Monthly Archives: January 2014

Rocky Road Cookies

We are all familiar with the tastes of rocky road- it has chocolate, marshmallow and nuts. These cookies combine all those without hiding the marshmallow. Normally, if you cooked the marshmallow it would melt into the other ingredients; in this case, it is preserved as part of the look of the cookie.

rocky road 001

Rocky Road Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • Cooled chocolate mixture
  • a bag of miniature marshmallows

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt over low heat the chocolate morsels and butter. Cool before starting rest of recipe.

Mix together and beat well the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the nuts and cooled chocolate mixture.

Drop by rounded teaspoons about 2″ apart onto un-greased baking sheet. Press a marshmallow in the center of each cookie. Bake about 8 minutes or until no imprint remains when touched with finger. Immediately remove from baking sheet.

Option: This dough may be put into a 15 x 10 x 1″ jelly-roll pan and baked as bar cookies. Sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over top of cookies in pan. Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

The recipe is simple and straight-forward. All I can add is that it makes a lot of cookies- I would say over 5 dozen at the teaspoon size.

Magic Cookies

There is probably few cookies that are as rich as Magic Cookies. When I asked the daughters what cookies they wanted me to bake for the Holidays, Magic Cookies was easily the first choice of all.

magic 001

In many senses, Magic Cookies are a lot like a candy bar; there is the chocolate, the coconut, the condensed milk and the nuts with just enough other ingredients to hold each Magic Cookie bar together.

Magic Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup (6 oz pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 1/3 cups (3 1/2 oz.) flaked coconut
  • 15 oz. can Eagle Sweetened Condensed Milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees In a 13 x 9 x 2″ pan, layer ingredients evenly in the order given; butter, crumbs, nuts, chocolate morsels, coconut and milk. Bake about 25 minutes or until lighty browned on top.

Cool in pan about one hour before cutting into bars.

This recipe is so easy that I really don’t have any hints or suggestions.

Kookie Brittle

The irregular shape of the pieces of Kookie Brittle invite you to take the size piece that will be just right. One size does not fit all when eating cookies.

kookie brittle 023

As you might sense, I like to make drop cookies. Kookie Brittle defies that bent. It is a short bread pan cookie that after cooking, you break into pieces – no cutting nice even pieces with a knife. In many ways, being a pan cookie means it is very easy to make; it all comes together at once.

Kookie Brittle

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend butter, vanilla and salt together well. gradually add sugar, flour and chips.

Press evenly into un-greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over top. Press firmly into dough. Bake 25 minutes or until browned. Cool and break into irregular pieces and drain on paper towels.

I was surprised that the directions do not cream the butter and sugar, but add the sugar later with the dry ingredients. I think this might make mixing of the dry ingredients into the dough slightly more difficult, and I doubt if the order is necessary.

The dough is very stiff when mixing is finished; it is almost the consistency of clay. It takes considerable effort to push it out into all areas (the corners) of the pan. If you are having trouble getting the dough spread evenly into the pan, put it in the hot oven for just a minute; it will soften and spread easier.

Do try to get the dough even in the pan. I find that many times the cookies have cooked slightly unevenly with one end or corner getting too brown. You might also want to watch the cooking time- 25 minutes might be a couple minutes too long.

Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are probably my favorite cookie. What can say Holiday Season better than the smell and taste of the cinnamon and sugar coating on these cookies. I have made Snickerdoodle cookies for many years; they are very simple and yet to me, very delicious.

snickerdoodle 001

I found this recipe in a small recipe book that Marlys had received from her Aunt Evelyn. Evidently the Ladies of Saint Charles Borromeo had each contributed one or more recipes and then the group published the booklet to raise money.

Snickerdoodle Cookies

(Jan Murphy, Calendar of Kitchen Halos, The Ladies of Saint Charles Borromeo)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. Cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cream the shortening and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.
  • Add eggs and beat well.
  • Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
  • Add vanilla extract.
  • Form into walnut-size balls and roll in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon (2 Tablespoons each mixed well).
  • Bake 10 minutes on greased cookie sheet; cool on sheet 3 minutes before moving to cooling racks.
  • Cook one pan at a time.

Hints and suggestions

I use a #50 scoop to measure the dough into a walnut-size ball. And I use silicon mats on my cookie sheets to avoid having to deal with the grease.

