Week 7: Cafe Au Lait Bars

If you're wondering where Week 6 went, then kudos for paying attention! Well one thing after another and...I'm not going to make excuses because it just didn't get done. In that time I managed to make a couple pies though, which really doesn't have anything to do with this blog. They were delicious and I'm sharing the picture of my Coconut Cream. It was pretty. This week, again, I was in the mood to use my espresso powder. Maybe because I'm afraid that the pricey jar is going to go bad. I like coffee and so does my husband, but I'm pretty sure my family doesn't, so these probably won't go in my Christmas tins. I present to you... Cafe Au Lait Bars.

Recipe courtesy King Arthur Cookie Companion

3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. instant coffee crystals, or 3 Tbsp. espresso powder
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 c. walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan or similar sized pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until light-colored and thick. Add the sugar, beating until glossy and stiff. Add the vanilla and melted butter, beating to combine. Stir in the flour and salt.
3. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the batter. Stir together the coffee crystals and cream and add to the remaining batter. Spread the coffee batter in the prepared pan. Spoon the reserved batter over the top, then run a knife through the two batters to marble them. Sprinkle with nuts.
4. Bake the bars for 30 minutes, or until the sides just barely pull away from the edge of the pan and the center is set. Remove them from the oven and cool before cutting.

These are easy! I needed something easy. You can add the nuts. I don't because my son has an allergy to them. Because of this, you won't find me making many recipes that call for nuts. Apparently you can't just leave them out unless the recipe says "optional". If you avoid nuts like I do, then I will be giving you some tips in future posts for ingredient substitutions.

I used an offset spatula to evenly spread my coffee portion of the batter in the pan. Then I dropped the remaining batter 3 dollops down and 3 dollops across. You can use a butter knife to marble the batter. I started by making s-curves down the length of the pan and I did this until it started looking nice and marbled. Then I drew my knife down the length of the pan in three rows and then repeated that again down the other side between the rows I made.

Before I let them cool completely I decided to add the suggested glaze to the top. I was glad I did because it made these bars extra yummy. I recommend you do this too, so here's the recipe for the glaze:

1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
4-5 Tbsp. heavy cream or milk
4 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cream gradually, whisking until no lumps remain. Drizzle the glaze over the bars. For a two-tone effect (which is what I did) drizzle half the glaze over the bars, then add the cocoa to the remaining glaze and drizzle it on.

My Verdict: These are moist and the coffee flavor is there, but it isn't strong. My mom, who despises coffee, thought they tasted nice. But the glaze on top really adds something; that cinnamon really shines through. To me, these are a perfect treat. I cut them small, about the size of petit fours, and they just pop in your mouth. Great with a cup of coffee (really?) or tea.

Survey Results: 4.63 out of 5. All the cookies really seem to be rating well. I'm wondering if I need a different scale OR if people are being too nice. A couple comments left were, "Made me want a cup of coffee-which I rarely drink." and "Thought I tasted cinnamon...it reminded me of cinnamon toast." I'll take that, I love cinnamon toast!

Week 5: Espresso Your Heart

Love coffee. Love chocolate. As soon as I saw the ingredients for this cookie I knew they were next on my list. The thought of making Kahlua buttercream made me giddy. Now, what makes you happy, I don't know, but the thought of butter and Kahlua being whipped into a heavenly cream...yay!

Recipe courtesy Good Cookies

Dark cocoa cookie:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. Dutch-processed cocoa

Kahlua buttercream:
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp. Kahlua
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the cocoa powder, mixing until blended. Add the flour in three additions, mixing until just blended. Scrape the dough onto a work surface and divide into two. Shape each piece into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours, until firm.
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Place one of the dough disks on a very lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out to a thickness of 3/16 of an inch. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, round is best, cut out as many as possible and arrange them 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes, make sure to not overbake. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
5. With an electric mixer, beat the butter at a medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then add the Kahlua and vanilla extract, and beat until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until the buttercream is creamy.
6. Spoon about 3/4 tsp. of the buttercream onto the center of the bottom of half of the cookies. Top each with another cookie, right side up, and press the cookies together lightly until the filling spreads evenly to about 1/16 inch from the edge. Serve or refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

First thing, instant espresso powder is not a product that every grocery store will carry. My advice is that you call around some local stores before you get in the car and go. I called four different places. If you live locally, you'll be able to purchase it at DLM. You can also find Droste dutch-processed cocoa there. Since I was feeling in a rather festive mood, I used a heart shaped cookie cutter. I must say, they are cute this way, but not in a cheesy way since the cookie itself is so dark. Also, I decided to double the buttercream recipe. I would recommend this, but it is up to you. Just double the buttercream ingredients from above.

My Verdict. HELLO! Come here my lovely, delicious, little cookie. But, I'm biased because I love coffee and chocolate. The coffee flavor is so subtle. The filling is divinely smooth and light. The cookie itself is good, but it becomes so much better when you have the contrasting flavor and texture of the buttercream. They are a little bit of work, but if you enjoy this sort of thing, you won't mind the effort once you taste them.

Survey Results: The highest scoring cookies yet! 4.68 out of 5. The texture of the cookie surprised people. It is soft and not crisp like you might expect on a sandwich cookie. Some couldn't place the coffee flavor of the Kahlua and thought the flavor was "unique". And people who don't like coffee normally, thought the cookie was enjoyable. I've created the gateway cookie that leads to coffee drinking!

