If you see chocolate covered raisins and grated carrot peeking out of the cookies on my brunch table, you’ll know the Easter Bunny has left a little surprise on his way through the kitchen!
He can’t help it; bunnies are like that. I had a litter-box trained rabbit once, but he still left a few droppings on the way to and from the box. More than you wanted to know, right?
These cookies are very light and cake-like, not crunchy. I like mine just bursting with goodies, so I add a handful of toasted pecans to the dough too for a little extra flavor and crunch. You could also add a small can of crushed pineapple with the juice thoroughly pressed out.
You don’t really have to glaze them, but they’re so appealing with that thin coat of icing that I couldn’t resist.
These are about as easy as cookies get. Make lots and lots; they’ll go quickly!
The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is irresistible to me, and I just love getting both flavors in one cookie. There are endless ways to put these two doughs together, and I’ll show you a few, but I’m sure you will come up with some fun ideas of your own.
Yes, you’ll have to make two different batches of cookie dough, but it really is a very easy dough to make, and it won’t take you long at all. If you’re wondering how many this will make, I just don’t know what to tell you. It depends on whether you’re making the three layer cookies or the chain cookies or . . .
Let’s just say it makes a generous amount, at least 4 dozen.
Two easy batches of shortbread cookie dough can be combined in countless ways to make creative and delicious cookies.
PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk or water
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cornstarch
3 cups all-purpose flour
CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH:
1½ cups butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon water or coffee
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cornstarch
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
To decorate: your choice of chopped peanuts, sprinkles, chocolate icing or ganache
PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
In a large mixing bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is best) beat butter, peanut butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and milk (or water) together well.
Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
Gradually add the flour. This is a very stiff dough! It will appear crumbly, but with thorough beating, should come together. If it doesn't, drizzle in a small amount of milk or water.
Wrap and refrigerate dough. Scrape bowl out and use for the chocolate dough.
CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH
In large bowl, beat butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and water (or coffee) together well.
Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
Combine the flour and cocoa and gradually add, mixing until dough forms. If necessary, drizzle in a very small amount of water or coffee.
Wrap and refrigerate both doughs for 30 minutes. If you refrigerate the dough longer, it will become very stiff. If that happens, let it rest at room temperature until manageable.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Working with a small piece of one color at a time, roll ¼ inch thick on lightly floured surface or between sheets of parchment. Bake on ungreased baking sheet or on parchment for approximately 10 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your cookies. They should just be beginning brown on the bottom. Here are some ideas:
Try using two different sizes of the same shape of cutter. If using hearts, cut large hearts out of both doughs, then use a smaller heart cutter in the center of half of the large hearts. Gently press a shape with the center removed onto a solid shape. Once baked, fill the center with chocolate ganache or peanut butter icing. You can also marble the colors, roll, and cut. Or try putting a small heart on a large one, topping with a dab of peanut butter, and covering with another large heart, creating a small raised heart in the center. Cover cooled cookie with icing or ganache. Or cut small hearts out of the center of large hearts to create heart "frames". cut one on the side, and slip the other through the cut. Press lighlty for a 2 heart "chain".
If you love peppermint patties, you will swoon over these holiday confections! With a crunchy cookie bottom, a thick layer of soft, creamy peppermint candy, and a firm, snappy coating of chocolate, the combination of textures is every bit as appealing as the flavors. Family and friends will take one bite and beg you to make more; I’ll bet they’ll be the first treats to disappear from your cookie platter.
There’s really nothing hard about making them, but they are a bit of a project. If you have young ones around, I know they’d love to help cut out the shapes and put the cookies and filling layers together. And you don’t have to do it all at once; bake the cookies one day and leave the filling and dipping for another time. The cookies freeze well, so you could get that part out of the way weeks before, if you’re the efficient type.
Frankly, though I love anything and everything dipped in chocolate, I hate doing the dipping. If there were anyone else here I could stick with that job, I’d do it. I don’t usually fuss about getting messy. Up to my elbows in dough? Great! Splattered wtih icing? Sweeeeet! Food coloring under my nails? No problem. But chocolate on my hands? Eeeeuw. Wash wash wash wash.
Okay, I lied; I don’t love EVERYTHING dipped in chocolate. This was a bad idea. Bad!
Still, totally worth it!
Of course I can’t just make something the way I imagined it; I have to play with variations. So…after the recipe and instructions, I’ll show you a few different ideas I tried.
If the chocolate cookie recipe looks familiar, that’s because it’s my go-to recipe when I want crunch. The cookie itself isn’t too sweet, which is perfect, because the patty filling certainly is! It’s basically what everyone’s aunt uses to make wedding mints, right? Put them together and dip the two layers in chocolate, and it just works perfectly together.
I originally considered topping the mint layer with a firm ganache before dipping, but my daughter talked me down from that craziness. She was right—these don’t need more chocolate. (Did I just say that?)
