Tea and Cookies

Tea and Cookies - thatsonetoughcookie.com

I made and decorated sugar cookies with my sweetie to give to our coworkers for Valentine’s Day. Most of them were teacher-nerdy and Easter-colored, and oddly Lisa Frank-esque. That’s not what I had planned for. But they tasted delicious and were much appreciated by the teachers at the schools we work at. As I was baking the cookies, I remembered I had these cute cookie cutters from World Market that allow cookies to hang off the side of your mug. I was inspired by these gingerbread houses awhile back, and these endearing “breakfast” treats, so I baked up a couple of my own cookies to be eaten with tea, or coffee, or whatever you like. Turns out you don’t need a fancy cookie cutter – you can make your own cookie shapes that perch on the edge of a mug! Whatever you like.

I used this sugar cookie and icing recipe, exactly as described. This icing tutorial helped me out…

Everything Oatmeal Cookies

Everything Oatmeal Cookies / Cookies & Candids

I gave up sugar for the month of January. The decision came from many reasons, and I’m sure you can guess at least some of them. On January 19th, I went away for the weekend to the cutest lodge in Tahoe, where they provided S’more fixings, a bonfire, and homemade waffles for breakfast in the morning. “No sugar” turned into three S’mores but I still felt strong about my resolution to not eat sugar…”except not when on vacation.”

I ate a brownie on the drive home. At work on Wednesday, a coworker brought in delicious chocolate chip cookies to thank some staff members for helping with a project, there were pastries in the office, and I rediscovered the chocolate peanut butter in the back of a cabinet. On Friday, I threw the resolution completely out the window and baked Martha Stewart’s “Oatmeal Raisin Cookies” — but less healthy. Raisins turned into chocolate and peanut butter chips. Walnuts turned into rainbow sprinkles. What other delicious goodies could I pack into these bad boys? When you’re going for it, go hard. With celebration.

Try not to eat too much of the dough; but, if you’re like me, you might eat about half the dough before getting it into the oven. Is there such a thing as a sugar diet? If there were, I’d be winning.

Everything Oatmeal Cookies / Cookies & Candids

Everything Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: 48 cookies

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 14 min for each pan

Ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (can use regular all-purpose if you prefer)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried shredded coconut
1/8 cup rainbow sprinkles (or as much as you like to add some whimsical color!)
Anything else you’d like to mix into your batter! Can I suggest a spoon or two of peanut butter? A handful of broken pretzel pieces or chopped up Reese’s? Yum.

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients (oats through salt).

3. Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and sugars – mixing until the mixture is very light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients and, mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, walnuts, cranberries, coconut, and sprinkles one at a time (sprinkles should be last so they don’t bleed color into your dough too much).

4. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Don’t try to fit more on the sheet or you’ll end up with cookies baking into each other.

5. Bake until golden and just set, about 14 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’d been meaning to try the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for a few years, but I never got around to it. But then a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine in New York told me this is her favorite cookie recipe, and I immediately got it in my head that I needed to make them. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Everywhere I went, every time I opened a cookbook or my computer, I saw pictures of chocolate chip cookies. I even had smelled phantom cookies!

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The secret to this recipe is the chill-time. You’re supposed to let the cookie dough chill in the fridge for at least 24 hours before baking. I’d never attempted the recipe until now, mostly because I don’t have the patience to let dough sit around; I’ll either eat it all in one go, or need to bake it to get it out of my sight (yes, I typically love cookie dough more than the baked product!). My friend told me that she had left the dough in her fridge for 4 days!!!! And the cookies were out of this world. So…late Wednesday night I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and I mixed up a batch of the dough. I exercised great self-control and didn’t bake the dough, or eat it (except for a few tastes) until today. If I’m doing the math correctly, the dough was in my refrigerator for about 91 hours before I baked it. 91 hours?! How did I not eat it all?! I’m pretty impressed with my willpower.

The science behind the extended chilling time is explained clearly in the NY Times article:

“A long hydration time is important because eggs, unlike, say, water, are gelatinous and slow-moving, she said. Making matters worse, the butter coats the flour, acting, she said, “like border patrol guards,” preventing the liquid from getting through to the dry ingredients. The extra time in the fridge dispatches that problem.” and, it turns out, the originator of the chocolate chip cookie, Ruth Wakefield, chilled the dough too, “At Toll House, we chill this dough overnight,” she wrote in her “Toll House Cook Book” (Little, Brown, 1953). This info is left out of the version of her recipe that Nestlé printed on the back of its baking bars and, since 1939, on bags of its chocolate morsels.”

