Category Archives: Cookies

Safari Cookies and Chanelling Your Inner Artist

All 4 2When my kids were little, they used to imagine that while they were away at school all day, I lay in bed reading magazines and scarfing down bon bons. Haha! Nothing could be further from the truth. I wasn’t eating bon bons in the bedroom. I was eating cookies in the kitchen. Actually to be more accurate, I was eating my iced cookie mistakes.

Truthfully, I don’t really like eating iced cookies. I find them too sweet, but I just love creating them. They are just so freaking adorable to look at. I’m not a very good artist when it comes to the traditional medium of pencil or paint. But put a piping bag in my hand with a #2 tip and my inner Jackson Pollock is unleashed.

I made these safari animal cookies to take to a friend’s dinner party. We are planning a South African safari trip for the spring and she thought it would be fun to get the group together to kickstart our planning. I volunteered to bring a dessert.

I ordered the cookie cutters from coppergifts.com. With over 2000 cookie cutters to choose from, it really is the ultimate cookie decorators site. They ship quickly and offer inspirational decorating ideas for every cookie cutter they sell.

I baked Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies as well as a batch of Sugar Cookies with Brown Sugar. Then I mixed up a batch of Royal Icing .elephantsThe super talented Suzanne of suzsdaily.com, provides a very thorough tutorial on how to create these precious baby elephants.

To create the lions manes and tail, I mixed yellow, orange and brown sprinkles. lionsI took a free style approach with the zebras, and to be honest, I think they look more like horses.zebrasThe giraffes were the most difficult to create. Once again, I used Suzanne’s step by step tutorial. The background colour of the giraffes was crafted by mixing Americolor’s warm brown and ivory into the royal icing. The colour of the spots was made by mixing icing with tulip red and warm brown. giraffesThese cookies just make everyone smile!All 4

Hazelnut Almond “Waffle” Ice Cream Sandwiches

stacked 625 sqThis started out as a post about some simple “Nutty Crunch Cookies” that were featured in the March 2014 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, in their “Fast, Easy, Fresh Weeknight Favourites” column. I think that there is no better way to end a meal than with a cookie, so I am always on the hunt for new cookie ideas. I filed it away and got on with more important stuff like the actual eating of cookies.

Somehow, a simple cookie seems to have snowballed into” waffle” ice cream sandwiches. If you have ever read the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (or the ever popular sequel, and my personal fave, “If You Give a Pig a Pancake”) , you will understand how these things happen.

It all started with my taking some photography classes with a talented food photographer. He encouraged me to start thinking less like a cook and more like a food stylist. I interpreted that to mean I needed to go shopping. A few trips to Target, HomeSense and Zone, and I had filled a baker’s rack with some lovely new props.baker's rack
One of my favourite finds was this adorable cookie press set.cookie stampsI knew I had to use them to make those Nutty Crunch Cookies. stamping 1As I was styling a “Milk and Cookies” shot, I kept staring at the “waffle” design on these cookies, thinking that they would be quite fantastic with a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between  them.   milk and cookies 1The Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche Ice Cream sitting in my freezer called out to me.ice cream sandwich 1One of my favourite childhood memories is going to the CNE (The “Ex”) with my older sister and our Auntie Susie. After going on all the rides and playing all the games with us, we would head to the Food Building for Tiny Tom Doughnuts, Candy Apples and Ice cream Waffles. We used to beg for the treats before the rides, but Auntie Susie, wise beyond her years, knew that ice cream waffles prior to a wild and crazy ride on The Scrambler would not end well.

When my kids were little I would sometimes make them waffles and ice cream for dinner. Dinner and dessert all in one! I was a very efficient mother. Steaming hot crunchy waffles, wrapped around a cold scoop of ice cream is one of life’s perfect food combinations.  While these cookies are not real “waffles”, the combo of the nutty crunch from hazelnut and almond cookies and the swirled caramel ribbons of dulce de leche ice cream is quite an unbeatable duo.

Click here to print recipe for Hazelnut Almond _Waffle_ Ice Cream Sandwiches.

