Friday, October 24, 2014

Rolo Oatmeal Cookie Bars

You usually see cookie recipes containing bits of candy after Halloween, since people usually have candy left over. We typically buy candy but rarely have and kids come to the door, so we usually have candy to spare. Somehow, it all eventually disappears, which probably isn’t very healthy. Oh well. This isn’t a recipe that uses left over candy; it uses the smaller Rolo Bites, which come unwrapped. That’s great because it would be a pain to unwrap that many Rolos.

These bars cookies are so simple to put together. You pretty much mix everything together, stir in the mix-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, Rolos) and then bake. The dough is extremely thick, and I ended up having to use my hands to spread the dough in the pan. Having the pan lined with parchment, and the thickness of the dough made it impossible to spread with a spatula.

I baked these for the longer of the time range given. They were soft when they came out of the oven and certainly golden brown around the edges. I knew that they would continue to set as they cooled, but these cookies are still fairly soft. I don’t think that baking them longer would have made much difference; they are just a soft cookie. I love the flavors: Rolos are always a favorite of mine and they pair nicely with the oats and pecans. 

Rolo Oatmeal Cookie Bars
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Rolo Bites candy (already unwrapped)
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a  9” × 13” baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, and eggs. Beat on medium until creamy. Add the milk, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt, and oats and stir on low until combined. With a spatula, stir in the chocolate chips, Rolo Bites, and pecans. The dough will be very thick. Spread the dough evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes; until browned along the edges and the bars are set, although still soft. Cool on a wire rack.  

Life the bars from the pan by the parchment and peel it away. Cut into bars.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Molasses Cookies

So fall is here, and I’m making sure that I hit the major fall baking flavors. I’ve made spice cookies, last week I made apple cookies and this week I am checking off the pumpkin category. I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of pumpkin. These cookies don’t contain a lot of pumpkin, and the pumpkin is combined with molasses and spices, which I like, so I figured I would give them a go. I was also interested in trying the Pumpkin Spice chips. I found them at Target and they are a seasonal specialty, but you could probably substitute cinnamon or butterscotch chips if you wanted.

This cookie recipe is simple, pretty much a chocolate chip cookie recipe with the added pumpkin, molasses and spices. Like most spice cookies, they need time for the flavors to come together, so don’t skip the refrigeration step. I ended up making the dough when I got home from work and then let them chill while we had dinner and watched a little tv. The dough was still sticky, but some dough is just that way. I like the flavor of these, but I don’t think that you can taste the pumpkin all that much. The chips taste like white chocolate chips with some spiced added. These are tasty cookies, and while they are perfect for fall, they don’t really scream pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Molasses Cookies
2-1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 10 ounce package Pumpkin Spice Chips
Additional sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the pumpkin puree, molasses, egg, and vanilla. Mix on medium until combined. The mixture may look a little lumpy. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture. Stir in the Pumpkin Spice chips.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Shape the dough into 1-1/4” balls and roll in additional sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until set. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Nestle.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Maple Apple Cake Bars

Sometimes at work we get boxed lunches, and it seems like I usually have leftover apples. This happens at Panera, too. I suppose I could just eat those apples, but where is the fun in that? I had established a critical mass at home so I decided it was time to find a recipe to use up the apples. It’s fall, the perfect time to bake with apples. I found these bars, apples paired with maple, and knew they would be great.

I used a couple of different varieties of apples in this recipe, which I think is wonderful since different apples bring different characteristics. I know one was a granny smith apple and the others were gala apples, I think. It was a good combination, tart but not too tart, and the gala apples weren’t quite as firm as the granny smiths. I did run out of maple for the bars, so I ended up using a combination of maple syrup and honey. They are both gooey and sweet so I figured there would be no problem. I did go get more maple syrup for the glaze.

These bars were easy to make, but they took a lot longer to bake than the original recipe stated. That could be because of the honey, I’m not sure. I baked it 25 minutes, the time specified in the recipe and it was still batter on top. I kept adding more time, 4 minutes here and there, until they were evenly golden brown. I lost track of how long I had them in the oven! The bars are very soft and cakey, so you need to be careful when cutting them. These have a great apple flavor, and the maple flavor is there but fairly subtle. I can taste the honey and really love that paired with the apple and maple. Maybe next time I will just make Honey Apple Cake Bars!

