Thursday, December 29, 2011

S'mores Cookies

This post has been a long time coming, due to end-of-semester business and subsequent illness. I rarely ever fail to be sick during the holidays. This case of bronchitis was more severe than usual - I can't remember the last time I had a triple-digit fever! Fortunately, I had no Christmas-specific recipes planned to blog about. These cookies did not suffer from the wait, since they are suitable for any chilly night, Christmas or not, in a snug armchair with a steaming mug of hot cocoa.

While these are easy cookies to make (just a normal cookie recipe, popped out of the oven a bit early to add the toppings, then popped back in), I did run into one hiccup. The cookies need to be removed from the oven while the middles are still squishy so that the chocolate and marshmallows will stick. I baked the first batch using my convection oven function, which usually turns out more consistent golden-brown cookies. But when I removed them after seven or eight minutes, the middles had already set to the point where I couldn't add any toppings. I switched to the normal oven settings for the next two batches, and even then they were a little firm at seven minutes, though I was able to add the toppings. The next time I make these, I will not rely on a timer, but rather watch for the appropriate level of doneness myself.

The fun part comes once the cookies are back in the oven, chocolated and marshmallowed. The marshmallows puff up with steam until they look like little balloons (see the last picture below), and then deflate as they cool, creating a neat bubbly effect (see the top picture above). I also think that it's cute that the Hershey's logo doesn't melt away in the oven. It makes for a more authentic s'more.

So whether you're gathered around an open fire or not, s'mores can be enjoyed all winter long. And unlike traditional s'mores, these cookies can be dipped into your hot cocoa for extra goodness!

S'mores Cookies
Slightly adapted from Obsessed with Baking.

1 3/4 c flour
1 c graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 c mini chocolate chips
miniature marshmallows (the recipe I used said 1 1/2 c, but it depends on how many you put on each cookie)
2 Hershey milk chocolate bars, roughly chopped

Whisk the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing until well combined. Slowly add the dry mixture, then stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray.

Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place onto the cookie sheets (you might want to spread yours out more than I did - I tend to crowd my pans, which can result in uneven baking).

Bake between 5-8 minutes (depending on your oven) until edges are set and middles are still moist. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and quickly top with chopped milk chocolate and mini marshmallows.

Return to the oven for another 2-3 minutes until cookies are fully baked. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cranberry Bread

Since posting about cranberry ketchup in October, I've quietly gone through at least five pounds of fresh New Jersey cranberries. When I spy that bin at the farmers market, I can't contain myself. I need more of the jewel-like berries that keep so nicely in my refrigerator or freezer. And because I keep buying them, I have to come up with tasty cranberry-laden recipes to try.

I thought a nice quick bread would be a great way to enjoy some of my stash, but when I started looking through recipes, most required ingredients I didn't have on hand (namely oranges). I'm not a huge fan of cranberry-orange anyway. I thought I was going to have to make something up myself . . . then I found this recipe from Martha Stewart. Martha clearly knew what I was looking for - not an insipid little loaf with a handful of sweetened, dried cranberries, but one packed with bright, fresh fruits. It makes for a very tart, but satisfying, final product. And since it's rather low-cal (without trying to be - those cranberries take up a lot of space), it's one holiday treat you won't feel guilty about!

Cranberry Bread
Adapted from Martha Stewart.

4 tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 c flour
1 c light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
3/4 c milk
12 oz cranberries (fresh or frozen, not dried - and don't forget to pick them over to remove any stems or rotten berries)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In another bowl (I actually prefer to do this in my pyrex measuring cup - I measure out the milk, then add everything else to it), combine the egg, milk and butter. Pour the wet mixture onto the dry mixture and stir to combine. Fold in cranberries.

Coat a loaf pan with baking spray. Spoon the dough into the loaf pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 75 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes or so, then remove to a wire rack. Enjoy!