Food & Cooking

Winter Cookie Exchange

A month or so ago, Ariel mentioned that she and her coworkers were going to do a cookie exchange this year, and I thought that sounded like a great idea to do at my workplace, too! I put up a sign asking interested partners to sign up by December 7th, instructing they should then bring a bag of cookies for each person who decided to participate on (or near) the 10th of December.

I decided to make Puppy Chow cookies. (You can find the easy recipe here!)IMG_1576The cookies were super easy to make: you just combine peanut butter and vanilla to spread between two Ritz crackers, dip the combo into melted chocolate, and then dip that into powdered sugar. I had fun getting messy with this recipe, even though the assembly did take a while. IMG_1574Once all of the cookies were assembled and the chocolate had hardened, I prepared baggies for each person.IMG_1577I wrote a personalized message in each of the cute little tags 🙂IMG_1579I remember each year when I was little, my mom would get a tin filled with an assortment of Keebler cookies from her work. I use to LOVE those cookies, which I’m sure doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you! One of my favorite parts about the tins she received was that there were two layers, so just when you thought the end of your cookie delight had come, you could lift the partition to reveal another layer of yumminess. IMG_1580A week or so ago when I went thrifting, I found this lovely tin with an old-fashioned scene, and in the spirit of cookie tins past, I decided to wash it and use it to put all of the extra cookies in. I had fun reminiscing about my childhood while I packed the cookies inside! Despite my longing to overindulge in these Puppy Chow Cookies, I knew more cookies were in my future, so I brought the tin to work to get gobbled up with the rest. (I actually have some restraint sometimes, guys.)

Have you ever done a cookie exchange before? What are your favorite cookie recipes? Let me know in the comments below!
xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Earl Grey Ganache

I love, love, love petit desserts. Lately I’ve been scouring library books for new ideas on petit sweets, and one book that I enjoyed is called Tea and Cookies by Rick Rodgers. I especially enjoyed the introduction to the book, in which Rodgers talks about the history of tea and about different types of tea. For example, tables at tea gardens used to have little locked boxes on them, and if patrons wanted their tea quickly so that it would still be hot, they would drop coins inside. The boxes were labeled “T.I.P.S.,” which stood for “To insure prompt service,” starting the tradition of tipping we know today (although now we tip after the meal). Pretty interesting, huh?

A few recipes peaked my interest in Tea and Cookies, but the one I decided to try first was “Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Earl Grey Ganache.” My friend Caitlin’s favorite tea is earl grey, and since she recently had her baby, I thought it would be a perfect treat to try to make for her last week. Today was a rainy day so I made them again, thinking they would be perfect for a future tea party!IMG_1083You start by making dough for the cookies, which turn out to be similar to chocolate sugar cookies. I chopped up my butter in chunks to make it easier to whip up.IMG_1084Once you’ve reached a creamy consistency, you add brown and white sugar and beat until fluffy and well-incorporated.IMG_1087Next up, it’s time to sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. I just love how sifted ingredients look like a sweet, airy pillow!IMG_1088You then gradually add the sifted mixture to the butter and sugar mixture until it becomes a dough, and then roughly shape it into a log.IMG_1089I used parchment paper to help roll the log into more of an even shape, rolling it over the counter to make the dough smooth.IMG_1090 IMG_1091Once you’re happy with your dough, cut it into three equal slices and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days. The first time I made this recipe, I was in a bit of a time crunch and just froze the dough for about 30 minutes, and I got the same results.IMG_1093Once your dough has been cooled in the fridge or freezer, cut 1/4″ slices and lay them an inch apart on baking sheets.IMG_1095While the cookies are baking, you can start working on the ganache. The recipe calls for 4 ounces of milk chocolate, so if you’re using a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, you’ll want to remove about a square and a half from the 4.4 oz bars to have the correct measurement. You should probably eat those extra pieces, just to make sure they don’t go disappearing elsewhere on you.IMG_1096To make the ganache, you first you bring heavy whipping cream to a simmer on the stove top…IMG_1097…and then you turn off the heat and add earl grey tea, letting it simmer for 5 minutes.IMG_1100Next you strain the tea, pushing down on the leaves…IMG_1101…and then you bring the cream mixture to a simmer again before adding it to the chocolate and mixing until smooth. IMG_1102Once the mixture is smooth, it’s time to put the bowl over another bowl with ice water so that you can whip it into a ganache. I think I may have over whipped my ganache, so the color was lighter than I thought it would be both times I made it, but the flavor was still really nice. IMG_1107                Someone thought he was tricky and stole a cookie! That naughty, naughty Chad… IMG_1108Pipe or spread the ganache on half of your finished cookies, and gently sandwich them together.IMG_1109                                                                           Then, enjoy!
IMG_1110I love how pretty these cookies are, and also how wonderful the balance of flavors plays out in the recipe. The earl grey notes in the ganache brighten up the richness of the chocolate cookies with a subtle, yet bright citrus flavor.  I think pairing these with a straight tea (like earl grey, perhaps!) or coffee would be just divine. You can find the full recipe for the cookies here on the Rick Rodgers website.