Maple Apple Cake Bars
½ cup butter
1-1/3 cups packed brown sugar
½ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 cups chopped peeled apples
¼ cup butter
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” × 13” baking pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a large mixer bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix on medium on until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture. Stir in the apples with a spatula. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 30-50 minutes, until golden brown and a thin knife inserted in the bars comes out with a couple of crumbs. Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack before glazing. Just before glazing, remove the bars from the pan and peel away the foil.

Make the glaze: In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the maple syrup and brown sugar and increase the heat to medium. Bring to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, which will give the glaze time to thicken. Pour the glaze over the bars. With a small spatula smooth the glaze so it covers the bars completely. Allow the glaze to set before cutting into bars.

Recipe from The Recipe Critic

Friday, October 3, 2014

Salted Caramel Macadamia Cookie Cups

While I only make cakes once a month for birthdays, I can always try to tailor the weekly cookies to individual tastes. One of my friends at work had a birthday yesterday, but I had just brought a cake to celebrate September birthdays, so I figured I’d wait a bit to make another cake. But I know that my friend loves caramel, so I knew I wanted to bring some sort of caramel cookie to work this week.

I went searching and came across a couple of different recipes, and I ended up combining a couple of ideas together to make these cookies. Most of the recipes I came across used premade cookie dough, which I don’t really like to use. I just used the classic sugar cookie recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. I rolled the dough in macadamias, because I had seen that in a recipe. The filling I kept simple, but I used the caramel bits instead of having to unwrap caramels.

I find that this sugar cookie dough works well when I just need a regular cookie base. I’ve also used it in bar cookies. I know it’s from a fairly basic cookbook, but I think it is great because of the powdered sugar and almond extract. These are deceptively quick to make: the cookies all bake at once, let them cool a bit, and then melt the caramels and fill the cookies. I used a small squirt bottle to fill the cookies, so I didn’t have any drips or messes. The crumby cookie pairs nicely with the smooth caramel, and the salt is the perfect accent.

Salted Caramel Macadamia Cookie Cups
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped

11 ounce bag caramel bits
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons milk
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray about 3-1/2 dozen mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract, and the egg. Beat on medium until smooth. Add about half of the flour and mix on low, add the remaining flour, the baking soda and cream of tartar and mix until incorporated. Do not over mix.

Shape the dough into 1” inch balls and roll in the chopped macadamia nuts. Place the dough balls in the individual muffin cups.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until slightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven. With the end of a wooden spoon or the back of a measuring spoon, make an indentation in the center of each cookie. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Place the caramel bits and water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the milk. Spoon the caramel filling into the partially cooled cookie cups. Allow the caramel to set for about 15 minutes and then sprinkle with sea salt.

Recipe inspiration from Betty Crocker. Cookie recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, 40th Anniversary Edition.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lemon, Yogurt and Pistachio Bundt Cake

I work a lot less in the summer, and some folks don’t work in the summer. That made it hard for me to figure out when to bake the monthly birthday cakes! Plus, no one had a birthday in August, so I am out of practice. In the library there are two September birthdays, so I needed to get my act together and make a cake. I decided to make this Bundt cake with lemon and pistachios, because Bundt cakes are always winners.

I’ve made quite a few Bundt/pound cakes, but this is the first one that I have made with oil rather than butter. That gave the cake a nice, light texture. I thought about adding some chopped pistachios to the batter, but I just kept them for the top of the cake. The cake baked beautifully, came out of the pan cleanly, and just looked great. This didn’t have a lot of glaze which keeps it light, but I could have used some more glaze! The salted pistachios on the top gave a nice crunch and this cake was enjoyed by everyone at work!

Lemon, Yogurt and Pistachio Bundt Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
5 eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and powder; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat the oil, sugar, and brown sugar on medium until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for one minute after each addition.  Stir in the lemon zest and juice, vanilla and yogurt.

With the mixer running on low, add the flour mixture 1/3 increments. Stir just until combined, the batter may still be slightly lumpy. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 60 minutes, until a thin knife inserted deep in the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Once the cake is cool, make the glaze: in a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth. Add additional lemon juice (or milk) if the glaze is too thick. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios. Allow the glaze to set before serving.

Recipe from Wandering Spice