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little more, if necessary)
⅔ cups unsweetened cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon clear vanilla (optional)
8½ -9 cups powdered sugar
18 ounces dark chocolate
1 tablespoon shortening
Milk or white chocolate, or colored icing for decorating. Or just use sprinkles!
Heat oven to 350 F.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the vanilla, milk, and egg, and beat well.
Add the dry ingredients (slow down there, Tiger...the cocoa will fly everywhere! Beat it on low until it's incorporated) and mix together well. It should be very soft, but if it's too sticky to handle, add up to 3 tablespoons extra flour.
For best results, roll out between two pieces of lightly floured parchment until it's about ¼" thick.
Cut with a star shaped cookie cutter (mine was 2¾" wide) and place ½"-1" apart on ungreased bafking sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes. The cookies should be fairly firm. If they're still soft, give them another minute or two. They'll harden a bit as they cool.
Allow the cookies to sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add peppermint extract and vanilla, if using, and mix well.
Slowly add the powdered sugar, using a sturdy stand mixer and dough hook, if possible. If mixing by hand, stir in as much powdered sugar as possible, then place any remaining sugar on work surface and put the dough on top of it. Knead by hand until smooth. Add additional powdered sugar if dough is too sticky to roll.
Work with half of the dough at a time, keeping the reamaining half tightly wrapped in plastic. Roll out ¼-inch thick between sheets of parchment that have been dusted with powdered sugar.
Cut with the same star cookie cutter you used for the cookies. Place one piece of peppermint dough on each cookie. Using a mini-roller or your hands, make sure the dough goes all the way to the edge of the cookie. Press gently around the edge to make it rounded and smooth all the way around.
Chill for at least one hour.
Melt chocolate and shortening in the microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring each time, or in a small pan on lowest heat, stirring frequently.
Turn each cookie over and dip the peppermint side into the melted chocolate, making sure the chocolate completely covers the peppermint. You don't need to coat the bottom of the cookie.. Allow excess to drip off, and place (cookie side down) on waxed paper or parchment. Chill until chocolate is firm. (If you are using sprinkles, add them before the chocolate hardens)
Or, once chocolate is firm, drizzle with a contrasting color, using milk or white chocolate or a colored icing.
Delicate maple leaf wafers are perfect for decorating your favorite fall desserts, or, of course, for eating—one after another after another. They’re light and crispy, like the thinnest of potato chips, but the sweet maple flavor of these dainty cookies is even more addictive. (Bet you can’t eat just one!) Jazz them up with fall colors if you’d like, or leave them golden brown. Either way, these treats are quick, easy, and fun to make!
Crunchy brown leaves bursting with maple flavor.
You will need either silicone baking sheets or parchment to bake the cookies on. Trust me on this! I was resistant to both for years, but have now fully embraced their usefulness. There are several ways you can make these leaves, and I’ll show you all of them, but my favorite method involves a stencil (I made my own by sacrificing a silicone sheet and cutting leaf shapes into it), parchment, and a broad pastry brush.
The photo below shows my stencil option on the top, and a simple printed template with parchment over it on the bottom. Both methods work, but the stencil definitely makes things go faster!
Two options: A stencil over the parchment or a template under the parchment. (For the template you would paint inside the lines, directly onto the parchment.)
If you are making brown leaves, the maple flavoring will be added to the bowl along with the melted butter. If you are making colored leaves, separate the batter into small bowls (how many will depend on what colors you want to use). In one of the bowls, stir enough maple flavoring into the batter to achieve a rich brown color. Stir food coloring into the others.
This is pretty obvious, I guess, but it doesn’t hurt to mention: the colored leaves won’t taste like maple! If you add maple flavoring to the bright colors, they will turn muddy. And nobody wants THAT, so…if you want your leaves to taste like maple, you’ll need to use more brown batter in each leaf.
The leaves can be baked either on a silicone baking sheet or on parchment. I prefer parchment because the silicone sheet leaves a shiny, slightly bumpy texture on one side of each leaf. If you don’t mind that, the silicone sheets work really well. The parchment does tend to wrinkle slightly, giving some of the leaves a rippled effect, but I kind of like the look—like a soggy autumn leaf. And, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I remember a lot more soggy leaves than dry ones!
I brush the batter over the leaf shapes. Thin is best; they come out crispier, and can be beautifully lacy. But…they are also more fragile. Plan on losing a few. I think you’ll know what to do with the broken ones, right? Here’s a lovely brown leaf ready to go in the oven.
Thinly brushed batter will result in a delicate, lacy wafer.
I’ll give you the recipe (oh, so easy) and then show you some fun options.
