Category: cookies (page 1 of 9)

When you feel like you’re failing at your hobby

Snickerdoodles and Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s been over 3 months since I last updated, and while I needed to take the time away from my stand mixer to deal with the challenges life was throwing at me and focus on moving and then going on my very first international trip, I still felt guilty about not keeping up with the things I loved doing: Baking and writing about it.

Clearly, having to pack up the townhouse, move into a smaller apartment, unpack and settle took time and energy. But it’s done now. I have my kitchen and work table set up; my Kitchenaid has it’s place on a freshly painted bookcase (it’s teal, which makes the red mixer pop … I’ve even had guests mention how I’ve displayed it as functional art); and all my bakeware is tucked into cute over-the-cabinet baskets … that are so high over my head I have to grab a step stool. Ok. So maybe I didn’t make it TOO easy to get back into the swing of things.

Treat Yo Self Waffle Cupcakes

Before moving, I made “Parks and Rec” themed Cinnamon vanilla “Treat Yo Self!” cupcakes with maple buttercream for a coworker’s bridal shower, and it felt all right. It was like I was on autopilot when I was baking. But my coworker loved the dessert, and her smile reminded me of why I, and so many bakers, do this. But it didn’t kick my butt back into gear.

It’s a weird place to be in … baking was what I did to relieve stress. To be creative. And then I’d come here, post my Instagrammed photos (très chic, eh?), and share a recipe and some words of advice. And sometimes I’d get feedback! And it was awesome. So why is it so hard now?

I think this is natural … I baked my butt off for 3 years, and now I’m in a lull. I’m not doing a cupcake a week (though there’s a chance people would be up for it). I finished up my caramel corn/cookie club. Even my writing gig with Table Matters came to a close as a new editor came in and shelved that site at the end of 2014.

But between reader Lori T. leaving a comment about how much she enjoyed making my Root Beer Float cupcakes the other day and knowing that my parents would enjoy some cookies as belated birthday and Mother’s Day gifts, I got back into the kitchen last night. I started with a simple snickerdoodle, and as the dough chilled, I started making a variation on my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (mainly because I was out of brown sugar and molasses).

I scooped. I rotated pans in the oven. I slid warm cookies off their baking pans and on to cooling racks. And while I didn’t necessarily feel triumphant, I remembered that I AM a baker. Even when I’m not doing it regularly, or when I’m not creating some sort of off the wall recipe.

I don’t have a firm plan for this blog. I want to get back into baking and sharing, but I think it’ll need to be done in a more relaxed, non-scheduled way (which is SO different from my editorial multi-schedule day job!). And when I don’t feel like writing about baking, but want to put SOMETHING out there, find me over here: Back to Philly.

Cupcake Friday Project’s 2014

Cupcake Friday Project's 2014 stats
2014 is drawing to a close … and I’m not sorry to say that I look forward to it ending. Now, I know that for many, 2014 has been a great year, and I’m happy for all of you and the joy that entered your lives. Sadly, that was not the case for me, and I can see that reflected here on my blog.

In 2013, I wrote 103 new posts, co-hosted an event, held fundraisers for She’s the First and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and did a lot of baking. But in 2014, I only wrote 43 posts. I didn’t bake for any fundraisers, I didn’t host events … and I stopped bringing in treats to work.

What changed? Well, I had a lot of things — both good and bad — going on in my life. But because I want to think of myself as a positive person, let’s look at some of the great stuff I achieved in 2014 … things that I may not have shared here:

Cookie Monster cycling jersey

My fellow cyclists LOVED my jersey! I earned the nickname “Cookie” and was asked often if I had cookies to share. Sadly, I did not.

I participated in my first Bike MS City to Shore Ride, biking 45 miles in late September and raising $1,601. I’ll be back next year, this time maybe riding 80 miles if I can get the training in, otherwise I’ll be riding a solid 45.

Working on Luscious Bakery's Food Truck

Vending at The Oval, right outside the beautiful Philadelphia Art Museum.

