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I’ll admit that I was not thrilled with the idea that my niece chose a prefab Cinderella castle kit from the store for our annual gingerbread session this year. She loves to bake and is now old enough to see the project through from scratch. I was looking forward to designing our own charming chalet or creative candy cottage a la Hansel and Gretel. In the end, the gingerbread castle we put together from the kit still allowed for unique touches. My favorite parts are the mice dancing on the roof and the alien-looking snowmen with the blue eyes (all from the brain of the sweet five-year-old). I need to remember that these activities are, above all, about togetherness and that the outcome will inevitably be as unique and fabulous as the individuals involved.
Chocolate & peanut butter: one of the great &s of all time. Earlier this week I whipped up a variation on two decadent (gluten free) dessert recipes. These recipes are suspicious alone but wonderfully dangerous when combined. I took a couple of the dense treats over to a neighbor who shares my affinity for peanut butter. He later told me, judging by the weight of the 2 “cookies” I knew it was serious business! So there you have it, this recipe mash-up is not for the faint of heart. Can you handle it?
Flourless Double Chocolate Peanut Cookies Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Recipe
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cups chopped peanuts
4 large egg whites at room temperature
Preheat oven to 325-degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and salt (I like to use a mesh colander to sift the dry ingredients). Stir in chocolate and peanuts (I pulverized half of the nuts in my blender). Add egg whites and stir just until incorporated (looks like thick brownie batter).
Drop dough balls (cookie scoop works wonders) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until tops are dry to the touch, about 23 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely. (To store, keep in an airtight container, up to 3 days.)
Peanut Butter Cream Adapted from Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing Recipe
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. Stores well in the fridge but spreads best at room temperature.
These cookies are not the prettiest. Or are they? At first glance they remind me of homemade purple Playdoh (which is always tempting to eat, though the grape smell unfortunately misguides the actually unsavory ball of pliable salt dough), but the more I look at them I see edible moon rocks. Maybe even robot food? They also seem prettier the more I eat them; soft, sweet butter cookies with a hint of blueberry flavor are perfect with a cup of afternoon tea.
Drawing from one of my favorites, The Minimalist and “Everything” guy Mr. Mark Bittman, I made a gluten free blueberry butter cookie recipe based on “One dough, endless cookies.” I love his approach: start with the basics, keep it pure, and create small change-ups for new big flavors. The basic recipe appears in a few of his cookbooks and also on his website here. The final intergalactic touch was a spray of Duff’s cake graffiti in metallic silver. In the future I plan to make this recipe in smaller scone-like bites, drizzled with a lemon glaze.
Gluten Free Blueberry Butter Cookies Adapted from Mark Bittman
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (2 cups Bob’s Gluten Free Shortbread Mix)
1/4 cup blueberry powder (grind 1/2 cup freeze-dried blueberries)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed.
1. Heat the oven to 375. Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and egg and beat until well blended.
2. Combine the flour, blueberry powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add half the dry ingredients to the dough, beat for a moment, then add the milk. Beat for about 10 seconds, then add the remaining dry ingredients and a little more milk, if necessary, to make a soft dough.
3. Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes. Let cool.
My niece and I warmed up a traditional sugar cookie dough recipe with pumpkin pie spice over the weekend. Inspired by the pumpkin pie fragrance, we decided to cut out little slices of dough in the shape of pocket-sized pie slices. Once the cookies were baked, we melted some butterscotch chips to spread on the cookies to look like pumpkin pie filling. Lastly, I made a fluffy meringue icing to pipe on for a whipped cream look on top. “Little pumpkin pies for my dollies,” my niece exclaimed! “Spicy butterscotch cookies are surprisingly tasty,” I thought.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Cut-Out Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
(In a separate bowl) beat together:
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Add wet ingredients to the rest of the mix until combined. Roll out dough with flour. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 6 minutes. Cool on baking rack.
Melt 1/2 cup butterscotch chips with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or peanut butter. Stir until combined and glossy, then spread over the tops of the cookies.
Fluffy White Frosting from allrecipes.com
In a saucepan, stir together 1 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly.
In a medium bowl, whip 2 egg whites and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar mixture while whipping constantly until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Among the tea time snack treats I enjoy this time of year are Anna’s Ginger Thins and Caramel Bugles. Bugles used to be a special after-school treat at my babysitter’s house (when you could still buy them in boxes!). All of us kids would put them on the ends of our fingers and pretend that we had creepy pointed fingers like the Wicked Witch of the West. Bugles are also the perfect shape for making little witch hat desserts, usually stuck on chocolate cookies and dipped in chocolate. I decided to make a more earth-toned witch hat with my favorite snack treats using sunflower butter as the glue. The flavor combo is salty, sweet, spicy, nutty, and crunchy like fall leaves.
Are you a good witch or a bad witch? I must be an autumn witch.
I am bringing these buttery cocktail cookies to the cookie mountain! Did I mention that the bride is a letterpress lady? Subtle in bourbon and perky with lime, these are slightly crumbly cookies that melt in your mouth. Can’t wait to celebrate with Jarrid & Emily!
Bourbon Lime Butter Cookies
4 oz. (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bourbon
zest & juice of 2 limes
1/2 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Beat the butter, sugar, salt, bourbon, lime zest and lime juice together until creamy.
Mix in the egg yolk completely.
Add the flour and mix just until incorporated.
If you want to cut out shapes:
Roll dough into patties and place between two large pieces of plastic wrap.
I use this method to keep the cookies from becoming too dried out.
Roll over top of the plastic wrap until the dough is thin.
If dough is difficult to cut out, chill it until it hardens a little and use a little flour or confectioner’s sugar with your cutters.
If you want to slice cookies:
Roll dough into a log, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge (freezer if you can’t wait), and slice when ready to bake.
Before baking, preheat the oven to 325°F.
Line your baking sheets with parchment.
Bake 8-10 minutes. About 2 dozen cookies.