Rocky Road Crunch Bars

My platonic crush Nigella makes these, and they are so easy and delicious. They even remind me of s’mores, which are just about my favorite thing in the world. I’ve used several different kinds of crunchy cookies, but graham crackers would work in a pinch. What a great, easy chocolate gift for someone you love.

Rocky Road Crunch Bars

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon soft unsalted butter
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons golden syrup or 1/4 cup corn syrup
8 ounces plain hard and crunchy cookies
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Melt the butter, chocolate and syrup in a heavy based saucepan. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of this melted mixture and put aside.

Put the biscuits/cookies into a freezer bag and then bash them with a rolling pin. You are looking for both crumbs and pieces of cookies. Fold the cookie pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture, and then add the marshmallows.

Pour into a 9-inch square foil tray; flatten as best you can with a spatula. Pour over the reserved 1/2 half cup of melted chocolate mixture and smooth the top.

Refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight.

Cut into 24 fingers and dust with powdered sugar by pushing it gently through a tea strainer or small sieve.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recently I became obsessed with chocolate chip cookies. The reason is that I read an article in the New York Times with some secrets to making better cookies. There were three tips. I already knew the one about salt making sweet things better, but I didn’t know about the other secrets that bakers know but home bakers don’t generally use.

The most interesting new one to me was about making the dough 36 hours ahead of time. Who knew? Of course this requires a level of organization that I can’t even hope to have. But a girl has to have  a dream, right? It also talked about making them really big, like golf ball sized. This one is a little tougher for me, but I may just have to try it in the name of science!

And finally, I have a confession to make. I love chocolate chip cookies, but sometimes, well they are almost too chocolate chippy. So when I made these, I got chocolate bars and thinly chopped them instead of using chips. I’ll do this from now on. It took 2 minutes, and the results were thin chocolate ribbons going through the cookies, which I found so much more delicious than the lumps of chocolate. It’s just my opinion; don’t judge.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Butter Cookies Two Ways

I love a recipe that does double duty.This recipe is from Epicurious, and I’ve made it for a long time. On their website, there are more variations, but these are two favorites. Enjoy!

Basic Butter Cookie Dough

4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

In large bowl of a standing electric mixer beat together butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in yolks, 1 at a time, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat in flour gradually, beating dough until just combined well. Makes about 3 pounds dough.

Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1/2 prepared Basic Butter Cookie Dough at room temperature
about 1/2 cup sugar

In a bowl soak cranberries in warm water to cover 15 minutes. Drain cranberries well and chop fine.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer beat cranberries, oats, and zest into basic dough until just combined well. Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll balls in sugar to coat. Arrange balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets and flatten to 2-inch rounds with bottom of a glass wrapped in wax paper to prevent sticking.

Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until pale golden, about 12 minutes, and cool on racks. Cookies may be stored between layers of wax paper in airtight containers up to 6 weeks frozen.

Makes about 7 dozen cookies.

Jelly Bowl Cookies

1/2 prepared Basic Butter Cookie Dough at room temperature
3/4 cup strawberry, apricot, or raspberry jam, strained fine

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Form level teaspoons of dough into balls and arrange about 1 inch apart on baking sheets. With your thumb make an indentation in center of each ball of dough and fill with about 1/4 teaspoon jam.

Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until edges are pale golden, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 2 minutes and transfer to racks to cool completely. Cookies may be stored between layers of wax paper in airtight containers up to 6 weeks frozen.

Makes 8 dozen cookies.

Molasses Cookies

A zillion years ago when I worked in the corporate world, I worked with a girl at NCD who brought these in for my birthday. I was so touched, and they were so moist and chewy that I’ve made them ever since!

Molasses Cookies

3/4 cup margarine or butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses (Brair Rabbit, not Grandmas if possible)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. ground cloves
3/4 t. ground ginger

Mix together margarine, sugar, egg, and molasses.

Sift together flour, soda, salt, and spices.

Add dry ingredients to molasses mixture. Blend well. Form into walnut-sized balls and roll in sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for no more than 8 minutes.

Creme de Menthe Brownies

When I got married, I wanted to get a few of my husband’s family recipes, and this one is at the top of the bunch. His Aunt Sus gave it to me; they are her Christmas standby, and now they are mine too. They are so moist, and the chocolate and mint combo is a winner!

Creme de Menthe Brownies

1 cup sugar
1 cup + 6 T. butter, separated
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 cup flour
½ t. salt
1 cup Hersheys chocolate syrup
2 cups confectioners sugar
4 T. Creme de Menthe
1 cup chocolate chips
6 T. butter

Cream sugar and ½ cup butter. Add eggs and vanilla, then flour, salt, and syrup. Put in a “Pammed” 9×13 pan and cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, cream 2 cups confectioners sugar and remaining ½ cup butter. Add 4 Creme de Menthe. Frost the cake with this. Melt chocolate chips and 6 T. butter, and spread over top of frosting.