When I take the cookie sheet from the oven, I slide a cooling rack onto the cookie sheet under the silicon mat to help the cookies cool. I leave it there for the 3 minutes until the cookies harden enough so I can move them onto my other cooling racks.

Cutout Cookies

All Collage

I have written about cutout cookies before, so I will try to bring everything together in this article. Cutout Cookies are fun for either the little ones, or even older kids-at-heart. It was a ritual in our house for the girls to decorate cookies; I have a blurry picture of when they were just 6 and 8 years old sitting up at the kitchen counter decorating cookies. And a few years ago, we had an adult decorating party where all of us were over 65 years of age.

Mindy decor 002

Over the Christmas Holidays, I took all my cookie decorating supplies to Seattle; Mindy wanted to learn about decorating cookies like I showed in my article about the cookie decorating class. While my results are in that article, these snowflakes are what she created.

About a year ago, I spent considerable time trying to find a recipe that would allow me to make cutout cookies that didn’t spread when cooked. I wanted to make two identical hearts such that I could stack them. I wanted to cut a small heart out of the top cookie so that I could fill it with red for a different valentine cookie. I never did solve the spread problem, but I found that Short Bread cookies seemed to spread the least. So, I initially said that we should use Short Bread cookies for cutout cookies.

Then, I took the Decorette Shop‘s cookie decorating class; they were using Sugar Cookies for cutouts! So after class, I came home and pulled out several recipes and started testing them as the basis for my cutout cookies. I had also learned between the class and one of the recipes I found that I should freeze the cookies before cooking them to reduce the spread. So I am putting all that new knowledge into this article and recipe for cutout cookies.

Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
  • Cream the shortening, butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add eggs and flavoring and mix until creamy.
  • Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Divide the dough into two parts; put each part in a sheet of plastic wrap.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • On a lightly floured surface, unwrap one package of dough and roll to 1/4 inch thick.
  • Cut out the desired figures with cookie cutters and place on an un-greased baking sheet. If NOT icing the cookies, sprinkle with sugar before cooking.
  • Put the baking sheet with the cutout cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Reshape the leftover dough into a disk and re-wrap it in the plastic wrap and put it back in the refrigerator to cool.
  • Bake the cookies from the freezer for 8-10 minutes; let the cookies cool on the baking sheet elevated on a cooling rack for 3 minutes before moving the cookies off the baking sheet onto a cooling rack.
  • While baking the first batch of cutout cookies, use the second package of cooled dough and repeat the above directions for rolling, cutting and freezing.
  • Keep the cookies perfectly float from the time they come from the oven until they are completely cooled on the racks; otherwise they will break. If they do break, try to fit them together again immediately. If that doesn’t work, you will be able to glue them together with icing later.


I originally thought that Royal Icing was just powdered sugar and water. That was what we used when the group of “over 65 years” decorated cookies. The problem is that the icing is too thin, and you can not pipe it into dams to stop the slow bleeding of colors into each other. Again, I learned that you need to thicken the icing and pipe dams around each color when I attended the cookie decorating class.

Decorette Shop Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 5 1/2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar

Directions:

Place in grease-free bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.

Now the trick is to use this Royal Icing. The recipe gives you a version of icing that can be piped. Two things are now necessary. First, take some of the icing and place it in a clean bowl and add the food coloring you want to use. I actually decided that the Decorette Shop was correct and bought the “gel paste” food colors as they do not add a lot of moisture into the icing. but you can use the more liquid food colors available at food stores; just remember you may need to add more powdered sugar to take up the extra moisture and keep the icing pipe-able.

Once the icing is colored, you will want to thin out part of it so that it self-levels when put on the cookie. So first load some of the colored icing into your piping bag with a small(#3 or #4) tip. This will be used to build dams around the areas you want to color. Thin the rest of the icing with a very small amount of water; like a teaspoon amount at a time, and then mix it in real well. You are trying to thin the icing to the point that when you drop some of it back into the dish, it self levels in about 5 seconds.

