Black Forest Cookies and 2014 Resolution Progress

I know, I know. Posting a cookie recipe when we’re not even two weeks out from Christmas. What is she thinking? But hear me out. I had such a smattering of ingredients left over after my holiday baking, and they were taking up some prime real estate in my fridge. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – there could be far worse situations in which to find yourself. There was a half-full jar of maraschino cherries here, a little bit of dark chocolate almond milk there (which is a surprise, given the number of times this Healthier Mexican (Dark) Hot Chocolate happened), even some unsweetened coconut flakes were kicking around the bottom drawer (also used in this Oven-Baked Coconut Almond Pancake). Basically, my fridge was full of food odds and ends.

With 2014 rapidly approaching, I felt a strong urge to start fresh. Clean the house from top to bottom, organize everything I own, drink green smoothies daily, double my time on the elliptical, conquer the world, etc. You know, all that resolution stuff. What sprung from the infectious, inspiring spirit of a new year soon overwhelmed me, and quite frankly I was exhausted even before that sparkly, decked-out ball dropped in Times Square.

So, baby steps. I couldn’t clean the whole house without starting somewhere, and I chose the fridge for my starting point. Cherries, chocolate…I mean that just screams black forest right? By my thinking, finishing off these ingredient misfits was in a way cleaning the fridge. Making these was practically a resolution.

Black Forest Cookie
These cookies are chewy, thanks to the untraditional addition of unsweetened coconut flakes mixed into the batter. The unsweetened flakes (which I found at my local natural foods grocer) are smaller than the traditional sweetened coconut flakes, so in this recipe they tend to absorb into the batter rather than stand out on their own. Hence, the chewiness. They also don’t spread much during baking, so if necessary you may drop dough closer together than I did (see picture in recipe steps below).

Black Forest Cookies
Yields 36 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 tbsp Nutella
3/4 cup dark chocolate almond milk
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, quartered
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, divided
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder.

2. In a separate bowl, blend together butter, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, Nutella, and almond milk. Pour wet ingredients into dry and combine.

3. Stir in cherries, 3/4 cup of the coconut flakes, and 1 cup of the chocolate chips.

4. Drop rounded two-tablespoonfuls of batter onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until tops of cookies spring back lightly to touch. Let cool on wire racks.

Cookies pre-bake
5. To make chocolate drizzle, melt the remaining cup of chocolate chips in microwave for twenty-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to a plastic bag, seal, and snip corner of bag. Drizzle over top of cookies.

6. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of coconut flakes on top of cookies while chocolate drizzle is still malleable so they adhere. Let drizzle harden before serving and/or packaging.

Finished Cookies
Cookie halved

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How to Salvage a Recipe Whoops

salvage recipe whoops text

You know what I really hate to do? Waste things. When I was little, I always wanted to save things, because surely I’d need a stockpile of wrapping paper scraps and empty glass bottles. In case of a decoupage emergency or something. Through the years I’ve (thankfully) learned to part with many could-be craft supplies, because while I can have ideas for days, the reality is that I won’t get around to crafting all of my grand plans.

Food, though…food is a different story. You’ve spent money on ingredients, spent time preparing whatever it is that you’re making, and seeing both of those things thrown into the garbage is all kinds of frustrating. Plus if you’re making something, there’s a good chance that you’re hungry, and your stomach has already set its expectations accordingly. Having to abandon your plans and start fresh is apt to pitch even the most even-tempered into the throes of hangriness. Look. out.

So when you first get that nagging feeling that your recipe is headed off the tracks, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Can you cut it into small pieces and bake it a different way?

2. Is the taste spot-on but the presentation…lacking?

3. Can you cover it in frosting and/or sprinkles to make the whoops go away?

4. Can you cut off the offending piece?

5. Is it feasible to rename whatever it is and pass it off like something else?

Regarding point #5, it’s all about managing expectations. Depending on what you’re making (and how much you talked it up beforehand), you may not have much lead time before you realize your recipe’s going south, so sometimes this is unavoidable. For example, if you’ve been raving about a gigantic cinnamon roll for days and have gotten someone else craving it, having them witness you frantically scurrying around the kitchen in search of your muffin pan might dash their dreams a bit (sorry, B!). Likewise, promising to bring a loaf of banana bread somewhere and showing up with a plate of cookies that suspiciously looked like they contained bananas and chocolate chips might be, well, awkward. So, in the ideal scenario, “Hey guys, I made banana bread biscotti crisps!” sounds a whole lot better than “well, I was going to make a loaf of bread, but then x, y, z happened…”. A whoops indeed (but still better than showing up empty-handed).