 

 

Butterscotch Toffee Salty Oatmeal Cookies

with cake stand 1The fact that I have made these cookies four times in the past two weeks would lead you to the inescapable conclusion that I have a humungous sweet tooth and a total lack of willpower. And you would be correct! However, each time I made them I tweaked the recipe slightly until I came up with what I believe to be an outstanding cookie. So you could say that it was all in the name of research.

I made them exactly as the original recipe was written. I had seen these cookies on seriouseats.com, and was intrigued. They are essentially an oatmeal cookie but with some butterscotch chips mixed in. I baked the first batch but found them to be a bit too sweet and one-dimensional. So I baked a second batch and added some Skor bits to amplify the toffee flavour. They were good but not perfect. Something was missing. My daughter suggested I add dried cherries to the dough. Jackpot!

I love the way the Skor bits melt and ooze out of the cookie as they bake. There is a tiny bit of crunchy toffee on the edge of each cookie as they cool. The textural contrast between the crispy edges and the chewy center is what keeps you going back bite after bite. Tart dried cherries  temper the sweetness of the butterscotch and toffee. The occasional ping on your tongue, from the Fleur de sel crystals sprinkled on top keep everything in check. These are a perfectly balanced (albeit, not nutritionally balanced) cookie!mise en placeUsing an ice cream scoop to portion the cookies ensures that they will all be the same size and shape and bake evenly. I like the #24 size scoop  (about 1.3 ounces). I was able to get 12 cookies on my baking pans (13 x 18 inches). scooping dough Pour a cold glass of milk and prepare to be enchanted. These are quite addictive.overhead 625 sq 2 Click here to print recipe for Butterscotch Toffee Salty Oatmeal Cookies.pink cookies in circle

Triple Coconut Macaroons

pyramid 2 625 sqThese are my absolute favourite macaroons. That’s macaroon, with 2 o’s – the coconut variety, not the pain-in-the-ass Diva, ground almond and meringue variety, which are macarons, with one o. This recipe for Triple Coconut Macaroons, comes from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. I have been making these since the recipe first came out in 2000. Why I have waited so long to share with you is a mystery to me. I promise you, I’m reallly not a petty person.

Although I could make them any time of year, I always associate coconut macaroons with Passover. As a child we bought our macaroons from Open Window Bakery in Toronto. They made both vanilla and chocolate coconut macaroons. I preferred the simplicity of the vanilla ones. I found the chocolate ones too chocolatey for me. The cocoa powder masked the flavour of the coconut, which is exactly the point of coconut macaroons. I always felt sorry for those families that had to get their macaroon fix from the can. They were gummy and chewy, in short, just awful.
00091_chocolatemacaroons_10coconut macaroons in can
The quintessential coconut macaroon is slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, without being gluey. They should be sweet, but not cloyingly so, and they should be bursting with shreds of sweetened coconut. A final dip in a melted chocolate bath, to cover the lower third of the macaroon would not be a bad thing.
in polka dot bowl
Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchen discovered that the choice of coconut in the macaroon makes a big difference in both taste and texture. Unsweetened shredded coconut, which is drier than sweetened, solved the gluey texture issue.  Sweetened shredded coconut packed more flavor than unsweetened, and together they worked very well. To add one more layer of coconut flavor, they tried cream of coconut and cracked the coconut macaroon code.

Cream of coconut, is not to be confused with coconut cream or coconut milk. Here is a little coconut product primer:
coconut milkcream of coconutKTC-Creamed-Coconut-Big
Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. Coconut cream is made by simmering equal parts of shredded coconut and water until frothy,  then straining the mixture through a cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible; this is coconut milk. The coconut milk is refrigerated and allowed to set. Coconut cream is the thick non-liquid part that separates and rises to the top of the coconut milk.

Cream of coconut is coconut cream that has been sweetened. It is used most commonly in piña coladas. This is the one you want for this recipe. I usually find it in Asian supermarkets, although some larger stores carry it in the drinks aisle.

Creamed coconut is a compressed block of coconut flesh which has been slightly dehydrated and sold in a waxy lump.

