Sunday 26 August 2012

Cookie-Stuffing Madness

The following letter was found in a basement apartment, surrounded by cookie crumbs and chocolate smears. The location of the author is yet unknown:

To anyone who finds this:

Help me. I can't stop stuffing cookies.

It began innocently enough, a friend's request, some inspiration from Picky Palate, and a package of Reese peanut butter cups. I had no idea that Reese cups were... a gateway cookie filling!

Soon, I was sending hubby to the grocery, to the bulk store - anywhere to find more items to bake inside cookies.

Oreos (original idea here!), York peppermint patties, fun-size Oh Henry bars, even Williocrisp squares. I knew I was out of control, but I couldn't stop. 

Soon, I had whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and doled out scoopfuls onto a pan.

I found the Willocrisps small enough that they needed only a dough ball and a half to cover them entirely. Somewhere in my diseased mind I thought that made them more okay, more acceptable somehow.

Bet you can't guess which one is the Oh Henry.

Soon I had formed dough around all the fillings and was ready to place the first batch in the oven, pushing flashbacks out of my mind. I waited with bated breath outside the oven, trembling with the early stages of withdrawal as I anticipated the results. As soon as they were out of the oven, I busied myself with the next tray, trying desperately to restrain myself from devouring the cookies while they were still 350 degrees.

The moment I deemed the cookies cool enough to try, I selected what I thought my most unusual stuffing and savoured the sight of the monstrous baked good beside its confectionery brethren, before finally splitting it open to observe its wondrous insides.

I could see that the mint patty had held its shape well, and as I jammed the cookies into my face obsessively, I was vaguely aware that the patty's strong mint flavor had mellowed ever-so-slightly in the baking process, infusing the cookie with a sweet, minty aroma that did not overpower the cookie's own flavor.

No sooner had the first cookie vanished than I had to explore another, viciously cutting open the Oreo-stuffed variety. The Oreo held its shape and flavor exceedingly well. It passed through my mind that there was something inherently wrong with stuffing a cookie with another cookie, but by this time, I was well past morals.

 Next, the Willocrisp cookie. I had barely waited for it to cool, and the magma-like melted candy within nearly burned my tongue to cinders. The candy was chewy and had lost its characteristic crispy crunch. Mad with the need for a delicious stuffed cookie, I tossed the failure aside and dove into the next pan.

 Oh. Oh, this was it. The Oh Henry's nougat softened luxuriously in the oven, the nuts remained crisp, the caramel warm and gooey, and the chocolate - oh, the chocolate!  Time seemed to cease existing as cookie after cookie disappeared into my mouth. Space seemed to shift and take on psychedelic qualities as I spun completely into cookie-induced madness.

The walls liquefied, the floor became as a heaving ocean, until I collapsed into sugary unconsciousness.

I write this, still surrounded by cookie shrapnel, from the floor of my basement apartment; my head pounding, my limbs weak. But still, I feel the stirring, the need for this confection, and I reach for the previously discarded Willocrisp cookie. Huh. Hey, you know, once these are fully cooled they actually get crunchy on the inside again. Oh wow - this is really good!


Oh dear - it's happening again. Send help! Send vegetables! Send insulin!

Whatever you do, don't bake this at home! Save yourself! Your family!

If this letter is found, tell my family I love them.

- Tamara

*Okay, so maybe I'm being just slightly ridiculous. Ever so slightly. And using the tiniest bit of hyperbole. But seriously, stuffing cookies is a slippery slope. In reality, my bro Duck helped me sample the first batches and the above scenario was completely avoided.

But this could have happened, had I not had a helper. So always use the buddy system, kids. And experiment with baking safely.

Until next time!

PS - For anyone who's never had them, Willocrisps have basically the same stuff inside as a Crispy Crunch bar. Super tasty stuff.

Thursday 9 August 2012

You Got Your Peanut Butter Cup in my Cookie!