In the couple of months since starting My Sequined Life, I’ve encountered SO. MANY. kitchen whoops I can’t even begin to tell you. Under-seasoning french toast so it tastes just like eating…soggy bread. Forgetting to grease the pan so the mini loaves that I envisioned would look so cute in a photo turned into a crumby (and unpictured) mess. Breathing a sigh of relief that we had just the amount of eggs necessary for a recipe…and then dropping them on the floor. The list goes on.

Most of the time these whoops go undocumented (for good reason), but here are two recipes I resurrected by using a mix of the techniques above.

Case #1 – Banana bread beer…bread

Synopsis – I saw this beer in the store. Thought it would be all sorts of clever to use it to make banana bread. Not so.

The Whoops – Everything was seemingly fine – the batter looked normal, the loaf was rising in the oven, etc. Took it out of the oven to cool and the thing deflated until it was barely 1″-tall. A dense banana bread brick.

The Fix – Cut it up and bake it again (#1 above). I sliced the loaf into 1/4″-thick slices, laid the slices down on their sides on a cookie sheet, and baked them until the edges were golden brown and they were crisp throughout. From banana bread brick to banana bread biscotti crisps within 10 minutes.

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Case #2 – Cinnamon Roll Cake

Synopsis – This giant cinnamon roll cake on Sally’s Baking Addiction stopped me in my pinning tracks on Pinterest. Doesn’t it look incredible?? I showed it to B and said I’d make it for New Year’s Day breakfast (setting expectations…my first mistake). The problem with a New Year’s Day breakfast that requires rising time? New Year’s Eve festivities, that’s what. I slept in until 10:00 AM (what!) and thought I could have my cake – literally – and eat it too by still making the cake but taking a few shortcuts (my second mistake).

The Whoops – I won’t even share with you my methodology here, but it involved a tube of store-bought dough, a gloppy, undercooked center, and a few tears of frustration.

The Fix – Grab your muffin tin (#2 above). I ripped my half-crispy-half-raw monstrosity of a breakfast into small pieces and placed them into eight greased muffin tins. I popped them back in the oven, placed a loose tent of aluminum foil over the top halfway through so that they didn’t crisp up too much, and removed when everything was cooked through. Drizzled some glaze over top and voilà – Pull-Apart Cinnamon Roll Muffins were born.


Post-ripping, pre-second-bake.


The finished product – Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Muffins. Doesn’t look like such a whoops after all, now does it? In fact, got B’s seal of approval!

Of course there are plenty of times when what you’re making hurdles past the point of rescuing (I will run screaming from unintentionally-curdled milk), but hopefully with an assortment of tools and a dash of creativity you can turn your kitchen whoops into something that’s beyond edible, and maybe even a little delicious.

Mini Gingerbread Chai Biscotti

‘Tis the season for all things gingerbread and a whole lot of cookies. For some reason though this year I’ve been putting off devising my Christmas cookie game plan. I’m not quite sure why, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with The Voice being on twice weekly, another season of White Collar hitting Netflix, and the urge to binge-watch anything with Aubrey Plaza in it. Couple having something on the TV with a cozy blanket and Pinterest, and in a flash my “Oh I’ll start planning after this episode” turns into a “WHEN DID IT BECOME 10:45 PM!?” – in which case it’s Go directly to bed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

As we’re already hurtling into mid-December I realized I better get myself in gear, and what better way to do so than with the aroma of baking gingerbread wafting through the house? Only one near hiccup happened when the supermarket appeared to be out of molasses, which really would have been game over on the gingerbread that night, but I reached a hopeful hand up on the top shelf and found one jar pushed towards the back. Whew. Let there be biscotti.

Gingerbread Chai Biscotti
Some notes on these cookies: They certainly are crispy, but they’re not rock-hard-break-your-teeth crispy. In other words, you won’t need to dunk them in coffee in order to chew through (but I bet that would taste delicious). They require a little extra baking time, as they take two shifts in the oven (as biscotti do), and the dough is sticky. You’ll see in the pictures that follow, but please flour your hands, work surface, and spatulas judiciously or else you’ll be more Bah humbug than Christmas cheer.

Mini Gingerbread Chai Biscotti

Yields 52 mini cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp chai tea latte mix (dry), plus more for pressing onto outsides
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, spices, and 2 tbsp of the chai tea latte mix.
3. In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add canola oil, vanilla extract, and molasses. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until well-integrated.

Batter
4. The batter will be very sticky, so flour your hands, spatula, and work surface before removing the dough to work with. Lightly knead dough on floured surface, adding more flour as you need. I worked about 2-3 tbsp of flour into the dough during this process.

Dough Before

Before: The Blob vs. The Flour

IMG_1151

After: The tamed beast

5. Once dough is workable, separate into four equal sections. Working one section at a time, roll into a cylinder. Depending on the stickiness of your dough, you still may need to roll in more flour. Place on baking sheet and lightly pat down so that thickness is even throughout the cylinder. Repeat for 3 remaining sections.

