gluten-free oatmeal cookie bark

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My family cooks from scratch.  We do this exclusively and almost to the point of snobbery; it creates a sort of anxious struggle for our friends between really delicious food and and really annoying cooks.  When I was little and we’d have people over for birthdays, they would be shocked at how good our cakes tasted.  “That’s because you’re probably used to store-bought,” my dad would scoff.

pre-baking

I cringe a little thinking about that, but it’s hard to grasp the power of butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract if you haven’t creamed them together in the bowl of your mixer and then caught a drip off of the beaters.  Some people have joked that it’s love that makes the things I bake taste good; I suppose that may be, but my hunch is that it’s really just butter.

Case in point: this “bark,” a hybrid of a few recipes I picked up around the Interwebs that I then re-worked to meet the gluten-free preferences of my boss, probably isn’t perfect.  What it is, however, is chock full of real butter, rich brown sugar, and chocolate chips, and that should be good enough for anybody.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookie Bark

1 3/4 cups rice flour

1 cup oats

Pinch salt

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together rice flour, oats, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Slowly stir in dry ingredients until fully incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by 1/4-cupfuls onto prepared baking sheet.  Using a spatula (you may want to oil it lightly), spread dough to thickness of chocolate chips.  Bake 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool completely, then break into pieces.

 

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cookie dough truffles

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I’m usually pretty good about respecting people’s tastes, but this is one issue on which I will not budge:  The cookie dough is the best part of making cookies, period, and if you claim otherwise I probably won’t believe you.

People do tend to get touchy about the whole raw egg thing, though, probably rightfully so,* so may I please offer the solution we’ve all been waiting for.  These are quick, easy, and salmonella-free (a good endorsement, if a bit off-putting), and with only some of the guilt that would come along with eating regular cookie dough.

* I can’t help it if I put food above food safety.

Plus, they don’t require you to turn on your oven, so now – as I sit here in a strapless dress in deference to today’s 85-degree weather – is the perfect time to make them.  Where there is cookie dough, there is no time to waste.

Cookie Dough Truffles

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup chocolate chips (or more, if you’d like)

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Slowly add flour on low speed, alternating with condensed milk, beating well after each addition.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Dust or roll in cocoa powder.  Freeze at least 3 hours; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

chocolate matzo toffee (or, the best thing you’ll ever eat)

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don't be afraid. there's a way to make this stuff good.

Passover is usually a terrible holiday for food.  Mom, you can sit down; you make a great kugel (when you remember to add the sugar).  But goyim, no matter how much you tell us you like matzo, you’ll never understand how shitty it is when you have to eat it for a week.

The Interwebs are full of attempts to camouflage matzo – as pizza, as sandwiches, even as bagels.  Honestly?  It still tastes like matzo.  Instead, I prefer the easy way out:  I smother it in butter, sugar, and chocolate,* and I guarantee you will too.

*and give it away as soon as possible

melt the butter with the sugar...

Following is a quick photo tutorial.  This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever posted, but sometimes the visuals help.  And if they don’t…enjoy gratuitous shots of probably not that great for you, but it’s Passover so who’s counting SUPREMELY HEALTHY food.

...until it looks like this

pour...

...and spread

spread some more

ta-da

Chocolate Matzo Toffee

Adapted from just about everywhere

4 to 6 sheets matzo (depending on the size of your pans)

1 cup butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (your choice; I use semisweet)

Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet completely with foil, then line with matzo, breaking pieces as needed to fit.

In a saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring until the mixture begins to boil.  Let boil, still stirring constantly, for three more minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla.  Quickly pour over matzo, using a spatula to spread it out evenly.  If I didn’t emphasize it enough, do this quickly!  It will start to set almost immediately.  Bake 13-15 minutes, making sure to watch carefully for burning or darkening.

Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes, then spread with a spatula to cover the matzo evenly.  If your chips aren’t melting well, you can stick the pans back in the warm oven for a minute or two.  Sprinkle with sea salt, if using.