Hints and Suggestions

  • Don’t try to cut out cookies with the plastic cutters that are only 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, and have all the interesting markings that are suppose to transfer to the cookie. They are not worth the money. They sash the dough and it ends up stuck in the cutter. After trying to use them, I have settled on using only outline shaped cutters that are at least as deep as the dough is rolled out.
  • To measure 1/4 inch thick for rolling out the dough, I made a couple sticks that I place on either side of the dough, close enough so the rolling pin stays at that height. I know you can buy bands that fit on the ends of your rolling pin to keep the correct thickness, too. I have also used a section of clothes closet dowel as a longer rolling pin so the dough can be rolled out wider, and more cookies can be cut at one time.
  • If you break a cookie, you can use Royal Icing as glue to put it back together.
  • At some point, the two packages of dough in the refrigerator will need to be brought together.

If you want to get more decorating ideas beyond just colored icing, you might look at the article I wrote after attending the cookie decorating class. You will find it here.

English Toffee

English Toffee is a favorite when it comes to Holiday Season candy. I find it difficult to make because of the changing state of the sugar from hard-ball to caramel is so fast you need to move quickly and use subjective judgment. There is no time to use a candy thermometer or the cold water testing of the sugar’s state. The key is the dark golden brown color, but not so dark as to be burned.

english toffee 002

I think there is a psychological factor in cooking the toffee that in order to prevent the burning I do not let the heating of the sugar advance completely to the caramel state. I have burned the sugar at times, and the burned sugar tends to be stuck to the bottom of the pan; so the problem is not with the caramelized sugar going into the toffee, but in cleaning the pan. And, my sister Rachael taught me how to do that- there is a powder known as Barkeepers Friend that seems to take the black burn right out of the pan. I buy my Barkeepers Friend at one of the Big Box building goods stores.

English Toffee

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

  • Stir butter and sugar together in a large sauce pan over high heat until mixture is melted.
  • Continue cooking while stirring constantly until toffee is very smooth and dark golden brown (about 10 minutes).
  • Add almonds and cook one minute longer, being careful not to burn.
  • Spread in a 9″ x 13″ buttered pan. Allow to cool several minutes.
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over top. As chips melt, spread over entire surface.
  • Cool in refrigerator. Knock from pan and break into pieces.
  • Stores well in a covered can in refrigerator; I place wax paper between layers.


While the recipe is for a 9 x 13 inch pan, the recipe easily divides into half and can be made in a 7 x 9 pan. I have done that many times and recommend starting that way if you are not confident about boiling the sugar.

If your pan is glass, I would recommend lining it with foil before buttering it; I have been successful buttering with PAM spray. I broke a glass pan trying to knock the toffee from an unlined pan.

You are going to get a little burn in the bottom of your sauce pan; get the Barkeepers Friend I mentioned previously and it comes right out.

Daughter Mindy saw someone making English Toffee and putting it in a 10 x 15 inch pan; she felt the depth of the toffee looked better than when in the 9 x 13 pan. If you want to do this, you should increase the amount of chocolate chips to cover the bigger areas; try 16 ounces instead of the 12 ounces as a starting point.

Do NOT use the point of your good knife to break up the toffee. I lost the point of my knife that way. Depending upon how close to caramel the sugar got, you might even need to go out to the garage and get a chisel and hammer to break up the toffee.

Holidays in Seattle

I spent the week of Christmas in Seattle with daughter Mindy. We had two focuses for my time there; as always, being foodies and trying a few new restaurants, and then Mindy wanted to learn what I had learned about decorating cut-out cookies.

Mindy decor 002

To prepare for the decorating activities, I took everything we would possibly need. I took a card table so that we could set up a work area and didn’t have a conflict with the dining table. I took a premixed pot of white Royal Icing, and all the gel paste colors I had. I took the stencils, the piping bags, and the piping tips. Everything including about 3 dozen cutout cookies for her to decorate. I even took a crate with the stand mixer, and all the stuff to make more Royal Icing, or even to make more cutout cookies. I was prepared for any eventuality.

Mindy wanted to decorate snowflake cookies in white and blue. And after doing the 8 snowflake cutouts I had brought, she was satisfied. I admit that she is the artist between us. She sees the possibilities for something that is less mechanical than I see.

Along with all the resources for decorating cookies, I also took her third of the holiday baking of cookies and candies that I had done. The other two thirds were distributed to daughter Jenn and extended family daughter Kris. I had 13 different recipes I had made and each of the thirds contained at least a dozen pieces of each recipe. Some recipes made more that 3 dozen pieces and so there was quite a bit of rich holiday cookies and candies in the box. I need to add all those recipes to the blog, and that will happen over the next few weeks.