Makes between 4 and 5 dozen wafer cookies, depending on thickness. You will need either a maple leaf stencil to go over the parchment (easily made by tracing a maple leaf cookie cutter onto a silicone sheet or cardboard and cutting shapes out with a craft blade) or a maple leaf template to slide under the parchment.
¼ cup butter
3 egg whites
½ cup superfine sugar (or for more maple kick, use fine maple sugar!)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream OR thick (Bulgarian style) buttermilk
½ - 1 teaspoon maple flavoring (like Mapleine) if making brown leaves. If making colored leaves, maple flavoring will be added to a small portion of batter. See instructions below.
Heat oven to 375 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking sheets.
In the microwave or in a small pan on low heat, melt butter. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and sugar together until foamy.
Add flour and cream. Beat until smooth.
Add butter and (if you are making brown leaves) maple flavoring. Beat on low until well mixed.
If you wish to make colored leaves, separate batter into small bowls and add maple flavoring to one of the bowls until you get a rich brown color. Add food coloring of your choice to the others.
If you are using a stencil, lay stencil on parchment covered baking sheet and brush batter over each leaf cutout. (Keep coating as thin as possible without leaving bare spots.) Carefully lift stencil onto the second baking sheet and repeat. If you are using a template, place it under the parchment and paint inside the lines, using a pastry brush or paintbrush.
For colored leaves, dip the pastry brush into two or three colors at a time and brush onto stencils, keeping brush strokes to a minimum to avoid muddy colors.
Bake one sheet at a time for approximately 6 minutes. Watch carefully and pull the leaves as they are beginning to turn a mottled brown. Even the colored leaves will pick up brown streaks.
Remove from oven and quickly but carefully slide a thin metal spatula under each leaf, moving them to a cooling rack or a piece of crumpled up foil, to create a curled shape.
If the leaves begin to harden before you've finished shaping them, they can be returned to the oven for 15 seconds to soften a little.
lift the stencil carefully and move to clean parchment for the next batch!
OR you can go with some bright fall colors. The best way I’ve found to make the colored leaves is to dip the pastry brush into two (or three) different colors, then brush onto the stencil, using the least number of brush strokes possible.
Go a little wild with the colors!
Ready to bake
Remember that I told you there were other methods? If you are a free spirit, you can simply brush leaves free-style on your parchment, using a large artist’s paintbrush, or put a template under the parchment and use it as a guide.
Painting leaves. (These were filled in with streaks of color.)
Or…brush brown leaves onto the stencil and then highlight them with colors, using a paintbrush.
You can also use that paintbrush to paint different streaks of color onto the stencil.
Kids might have fun just painting random shapes. If you go this route, I’d advise using a silicon sheet, because the parchment will slide around on the baking pan.
They bake quickly – exactly 6 minutes in my oven. Yours might vary, so watch them closely. They go from anemic to charred very quickly!
Slightly crumple a big piece of foil and have it sitting on the counter. As you lift each leaf, immediately lay it on the foil. It will shape itself over the hills and valleys of the foil into appealing fallen leaf shapes.
If your leaves start to get too firm to shape before you can remove them all from the baking sheet, put them back in the oven for 15 seconds. OR lay them on a baking sheet with crumpled foil and return to the oven briefly. As long as they weren’t over baked to begin with, they should soften and bend into interesting shapes. Or just embrace flat leaves!
I learned that if I always had a parchment covered baking sheet on the counter I could lift the messy stencil from the pan I was finished with and move it to the empty sheet to wait to be painted. Otherwise, I obsessively washed the stencil between batches, wasting waaaay too much batter. OCD much?
You can make the batter several hours ahead and keep it chillin’ in the refrigerator, covered tightly.
Besides just eating these sweethearts hand over fist, I love to use them for decorating pies, cakes, or cheesecakes. Here’s a maple cheesecake with leaf decorations.
(No…I’m not posting this cheesecake recipe. I’ve got to keep SOME of my good stuff for the cookbook I’m working on, and this is definitely one for the book!) I know, what a tease, huh?
Fun, easy, creative! This would be a wonderful project to do with kids. Perhaps to be arranged on little plates at each Thanksgiving place setting?
These spicy molasses cookies are slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, just like a spider! Bwa ha ha. I try to put aside my hatred of spiders when I decorate and eat these delightful, flavorful cookies, because at Halloween it’s kind of fun to enjoy the food, yet be grossed out at the presentation—sort of a “love to hate it” situation.
The dough is very soft and must be chilled before rolling and baking, so planning ahead is a good idea. If you wrap it well, you can actually make this dough several days ahead…if you’re the efficient, organized type. (I salute you!)
I made several batches of these a few years ago for a holiday bazaar, and they sold like crazy. It’s a horrible picture, but you can see how huge they were.But…not everyone wants a whole handful of cookie, so I improvised and made these cute little two-inch bites for this post.
