Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Some friends of our were getting together for a Sunday evening get together, nothing fancy, but of course we wanted to bring something tasty. Since it’s technically autumn (even though it’s 85 & humid here in SC), spiced cookies sounded delicious and with chocolate, you can’t go wrong, right? Spiced desserts are fun to make because we get to bake with some of our favorite spices like cardamom & cinnamon. Cardamom is used quite often in Turkish desserts, coffee, and chai, imparting a distinctive aromatic flavor that reminds us of being in Turkey a couple of years ago. Here’s a little piece of culinary trivia: cardamom is the 3rd most expensive spice behind vanilla and saffron.

The cookies themselves aren’t super sweet, but once you put that chocolaty goodness between two of them, lookout, they’ll go fast. Consider baking these and bringing them to Thanksgiving or Christmas, we know they’ll work well for either one. Also, have fun with cookie cutters, especially for holiday cookies. We don’t have any so instead we used the rim of a small wine glass.

Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients: 
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 6oz unsalted, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 jar chocolate almond/hazelnut spread (or any other delicious spread you prefer – ie Nutella)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients, except for sugar (flour through allspice) and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Next add the vanilla, followed by the 2 egg yolks.
  5. Then slowly, add the dry ingredients.
  6. Once well combined, form into a big ball of dough. Knead briefly, then divide into four equal portions.
  7. Roll each into a ball and then flatten into a pancake, roughly 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate as a ball, but may need a little longer to cool completely.)
  8. Using a rolling pin, roll out to 1/6th of an inch thick.
  9. Using cookie cutters or the mouth of a glass, cut into individual cookies. [We made fairly small cookies, given that once they were sandwiches, you’d really be eating two cookies! Our were 2 1/4 inches in diameter, but you do you!]
  10. Bake, on a silpat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet, for 7 minutes.
  11. Remove to a drying rack and allow to cool completely.
  12. While cookies are cooling, boil a few cups of water. Remove from heat once boiling and then set the jar of chocolate-almond spread (still in the jar!) into the pot. Don’t submerge the jar entirely! Let it sit for a few minutes until the spread warms a bit and is more easily spreadable.
  13. Once cookies are cooled and spread is warmed, spread a generous dollop of the chocolate almond spread in between two cookies. Set aside to cool again.
Makes 2-3 dozen sandwiches, depending on size
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Honey Baked Peaches

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You know those word association games/tests that psychologists (at least on TV) use to gain deep insight into your psyche? You know the one – they ask you to say the first word that pops into your mind when they say something seemingly innocuous like “mother” and then learn a lot about you depending on whether you reply with “love,” “lipstick,” “lazy,” or “laundry.” (Side note: this is not to say that those are my first four words for my mother; I was just going for some alliteration for your Sunday evening!) Well somehow I got to thinking about this in terms of dessert. If you were said imaginary psychologist and prompted me with “dessert,” these would be my words: “baking,” “oven,” “chocolate,” “sugar,” “sweet,” and “timer.” In my own self-psycho-analysis, I’ve concluded that I somehow only associate dessert with baked goods and a time-consuming process. This is, of course, not true at all. The moral of my story is that I need to branch out a little bit. (I played this game with Selim, and when I offered the word “dessert,” he immediately responded with “chocolate.”)

Tonight’s dessert is a perfect example. The prep-work is literally 2 minutes long, and you’re eating your dessert barely after you even thought about it! All you need is a couple peaches in your fruit bowl and a few standard pantry ingredients, and voila! You have a delicious dessert! Also, I think this is the perfect dessert to bridge summer and fall, aka the month of September. You’ve got the last of a your juicy summer peaches, but baked with some of your favorite fall flavors!

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Honey Baked Peaches

Ingredients: 
  • 2 peaches
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • Honey
Instructions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice peaches in half and remove the pit.
  3. Place cut side up on a foil-lined pie pan.
  4. Drizzle each peach half with some honey.
  5. Stir together all dry ingredients and then sprinkle over top each of the peach halves.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. After removing from the oven, drizzle with honey again!
  8. Serve as is or top with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream!
Serves 2-4

 

Strawberry Streusel Bars

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As we’ve mentioned before (see Mint Chocolate Bars), we like to bring a treats in for the staff when we finish a rotation. It’s the least we can do for the people who spend their time and effort training us! We’re not the only one’s who do this – but we do try to have the best treats! This means a little bit of variety from the standard brownies and chocolate chip cookies. It also mean a little bit of thinking, because I’m like everyone else – when I think of easy treats that everyone loves, my mind also immediately jumps to brownies and chocolate chip cookies! I’ve never made anything remotely like this before. (See previous comments about being intimidated by baking.) I found them to be fresh and summer-y. I think they’d be a great addition to a summer-time picnic or BBQ.