This recipe does contain corn syrup, so if you keep strictly Kosher for Passover, here is a recipe for a corn syrup alternative.

Lately, there has been much written about the evils of high fructose corn syrup. This is not the same as the regular corn syrup you buy for baking. If you are at all concerned and want to know more about the science behind it, this article clears up the confusion.

The canned cream of coconut has liquid at the bottom, so it is best to empty it out into a bowl and mix it up with a spoon before measuring and adding to the batter.
Adding cream of coconutadding coconut
The batter should be chilled for about 15 minutes before shaping macaroons. here is a video demonstrating how to shape them.


The chocolate should be chopped fairly fine. I melt about 3/4 of it in the microwave on medium power. When it is totally melted, stir in the remaining 1/4 of chocolate. This is a quick and dirty tempering method but it works quite well.chopping milk chocolatemelting milk chocolateadding second amount of chocolate
I like to dip the bottom third of the cookies in chocolate.
dippingput on parchment

dipped

Click here to print recipe for Triple Coconut Macaroons.

in polka dot bowl

 

Valentines Day Marbled Heart Brown Sugar Cookies

assortment of hearts 625 sqI would not describe myself as an overly affectionate person. (OK, all those who know me can stop choking with laughter now) Neither my husband or I are big on PDA’s . We don’t really celebrate Valentines Day, certainly not in a traditional cards, flowers or a box of drugstore chocolates (shudder) kind of way. My husband knows better than to show up with a bouquet of roses for me. I hate roses, especially red ones. Their aroma conjures up images of death and decay in my mind.  However, if a big bunch of tulips were to come my way, I would never refuse them!

That being said, there is something about heart shaped cookies for Valentines Day that is just so sweet and endearing, especially if they are home made. I could not resist making these this year. I love to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing. I am not a huge lover of the overly sweet taste of royal icing, but I am a frustrated artist and the canvas of a cookie fills my soul with such joy when I hold a piping bag and begin creating.Red and White heardsI had a few extra hands on deck last week to help me make these. My mom, who is very creative, was visiting. As well, my old babysitter, Sarah, who is a whiz with a piping bag, was also visiting. She was so excited when I told her what we would be making. She runs a dance school and bakes beautiful decorated cookies for all her students for any and every occasion. When I had tendonitis in my elbow, from a repetitive strain injuty (piping too many gingerbread snowflake cookies), she filled in as my designated piper.

Marbling royal icing is probably one of the easiest ways to create some spectacular looking cookies. There is no right or wrong way. You just have to let your creative freak flag fly here. The marbling technique basically boils down to using contrasting colours of wet royal icing. You pipe lines or dots or whatever you fancy, and just use a toothpick to swirl the lines or connect the dots. It couldn’t be simpler.Heart ZigzagsYou can use any sturdy cookie recipe, like gingerbread or a sugar cookie. I used my favourite sugar cookie recipe, which calls for brown sugar, instead of the usual white sugar. It adds a real depth of flavour. Adter making the dough, I divide the soft dough into 4 pieces and roll out each piece of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Then I chill the sheets of rolled out dough before cutting. It is much easier to do this rather than chill the dough first and then roll it out.

dough mixeddivide dough

rolling between parchmentcutting out hearts  I found the cutest set of cookie cutters at Michael’s.Wilton CuttersYou will need some disposable piping bags, piping tips (#2 and #3 size) and couplers,  some paste or gel food colouring and toothpicks. If you are planning to buy red food colouring, make sure it is the “no taste” red. In order to get a vivid red, you need to use a lot of the food colouring, and the regular red departs a very bitter taste.

It is best to make the cookies and royal icing the day before (or even several days) you plan to decorate them. Set aside a few quiet hours to allow your creative decorating juices to flow. 

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Click here to print recipe for Sugar Cookies with Brown Sugar.

Click here to print recipe for Royal Icing.

Red and White hearts on felt heart placemats

Hearts lines

For further inspiration check out these very talented bloggers:

Julia Usher

Colleen of Royal Icing Diaries

Sweetopia