The dough is very quick to make; just leave yourself plenty of time to chill it properly. It also helps to roll it out between two sheets of lightly floured parchment. And even though I really don’t like using shortening, it’s important in this recipe. All butter will make the cookies spread more, and you don’t want that!
Makes about 8 dozen small (2-inch) cookies. You can make them larger or just lightly frost the rest when you get tired of making spiders!
½ cup butter, slightly softened
½ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
5½ cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup molasses
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
Royal Icing - use your favorite recipe OR try mine:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder (I use Wiltons brand, available in the cake decorating section)
¼ cup water
Dark icing, melted chocolate, dark brown coated candy...whatever you want to use for the spider.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is helpful) beat together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar until well combined.
Add eggs and beat until incorporated.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt, and baking powder.
In a small bowl combine the molasses and sour cream. Whisk in the baking soda. It will foam up and lighten in color.
At low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. When most of the flour is mixed in, add ⅓ of the molasses mixture. Repeat twice, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Do not overbeat!
Chill dough for at least 2 hours. Overnight is better.
Heat oven to 375.
Roll out ¼ of the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator. Dough should be about ¼-inch thick. Cut into circles and place on parchment covered baking sheet, 1 inch apart.
Bake small circles for 8-9 minutes, larger circles for 9-10 minutes. Touch the top of one cookie gently. If your finger leaves a mark, give them another minute. For crispy cookies, add an extra minute or two.
Cool on a rack.
To make royal icing: Combine powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water. Beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, until thick and fluffy.
Using a pastry bag and small tip (or a heavy zipper bag with the tip cut off) pipe spider webbing onto cool cookies: make a straight line from top to bottom, then side to side. Then two more lines diagonally, like cutting a pie into 8 pieces. Pipe near the outer edge of the cookie, swooping from one line to the next. Do it again closer to the center. That's it!
Hint: You can also coat the entire cookie in a thin layer of icing, let it dry, and then draw the web on with a food color pen like Wilton's FoodWriter.
You can make the spider out of dark chocolate frosting (this is one of those times I'd encourage buying a can of frosting for simplicity), ganache, or by piping melted chocolate for the legs and head, and using a dark brown M&M for the body.
Beat butter and sugar, then add eggs. Mixture should be light and fluffy.
In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients
In a small bowl, whisk baking soda into molasses and sour cream. It foams!
Alternate molasses and dry ingredients. Dry first, then wet. Repeat twice.
Cover dough and chill thoroughly.
Cut circles and bake on parchment. Size is up to you!
There are two decorating options I like:
Wait for the icing to dry (see the center? I didn’t wait long enough) and draw the web onto cookie with a food marker. OR pipe it with black icing or melted chocolate.
or pipe royal icing webs on plain cookies. I think the spiders show up a little better this way.
To make the spiders, simply pipe on legs and a small head, using black icing or melted chocolate (I stir a tiny bit of corn syrup into the warm chocolate, just until it thickens a little) and top it with a dark brown M&M. You can find lots of different spider shapes on Google.
I had intended to go all out with these—make brown recluse and black widow spiders—but it creeped me out so badly I just couldn’t do it. If you are tougher than I am, go for it. Making these cookies was bad enough for this arachnophobe!
This recipe makes a whopping 8 dozen small (2-inch) cookies. If you get tired of drawing webs and making spiders, you can always make them larger OR just lightly ice some of them with the crispy royal icing.
These crisp vanilla cornucopias are filled with dark chocolate and sweet little fruits and vegetables—as delightful to look at as they are to eat!
If you don’t have cream horn molds, you’ll want to pick some up at your local kitchen store, or buy a dozen online for less than $10.00. You won’t be sorry!
You can fill these babies however you please. Marzipan fruits, little chocolate leaves…go where your imagination takes you! For those of you who are sissies reluctant to create your own little decorations, I’ll give you options ranging from “easy-peasy” to “seriously???” so you can pick your method. You know which one I prefer, of course…but then, I can’t resist playing with my food.
This is a basic sugar cookie recipe with just a little brown sugar to add color, and an extra egg white to add to the crisp factor. Think of the cornucopia as “sugar cone meets fortune cookie” and you will know what to expect. The chocolate coating just puts this cookie over the top!
Honestly? I loved the crunchy cookie and chocolate without any decorations at all. You’ll have a few that don’t come out pretty, so I’m sure you’ll be able to munch on one or two. Or three.
I’ll give you the cookie recipe and instructions first, then tell you how I made the decorations.
Makes 3½ - 4 dozen cookies. Dough must be chilled for at least 2 hours before rolling.
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup butter (softened)
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
2⅔ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
Decorations, if desired: fruit shaped candy or fruit snacks, chocolate leaves, M&Ms, marzipan fruit, fruit and leaves made from candy clay, leaves made from fruit roll-ups or rolled candy corn.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is very helpful - this is a stiff dough!) combine brown sugar, white sugar, and butter. Beat well until creamy.