Now that I’ve enjoyed Tea and Cookies by Rodgers, I’m interested in looking at some of his other books, such as Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague. What are some of your favorite pastries and pastry books?

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Chocolate Temptations

And now the finale to all the fun I’ve had with Uncommon Grounds: An adventure involving coffee and chocolate, which are two of my favorite things on the planet. I found a recipe in 1000 Chocolate Baking and Dessert Recipes from Around the World for Chocolate Temptation cookies, and decided to give the recipe a try. They. were. GLORIOUS.

IMG_20140516_073130_495To start the recipe, you preheat your oven, grease a cookie sheet or parchment paper, and melt some chocolate, coffee and butter into a heat-proof bowl until the chocolate is almost melted.

IMG_20140516_073400_808 IMG_20140516_073751_979 Then, in a separate bowl, you beat some eggs until they’re fluffy before adding some sugar.

IMG_20140516_074136_356 IMG_20140516_074348_783From that point, you add in the chocolate, butter and coffee mixture, stirring until smooth.  IMG_20140516_075104_172Next up you sift a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt into the mix, along with chocolate pieces and almond extract.

IMG_20140516_075714_138

IMG_20140516_080252_163 IMG_20140516_080259_199

Next, put tablespoonfuls of dough onto a greased baking sheet or greased parchment paper and stick them in the oven to bake!

IMG_20140516_084325_162 IMG_20140516_084604_421

Once they’ve cooled, it’s time to pipe melted chocolate onto them (I used a ziplock bag!).

IMG_20140516_085146_999

I did the white chocolate first…

IMG_20140516_101156_972

…and then I did the milk chocolate!

The cookies turned out fantastic, though the coffee flavor was quite subtle. As you can see in the first picture above, I used Starbucks Breakfast Blend for my cookies, but that was just because that was what I had on hand. When I brought the cookies to work, we decided to do a tasting with a French press of Espresso roast, which goes well with nutty, chocolatey flavors. The pairing was FABULOUS, so I’m thinking that perhaps next time I make these cookies I’ll use a darker roast coffee brewed more strongly instead of the Breakfast Blend. Do you have a favorite recipe that incorporates coffee?

Chocolate Temptations (adapted from 1000 Chocolate Baking and Dessert Recipes from Around the World)

Ingredients

3 1/4 oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

12 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate

1 tsp strong coffee

2 eggs

scant 3/4 cup brown sugar

generous 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tsp almond extract

scant 2/3 cup chopped walnuts

scant 2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts

1 1/2 oz. white chocolate

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet or parchment paper. Put 8 oz of the semisweet chocolate with the butter and coffee into a heatproof bowl and heat in 30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring in between each burst until chocolate is almost melted.

2. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a bowl until fluffy. Whisk in the sugar gradually until thick. Add the chocolate mixture and stir until combined.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir into the chocolate mixture. Chop 3 oz of semisweet chocolate into pieces and stir into the dough (or use semisweet chocolate chips to make things go even faster!). Stir in the almond extract and nuts.

4. Put tablespoonfuls of the dough onto a cookie sheet, transfer to the preheated oven, and bake for 16 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, or if using parchment paper, pull paper off cookie sheet and set aside to cool. To decorate, melt the remaining chocolate and spoon into pastry bags or ziplock bags with the ends cut off, then pipe lines onto the cookies.

Enjoy!
xx