I have to agree; the chilling time did wonders for the cookies. The dough tasted great right away, and even after sitting for nearly four days. I didn’t do a scientific comparison of how the baked cookies tasted after various chilling times but you can see that on this blog here if you’re really curious. What I do know is that the cookies, baked after the dough had been sitting for 91 hours, are delicious!! They are really crispy on the outside and chewy in the centers. I’ve never managed to get such a perfect, even, consistency in my cookies as this recipe created. I’m generally very impressed with these cookies – especially the sea salt sprinkled on the top, that adds an extra dimension to the flavors. I even want to eat more of the finished product, which, as I said before, doesn’t often happen. I usually just want the dough…

I didn’t have bread flour or cake flour, and just used all-purpose flour instead. I am curious as to how the cookies would be if I’d followed those directions more exactly — I guess I’ll have to make this recipe again! (I have no complaints about that). I made my cookies smaller than the original recipe calls for – the balls of dough were only about 1-inch in diameter before baking. I also have no complaints about the smaller size – they are easier to eat as a snack, and therefore probably easier to eat more of! :)

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 18 very large cookies or 31 smaller cookies

Prep Time: 15 min + chill time

Cook Time: 18 min

Ingredients:

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (I used sea salt)
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks)
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
20 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
extra chocolate chips, optional
sea salt (optional)

Directions:

1. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). I just scraped mine through a fine strainer/sieve since my sifter isn’t all that great. Set aside.

2. Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and sugars- mixing until the mixture is very light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients and, mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. Place the dough in an airtight container and refrigerate a minimum of 24 to 36 hours before baking (and up to 72 hours).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats.

4. For 5-inch cookies, scoop six 3.25 ounce mounds of dough- giant golf ball-sized (I rolled mine into balls) onto a baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Don’t try to fit more on the sheet or you’ll end up with cookies baking into each other. Dot some extra chocolate chips on top, if desired. Sprinkle each ball of dough with a small pinch of sea salt, if desired.

5. Bake until the edges are golden brown and the center is lighter and soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a rack and let them cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

Tips:

*If you’d prefer to make smaller cookies, shape your cookie dough into small golf ball-size instead (2 ounces), and bake for 12 to 16 minutes.

Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah

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Stop the presses! I have very important news. Way more important than the Super Bowl, even if San Francisco just broke your heart. Actually, if San Francisco just broke your heart, as it did mine, then this news might cheer you up a little. I think I just found God.

What’s that you say? On a baking blog?

Yes. God, in the form of Smitten Kitchen’s Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah. I am a diehard challah fan, and this recipe just stepped it up a notch. Many notches, in fact. I made a double batch of the bread dough; I kept one loaf, just the plain challah bread recipe and braided it like a normal challah. It’s delicious and fluffy and beautiful:

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For months I have been hearing about the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Everyone says it’s amazing, and while I didn’t doubt the caliber of the recipes, photographs, and book itself, I did doubt the necessity of my owning it. I check Deb’s blog religiously, have made numerous amazing recipes from it, and spent way too many hours oggling her mouthwatering creations. I knew the book would be great, but I thought, “I can just check the recipes online! I don’t need to spend money on another book that will just clutter my shelves…” Boy, was I wrong. My girlfriend got the cookbook from the public library and if it weren’t a library book, I’d have dog-eared nearly all the pages to remember to make all the recipes as soon as possible! Every pastry, salad, vegetable main dish, and dessert look insanely good. I love when cookbooks have pictures for each recipe – otherwise, how can I really trust the recipe will make what it says? In any case, I now know that I need to own the book. Especially after I baked this challah.

I made the second loaf according to the Smitten Kitchen directions and loaded it up with fig jam and orange rind and damn. It has everything you want in a challah loaf, plus sweet gooey citrus deliciousness oozing out everywhere. Dessert, breakfast pastry, bread, all in one. And imagine using this to make french toast! To die for. Proof that I really need to go out and buy this book:

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If you’re wishing the 49ers had won, well, here’s a little bit of gold to hold you over till next year.

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Pumpkin Toffee Cookies

I’ve baked these cookies twice in the last two weeks because they are just so good. I only have a crappy photo of them though, and have been hesitant to show it to anyone because the picture doesn’t do the cookies justice. Thank you to Gina, for reminding me that I need to post them because everyone needs to try making them. Gina, you’ve got yourself a special appreciation coming your way!