Add egg and egg white, vanilla, and milk. Beat well.
Gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mixture will look dry and crumbly, but will eventually come together into a stiff dough. If it doesnt, add a little milk or water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Cover dough and chill for at least 2 hours - overnight is fine.
Create a template by cutting a piece of cardstock (or the middle of a paper plate) to fit exactly around a cream corn mold, leaving at least 1 inch of the large end of the mold uncovered. This helps to remove the mold after baking, and keeps the cookies from being too large. My template was approximately 3-1/2" by 3-1/2".
VERY lightly coat the molds with butter. You shouldn't be able to see the butter!
Heat oven to 350F. Cover baking sheets with parchment.
Remove about ¼ of the dough from the refrigerator at a time. Roll out on generously floured surface to approximately ⅛-inch thickness.
Using template, cut out shapes. With fork tines, press vertical and then horizontal lines to resemble basket weave.
Lift each piece of dough with a flat spatula and lay over the mold with the mold seam to the back. There should be a small gap at the seam. Gently ease the dough together over the seam. Don't overlap, and make sure the dough is snug on the mold to avoid sagging as the cornucopias bake.
Bake for 11-12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and move to cooling rack until cookies are cool enough to handle. Holding a cookie in one hand, gently squeeze the metal mold to loosen, and firmly pull cookie off of mold. Allow cookie to cool before filling with chocolate.
Repeat with remaining dough. When finished, melt the chocolate: in the microwave, at 15 second increments, stirring each time, or in a small pan on the stove using the lowest heat, stirring often. With either method, heat JUST until most of the chunks are melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely smooth.
Lightly coat the inside of each cone with chocolate. I found it easiest to do by dipping a (clean!) finger in the warm chocolate, but you can use a paintbrush or pastry bag. Keep the coating fairly light so it doesn't seep through the cookie shell. Dip the opening in chocolate and place on waxed paper.
Chocolate will remain soft for quite a while, so this is a good time to add any decorations you are using.
Make a template. Use card stock or the center of a paper plate. Leave an inch uncovered at the big end, and a small gap at the seam.
Roll out small portion of chilled dough on generously floured surface.
Cut out shape by cutting around template with sharp knife. Press fork tines in one direction…
and then the other direction, creating a basket weave design.
Lay dough over mold, leaving gap on the underside by the metal seam.
Then, gently ease it together. Dough should fit snugly on the mold. If it’s loose, it will sag as it bakes.
Ready for the oven! I like to stretch and curl the tips a bit.
Lightly coat the inside of the cones with melted chocolate, then dip the outer opening. If your decorations are ready, place them while the chocolate is still soft, so they’ll stick well.
Note here: I’ll admit, after using a teaspoon to pour chocolate in each cone and trying to swirl it around, I found that the easiest way was to just use my finger. Dip it in the chocolate and then swirl it in the cone. Hey…that finger was CLEAN! You can use a glove if you’d like, or maybe try a paintbrush or even a pastry bag.
TO MAKE THE FALL DECORATIONS:
This was before I decided to dip the opening in the chocolate too. Either way works!
I really like the flavor of candy clay (or molding chocolate) for the little fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t clash with the flavor of the cookie the way taffy, fruit leather, or hard candy does.But if time is of the essence, take the easy route and use store bought goodies; they’ll look cute either way.
Here is a link with instructions for making it out of candy melts: Wiltons Candy Clay. I made a batch of clay using white candy melts, immediately split it up into small bowls and added food coloring before putting the pieces in sandwich bags to set until firm.
The corn in the picture above was made with yellow candy clay, wrapped with very thin green clay. The pumpkin was made with orange clay. The stem was a little piece of brown candy corn. Cocoa nibs look great too, if you have them. Bananas, grapes, oranges, apples…all from clay, molded individually. The grapes were kind of fun. Park yourself in front of the TV with purple candy clay, and start rolling tiny balls. Lots and lots of tiny purple (or green!) balls. Clump a group of them together, pressing just until they hold together.
Some other options come already shaped, like hard candy fruits (Runts), fruit shaped fruit-snacks, marzipan, or fondant. You can also shape your own without the fuss of making the candy clay by using sturdy taffy (like Starburst) which molds very well. Red sixlets with little leaves on top would be perfect for apples.
Here are visuals of the various options.
A comparison of different mediums – fruit rolls, candy corn (Harvest mix) and candy clay.
When making leaves, use:
fruit rolls for vibrant color and simplicity
thinly rolled candy corn for rich fall color. Relatively easy.
Candy clay. You create the colors – these are more subdued, but thin and realistic. And definitely more effort because you have to mix the clay ahead of time.
