Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars

In my neck of the woods, it snowed ten inches yesterday. Naturally, there’s only one thing to do when the flakes are falling down from the sky at such a steady pace… Bake! I created these beauties yesterday afternoon as an idea for a super versatile dessert – whether giving to your kids in a bagged lunch, serving at a party, or just having on hand around the house when your sweet tooth comes knocking!

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This recipe turned out perfectly to make 8 bars, but feel free to double it to make more!

Start by pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees and spraying mini loaf pans with cooking spray. I have a nifty set of 8 that are all connected, kind of like this one.

Like most cookies, these start by prepping dry and wet ingredients separately. In a medium bowl, combine 1 and 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt. Then, in a stand mixer bowl, cream together 1 stick of softened butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Remember that “creaming” together butter and sugar should be done at a high speed for at least two minutes! Start at a low speed to get things starting to break down, and then kick it up to medium-high until the mixture is smooth.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in one egg. Reduce the mixer speed to “stir” and slowly combine in the flour mixture. You’ll probably need to use a spatula at the end to fold in the last bit of flour and make the dough into a nice ball.

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Fold in a heavy 1/2 cup each of dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries until they are distributed throughout the dough. Divide the dough evenly between 8 mini loaf pans and then bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

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Once they come out of the oven, allow to cool in the pan for a minute or two before using a metal spatula to help remove them cleanly from the pan. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely… but feel free to enjoy while they are still warm!

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These are perfectly sweet, so one bar should be plenty enough for one person! You may want to cut them in half for the kiddos.

Oh, and you’ll DEFINITELY want to serve these with some cold milk!

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as my house did – 24 hours later, they are already gone!!

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars

Yield: 8 bars

Ingredients:

1 & 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
Heavy 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Heavy 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 375 and spray 8 mini loaf pans with cooking spray.

2) In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

3) In bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on with paddle attachment medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.

4) Scrape down sides of the bowl and then beat in one egg to butter and sugar.

5) Reduce mixer speed to “stir” and slowly combine in flour mixture a little at a time. Turn off the mixer and remove paddle to allow you to fold in the last bit of flour by hand at the end and create a neat dough ball.

6) Fold in chocolate chips and cranberries until well distributed throughout the dough.

7) Divide batter evenly between 8 mini loaf pans and bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan slightly before using a metal spatula to remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Frosted Lemon Coconut Cookies

The last time I was at the grocery store, I ambitiously bought an entire bag of lemons. “I always think of ways to use lemons and I never have any,” I thought. “I’ll easily tear through this bag of at least a dozen lemons in less than a week.”

Well, a week later, I was staring at the still unopened bag of lemons trying to decide how on earth to use them, because no random recipes or drinks calling for lemon juice or zest or slices or any other variation had dropped into my head at all. (*Note, this was before yesterday’s pasta in a lemon blush sauce!)

And then out of nowhere I got the craving for cookies. (It’s dinner time. DINNER time. And suddenly my mind seems to be overwhelmed by the insatiable desire for SWEETS.) And then… it just came to me. Lemon Cookies. Sweetened with coconut. And frosted. Yes, absolutely, frosted with sweet lemon coconut icing. Bam.

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So yes, I am unashamed to say that on the night of the creation of these fabulous little beauties, I had cookies for dinner. And milk. And then a few more cookies.

Don’t judge me.

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Anyhow… as per just about every cookie recipe in existence, start by preheating the oven (350 degrees), lining two baking sheets with parchment paper, and combining your dry ingredients. For these, it’s 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking POWDER, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp baking SODA. The distinction is important.

Dry

In a stand mixer (because now you have one, ever since you read the butterscotch chocolate chip cookie recipe, right?) cream together a stick and a half of butter, 4 ounces cream cheese (which is just 1/2 of an 8 ounce block), and a cup and a half of sugar.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Remember, it’s important that the butter and cream cheese are soft, NOT melted! 20 seconds in the microwave should be good enough to soften the butter and cream cheese, if they aren’t already room temperature. Cream them together with the sugar by starting on “stir” for 10-15 seconds, and then kicking it up to a medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

Cream Butter and Sugar

To this, add in one egg and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Combine these on a medium speed, then add the zest and juice of half a lemon and 3/4 cup coconut flakes and keep the mixer on medium until everything is incorporated.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: The easiest and most efficient way to zest any citrus fruit is with a zester (mine is by Microplane and they aren’t that pricey), but you can also use a regular cheese grater or even a vegetable peeler. Remember to only just take the color off. Once you get to the faded white-ish part (the pith), the flavor becomes bitter.

After you’ve added all your flavor components, then, little by little, add your reserved dry ingredients until the mixture has formed into a dough. It’ll be pretty stiff once it gets close to the end; you might need to stop the stand mixer and do the rest with a spoon.

Dough

Drop by rounded spoonfuls (or use an awesome one ounce scooper) onto your prepared baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Once they’re done, let them cool completely and then store them until you’re ready to frost them.

