When we were invited to a pumpkin-carving party in anticipation of Halloween, I knew three things– 1) I was going to carve a fabulous pumpkin; 2) I was going to bring dessert; and 3) that dessert would also have to include pumpkin.
Last year for this event I made cupcakes– these cupcakes, to be exact— but while they were delicious and well-received, they were kind of a pain to transport in my two-tier cupcake carrier, while carrying a pumpkin. Also, cupcakes aren’t the ideal serving size for parties where there’s a buffet’s worth of food options– too big for people who want to sample multiple desserts. So this year I decided to solve both problems and make pumpkin bars.
If you look at the ingredient list it’s fairly obvious why I call these “maple butter” cookies, but the “birthday” part is more of an inside joke. Almost six years ago, I was eight months pregnant and craving cookies– so I made a batch of these one day and had a lovely evening devouring them with little regard to the consequences. However, the next morning I woke up with an upset stomach, and when I happened to look into the jug of leftover maple syrup I saw a huge circle of mold floating right on top! Convinced that I had food poisoning from moldy syrup, I promptly threw away the remainder of the syrup and the rest of the cookies.
Of course, about three hours later it became obvious that my “food poisoning” was actually early labor, and by the time I returned home from the hospital a few days later, adorable newborn daughter in tow, I sincerely regretted my clearly unnecessary disposal of these extremely delicious and not-at-all poisoned cookies. They’ll always be “birthday cookies” to me, since they’ll forever be associated with the day my girl was born!
As I expect will happen often this summer, last weekend I found myself with a barbecue to attend and no ideas as to what dessert to bring. And as I often do, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. This time it was an icebox cake– but not just any icebox cake, a cheesecake-inspired, graham-layered, strawberry-studded icebox cake.
I was tempted to take a shortcut and use storebought graham crackers rather than making my own round cracker layers, but in the end I went with the recipe as written, and was really glad I did. The dough rolled out incredibly easily, and baked up into the most deliciously crisp, flavorful cookie ever– I found myself nibbling away at the scraps all afternoon.
The filling was simple and tasty– the cream cheese and lemon zest worked together nicely to make a tangy, creamy counterpoint to the sweet graham layers, and when I dipped some extra strawberry pieces into it and added a cookie scrap to the mix, the combination was fantastic.
I have to admit that peanut butter cookies are generally not my first choice when it comes to desserts. However, my husband is a HUGE fan of peanut butter in anything, so when I saw an old Smitten Kitchen post about these cookies– supposedly the ultimate peanut butter treat– I had to try my hand at them.
Interestingly, while they’ve been billed as soft and creamy and almost peanut-butter-cup-like in texture, with a domed shape that lends itself to soft centers and crisp outsides, I didn’t get that result at all. Instead, mine were flat and chewy– still very tasty and still devoured quickly by both my husband and daughter, but not what I was expecting.
Slice and bake cookies are some of my favorites for gift-giving or other occasions that require large quantities of portable desserts. You can plan ahead, make a bunch of dough, shape it into cylinders (or in this case, squared-off logs), and freeze them until you’re ready– then just slice and bake!
I actually made these for last year’s holiday season, but never got around to posting about them until now. Never fear, though– these really are delicious, and they only improve with age! I got the recipe from the incomparable Alice Medrich, and her book (a must-read for any real chocolate lover) Bittersweet. It’s one of my very favorite chocolate recipe books, particularly as it gives specific instructions as to how to modify a recipe for use with different-percentage dark chocolates.
I’m not sure I’d ever made traditional sugar cookies before this week. It’s mostly because I prefer chocolate in my cookies, but also because there are so many more exciting types of cookie to make– cookies with chunks, cookies with fillings, cookies with neat decorations– it’s hard enough to choose from those, so how could I settle for plain old sugar cookies?
I also admit that my mental picture of “sugar cookies” is probably skewed by memories of dry, overly-sweet supermarket sugar cookies, inevitably the last things to remain on dessert tables at parties and usually tossed at the end of the day. But sometimes you just have to go with the classics. And when I came across a recipe that promised I could make perfect sugar cookies without softening butter OR using a mixer, I knew I had to try it. Instead of butter these cookies use vegetable oil, which is easier to mix and also keeps the cookies nice and chewy. Additionally, it occurrs to me that these would work perfectly for ice cream sandwiches– without any butter in them to firm up in the freezer, they should stay chewy and bite-able even when cold!
** Wow, I just realized that this is my 250th post! It’s hard to believe I’ve done so much in a relatively short period of time! Thanks to all my readers, and I’m looking forward to more projects in the future!**
So I’ll admit right now that I already have a favorite recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (with salted pecans!) and that this isn’t it. However, that recipe calls for creaming butter, and some days you just don’t feel like breaking out the stand mixer, you know? And this recipe only needs you to melt the butter, which makes for chewier cookies anyway, so I decided to give it a shot.
The finished cookies were tasty– not mind-blowing, but pretty darned good. They didn’t spread out in the oven much at all, which surprised me, and the dough remained oddly dry the entire time, which was a bit odd… but they were still chock-full of chocolate and pecans, and it’s hard to go wrong with that combination. I would still prefer a cookie recipe that didn’t require chilling for 2 hours before baking (what a pain)– it’s possible that if I’d baked the dough right away I’d have gotten more spreading. I may try it the next time I have a craving for sweets.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!