Savory Bacon Crackers



Savory Bacon Crackers verticalI can’t even begin to tell you how relieved thrilled I am to be posting this recipe for Savory Bacon Crackers. After countless tries, with results ranging from “marginal” to “close…but no cigar”, I finally produced crunchy, flavorful crackers that got gobbled up by the tasting crew.

I tried making them yeast-based (bleh), I layered the dough with butter (like croissant dough), I baked them hot and fast, and low and slow. I tried chilling the dough for days.

Meh.

In the end, it was just a matter of getting the proportions right and finding a way to make sure the crackers were crunchy all the way through. These aren’t flaky (like Ritz), but are delightfully light and crunchy, yet still sturdy enough for dipping. And did I mention they taste great?

Crushed bacon adds flavor and texture. Make sure you cook the bacon until it’s extra-crispy. I pan fry mine, then wrap it in paper towels and microwave for a minute or two and shake the bacon out onto another piece of paper towel to cool. Crush with a rolling pin or use a sharp blade – either a knife or an ulu – to make small crumbs.

Savory Bacon Crackers
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Makes almost 1 pound of crackers.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup finely crushed bacon - about 10 strips (reserve the grease)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ¼ cup oil (I use peanut oil)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup water
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 F.
  2. Grease two baking sheets with bacon grease (or you may use shortening if you prefer)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic salt, onion powder, pepper, brown sugar, and crushed bacon.
  4. Stir in the liquid smoke, oil, buttermilk, and water. Mix until well combined. This will be a soft dough, but shouldn't be sticky.
  5. Working with half of the dough at a time, either roll between two pieces of parchment (flour dough lightly if necessary) or roll directly onto the baking sheet, dusting the top with flour as needed.. Try to roll the dough out as thinly as possible...less than ⅛-inch. You may cut round shapes out, re-rolling the extra dough, or simply cut into squares or diamonds, using a pizza cutter.
  6. Place pans in preheated oven for 4 minutes. Remove both pans. Brush the tops of the crackers with bacon grease (or butter, if you prefer) and lightly salt. Using a spatula, flip the crackers over.
  7. TURN OFF THE OVEN. Open the door for 20 seconds. Place pans back in the oven, close the door, and leave the crackers to cook slowly for 1 hour, as the oven cools down. Check one to make sure it snaps crisply when broken. If not, leave them in the oven for another 30 minutes.

 

Crush the crisp bacon or finely chop.

Crush the crisp bacon or finely chop.

This is a must! Add Liquid Smoke.

This is a must! Add Liquid Smoke.

Roll them THIN, and cut however you like.

Roll them THIN, and cut however you like.

Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.

Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.

Do you have any idea how good these would be with my Succulent Salmon Dip? I’d leave the bacon out of the dip (unless you’re a really hardcore bacon fan) and offer a knife to spread the dip on each cracker. Ham spread would be yummy too.

Okay – this was my obligatory savory recipe before I go into full-blown Easter mode. I’ve stocked up on powdered sugar, chocolate, and sprinkles…and will be putting it all to good use soon!
Lorinda

Football Dip Bowl

Here is the perfect bowl for serving dip at the Superbowl. Why? Because it’s festive, delicious, and you don’t have to wash it after the crowd leaves.

French bread is the easiest bread there is to make. It takes a little more time because it requires two risings before it’s shaped, but it is the closest thing to a “no-fail” bread I’ve ever tried. I usually put a pan of hot water in the oven to get it all steamy, which makes the crust more crispy, but this time I left that step out so it would be easier to slice the top off to make the bowl. It still came out crackly and crisp, but cut easily.

This recipe will make two large loaves. Even if you only need one dip bowl, go ahead and make them both footballs. That way you can pick the prettiest one for display, and a football is a pretty traditional French bread shape anyhow.

Once the bread has cooled, slice off the top and scoop out the insides. You may be able to turn the excess bread into croutons or bread crumbs, or just nibble as you work! Fill the bowl with your favorite dip and put the top back on until it’s time to serve. Then break up the top and use it for dipping.

