Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chocolate Drop Cookies

I may not have done this recipe justice… I was in a hurry and wasn’t very careful about reading the directions- but they still tasted good! If you need something chocolaty, give these a try. 

Chocolate Drop Cookies
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

Mix the butter, sugar, egg and chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and buttermilk. Stir together the dry ingredients and then blend in. Mix in nuts or other add-ins, if desired. Chill for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 400 ̊F. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet about 2” apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when lightly touched. If desired, frost cookies with Browned Butter Glaze, Mocha Butter Icing, or Marie’s Chocolate Icing and sprinkle with nuts or flaked coconut. Makes 4 ½ dozen cookies.

Chocolate Cherry Drops
Add 2 cups cut up candied or drained maraschino cherries to Chocolate Drop cookie dough.

Double Chocolate Drops
Add 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips to Chocolate Drop cookie dough.

Marie’s Chocolate Icing
1 Tbsp butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 ½ Tbsp warm water
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

Melt the chocolate and butter over hot water. Blend in the warm water; beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the icing is easy to spread. Makes enough icing for 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

Browned Butter Icing
2 ½ Tbsp soft butter
1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ Tbsp cream
¾ tsp vanilla

Brown the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until a delicate brown color. Stir in sugar, cream, and vanilla until blended. Makes icing for 4 dozen cookies.

So, the process of making these cookies went wrong in a lot of little ways. Perhaps part of the problem is the way it listed four different variations and three different icings were suggested… that can get confusing.

Chocolate, cherries, and walnuts- oh, my!

I elected to skip one of the variations (Cocoa Drop Cookies; see note below) because it involves actual changes in the dough, not just something different being mixed in. Also, I limited myself to two of the three icings- I felt mocha may not have as broad of an appeal (although I think it sounds delicious!).

The first step was melting the chocolate. I had to remind myself that it was unsweetened to keep from eating it, it looked so good!

Makes me want chocolate fondue

I mixed up the dough and popped it in the fridge to chill. Mistake number one: not dividing the dough and mixing in the add-ins BEFORE chilling. This was rather difficult to do once the dough was hard.

Mistake number two was baking these for the full ten minutes. After ten minutes, lightly touching the cookies still left an imprint- and the cookies were a little tough. I think the pans I baked for eight minutes were better.

Mistake number three was making Browned Butter Icing instead of Browned Butter Glaze! The directions suggest the glaze, but I just flipped to the icings page, saw “Browned Butter,” and made the icing. Oops.

Mistake number four was reading the ingredients for Marie’s Chocolate icing and then just mixing them up however I pleased. Perhaps if I had followed the preparation directions (instead of just melting the chocolate in the microwave and then stirring everything else in at once) it wouldn’t have continually gotten hard while I was trying to spread it on the cookies. Maybe that’s just how it is, though.

And the final mistake- forgetting to take pictures of the finished, frosted cookies before giving them all away. You’ll have to use your imaginations and try to picture them with their tasty frostings if you didn’t get to see them.

Here is how my cookies measure up to Betty’s in the looks department:

Betty's cookies (from Cooky Book, page 8)
Carly's cookies (clockwise, from top left: plain, with nuts, chocolate cherry, and double chocolate)

Actually, my last mistake was probably telling all of you about the mistakes I made; good thing people have already eaten them. :)  Despite my errors, these were chewy, chocolaty, and delicious! My favorite were the Double Chocolate Drops, but most people who commented on their favorites picked the cherry ones. While the chocolate icing was good, the browned butter icing was a nice contrast to the chocolaty-ness, especially on the cherry cookies.

If you tried these cookies, please leave a comment letting me know what you thought!

If I get the chance, I’ll try to come back to the Cocoa Drop variation, but there are a lot of other cookies to try! Here are the directions for those, though, in case you would like to try them:  

Variation I did not try- Cocoa Drop Cookies
Make the Chocolate Drop Cookies, except increase butter to 2/3 cup, omit the unsweetened chocolate and add ½ cup cocoa to the dry ingredients.

Up next: Brown Sugar Drops!

This cookie recipe was found on page 8 of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book; the icing recipes were found on page 150.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Conversation Heart Cookies

I kind of cheated.

I have wanted to make Conversation Heart Cookies since last Valentine’s Day. I had a vision of cute little heart cookies, iced in pastel colors and carrying a little message in red to look like Necco® Conversation Heart candies.  Last year, I didn’t have enough time to finish the cookies and ended up selling them at a church bake sale sans written messages. (They looked really boring, but at least they all sold!) I promised myself that I would complete the cookie project for this Valentine’s Day.

So why is this cheating? Conversation Heart Cookies are not technically featured in Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book and perhaps do not belong in this blog. I could have made the Love Letters cookies Betty suggests for Valentine’s Day, but I elected to  follow (more or less) her suggestion of “Heart Cookies” (Mary’s Sugar Cookies and Easy Creamy Icing) from the book and make my dream cookies instead.

