Friday, March 1, 2024

Candied Ginger Shortbread

Ginger Slice and Bake Cookies, photographed on a blue oblong plate

I love the ease of slice and bake cookies, and you can do almost anything with this type of cookie. My only limitation is that I don’t like these cookies to have large chunks or nuts or similar things as that can make them impossible to cut. I figured that candied ginger wouldn’t be too difficult to cut, so I made the dough for these to have it ready to go.

I have used many different types of candied or crystallized ginger. Most commonly, I buy it in pieces and then I have to dice it up. Dicing up candied ginger is very difficult, and your knife gets sticky, and it’s just a mess. I took a ginger baking class through King Arthur Flour and they used mini diced ginger and it is just perfect. It’s already chopped, and it is the perfect size for baking. I can’t recommend this enough if you like to bake with ginger.

This dough is so simple and it can be assembled in minutes. Shaping the dough isn’t bad, as I don’t worry too much about the length of the cylinders and just the diameter. It all works out in the end. I was able to slice these cookies and fit them all on two baking sheets. They baked fine, but hardly browned at all. I have not baked items at 275 before, and I wonder if a somewhat warmer oven for less time would be better. I know I don’t want a shortbread to bake at too hot of temperature, but these took a long time!

Candied Ginger Shortbread
1 cup butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1.5 cups flour
½ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup finely chopped candied/crystallized ginger

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium until light. Stir in the egg yolk, then gradually add the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the candied ginger with a spatula.

Davide the dough into two halves and shape each half into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the cylinders in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Remove the dough cylinders from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Slice the dough into disks about 13” thick and place on the prepared baking sheets. Reshape the cookies into a round shape if necessary.

Bake for about 30-32 minutes, until barely browned on the bottom. Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

Friday, February 23, 2024

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars: a base layer of snickerdoodle dough topped with a cheesecake filling and a topping of additional cheesecake dough. Photographed on a burgundy oblong plate.

If you follow this blog at all, you will likely know that snickerdoodles are my favorite thing to make. It was the first cookie I recall baking, and that is something that is good to start with. Some folks are very protective about their favorite recipe, but I grew up with the recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook. They aren’t fancy but they taste exactly the way they should taste.

Over the years, there have been many variations of snickerdoodle recipes. Sometimes, I feel like anything that contains cinnamon sugar is name “snickerdoodle” and that doesn’t feel right. Usually, I expect snickerdoodles to contain cream of tartar. Again, that is what I am used to baking. These bars don’t contain cream of tartar, but they smelled like a classic snickerdoodle while baking.

I have made snickerdoodles with white chocolate filling, but never a cheesecake filling. I was a little surprised that I hadn’t made something similar to this, as the flavors naturally go together so well. You have to pay attention to the recipe, as you make parts then wait until you assemble the bars. I didn’t make a very solid layer of snickerdoodle dough on my bars, maybe covered about 60%, but this made no difference once the bars were baked. They smelled great baking, and they are great! The creamy center paired with the snickerdoodle cookie is so good. I cut the bars, and had mainly edges left and all cookies were consumed quickly.

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars
16 ounces cream cheese
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

2-1/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Make the cheesecake layer: in a large mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium until light. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt and mix again on medium until combined.

Make the snickerdoodle layer: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Beat on medium until combined, then stir in the eggs and vanilla. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

In a separate bowl mix together the 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Press about half of the snickerdoodle mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar. Pour the cheesecake batter over the dough and spread evenly with a spatula. Break up the remaining dough into small pieces and top the cheesecake layer. Do your best to cover the bars as much as possible. Sprinkle the bars with the remaining cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until set along the edges but slightly jiggly in the center. Cool for 15 minutes on the counter and then refrigerate to cool completely. Cut into bars when completely cool. If desired, store the bars in the refrigerator.

Recipe from Delish Christmas Baking, 2023

Friday, February 16, 2024

Strawberry Chocolate Thumbprints

Chocolate thumbprint cookies with a strawberry and white chocolate ganache filling, sprinkled with crushed freeze-dried strawberries

I know that it is a little late for Valentine’s Day, but these were the cookies that I wanted to bake. I actually didn’t make them in time for the actual day, but that’s ok. For Valentine’s Day I made sugar cookies and decorated them with colored royal icing. That was a fun activity for my husband and I to do on Valentine’s Day, nice and quiet, and then we got to eat the cookies!

These strawberry and chocolate thumbprints have a beautiful strawberry filling. I had used freeze-dried strawberries for another recipe, so I had those available. You make a ganache with white chocolate, which I had not done before, and it turned out well. The original recipe had you make the cookies first, then make the ganache while the cookies bake. My ganache was easy to make but took several hours to thicken, so I would suggest making that first.