Football Dip Bowl
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Makes 2 large dip bowls.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups very warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl (a stand mixer is best) combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Allow it to it until bubbly - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add 3 cups of flour and the salt and beat well.
  3. Remove ¼ cup of dough and put it in a plastic zipper bag. Don't zip the top, just set it in the refrigerator for now.
  4. Switch to a dough hook and add the remaining flour. Knead with the machine for 5 minutes, or if you're kneading by hand, put dough on a floured surface and knead for 7-8 minutes. Dough should be slightly sticky and very elastic.
  5. Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning the dough to coat evenly. Cover and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Punch down dough, cover, and allow it to rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
  7. Punch down dough and divide it into 2 pieces. Shape one piece into a slightly skinny football. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Put both loaves on an ungreased baking sheet (you may sprinkle with cornmeal first if you wish) then cover and let rise until almost doubled.
  8. When the dough is partly risen, heat the oven to 450 F. Give it plenty of time to get hot.
  9. When the loaves have risen, remove the bag of soft dough from the refrigerator. Snip one of the corners off and squeeze side stripes, a center seam, and lacing on each loaf.
  10. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the loaves are a rich brown.
  11. Cool thoroughly on a rack.

 

Yeast is bubbly...Add the flour!

Yeast is bubbly…Add the flour!

The dough - smooth and elastic!

The dough – smooth and elastic!

First rise

First rise

Shaping the dough

Shaping the dough

Shape like a skinny football. It will puff out!

Shape like a skinny football. It will puff out!

Squeeze on the designs and it's ready for the oven!

Squeeze on the designs and it’s ready for the oven!

miscjan 070

Carrot Cake for All!

carrot cake for blog

Everyone has their favorite carrot cake recipe, and this is mine! That is – it’s my favorite, but I didn’t create this recipe. It was given to me years ago by a co-worker, who got it from a friend in Alaska, who…well…you get the picture.

It’s filled with goodies, giving it a delightful texture, and is very simple to make. It won best of class at the state Grange baking competition a few years ago, even though I (GASP) substituted a buttercream icing for the traditional cream cheese version. It works equally well as a layer cake, a sheet cake, or cupcakes. You just can’t fail if you follow this recipe!

Carrot Cake
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Ingredients
  • 2 cups plus 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained well
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts or pecans)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together well.
  3. Add the oil and beat for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in carrots, pineapple, raisins and nuts.
  6. Pour into a greased and floured 13x9" pan. (Or you may use two 9" cake pans.)
  7. Bake for approximately one hour, (shorter for two 9" pans) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Cool well before icing.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting:

6 oz. cream cheese
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Combine cream cheese, milk and vanilla. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and powdered sugar. Beat well. Stir in coconut and chopped pecans. Spread on cooled cake. Store any remainder in the refrigerator.

I’m keeping this blog short and sweet, because I have another idea just waiting to be tested and blogged…maybe tomorrow!

If you haven’t checked it out yet, and you’re not a teetotaler, please visit my Easter Beer Hunt blog. Easter Beer Hunt!

Endurance Crackers with a Sweet Twist

Get in my belly!

Get in my belly!

Now, don’t turn your nose up at this. I promised you something healthy, and I’m delivering! Here is a very easy recipe that is incredibly good for you and unspeakably addicting. The hardest thing you will have to do is go to the grocery (or natural foods) store and buy the four types of seeds. No gluten, no nuts. You will eat it and you will like it, damn it!

Sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, and chia seeds

Sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, and chia seeds

If you have never heard of Endurance Crackers, you absolutely must try them. Here is a link to Oh How She Glows, where you’ll find Angela’s wonderful recipe. You will be amazed at how much flavor these savory little crackers have. I literally have to try to hide them from myself, because I can’t stop at one or two. Or three or four.

Here's what an Endurance Cracker looks like when it isn't being gussied up with chocolate!

Here’s what an Endurance Cracker looks like when it isn’t being gussied up with chocolate!

I discovered this recipe when I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and was inspired to write an article about chia for Yummy Northwest. If you’re curious about the health benefits of chia, or just want to try my yummy apple chia muffin recipe, here’s a link to the column: Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia

For fun, I adapted the recipe for Endurance Crackers, removing the garlic and onions and adding a dark chocolate layer. I added just a little extra kosher salt, too, for more contrast between the seeds and the chocolate, and love the results! Then, because I JUST.CAN’T.STOP,  I added raisins. Oh, yum!

