  Sure, we are living in a world where that is happening more and more with packaged foods – but when you are in a restaurant, there are still unknowns.  And that is exactly what creates the “secret ingredient”.  I have never been a fan of the “secret ingredient” or even not sharing recipes.  Sharing a recipe allows other people to join in on the happiness that you felt when eating that special dish.

But there is another side to all of this – if you knew that you didn’t like something, and then you knew it was in the food you were eating, you would never have the opportunity to try it in a different way.  For example, my daughter doesn’t like nuts – but in these cookies, they are so finely ground that she loves them!  It wasn’t until after she ate one did she ask if there were nuts in them – when I said yes, she already decided she liked them, so we were good.

This recipe from my mother not only has ground nuts, but also Muscat – a desert wine.  You would never know, but again, it just gives these cookies a hint of flavor that you would not get otherwise.  They are absolutely delicious.  So – maybe not knowing exactly what is going on is a good thing – it opens your mind to new things…a perfect way to learn and grow.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs. Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 oz.. sweet butter
  • 3/4 cup Muscat
  • 6 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups slivered almonds
  • granulated sugar for rolling
  • confectioners sugar for rolling

Preparation

Melt together butter and chocolate over double boiler. Meanwhile, mix eggs, Muscat, and sugar.  Grind almonds with flour and baking powder in food processor. Whip the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the almond mixture. Chill the dough until firm. Overnight works best (can freeze). Scoop out about 1 oz. of dough and roll into a ball with the palms of your hands. Roll the ball, first in granulated sugar, then in confectionery sugar. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place 1-2 inches apart to allow for spreading. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Bake at 350 for 13 minutes. Freezes well after baking. Batter can keep in refrigerator for a week as well. Makes 90 small cookies. For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Muscat Cookies

IMG_6252

Double-Chocolate Cookies

Double-Chocolate Cookies

Sometimes life takes you by surprise.  Even when you knew it was a possibility, it still catches you off guard.  Then it is up to you to figure out how to move forward.  That was my Friday night at 10pm.  And yes, it still shocks me even as I write this.  I won the Girl Scout Recipe contest

I couldn’t believe it, and still can’t.  I had such strong competitors!  But in the end, I think it came down to my daughter’s marketing plan.  And yes, at age 12 1/2, she definitely succeeded.  At 10pm on Friday night, already in bed, I frantically rearranged my Monday morning schedule, because as a winner, I get to make my recipe on television – which just happens to be filming tomorrow morning.  So thank-you to all of my readers who voted, every vote counted, and from what I heard – it was an extremely close race.

Now for the really fun part!  As I mentioned previously, I plan to donate my prize winnings to a charity.  Which charity?  Well, that is up to you.  Please leave me a comment on this blog post of your favorite charity, and I will select one randomly that will receive the donation.

Speaking of cookies, I leave you with this recipe for Double-Chocolate Cookies, which I found in Cooking Light.  They were super easy to make, and were a huge hit with my daughter and her friends – they are particularly good right out of the oven.  It is important not to bake these cookies to much, you want them to be soft and chewy.  Ok, so maybe they are not as good as Samoas, but hey, you can make these all year long – and you only have a few more weeks to get ahold of those Girl Scout Cookies!!

Ingredients

  • 6.75 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preparation

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat 1 minute. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Add chocolate; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Drop dough by 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls 2-inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pan 2 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Double-Chocolate Cookies

Macklesmores

Maclasmores

Macklemore is now a household name in most families with teenagers.  That’s what happens when you have a hit song.  He is even more of a hit in his hometown of Seattle.  People here love him, and he was a product of Seattle Public Schools – even better. My daughter may just end up at the high school he attended – which is now probably famous because of him.

Not far from where he went to high school is a cookie shop named Hello Robin – they sell delectable homemade cookies (that you can watch come out of the oven), along with Molly Moon’s Ice Cream (another Seattle icon).  We started going there last summer, and that’s where I saw the Macklesmores.  I was instantly obsessed – without even trying one.  It took me a few visits, but I finally broke down and bought one.  Oh my gosh – this was quite a cookie.  It was almost the best cookie I have ever had.  I had to make them for myself.

So one night when we were there, they were actually taking them out of the oven – so I asked the woman if I could get the recipe.  No can do – she said she really didn’t mix them up anyway, but she was pretty sure they used Honey Maid Grahams.  That’s all I got.  So – I was on my own to try and figure it out.  The first batch I made I decided to go with these cookies.  I thought they looked similar to the cookies in the store.  Unfortunately it was a bust – the cookies just almost melted over the grahams, and the marshmallows just melted into the cookies – they tasted great, but they were just sad looking.

That’s when I turned to my mother.  I needed a rustic cookie recipe that would be perfect for these grahams, and she had just the solution.  Her go-to cookie recipe.  Now, when she determines that something meets that type of standard, she has done her due diligence.  She doesn’t mess around when it comes to perfecting the best recipe.  Even though I knew this, as I was mixing them up, I was still worried – I made her call me from Paris just to make sure I was doing it right – and I was.  I followed the directions though completely – the most important of the steps is refrigerating the batter.  You MUST do that for these cookies to work, and for the marshmallows to stay intact.  These were outstanding…they looked exactly like the real thing.  Even if Hello Robin is frustrated right now…at hopefully Macklemore would approve.  After all, how many other Seattle legends have a cookie named after them?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound sweet butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • Honey Maid Graham Crackers
  • Dark Chocolate cut into squares

Preparation

Melt the butter. Whisk in both sugars and cool to room temperature. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and beat well. Stir in dry ingredients then chips, then wrap and chill 60 minutes.