I’ve always loved food trucks, but in 2014 I got to actually work on one. Though I only worked on the Luscious Bakery truck a handful of times, mainly due to my 9-5 style work schedule, I consider the shifts Jamie offered me hugely influential. I got to learn another side of the bakery business, and learn directly from someone I consider a wonderful friend and mentor. I hope to spend more time on “Marcia” in 2015, and watch Jamie’s business grow and flourish.

My Table Matters Writing Portfolio

Maybe one of the main reasons I didn’t write as often here is due to the fact that from May-November, I developed recipes and wrote for Table Matters. In total, I wrote 8 articles, ranging from personal stories about family trips to CNY and shortcake to how to make best use of the bounty of figs in the early fall. I even pitched the idea of tackling my Grandma Betty’s Hungarian Chocolate Cake again, this time finding a quiet success in the deep chocolate layers of the cake. I shared 21 recipes during that time period, often using ideas I had put on the back burner, just waiting for a good reason.

Cookie and Caramel Corn Club goodies

Top, left to right: pecan pie caramel corn; blueberries and cream cookies; sriracha peanut butter cookies; Middle, left to right: peanut butter chocolate delights; salted caramel corn; matcha green tea cookies with crystallized ginger; Bottom, left to right: cacao nib and orange shortbread; chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles; peanut butter and jelly caramel corn

I also began a small, mail order cookie and caramel corn club in 2014, with a handful of dedicated customers. To date, I have baked more than 35 dozen cookies and over 13.75 lbs of caramel corn. I took November and December off, but will finish up my club offerings during 1Q of 2015. Then who knows what I’ll do next! Some of the recipes have been posted here, with more to come, and others to perfect.

By my counts, I developed 34 new recipes in 2014, though only a handful made it to this blog. They break down into:

  • 12 cookie recipes
  • 8 caramel corn recipes
  • 5 pie/tart recipes
  • 3 cupcake recipes
  • 2 cake recipes
  • 1 blondie recipe
  • 1 brittle recipe
  • 1 brownie recipe
  • 1 scone recipe

Looking at all of this, I can see that while I may have only published fewer than 50 posts in 2014, I did a lot. And sometimes you need to take a closer look before you throw your hands up in the air and say “I got nothing accomplished!” Because all of this is evidence that I did do a lot this year.

So what will 2015 bring? Jan. 28 will be Cupcake Friday Project’s 4th anniversary … it’s kind of amazing to look back at the last 4 years of blogging and see every I did. I hope to continue writing for Table Matters, and may begin pitching a few other food publications. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

For all of you, I hope that 2015 brings you light and love, butter and sugar, and as many good things as possible. Until next year!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Snacktime delight cookies

Snacktime Delight Cookies: 2014 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is back for 2014, marking it’s 4th year! From the site:

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

The swap is partnered with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, which is a fantastic nonprofit, and supported by sponsors such as OXO and Dixie Crystals. And it’s just really a lot of fun.

I’ve been participating in the swap since 2012, and have baked up recipes such as Chocolate toffee chip cookies with almonds and smoked sea salt and Dark chocolate caramel corn delights.

For this year, I took my favorite chocolate chip cookie base and mixed in pretzels and ruffled potato chips to make a fun snacktime-style cookie. They’re buttery, salty and just the right level of sweetness.

Snacktime Delight Cookies Packaged for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

I also received some really lovely cookies, ranging from  soft chocolate cookies from Sara of Sensibly Sara (they melt in your mouth!), chocolate chip cranberry cookies from Crystal of Mrs. Happy Homemaker, and Hononghjerter from Ba-Li Cravings. But most importantly, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap raises money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

Do you have a food blog and want to participate next year? Sign up here to receive notifications about when the 2014 swap will start to organize and do your part to share some cheer over the holidays and raise money to help some really wonderful kids. It’s good for the soul.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Snacktime delight cookies

Yields: 40 cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 10 oz (approximately 2 cups) flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 oz (approximately 3/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz (approximately 1/2 tightly packed cup plus 2 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 oz crumbled pretzels
  • 3 oz crumbled ruffled potato chips

Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat.

