Category Archives: Cookies

Salted Skor Bar Shortbread

diagonal on black 3If a cookie could be my Spirit Animal, (and in the fertile playground that is my mind, why the hell not), Salted Skor Bar Shortbread would be mine. These cookies embody everything that I aspire to be. Well balanced, little bit sweet, a little bit salty, with a bittersweet surprise mixed in.

The recipe is based on Martha’s Holiday Shortbread. In December 2012, my blogger friend Bobbi, over at Bob Vivant, wrote about her sister’s adaptation of them, which included the addition of lots of coarse sea salt and chocolate chips. She called them “addictive little buggers.” I deleted the chocolate chips and added chopped up Skor Bars (Heath Bars if you live in America). I think thay are cookie perfection.

If my husband and kids are reading this, please make sure that these cookies are served at my funeral. I am thinking that they could be passed around just before the eulogy starts. If they can pass out candies to throw at Bar Mitzvahs, why not Salted Skor Bar Shortbread at a funeral? I think that a little nibble while listening to all those funny, touching stories about me, would be quite fitting.

My girlfriend Sandy was helping me make these cookies last week. She is a curious person and asks lots of questions, a very endearing quality! She asked me why her oatmeal raisin cookies spread so flat in the oven and mine, using the exact same recipe, spread only slightly. The problem, I suspect is with her butter. Most cookie recipes call for room temperature butter. That does not mean butter that has been sitting on the counter all day. Take the butter out of the fridge and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and it will be at the perfect temperature. Cool butter creams perfectly with sugar, trapping and holding onto air, allowing you to create a better dough. mise en placeOnce the dough is made, form it into a log and chill. You can make a round log or a square log. Square logs are simple to form.

These square cookies look so neat and tidy after slicing.tidy squaresThen all hell breaks loose in the heat of the oven and rogue bits of toffee escape from the dough, forming delicious nooks, crannies and tails of very deeply flavoured toffee, just on the verge of being burnt, providing a wonderful bittersweet flavour and very crunchy texture. rogue melted skor bits have escaped

Click here to print recipe for Salted Skor Bar Shortbread.

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Oatmeal Lace Speculoos Sandwich Cookies

cookies and milk jug 1F 625 sqI was first introduced to Speculoos over 20 years ago by my Belgian neighbour Brigitte.  These were the cookies of her childhood. Imagine if you can, a gingersnap on steroids. Bolder and much more aggressive than typical gingersnaps,  Speculoos are brimming with dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. A few packages of these crunchy thin biscuits always made it into her suitcase to bring back to Ottawa to share with us after a visit home with her mom. Brigitte speaks with a bit of an accent and the first time she served us the cookies I thought I heard her say “Speculum.” Kind of an odd name for a cookie I thought! Sometimes my mind wanders to strange places. Lotus speculoosThen in 2007, something wonderful happened. Els Scheppers, a very creative Belgian woman,  crushed up some Lotus brand Speculoos cookies and mixed them with sugar and oil to create a sweet, creamy cookie butter spread. Hearing about this delicious concoction, Lotus Bakeries got in touch with Els and collaborated to perfect her creation. When it was released for sale to the Belgian market, it promptly sold out. People went bonkers for this stuff. Reminiscent of Nutella or peanut butter, but way more delicious! There is no end to the creative uses for Speculoos Cookie Butter. I have also heard that some people just eat it straight from the jar. 

Trader Joes jumped on the bandwagon in 2011 and Speculoos Cookie Butter was born. In 2013 they launched Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl and pretty soon after that they had to start limiting customers to 1 jar each. It got a bit crazy there for a while. Luckily, it has become so mainstream that you can find several brands of speculoos cookie spread on most supermarket shelves, right beside the peanut butter and hazelnut spreads. trader joes and lotusThese oatmeal lace sandwich cookies are the creation of cookie wizzard Nick Malgieri. I may have mentioned him in a previous post! He sandwiched them with chocolate ganache. I decided to use speculoos cookie butter.mise en place 2

mixing batterThe batter for these gossamer thin lacy cookies gets mixed by hand in a bowl. Leave lots of room on the baking sheet as you form them. They really spread. dough spreadsOnce cooled, pipe a generous dollop of speculoos cookie spread on half the cookies and then sandwich them. filling cookiesin white tray

Click here to print recipe for Oatmeal Lace Speculoos Sandwich Cookies.

Chocolate Dipped Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

cookies and milk 2This is a tale of cookie evolution. These sweet beauties started off their short life as Cheddar Pistachio Biscuits. I had envisioned them as a little nibble to have with a glass of Prosecco over the holidays. I thought they would be similar to the Cheddar Biscuits I made a few years ago, which were met with rave reviews by my wine swilling  sipping girls weekend friends. I baked up a batch of the Cheddar Pistachio biscuits and was kind of horrified by the results. The orange cheddar clashed horribly with the green pistachios and offended my highly tuned sense of aesthetics. I could deal with the ghastly appearance if the flavours were good, but they just tasted so odd, because they were neither sweet or savoury, but rather a muddled in-between. It just confused the palate. With blessings by my tasting panel (husband and child #2), they got tossed.

Being December, I decided to wholeheartedly enmbrace the sweet route and make a pistachio shortbread cookie. And because December is all about excess, (we have January to practice our moderation skills after all!) I dipped these in melted bittersweet chocolate and rolled them in some finely chopped pistachios. The inspiration for this recipe came from a 2004 Bon Appetit recipe for hazelnut shortbread sticks. They rolled the dough into little fingers, baked and then dipped them. I sped the whole process up by turning these into slice and bake cookies.mise en placerolling logs of doughslicing cookiesdippingEach cookie is heavily studded with coarsely chopped pistachios, so that each bite delivers crunch. The final dunk into the bittersweet chocolate provides a perfect balance for the richness of these sweet and buttery cookies. cookies 625 sq

Click here to print the recipe for Chocolate Dipped Pistachio Shortbread.

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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.