Break the graham crackers in half, and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment.  Using a small ice cream scoop (a generous tablespoon), place a scoop on each of the graham crackers.  Bake 325 degrees convection until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Turn pan in oven when there’s 3 minutes left on the timer refrigerator between batches.

Makes about 40 cookies.

When cookies come out of the oven, place a square of chocolate in the middle of each chocolate, and lightly press.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Macklesmores

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-free cookies.  Right away there is a strike against the cookies when those words are involved.  I hate to admit that, because I am all for people being gluten-free, but there are some things that just need gluten to taste delicious, and in my opinion, cookies are one of them.  I thought I had made the one and only delicious gluten-free cookie already, and that there would be no others that could even compare.  Boy was I wrong, just WRONG.

I am sure someone has already thought of this – but one of the reasons why gluten-free cookies scare me is because there is notoriously some special ingredient or flour (made without gluten) that you have to use.  I walk down the baking isle in our market, and I see all those special flours – there are tons of them, but they don’t exist in my house.  That means I would actually have to plan to make them and buy the ingredients in the house, which would also require me to plan.  Seriously – do you know my life these days?  Planning is just not part of the routine.  “Just in time” is my new mantra. So back to where I started this paragraph – I am sure someone has thought of a gluten-free cookbook, where you use only regular ingredients.  Because seriously – you can make a delicious gluten-free meal without even thinking about it – we had one tonight.  Just fresh vegetables, some nice potatoes, and delicious meat smoked on the egg.  Magic.  No tapioca flour, sorghum, or arrowroot starch.

So, when I saw the title of these cookies in Cooking Light, I almost turned the page – but then my eyes wandered to the ingredients, and I couldn’t believe it.  Just like those chocolate brownie cookies, these also just used regular ingredients.  I thought it was too good to be true.  Well, that’s exactly what these cookies were.  You seriously would never know they lacked flour.  They were soft and chewy, yet crunchy on the outside.  I washed them down with some chocolate milk, and it was like eating a Reese Peanut Butter Cup – except a delicious one, since they are way too sweet for me.

I think the tides may be changing, and I may start taking that strike away when I see the words gluten-free.  Or maybe I should just write my own cookbook – gluten-free baking without the fancy ingredients.  Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. I will put that on my list…let’s see, number 1,729.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup reduced-fat chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate minichips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place salt and egg white in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until white is frothy. Add peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

Divide dough into 20 equal portions (about 1 tablespoon each); arrange dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the top of each cookie with a fork; press the top of each cookie again to form a crisscross pattern, and flatten to a 2-inch diameter. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate-Pistachio Sables

Chocolate-Pistachio Sables

I know that one of my New Year’s resolutions was dairy-free baking, but everyone needs just a little break from their resolutions every once in a while.  I am no exception – particularly because I love butter.  It has been fun experimenting without butter lately, but sometimes you just need a little butter in your life.  With 75% of our household being dairy lovers, every once in a while we just need to indulge.

As I was making these delicious morsels, I was reminded about the last time I had pistachios in my baked goods.  Yes, my wonderful week in Istanbul…  So, Istanbul has always been one of those places that I read about, but never thought I would actually go there.  As it turns out, I was asked to travel that in the fall for work.  Lucky for me, my meetings didn’t start until Monday evening, so I had Monday during the day to explore, and I definitely wanted to make the best of it.  Of course food was at the top of my list.

I did some research on the internet, and all roads led to this woman named Olga.  She was amazing – her blog captivated me instantly.  She runs a food tour (as well as owning a B&B), and it was exactly what I was looking for.  Five hours of walking the city tasting all of the local delicacies. Fortunately I had some adventurous co-workers that I was travelling with, and when I told them about this fun excursion, they were completely on board.  We had the most incredible day.  It started off with a delicious breakfast (eggs with tomato sauce, cheese, peppers, sausage, etc…) then onto a pastry shop where we tried two sweets with some amazing Turkish coffee, we went to markets, local eateries, bakeries, and everything in between – and ended the afternoon at a very local fish restaurant.  Of course I couldn’t try the fresh fish, but they brought me other local food to eat instead.  I was absolutely stuffed, but loved every minute of it.  We learned so much about the food and culture of Turkey, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Oh, and did I mention the amazing restaurant recommendations?

Of course my favorite of all the sweets I had in Istanbul was pistachio baklava – and when I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, that’s immediately what I thought about.  These cookies are much easier to make than baklava – although quite tasty.  What I loved most about this recipe was that I could leave 3 logs in the freezer, and make a fresh batch of cookies in just minutes.  The girls have been taking these in their lunches, and I think they are helping them focus in the afternoons – with all that chocolate, how could they not?

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1¼ cups (lightly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white
  • 5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
  •  Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preparation

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, kosher salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine, then mix in egg white. Fold in chocolate and pistachios.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into an 8”-long log about 1½” in diameter, pushing dough together if it feels crumbly. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and chill until firm, at least 4 hours. (The colder your dough, the easier it will be to slice.)

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Working with 1 log of dough at a time and using a serrated knife, cut logs into ¼”-thick rounds and transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing ½” apart.

Sprinkle cookies with sea salt and bake, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until set around edges and centers look dry, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

DO AHEAD: Cookie dough can be made 1 month ahead; freeze instead of chilling. Slice frozen logs into rounds just before baking.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Pistachio Sables