Week 2: Re-do! This time more butter...

I really disliked the White-Chocolate Whalers from earlier this week. I really didn't want to send them out into the world, especially with surveys. But I have to stick with this "project", and I wasn't anticipating having the opportunity to make another batch of cookies. However, I squeezed these in because they are simple. Simple ingredients. Simple instructions. Simple flavor. Viennese Butter Cookies.

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
3 hard-boiled egg yolks, from large eggs, sieved through a medium strainer
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
36 pecan halves

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter cookie sheets.
2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, mix the butter on med-low speed until creamy. Reduce the mixture to low and add the sugar, mixing until well blended. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Add the flour in three additions, mixing until just combined.
3. Using your hands, shape the dough into balls the size of a walnut (1 1/4 inch). Using a flat bottomed glass that has been dipped in sugar, press down on the top of each cookie, forming a 2 1/2 inch circle. Gently press a pecan half into the center of the cookie.
4. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and place on wire rack.

I would never say I'm lazy when it comes to baking, but hard-boil some eggs? Uh. Thankfully there is Trader Joe's and they actually sell hard-boiled eggs. Does anyone else think that is weird, but awesomely convenient? If you are there, pick up some eggs and splurge on the Irish Kerrigold unsalted butter. It is, after all, the main star of these cookies. But don't worry if you can't, just try to make sure your butter is fresh, and not hanging out in the fridge next to some funky leftovers. FYI- I dipped my glass in a bit of water and then rolled it in my vanilla sugar (I'll tell you how to make it in a later post) before flattening the cookie dough. Another handy tip: Use your butter wrapper to grease your cookie sheets. There is always some butter still clinging to the wrapper, don't let it go to waste!

My Verdict: I made some cookies without the pecans because my son has a nut allergy and he thought they were "Nummy." I can imagine enjoying these cookies with a nice cup of peppermint tea. They're crisp and buttery. Since there is no salt it was hard for me to immediately like the flavor. But I realize the point of the cookie is to enjoy the simplicity of the main ingredient-butter.

Survey Results: 4.3 out of 5. It seemed that testers either really liked or disliked these cookies. I personally don't love them. I got a lot of people saying that they enjoyed the texture. Others thought they needed some flavor ( I agree).

Superfine Tip of the Week

Superfine sugar. Until recently, I was starting to believe this product was a myth. I've hunted for it in local grocery stores. Dreamed of using it in meringues. Beautiful meringues. I was giving up hope of ever finding it, and then I took a trip to Jungle Jim's. If you haven't been to this super-awesome mega store, then you must make the trek to Cincinnati-it's fun and worth it! I was in the aisle with flavorings and baking spices (I believe between India and England-go and you'll understand) and was scanning the shelves when I saw it...Could it be?! I noticed a sugar I had never heard of, caster sugar, but as I read on, in small print was 'Superfine Cane'. I immediately grabbed it, as if a million people were looking for the same thing and would come along and snatch it up before I could. My step-dad, Dennis, asked me what I was going to use it for and at that time I had no idea. I got the look. The look that asked, "Why on earth are you spending money on something that you have no immediate purpose of using?" But I knew I would find something. Then came the recipe for this week's cookie, White-Chocolate Whalers. After having the cookies I'm a little sad it was used for that, but I still have some leftover and there is some good news...

You don't have to make any kind of special trip to get superfine sugar! Just process your regular granulated sugar that's in your pantry for 20-30 seconds in a food processor. How easy is that?! Now remember, you cannot replace superfine sugar with powdered (confectioner's) sugar. They are not the same. Powdered sugar actually contains a small amount of cornstarch.

Week 2: White Chocolate Whalers

White Chocolate? If you're like me, you don't care for the stuff. I mean, it isn't even chocolate! Really. Since white chocolate doesn't contain chocolate liquor it cannot be classified as "real" chocolate. But last week's recipe was so overwhelmingly chocolate-rich, dark, and yummy-that I felt I needed to go to the other end of the spectrum.

I must say that this is the most unique cookie I have ever made. The batter is, for lack of a better word, weird. At one point while it was mixing I lost some hope that this cookie was going to be any good. However the air was perfumed with the lovely smell of vanilla and orange (zesting is the best!) so not all was lost even if the cookies were a bomb.

Recipe courtesy: Great Cookies

1 c. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1 c. superfine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 c. rice cereal (Rice Krispies), divided
3 (3.5 0z) bars white chocolate, like Lindt, chopped into chunks

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter with the orange zest over low heat. Set aside to cool to tepid.
3. Combine flour and salt. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whip the egg yolks and whites on medium speed until thick and lightened in color. Add the sugar 1 Tbsp. at a time, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until well blended, about 1 min. more. Slowly pour in the butter mix, then add vanilla. Mix for 1 minute longer to combine, scraping the bowl down as needed. The mixture will thicken as beaten.
5. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in 3 c. of the cereal. Strain the dry ingredients over the batter, folding gently with spatula until just combined. Fold in the chocolate pieces.
6. Place the remaining cereal in a flat dish. Using a large ice cream scoop, drop the mounds of dough into the cereal and toss lightly to adhere. Place balls of cookie dough on cookie sheet, 3 inches apart. Using the heel of your hand, flatten into 3 inch disks.
7. Bake 16-18 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Let rest until firm enough to handle then transfer to cooling racks. Stores in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

My verdict: My family and I did not care for these cookies. I know they can't be that great if my two year old won't finish a half of one. The Rice Krispies add a nice crunch, but the flip side of that coin is that the baking process gives them a stale texture. At first I was concerned my cereal was stale, my box did have ads for "Star Trek" the movie that came out last summer, but the box was unopened and I tried them alone and they were fine. I find that I'm really chewing on the cookie and the cereal is getting stuck in my teeth-eww. The orange flavor is nice though, but if I want something deliciously orange, I'll make my orange brownies! I say pass on these, but if your curious or enjoy stale Rice Krispies, then go for it!