We had started our foodie eating out plans before I left for Seattle. Mindy wanted a good hamburger and french fries, and a good steak. I wanted to go to another Tom Douglas restaurant. Mindy wanted to drive up north, close to Bellingham to see an area that she had not seen before. And, we wanted to revisit some of the restaurants that we had discovered in August when I was last there.

While Mindy and I are Foodies, and love to test new restaurants, the foodie in us really is a family thing. Jenn is probably a better foodie than either Mindy or I. Mindy and I want good food of a type with which we are already acquainted. Jenn wants to explore and find new foods. She was the one who took us to the different Middle Eastern restaurants, and introduced us to the food of India. This all started when the girls were young; each girl got to pick the restaurant they wanted us to go to for their birthday.

So this vacation, we revisited Portage Bay, Serious Biscuit and Fat Hen for breakfast. We also decided to get a dozen Top Pot doughnuts for Christmas morning. We were already discovering that many of the places were closed by Christmas Eve and were changing our plans on the fly. We actually went to Portage Bay twice; our first choice for Christmas Eve breakfast was closed and we went down the road to Portage Bay. Now here is what we learned: if you want an Egg Benedict dish, go to Fat Hen! Portage Bay is a good breakfast, but Fat Hen has much better with the Eggs Benedict. And of course, Serious Biscuit is an entirely different type of breakfast. Serious Biscuit shares space with Serious Pie at the Westlake location (cross street Harrison); they are open for breakfast, and Serious Pie takes over for later in the day. This has confused several people with whom I have talked because Serious Pie is also a small shop down on Virginia between 3rd and 4th. The Serious Biscuit shop is in the South Lake Union neighborhood.

For suppers, we were trying all new places; we also brought in Chinese for Christmas day. Christmas Eve was a pub visit to get the hamburger and fries; we went to Elliot Bay Brewing Company in the Lake City area. We then wandered downtown looking at the Christmas decorations and ended up at Molly Moon in the Queen Anne area- our original spot.

In August, we had tried to go to a Mexican Food place in Ballard with the name La Carta De Oaxaca, but it had been closed for the Labor Day weekend. It was open the day after Christmas and we went there. It opens at 5 PM, and we got there at about 5 minutes before 5 and there was a line waiting to get in. A good sign. And we can understand why. Its food is excellent and I can highly recommend it although it certainly got crowded fast when we were there. So either get there at opening time, or plan to wait a little for a table.

After supper, we walked a little to settle our food, but then had dessert just two doors down from the restaurant at a shop called Hot Cakes. They make those little cakes with the hot chocolate insides– we use to call them Lava Cakes. Very good, and a wonderful end to a perfect meal.

For Friday supper, I had chosen to go to Tom Douglas’s Lola restaurant. This restaurant has a Grecian theme to the menu. We started with kebabs as an appetizer; then for our main course we had the northwest seafood extravaganza and the spanakopita. We were full, and decided to skip dessert.

On Saturday, we took the trip north to see an area just south of Bellingham. There are a couple small communities named Bow and Edison. The post office seems to be Bow, so all the addresses are there, but Edison is interesting in its own right. It is the gateway to Samish Island, which seems more like a peninsula than an island. It is a getaway area with lots of access to the ocean. After driving around Samish Island we went back to Edison and ate at the Old Edison Inn; it was an excellent meal, and the Inn reminded us of years ago when we would visit the Flying Wing ranch in Willamina and on Saturday go into town and how Herb and Jay knew everyone and everyone stopped to say hello. The Inn seemed like the town meeting place.

Finally, on Sunday evening we got Mindy’s good steak- actually excellent steak. The University district mall has been expanding, and there is a place called Joey’s Kitchen to which we went. Since the Seahawks were playing, there were a lot of football fans watching the game on TV at the restaurant. After we ate, we walked around the mall for a few minutes, and then stopped at the newest of the Molly Moon parlors. This one measures up to the one in the Queen Anne district except that it is more crowded; the mall makes it easier for people to just stop by.

So that was my Seattle vacation; we found several new places to eat, and I think all of them are worth visiting again. I hope if you are going to be in the Seattle area, you will think about these restaurants as some of the possibilities about where to eat. And let me know if I have rated them too high in your opinion.

Errol