Debate Distraction: Cookie Bites

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Confession: I have a difficult time watching the presidential debates. The contention and discord make me a little anxious; I have to distract myself and focus some of my attention elsewhere. And how better to distract myself than by baking? During the three presidential and one vice-presidential debates over the last month or so, I’ve baked up lots and lots of delicious sweet treats. Last night, I finally made a recipe that I’ve been drooling over since it showed up on my feed: cookie bites. Chewy, slightly underbaked pillows of chocolate-chip studded cookie goodness? Count me in. I couldn’t find any adorable autumn sprinkles like those used in the original recipe, but S picked up some Halloween-themed sprinkles for me last week, and they were just as good.

Shot of the front of a rectangular platter with round cookie bite balls surrounded by sprinkles shaped like ghosts, pumpkins, and bats.

Doughy bites!

My quick photo doesn’t quite do these treats justice, but you get the idea. The recipe allegedly yields twelve bits, but I must’ve made mine a bit bigger because I only got ten. No matter! They were still perfectly yummy. I used whole-wheat pastry flour instead of the straight whole-wheat flour called for, and I worried that S would find them grainy. Nope! I heard many sounds of gastronomical enjoyment as he munched his way through a few bites. Success!

What recipe have you been meaning to make for a while?

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Pantry Decimation Challenge 2012: Espresso-White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve had the dregs of a bag of vegan white chocolate chips languishing in my pantry since Christmas, when I made S a big ol’ batch of chocolate peppermint bark. The thing is, I’m not really a fan of white chocolate. First of all, it’s terribly named – white chocolate contains no cocoa, therefore it is not chocolate. Second, it doesn’t taste like anything except generic sweetness. Do not want.

However, I will admit that white chocolate chips have their place…  and that place is in cookies where they can play second fiddle to their more legitimately named cousin – actual chocolate.

In the foreground, three chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. In the background, a container of instant espresso powder, a glass of soymilk, and a stack of more cookies.

They also offer a nice color contrast!

Okay, okay – I might be showing my bias by saying that they play second fiddle, because the white chocolate chips in these cookies are really a perfect complement to the other flavors going on here – namely, espresso and actual chocolate. The chips are a creamy, sweet – dare I say perfectly fitting? – addition to a complexly flavored cookie. I suppose that in this orchestra of ingredients, they can share the first fiddle seat with the cocoa powder in this recipe. Hmph.

Perhaps you, too, share my general distaste for white chocolate and find yourself with leftover white chocolate chips waiting for their chance to shine. If so, might I suggest making a batch of these cookies? They’re really tasty, despite the white chocolate. Okay, okay – because of the white chocolate. Hmph.

Espresso-White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes nine good-sized cookies

Ingredients

1 C spelt flour (all-purpose would work fine)
1/3 C high-quality cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt

1/3 C brown sugar
2 T vegan sugar
1/4 C vegetable oil
3 T nondairy milk
1 T instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp blackstrap or regular molasses (optional)
1/3 C white chocolate chips

Method

Preheat oven to 350˚ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (spelt flour through sea salt) and stir them a couple of times. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, add the sugars, molasses, and oil and mix until the sugars are moistened. Add the remaining ingredients except for the white chocolate chips and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and incorporate. The dough will be a bit sandy and might seem resistant to coming together, but work at it for a bit until you get a large ball. Fold in the white chocolate chips.

Form dough into balls of about two tablespoons and flatten them slightly when your hands. Keep them an inch or so apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until they just yield to the touch. Remove from oven, let them cool for a minute or two, and then transfer to baking rack (or just slide the parchment paper onto the counter if you’re lazy like me!). Enjoy!

A stack of five chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. In the background, a container of instant espresso powder and a glass of soymilk.

Helllooooo, cookies.

And with that photo, I’ll take my leave.

PANTRY DECIMATION TALLY:

  • Spelt flour: The majority of a bag (just a few tablespoons left!)
  • Cocoa: Finished a container (though I still have separate from the co-op…)
  • White chocolate chips: Finished the bag!
  • Frozen broccoli: Finished the bag (not in this recipe!)
  • Long-grain brown rice: Decimated my stash (same comment!)
  • Short-grain brown rice: Decimated my stash (same comment!)