Cook the butter, swirling regularly, until the butter is browned and has a nutty aroma. This should take about 5-7 minutes, depending on the strength of your stovetop.

Whisk in the ice water (which replaces the moisture cooked out while browning the butter), and cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine both sugars, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on medium high speed until the mixture is golden, about 5 minutes.

Set the mixer on low and slowly pour in the browned butter. Once added, turn the speed up to medium and mix until combined.

On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping down when necessary.

Add the chocolate chips, pretzels and potato chips, mixing gently to combine.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill the cookie dough for at least 8 hours or up to 72 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line cookie sheets with either parchment or baking silicone.

Scoop the cookies onto the sheet, leaving at least 1.5 inches between cookies.

Bake for 7 minutes, then rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for an additional 6-7 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and place on cooling racks. After about 5 minutes, the cookies can be transferred off of the cookie sheet and directly onto the rack.

Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles

Chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles
Because I have a cookie club with a few of my friends across the country, I’ve been baking A LOT of cookies this past year. It’s great because I can stretch my creativity and cookies ship easily, meaning I get to share them with ease.

This is a snickerdoodle recipe I’ve been using most of my life, with a handful of updates. The original recipe from a cookbook I no longer remember the name of (it was ANCIENT) called for shortening. Um, no. I don’t like the flavor of shortening, and can’t get behind baking with it. My mom had written in the margin of the cookbook “oil” next to shortening, and I used that for awhile, but I began to notice the taste of my cookies seeming a little off.

So now I use butter, which called for an adjustment to the flour. I also mix spices into the cookie dough, as well as roll the dough balls in sugar and spices. And while cinnamon is the classic spice for this kind of cookie, the Chinese 5 spice is an excellent substitute.

Chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles

Yields: 50-60 cookies

  • Snickerdoodle Ingredients
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice, plus 1/4-1/2 tsp additional spice to roll the cookies in
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 2-4 tbsp additional sugar to roll the cookies in
  • 2 eggs

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or baking silicone.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and Chinese 5 spice in a bowl, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed, beating until pale and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.

Add the eggs and beat until combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough comes together. Chill for 10-20 minutes to make the dough easier to handle.

In a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the extra sugar and Chinese 5 spice.

Scoop the cookie dough and roll into 1 1/2-inch wide balls. Roll the shaped balls in the sugar and spice mixture, then place on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space around each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the bottoms of the cookies are slightly golden and the tops have cracked a bit. Cool fully on a rack before packaging or eating.

Cookie-inspired beers from Flying Dog Brewery in time for the holidays

Flying Dog Holiday Collection of beers and cookies

A couple weeks ago I received one of the latest creative collections from Frederick Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery: The Holiday Collection.

Since I’m on the brewery’s media mailing list, I often get a bottle of a new beer every now and again, and when it makes sense, I bake with and write about them. But this package was surprising and different from many of the others. Within, there were 4 bottles of beer and a box of Otterbein cookies. The press release explained:

Introducing The Holiday Collection: 4 Otterbein’s cookie-inspired craft beers in a brand new variety 12-pack.

A Baltimore mainstay since 1881, the Otterbein’s cookie recipes have been passed down among 5 generations. Pairing tradition with innovation, the beers were inspired by and meant to pair with these iconic cookies.

Opening the box was a bit like Christmas morning. I unwrapped each carefully packed beer, reading the amusing label copy (Flying Dog never fails to make their beers fun), and within a bakery box were multiple bags of crispy cookies.