When a craving for “something sweet – no, something salty – no, something sweet” comes along, grab a couple of these. Eating them will feel sinful, but they are actually very good for you. We’ve all heard the hype about dark chocolate and how it’s full of antioxidants, right? The experts all agree dark chocolate is healthful, but can’t agree on how MUCH is good for you, so they hedge by recommending an ounce a day. This recipe uses 5 ounces of chocolate, so if you eat a few crackers as a snack, it’s well within the chocolate “limit.”

That pretty much makes me blow coffee out my nose; “chocolate” and “limit” shouldn’t even be used in the same sentence! What? Oh, fine – you busted me…substitute “wine” for “coffee.” Nitpickers.

The original recipe calls for parchment. My crackers always stick to it, even if I grease it first. Maybe I just own inferior parchment (a distinct possibility) but I find it easier to lightly grease a cookie sheet instead, and skip the parchment. And rather than cutting the crackers after the first 30 minute baking time, I tried to keep it all in one big piece to make it easier to “frost” with chocolate. Either way would work.

Here’s my version of Angela’s recipe. Do pop over to her blog, though, and try the original version!

Endurance Crackers with a Sweet Twist
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Adapted from "Oh She Glows", Endurance Crackers
Ingredients
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup raw sesame seeds
  • ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup raw chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 ounces dark (at least 70% cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. Lightly grease a cookie sheet (or use parchment) and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the seeds and salt.
  4. Add the water, stirring well.
  5. Press the mixture onto a cookie sheet, using a spatula or (best choice) a damp hand. Aim for a thickness somewhere between ¼-inch and ⅓-inch.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven. Loosen with a long flat spatula, cover with another greased cookie sheet, and invert. If it doesn't all flip over in one piece, don't worry. The crackers will be broken up eventually!
  8. Bake for another 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with the chopped chocolate. Wait a few minutes and then spread with a flat spatula. Sprinkle with raisins if desired.
  10. When the chocolate has hardened (you may refrigerate it if you wish, to hurry it along) break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

 

Spreading the mixture on a baking sheet. (Hint: a hand works better than a spatula!)

Spreading the mixture on a baking sheet. (Hint: a hand works better than a spatula!)

If you're using parchment, after 30 minutes you'll flip the seeds over, peel off the paper, and continue to bake.

If you’re using parchment, after 30 minutes you’ll flip the seeds over, peel off the paper, and continue to bake.

Sprinkle chopped chocolate over the hot seeds. I used a scraper, but a paper plate or a bowl works well too!

Sprinkle chopped chocolate over the hot seeds. I used a scraper, but a paper plate or a bowl works well too!

Spread the chocolate as evenly as possible.

Spread the chocolate as evenly as possible. Add raisins if you’d like.

When the chocolate is firm, break the crackers into serving-size pieces. I'll let YOU determine what a serving is!

When the chocolate is firm, break the crackers into serving-size pieces. I’ll let YOU determine what a serving is!

So…you won’t see this often, but I made it through a post without unwrapping a stick of butter or opening a bag of sugar. High five!

Biscoff Apple Pastries

Today is the last day of the year, and I thought I was so sick of sweets that it would be easy to slip into better baking habits. Until I had this brainstorm that involved the box of puff pastry lurking in my freezer. And the unopened jar of Biscoff in the pantry. Oh, and the lone apple languishing in my refrigerator.

The pastry of my dreams!

The pastry of my dreams!

It’s a good thing that my goal is to eat everything that’s tempting now so that I can start the new year on the right foot. I have exactly 6 hours to clean these babies up (with help from The Man) and I believe I will be able to do that. Yes, indeed.

Biscoff is a spread that tastes just like Biscoff cookies, primarily because it is made from Biscoff cookies! The closest flavor I can compare it to is cinnamony graham crackers. Yummy stuff – especially as a dip for apples.

In a very short amount of time you can make a flaky, not-too-sweet sweet roll that will knock your socks off! Here’s the recipe:

Biscoff Apple Pastries
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Makes 20
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Biscoff spread
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large apple, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon flour
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the Biscoff spread and butter. Stir together well and set aside.
  3. Working with one sheet of puff pastry at a time, roll out gently on a floured surface until it measures 14”x10”.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, spread half of the Biscoff spread mixture over the pastry, bringing it to within ¼ inch of the edges.
  5. Sprinkle with half of the apple pieces.
  6. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
  7. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mixture over the apples.
  8. Beginning with the short edge, roll tightly and slice in 1” pieces.
  9. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I sprayed mine with Baker’s Joy)
  10. Repeat with the remaining pastry and bake for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Sprinkling diced apples over the Biscoff covered pastry.

