Thursday, December 12, 2013

Archive Recipe of the Week: M&M Cookies

This time of year is busy. In addition to working our normal jobs and taking care of our normal (or perhaps not-so-normal) families, there’s so much else to do: snow removal, shopping for and wrapping gifts, mailing cards, keeping secrets until Christmas, trying not to catch a cold or the flu…I rarely get a chance to try all the cookie recipes I hope to, but I usually can make the time to exercise my license to cookie with these M&M cookies.

This cookie recipe and method is really a holiday no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. Just about everybody who eats cookies likes chocolate chip cookies and the addition of seasonally colored M&Ms pressed into the dough before baking easily turns simple (but pretty darn good) chocolate chip cookies into a Christmas cookie. Cookies that are easy to make and are crowd-pleasers? Ho ho ho indeed!

I like to use milk chocolate chips here along with original milk chocolate M&M’s, because I think these cookies taste extra-good when the chocolates match. You could also use semi-sweet chocolate chips and dark chocolate M&M’s if you prefer.

This is another Archive Recipe that I had really hoped to re-photograph for this post, but I just didn’t have time to make a batch before getting this post together and I really think this recipe is too important to delay. I love these cookies and so does everyone I share them with. Happy holiday baking!!


Milk Chocolate Chip and M&M Cookies
Adapted from various chocolate chip drop cookie recipes.

This dough can be baked immediately after mixing, but I find that a nicer cookie results if the dough is chilled at least a few hours, preferably overnight.

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 (11.5-12 ounce) package milk chocolate chips
1 (11.6 ounce) package M&M candies (plus more if needed), preferably in seasonal colors

1. Place the butter, granulated sugar and dark brown sugar in a large bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed until pale in color and very creamy.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each is added.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir or whisk together to combine well.  Add to the butter mixture a little at a time and mix on low speed until well combined.

3.  Add the chocolate chips and either stir them in with a spoon or mix them in slowly with the electric mixer until well distributed through the dough.

4.  Cover the dough and chill for at least 2 hours, or wrap very well and freeze for up to a month (I have frozen it longer.)

5.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F.  Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.  Place the M&Ms in a small bowl.

6.  Scoop or pull pieces of cookie dough about 1-1 ½ tablespoons in size and shape into rough balls.  Press the dough balls into the M&Ms.  Gently press the M&Ms into the dough and set the dough balls on the prepared cookie sheet(s), candy side up and at least 2 inches apart. 

7. Bake at 375 F. Partway through baking, the cookies will have a chance to spread leaving space for additional M&Ms. Open the oven and gently press additional M&Ms in the top of the cookies. Continue baking for a total of about 10-11 minutes, or until the cookies are browned on the edges and no longer pale on the top.

8.  Remove from the oven and cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 2 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the pan and cool completely (actually, they’re perfect a little warm) on a wire rack.  Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for a few days or wrap well and freeze. 

Makes 50-60 cookies.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

I’ve always got so many cookie ideas this time of year! Way more than I could possibly eat my way through. Well, really they’re mostly the ideas of other people, but the idea that I should make them and share them and eat them is all my own. Occasionally, however, I get an idea to modify a recipe or combine a couple of good-looking ones. That’s pretty much what happened with these Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies.

Of course oatmeal raisin cookies are pretty standard and I had wanted to turn this recipe with apples into a raisin cookie because I liked the oatmeal cookie base so much. Then, I also saw a recipe in Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie in which she macerated raisins in rum before stirring them into cookie dough. (Her recipe is for a chocolate chip cookie, which is probably pretty fabulous.) This idea helped me really kick up the flavor of my oatmeal raisin cookies. There's enough oatmeal in the recipe to make them almost feel wholesome, and I also added some chopped pecans for extra crunch.

There’s just a hint of extra complexity in the flavor of these cookies from the rum-soaked raisins. An extra taste of rum from rum extract, something with which I became quite enamored a couple years ago when falling in love with these muffins, is an especially delicious addition. The cookies don’t come out boozy, something I appreciate and something that allows them to be brought to share in the workplace without too much controversy.

And I did take these cookies to share at work where they received rave reviews. My husband also shared some with his friends, perhaps folks who have a little more appreciation for rum, and they loved them too. So, you don’t just have to take my word for their especial deliciousness. And you probably don’t need to put the rum in them at all, but I think the rum-soaked raisins and bit of extra rum flavoring are just the spirit these cookies need to raise them out of the every-day cookie jar and onto the holiday table.

Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
based on recipes from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle

1 cup raisins
¼ cup rum
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 ¾ cup rolled oats
¾ cup chopped pecans

1. Combine the raisins and rum in a small bowl. Let stand 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

2. In a medium-size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk together or sift to combine thoroughly. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer (my preferred method) or in another large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat at medium speed until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and rum extracts. Beat until smooth.

4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just moistened. Stir in the oats. Stir in the raisins along with any of the remaining rum. Stir until combined. (I prefer to refrigerate the dough for at least a few hours or overnight at this point, although you could continue if you do not want to take the time to rest the dough.)

5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment. Scoop and drop the dough by heaping tablespoons (I used a 1 ½ inch scoop) onto the prepared pans.

