Cookie Swap Plus Recipe for Grandma’s Cowboy Cookies

 

IMG_4979Despite the million other things we all have going on around the holidays, when I saw the call for a blogger cookie swap to raise money to fight kids cancer, I knew I wanted to participate. Julie at The Little Kitchen and Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil were the brave organizers of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. For a small registration fee of $4 (which all went to Cookies for Kid’s Cancer), each blogger receives 3 contacts Secret Santa style. You send a dozen cookies to each and in return, you receive a dozen cookies from 3 other bloggers. Neat, huh?

In addition, the good folks at OXO are matching the donations and sent each participant the super cute “be a good cookie spatula”. Half of the sales from the spatula are also being donated to CFKC

IMG_4992The cookies I received were so tasty!  Big thanks to DJ’s Sugar Shack for the Chocolate Cookies Stuffed with Salted Caramel , In Her Chucks for the Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies, and Pennies on a Platter for the Butterscotch Cornflake Cookies. All delicious!

I sent cookies to The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler, Chocolate and Carrots, and blogchickabowow. I included both my business cards, a Scooby Doo Christmas card, and still neglected to tell them what kind of cookies I was sending. Although I usually like a soft cookies, I had box of Crispy Rice cereal (yes, I spelled it right, it is the generic version) I wanted to use. I dug through my recipe box for my grandmother’s Cowboy Cookies and got to work.

IMG_4977Cowboy Cookies are a highly versatile version of a chocolate chip cookie, usually containing oats and chocolate chips but pretty much open to interpretation after that. The combination of oil and butter gives a crisp, shortbread texture and the crispy rice cereal adds an extra crunch that is hard to identify on first bite. So you must follow up with many more bites, just to be sure. I also added a cup of dried fruit that I had on hand that gave a nice chewy sweet kick to them as well. I am not a raisin fan but little bits of dried mango, pineapple, and cranberries go well in cookies as well as homemade granola. I used a smaller scoop for the cookies to make sure I had enough and boy, did I. This made almost 5 dozen 3 inch cookies. Quality control is very important. I had to taste a few before I boxed them up. Then decided I better send 1 1/2 dozen to each of my bloggers before I ate them all.

[kitchenbug-your-recipe-appears-here-5063]

  • 1 cup Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 large Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 3 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 cup Crispy Rice Cereal
  • 1 cup Quick Oats
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Dried Fruit

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° and line sheet pans with parchment paper.

Combine butter and oil as well as you can and then blend in sugars until creamy and smooth.

Add egg, salt and vanilla to butter and sugar.

In separate bowl, combine flour, and baking powder. Then add oats and cereal to flour mixture.

Combine butter mixture with flour mixture to make a soft dough, then fold in chocolate chips and dried fruit.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.

 

 

Two more bonus links-  to the Round Up of all of the participating bloggers! Part one at Love and Oil and part 2 at The Little Kitchen. Just a few hundred more cookie recipes to drool over 🙂

Homemade Chocolate Vodka- in the Crock-pot!

Two great tastes that taste great together!  I was intrigued by several different posts on the web like this one claiming that you could make chocolate vodka with 3 simple ingredients, chocolate, vodka, and a dishwasher.  Basically the concept is you put the chocolate or candy bars into a bottle that is 3/4 full of vodka, cap it, and place it in the dishwasher and run a full cycle, including drying.  Shake it.  Let it cool.  You have a bottle of chocolate vodka!  This method definitely works but I ran into a few problems and came up with a solution of my own.

I started off with grated dark chocolate intended for hot cocoa, not the powdered kind but actual grated chocolate.  You could grate a candy bar or smash up some chocolate chips but the point is to get the chocolate into little bits so it melts easier.  Giant chunks of chocolate in the bottle will melt eventually, so don’t stress over it too much.  Just get the chocolate as fine as you feel like fooling with and put it in a clean, dry bottle.  Now add enough vodka to fill the bottle 3/4 full and cap it.

The reason you leave some room in the bottle is that alcohol boils at 79º and starts to evaporate into a gas.  Chocolate melts between 100-113º.  So when you get the bottle hot enough to melt the chocolate, the alcohol needs room to evaporate.  This led to my first problem with the dishwasher method.  I heard a loud “pop” from my dishwasher and realized the alcohol fumes had pushed the cork out of the bottle.  Definitely use a screw top if you are using this method.  I was lucky to get to it quickly enough to avoid spillage, or worse, soap in the bottle.  But now how to melt the rest of the chocolate???