Sprinkling diced apples over the Biscoff covered pastry.

 Add cinnamon sugar and roll it up snugly.

Add cinnamon sugar and roll it up snugly.

Slice them 1" thick.

Slice them 1″ thick.

Place the rolls on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Place the rolls on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Baked and ready for tasting. And more tasting.

Baked and ready for tasting. And more tasting.

Do try this one. It’s simple, flaky, and full of melt-in-your-mouth delight. You won’t be sorry! I, however, will probably be regretting this tomorrow, when I wake up with a puff pastry hangover.

Orange Tuaca Bread

Serve this sweet orange bread with festive chocolate morsels!

A sweet orange bread with festive chocolate morsels!

After a frustrating day in the kitchen yesterday (which involved overfilling a pan with cake batter, battling a small oven fire, and wasting two beautiful cake batters) I needed to shake it off and try something very simple today. These sweet little slices of orange bread are very easy to make, and perfect for entertaining. Don’t expect a cake-like texture; it’s more of a moist, dense bread. The batter is jazzed up a little with Tuaca – a vanilla and orange liqueur, and colored chocolate morsels. You can make this bread ahead and freeze (just thaw and slice) for convenience.

For this recipe I used two vertical star pans (also known as canapé bread tubes) which were about half filled. Whatever you do, don’t fill the pan more than half full! If you only have one pan, the remaining batter can be baked in cupcake tins. If you don’t own one of these fun pans, this bread can also be baked in a loaf pan for about an hour.

Expect some oozing. The pan fits into a round cap, which I lined with parchment. It still blurped out of there a little. I love crunchy stuff, so the crispy pieces were a bonus for me! I didn’t put a cap on the top of the pans; just covered them with a loose piece of foil. You will need something long to poke in the pan to test the bread. I use a wooden skewer, but a piece of a straw broom (does anyone use those anymore?) would work too. Lacking either of those options, if you’ve baked them for 50 minutes and the tops are brown, it’s a pretty safe bet that the bread is done!

Baked and cooling.

Baked and cooling.

Orange Tuaca Bread
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During the holidays I bake this bread in vertical star-shaped bread tubes.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (or ½ teaspoon orange extract)
  • ¼ cup Tuaca (a liqueur flavored with vanilla and orange)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ cups chocolate chips (or nuts, raisins, or berries)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Prepare two vertical tube pans by spraying with a flour/oil mixture like Baker's Joy. Put a piece of parchment or foil between the bottom of the pans and their round caps. Stand both pans up in a cake pan in case batter leaks from the bottom.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, orange juice, orange zest (or extract), Tuaca, and oil. If you prefer not to use Tuaca, put one teaspoon of vanilla and ½ teaspoon of orange extract in a ¼ cup measuring cup and fill it with water.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. This is a very thick batter.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans, and tap the bottoms on the counter to settle the dough.
  7. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the bread.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow the pans to cool for at least a half hour. Remove the bottom of the pan and gently press to push the bread out of the pan.
  9. When completely cool, slice thinly. It may be easier to slice if you chill it briefly.
Filling the tube pans with batter.

Filling the tube pans with batter.

Orange Tuaca Stars

Orange Tuaca Stars

Now, I’m pretty sure you could use more orange liqueur and less orange juice (just sayin’) without a problem, but I haven’t tested that yet. Grand Marnier and a dash of vanilla would work beautifully. Of course, if my budget allowed Grand Marnier, I’d be gently warming a little in a snifter and sipping appreciatively, not mixing it into a bread batter! Did you hear that, Santa? I’ve been VERY good this year. Bwahahaha.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies…come to Mama!

It just doesn’t get easier (or yummier) than peanut butter cookies. I’ve tried a lot of recipes, with mixed results. My absolute favorite recipe is, of course, the one that is the least healthy. Sigh.

Even though I post a lot of sinfully-bad-for-you recipes on my blog, in my “real” life, (as opposed to my make-believe alter ego blog life) I try to make good food decisions to offset my  frequent occasional indulgences. I believe strongly in buying organic whenever possible, and I grow a lot of my own fruits, vegetables, and grains. But frankly, a green salad topped with slices of chicken breast is probably not going to get a lot of Pinterest hits! And we all love baking porn, right?