These pumpkin toffee cookies were on my Halloween table, and they’d make a great dessert for any Thanksgiving meal. In this picture, they don’t look as delicious as they really are. They melt in your mouth. They are pumpkin, my favorite flavor. There are little chunks of gooey, sticky toffee in every bite. And, if you under-bake them, these cookies are even softer and gooeyer and more delicate. If that description doesn’t make you want to try them, here’s one more hint about how good they are: My girlfriend said she wanted to marry them. Thank goodness she now has to be gluten-free and egg-free, or else I’d never have a chance!

The recipe came from this blog, but instead of allspice I used cloves and my toffee was chocolate-almond-covered. I also couldn’t resist adding extra toffee to the batter.

Pumpkin Banana Bread

‘Tis the season for pumpkins and warm spices, even if it is beautiful, sunny, and hot outside here in Northern California. I know it is not so in the East Coast – my friends out there, please bundle up and find a nice cozy spot with a big blanket and a mug of hot cocoa or tea because it seems like this storm will be a big one! If you have all these tasty ingredients in your home, you should get right to baking this delicious treat, it will warm your soul and keep you happy through the storm. Happy soon-to-be Halloween!

The recipe is based on an old favorite banana bread recipe, which can be found here.

Banana Bread
Makes 1 full-sized loaf or 2 small loaves

Preheat the oven to 350.

In one bowl or an electric mixer, combine:

1/2 stick (4-5 tablespoons) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
2/3 cup sugar

Use your electric mixer to mix the ingredients – If you are not using an electric mixer, use a potato masher, fork, or spoon to squish the banana and mix the ingredients together. It is alright for there to be small chunks of banana in the batter, but you want most of the banana to be reduced to mush.

In another bowl, combine:

1 1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients are blended together.

If you like, stir in additional ingredients here, such as chopped walnuts or pecans, dried cherries or apricots, or chocolate chips. A handful (about a half a cup) is about right. I used only chocolate chips in my bread.

Pour the dough into greased baking pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Small loaves take around 30 minutes, a normal-sized loaf takes around 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven. This bread is great warm, but it is excellent cold too.

After they have cooled for 5 or 10 minutes the loaves can be removed from the pan to cool. Once they are cool they can be individually wrapped and frozen.

Enjoy!

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Muffins

Using this recipe and this chocolate peanut butter, I have created a delicious treat! It took a couple tries, but this final batch is perfect! I think since it’s a muffin, it can be eaten any time. A perfect weekend breakfast (or anytime breakfast, because why not?), a great dessert, a tasty snack, a yummy addition to any potluck…anything you want it to be! That’s the best part of a chocolate muffin. Chocolate muffin, with chocolate chips mixed into the batter, with chocolate peanut butter baked on top. “Chocolate chocolate chocolate peanut butter muffin” could be a more accurate title.

I had to make a few adaptations to the recipe listed above. I kept the cupcake batter the same except I added more chocolate chips, and used a dairy-free milk. The first time I made this recipe, I made the peanut butter swirl the way it is listed in the original recipe (except used chocolate peanut butter instead of regular peanut butter). Because of the extra ingredients already in the chocolate peanut butter, it became a very thin mixture, and didn’t soak into the cupcake. It spread out, bubbled across the top of the pan, and burned. Terrible! Totally not fit for bringing to a potluck, or as a treat for coworkers, or anything…except some tastes of parts that could be pulled away from the burntness. Lots of tastes, actually.

I decided that the chocolate peanut butter could hold up on it’s own, and so skipped the extra ingredients the next time I baked them. I just plopped a teaspoon or so of chocolate peanut butter on top of the cupcake batter, and stuck them in the oven to bake. Voila! Delicious, perfect looking triple chocolate peanut butter muffins! Why didn’t I think of that the first time?

Here’s my version of the recipe. Enjoy!

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Muffins

Yield: about 20 muffins

Ingredients:

For the muffins:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1¼ cups almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the peanut butter swirl:
1/2 cup Chocolate Peanut Butter (like: Dark Chocolate Dreams from Peanut Butter & Co.)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. To make the chocolate muffin batter, combine the butter and 1/3 cup of the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. (Alternatively you can microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth.) Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk or mix briefly to combine. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the almond milk, vinegar, egg, and vanilla and whisk until combined. With the mixer on low speed, blend in the liquid mixture just until combined. Blend in the melted chocolate mixture. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each no more than 2/3 full. (These muffins will rise a lot!)

Drop a small spoonful of the chocolate peanut butter on top of the chocolate muffin batter. Swirl together using a skewer or knife.

Bake 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


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