Mary’s Sugar Cookies
1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond flavoring
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
Easy Creamy Icing (see below)

Mix sugar and softened butter. Thoroughly blend in egg and flavorings. Stir together the dry ingredients and incorporate. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Preheat oven to 375 ̊F. Divide the dough in half and roll out the dough on a lightly floured pastry cloth to a 3/16” thickness. Cut with a cookie cutter and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until cookies appear delicately golden. Makes 5 dozen 2 to 2 1/2” cookies.    

Easy Creamy Icing
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla or other flavoring
1 ½ Tbsp cream or 1 Tbsp water

Mix sugar, salt and flavoring; add cream to make the icing easy to spread. Tint with a few drops of food coloring if desired. Spread the icing with a spatula or pastry brush. 

I mixed up the dough on Tuesday after lunch, intending to chill it until after dinner and then bake the cookies that night- that way, they could be decorated Wednesday afternoon and be ready to share Wednesday and Friday evenings that week.

My carefully laid plans were foiled, however, and I didn’t end up baking the cookies until Thursday night. By this point the dough was as hard as a rock and super dry and crumbly. I got really upset, thinking I would have to start over making new dough and that the cookies would never be ready in time for Friday night, much less Valentine’s Day on Monday.  I was starting to think these cookies were cursed. Would I have to wait another whole year, until next Valentine’s Day, to make these cookies???

Don’t worry, the story has a happy ending! Ryan calmed me down and got me to try to fix the cookie dough. I let it sit at room temperature for about an hour and then cut the dough into quarters. After massaging a quarter of the dough until it was warm enough that it would hang together, I rolled it out. The dough cracked around the edges when I rolled it out, but at least it stayed in one piece. I used a non-greased baking sheet, trusting in the butter in the cookies to keep them from sticking. I made the first pan of cookies according to the directions- 3/16” thick, baked for 7 minutes- but they came out dry and crunchy. Since I prefer my sugar cookies soft and a little thick, I decided to adjust the dough a bit.

I read in my Cooky Book that the way to fix dry dough is to work 1 or 2 Tbsp of soft butter or cream into the dough by hand. (page 6) So after massaging the dough a bit, I spread on some softened butter and mixed it in. The dough became much more flexible and rolled out in a smoother circle. I increased the amount of flour on the table and the rolling pin to account for the increased stickiness of the dough. In the end, the best pan of cookies was the one with extra butter in the dough, a thickness of ¼”, and a bake time of just over 5 minutes. In all, this recipe made 74 small heart cookies.

Friday afternoon, I mixed up some Easy Creamy Icing. I used a lot more cream than it called for, although I didn’t measure how much. I just wanted it to be thin enough to be painted on with a pastry brush. I did my best to recreate the pastel colors one finds in a traditional box of Conversation Hearts: pink, orange, yellow, green, and purple. (I considered keeping some icing white, but the vanilla made the icing slightly brown so I decided not to use it uncolored.)  Because I also like my icing a little thick, I had to leave the cookies out on the table overnight for the icing to harden enough to decorate.
Saturday morning rolled around and I had now missed both of my pre-Valentine’s Day cookie-sharing opportunities… However, it was still two days to Valentine’s Day and I was determined that the cookies be decorated!  I tried a red Wilton FoodWriter™ Edible Color Marker, but the color didn’t really show up on the icing. Then I tried some red CakeMate® decorating icing since I had a tube of it lying around, but even the smallest tip wasn’t fine enough to write on the cookies. My solution was to thin a little bit of the red icing with some cream and then write it onto the cookies using a toothpick.

A few hours later, all 70 cookies had a unique message inscribed and my cookie dream had become reality! Here are a few examples of the finished product:


So this is basically a story of me freaking out (as usual) and things working out okay in the end (as always).  I had fun decorating these and just ended up having lots left to share with people after Valentine’s Day. Still, maybe I’d be safer making those Love Letters instead next year.

 Where else can you get a cookie like this?

Sorry I’m behind on posts! I’ll be back soon with more drop cookies.

Credit where credit is due:
This cookie recipe was found on page 18 of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book; the icing recipe was found on page 150.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Orange Drop Cookies

Continuing the foray into drop cookies, this week’s recipe is Orange Drop Cookies- a recipe sent in by Mrs. Paul Lindemeyer of Mason City, Iowa.  This time, there is a color photo, so I can compare my finished cookies with Betty’s!
Book photo- will mine look this tasty?