Do you enjoy white chocolate? What’s your favorite cookie combination?

Friday Favorite: Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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Today’s Friday Favorite is – gasp – not a Happy Herbivore recipe. Shocking, I know. Nor is it a savory recipe like the last two have been. Instead, it’s a sweet recipe from my very first (and much-loved, if currently underused) vegan cookbook: Vegan with a Vengeance. VwaV is full of tried-and-true recipes, and I’ll likely include them in future Friday Favorite posts. But today I want to highlight a relatively simple recipe that I’ve made repeatedly, and always with excellent results.

An upturned palm holding two small chocolate cookies with jam in the center; one is filled with a light orange apricot jam and the other is filled with a red cherry jam.

Cooooookies.

Check out my vintage food photography, circa 2009! I’m holding the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies here. One is filled with cherry jam, and the other with apricot. I can never decide which variety I like best – usually it’s the one I’m eating at the moment. :) I’ve made these cookies quite a few times, and I posted about them here when I brought them to a gathering of friends.

I always adjust the recipe, substituting vegetable oil for the peanut oil and extra vanilla extract for the almond extract, to make it nut-free for my family and friends with allergies. However, I once made an experimental version with peanut butter swirls and peanut butter centers, rendering them totally unfit for folks with allergies, but also totally delicious for those of us who can partake of peanuts. No matter how much I tinker with this recipe, I always get the most delicious, chewy morsels of chocolate-y goodness. And that, friends, is the sign of a worthy Friday Favorite.

What’s your most tried-and-true cookie recipe? What recipes do you love from VwaV?

I Found the Holy Grail… of Cookies

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Ages and ages ago (read: two years ago), I tried a VegWeb chocolate chip cookie recipe and was disappointed in the results. So I continued my search for the holy grail of vegan chocolate chip cookies, and a year and a half ago I tried a PPK recipe, hoping it would answer all my cookie desires. It was good, but not great. But Nora left me a comment recommending Dreena Burton’s Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies, citing the awesome caramel-y flavor that a healthy dose of maple syrup and a bit of molasses lends them. Intrigued, I gave them a try. But I made the mistake of baking while distracted, and I misread the 1/4 tsp of molasses as 1/4 cup. Yep. Needless to say, the results were not exactly reminiscent of the chocolate chip cookies of my childhood. However, they were still yummy in their own right, and I made a mental note to re-try Dreena’s recipe – I figured that if it could stand up to my horrible miscalculation, it was probably a pretty damn fine recipe.

Two cookies on a plate next to a glass of almond milk.

You have chosen... wisely.

And it is. Oh man, it so is. It’s awesome. I made these cookies last night, and I want to devour them all for breakfast today. Nora was totally right; the maple syrup and molasses combine to make a cookie that is not just sweet, but flavorful. Just like I don’t enjoy things that are spicy for the sake of being spicy, I don’t always like sweetness for sweetness’ sake. I want depth of flavor and a nuanced sweetness, and these cookies bring that to the table (literally). They are so, so good.

Another shot of the two cookies on a plate.

Nom nom cookies.

I made nine big ol’ cookies in this batch; next time I’ll make them smaller so the recipe will yield more. They were delicious when warm and they’re delicious when cooled, and the dough is amazing straight outta the bowl. And that’s an essential part of a good cookie recipe, don’t you think? ;)

So, in short, this may very well be my holy grail of cookie recipes. The 1/3 cup of maple syrup is a bit much, though, so I doubt I’ll make them incredibly often. But when I do, I know they’ll be worth it.

What’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? Have you tried Dreena’s?

Milk & Cookies

Sunday is my least favorite day of the week, but I might be willing to reconsider if every Sunday involved more cookies and less fretting about Monday.

Perfection.

Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies from Veganomicon, and vanilla So Delicious coconut milk.

Christmas Reject!