Sand Lake Cookies

My friend Margit brought these to me at an impromptu Halloween party in 1999 at my house. I thought they looked “interesting,” but oh when I tasted them… They were great! Margit’s family used to go to Sand Lake in Minnesota every summer and would bring these cookies, thus the name. They are almost like toffee, so delicious.

Sand Lake Cookies

Yields 48 cookies

12 whole graham crackers (Honeymaid)

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup sugar

Slivered almonds

Line jellyroll pan with foil. Boil butter and sugar over medium heat for exactly 2 minutes. Separate each graham cracker into 4 sections with knife; don’t use broken ones. Pour mixture over graham crackers and spread to cover completely. Sprinkle with almonds to taste. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool in pan, and then remove.

Peanut Butter Stars

These are a must for the holidays and my husband’s favorites. I’ve had many versions, but these are the best, courtesy of my friend Sandy, who also says it isn’t Christmas in her house without these!

Peanut Butter Star Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1/3 cup water
2 cups buttermilk baking mix (i.e. Bisquick)
1 cup smooth peanut butter
Hershey’s kisses
Extra granulated sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients with mixer. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls through granulated sugar. Place on greased baking sheet – DO NOT FLATTEN. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Immediately after removing from oven, place a chocolate kiss in the center of each cookie.

Ooey-Gooey S’more Brownies

I almost didn’t make this recipe. It was out of Cooking Light, and I just didn’t know how a light brownie could be that good. But I am such a s’mores fanatic and it was recommended so highly that I decided to give it a try. And now it’s a favorite. The original recipe calls for peanut butter chips – substitute those if you must – but I think the toffee chips give it that almost burned taste of a s’more. Delicious!

Ooey-Gooey S’more Brownies

3/4  cup  fat-free sweetened condensed milk, divided

1/4  cup  butter or stick margarine, melted and cooled

1/4  cup  fat-free milk

1  (18.25-ounce) package devil’s food cake mix

1  large egg white, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

1  (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme (about 1 3/4 cups)

1/2  cup  toffee chips (or crush up a Heath bar)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1/4 cup condensed milk, butter, and next 3 ingredients (butter through egg white) in a bowl (batter will be very stiff). Coat bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Press two-thirds of batter (NOT ALL THE BATTER – I SAY THIS AS A SERVICE TO YOU.)  into prepared pan using floured hands; pat evenly (layer will be thin).

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup condensed milk and marshmallow creme in a bowl; stir in morsels. Spread marshmallow mixture evenly over brownie layer. Carefully drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over marshmallow mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

If you must know, there are 176 calories per brownie, but only if you cut it into 24 brownies.

Oreo Cookie Balls

These technically aren’t a cookie.  Nonetheless, you can’t have just one.  Simple and yummy!

Oreo Cookie Balls

1 package of Oreo cookies (crushed up very fine)
1 block of cream cheese (melted in the microwave)
1 package of white chocolate bark (melted)
Sprinkles to decorate

Place the Oreos in a plastic bag and crush them very fine with a rolling pin.

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave. Mix the crushed cookies into the cream cheese. Form them into 1″ balls and refrigerate for one hour.

Melt the white chocolate bark and dip the cookie balls into the white chocolate. Decorate with sprinkles.

The Best Sugar Cookies

I had these cookies at a party, and they were life changing. I had to track down the baker, and he graciously sent me this recipe. Now Jon and I will be friends forever.

He served them with pink frosting, all lined up on a red platter, and they were stunning.  Tracy agrees, these are the best sugar cookies! If they are a little crisp, just seal them in an airtight container, and they’ll be perfect the next day.

The Best Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Base:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside.

Place butter in bowl of electric mixer and beat on medium until smooth. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until well combined and fluffy (whatever that means).

Add each egg one at a time and beat until combined. Add almond and vanilla extracts.

With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a ball and place in the middle of a sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a rough 8 inch circle. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Roll out each dough piece to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter (yield with a round 2 inch cutter is approximately 60 cookies). Place cut-outs on baking sheets 1 inch apart. Refrigerate sheets with cut-outs for 15 minutes (this helps the cookies spread less during baking and retain their shape).

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating front-to-back and top-to-bottom (if using two sheets) halfway through. Let cookies cool completely before frosting.
Tip: If they aren’t soft and moist, you can add a couple of apple slices in an airtight container and they will soften.

Pink frosting:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 oz. butter (3/4 stick), softened
1 tsp. vanilla
A few drops red food coloring
2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until smooth. Add vanilla and red food coloring and mix until combined.

Gradually add powdered sugar at low speed until fully combined. (Over-mixing will result in a lighter, aerated frosting–not my favorite with these cookies). More powdered sugar results in a stiffer frosting that develops a satisfying outer “crust” once dry (my preference), less results in a creamier texture that remains satiny.