Orange Drop Cookies
2/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp grated orange rind
2 cups Gold Medal Flour
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Orange Butter Icing (see below)

Pre-heat the oven to 400̊ F. Blend together the shortening, sugar, and egg. Mix in the orange juice and orange zest. Stir the dry ingredients together and then stir into the wet ingredients. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until delicately browned on the edges.  Let cool, then frost with Orange Butter Icing. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Orange Butter Icing
2 1/2 Tbsp soft butter
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp orange juice
2 tsp grated orange rind

Blend the butter and sugar together. Stir in the orange juice and grated orange rind. Mix until smooth. Makes enough icing for 4 dozen cookies.
The first thing I did was zest the oranges, so that the grated orange rind (zest) would be ready when it needed to be added.  I don’t have a zester, so I used my box grater. I was pretty excited because I had never zested anything before; it turns out that zesting is not all that exciting. My hands got all sticky and the grater was kind of hard to clean off, but the kitchen smelled citrusy and amazing!  To get the 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons needed, I had to zest almost two whole oranges! That surprised me for some reason. Then I had to peel two exocarp-less oranges. (sigh)
In the middle of zesting. Orange oil smells so good!

After a little snack (take a guess… yes, I had oranges!), I continued with the recipe. I was glad to find that the dough was stickier than in the last recipe, making it a lot easier to handle.
The dough smelled so good, I wanted to eat it (but didn't).

I baked each pan for 9 minutes, until I thought they looked ‘delicately browned’.
Cookies baking, as seen through the oven window
Delicately browned and smelling delicious!
The recipe made 55 cookies- slightly more than the 48 predicted in the book. The frosting, however, only lasted for 44 cookies, 4 less than the recipe said.

And finally, the moment of truth: testing the first cookie.
Why do I look so guilty? 

These were amazing! All of the zesting craziness seemed worth it after tasting these.  They reminded me a lot of an orange scone, but softer.  As long as you like citrus-flavored things, you will love these cookies. Between the frosted and un-frosted cookies, the frosted ones definitely win, although the non-frosteds were still good.

Looking back at the book photo and comparing to my cookies, I think I did pretty well. :)

The final product!
See you soon for some Valentine's Day-themed cookies!

Credit where credit is due:
This cookie recipe was found on page 7 of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book; the icing recipe was found on page 150. The picture of Orange Drop Cookies was found on page 86.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Applesauce Cookies

The first section of the Cooky Book focuses on drop cookies- cookies that involve mixing up the dough and then dropping spoonfuls of dough onto the pan in little mounds. According to Betty Crocker, the perfect drop cookies have "fairly uniform mound shape, delicately browned exteriors, and good flavor." Let's see how these turn out! 
Applesauce Cookies
1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar (packed)
2 eggs
1/2 cup cold coffee
2 cups well-drained thick applesauce
3 1/2 cups Gold Medal Flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp EACH cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Blend together the shortening, sugar, and eggs; stir in the coffee and applesauce. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the applesauce mixture. Chill dough for at least 2 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 400̊ F. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains on the cookies when lightly pressed. Optionally, frost when cool with Lemon Butter Icing. Makes 7 to 8 dozen cookies.

Lemon Butter Icing
2 1/2 Tbsp soft butter
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon rind

Blend the butter and sugar together. Stir in the lemon juice and grated lemon rind. Mix until smooth. Makes enough icing for 4 dozen cookies.
I followed this recipe pretty closely. I used walnuts for the chopped nuts (I added the nuts to the dough after I baked a pan without nuts for the people that have walnut allergies) and Mott's Natural No Sugar Added applesauce. I did not, however, used Gold Medal flour. :)
Ingredients, ready to become cookies!
The dough was very soupy, even after chilling for two hours. I made a couple of pans after the two hour chill period and then stored the dough in the fridge another 24 hours, and the dough was still so soft that it was hard to work with. The dough could possibly have been improved by adding a little bit of extra flour.
A pan ready for the oven
I baked the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and baked each pan for 9 minutes. They were very cakey cookies and were really, really moist. I thought that the nuts were not very noticeable and that more raisins would have been good.
Action shot!
While the cookies cooled, I made the Lemon Butter Icing. I didn't have a lemon to get any lemon zest, so I just left that out. I always think of icing as more of a glaze than a frosting, but this came out extremely thick. I ended up adding a couple of tablespoons of milk to thin it out a little. I thought it added a little sweetness to the cookies, but not much in the way of lemon flavor. I would take these cookies with or without the icing.

My cookie tasters (both at Arts and Cats night and Nerd Night) responded pretty favorably to these cookies. They did have a nice cinnamon spice flavor and were pleasantly cakey and moist, but overall, they were not my favorite cookie.  I guess they just lacked a wow factor.  

Don't forget to check back soon for my next recipe- Orange Drop Cookies!

Credit where credit is due:
This cookie recipe was found on page 7 of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book; the icing recipe was found on page 150.
My copy of the Cooky Book was a gift from my amazing husband, Ryan.
My sweet Carly apron was a hand made gift from Ryan's cousin Maggie.
Bridget and Jay gave me the penguin spatula, seen in my cookie-moving action shot.