Cookies on tray

The frosting might be the most delicious part of this cookie, for real. I’m not normally a fan of iced cookies, but this really makes these go from “good” to “fabulous.”  And it’s SO easy. Just cream together half a stick of butter, 4 ounces of cream cheese (again, 1/2 of an 8 ounce block), and 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and then add one and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 1/2 of a cup at a time. Once it’s combined, kick the mixer up to a medium high speed and let it whip up for a minute or two, then add the zest and juice of half a lemon and 1/4 cup of coconut flakes. Mix until just combined and then it’s done!

Icing

Scrape this out into a smaller bowl and then use an icing knife to frost each cookie. Yes, you could just use a table knife, but I like the control I get from an icing knife.

Put the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate them for about a half hour to set the icing, and then store them in an airtight container. Truthfully, I really think these are best when they are cold from the fridge, so feel free to store them there!

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These are definitely not your average cookie – they’ll go fast!

Full Recipe:

Frosted Lemon Coconut Cookies

Yield: About 50 cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) of butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 & 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup coconut flakes

For the frosting:

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1& 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup coconut flakes

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3) In a stand mixer, cream together butter, cream cheese, and white sugar.

4) Add in egg and vanilla. Mix on medium speed to combine, and then add lemon zest/juice and coconut flakes. Mix until just combined.

5) Slowly mix in dry ingredients, with mixer set to “stir,” until everything is combined and a dough has formed.

6) Scoop one-ounce balls of dough onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Cool completely on wire cooling racks.

7) For the frosting, cream together butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Add powdered sugar 1/2 of a cup at a time until combined, and then mix on medium-high for 2 minutes. Mix in lemon zest/juice and coconut flakes until just combined.

8) Once cookies have cooled completely, frost each one and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet.

9) Put frosted cookies in the refrigerator for about a half hour to set the icing. Once the icing is set, store them in an airtight container.

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi! Welcome to Sweet, Spicy & Neat! I’ve been meaning to get a cooking blog together for a while now, and since the entire upper right quarter of the United States is currently covered in snow that rendered most productivity today absolutely impossible, I decided there was no better day than today to start!

In keeping with the snowed in theme, there’s not much better to do on a snow day than bake cookies! So, what a perfect place to begin – a fun, sweet twist on an old classic that everyone loves: Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now, my cookies have long been lauded as the best among my friends and family (I’ve even turned folks against their own mom’s cookies!) but they aren’t the best because of a magical cooking fairy that sprinkles twinkle dust on my pans. No, no, it’s tried and true tips and tricks that are easy to overlook, but believe me, they make ALL the difference. I have several favorite “weapons” in the kitchen, and there are quite a few of them in this post alone!

So, let’s get to the baking, shall we? These cookies are a nice twist on the classic chocolate chip “drop” cookie, and are especially good for those with a strong sweet tooth!

Go ahead and start off by getting your oven preheated to 375 degrees and lining a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. The parchment paper isn’t ABSOLUTELY necessary, but it really makes clean up SO much easier, and the cookies come off the pan with no effort! But, if you don’t have parchment paper on hand, go ahead and use non-stick baking sheets and do NOT grease them with anything!

Next, mix up your dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.

Flour Mixture

It’s mostly just flour (2 1/4 cups) but you’ll also need to add a teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt.

Baking Soda

Set this aside and then get out your stand mixer and use the bowl of that for your wet ingredients. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you’ll have to use a hand mixer and a large mixing bowl. Also, if you don’t have a stand mixer, buy one as soon as possible or ask for one for the next available gift giving holiday, because they are worth absolutely every penny, and you’ll see me use it a lot!) The wet ingredients begins with two sticks of softened unsalted butter and a cup of brown sugar with a 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: It is imperative that the butter be “soft” or room temperature – NOT melted! More on why in a bit. I find that two sticks of butter in the microwave for 25-30 seconds usually does the trick to make it soft enough, if you didn’t have the time to leave the butter on the counter for a couple of hours.

To measure out my sugar, I use one of my favorite kitchen tools ever, my Pyrex glass measuring cup. I think I use this probably at least once a day, every day, for all kinds of cooking and baking. The brown sugar has to be “packed” down (in order to make sure you’re getting a full cup of it, since brown sugar tends to be sticky and airy!) so I pack the cup of brown sugar in the bottom and then add the white sugar on top until it reaches the 1 1/2 cup mark.

Sugar

Put your softened butter and both sugars in the mixing bowl. If you’re using a stand mixer, make sure you use the paddle attachment for mixing! It looks like this:

Paddle Attachment

Mix this for about 15 seconds or so on the lowest setting (usually called “Stir” on a stand mixer), then for another fifteen seconds on the next highest speed, and then finally kick it up to medium for 2-3 minutes.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Why mix the butter and sugar so long? It’s called “creaming.” Allowing the butter and sugar to “cream” together takes a bit of time, but it makes sure they are one cohesive unit, and makes ALL the difference to the softness and chewiness of your cookies in the end! This is why your butter has to be soft, and not melted, because it’s impossible to cream butter that’s in a liquid state!