I ended up placing the corked bottle into my crock-pot and filling it up with warm water from the tap.  Within half an hour, the water was hot enough to melt the chocolate without risk of explosion or soap.  You definitely have to watch the pot with this method.  If the water gets too hot, it could build up too much pressure in the bottle from the alcohol vapors and shatter the bottle.  But it gently heats the water, so the risk is less than trying it on the stove.  Once the chocolate is melted, give it a good shake and let it cool to below 79º before you open the bottle.  Ideally, store it in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks, giving it a good shake every couple of days but really, is chocolate vodka going to last that long?

I used 4 ounces of dark chocolate for 2 cups of vodka.  As a pastry chef, let me tell you the secret to all great chocolate desserts.  USE THE BEST CHOCOLATE YOU CAN FIND.  I have lots of opinions on brands.  Some of my favorites are Valrhona, El Rey, and Ghiradelli.  I cannot always afford Valrhona but when you are only using a few ounces in a recipe, it makes a huge difference on the taste as well as the results.  I found a premium brand of chocolate that was packaged grated to be used to make hot chocolate which worked quite well.  The vodka, on the other hand, you can skimp on.  I would not use a premium bottle of vodka like Grey Goose to make this.  The best bargain vodka that still tastes pretty smooth in my opinion is Monopolwa.  It is a potato vodka originally made in Poland but now made in Austria.  I had a very good Russian friend who drank this exclusively.  That’s good enough recommendation for me.

Do svidaniya!

5 minute Chocolate Pudding

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces 70% chocolate

In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in butter, chocolate and vanilla. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.

This recipe is so much easier and better than pudding from a box.  I like the depth of flavor that the brown sugar gives as well as the addition of dark chocolate at the end which also serves to thicken the pudding.  Pour it into a baked pie crust for a delicious chocolate pie.

Galaxy Cupcakes

TLC is airing a new 6 part series narrated by John Goodman called “Best Food Ever.”  Central Texas is represented in each episode!  Tonight is Bodacious Bakeries including Georgetown’s Galaxy Cupcakes, featured for their “moist cocktail cupcakes.”

As a pastry chef, I am VERY picky about baked goods.  The recent soar in cupcake popularity has led to a surge in beautiful but tasteless cupcakes.  I am happy to say this is not the case with Galaxy.  I tried all four of the chocolate cupcakes available the day I was in Georgetown and found them all moist and made from scratch.  The chocolate and mocha were good but the outstanding ones were the mint and ruby port which both also had a delicious, chocolaty ganache in addition to the buttercream frosting.  What can I say, I am an icing girl!

Most of the time I find the mint flavor overpowering but in this case a delicate hint of mint went well with the dark chocolate ganache enrobing the top of the cupcake.  My favorite was the pretty in pink ruby port made from the port produced at the Georgetown winery.  Again, subtle in flavor, the port adds a warmth and depth to the icing instead of boozy and cloying as I feared.

The ladies at the bakery were a delight and very helpful as well.  I will be making a return trip soon!

Bacon Pecan Toffee

Found this great pic of my toffee surrounded by other bacony goodness at adventures of a florida girl in dc blog.

Had a very long and intense weekend with the bloggers workshop on Saturday and Bacon Takedown on Sunday.  Although I did not win the Takedown, I had a great time, especially with the Bacon Bloody Mary’s (thank you Lucky 13 Mixology!! ). 

As promised, here is the recipe for my Bacon Pecan Toffee with Candied Bacon.  Candy can be very temperamental and I prefer especially with these recipes to use a scale for more accurate results.  An accurate candy thermometer is not necessary but highly recommended.

2 lb Fresh Salted Butter

2.4 lb Granulated Cane Sugar

0.4 lb Baker’s Special sugar **see note for substitution**

4 oz chopped candied bacon*** see recipe below***

12 oz cooked and crumbled bacon****see note below****

1 lb Whole pecans, lightly toasted

0.8 oz Salt

0.3 oz Lecithin*see note below*

6.4 oz Warm water

12 oz Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips (can use milk, dark, whatever you like but these are my go to chocolate chips)

12 oz butterscotch chips

The procedure:

