Welcome to The Cookie Monster, a blog about the most marvelous, versatile, and beloved bakeable item in the land: The cookie. You may see occassional forays into pies, bars, and other sweet treats, but my main focus is and has always been on the bite sized genius behind my very favorite snack. Happy Baking!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pie Crust Basics

Happy Thanksgiving! In honor of one of my very favorite holidays (and possibly the best excuse to bake ALL year) I wanted to do a post about making pie crust from scratch. Over the last couple of days I've talked to several people who are baking for the holiday. All of them have confessed to using store bought pie crust. This. Is. A. Travesty! First and foremost because crust is really not all that hard. All you need are the ingredients pictured above, and about 15 minutes. Cheaters never prosper, friends. ;)

Above is my super secret Pie Crust recipe that I swear by. I've tried lots of different ones, but this is by far the yummiest and most successful. It's adapted from a Paula Dean Recipe. I just added sugar and used salted butter. It only exists on this little torn piece of scrap paper in my Recipe Binder....and now in cyberland, too.

Mix together 2.5 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl until evenly distributed. Cut up your shortening and butter into tablespoon sized pieces, and then add them to the mix. It's very important that the butter is COLD. This will give your crust the right consistency...

Cut the butter and shortening into the flour. This is exactly what it sounds like. You can use two sharp knives and criss cross them over and over, targeting the larger chunks of butter. I bought a pasty blender a couple of years back to do this exact task, and it was the best 6$ I ever spent ;)

Work the butter/shortening into the flour until it resembles a crumb topping. The little balls of butter should be about the size of peas. The less you actually work/cut in the flour, the better. As you work with these kinds of doughs, the more you mix/mess with it, the more the gluten in the four develops. With pie crust, you want a light flaky texture, not a doughy one. Try to keep the contact to the absolute minimum.

Now, add cold water, a tablespoon at a time to the dough. Mix it with your hands, until all the dough is JUST moistened. You don't want to over-water your dough here. You really want to make it just wet enough that it will stick together...
This time around it took about 3 tablespoons of cold water. When you're all set, form the crust into two balls.
Pop them in the fridge, and you've got HOMEMADE pie crust for your apple, cherry, rhubarb, pecan whatever pie!!!!!

Give it a shot. It's a little tricky at first, but once you've got it figured out, you'll never buy crust from the grocery store again. I promise!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vanilla Rounds with Chocolate Buttercream

This weekend Joe's dad threw us a little engagement party at his house, as an opportunity for our parents to meet each other and our siblings etc... I figured I would try out a new recipe for the event, since per-usual I didn't want to show up empty handed. I love sandwich cookies, and I love butter cream frosting, so I thought I'd give these little delightful cookies a shot....

1/2 cup butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 3/4 cups flour

Cream together the butter and cream cheese, then add the cup of sugar.

Add in the vanilla, eggs, salt and baking soda.

Add in the flour and mix until just blended. Separate the dough into two balls, and refrigerate for 2 hours. I myself just stuck them in the freezer fr like 10 minutes. It seemed to work just fine.

Once the dough is easy to handle, roll it out to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Then cut out your cookies using a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter.....
Place about 1/2 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.

Then bake at 375 for about 7 minutes, or until the edges start turning a light brown.

While the cookies are cooling, whip up your chocolate butter cream....

Mayhem in the kitchen....

For the Buttercream:
1/2 cup butter softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa
2 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk.
This stuff was mighty tasty.
Put a scant amount of frosting on the bottom side of one cookie, then sandwich.

They're like a reverse Oreo. Pretty good!

And here's us with our engagement cake, clearly it is way too pretty to have been decorated by yours truly....This was a pro-job.

Happy baking!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Almond Coconut Sugar cookies

Two very exciting things happened this week. 1) I made up a cookie recipe on the fly that I absolutely LOVE. 2) I got engaged.

So awesome. I went to a DiStefano family party today to say hello to my soon to be family, and knew I should bring something along. SO I decided I'd make some snickerdoodles.

I creamed together my shortening, butter and sugar, and then realized that I didn't have several of the ingredients I needed for snickerdoodles. Crap. I'd already mixed the ingredients, so I decided to just make something up on the fly. I scoured my cupboard and found some Almond extract and Coconut.

Here's what I came up with:
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup flake coconut
Since I'd already creamed the butter, I went ahead and added my egg and almond extract, then slowly added the dry ingredients. I rolled out tablespoon sized balls of dough, and then rolled them in a bowl full of coconut.

I baked the cookies at 375 for 9 minutes.

Seriously Delicious. This is a keeper recipe and possibly a new favorite. I couldn't even bring myself to save some cookies for my new fiance. I tried, but I ate them.

Make some. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Macarons in Seattle

This week, I headed out to Seattle to do a set up for a tradeshow. While I was there, I was able to hang out with my good friend Sarah from DePauw, and we decided to cook up some Tasty treats.

Sarah had attempted to make real almond flour macarons a few times without success. We decided to tackle this finicky cookie. We tried two different recipes, one of which was pretty damn good, the other was....not so good. For the purpose of being productive, I'll focus on the good ;)

We used a recipe Sarah found online for Fool Proof Macarons. Check it out here: http://www.myfoodgeek.com/2007/06/08/almost-foolproof-macarons/
The recipe called for everything in grams, so we busted out the kitchen scale, and pre-measured everything.
While Sarah was measuring, I started beating the egg whites with a hand mixer, until they formed soft peaks.
Then, Sarah got the Sugar-water syrup heating up on the stove.

We added the syrup a little at a time to the eggs whites, along with a little vanilla extract, and blue food coloring. we continued to beat the mixture until it got very stiff, and held its shape like-so.

Then, we added in the almond meal and sugar, along with the rest of the egg, and folded it all in.

Once totally mixed, we took turns piping the batter onto lined cookie sheets,

Then we baked them for 15 minutes.

While we were baking up all these blue Vanilla Macaroons, we decided to try to make some chocolate ones. They were sticky, and not light, and kept falling apart when we tried to remove them from the cookie sheet. Here's a peak. We didn't bother sandwiching them.

Not so good. Ok, let's move on back to the successful cookies :) time to sandwich.

And Sample. Yum. These cookies, according to Sarah, are not quite the delicious Parisian macaroons that she buys for large sums of money in the city. But they were the closest yet. The cookies were light, and slightly gooey, very tasty, and got even better when we filled them with dark chocolate Ganache.
And they matched Sarah's Gurgle pot. Perfect.

Good job team.