Cookies

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies

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Nothing beats chocolate. At least that’s what I’m telling myself, now that these little whoopie pies came in second place at the holiday bake-off to – you guessed it – a batch of chocolate chocolate chip espresso cookies. Somehow, no matter how perfectly baked or spiced a dessert might be, it just can’t compete with the rich, creamy, crowd-pleasing flavors of chocolate.

However, competitions aside, these little treats really do hold their own in the winter baking rotation. Made up of two layers of moist gingerbread glued together with a citrusy, cream cheese frosting, these pies are refreshing and packed with a little punch of spice.

And what’s more, they are incredibly cute. Rarely do I get preoccupied with the appearance of dessert (after all, we can all agree that flavor is more important), but just look at these little whoopie pies perched next to one another!

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Most importantly, don’t be intimidated by their almost perfect shape – that’s a result of the recipe, not by baking skill. Somehow, irregular dollops of batter dropped hastily onto the pan turn into perfectly round, poufy pies you’ll want to share with everyone around you.

Not in the mood to share? You might want to halve the recipe. Either way, be prepared! This recipe produces quite a few pies.

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies Recipe (adapted from “King Arthur Flour“)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Icing (adapted from “Saving Dessert“)

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened and cut into chunks
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices) in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the butter and sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth, about three minutes.
  4. Beat in the egg, mixing until just combined.
  5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients, followed by the molasses and buttermilk, and then the remaining dry ingredients.
  6. Using a spoon, scoop out a teaspoonful of batter and drop it on the prepared baking sheet. Continue with remaining batter, leaving at least one inch in between each drop to account for spreading during baking.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Test for doneness by pressing pies lightly – they should spring back when fully baked. Remove from oven and let cool completely before icing.
  8. Make the icing: Beat butter and confectioners sugar together, adding confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Add cream cheese, followed by vanilla and lemon zest. Beat on medium until mixture is smooth.
  9. Assemble cookies: Using a knife, spread a heaping teaspoon of icing onto the flat side of half of the pies. Top off with an un-iced pie, flat side down.
Cookies

Chocolate Chip Macaroons

I’ll admit it – this recipe is coming down the pipeline a little bit late. While I would have liked to post it before Passover, so that friends and family could impress their peers with these delicious mounds of goodness, time was not on my side.

However, all hope is not lost. While macaroons have a reputation for being the “Passover cookie,” they are under appreciated at all other times of the year. I’ll take this moment to point out that that they make a gift for a gluten-free friend, or for any die-hard coconut lover.

This recipe also defies all stereotypes about these little coconut mounds. While many of us probably have negative associations with macaroons after gnawing down on the spongy cakes that came out of aluminum tin cans, these cookies are different.  They are rich, moist, and sure to win over even your pickiest of guests.

Chocolate Chip Macaroon Recipe (adapted from The Kitchn)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the egg whites a large bowl and whisk on medium speed until frothy (1-2 minutes). Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk again until incorporated.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and coconut and stir until the coconut is evenly coated with the egg mixture.
  4. Using your hands or a spoon, mold the coconut mixture into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops of the macaroons are golden brown.
  6. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.
Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Fruit and Nuts

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This is by far my most requested cookie recipe. It pushes the boundaries of a traditional oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, including nuts for added crunch and dried fruit for a hint of tartness.

It’s also shamelessly good looking. The dough spreads evenly every time, creating a cookie that is perfectly shaped and golden-brown.  If you’re looking to really “wow” a crowd, these cookies look like they came straight off a bakery shelf.

Lastly, these cookies make a great gift.  Because of their size, they’re pretty sturdy and can stand up to some shifting in the mail.  Their texture is also favorable to shipping, and they’ll still be crispy a few days after baking.

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For this batch, I decided to experiment a bit with the add-ins.  I split the oat-filled dough in half, adding walnuts and cranberries to one half and cherries and pecans to the other. Both varieties were popular, although I’m impartial to the sweet and sour combination of chocolate and dried cherries.

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To extend your enjoyment of these cookies, just roll up a few balls of dough and stick them in the freezer. When you’re in the mood for warm, crunchy, delicious cookies, place the frozen dough on a cookie sheet and stick it in the oven.  You’ll have fresh cookies in no time!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Fruit and Nuts (adapted from Cooks Illustrated):

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup nuts (I used 1/2 cup pecans, 1/2 cup walnuts)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1/2 cup dried cranberries)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine softened butter and light brown sugar.  Beat on medium speed for about one minute, until the batter is smooth.  Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for about 30 seconds more.  Slowly fold in the flour mixture and mix on low until combined.
  4. With a rubber spatula, stir in the oats, chocolate chips, dried fruit, and nuts.
  5.  Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter out of the bowl and roll it into equal sized balls.  Place balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake cookies for about 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan in the middle of baking.
  6. Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
Cookies

“Healthy” Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies

As many teachers will attest, working with students all day is tough.  Mix that with the long hours (and the early wake up call) and all the sudden there isn’t much time for anything else.  This was true for me my first year out of college, and unfortunately spending time in the kitchen was one of the first things to go. While I was able to resist Trader Joe’s entrees and frozen pizzas in favor of quick stir fries, baking was left largely for special occasions.

However, my neighbor downstairs was an exception to this rule.  She would often come upstairs bearing plates of hot cookies, and there was nothing better than her mom’s recipe for “healthy” chocolate chip cookies.  Whether or not these are actually good for you is probably a matter for debate, but after one bite few people will need convincing.

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Either way, the blend of different flours (oat, almond, and wheat) make these cookies taste truly unique. The hazelnuts add an extra element of flavor, although they can be substituted with other nuts if necessary (walnuts and pecans would work well I think).

And, while the list of dry ingredients looks daunting, its definitely worth the effort. Any leftover almond meal can be used in many other recipes (crumbles, crisps, muffins) and the oat flour can be made easily by processing old fashioned oats in a blender or food processor. If you are feeling particularly ambitious, double the dry ingredients and save half of the mixture in the pantry for later.

“Healthy” Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookie Recipe 

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put oats in a blender and grind until fine.  Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (ground oats, flour, almond meal, wheat germ, salt, and baking soda) and set aside.
  3. Beat butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium until fluffy.  Add canola oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and creamy.
  4. With the stand mixer on low, add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined.
  5. Stir in hazelnuts and chocolate chips.
  6. Roll cookie dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on a buttered cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.
  7. Enjoy!