How about another equation today? This one’s less boozy than yesterday’s, but that’s okay. See, for the past few years, I’ve made my own Christmas/holiday cards. One year I put Santa hats on pictures of movie characters, another year I made snowmen-shaped cards, and last year I used bits of wrapping paper to decorate my cards. This year, inspired by Bakerella, I decided to create my own Christmas cards using a photo of a delightful Christmas treat I baked. Today, in the spirit of Getting Things Done Early, I embarked on that process.

So, what does it take to create one’s own card? I’ll tell you using numbers. 1 Christmas card = 1 trip to the craft store + 1 batch of cookies + 1 handful of crushed candy canes + 1000s of red colored sugar + 1 more emergency trip to the craft store + 2 lamps + 5 different setups + 1 nasty incident of a cookie bit falling into a spiderweb + 3 cookies eaten for sustenance + 2.5 hours of photographing and Photoshopping!

Nice try, but I ain't usin' you.

Okay, actually, the above photo is not really the sum of the equation. Well, it sort of is, but that’s not the photo I’m using for my Christmas card. That one’s an outtake, a sad little reject. The final photo is similar to that one, but a bit better composed and Photoshopped differently. Yeehaw!

For my cookies, I used the recipe for Isa’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles, minus the cayenne and cinnamon. Instead I added crushed candy canes, which made for a really yummy, chewy, pepperminty cookie – I might even recreate it for Christmas! I also made some plain chocolate ones rolled in red decorating sugar, but they didn’t photograph very well.

Now I’m just trying to find the least expensive option for getting this made into a foldable card. Any suggestions?

Do you send holiday cards? Do you buy them or make your own? Growing up, my siblings and I were subjected to an annual photo shoot wherein Mom and Dad would dress us, pose us, and photograph us until tears rained and/or punches were thrown and someone stormed off in a rage. Despite the painfulness of said photo shoots, it’s kind of neat to see 23 years of family photos. This year, Mom’s putting together a collage of pictures from our family’s trip to HP world… heheh.

Happy Saturday!

Today, I am the Cookie Monstaaah

Happy Tuesday, all! I’m glad to hear that some of you also enjoy young adult literature – and thanks to Theresa for bringing a new [to me] YA book series to my attention! I’m going to have to see if the library has these available, because I’m in need of some more easy, enjoyable reads. :)

Other than YA novels, I also enjoy cookies, and today I am massively enjoying the Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from VWAV. OH MY GOSH. They sound so simple and, perhaps, boring, but I LOVE them. Or, rather, I’m addicted to them. But that’s the same as thing as love, right?

And you thought crack was a white powder. As if.

The thing is, I don’t even know WHY they’re so addicting. Maybe because they’re both chewy and soft all at once? Or because the pumpkin flavor is subtle and pleasing, not in-yo-face obnoxious? Or because the chopped walnuts are such a nice surprise? I so rarely think to add nuts to my cookies (my sista is allergic to them) that when I do, it’s always a revelation. I also – shockingly! – added Zante currants to my cookies, because I’ve had a box of these fellas sitting in the pantry for far too long. Luckily, they don’t taste at all like raisins (i.e. like bloated, nasty, gross-flavored bugs) in baked goods, and I barely noticed them in my cookies.

Anyway, I don’t know quite what it is about these guys that has captured my heart, but I’m hooked (or “hookied,” as I just typed… hooked + cookies?). I made a half batch last night, and… well… it’s almost gone. Lest you think “oh, a half batch isn’t that much,” let me tell you that the “half batch” resulted in about 24 cookies. Granted, they were small (only 3 or 4 bites each), but still. Pig, much? I’m addicted; it’s not my fault!

Do you like raisins in your cookies? What about other add-ins?

Spreadin’ the Bloggy Lurve: Molasses-Ginger Cookies

After last night’s major brownie flop, I needed a fail-proof baking project tonight to bolster my confidence and give me somethin’ sweet to munch on while I stare at the sad remains of my flavorless brownies of d00m. So I took a little trip through MoFos of ages past (by which I mean last year), started salivating when I came to this post, and set my sights on the spicy-smooth flavors of molasses-ginger cookies. Awww, yeahhh.