Place butter in a heavy pan. Bring to boiling point and add the warm water. Again bring to the boiling point and stir in the granulated cane sugar. Wash down sides with water and a pastry brush. Bring to a good stiff boil and add the lecithin. (*The lecithin is optional but helps ensure butter and sugar do not  separate during cooking process.* )   Cook to 250°F. Add the roasted pecans. Cook to 280° -290°F and then lower the temperature on the stove. Cook to 300°-306°F. Take the pan off the stove and add the salt, crumbled bacon (not the candied bacon, that goes on top) and Baker’s special sugar(** I used equal weight of regular sugar and pulsed it in the spice grinder 7-8 times.  The purpose is to seed the sugar in the candy to produce a fine grain to your toffee, so you want the consistency to be somewhere between granulated and powdered sugar.**)   Mix well and pour onto a buttered cooling slab or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper that has brushed with butter or if you are feeling really naughty, use the bacon fat left from cooking off bacon.  Quickly spread batch.  Top warm toffee with a sprinkling of both chocolate chips and butterscotch chips.  When chocolate is melted, use a skewer to draw a marbled pattern with the butterscotch.  Top with crumbled candied bacon.  Store in refrigerator for at least a couple of days but preferably for a week for toffee to achieve maximum grain and butter flavor.  The easiest way to break up the toffee is to turn it toffee (as opposed to chocolate) side up, cover with a lint free cloth, and hit with a hammer.  Store it in the refrigerator or freezer. 

*** Candied Bacon-

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out the strips of bacon flat and not overlapping.  Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar over the bacon.  Place in oven and then turn oven on to 325 degrees F.  You want the bacon to cook low and slow to render out as much of the fat as possible.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, to your desired doneness. 

****I used candied bacon in the toffee for the first batch but found it to be grainy and chewy.  I much prefer to use the candied bacon on top and regular bacon inside the toffee.  You can cook off large batches on sheet trays similar to the candied bacon method but without the brown sugar and do not cook on the same tray.  The candied bacon is much more sensitive to burning.

“Baked” Brownies

baked browniesMy bff’s Ethan and Michelle have a house out in Buda, TX with a wonderful wraparound porch.  After a stressful week, there is nothing more relaxing than kicking your boots up on the rail and having a cold one.  Sometimes, after an especially stressfull week, a cold one is a tall glass of milk along with my favorite brownies.

This recipe is from “Baked:  New Frontieers in Cooking”  by Matt Lewis and Reanto Poliafito.  It is the perfect combination of fudgey and chewey.  It also closely resembles another of my favorite confections, Miles of Chocolate, although Miles’ are gluten free and these are not.

Parchment paper "sling"
Parchment paper "sling"

I would also recommend making a sling for the brownies by lining the pan with parchment paper or tin foil with enough overlapping the edges to pull the brownies out of the pan AFTER they cool.

THE BAKED BROWNIE
Yield: 24 brownies

The Baked brownie is a beautiful thing. It has won the hearts and minds of many people, been featured on the pages of O Magazine as a favorite thing, and won best brownie by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and the Today Show. Our brownie really owes many kudos to our friend and superstar pastry chef Lesli Heffler-Flick. She created the original ultimate brownie for us. It is dense, chocolatey, and slightly fudgy, and we are forever grateful to her for letting us adapt her recipe.

Baked Note: A great brownie is easy to make, but you have to be aware of several factors. 1. Use a dark cocoa powder, like Valrhona. A pale, light-colored cocoa does not have enough depth. 2. Make sure your eggs are room temperature and do not overbeat them into the batter, and 3. Make sure you check your brownies often while baking. Once the brownies have been overbaked slightly, they have reached the point of no return.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
8 ounces butter (2 sticks), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.

Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (DO NOT USE A WHISK) fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.

Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

Best So Far Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

One of the first things I learned to bake was chocolate chip cookies off the back of the yellow Tollhouse package.  Every time I made them, they seemed to turn out different.  Sometimes crispy, sometimes chewy.  Sometimes cakey, sometimes perfect.  I have since learned that recipes are more about technique than a list of ingredients.

For example, “Beat until creamy.”  Creamy with my KitchenAid is way different then creamy by hand or even with a hand mixer.  I now know that over-beating the butter and sugar can cause the too much air to be incorporated  into the batter and  the cookies will overspread and flatten.  Over-mixing when you add the flour causes gluten strands to form which makes cookies tough.

I have tried many different chocolate chip cookie recipes and my favorite so far is Alton Brown’s “The Chewy.”    It is important to follow this recipe EXACTLY to achieve the perfect combination of the crispy edge with the chewy center.

Ingredients

Hardware:

  • Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheets
  • Mixer

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

 

Personally, I like to scoop before I chill onto a parchment lined baking sheet, placing them as close together as possible so I can fit almost a double batch on one sheet.  Once they are chilled, you can bake as many as you like and save the raw dough already scooped in the freezer.  Nothing says “love” like fresh, homemade cookies.

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