Posts tagged ‘cookie’

October 5, 2013

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

Living in Houston I’ve learned that Texans LOVE spicy, hot food.  They serve everything with a side of Tabasco or hot salsa that makes your forehead sweat, and it’s already hot enough without the spicy food.  Eggs, steak, salads, burgers… everything is bursting with heat.  I spent my first few months in Houston downing gallons of milk every time I attempted to conquer the red salsa at our local Mexican restaurant.  Sadly, I never succeeded.  But in an effort to enbrace my new home I’ve tried to incorporate some spice into my classic recipes to satisfy my friends cravings.

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

The thing I like about these cookies is that they don’t immediately smack you in the face with heat, it gradually hits at the end and lingers ever so slightly.  I didn’t want to mess with a classic too much, but I do think this takes a traditional oatmeal cookie to a more grown up level.  The cranberries add to the chewy texture of the oats and give it an added sweetness needed with the earthy spices. I purposely left out cinnamon, usually a staple in oatmeal cookies, as I didn’t want it to mask the other spices. 

The secret ingredient in these cookies is grains of paradise, a spice native to West Africa. I crushed the grains with my mortar and pestle which released the most heavenly aroma — a combination of black pepper, cardamom, coriander and citrus with a lingering scent of something floral and woodsy.  If you crack one between your teeth, the flavor follows in much the same order as the aroma.  If you only get one thing from this recipe I hope it’s an introduction to this wonderful spice.  The floral, peppery flavor is going to make a wonderful addition to just about all your favorite foods.  Your grilled steaks, fish, vegetables and potatoes will thank you.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, pop two cookies in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect ice cream sandwich. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you are adventurous)
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Place nuts in a small pan and toast on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  As soon as they become fragrant take them off the heat and space them on the side to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cayenne, grains of paradise and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture changes color and becomes a smooth, pale white… this is what you want so you have light, fluffy cookies.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  7. Add oats, pecans and cranberries and stir until mixed well.
  8. Scoop dough on to ungreased cookie sheets, I use a mini ice cream scoop to make it easier.  I also spray the spoon with pam so the dough doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake for 8-10 more minutes until the cookies are golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on pan for 1 minute before placing on wire rack.
  11. Enjoy!

 

February 28, 2012

Chocolate Chip Nutmeg Cookies (and extra crispy coffee chocolate chip for crunch lovers)

Soft or crispy?  It’s the never-ending debate for all cookie enthusiasts.  I personally go for a soft center with slightly crisp edges, but let’s tell the truth here… any cookie is hard to resist.  Cookies bring you back to your childhood, can turn around a stressful afternoon, and usually come along with friends, family and laughter.  I wouldn’t encourage eating a whole batch, but share them with your friends after a BBQ or a day at the beach and you’ll be guaranteed a good end to your meal.

I wanted to make a twist o the traditional chocolate chip cookie.  I know, why change such a perfect thing, but I always like to try something new.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  (I tried adding lemon zest into a back to oatmeal cookies to give it a zesty flavor and they came out tasting like a cookie coated in pledge.  Fail.  This one however received much better feedback.)  As a spun my spice rack I noticed my nutmeg grinder looking sadly neglected after the eggnog-filled holiday months so I decided to break it out for the occasion.  The nutty, warm scent of nutmeg mixed with the almond extract gives this ordinary cookie a flavor that makes your willing cookie takers say, “mmm, what’s in these??”.  I made these especially for a coworker’s birthday and they were a big hit.  By 10am that morning all of them were gone.

And of course they cookies always seem taste better when they’re right out of the oven.  If you miss that freshly baked taste, pop a few in the oven at 350 for 3 minutes and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (unsifted)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 375°F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, white sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color.  I recommend mixing it roughly with a fork so the sugar doesn’t go flying around the kitchen when you turn on the blender.  Start slow and gradually bring up to medium until it’s a fluffy, creamy consistency.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  4. And vanilla and almond extract and mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Gradually blend in the dry mixture into creamed mixture.
  7. Stir in chocolate chips.
  8. Drop tablespoon sized balls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute.
  11. Carefully remove cookies with a spatula and let cool on wire racks for 2 minutes before digging in.
  12. Return for seconds, and then pack up the rest for later.

If you prefer crisper cookies, here’s a tip to making them more your style.  It’s about the eggs, skipping them results in a flatter cookie with a great crunch.  Super crispy, crunchy, chocolate chip goodness coming right up!

CRISPY COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. cold strong coffee (save a small amount from your morning brew)
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. anise extract

Method for Supreme Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Line two large baking sheets with foil with the dull side up.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine butter, white and brown sugar, coffee, corn syrup, milk, vanilla and anise. Mix until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.
  7. Add chocolate chips and stir until mixed.
  8. The dough will be very soft.
  9. Divide the dough in half.
  10. Divide one half of the dough into 10 equal pieces, each about 1/4 cup
  11. Place 5 pieces of dough least 3 inches apart on each lined baking sheet. Use your fingers covered with a piece of plastic wrap to flatten each scoop until it is 3 inches in diameter. Remember, the cookies will spread even more as they bake so leave room!
  12. Bake the two sheets for 8 minutes.
  13. Rotate the sheets from the top rack to the bottom and from front to back.
  14. Bake for 7-10 more minutes, watching closely, until the cookies are evenly dark golden brown all over. Pale cookies will not be crispy.
  15. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes.
  16. Slide the foil with cookies onto racks.
  17. When the baking sheets are cool, repeat with the remaining dough.
  18. Cool cookies completely before snacking, stacking or storing.
November 14, 2011

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Ok, I waited long enough.  It’s now officially holiday season with Thanksgiving only 10 days away!  I’ll continue to post some healthy alternatives to get you through the cookie season, but this is not one of them.  This is melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, sugary heaven, and a perfect way to begin the festivities.

These quick, easy powdered sugar-covered shortbread cookies are known as Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies.  Either way they’re delicious, and dead easy to make.  They’re very similar to a shortbread cookie, but have the added flavor and texture of pecans and the silkiness of powdered sugar.

The secret to great tasting Mexican Wedding cookies is to use a high quality butter and pure vanilla extract.   Yep, it’s that simple.  The distinctive quality of these cookies that make it stand out from others is the smooth, velvety texture, light as air yet buttery flavor, and the surprising hint of crunchy nut which elevates this from simple cookie to a grown-up confection. I remember being horribly disappointed by these cookies as a kid because they aren’t overly sweet.  Now I appreciate that subtle sweetness and complex nutty flavor.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract or fresh vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.*
  • Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.
  • Take one tray and line with chopped pecans.  Toast nuts for about 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant.  Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the rest of the batter
  • Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer at low-speed until it’s smooth and light in color.
  • Beat in vanilla, almond extract and nutmeg at low-speed.
  • Keep mixer on low and gradually add the flour.
  • Once you add all the flour, remove mixer from stand and mix in the pecans with a spatula.
  • With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent.
  • Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies.
  • Place crescent shapes prepared cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Before the cookies are ready to come out, prepare a shallow bowl with confectioners sugar
  • Remove cookies from oven and when cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners sugar
  • Cool on wire racks

* QUICK TIP: If you’re short on time, you can raise the oven temperature to 350 and cook for 12-14 minutes per batch.  I prefer the slow cooking method, it keeps them evenly cooked and you have less chance of overcooking them, but the hotter oven also works.

Buying vanilla extract can be a challenge as there are so many choices. The first thing to do is to make sure that it’s labeled “pure” and not “imitation”. The best I have found, although it is quite expensive, is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract that can be found in specialty food stores and online.

 

 

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