And they were a hit at the hospital today. I got rave reviews from everyone who tried them – hopefully they weren’t just being nice 😉😉 Side note – I ate mine chilled as they were after being cut, but I was informed by a few people that they warmed theirs back up before eating and highly recommended it!

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Strawberry Streusel Bars

(Adapted from this recipe here)
Ingredients: 
  • Base layer
    • 8 tbsp butter, softened
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 cup flour
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Strawberry layer
    • 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Streusel layer
    • 4 tbsp cold butter, chopped into small cubes
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

  2. Line an 8×8 inch square baking pan with aluminium foil or parchment paper. Spray lightly with a cooking spray.

  3. First make the base layer: Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined in a large bowl.

  4. Now slowly add the flour, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt until combined. (It may look a little crumbly, but it’ll be

  5. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan using your hands.

  6. Bake for 15 minutes.

  7. While the bottom layer is baking, make other two layers.

  8. For the strawberry layer: Stir together all ingredients for this layer and set aside.

  9. For the streusel topping: Using the hand-held mixer, mix all of these ingredients together. The mixture will be uneven.

  10. Once the bottom layer is done, remove the pan from the oven and turn up the oven to 350 degrees. Let it sit for just a few minutes before topping.

  11. Using a large spoon, layer the strawberry layer evenly over the base.

  12. Top with the streusel layer. This should look a bit messy/uneven.

  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

  14. Refrigerate until all the way cooled prior to slicing and serving.

Mint Chocolate Bars

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I had a great month of May in terms of a rotation I was doing for school. I loved it and learned so much! On my last day, I wanted to bring a little treat for the staff who taught me and worked with me for the past few weeks. I couldn’t decide what to make, but ruled out cookies because the hospital frequently provides trays of cookies that are pretty darn good. And I’m generally exhausted during the middle of the week, so I wanted to make something pretty simple. I came up with the idea for these, essentially extrapolating from a thought of Rice Krispy Treats! These are so easy to make and are delicious!! You can’t go wrong. You could easily throw these together for some sort of last minute get-together or other situation.

(Also. I forgot to take pictures. So all you get is a quick shot of the 2 bites I saved for Selim.)

Mint Chocolate Bars

Ingredients: 
  • 1 standard sized box of Mint Oreos
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 bag of large marshmallows (5 cups)
  • 20 pieces Andes candy, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. Place the Oreos in a large plastic bag and smash with a mallet. Don’t smash them too finely.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
  3. Once butter is melted, add the marshmallows and cover. Keep on low heat.
  4. Remove the lid every 3-4 minutes and stir. The marshmallows will melt and eventually combine with the butter.
  5. Once the butter and marshmallows are melted and combined, pour in the crushed Oreos. Working quickly, stir to coat the cookies in the marshmallow/butter. Remove from heat.
  6. Lastly, add the chopped Andes candy. They will quickly begin to melt. Stir ASAP to get the candy spread throughout.
  7. Scoop the mixture into a glass baking dish (8×8). Spread out evenly.
  8. Allow to cool entirely. Once cooled, slice with a sharp knife.
  9. Try not to eat them all before you share with friends!
Makes ~25-30 bars, obviously depending on how large you cut them.

Spiced Blueberry Pie

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So confession. We’re not really the big Valentine’s Day types. I feel like I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of girl when it comes to this. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day or go on long rants against the commercialism of the day. But I also don’t really love or expect a dozen red roses with a heart-shaped box of chocolates. No offense to those who fall in either camp! To each their own…

But the moral of my story is that I wanted my sweet-tooth husband to have a Valentine’s Day treat, without falling into a cliché. I preferred to make him something myself, so here we are! (Don’t judge me that it’s in fact two days after Valentine’s Day… We’ve been on opposite schedules – him working long days and me working nights.)

If you’re running late on your Valentine’s Day celebration, or maybe doing something smart like waiting for the weekend, here’s your alternative to a box of chocolates for your sweetheart (or Galentine’s Day girl’s night). This blueberry pie is a lot easier than I expected it to be. Pies intimidate me! (And all desserts, for that matter. I think I’ve mentioned that once or twice.) The dough was super-easy to make and the filling was just a matter of stirring a few times. This recipe was based on one in the mouth-watering cookbook Pie Love. Mine isn’t quite as pretty as the ones in those cookbook photos, but we’re here for the taste right? Tasty > pretty. Plus, I think this is the first pie I’ve ever made. I’ll perfect the prettiness maybe by the 50th.