I'd share, but...

Last year I made these so I could send some sweet cookie lovin’ to my boyfriend, but these days I’m a single lady, so I halved the recipe. I still got 14 cookies out of this batch, and that’s not including the embarrassing amount of dough I scarfed down while putting these together. They’re just as delightful and cozifying as I remember, and they come together super quickly (even more quickly if you’re impatient and don’t refrigerate them for an hour (not that I would do that (ten minutes in the freezer is the same, right?!))). I used freshly-grated ginger, giving them an extra kick of yumminess.

The recipe comes from the ever-amusing Claryn over at Hell Yeah It’s Vegan!, and I highly recommend it. It’s definitely one of my favorite cookie recipes, and one day I might even make it with the crystallized ginger! Gasp!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a major cookiefest in the hopes that if I’m in a sugar coma, I won’t remember that I’m not seeing the new Harry Potter movie at midnight and thus won’t die of shame for being such a bad HP fan.*

What’s your go-to cookie recipe?

* Maybe it’s for the best, though. I love the HP books with an extreme and undying geeky devotion, and I always look forward to the movies with the naive hope that they’ll be awesome, but they inevitably disappoint me because they just don’t hold a [teeny, tiny, stub of a little birthday] candle to the books. Still… I love midnight premieres, and I’m really sad that I’m not going to one for this movie! :(

BUI: Baking Under the Influence (…of the internetz)

This is a cautionary tale, folks, a warning for those of you who sometimes feel an urge to bake but can’t drag yourselves away from the internerdz while doing so. You’ve got the recipe open on one tab, Gmail on another, Google Reader on a third, Jezebel on the next, and the PPK on yet another. Your iTunes is blasting some ridiculous and probably embarrassing tunes, and maybe you’re trying to keep up a Gchat conversation simultaneously. This is worse than drunk!baking, people. It’s distracted baking, and – much like texting while driving* – it can have Serious Consequences.

Sometimes, baking while under the influence of the INTERNETZZZ!!!11!1!!! can cause you to do things that make you seriously question your intelligence… or at least your ability to perform the simplest of tasks. Graduating magna cum laude with distinction in my major from a top college? No sweat; I can pull that off in my sleep. But reading a recipe? That’s beyond me. Somewhere between the [super embarassing] S Club 7 music video I watched on YouTube and the irritated e-mail I fired off to my best friend, I misread 1/4 tsp as 1/4 cup. Yeah. And the ingredient in question? Blackstrap molasses.

And the most embarrassing bit – the bit I very nearly decided to omit from this post – is that it took me an obscenely long time to realize my error. It wasn’t ’til I’d combined the wet and dry ingredients and was wondering why the result was more batter than dough that I figured something was wrong. And then – suddenly – I thought, “Hey… chocolate chip cookie dough isn’t s’posed to be brown.” Y’think?

So – let’s just say that my chocolate chip cookies quickly morphed into chocolate chip-molasses cookies. The good news? Dreena’s recipe can stand up to even this assault of stupidity; they were still surprisingly delicious, if a little too sweet, given the inclusion of maple syrup + sugar + way too much molasses.

Somethin' just ain't right.

I’d just like to try and recoup a meager 2% of my Baking Legitimacy by saying that this fiasco was caused because I was baking for the end results. When I bake for the sake of baking, I treat each step in a recipe with love and care, tenderly measuring flour and leveling the top of my measuring cups with a knife to ensure precision. I use my best Pampered Chef spatula to scrape the sides of a bowl, making sure no speck of flour goes unmixed. But baking for the end results is a much more slapdash experience, a mad rush of pouring and distracted stirring wherein all I care about is the finished product (and maybe a few spoonfuls of batter along the way). I’m disconnected from the end product and the recipe on the page; I’m pouring and mixing and measuring individual ingredients without thinking about how they’ll work together as a whole. It’s bad juju, man.

So, in conclusion – focus on your baking! That series of tubes might be super distracting, but don’t let it distract you so much that you commit a baking mistake that would make Betty Crocker cry and shun you from her kitchen forever.

