Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

I waited a little while before posting this recipe because I couldn’t really think of a good story to go with it. I know, I’m sorry. I should’ve just posted this weeks ago. Because the whole time I hemmed and hawed, you were missing out. Here it is: peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies.

Yep, you read that right. You whip up a batch of soft, chocolatey dough, flatten it out into rounds, and then wrap each piece of dough around a gooey ball of peanut butter. Dip it into sugar for some sparkle and crunch, and gently press it down on a cookie sheet. And when it comes out of the oven– wait, wait, it has to set for just a minute or two– you get to bite into a tender chocolate cookie that oozes with warm peanut butter.

Like I said, I’m sorry. Turns out there was no story needed.

Peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies

Peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies

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Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Filling

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Cookies

  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for rolling
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375° and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

To make the filling: Cream peanut butter and powdered sugar together until well combined. Place the filling in the refrigerator to chill until needed.

To make the cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugar, brown sugar, butter, and peanut butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until completely incorporated. Add baking soda and mix for a few seconds until combined. Stir in the flour and cocoa and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. (If it’s really crumbly, you can add a teaspoon or two of milk to help it clump together.)

Turn the dough out onto a large cutting board and roll it into a large log of even thickness. Slice the dough into 20 equal pieces. Remove the peanut butter filling from the refrigerator and divide it into 20 pieces, each one slightly larger than a teaspoon. Roll each portion of the peanut butter filling into a ball.

To shape the cookies, take one piece of chocolate dough and flatten it between your palms into a circle about 3-4 inches wide. Place a piece of the peanut butter filling in the center of the circle, and wrap the sides of the dough up around the filling, pinching them together to form a ball. Dip the top side of the cookie in granulated sugar and place the cookie, sugared side up, on a cookie sheet. Press down with your hand to flatten it out slightly. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are slightly cracked and the cookies are set. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes 20 cookies.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Baker Upstairs via I Heart Nap Time.

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Whole Wheat Almond Biscotti

‘Tis the season for a sugar high. My workplace has been inundated recently by boxes of chocolates and homemade cookies. And of course they’re spread across the table where I eat my lunch! Nothing looks more tempting than a Lindt truffle while eating roasted beet and arugula salad. (Which is delicious, by the way. But it’s not chocolate.)

In the midst of all these snickerdoodles and gingersnaps and See’s candies, I’ve been longing for a dessert that’s a little more virtuous. So when I saw a series of healthier biscotti recipes in the New York Times, I jumped on them. I know I should probably post a whole wheat recipe around, say, January 1st or so, but this blog operates in real-time. For the most part. Aaaaand I added a drizzle of super dark chocolate to this whole wheat treat. It’s still December, after all.

Whole wheat almond biscotti

Whole wheat almond biscotti

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Whole Wheat Almond Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 oz. dark chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Whisk in vanilla extract. Switch to the paddle attachment and stir in whole wheat flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Stir in almonds. Mixture will be sticky.

With moistened hands, place dough on parchment paper and form into a large log, about 2-3 inches thick and 1 to 1 1/2 inches tall. Bake for 50 minutes, or until lightly browned and the top starts to crack. Let cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut into slices 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Place back on parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the biscotti and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Optional: Melt dark chocolate in the microwave and drizzle over biscotti. Let cool. Biscotti will keep for several weeks in an airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen.

Source: Very slightly adapted from the New York Times.

Holiday Baking Ideas

The other night I was sitting on the couch trying to decide what meals to plan this week, when I thought I’d scroll through my phone for inspiration. You see, I keep a running list of recipe names on a digital “Things to Make” list, so hitting the “show completed” button seemed like a good way to draw ideas from recipes I’d already made.

Down the rabbit hole I went.

It was a virtual time capsule filled with hundreds of completed recipes. Sometimes I could recognize a specific event (Halloween party! Valentine’s weekend at Cape Cod!) simply by the recipes that appeared next to each other.

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Since I’m much more likely to pore over cookbooks looking for new recipes than to reflect on all the things I’ve made in the past, it was fun to take a step back and think about all the hits and misses of the past few years. And I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for reading, sharing, and in some cases eating all these foods. You’ve been fantastic guinea pigs as I’ve learned to become a more confident cook.

So that little journey inspired this retrospective post: twelve fantastic recipes to make for yourself or others this holiday season. I specifically picked out fun gift ideas since I’ve been in full-on shopping mode the past two days. Enjoy! And stay tuned for some fun new goodies this week!

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Holiday Baking Ideas

Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Mascarpone Frosting

Well, it’s officially fall. Minnesota had a good run of it, with some nice warm days halfway through October. But then the temperature dropped, my plants had to come inside, the cat spent a happy night frolicking in the plants (spreading dirt everywhere while ingesting too many leaves), and the plants had to go back outside. To meet a frosty death.

Dark story, huh?

Autumn is complicated. I’m mourning the end of a (miraculously) successful summer growing season while celebrating fall flavors like squash and cranberries. I bit the bullet and made pumpkin spice syrup for my lattes already. And then I decided to give a shout-out to my Boston peeps by making pumpkin whoopie pies.

Here’s the low-down on the maple mascarpone frosting: I love, love, love the smooth, mellow taste of mascarpone, but it has a lower melting point than cream cheese, so the whoopie pies are not as hardy and can quickly become a melty, delicious mess. If these need to travel and/or sit out for a bit (like at a potluck), make a cream cheese frosting. If they will simply be transferred from the refrigerator to your mouth in 30 seconds flat, do the mascarpone. It’s awesome.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Mascarpone Frosting

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Mascarpone Frosting

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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Mascarpone Frosting

Whoopie Pies

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Maple Mascarpone Frosting

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz.), softened
  • 8 oz. mascarpone or cream cheese (see note above), at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbs. real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Make the whoopie pies: Preheat oven to 350° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil until well combined. Whisk in the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg) and whisk until smooth.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, a few inches apart, onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely on the baking sheets.