Don't forget to check back for survey results. I could be really wrong about these cookies, but I'm not holding my breath!

Okay! Survey Results. These cookies received a "3". Honestly? These people are too nice. The overall opinion was that these cookies were dry and the Rice Krispies had a stale taste. One survey said, "Texture is strange-soft, yet 'tries' to be crunchy...like stale rice krispies or something. Not BAD, just not expected." Agreed! These will not be going in the Christmas tins.

Week 1: Triple Chocolate Cookie

Hoo-ray for chocolate! Did you know that instant coffee added in a chocolate recipe makes the chocolate even better tasting? It does. It makes the flavor of the chocolate more intense. This is a must if you love chocolate. I've seen Ina Garten use coffee in her cakes and buttercreams and I've run across it in many chocolate recipes. I used it in my rum balls this last Christmas. Using instant coffee in this cookie recipe was no exception. They are chocolatey and delicious!

Recipe courtesy Baking Illustrated
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
16 oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp instant coffee
10 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in med. bowl; set aside.
2. Melt chocolate in microwave by 30 second intervals or in a bowl over simmering water on stove top, remove from heat and set aside. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla lightly and then sprinkle in the instant coffee to dissolve.
3. With a mixer, beat the butter at med. speed until smooth. Beat in the sugars until combined. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in egg mixture until incorporated. Add the chocolate in a stream and beat until combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp for 30 min. During this time preheat the oven to 350 degrees, prep cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough into mounds on sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.
5. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool the cookies on cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire racks.

So I did a few things differently. I didn't have enough semi-sweet chocolate so I ended up using the Lindt bittersweet that I recently picked up at Jungle Jim's and mixed it with my Graeter's semi-sweet I had leftover from Christmas buckeye making. To make them "triple" chocolate cookies I added 1 cup Nestle semi-sweet chunks and 1 cup semi-sweet chips. My husband, Kriston and I both decided these could have used a little more salt. But the texture of these cookies are amazing! They have a nice chocolatey crust on the outside and soft in the middle with nice morsels of melted chocolatey goodness.

Survey Results! On a scale of 1-5, 1 being the worst cookie ever and 5 being the best...These cookies are averaging a 4 right now out of 11 surveys. The best comment has been, "Very chewy with a nice taste of chocolate. Edges were crispy but did not interfere with the overall cookie texture." So far my recommendation is that you try these out for yourselves!

"Cookie Resolution" has Begun!

What is my cookie resolution? Well, to put it plainly, the goal is to try at least one new cookie recipe every week until Christmas. I will then gather the top rated recipes to go into my annual Christmas tins. I want my Christmas cookies to blow people's minds away with deliciousness!

Around the same time every year, generally right after Thanksgiving, I pull out the old stand by recipes and cookbooks. I start flipping through, making my list of what to make, and what ingredients to buy. This last year I felt so uninspired! None of my cookies make you say, "Whoa mama, is that good!" So I went to Amazon (God bless Amazon) and started searching for new cookbooks, some top rated ones. I needed cookbooks that would give me a challenge to try something different. I added several to my wish list, and then I promptly shared it with family to give them Christmas gift ideas. My family came through! I had a stack of new cookbooks. Where was I going to begin? What was I going to try? I was excited by all the possibilities and motivated to get started, but Christmas had just ended. I definitely didn't want to wait a year to get started and only pick out a handful of recipes that just looked good. What if I tried ones that were complete flops? I didn't want to disappoint. I only do this cookie/candy making extravaganza once a year!

New Year's resolution time had rolled around. Of course, I told myself I need to lose at least my 40 extra pounds of "baby weight" that was still clinging to me. But as I stared at my cookbooks, knowing that they were probably going to end up being pushed to the dark corner of the kitchen, I made the resolution that they would be used. I was determined, but I knew if I was going to be successful at resolution #1, I couldn't just have a bunch of cookies hanging around the house. I would just send them into my husband's work and let his co-workers get fat instead of me. But I thought, "Why are they reaping all of the yummy benefits from my hard work? I've never met these people." Ah-ha! Make them work for the cookies! Give them a survey with their free deliciousness! I'll give a survey to every person that tries my weekly cookie and that way I'll have some concrete evidence that a cookie was successful (or not).

I realize that the surveys may seem extreme- a little crazy. But I'm passionate! And it feels good to be really into something for what feels like maybe the first time ever. I don't know how successful the survey thing is going to go, but I know that I will continue making a new cookie every week and I'll let you know how it goes. By the end of this year I'm going to have (fingers-crossed) one awesome tin of cookies to give out.