I love to use fresh ingredients like milk, cream, and butter, and I try to stay away from shortening, knowing it is really, really not good for you. But…there are a few things that just demand the use of Crisco: pie crusts, biscuits, and…peanut butter cookies.

Shortening makes these cookies very light and crispy. Nothing is worse to me than a heavy, chewy peanut butter cookie. I’d rather make these twice a year and have them melt in my mouth than compromise. (Yes, I know how weird that sounds, thinking of butter as a “compromise”!) Here’s the recipe for you – see if you don’t agree!

Peanut Butter Cookies
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F
  2. Mix together shortening, peanut butter, vanilla, white sugar, and brown sugar.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each egg.
  4. Stir in the dry ingredients.
  5. Roll into small balls (or use a scoop - it's a lot easier!) and "criss cross" them with a fork to flatten them.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

 

Mixed cookie dough should be light and fluffy!

Put balls of dough 1″ apart and “criss cross” them with a fork to flatten.

Trade a nice cup of green tea for your double white chocolate mocha, and have a couple of cookies with it. See? It’s all about tradeoffs.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES – In Search of Perfection

Chewy or crispy, we all love chocolate chip cookies!

Pick a side here, folks. When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, it seems we have the “thick and crunchy” faction and the poor misguided souls who vote for “soft and chewy.” I guess you can tell which side of the fence I’m on!

I experimented with five batches, using three different brands of chocolate chips. The recipes on the packages were nearly identical, with just minor changes (probably so they don’t waste their profits suing each other over recipe rights) like a little less salt or a little more vanilla, but essentially the same.

My first batch was made by following the Hershey recipe exactly, and the cookies came out the way I like them – which is thick, soft inside, and a little crusty outside. This was a total surprise, because every time I’ve actually followed the recipe on the package I’ve gotten cookies that are flat, flat, flat.

A few of them, however, had sunken centers, and some resembled cow pies (sort of a dark, rippled meltdown on the edges), but they still couldn’t be considered flat.

First batch with craters and “cow pie syndrome”.

Out of curiosity, I chilled some of the dough from the first batch for an hour and tried again. What a difference! There was very little spreading, and no sunken centers.

For batch number two I used half shortening, half butter, with an extra 1/2 cup of flour, an additional teaspoon of vanilla, and a teaspoon of baking powder. These tasted the same, but looked nicer than the first batch. No cow pies, no sinking. There is the “ick” factor of using shortening, but I sometimes ignore that for the sake of the final product.

Second batch – much better!

Batch number three was intended for those of you who prefer flat and chewy. I used softened butter, but otherwise followed the basic recipe. It was a little flatter, but not much. What the… Do you mean I can’t even make flat cookies on purpose? I’m beginning to think it’s because of my fresh eggs. Could it be that my girls lay such superior eggs that the dough refuses succumb? We’ll see about that.

With the fourth batch I used very, very soft butter – almost to the melting point – and added 2 tablespoons of milk. Ta DA: flat and chewy.

Some like them flat and chewy.

If you’re wondering why the chips don’t stand out of the cookie, it’s because I ran out of regular chocolate chips and had to use the mini chips. But trust me, they’re flat. There, I hope you’re happy!

For my final batch I used my favorite recipe…one I’ve tweaked and adjusted for years. It’s never failed me, and produced cookies that are nice and moist but with a little crunch – the best of both worlds. Yes, it uses shortening, but you can make it using only butter as long as you use a good quality butter and keep it COLD!

cookies from my favorite recipe (shared below)

Here is what I’ve learned from all this:

      • If you want flat and chewy cookies, follow the recipe on the package, but use very soft butter and half the baking soda. If your first pan of cookies isn’t flat enough (make sure to give them a little time…they tend to deflate while cooling), add a little milk to the remaining dough and try again.
      • If you want puffy cookies, make sure to use cold butter, cut into small chunks to make mixing easier. Use a cookie scoop and cold dough. I used frozen nuts, too. If you’re using the recipe on the package, add a few tablespoons of flour. Don’t grease the cookie sheet!

Chocolate chip cookies…thick, with crispy outsides and tender insides.