6. Rub some more of the chai tea latte mix onto outside of four sections and lightly press to adhere.

Dough Cylinders
7. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove. Cut each log into 3/4-inch strips, then place each cookie onto its side. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes so that the edges crisp up.

After first bake
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8. Once edges are toasty brown, remove from oven and let cool.

I almost forgot to mention – the great thing about mini biscotti is that there’s no need to fret over having multiple in one sitting. They just add up to one regular-sized cookie, anyway. 🙂

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Snickerdoodle Cookie “Frosting”

How disorienting is it to walk into a different supermarket than your usual one? You’re meandering through the aisles, not quite sure if the tomato sauce aisle comes before or after the crackers. The order in which you wrote your list probably doesn’t correspond with the new store’s layout, adding to all the zigzagging you’re doing. And what about those items that just don’t seem to be anywhere? Like honey, for example. When I lived on the East Coast, I knew my former supermarket like the back of my hand. Honey was next to the PB&J. But in this new store? Nope. Also not in the baking aisle. Or by the tea. After an embarrassing length of time, I discovered it nestled up by the ketchup and soy sauce. What under normal circumstances should be a quick errand just morphed into one of those scavenger hunts you’re forced to do in those team building exercises. “Find a South Carolina state quarter”. “Yeah, okay”. I mean, is it just me?

The truth is, I still don’t know my way around my new supermarket, and it’s been many months. Maybe it’s some sort of mental block, I don’t know. More often than not though I find myself gravitating toward the baking aisle, because while I have no clue where the seasoned breadcrumbs may be (seriously, never found them), I know precisely the bottom shelf where the pumpkin puree lives. Obviously this means pumpkin cookies are happening instead of toasted ravioli. 🙂

Snickerdoodle Frosting

The pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are based on this recipe from Chocolate Moosey, which I halved and made several modifications. The snickerdoodle dough recipe (which was quartered) is from my mom’s completely dilapidated copy of the Betty Crocker “Cooky Primer” cookbook that’s at least a few decades old. Always interested in baking, I went through the book when I was little and wrote “yes” or “no” on each and every picture of a cookie, dependent on whether or not I thought it looked good. Not surprisingly, most cookies are a “yes”.

CookbookYeah, periodically I went back and reevaluated.

I love these cookies for several reasons, mainly because the doughs complement each other so well (cinnamon and pumpkin, hello?). The soft and pillowy texture of the pumpkin cookies juxtaposes nicely with the crisp, smooth feel of the snickerdoodle, so you really feel like you’re biting into a cookie with a hardened icing layer on top. Plus, with several flavors already going on, the mini chips add just the right amount of chocolate without overwhelming the rest.

To hit the highlights for this recipe: I spent too much time wandering the grocery aisles, wanted to make frosted pumpkin chocolate cookies for a gathering I was going to, but realized I wouldn’t have enough time for the frosting to harden before I had to leave. What if I “frosted” a cookie…with another cookie? Same look, right? Right.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Snickerdoodle “Frosting”

Yields approx. 15 cookies (dependent on size)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (modified from this recipe from Chocolate Moosey)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup yogurt (I used vanilla Greek)
2 tbsp egg whites (or equivalent to 1/2 an egg)
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour (I used 1/2 cup all-purpose and 1/2 cup white whole-wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Snickerdoodle “Frosting” (modified from Betty Crocker “Cooky Primer” cookbook)
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp egg whites
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar (or more)
1 tsp cinnamon (or more)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. First mix up snickerdoodle dough so it can chill while you prepare the pumpkin dough. Mix together butter, sugar, and egg whites in small bowl. Mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir dry ingredients into wet until well-combined. Place dough in refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
2. Next, for the pumpkin dough, mix together pumpkin, brown sugar, yogurt, egg whites and vanilla extract in medium bowl. Then in larger bowl mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and cloves. Mix wet ingredients into dry until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Take out the snickerdoodle dough from fridge. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon and sugar. Roll dough into one BIG cookie and roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Big Cookie

Roll out dough on lightly-floured board until approx. 1/4″ thick. Take a pause on the snickerdoodle dough for a sec and grease cookie sheet(s). Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the pumpkin dough 1 1/2″ – 2″ apart.
4. Back to the snickerdoodle dough: cut round shapes that are similar in size as the pumpkin cookies that are now on the cookie sheets (I used the lid of something to cut circular shapes). Atop each pumpkin cookie, place a snickerdoodle round and lightly and evenly press to adhere.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned and top is pretty solid. Cool on wire rack…and you’re done!