You could also use marzipan or fondant, or you could pipe leaves using melted chocolate or candy melts. I don’t recommend gum paste – you want these to be tasty!
Small leaf cutters are wonderful. I used one that came in a kit for gum paste. I used a small x-acto blade to cut out maple and oak leaves. You’ll notice there are a lot less of those! I didn’t think about this option until after I was finished and ready to post the recipe, but if you have small chocolate molds, you could MOLD the leaves instead of cutting them. They won’t be as thin, but the shape would be right and it would be very easy.
A WORD OF ADVICE:
Since this was fussy work, and pretty time-consuming, I’d recommend spreading your efforts over a couple of days so you don’t burn out. Make the little fruits, vegetables, and leaves one day (store them covered, at room temperature) and the cookies the next day. Maybe you can find some little helpers to help fashion some of the decorations.
I’d love to see what you come up with. If you make these, post a picture on my Facebook page so I can enjoy your creativity!
Although I enjoy creating my own recipes, old family favorites are hard to beat. Unless you’re a member of a huge family corporation, “secret” recipes have a tendency to get leaked (or blogged), especially after a few glasses of wine. This may be one of those special recipes!
I plead the fifth, and so do any (ahem) co-conspirators.
I took a peek at Google, curious to see if a similar recipe had already made it onto the Internet, and was shocked to see there was only ONE recipe for Pitsate that I could find. That one included a powdered chocolate drink mix, so I’d have to say it’s not quite as old and traditional as this version.
Pitsate cookies are hard to describe. They’re similar to biscotti, but not quite as crunchy. Filled with toasted almonds and chocolate, delicately spiced, and rolled on powdered sugar (which gives them just a hint of crusty sweet glaze), these cookies are absolutely perfect for dunking in a cup of coffee.
The traditional diamond shape can be a little challenging. I like to roll the dough out and use a giant pizza cutter (a long knife will do) to cut diagonal lines which make perfect diamonds.
Of course, this also creates triangles, but they can be overlapped slightly and smooshed together to make diamonds. Honestly? I have no problem eating triangles.
Diamonds are your best friend! Resulting trianges? Meh.
Alternatively, you can take balls of dough about as big as a large egg (these are big cookies!), flatten it, and trim it into shape. If you do this, keep all the scraps in one place and knead them back together for a few more cookies. Or you can roll the dough into a square log and slice the cookies, though the chunks of almonds and chocolate can make that option pretty interesting.
Did I mention these are big? They’re for dunking, not a tea party! Mine are about 5 inches from top to bottom, and 2 1/2 inches from side to side. If you’re a nibbler, not a dunker, feel free to BREAK ITALIAN TRADITION and make them smaller.
I use very, very strong coffee in these cookies. I combine 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup freshly ground coffee and bring it to a simmer in a small pan, then remove from the heat and let it sit until cool. After pouring it through a fine sieve, there should be about 1/2 cup of rich coffee.
Deep, dark fudge brownies with a crumbly graham crust and chewy marshmallow topping are a dream come true for s’mores fans. They’re great for a crowd, because once the brownies have cooled down, the marshmallow turns from gooey to chewy, and won’t stick to a cover, so you can transport them easily to a picnic, potluck, or party.
I didn’t allow myself to Google s’mores brownies until I was writing this blog; sometimes it’s discouraging to see how many people have had the same exact idea! And yes…this has been done and done and done. Sigh. But…it hasn’t been done by me before, and the idea of a brownie with a graham cracker crust really called to me. Guess I’m just jumping on the bandwagon with this one!
They’re easy to make and are hand stirred in one pot, so even I didn’t manage to make much of a mess – which was a very important criterion right now, since my kitchen is torn apart (getting a much-needed update) and I needed something to take to book club.
Trust me, when you’re washing dishes bent over the bathtub, you weigh the importance of using each bowl and utensil!
Makes 24 large brownies. You may notice that these probably won’t be on the “approved” list of most diets. Suck it up – they’re worth every calorie!
1¼ cups finely crushed graham crackers (9 double crackers) ...more for decorating if desired
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (or 2¼ sticks)
3 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup special dark unsweetened cocoa
1½ cups mini chocolate chips (divided)
1½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups mini marshmallows
Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan and line with parchment. (The grease will hold the parchment in place.) Spray parchment with a flour/oil baking spray like Baker's Joy.
Combine graham cracker crumbs with ¼ cup melted butter and brown sugar. Press evenly into prepared pan.
In a large pot, melt the butter. Remove from heat and add the sugar. Stir until well combined.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat the eggs and vanilla until frothy. Add to pot and stir well.
Add both kinds of cocoa, ½ cup of mini chocolate chips, flour, soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir JUST until combined. (A few streaks of flour showing is fine.)
Drop spoonfuls of dough evenly over crust and smooth gently with an offset spatula, being careful not to disturb the crust. Spread close to edges of the pan.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean.