I sat down and sampled each beer, along with the cookie designated for each, and here are my thoughts:

Imperial Hefeweizen, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Sugar Cookies
This beer was my favorite out of the 4. It hit all the right hefe notes, with a little more spicy punch and an amazing aroma. And the sugar cookie did not disappoint. All of Otterbein’s cookies are extremely thin, but they don’t lack in flavor. This particular sugar cookie had a great crunch, was buttery, and had some toasty notes. Out of the 4, I feel like this was the best beer and cookie pairing.

Roasted Peanut Brown Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
According to my press sheet, the particular yeast strain used in this beer gives it some roasty peanut notes, which I thought was rather clever. At first, I didn’t pick up the peanut flavor, but it sort of “bloomed” on my tongue (just a little homebrewer speak there). Sadly, the flavor began to dissipate as I continued sipping the beer and I was left with just a nice brown ale. The chocolate chip cookie was also crispy, but there was something off about the chocolate. I think it was milk chocolate, which I’m not a fan of, especially in cookies.

Oatmeal Raisin Stout, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
For an oatmeal stout, this beer was a bit thin and seemed more like a porter. I unfortunately didn’t pick up any raisin in the beer, and I think an imperial-style would have been better for this particular flavor profile. As for the cookie, they were wonderfully spiced and crispy and quite the delight to nibble.

Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Ginger Cookies
This beer is another one that uses specific ingredients to get a unique flavor: in this case, the malts provide the hazelnut character. But I couldn’t pick up any hazelnut. For an oak aged beer, this also was a bit volatile when first poured (all I could taste was the barrel), but after letting it sit a few minutes, it settled and was pleasantly nutty (just not hazelnutty). The ginger cookie delivered on the ginger and had that wonderful Otterbein crunch, but the pairing fell flat for me. I think a molasses-based cookie would have worked better.

Though not every beer and cookie pairing worked for me, I enjoyed seeing Flying Dog flex their creative muscle and have fun. They’re the kind of brewery I’m always excited to see more from, and as a baker, I really like the fact that they fostered such a great relationship with a well-loved Maryland bakery.

Disclosure: I received the beers and cookies from Flying Dog brewery to sample, however my opinions are my own.

Blueberries and cream cookies

Blueberries and cream cookies
While I think I like blueberries fresh off the bush the best, these cookies may become my new favorite. The cookie is chewy, caramely, with a gentle crunch to the edge, and then the tartness of the blueberries comes in. Heaven. Absolute heaven.

The cookie base for this recipe is inspired by Serious Eats’ Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, and I think it might become my new base for all cookies that have add-ins like this. I used to be a big fan of the New Best Recipe Chocolate Chip Cookie, but unfortunately those have been coming out hard. I much prefer a chewy cookie.

What have you been baking this summer? I know I’ve been keeping my baking to a minimum, mainly because I’ve been so busy working on our condo, training for the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride, volunteering at PAWS and writing for Table Matters. But I haven’t forgotten about all you lovelies!

Blueberries and cream cookies

Yields: Approximately 48 cookies

  • Blueberries and Cream Cookie Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 10 oz (approximately 2 cups) flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 oz (approximately 3/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz (approximately 1/2 tightly packed cup plus 2 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 8 oz dried blueberries
  • 8 oz white chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat.

Cook the butter, swirling regularly, until the butter is browned and has a nutty aroma. This should take about 5-7 minutes, depending on the strength of your stovetop.

Whisk in the ice water (which replaces the moisture cooked out while browning the butter), and cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine both sugars, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on medium high speed until the mixture is golden, about 5 minutes.

Set the mixer on low and slowly pour in the browned butter. Once added, turn the speed up to medium and mix until combined.

On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping down when necessary.

Add the dried blueberries and white chocolate, mixing to combine.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill the cookie dough for at least 8 hours or up to 72 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line cookie sheets with either parchment or baking silicone.

Scoop the cookies onto the sheet, leaving at least 1.5 inches between cookies.

Bake for 7 minutes, then rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for an additional 6-7 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and place on cooling racks. After about 5 minutes, the cookies can be transferred off of the cookie sheet and directly onto the rack.

Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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