Week 4: Raspberry Cream Sandwiches

Last week I got a lot of suggestions to fill my cookies with raspberry. I heard their call and obeyed! Unfortunately for them, it snowed and they were unable to receive these cookies. I have to say this recipe calls for white chocolate and, of course, raspberries-neither of which I enjoy. Raspberries have too many seeds; I don't enjoy crunchy fruit. However, this wasn't about me and I made them. Raspberry Cream Sandwiches.

Recipe courtesy: Martha Stewart's Cookies

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt (kosher salt)
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved

1 1/3 c fresh raspberries
2 tsp sugar
7.5 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 c heavy cream

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Put butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and mix on med-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds. Mix until smooth. Gradually mix in flour mixture.
3. Using a 1 inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets. Space 2 inch apart. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden and set. Let cool on parchment paper on wire racks.
4. Make filling: Puree raspberries and sugar in a food processor. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a small bowl, pressing to extract juice; discard seeds.
5. Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water. Remove from heat; whisk in cream in a slow, steady stream. Add raspberry mixture; slowly whisk until pale, about 3 minutes. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
6. Assemble cookies: Spread 1 Tbsp. filling onto bottom of cookie, sandwich with another. Repeat.

My Verdict: I can definitely eat white chocolate and raspberries this way! Now, I'm not a big Martha Stewart fan, *gasp* but this woman knows what she is doing! Obviously. The raspberry extract was BEAUTIFUL. I want nail polish in that color and it reminded me of Spring. Who doesn't want to think of springtime right now?

I must have over-measured my raspberries, probably because they aren't cheap (no waste) and that caused my filling to be runny. So I ended up melting an additional 2 oz of white chocolate, then folding my filling into that and thankfully that worked. Now, vanilla beans are also not cheap, and unlike the raspberries, you don't necessarily need them. However I'm sure it makes the cookie more delicious. Also don't be alarmed (I freaked a little) when you add your cream to the chocolate and it starts looking grainy. Just keep whisking and it will become glossy.

These cookie sandwiches are so yummy and pretty. They are rich though. You can't sit and have a handful of them like chocolate chip cookies. Next time I think I will make them slightly smaller for that very reason.

Survey Results: A rating of 4.09. The overwhelming suggestion was to make them smaller next time. So, if you're making these, I would cut the dough balls down by a third.

Week 3: Fudgy nutwiches...a little late

Fudgy Nutwiches with Caramel Mascarpone Cream. Long title, delicious ingredients. Are these cookies worth the effort? That's debatable. These cookies called out to me! The recipe sucked me in with three ingredients that I love. Chocolate. Caramel. Honey. Yummy!

Recipe courtesy Great Cookies
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. strained Dutch-processed cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
8 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate
1/4 c unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 c superfine sugar (see post "Superfine Tip" for instructions on how to make it yourself)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c toasted pecans, finely chopped with 1 Tbsp. sugar

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Line cookies sheets with aluminum foil.
2. Strain together three times the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a 3 qt. bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and blend in the butter and honey. Using a wooden spoon, add the superfine sugar, eggs, and vanilla and beat 100 strokes to thoroughly combine. Stir in the nuts.
4. Strain the dry ingredients into the batter in four additions, folding in with a rubber spatula. Do not over mix.
5. Drop 1/2 tsp of batter from the tip of a spoon, 2 in. apart, onto the cookie sheets, forming 1-inch mounds. Allow the dough to stand 5-10 minutes or until firm enough to shape into balls. Shape and bake.
6. Bake for 8-9 minutes. Let stand 2-3 minutes before removing them from sheet. When cookies are cool, sandwich with cream filling.

4 oz. Caramels
2 tsp. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. mascarpone cheese, room temp.
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

1. Place the caramels and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high in 30 second intervals until the caramels melt. Transfer to a 2 qt. bowl and cool to tepid.
2. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 cup mascarpone into the caramel, folding gently until completely blended. Gently fold the caramel mixture into the remaining mascarpone. Blend in the vanilla and salt. Avoid over mixing. Refrigerate until use.

Whew! These cookie instructions are intense. My mind needs a break. I can tell the author of Great Cookies, Carole Walter is very serious about her craft. While I enjoy a challenge, this recipe is not something you pick when you want to whip up a batch of cookies.

I'm not a professional, but I don't know that there is a point to lining your aluminum cookie sheets with aluminum foil. I did though because I'm anal about following a recipe to the "t". I'm also not clear on why I had to strain the dry ingredients together three times. Or count 100 strokes? Please. Just fold until it is incorporated. And, if you let your dough sit long enough, which isn't that long, then you don't have to let the dough stand on the cookie sheet 5-10 minutes before they can be formed.

My cookies didn't look like hers, but I wasn't upset because they were bite-sized goodness. If you don't like dark chocolate, don't bother. Next time (if there's a next time) I'll probably use semi-sweet chocolate v bittersweet. I was disappointed that I couldn't distinguish any honey flavor. For the filling, I used the Kraft caramels that are popular in the fall for caramel apples. You'll find that 4 oz. of these caramels equate to about 16 pieces.

Survey Results: These are the highest ranked cookies yet! Average rating 4.4. Best comment, "Very moist and flavorable. Also its 'fun size'. Would definitely make for a party or special occasion." However, one survey taker found the size to be impractical. I also got a few suggestions for a different filling, like raspberry. Another cookie, another day perhaps.