Remove from oven and place on rack. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. Let the pan sit undisturbed for 5 minutes (chips will be melted - you don't need to spread them) and then top with a single layer of mini marshmallows.
Broil just until the marshmallows are golden brown. DON'T walk away - this goes fast, and you don't want black marshmallows! (They're pretty tasty at a campfire, but not so much on a baked treat.)
Sprinkle with additional crushed graham crackers if desired, and allow brownies to cool in the pan on a rack for at least 30 minutes. Lift out by the parchment and cut into squares. Hint: the longer you wait, the easier they are to cut. If they're sticky and gooey, run a very sharp knife in butter before cutting each row.
Undecided whether to give readers a recipe that made a whopping 6 dozen tea cakes, or cut the recipe in half and end up with leftover coconut-lime mixture, I came up with the following options:
Make a ton of tea cakes. (Hey, they’re small. And light. And irresistible.)
Make a half batch and use the leftover coconut and lime mixture on a salad or vegetables.
Make a half batch and use the leftover mixture to make a kick-ass cocktail!
I’m pretty sure you know which route I took.
Waste not, want not, right?
So…the recipe will give you approximately 3 dozen dainty, soft, refreshing tea cakes. (Definitely more cake than cookie.) You can double it easily if you’d like, but then you won’t be able to make yourself a Tempting Tropical Fizz. Your call!
Making these cookies will require a couple of special ingredients and a little advance preparation. You will need to thoroughly chill a can of coconut milk so that you can pour out the separated liquid and keep the solids. Try to find coconut milk that is high in fat. If it doesn’t say so on the front, compare the nutritional information on all of your options to pick the one that has a higher fat content. Here’s what you’re looking for:
I used lavender sugar in this recipe. I keep a jar of sugar mixed with culinary lavender in my pantry at all times, so my sugar was very flavorful and I just sifted out the lavender buds. (I mix sugar and lavender buds in a mason jar – 1 heaping tablespoon of buds per cup of sugar – and let it sit at least one week.) If you don’t happen to have lavender sugar sitting around, you can blend together one cup of sugar (if you’re doubling the recipe) and two teaspoons of culinary lavender in a blender until the lavender pieces are very fine.
(If you’d like more information about where to buy lavender and how to use it, please visit Sweet Lavender, a column I wrote for Yummy Northwest.)
You’ll find that the subtle flavor of lavender and lime isn’t overwhelming at all; it’s a wonderful combination.
Makes 3 dozen tea cakes. This recipe will actually only use half of the coconut milk and lime mixture. (See instructions.) Double the rest of the recipe to avoid leftover mixture, or refrigerate it for another use.
1 can (13.5 oz) CHILLED coconut milk...preferably a brand with a higher fat content.
zest and juice from 2 small limes (approximately 2 tablespoons juice).
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup lavender sugar *see instructions
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla ( I used clear vanilla for this, but that's optional)
2½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
* To make lavender sugar, either start a week ahead of time and combine ½ cup sugar with 2 teaspoons culinary lavender in an airtight container (sift out the lavender buds before using) OR for immediate use, combine ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon culinary lavender in a blender and blend until the lavender is ground into small particles.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
Drain liquid from thoroughly chilled, canned coconut milk, and reserve for another use if desired. Place coconut solids in a small bowl.
Add lime zest and juice to coconut solids and stir well. Place in refrigerator.
In a large bowl, cream butter and lavender sugar together well.
Add egg, egg white, and vanilla. Mix well.
Remove coconut mixture from the refrigerator and give it a stir. Measure out ½ cup of the mixture and put the rest away for another use.
Add ½ cup of coconut mixture to the bowl, stirring until combined.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low just until incorporated. Batter will be thick and sticky.
Dough can be scooped using a small cookie scoop or level tablespoon, or you can pipe it with a pastry bag and rosette tip. (The cakes won't hold the shape well, but you will still see design on the top of the baked cakes if you pipe them.)
Bake for 10 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies is turning a golden brown. The top will not brown.
Remove to a cooling rack, and when the cakes are just barely warm, shake them gently in powdered sugar.
Somewhere between batter and dough. It’s soft and sticky!
You can scoop…
Or pipe. Don’t expect them to hold the rosette shape, but there will be design on the top of the baked cakes.
Only the bottoms should turn golden brown.
Dust with powdered sugar. (See the shape? These were piped.)
Sooooo, ready for that cocktail yet?
TEMPTING TROPICAL FIZZ
Drop a heaping spoonful of the coconut milk and lime mixture into a glass. Add 1 pineapple slice and about 1/4 cup of pineapple juice (or more to taste). Add clear rum to taste, and top with sparkling mineral water. Give it a quick stir – it should be quite frothy!