Now, I am well aware that I am not among the first to do this. Far from it, but please realize I made these cookies under extreme duress.

By which I mean a friend linked me to an article about them on Facebook, and baker-shamed me into making them ASAP.And if you don't believe me, look what someone left on my timeline:

If you'd like to visit the original link Leigh shared, it's here. Now, let's look at that comment again, shall we?

Yeah. No pressure at all. 

So, when I saw that a local store had 8 packs of Reese cups on sale, I knew what I had to do.

These cups are ever-so-slightly smaller than the ones you get in a standard 3-pack, I think, and they worked out really well in this recipe.

Start with your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, or use the recipe listed here at Picky Palate, where Jenny has tons of cookies-stuffed-in-cookies inspirations! I found that my personal recipe was similar enough that I just stuck with it.

In either case, you probably have to start with room-temperature butter. I personally was busy with a garage sale and laundry that day, and forgot to put the butter out to warm up, so instead I chopped up my butter into little cubes and left it out for a half hour.

Then I used a hand mixer to beat it into submission, and you know what? It was the perfect consistency. Forget leaving butter out for hours to come to temperature! This was much faster and wasn't much extra work.

(If you're very familiar with making chocolate chip cookies, or you've recently read my Easter M&M Cookies post, you can probably skip ahead a bit, cuz I'm going to go through all the steps for making cookie dough here. Again. Because of reasons.)

As long as I had the mixer out, I used it to cream in the brown and white sugars as well, then switched to a wooden spoon to work in the egg and vanilla.

Even though my arms were sore and tired from garage-sale-manning and laundry-hauling all day, I made myself do the rest by hand because over-working the egg (or later, the flour) could result in disastrously tough cookies.

And, honey, I am the only tough cookie around here!

... Oh, man, that was lame. I should stick to baking.

So anyway, once you've worked in the egg and vanilla thoroughly, pile the flour, baking soda and salt on there and fold together until a firm dough forms.

And add your chocolate chips... Mmm.

So now you have chocolate chip cookie dough. You could just stop here, grab a spoon and go to town (if you're not afraid of raw eggs, dun dun dunnnnn) or you could man up and make the craziest cookies ever.

De-package your Reese Cups. 4 of mine mysteriously disappeared somewhere along the way, but I still had enough to make a dozen of these cookies.

Scoop out one regular-sized cookie's worth of dough onto your baking sheet, press a peanut butter cup on top of it, and top with another dough ball, then press down a bit. Leave lots of space for these to spread because they are going to. A lot.

Once your pan has 6 big cookie dough sandwiches on it, start forming the dough with your fingers so that it covers the peanut butter cup and pinch the dough around the sides to be sure it's sealed well. You don't want the Reese cup's chocolate to melt and run out the sides!

This pic does not convey it well enough, but trust me, these are huge. They are nearly the size of my fist.

For comparison, here's the Reese cookie on the left and a regular cookie dough ball on the right. Dang.

In any case, I baked my cookies at 350 degrees for 15  minutes, and they came out perfect!

Once cooked, let the cookies cool at least 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack, or they will fall the heck apart.

Another comparison shot of a regular cookie next to these monsters. I am usually the type to eat quite a few fresh baked cookies because they are just too good but I could not get through even 2 of these. They are massive and crazy rich!

Oh man, look how golden-brown and delicious these look. And once cooled, and cut in half...

You can view the peanut butter cup glory within!

These are rich, giant, and completely excessive. I'm sure the calorie count is through the stratosphere and they have next to zero nutritional value. So of course, I highly recommend them! They are insanely delicious.

The really tough thing about these is resisting eating more than one... because maybe I lost my mind a little and finished that second cookie after all. And maybe my tummy paid dearly for it. But my mouth... oh, my mouth danced for joy!

So yes, try these. But proceed with caution, my friends, for this is a deliciousness from which you may never escape. Or maybe you'll be fine, I don't know. They're tasty cookies, is what I'm trying to say.