Make the frosting: Beat butter using a stand or hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add mascarpone and beat for another 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly add powdered sugar until combined. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, raise speed to medium again, and beat until light and fluffy, another 2 minutes or so.

Assemble whoopie pies by sandwiching two cookies around a dollop of frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

You say “crispy,” I say “soft-baked.” Crispy. Soft-baked. Crispy. Soft-baked.

When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, everybody’s got an opinion. And now that this little chant is stuck in your head, I’m going to share mine. Soft and chewy all the way, baby.

While I’ll always be a fan of the world famous Nestle Tollhouse recipe (or perhaps I meant to say Nestlé Toulouse), this one is my new favorite. An extra egg yolk and a bit of cornstarch keep these cookies nice and chewy, and slightly under-baking them doesn’t hurt either. Shaping the cookies into ovals that stand up taller than they are wide helps the centers remain soft.

Soft-baked chocolate chip cookies

All in all, it’s a winning combination. Which deserves a chant. “Soft-baked, soft-baked, soooooooooft-baked!”

Soft-baked chocolate chip cookies

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Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Using a hand or stand mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Cover dough and chill in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Scoop dough into egg shapes about 1.5 inches by 1 inch, and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets so they stand up tall.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges just start to turn golden brown. (It’s okay if they look underbaked!) Cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Zebra Cookies

Last weekend a dear cousin (more like a big sister) gave birth to her first baby. As this sweet little girl entered the world and officially made Amy a mother, I waxed nostalgic about my own childhood. I’ve shared recipes from the Alpha-Bakery Cookbook before, but there’s something about the next generation arriving that makes me want to pore over the memories of my own.

And so I made zebra cookies.

These whimsical treats live up to their name when cut out with a horse-shaped cookie cutter, but I don’t own one and probably won’t buy one. (I don’t really like horses… shhhhh!) So they’re rectangular zebras. As seen here.

The assembly process for these cookies isn’t too difficult, but I like to visualize things, so here you go:

1) Form each section of dough into a ball.

Make two balls of dough

2) Roll each ball on a floured surface into a 9-inch by 9-inch square.

Shape each into a square

3) Cut each square into three strips and cut the strips in half so you end up with six rectangles.

Slice into six rectangles

4) Carefully stack each rectangle, alternating in color, until you have a tall brick. Press down firmly as you stack so all the layers adhere. Wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

Stack the rectangles (alternating colors)

5) Slice the brick into 18 slices, each one about 1/4 inch thick.

Slice!

6) Cut each slice in half, transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake.

And bake!

7) Enjoy!

Zebra cookies

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Zebra Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa

Cream together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir in powdered sugar, flour, and salt just until dough comes together. Remove half of dough and set aside. Stir cocoa into the remaining half of dough until well combined.

Form each flavor of dough into a ball, and then roll each ball on a floured surface into a 9-inch by 9-inch square. Cut each square into three strips and cut the strips in half so you end up with six rectangles.

Carefully stack each rectangle, alternating in color, until you have a tall brick. Press down firmly as you stack so all the layers adhere. Wrap the block of dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut block of dough crosswise into eighteen slices, each one about 1/4 inch thick. Either cut out a zebra shape using a cookie cutter, or cut each slice in half and transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges just start to brown. Cool on rack.

Makes 36 cookies.

Source: The Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook.

Homemade Mint Oreos

A couple weeks ago I was watching The Colbert Report, and Stephen Colbert had Michael Pollan as his guest. I’ve always been a fan from afar, wanting to read his books but never taking the time to do so, so I was glad to have the chance to see Pollan “in person.” (Plus it was fun to watch him interact with the hilarious absurdity of Stephen Colbert.) One thing Pollan said stuck with me: “The most important thing about your diet is not a nutrient but an activity: cooking… As long as a human being is cooking for you, and not a corporation, you’re fine.”

The basic idea here is that most Americans won’t take the time to make French fries or ice cream at home– or there’s no possible way to make things like Cheetos from scratch– so cooking more means we’ll automatically eat less junk food. But even if you’re like me and love the challenge of making homemade versions of things like oreos, it’s so much better to be making them than buying them. Fewer pseudo foods and harmful chemicals and more control over ingredients and portion sizes can only be a good thing.

So with that in mind, here’s a recipe for homemade mint oreos. They’re not too difficult but do require some time and effort. If we all had to pull out the cookie sheets every time we wanted an oreo, we’d be a lot better off.

Homemade mint oreos

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Homemade Mint Oreos

Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp peppermint extract, or to taste
  • 2 Tbs. milk or heavy cream
  • green food coloring
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate (optional)

Make cookies: Cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, and mix on low speed until just combined. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes or the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface until very thin– about 1/8 inch. Cut out using a round cookie cutter; I used one 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer cookies to the baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes or until crispy but not burnt. Let cool on a wire rack.

Prepare frosting: Beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well on medium speed. Add milk or cream and beat until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in peppermint extract to taste (start with 1/8 tsp. and add more if it’s not minty enough) and add green food coloring. Using a fine grater, grate the chocolate bar over the frosting and stir to combine. (This will give it lovely little flecks of chocolate.)

Assemble oreos by sandwiching two cookies around a smidgen of frosting.

Makes approximately four dozen cookies, although the amount will vary based on the size cookie cutter used.

Source: Cookies from My Kitchen Addiction. Mint chip frosting a Lingonberry Jam original, using a basic buttercream recipe from Wilton