I used approximately equal amounts of all 4 ingredients, which made a tart, refreshing drink. If you’d like it to be sweeter, add more pineapple juice or a little simple syrup.
This crunchy chocolate cookie with a delicate, crispy/chewy topping baked right on is a unique way to enjoy a macaron without overwhelming your sweet tooth! The chocolate cookie is rich and dark – a perfect choice for complementing sugary meringue.
And…those crispy macaron shells are perfect for decorating. Sprinkle lightly with chocolate shavings or sprinkles just before baking, or paint them with food coloring or petal dust after they are baked and cooled! I used an old fashioned paintbrush, but I’ll bet food color markers would be a good choice if you want to add names. Just don’t press too hard!
Even when baked on a cookie, macarons have a little ruffle at the bottom (called feet), so I piped the macaron batter a bit inside of the cookie edge (the macaron may shrink slightly, too) and then decorated around the baked cookie with tiny royal icing dots, using a small round tip.
Pipe the meringue on thin cookie dough, just inside the edge.
No, my cookie sheet isn’t dirty – it’s SEASONED! That’s my story. Seriously, folks – a seasoned cookie sheet is great; I rarely have to grease it. I love these DoughMaker sheets, but the third one I ordered refuses to season. It’s all shiny, and things do stick sometimes. So it’s mostly for photos!
The cookie dough is a snap to make, and once you get the hang of it, the macarons really don’t take that long either. You can make the cookie dough ahead of time – up to 3 days – but let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so before you try to roll it out.
I got all crazy and split one batch of macarons into three different colors. It worked, but only because I had everything ready before I started mixing the egg whites. Three bowls with food coloring (GEL OR POWDER ONLY) in them, piping bags with large round tips in a row. Yes, for once I was organized. Don’t expect to see that again any time soon.
Now for the recipe, and…a disclaimer: In a perfect world, the recipe will make 48 cookies and 48 macaron tops, but so many things can mess up this plan! The thickness of your cookie dough, size of your cookie cutter, or your exuberance with the macaron topping can leave you with a little extra of one thing or the other. They are both stand alone treats, so I’m sure you can live with a few strays.
I may have gotten a little carried away on this one. Whoops! Um. Don’t do this.
210 grams (2½ cups) almond flour (use the lightest, finest flour you can find)
380 grams (3½ cups) powdered sugar
200 grams (6 whites) egg whites, room temperature or - better yet - aged *
pinch of cream of tartar
90 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
food coloring - gel or powdered only
Shaved chocolate, sprinkles, food colors or petal dust, royal icing (if desired for decorating.)
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the vanilla, milk, and egg, and beat well.
Add the dry ingredients (slow down there, Tiger...the cocoa will fly everywhere! Beat it on low until it's incorporated) and mix together well.
If you're making this ahead, wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and chill for up to 3 days. Allow dough to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before rolling.
Roll dough out (preferably between lightly floured pieces of parchment) very thin - between ⅛" and ¼". Cut with 3" egg-shaped cookie cutter.
Place approximately 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Set aside while making macaron topping. (If you don't have enough sheets, arrange cookies on parchment and then slide the parchment onto a cooled sheet.)
Weigh or measure the almond flour and powdered sugar. Sift together twice, discarding any large bits that won't go through your sifter, and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle a pinch of cream of tartar over the top and beat until soft peaks form.
While beating, slowly add the superfine sugar. Continue to beat until meringue forms stiff peaks. If you are making just one color, add it now.
Add the dry ingredients and carefully fold in, just until incorporated.
(If you are dividing the topping to make several colors, do so now, before it is "lava" like or it will be over mixed by the time you blend in the coloring. Fold each color until thin enough to flow from your spoon slowly.)
If you are making just one color, continue to fold until mixture will flow slowly from your spoon or spatula. It won't look smooth - it has almonds in it - but shouldn't be "gloppy". Drop a spoonful on a plate and tap the plate against the counter. The batter should smooth out. If there is still a peak on the top, stir a few more times.
This is important: *The more you stir, the thinner it will get (not good), so don't over-stir!*
Spoon into a large pastry bag equipped with a large round tip.
Squeeze bag to pipe around each cookie shape, staying a little inside of the edge. Fill in the middle. If you get too close to the edge, run your finger along it to even it out.
Drop the pan several times onto the counter to flatten out any tip left from piping and remove air bubbles. Pop any air bubbles that come to the surface with a toothpick right away.
Let the pans of cookies sit and dry for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 F.
If you are using shaved chocolate or sprinkles to decorate your cookies, do so just before they go in the oven.
Bake cookies 12-14 minutes, or until macarons are firm but not turning dark. Touch the edge of one - if it moves, give it another minute and check again.
Cool cookies on wire racks.
To paint cookies, thin gel or powdered coloring with a little vodka and let your artistic side take over!