      • USE A SCOOP! If you just spoon the dough onto the cookie sheet, the edges will be brown. Here’s a picture to illustrate. This was the same dough, baked at the same time. The cookies on the left were dropped from a spoon. The cookies on the right were scooped.

        The cookies on the left were “dropped”. The cookies on the right were “scooped”. Scoop wins!

      • This is just my opinion, but I think the recipe on the package calls for too many chocolate chips! I love chocolate, but I want to taste the cookie, too.

Here is my Grade-ANumberOneAllTimeBestestMostBeloved Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe:

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
5.0 from 1 reviews
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Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • ¾ cup good quality butter
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3½ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped nuts
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine shortening, butter, sugars, milk, and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Add eggs and beat until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add to creamed and mix until just blended.
  5. Add chips and nuts.
  6. Place rounded tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes for soft cookies, or 10-12 minutes for crispy cookies. Cool for a minute before moving from the pan to a rack.

So…what to do with all of these cookies? I rarely make a single batch of anything, because I love the feeling of having a freezer full of options – especially when unexpected company comes. Living here in the country I’ve had to adjust to the fact that people just “drop by”! When the cookies are scooped onto a pan, frozen, then placed in freezer zipper bags and hidden in your freezer, they’re easy to grab and plop on a cookie sheet. I can turn the oven on when I see a car come through our gate, and have warm cookies ready to serve in 20 minutes flat.

Cookie dough in the freezer is like money in the bank!

Right about now, chocolate chip cookies don’t sound very tasty. to me. It’s hard to imagine that we will ever be friends again! But when the snow’s falling, cabin fever is setting in,  and I need an emotional boost, those bags of dough will be looking mighty good.

Frozen cookie dough makes great gifts, too. I used to make six different types of dough for my father every Christmas. He loved this, because he could bake just a few at a time when he got an urge for sweets. Cookie dough is also perfect for housewarming or hostess gifts…much more personal than a bottle of wine.

Ooooh, did I say wine? I think I should be rewarded for all of this effort, don’t you?

I can never remember…do you serve red or white wine with chocolate chip cookies?

Shortbread Heaven

Freshly baked shortbread.

“Do as I say, not as I do” never applied more perfectly than at this moment. I’ve been making shortbread cookies for decades, yet still managed to totally screw up the directions today. I was busy baking something else and thought it would be wise to multitask by measuring out the shortbread ingredients at the same time. Hah!

I knew that the butter and sugar were supposed to be mixed first and then everything else  added, but I was moving like a whirling dervish and went right ahead and dumped all of the dry ingredients together into one bowl. That meant the butter and sugar weren’t mixed until fluffy, and it was hard to get the dough to come together, so I had to add a couple of teaspoons of milk to coax it into cooperation. But (you know what’s coming here, right?) it still turned out fine!

Here is a recipe for basic shortbread, which has a sweet buttery flavor and a delicate texture that melts in your mouth. Perfection. But because I can’t help tinkering with perfection, I was compelled to dip the cookies in dark chocolate and sprinkle some of them with nuts. They look very elegant, and taste like sin.  (And yes, I’m leaving the two teaspoons of milk in the recipe because it made it easier to handle and didn’t affect the texture.)

Chocolate dipped shortbread. (Or…gilding the lily!)

SHORTBREAD COOKIES

2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups butter, softened
2 teaspoons milk or half & half
2 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornstarch

  • Heat the oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar and butter.  Beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add egg yolks and milk, and blend well. (If using a stand mixer, you may want to switch to the dough hook at this point.)
  • Add the flour, cornstarch and salt. Stir just until the mixture forms a smooth dough.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a cookie cutter.  Alternately, you can also roll the dough into small balls and press with a cookie stamp, or put the dough through a cookie press. These will not spread on the cookie sheet, so you can put them close together.

    Using a cookie stamp with an apple design.

  • Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 9-12 minutes, just until golden brown around the bottom edges.  Cool on the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

It’s almost impossible to guess how many cookies this recipe will make; it depends on the size of your cookie cutters and how thinly you roll them. I can confidently say that it makes a buttload ton of cookies! At least 48 good sized ones – probably more.

If you want to jazz them up a bit, you can sprinkle them with coarse sugar before baking, or wait until they’re baked and cooled, then dip each one in melted chocolate, lightly scraping the bottom of the cookie against the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Place them on a waxed paper covered baking sheet to harden. I always pop mine in the freezer for just a few minutes, which speeds things up and helps keep the chocolate from “blooming” (getting little light colored spots on it.)