In the final stages of creaming together the butter and sugar, you can add 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.

Vanilla

Vanilla is another one of my secret kitchen weapons!

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: I cannot possibly stress enough how important it is to use PURE vanilla extract. If it says “imitation” anywhere on the bottle, throw it away and buy the good stuff! Vanilla is one of those places where substituting in the fake stuff simply cannot be done if you want really good food. This gigantic bottle was only $7.00 at BJ’s, so don’t try and tell me it’s too expensive!

Once you’ve got the butter, sugar, and vanilla all blended together, STOP and scrape off the paddle and the sides of the bowl!

Paddle

Use a rubber spatula for this – it’s the only way to cleanly scrape everything off and get all the way to the bottom of the bowl!

Spatula

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Stopping to scrape off the bowl may seem unnecessary, but it’s so important for ensuring everything blends together properly! Trust me, it’s worth the extra 30 seconds to do!

Once you’ve scraped off the bowl it’s time to add your binding agent. This recipe uses two eggs, but you can check out the bottom of this post for an amazing egg substitution in a variation I’ll give at the end!

Add the eggs one at a time, blending them in after each addition.

Add Eggs

Once the eggs are blended in, STOP again and scrape the paddle and bowl!!

Now that all your wet ingredients are blended and your dry ingredients are combined, it’s time to put them together! Grab your set-aside bowl of flour mixture and turn the stand mixer to “stir.” (For those of you using a regular hand mixer, unfortunately this is where you and the mixer must separate and you’ll have to do this part by hand with a wooden spoon.) Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, allowing the flour to be totally mixed in before adding more.

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This will take a little bit of time, but you have to add it little by little or else you’ll have flour everywhere and the dough will seize up!

Once all the flour is mixed in, it’s time for the best part… the chocolate chips! What makes these cookies so unique and sweet is the blend of chips that I chose to use. You can stick to my version, or use your own combination. (The classic recipe calls for all dark chocolate chips, but be creative!)

I used my handy dandy Pyrex cup again and filled it to the brim with dark, milk, and butterscotch chips.

Chips

I tried to divide it evenly into thirds, but a little more one way or the other won’t hurt! As long as it ends up being a bit more than 2 cups worth.

Take the paddle attachment off the mixer (we can’t use it to mix the chips in, as the dough becomes too stiff) and set it aside. And try not to lick it clean. I dare you. Then dump that whole glass of chips into the batter and fold them in with a strong wooden spoon.

Add Chips

This will take a bit of elbow grease, but when you’re done, the chips should be evenly distributed through the dough and it’ll look like this:

Finished Dough

It’s handy to leave the bowl attached to the stand mixer for this, as it helpfully holds the bowl in place while you stir!

By now your oven should have fully preheated, so go ahead and drop the cookies onto your baking sheets with a mini ice cream scoop (1-inch diameter). If you don’t have one, use a teaspoon, but I’m telling you, that little scoop is awesome for making sure all your cookies are the same size. You can get them from around $12-20 depending on where you look.

Mini Scoop

Drop the balls of dough about 2 inches apart from each other on the baking sheets. I can usually fit 13 comfortably on a 17×11 baking sheet, or 8 on a 15×10 baking sheet.

13 cookies

8 cookies

Bake them for 8-10 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes.

On cookie sheet

Then, transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. And try not to eat them all in one sitting.

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Warning: Making these in a house with children may cause unwanted flooding of young ones into your kitchen. Proceed with caution.

Cookie Rack 2

For those who patiently waited for the egg substitute version I promised, try this out: Instead of two eggs, use 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. (NOT pumpkin pie mix! Make sure the can says 100% pure pumpkin.) It doesn’t alter the flavor too much to just use the pumpkin puree, so if you really want to give them a pumpkin kick, add 2 tablespoons of pumpkin spice syrup (I use Torani) and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice at the same time that you add the vanilla extract.

Full Recipe:

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: About 60 cookies.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Process:

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

3) Cream together softened butter and sugar using a stand mixer with paddle attachment. (“Stir” for 15 seconds, speed 1-2 for another 15 seconds, and then a medium speed for 2-3 minutes.)

4) Scrape off paddle and sides of the bowl, then blend in vanilla and eggs, one at a time, on medium speed.

5) Scrape off paddle and sides of the bowl again, then add in flour mixture little by little with the mixer on “stir” setting, allowing flour to completely blend in before each new addition.

6) Remove paddle attachment and add chocolate chips to dough, folding in with a wooden spoon.

7) Drop dough balls with a 1-inch ice cream scoop onto baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each one, and bake for 8-10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are golden brown.

8) Allow to cool for a couple of minutes outside the oven on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. (If they last that long!)