Remember how I used half a box of vanilla cake mix to make a small batch of cupcake sliders? Well, since I had the other half on hand, I went looking for a recipe to use it in– it was just kismet that we also had several jars of our Juneberry Jam in the refrigerator, which inspired me to make jam-oatmeal bars!
This recipe couldn’t be easier, and it’s very kid-friendly since there’s no special equipment needed! My daughter and I had it mixed up and in the pan in five minutes flat, and they turned out fine– a bit sweeter than I generally like due to the sugar in the cake mix, but the kids liked them. Definitely something that’s easy to whip up on short notice from pantry staples– you can double it to use up a whole box of cake mix and make a 9×13″ pan of bars!
I love miniature versions of things, especially desserts. So when I decided one morning to whip up some sweet treats for a playdate, and saw that I had a whole bunch of mini chocolate chips (as opposed to regular-sized chocolate chips), I knew exactly what I wanted to make: bite-sized chocolate chip cookies!
Since I was a bit short on time I knew that I wouldn’t be able to soften butter to room temperature, so I found a recipe using melted butter instead. To keep things simple I mixed up the dough by hand rather than using any kind of mixer. The resulting dough was a bit too soft, so I popped the bowl into the freezer for 10 minutes to firm it up a bit (smearing the dough up the sides of the metal bowl to give it maximum surface area to chill).
Since we’ve been grocery shopping less often and trying to use pantry staples for meals lately, I’ve been eating more chickpeas. And what’s left when you use canned chickpeas in recipes? Chickpea brine– or, to use another term, aquafaba.
I’ve used aquafaba before to make macarons and they turned out well, so I thought I’d give it another try and make some meringues. However, since my chickpeas weren’t low-sodium (as is usually recommended for aquafaba recipes), I was wary of making a plain vanilla meringue recipe– I worried that the salt might come through too strongly. So instead I decided to add a few spoonfuls of raspberry Jell-o powder for flavor and color, figuring that the raspberry flavor would disguise any lingering salt.
The finished meringues were light and airy and delicious– they’re actually even more melt-in-your-mouth than meringues made with egg whites! Seriously, egg-white meringues still retain a slightly chewy quality at the very end as you crunch into them, but these literally just melt away on your tongue and disappear. The raspberry Jell-o came through nicely, and I can definitely see using other flavors in the future for a pastel rainbow of meringues. All in all, I like them!
Let me just say from the beginning that these are the chocolatiest (most chocolate-y?) cookies that I’ve ever baked. That alone should get you excited. But they’re also easy to make (no creaming butter required) and– for me at least– use standard pantry ingredients. And did I mention they use three kinds of chocolate?
I adapted the recipe slightly from Smitten Kitchen, just because I never have unsweetened chocolate on hand but *always* have a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar of 72% bittersweet chocolate. Also, because my cookie scoop was slightly larger than her recommended cookie size, mine ended up bigger than hers– something I can only approve of!
These are rich, delicious, and packed full of chocolate– perfect for eating with a cold glass of milk. I am absolutely adding them to my “make again whenever possible” list!
Yet another treat I served at my daughter’s woodland creature party was a selection of woodland creature cookies– foxes, hedgehogs, and squirrels. I used my classic chocolate cutout recipe for the cookies, and frosted them with a 3/4-sized batch of a hybrid glaze/royal icing that I picked up online from Baking Sweet Hope. It’s a nice combination of the best of both icing worlds, and I had just about the right amount of icing to cover my cookies in several different colors without worrying about running short.
The original icing tutorial and recipe are both so good that I’m not going to try to summarize them here– just go check out her page!
I did make a few mistakes in the icing process– first, I think I thinned the icing too much, which prevented me from getting quite the amount of detail I’d wanted. I also tried to do too many cookies at once (at least on the foxes), assembly-line style, which messed with my details a bit as well. But in general I think the animals turned out well, and they tasted great! I admit that the hedgehogs were my favorite of the lot– which ones are your favorites?