The cookies are quick and simple to make. The biggest challenge is that they crack a bit when you make the thumbprint, but you can simply press the cookie back together. If you flatten the cookies slightly first, the thumbprint is easier to make. After the cookies bake, make the thumbprint indentation again, widening it a bit, so you have more room for filling! These cookies taste great and look just perfect for the holiday.

Strawberry Chocolate Thumbprints
1/2 cup white chocolate
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream, separated
1/3 cup freeze-dried strawberries, ground into 1 tablespoon
Red food coloring

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Additional sugar
Additional crushed freeze-dried strawberries

Make the strawberry ganache: in a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of powdered freeze-dried strawberries and 1 tablespoon heavy cream to make a paste. Add the paste and the ½ cup heavy cream to a saucepan. Heat over medium heat and whisk until the mixture is hot and it starts to bubble around the edges. Place the white chocolate chips in a medium bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the microwave and pour the hot cream mixture onto the white chips. Allow to stand for a few minutes and then stir with a small spatula until the mixture is smooth. If desired, add a few drops of red food coloring to enhance the color. Allow the ganache to cool and thicken slightly; this may take 1-2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium until light. Add the egg yolks and salt and mix on medium. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour and cocoa powder, mixing until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets. Use your thumb or other implement to make an indentation in the top of each cookie, then enlarge the indent. Seal any cracks that have formed in the dough as the indentation is made.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, reform the indentation as needed when the cookies come out of the oven. Cool completely.

To assemble the cookies: place the ganache in a piping bag and fill the indentation in each cookie with the strawberry ganache. Sprinkle with additional crushed freeze-dried strawberries, if desired. Allow the ganache to set before serving.

Recipe from The Cozy Plum

Friday, February 9, 2024

Coconut Guava Bars

Two bar cookies with a cookie base, guava preserves filling, topped with coconut struesel. Photographed on a black plate.

When I think about the things that I bake, there are a lot of flavors that I return to time and time again. I love oats, cinnamon, and anything with ginger. Apples are always great, and hazelnuts are my favorite. But there are some ingredients that I don’t use often, and it isn’t because I don’t like them, but I don’t actively look for recipes with those ingredients. I guess I don’t like pumpkin much, the texture isn’t my thing, so there aren’t many pumpkin recipes here.

This recipe originally called for apricot, which I love but just don’t use very often. Even with this recipe that called for apricot preserves, I knew full well when I saved it that I would try and think of a different sort of preserves to use. I had to figure out what would go well with coconut, and I was at a store with a lot of unusual and international products, and I found guava preserves. Giving this bar a Hawaiian twist sounded great.

This recipe calls for a 9” x 13” pan but gives the option of using a smaller 7” x 11” pan, and that was what I used. It seemed like the bars would be too thin using the larger pan. It was easier to spread the dough in the smaller pan, and my jar of guava preserves was slightly smaller than what the recipe originally called for, so I think it was the right choice. These bars were sturdy and cut beautifully and have a wonderful fruity flavor. They were the perfect choice to remind you of the upcoming spring.

Coconut Guava Bars
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ⅓ cups coconut
½ cup slivered almonds
1 jar guava preserves
Additional slivered almonds

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 13”  or 7” x 11” pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium until light. Add the egg and vanilla and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder and then add it to the mixer with the mixer running on low. Stir in the coconut and slivered almonds.

Press 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan. Top with an even layer of guava preserves. Crumble the remaining 1/3 of the dough over the preserves. Top with additional slivered almonds.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Recipe adapted from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Friday, February 2, 2024

Neapolitan Cookies

Neapolitan cookies: cookies made with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla dough, each creating a section of these cookies. Photographed on a red mat.

I have wanted to make these cookies for a while, they look so pretty and what fun to make cookies that resemble Neapolitan ice cream! While the dough for these cookies isn’t complex, I knew it would be more involved than some of the cookies I make since you divide the dough to make three flavors. My friend sent me a video of a similar recipe, so when she came over to bake I knew we were likely to make these!

The unusual ingredient of these cookies is freeze-dried strawberries, but those are fairly easy to find these days. I got mine at Trader Joe’s, but I can also get them at the grocery store or large stores like Target. For cocoa powder, I could have used my standard but I wanted to use dark cocoa powder for a darker color. I like the look with the dark cocoa, but it’s up to you to decide what you want to use.

With the two of us working on these, we had a good system going and it didn’t take too long. We made little balls of dough and then put three together in a triangle shape, rolled and flattened it a bit, and they were ready to bake. Mine baked for about 12 minutes, and I will say they are quite flat, which is fine. They are huge though, and I think the “baby” cookie we made with 7-8 grams of each dough that was left over was a better size. These cookies have wonderful flavor and you clearly can tell the difference between the strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla parts of the cookie. Maybe a little puffier would have been ok, but these are wonderful any way you look at it.

Neapolitan Cookies
2½ cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1¾ cups sugar
1 egg plus 1 yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup freeze-dried strawberries
Red food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat on medium until light. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and stir to combine. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture.

Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Leave one piece as is; this will be the vanilla portion of your cookies.

Place another piece of the dough in a mixer bowl or medium bowl. In a food processor, crush the freeze-dried strawberries until powder. Add the powder to the piece of dough and mix. If desired, add red food color to enhance the color. This will be the strawberry portion of your cookies.

Place the last piece of dough into a mixer bowl or medium bowl. Add the cocoa powder to the dough and mix to combine. This will be the chocolate portion of your cookies.

Shape each section of dough into 15-gram balls. Take one vanilla, one strawberry, and one chocolate portion (45 grams total) and press together. Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten the ball somewhat on the baking sheet. Place no more than 6 cookies on a sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are barley browned on the bottom. They will puff up and then flatten as they cool. Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Recipe from Minnesota Monthly

Friday, January 26, 2024

Smores Cookies

Smores Cookies a flour and graham crack crumb cookie with milk chocolate chips and marshmallow bits. All topped with a piece of a Hershey bar.

I often go through a bunch of recipes and identify needed ingredients for the things that I want to bake. While I don’t necessarily plan to make these recipes right away, I want to stock up so that I have options when deciding what to bake. Most ingredients are easy to find, and I can pick them up right away. I have found that other ingredients are seasonal, or otherwise hard to find. I stop looking actively for the item because that is usually when I find it. That was the case for the marshmallow bits used in this recipe.

I am fairly sure that I have used marshmallow bits before. These aren’t mini marshmallows; they are even smaller and are similar to the marshmallow bits you find in breakfast cereal. I could find them online, but you have to buy a large quantity. When I figured I would get them if I saw them, they started to become more common place. I suppose it was hot cocoa time of year, so that makes sense.

These smores cookies are very much chocolate chip cookies (which my husband loves) with a few additional ingredients. It uses graham cracker flour, which I keep on hand, and I topped the cookies with bits of Hershey bars that I had on hand. You could also top them with marshmallows or pieces of graham cracker, but I didn’t think it needed it. Although the dough was a touch crumbly, the cookies came together and were just excellent! They taste like smores but aren’t quite as messy as the original.

Smores Cookies
1 cup butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2½ cups flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs,
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup mini Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Bits
Pieces of chocolate bar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture. With a spatula, stir in the milk chocolate chips, mini chips, and marshmallow bits.

Scoop the cookies onto the baking sheet, using about 1-1/4 tablespoons dough for each cookie. Garnish the top of each cookie with a piece of a chocolate bar. (You can also garnish with pieces of graham crackers or marshmallow bits, but I did not.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden around the edges. The cookies might look slightly under cooked, but will set as they cool. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Recipe from Bakerita

Friday, January 19, 2024

Caramel Marshmallow Cookie Bars

A single caramel marshmallow cookie bar: a cookie base topped with caramel bits and mini marshmallows, toasted after baking. Photographed on a black and white floral pedestal

While I know that not everyone is back in the full swing of baking and that sort of thing, it’s been cold here and that just makes me want to bake! I was basically housebound for a couple of days, and I asked my husband which of several recipes I should make. He chose these, and I agreed!

These cookies are quite different from anything I had made before. I looked through the ingredients and realized that I had most of the needed ingredients, but not in the quantity that I needed. That’s always a problem that I face when I bake! I had mini marshmallows and caramel bits, and they don’t last forever, so I was eager to use them as soon as I could. I ended up making a half quantity of these bars. I made this in an 8” square pan, which was very close to half of the size of the 9” x 13” pan. The main difference is the baking time might vary by a minute or two, so if you decided to use a different pan, please keep that in mind.

The dough came together with little issue, although it looks a little lumpy in the beginning. You bake the bars and the top them and broil. I didn’t need all of the mini marshmallows I had, so just use what you need. These bars are extremely sticky, so a knife that you warm up is very helpful. These bars taste a lot like smores, because of the toasted marshmallow, even though they contain no chocolate. These bars are very tasty but they dry out quickly, so make sure you eat them right away!

Caramel Marshmallow Cookie Bars
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/3 cups flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
11 ounces caramel bits
10 ounces mini marshmallows

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then mix in the vanilla. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix on low until almost incorporated. Add the 1 cup of caramel bits and 1 cup of marshmallows and stir with a spatula until the dough is fully together and the caramel and marshmallows are evenly distributed.

Spread the dough into the prepared pan, making sure that the mixture is even.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, until set and beginning to turn golden brown.

As soon as the pan comes out of the oven, turn the oven off and turn on the broiler.

Top the bars with the remaining caramel bits and mini marshmallows. Return the pan to the broiler and broil until the marshmallows look toasted. This might be 30 seconds or up to 2 minutes. Keep watch on the marshmallows to ensure that they don’t burn. Once the marshmallows are toasted, remove the pan from the broiler.

Allow the bars to cool before cutting into squares.

Recipe from Will Cook for Smiles