So! Thank you, Leigh, for the mad inspiration. Now please never give me another baking idea, my tummy can't handle it! (Just kidding, of course.)

Until next time!

Saturday 4 August 2012

Adventures in Whoopie Pies: Violet Velvet

I have been meaning to try whoopie pies forever, especially red velvet, and I finally found a recipe that looked like it had all the right elements for a good red velvet cake. It even came highly recommended, from Paula Deen's website. Claimed her cousin Johnnie's whoopie pies were loved all over Atlanta.

Well, golly, y'all, I had to try these!

The first thing you may notice is that these are not red. I was shooting for a violet shade and I think I miiight have overdone it on the food colouring, so they came out quite dark. Oops.

I started out with this recipe, but as I was reading the comments I saw a lot of complaints that the batter was too thin, that the oil - according to Deen's own show, should have been a much smaller amount than what was listed.

So... I reduced the amount of oil I used. We'll see how that pans out.

In any case, I first measured my oil, food colouring, vanilla and vinegar up in a measuring cup and put it aside.

Also, though I didn't get a pic of it, I sifted together my flour, cocoa powder (which I increased to 2 tablespoons because come on you gotta be able to taste it!) and the baking soda together in a bowl and set it aside.

Then I blitzed up the eggs and sugar until they went pale and doubled in volume, like so:

And poured in my much-too-dark coloured oil mixture and mixed until well-blended.

Like so. At this point, I thought I had the colour pretty bang-on! All that was left was to mix in the buttermilk and the dry ingredients in alternating batches, and boom - I had whoopie pie batter!

Now, here the recipe said to 'drop the batter by teaspoons' onto a baking sheet. Teaspoons? You know how tiny those pies would have ended up? This scoop holds about 2 teaspoons of batter, and these still came out really tiny!

So I (mostly) obediently doled out the batter and baked as directed, and was rewarded with these:

Huh, they look pretty okay, actually. Or, they did, until I moved them to the cooling rack and saw that the bottoms were especially crusty... and the cakes themselves were rather dry.

Yeah... Not good eats. So, for the next pan, I reduced the cooking time to compensate. I figured this was because I didn't use the recommended amount of oil.

The second batch came out MUCH better, and I learned that the easiest way to remove these from the pan was with an off-set spatula. I tried with a fork, but it shredded the bottoms.

Nobody likes shredded bottoms.

Time for another, 'Recipe vs Reality' - the recipe claimed this would make 48 cookies, for 24 sandwiches. I see here... 60 cookies. And this wasn't all of them! All told, I had over 6 dozen whoopie pie halves. No, really. I seriously lost count after 72.

Do recall, I made these bigger than the recipe called for. BIGGER. After reducing one of the ingredients. And it made MORE.

Someone messed up transcribing that recipe. Either that, or Paula Deen is lying to us, and I refuse to believe that!

Anyway, once these had cooled a bit, I stuffed them with my favorite cream cheese frosting, and for extra fun, rolled some of them around in non-pareils.

Everything is better with non-pareils.

These went over pretty well with my guests, though I personally wasn't satisfied. They weren't terribly flavorful, were still ever-so-slightly dry, and they weren't nearly purple enough.

I'm not giving up though. I will persevere. One day, I will make the perfect whoopie pies.


What is with me and failing with any kind of pie?? These aren't even related to actual pie. What the heck, universe?

Despite their flaws, tho, they were awfully cute. And pretty tasty - especially with a generous amount of cream cheese filling.

And I still ate, like, 7 of them. 7-ish. I don't know, I wasn't counting. It was my birthday, so... yeah. No-one counts servings on birthdays. I think. You shouldn't have to, anyway!

Do you have a favorite whoopie pie recipe? Suggestions on what I could have done better? Drop me an email or leave a comment!

Someday, I will master them, and have perfectly cakey little cookie sandwiches... someday.

Oh well.

Until next time!