Dipping the shortbread in dark chocolate.

If chocolate covered shortbread isn’t enough to make you deliriously happy, here is one more variation. Because of my love affair with maple, I had to try making a maple flavored shortbread, and am tickled with the results.

Frosted maple shortbread cookies.

To make these, use the shortbread cookie recipe above, except substitute 2 teaspoons of Mapleine (maple flavoring) for the 2 teaspoons of milk. When the cookies are baked and cooled, cover them thinly with icing and drizzle them with a brown maple accent. Here’s the icing recipe:

ICING FOR MAPLE COOKIES

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon powdered egg whites (“Just Whites” or Wilton’s “Meringue Powder” work well)
1/2 teaspoon “Mapleine”
small pinch of salt

  • In a medium bowl, beat together the powdered sugar, water, and powdered egg whites with a mixer for 2-3 minutes. Remove 2 rounded tablespoons of icing to a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of Mapleine, and set aside.
  • Add water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to the white icing in the medium bowl until it’s thin enough to spread onto the cookies easily. You may use a knife, but I prefer a pastry brush.

    “Painting” the cookies with icing.

    Because of the powdered egg whites, this icing will become very firm, so only use enough to cover the cookie with a thin layer.

    • Put the maple icing from the small bowl into a zipper bag and cut a tiny bit off of one of the corners. Drizzle or pipe a design on the cookies, and allow them to harden completely before storing in an airtight cannister. These can also be frozen.

      Piping maple accents on iced shortbread.

    I think my culinary trip to Scotland is over for now. Be glad this is a baking blog, not a cooking blog, or I’d probably feel honor bound to give you a recipe for Haggis!

    Guid cheerio the nou!

STRAWBERRY ZUCCHINI BREAD

Strawberry Zucchini Bread with lemon glaze.

I’m sure the comparison has already been made, but when I think of zucchini season I think of Lucy and Ethel working at the chocolate factory, stuffing candy anywhere they could, while the chocolates just kept coming faster and faster and desperation mounted. If you’re too young to remember that episode, or don’t even know who I’m talking about, check out YouTube. All you have to do is type in “Lucy and Ethel” and the first thing to show up is the chocolate clip!

Yes, roll up your car windows and don’t answer the door; it’s zucchini time! Those bad boys double in size overnight and just keep producing. It took me just one gardening season to learn I only needed to plant a few zucchini plants in the garden each year. We love zucchini fritters, stir-fries, baked zucchini, and fried zucchini with cheese. But most of all, we love zucchini bread! Banana-zucchini, oatmeal-zucchini, chocolate-zucchini, and (drum roll, please) strawberry-zucchini!

Quick breads are…well…quick! The loaves of Strawberry Zucchini Bread have to bake for an hour, but the preparation time is twenty minutes, tops. You don’t need a mixer, just a bowl, a spoon, and two loaf pans. I jazzed my loaves up by stirring a little lemon juice into a cup of powdered sugar and glazing the tops once they’d cooled. I like the appearance of a frosted loaf, and I have a ferocious sweet tooth.

If you aren’t “fortunate” enough to have a never-ending source of zucchini, you can substitute a cup of mashed bananas for the zucchini and double the cinnamon. Throw in a few blueberries if you like, or white chocolate chips.  Experiment and have some fun with this; you can never have too many loaves of quick bread in the freezer!

Here’s how you do it:

STRAWBERRY ZUCCHINI BREAD
Makes 2 loaves

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cup zucchini, grated
1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 F.
Prepare two loaf pans by greasing and flouring them (or by spraying with a combination oil/flour spray like Baker’s Joy)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs well and stir in the oil, lemon juice, vanilla, strawberries, and zucchini.

Stirring liquids into the flour mixture.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
Fold in the walnuts.
Divide between two loaf pans and gently smooth the top. If one pan has more batter than the other, that loaf will be a little bigger–and no one will care! Don’t fuss.

Divide batter between two prepared loaf pans.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Remove pans from oven and allow bread to cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before turning out and cooling completely.

Quick breads are much easier to cut when they’re chilled. And for the record, I think this is one of those baked items that tastes better the next day, so hide one of the loaves, quick!