Monday, December 19, 2005

Annual Cookie Making Day

For the past few years my family and I have been getting together sometime before Christmas to spend part of a day making a bunch of cookies. This year there were actually two cookie days but I missed the first one since I was making periogis (which I really enjoyed); I was determined to be at the second party. As usual we had the party at my Aunt's house since she has a large kitchen with a double oven.

We typically have a few ideas of what will be made with each person bringing the ingredients they would need for what they would like to make. My brother had been on a big sugar cookie kick earlier this week and he brought some already chilled dough which was a major time saver. I had planned on making the carrot cake cookies again (but this time as a double batch with carrot cake and spice cake mixed together). My cousin and her fiance were to make the chocolate chip cookies and my mom had got together the ingredients for the baklava, molasses cookies, and the no-bakes.

We started around 11 and baked until about 3. Everything went smoothly with only a few cookies getting over-browned and some slightly mashed during the transfer from baking sheet to cooling rack.

What puzzled me the most is that there were 5 cookie sheets (if not more), and I basically only had one to work with. My brother and cousin took the other sheets for their cookies. So, as usual, I was stuck with one cookie sheet and my Silpat.

So the run down of what we made and quantities were about:
Sugar Cookies, 8 dozen
Chocolate Chip, 6 dozen
Molasses, 4 dozen
Carrot Cake, 4 dozen
No-Bake, 3 dozen
Baklava, 12 dozen pieces (between the 3 batches we made)

Everything came out really well and everyone got a lot to take back with them. I brought most of mine into work to share and everyone has been enjoying them. If you want to know the recipe for any of the above, send me an email or post a comment and I will get you the info.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Friday, December 16, 2005

And it became Fruitcake Biscotti...

The original plan was to make fruit cake cookies. I didn't have a recipe for fruit cake cookies and my plan was use a basic cookie base and add some fruit and nuts to it. The results are shown on the left side of the above image. Once the cookies were deemed a failure, I attempted to salvage the leftover dough and make biscotti. This almost worked, but then I overbaked the biscotti. The general comments from the people who have ate the biscotti say that the flavor is really good but they are way too dry.

I'm not too happy about how this turned out and I questioned if I should post it or not. In the end I think its important to admit your mistakes and learn from them. I'm not giving up the fruit cake cookie and will try again. Or maybe I will just try to perfect the fruit cake biscotti instead.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rocky Road Chocolate Bark

Yesterday afternoon I was debating over what to make for this morning, the choices were Rocky Road Chocolate Bark or Jello Cookies(raspberry flavored). Obviously the chocolate bark won.

This was also a good way to use up extra chocolate that I had around the house. Using the double boiler method I melted down some baking chocolate, a little leftover milk chocolate from Easter (good pure chocolate lasts forever), and some semi-sweet chocolate chips. They were all melted together I stirred in crushed graham cracker, peanuts, and mini marshmallows. I poured the mixture onto the Silpat which was on a cookie sheet and spread it all out to a smooth layer (as smooth as I could).

At this point it could have been done but I wasn't happy with the thickness of the chocolate and I figured that it wouldn't set up well enough so I melted down some more chocolate chips and spread this over the first layer. The melted chocolate filled in all around the marshmallows and it was all a pretty even layer now.

I then put everything in the refrigerator for about an hour to set. Once it was set I lifted the bark off the Silpat and broke it into bite sized pieces.

They're really good.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pistachio Biscotti

Since we had our Holiday Lunch outing yesterday at the Cheesecake Factory, I decided that today's cookie would have to be something not as sweet as the previous two days. I was looking around the Food Network site and came across the recipe for Pistachio Biscotti. It looked simple enough and I decided to give it a shot.

I haven't made biscotti in a while but from what I remember they were easy to make and really well liked. This batch of biscotti went the same way.

Making biscotti is almost the same as making cookies except instead of shaping the individual pieces before baking you bake a long log (for lack of a better term) of dough. After its done baking you have to let the log cool for a bit then you cut it into the individual servings. These slices are then laid back onto the cookie sheet and baked again. In the end you have a very dry cookie that's great for dipping in coffee.

Everyone enjoyed these biscotti and they went quickly. I will probably try to alter the recipe by using different nuts and maybe adding dried fruit in the future.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Red Velvet Bites

The week of sweet treats continues. Today's treat is what I am calling Red Velvet Bites. They are basically everything you love about a red velvet cake, in the form of a cookie. The recipe starts with a red velvet cake mix (its the theme I'm going with right now) that is made into a cookie batter with eggs, oil, and butter, and for an extra kick, I added some semi-sweet baking chocolate.