*Plz don’t text while driving. It’s stupid and irresponsible. Guess what? In the olden days, people couldn’t even talk on the phone while driving – and they survived! You can wait 10 minutes to text your bff about the slowpoke old lady doing 25 in a 55 MPH zone. Trust.

Beer & Cookies

A confession: I shunned beer for the first 21.5 years of my life. I didn’t drink at all for the first couple years of college, and then when I dipped my toes into the wild world of alcohol, my exposure to beer was limited to sipping cans of Milwaukee’s Best and then discreetly leaving them on a dresser in the middle of a packed room before slipping out of some awful party a friend had coerced me into attending. I wasn’t a partier by any means, but every so often I’d try to force myself into enjoying myself at such a gathering, only to be reminded that they just weren’t my thaaang. Whatevs, man. I made my own kind of fun, and it did not involve beer.

It wasn’t until I spent a summer studying abroad in Ireland and discovered the joys of Guinness that I discovered that beer could be downright tasty! Now that I’ve veeegan, I no longer partake of that Irish staple (sadface!), but I now consider myself a fan of [good] beer. I went from barely being able to stomach half a can of  Budweiser in the first week of my senior year of college to truly enjoying a pitcher of Smithwicks (also not vegan, lamepants!) or a bottle of Corona by the time I graduated. I appreciate the finer things in life, what can I say?

And by “the finer things,” I obviously mean baking chocolate chip cookies at 9:00 o’clock on a Friday night while drinking a locally-brewed beer and dancing around in my sports bra while listening to Lady Gaga. This is truth, folks. My roommate’s on a trip for work (I went on one last week too! More about that later.), so I have the apartment to myself. Clearly this means I need semi-nude solo dance parties.

So after my workout last night, I decided to try my hand at another chocolate chip cookie recipe. I tried one back during Vegan MoFo and was less than thrilled, so I thought maybe the PPK would come through for me. Isa’s like a vegan goddess or something, right? And this was an occasion where the vegan stars aligned and I had all the exact ingredients for this recipe. Usually I haphazardly substitute milks and starches liek whoa, but I recently picked up a bag of tapioca starch from Woodman’s, and almond milk is my alt-milk du jour, so I pretty much followed this recipe to a T (although I did cut down on the amount of oil, and the dough seemed perfect). So – results?

Me want coooookies!

These are better than the VegWeb variety (though, admittedly, it’s been 6 months since I tried them), but again, I don’t think they’re my chocolate chip cookie holy grail. They are pretty damn tasty, though, and the dough was a treat to scrape off the bowl. I’d definitely make these again, but I think I’m still in search of my end-all, be-all of vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes. Anybody have a suggestion?

As for the local beer that accompanied the baking of these cookies, well, I tried New Glarus’ Spotted Cow ale. Honestly, I was underwhelmed, but I think this is because I generally don’t enjoy beers that are light in color. And no, I am not a beer connoiseur, so “light in color” is the  most description you’ll get from me! I tried Capital Brewery’s Maibock recently, and it’s freakin’ delicious. It’s their seasonal brew, and I absolutely loved it. I think I prefer heartier, maltier beers with less of a foamy head than the Spotted Cow variety. New Glarus Brewery, however, is very vegan friendly, so I’ll have to give some of their other varieties a fair chance before I swear it off entirely.

Even though the beer and the cookies slightly underwhelmed me, I’m not gonna lie – my Friday night was a freakin’ awesome night. Tipsy one-person dance parties, Lady Gaga, and cookies? Hell to the YEAH.

WHOA UPDATE, DUDES. I wrote this post last night, but guess what? These cookies are FANFREAKINGTASTIC the next day! They’re chewy and sweet and generally AWESOME. Maybe they are my holy grail. Whoaaa.

Oh, and also? I tried some Thai iced bubble tea for the first time today at the Madison farmer’s market, only to discover just now that it contained milk. I guess it did seem a little cloudy, but I never thought that iced tea would have milk in it! I am super ignorant, apparently. And also super upset at myself. :( Sigh.