6. Bake at 375 F for 11-13 minutes or until set in the middle and gently browned on the edges. Let cool on the pan for a minute or two, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Store in an airtight container for a few days.


One year ago: Gingerbread Muffins

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Archive Recipe of the Week: Mint Chocolate Cookies

Of course there would be nothing wrong with making these cookies any time of the year. Chocolate and mint can fit into any cookie-making occasion, including no occasion at all. A co-worker recently declared these cookies, “better than Thin Mints,” and we certainly don’t have those at Christmas time. Well, some of you who stock up when you can get them might have a few on your Christmas cookie plate.

The point is that I really only make these cookies when preparing to celebrate Christmas. As good as they’d be the rest of the year, they just seem perfect for December. I mean, come on. Chocolate and mint.

In the original post of this recipe, I made a lazy but flavorful change from the way I first learned to make these cookies. I simply stirred in Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips (Andes brand) and made an especially minty cookie. In the recipe below, I describe the original way these were made in my family: by melting a piece of Crème de Menthe candy on top of each cookie as it comes out of the oven and spreading it around the crackled chocolate cookie top. This not only gives the cookie a pleasantly minty kick, but a thin but firm chocolaty-minty cap. Super-delicious and a bit elegant, too.

Whichever way you make these Mint Chocolate Cookies, you and all the people you bake for are bound to be satisfied if not enthralled. Well, there are those who cannot have or dislike chocolate and/or mint, or wheat flour, etc. and I don’t mean to offend them. The rest of us will just have to eat all of these cookies and find something else for those folks to like.


Mint Chocolate Cookies
From my aunt, Tina Thibeault

For a slightly faster baking experience and more mint flavor, simply stir a 10-ounce package of Andes brand Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips into the batter before chilling. Bake as directed, skipping the step of melting the candy on the baked cookies.

¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
a 12-ounce package semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
about 2 packages (28 pieces each) Crème de Menthe chocolate candies (such as Andes brand), unwrapped

1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine butter, dark brown sugar, water, and chocolate chips. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until about half the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and stir until the chocolate has completely melted. (If necessary, rewarm the mixture gently to finish melting.)

2. Pour the mixture into a large bowl (or the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer) and let stand 10 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk or sift together. Set aside.

4. Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture and beat at medium to high speed until well blended. (You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.) Gradually add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until well blended. Refrigerate the dough until it is easy to handle and no longer sticky, probably about 2 hours. (Or, refrigerate the dough overnight and allow it to warm up so that it is easy to handle when you wish to bake.)

5. Coat cookie sheets with a thin layer of nonstick cooking spray, or line them with parchment paper. Roll the chilled cookie dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls and place them at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

6. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies appear set and slightly dry on top. Remove from the oven and immediately place ½ of an unwrapped crème de menthe candy on top of each cookie. Allow to melt. Once the candy has melted, swirl it on top of the cookie with a butter knife or the back of a spoon. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sweet Pumpkin Dip

I guess you could say that I’m not quite ready for gingerbread and peppermint. The main reason for this is that I’m usually not quite ready for anything. I still have a couple cans of pumpkin puree in the cupboard, not to mention the better part of a large butternut squash in the refrigerator. How am I supposed to use them up and/or fulfill my pumpkin recipe fantasies (barely even delved into) if I move on to warm, spiced Christmas cakes and cookies and candy?

Well, I really think this creamy, sweet dip deserves a bit of undivided attention as well as a place on a holiday party table. It tastes pleasantly of spiced and sweetened pumpkin and is smooth and thick enough to not run off of anything you dip into it. It’s quite good on apple slices and downright dangerously delicious on cinnamon-sugar pita chips. Like, really dangerous! Proceed with caution unless nobody will mind if you don’t share and the pair pants with the post-holiday waistband is waiting in your closet! (Talk about being ready for the holidays!)
This recipe also just takes a few minutes to get ready and lasts for a few days in the refrigerator. It’s also a good way to use up the remainder of a can of pumpkin that you opened for another recipe. If you do have to open a can of pumpkin puree to make this dip, however, the following recipes can help you use up the rest of the can. Each of them calls for 1 cup of pumpkin or less.

Butterscotch Pumpkin Fudge
Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
Savory Squash Bread Pudding with Bacon and Onions
Winter Squash Risotto

I may not be ready for a chocolaty, minty, gingerbread-y, cookie-dense celebration diet just yet, but dipping a few apples (or those dangerous cinnamon-sugar pita chips) in this Sweet Pumpkin Dip while I pore over a few million recipes, old and new, doesn’t sound so bad. Now, about Christmas shopping….You guessed it: not ready.

Sweet Pumpkin Dip
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

I used 1/3 – less fat cream cheese to make this. I almost always find it to be a reasonable replacement for full-fat cream cheese, but I don’t generally recommend nonfat cream cheese.

½ cup pumpkin puree (canned is just fine)
¾ cup (6 ounces) cream cheese
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Combine the pumpkin puree, cream cheese and brown sugar in a medium-size bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until well-blended.

2. Add the maple syrup and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Beat until very smooth. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve with apple slices or cinnamon-sugar pita chips or whatever you like.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.


Another recipe like this one: Caramel Dip for Apples