When I came up with the plan to make these cookies, I was going to roll the dough into balls and coat them with powdered sugar before baking (so that they would have a crackled top); but while making the dough I realized that I didn't have any gloves and I was not about to roll these by hand (my hands would have been stained for days). So instead I baked them as a drop cookie and coated them with powdered sugar afterwards.

They give a bit of a surprise on the first bite since most people do not expect a chocolate taste from a red and white cookie. They are unique and fun for the holiday.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Carrot Cake Cookies

Last night I decided that I should make some more cookies and I have been thinking about how I could another cake mix. I searched through my cupboards and found that I had a couple carrot cake mixes (along with a red velvet and a spice cake mix). The abundance of carrot cake mix persuaded me to make carrot cake cookies.

The recipe was very simple, 1 stick of butter (softened, really softened), 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, and 1 carrot cake mix. I mixed them all together in the stand mixer (I would not try this by hand since the dough is pretty stiff). I spooned the dough onto the cookie sheet in about teaspoon sized globs and baked them for approximately 12 minutes at 350 degrees C. Once out of the oven I transferred them to a cooling rack. Once fully cooled I iced the cookies with cream cheese icing. And that was it.

They are interesting little cookies. Eating one is like having a couple bites of carrot cake. I don't know if I will be making these again (it depends on the feedback I get from my coworkers). However, I think I might try to make something with that Red Velvet cake. I'll be sure to post what I come up with.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

2-Layer Bars (there are really only 2 layers)

Before I get into the review, I want to comment on the name of this treat. I found this recipe on the Kraft Food's site and it was named "4 layer bars." But in reality, there are only 2 layers. There is the base layer and a layer of marshmallows, m&m's, and peanuts. Apparently Kraft thought that 4 layer bars sounded more impressive (which it does, but its not really accurate).

Anyway, back to the review.

If you have read my other posts, you know about my love for boxed cake mix. This recipe uses a yellow cake mix for the base layer. An egg and 1 stick of melted butter are added to the cake mix, its all stirred up and poured into a 9 x 13 pan and baked. Once the base layer is done, marshmallows, m&m's, and peanuts are poured over the top and its baked another few minutes to melt the marshmallows.

And that's it. It is super easy. Everyone at work enjoyed them, so they must be good.

If you try to make this, I do have one suggestion. When you go to cut the bars, spray some nonstick cooking spray on the knife, otherwise the marshmallow sticks and makes a big mess.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday I was in the mood to make some cookies so I went searching around the Kraft website. I found this recipe which had ingredients that I had on hand. I was surprised to see a cookie recipe that used sour cream so I decided to give it a try.

I didn't have any issues with the recipe and the cookies came out great. The cookies are really moist and soft (thanks to the sour cream). The picture on the Kraft page shows lots of nuts and chocolate chips popping out of the cookies which leads me to believe that they put extra in those ones. I followed the recipe and you can see from the picture that they are not overly chocolately. I think I will add extra chocolate chips next time.

My family is planning a cookie party the weekend before Christmas and I will be making these again. I will post an update to let everyone know how the second batch turns out.

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This past weekend I went to my first ever pierogi making party. Even though I had to drive 2 hours to get to the festivities (which for me is quite a challenge), I am had a great time. My friend Naladahc has posted a recap of the party on his blog (just click on his name).

We made 4 different types of pierogies: potato and cheese, kapusta (a polish sweet and sour kraut), beef and dill, and some blueberry dessert ones. Nala had made all of the fillings prior to the start of the party (except for the blueberry which was canned pie filling).

We started by making the dough which consists of flour, salt, egg, water, and sour cream. The dough was then rolled out with the help of a pasta roller. We tried rolling some by hand but got much better consistency with the pasta maker. Once rolled out rather thin we cut the dough in circles and handed them off to be stuffed. I got the rolling technique down pretty well so I mostly worked on that. Once all the dough was rolled out everyone went to help fill.

After the pierogies were filled and sealed they were boiled for about 5 minutes then quickly frozen. Of course we had to try some to make sure that they tasted good so we pan fried them in butter and onions.

So far I've tried all 4 combinations and they are all great.

It was a very time consuming project but wasn't that difficult. I might even try to make some on my own if I can get my hands on a pasta roller.