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Spiced Blueberry Pie

(Recipe adapted from the cookbook, Pie Love)
Ingredients: 
Piecrust:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • Ice water (6-8 tbsp)
Filling:
  • 5 cups blueberries
  • 2/3 cup Grade A maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Additional brown sugar for sprinkling
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. To prepare the dough, initially place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir together.
  3. Add the butter in small pats. Turn on the stand mixer and mix until the ingredients begin to form crumbs.
  4. Add the water, tablespoon at a time, while the mixer remains on. Continue until the dough comes together and begins to form a ball.
  5. Turn the ball of dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Separate into two different sections, roughly 1/3 and 2/3 of the original ball.
  6. Take the 2/3s ball and roll it out into a round piece of dough, approximately 12 inches in diameter and 1/8th of an inch thick. Fit this piece of dough into a greased 9-10 inch pie pan.
  7. Chill the pie pan and the additional ball of dough (wrapped in plastic) in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
  8. Rinse your blueberries and drain.
  9. Place berries and maple syrup in a large pan. Turn heat on to medium. Stir in the spices, and salt. Add the butter in pats. As the butter is melting, slowly stir in the flour. Ensure it is well combined.
  10. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring nearly continuously. The mixture should slowly bubble and begin to thicken.
  11. While the filling is cooking, remove the pie pan from the refrigerator and bake for 5 minutes.
  12. Roll out the remaining piece of pie dough and slice into long strips.
  13. Pour the blueberry mixture into the piecrust.
  14. Top with the long strips of dough. {Try to do it better than I did ;)}
  15. Whisk together the egg and the vanilla. Brush over top of the pie.
  16. Sprinkle additional sugar over the top.
  17. Bake for 30 minutes. You should be able to see the filling bubbling.
  18. Allow to sit out for an hour prior to slicing and serving.

Butterfinger Cookies

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Do you have a favorite candy? Everyone does I assume. I have a few, depending on my mood. One of my perennial favorites is a Butterfinger though! There’s something about the delicious, crunchy, peanut-butter and chocolate taste that makes me happy despite the fact that they always get stuck in my teeth! Awhile back I spied a bag of Butterfinger baking pieces on the discount shelf at Kroger – 89¢!! That’s basically free candy in my mind. I’ve been waiting to use them. I sort of made up my own recipe from a sugar cookie based recipe. That’s a little dangerous – as I’ve mentioned, I’m not the best or most frequent baker in the entire world. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. Hope there are some other Butterfinger lovers out there who like them!

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Butterfinger Cookies

Ingredients: 
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups butterfinger pieces (they sell baking butterfinger pieces, or you could smash up whole candy bars)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat together butter, sugars, and peanut butter at medium speed (in your stand mixer or in a large glass bowl with a hand mixer).
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, beating until well-combined.
  4. In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt. Slowly add into the mixing bowl until it is all thoroughly mixed together.
  5. Stir in the butterfinger pieces by hand.
  6. Using two teaspoons, drop the cookie dough on a cookie sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray or covered with a silpat or similar.
  7. Bake for 12 minutes on the middle rack.
  8. Cool on a wire rack before eating. (Or eat right away because you love warm, gooey, fresh cookies and don’t care if you burn your tongue!)
Makes ~30-40 cookies.

Garam Masala Spiced Lemon Loaf

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A few weeks ago, I found this post from SweetMeets BakeShop. I was so intrigued by the idea of using garam masala in a sweet dessert that I kept coming back to it. I don’t bake a whole lot, but I’m always trying to get myself to do so. Turns out reading that post was the kick in the butt I needed to turn my oven on (thank you!). It didn’t hurt either that it’s finally starting to feel like fall around here. When it’s 90+ degrees out (ie: last week), the thought of turning the oven on for any length of time just sounds terrible.

And I’m glad that I did! This is a great treat to snack on. Thus far, I’ve eaten some for breakfast, for dessert, and for an afternoon snack. Don’t be put off by the idea of the garam masala in a sweet dish. It doesn’t taste like curry in a loaf… more like a spice cake with more depth of flavor. The only thing I will say is that I think next time I might try orange instead of lemon. I think the orange would go better with the rest of the flavors of the dish.

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Garam Masala Spiced Lemon Loaf

Adapted from SweetMeets BakeShop blog
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 2 lemons (zested and juiced)
    • 2 tsp zest
    • 4 tbsp juice, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp powdered sugar
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Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, white & brown sugars, baking soda, salt, garam masala, and 1 tsp of cinnamon) in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together the wet ingredients (all of the lemon zest, 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, eggs, milk, and oil).
  4. Slowly stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture, until well combined.
  5. Grease a loaf pan and then pour the dough into your pan.
  6. Back for 30 minutes, until a toothpick can be cleanly inserted and removed.
  7. Allow the loaf to cool.
  8. Prepare the icing. Place the powdered sugar and remaining 1 tsp of cinnamon into a small bowl. Stir in the remaining lemon juice. (You may not use all of the juice.) Resulting glaze should be thick, but able to drip off the back of a spoon.
  9. Using a spoon, drizzle your glaze onto the loaf.

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