So for her birthday party this year, my daughter chose “Woodland Creatures” as her theme. I admit to nudging her a bit in the right direction a few months ago because I thought it would provide an opportunity for lots of cute themed food, but she really got into it, even giving me a list of things she wanted to include. I’ll give details of how I made things in the next few posts, but take a look at the resulting dessert table…
Included above are a tree stump cake, meringue mushrooms, decorated animal cookies, white chocolate fudge rocks, moss-covered cupcakes, candy acorns, and pads of “moss” made of green-dyed sugar cookies. (Also edible pinecones but they didn’t turn out all that well so I’ll forego posting a recipe until I get it right).
I had *so* much fun putting this party together. I raided the 80% off Christmas decoration section at my local craft store to get the artificial greenery, but aside from that all of the decorations on the table were edible– my version of the infamous Willy Wonka chocolate room. Honestly, I think this is one of the best dessert tables I’ve ever done!
Have I mentioned before that Alice Medrich is one of my favorite cookbook authors? She focuses on desserts– chocolate specifically– and her book “Bittersweet” was one of the first cookbooks I ever made a point of buying. It’s full of great recipes for both standard and unorthodox uses of chocolate, and introduced me to cocoa nibs.
What are cocoa nibs? They’re roasted cacao beans– the base ingredient of chocolate– so they have a toasty chocolate flavor, but none of the sweetness of processed chocolate. They’re kind of like a cross between chocolate and nuts when used in cookies. This shortbread recipe combines cocoa nibs with pecans, both of which make for a subtle but flavorful cookie.
I admit that I gilded the lily a bit and sandwiched my cookies with a ring of chocolate ganache and a salted butter caramel center. The ganache actually overpowered the caramel a bit, but overall the effect was decadent.
Despite my penchant for making decorative desserts, for some reason I’d never made tuiles before! This past Thanksgiving I figured it was time to remedy that, so to top a cake I decided to make a set of autumn-leaf tuiles. They turned out beautifully, so here’s the recipe. They’re not only beautiful, but they’re delicious as well!
One thing I noticed was that in order to get them really crisp, you need to let them bake long enough to brown slightly– otherwise they stay a bit soft and that’s not what you’re going for. Plus, the browning helped make my otherwise bright colors into more autumnal shades. At the end, I traced veins with edible paint made from gold highlighter dust and vodka, but you could use melted chocolate, or a mixture of cocoa and water, or really anything you like.
I was looking at recipes the other day when I came across a recipe for tahini-oatmeal cookies– it billed itself as being vegan, gluten-free, and whole-grain, which ordinarily wouldn’t be in its favor, but it occurred to me that I probably had some leftover tahini in the fridge, so I decided to give it a shot. Sure enough, I had about an inch of tahini left in my jar– just enough to eke out the 1/3 cup necessary for the recipe– plus a few spoonfuls of almond flour leftover from my aquafaba macarons, so it was clearly fate!
Since there was no additional fat in the recipe the dough went together quickly, though it didn’t spread at all in the oven so the resulting cookies ended up a bit too doughy to qualify as “cookies” in my book. I think next time I’ll flatten them out a bit more and hope they crisp up around the edges. I do appreciate the tahini flavor, though, which (as I’ve said before) goes excellently with dark chocolate, and is helped along by a healthy dose of salt. Oddly enough, the combination of tahini and oats reminds me a bit of walnuts, which would also go excellently in these cookies if you so desired.
So remember how I made the porg rice balls for at May 4th Star Wars party? I also made these Wookie Cookies. Mostly they were an excuse to use up some of the quick-cooking oats in my pantry (I’ve decided that they’re too gluey to make oatmeal out of), but they turned out really well, especially for a no-bake recipe. They’re extremely sweet (to be expected) but they have a great texture and are kind of addictive.
Unlike what appears to be the “standard” no-bake oatmeal cookie recipe, these do not have peanut butter in them, and they include marshmallows (melted in to give a chewy texture). I’m not sure if I’d prefer the original recipe– I’ll have to try it sometime– but these were good and I particularly liked the addition of coconut to add some dimension to the vaguely chocolate-y flavor of the base cookie. Admittedly, the chocolate chips didn’t really make them look all that much like Wookies, but they were close enough.