Cool completely, break into pieces, and try not to eat it all yourself.

bacon almond brittle

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I am by no means the first to make something sweet that involves bacon; in fact, I’m probably among the last to the party.  Maybe it’s because I don’t really eat too much bacon (which probably makes me a bad person, I know) or maybe it’s just enough of a disingenuous combination that I’m afraid people won’t like it, but I found this recipe at a moment when, apparently, neither of those things mattered to me.  Which is why last night, I ended up with 4 1/2 pounds of bacon almond brittle.

almonds, pre-chopping

It’s not a complicated recipe, but it takes some watching, so I’m dedicating the bulk of this post to photos.  I’ve documented the process pretty thoroughly so you can see what each stage is supposed to look like.  Making candy sucks, but it’s not (necessarily) as hard as it seems – and since this particular candy involves bacon, I suggest you try it.

coarsely chop the almonds

fry up some bacon

(maybe include some extra for snacking)

melt the sugars with corn syrup and water

gradually stir in the butter

way too long after this, we reached 300*

almonds mixed in and spread out to cool

don't forget the bacon

packaged up and featuring label designed specially by my favorite twin

Bacon Almond Brittle (adapted from Cathy)

Below is 1 1/2 times the original recipe, because who doesn’t want a ton of bacon brittle?  I’ve reproduced it close to Cathy’s posting, but it’s worth noting that it took me over twice as long (probably around half an hour) to bring the mixture to 300*F.  Just saying.

3 cups dry-roasted almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

5 slices bacon (more if you’re really serious about this whole thing)

Scant 1 cup granulated sugar

Scant 1 cup brown sugar

9 tablespoons light corn syrup

9 tablespoons water

3 sticks butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoons salt

Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces.  In a skillet, cook over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine salt and baking soda, set aside.  In a large saucepan, combine sugars, corn syrup, and water.  Cook on medium-high heat about four minutes, or until sugar turns thick and syrupy.

Slowly add butter, stirring until emulsified.  Keep cooking, stirring constantly, until water has boiled off and mixture is golden brown, between 300 and 320*F or about 10-13 minutes.

Remove from heat.  If mixture is not smooth, whisk until it is.  Stir in baking soda, salt bacon bits, and almonds.  pour onto prepared sheet to cool.  Once cool, break into bite-sized pieces.

nutella-graham cracker truffles

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If you’ve already got the jar of Nutella out, and if you haven’t used all of it in your Nutella-graham cracker bars, it’s time to get serious.  Remember those pretzel cookie-dough truffles?  They’re re-vamped here, except with chocolate and hazelnut, and it’s probably a good idea for you to try them.

prepare your graham crackers

and your almonds

Speaking of good ideas, I’m in the market for a few of those.  It’s been suggested for a while that I sell some of the stuff that I bake – specifically, those pretzel things and their offshoots – and I haven’t been able to think of any good names under which to offer them.  I also haven’t been able to wrangle any out of friends that aren’t dirty and largely prohibitive, marketing-wise (“Stripper Treats” was one suggestion), so I beg of you…please help.  Although, let’s be honest, I’ll probably appreciate them regardless.  Also, I promise free baked goods to the winning suggestion! 🙂

this terrible photo is what your dough should look like

oh dear...it's time to buy more nutella

Again, I’m going to recommend that you rustle up some hazelnut extract for these truffles (included in the recipe below; if you can’t find any, just use all vanilla), because honestly, these weren’t hazelnutty enough for this Nutella lover.  But when it comes down to it, it’s still chocolate and graham crackers and Nutella and more chocolate, and I’d be very confused if anyone was truly unhappy with that.

please to enjoy

Nutella-Graham Cracker Truffles

2 packages graham crackers (there are usually three packages in a box), crushed to fine crumbs in a food processor

1 13-0z. jar Nutella

1/2 stick butter, very soft

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons hazelnut extract

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

 

2 cups chocolate chips

1/3 stick butter

3 oz. blanched almonds, chopped and toasted

 

In a large bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, salt, flour, and cocoa.  Beat in butter and extracts until thoroughly combined.  Stir in Nutella.

Roll mixture into 1/2- to 1-inch balls.  Place on wax paper; set aside.

Melt chocolate with 1/3 stick butter until smooth.  One by one, dip balls into chocolate (stop laughing) and set on wax paper.  Sprinkle immediately with almonds.  Cool.

pretzel cookie dough truffles

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I love cooking, regardless of where the recipe comes from, and I’m sure it’s pretty evident where I go for inspiration (Deb, Jen, Peabody…).  When it comes right down to it, though, I’d rather develop my own recipes than use someone else’s; I know it’s ridiculous, but I feel like that’s cheating, somehow.  But honestly – have you ever searched for a recipe online, any recipe?  “Chocolate chip cookie recipe” in Google yields 995,000 results; it’s hard to look at something like that and not feel like it’s all been done.*

*Great Barenaked Ladies song, by the way.

pretzel crumbs

This one’s mine, though, and frankly, it’s a stoner recipe if I’ve ever seen one.  But an idea for anything involving chocolate and yogurt covered pretzels is not to be ignored, and even less so when said pretzels are mixed with cookie dough.

dough, ready to roll

That’s where these came from.  They’re easy to make, and no baking required; I used a stand mixer, but if you’re really strapped and want an arm workout, you could probably even manage them by hand.  The only issue I ran into was not eating all of the dough before rolling it up and coating it in chocolate, and I’m sure you can agree that, of all problems, that’s one that we can all hope to be saddled with.

Pretzel Cookie Dough Truffles

3 cups pretzels, crushed to crumbs in a food processor

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups white chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy, about 3 minutes on medium-high speed.  Stir in flour and salt, then pretzel crumbs, until mixture adheres to itself in small clumps.

Roll mixture into 1/2- to 1-inch balls.  Chill about 10 minutes.  In the meantime, melt chocolate and white chocolate.  I did this in stages – first chocolate, then white chocolate.  Dip each ball in chocolate or white chocolate; turn to coat, then place on wax paper to dry.  If you’re feeling artsy, drizzle white chocolate truffles with a bit of semisweet, and vice versa.  Let dry.

mini christmas cupcakes, plus easy peppermint bark

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Yeah, I know.  These are cupcakes with snowflakes and Christmas trees on them, and it’s not Christmas anymore.  In fact, it’s not even the same year as Christmas anymore.  Really, what am I thinking?

just out of the oven

Ahead is what I’m thinking, at least if you choose to believe my perhaps feeble excuses for the fact that I still haven’t finished posting all of the things I made for the holidays.  I blame this partly on the fact that I made far more food than a single Jewish girl has any business churning out for ChristmasLinzer cookies, brown sugar shortbread, banana bread, carrot cake, gluten-free brownies, cinnamon rolls (coming soon), and of course, these cupcakes.

waiting for the pretty stuff

Although they’ve got cute little Christmas piping with wintery-colored frosting, you can do anything with these, which makes them appropriate for any time of year.  And, while I’m including a recipe, you can really use your favorite chocolate (or white/yellow) cake recipe for these.  The decoration is really what makes it.

no one cares that white chocolate isn't really chocolate, do they? I'm calling it chocolate.

 

And while you’re waiting for these to come out of the oven, make some really, really easy peppermint/anything else, really bark to eat while you’re frosting the cupcakes bring to whatever gatherings you’re heading off to in the new year.  Because this is certainly not a holiday recipe I’m posting on January 8th, oh no.  It is Non-Denominational and Versatile and you should make it with your next free half hour.

this is the good stuff

Chocolate Mini Cupcakes

Adapted from Epicurious

3 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (or water)

3 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

3 large eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Any buttercream or cream cheese frosting

White and dark chocolates, for decorating

Preheat oven to 300°F and line mini muffin tins with liners.

Finely chop chocolate.  In a bowl combine, with hot coffee or water. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored.  Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture; beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter into cups and bake until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean, about 30 minutes (start testing at 20 to be sure).  Cool completely in pans before frosting.

Frost with prepared frosting (and by “prepared” I mean that you’ve prepared it ;)).  Melt chocolate and/or white chocolate chips gently; pipe designs on cupcakes using piping bags or Ziploc bags with a hole snipped in the corner.

 

Peppermint Bark

Chocolate and white chocolate (chips or chopped bars), as much as you think you’ll need (I used about 1 ½ cups of each)

Candy canes, crushed (or any other topping), as much as you think you’ll need (I used about 6 large candy canes and 20 small)

Arrange half of candy canes on wax paper (one sheet per type of chocolate, unless you want them to mix).  Gently heat chocolates separately in the microwave until just melted.  Pour over crushed candy canes and spread to uniform thickness (about ¼ inch).  Sprinkle with remaining candy canes.  Let harden.

When fully hardened, break into bite-sized pieces and go make some new friends.