Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

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Turtles — although slightly misleading in name — have always been one of my favorite chocolates, but I haven’t had one in years. I’m a huge fan of caramel, chocolate, and pecans, and turtles have all of these wrapped in one delicious bite. So when I found this recipe for turtle thumbprint cookies on Handle the Heat (an AWESOME food blog — seriously, go check it out), I knew I had to try it.

Although there are a lot of steps in the recipe, it’s actually pretty easy: the cookies have a bunch of components, but all are super simple to make: the dough comes together fast, and the caramel filling uses pre-made caramels, so it’s just a matter of combing with cream and melting. The only change I would recommend is the method for piping the chocolate drizzle on top: you don’t need to use a pastry bag of any kind — just dip a fork in the melted chocolate and shake it over the cookies (on a parchment paper, of course). It sounds like a weird method on paper, but, trust me, it works.

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The result is delicious, and these disappeared right away. Despite having a lot of sweet components, the recipe is well-balanced and not overwhelming. The cookie is actually pretty neutral (in terms of sweetness), so it’s a good base for the gooey caramel and chocolate drizzle, as well as the crunchy pecans. If you’re a fan of turtles — or just plain awesome cookies — give these a try! If I can make them (and I’m terrible at baking cookies), these are pretty much foolproof.

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Here’s the recipe, slightly modified, via Handle the Heat:

Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped (NB: I found that I needed a little extra, so keep that in mind)

For the Caramel Thumbprint:

  • 16 unwrapped caramel squares
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • Fleur de sel, or other flaked sea salt, for sprinkling, optional

For the Chocolate Drizzle:

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening

 

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Directions

For the cookies:

  1. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until well combined and fluffy. Add in the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract. Reserve the egg white in a separate container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until combined. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, or until the dough is chilled and firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  4. Lightly beat the reserved egg white. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball in the egg white, then roll in the pecans, pressing lightly to coat well. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly press down the center of each ball with your thumb.
  5. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until set. Set the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let cool until just warm.

For the caramel:

  1. While the cookies are baking, combine the caramel squares and cream in a small saucepan set over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.
  2. When the cookies are warm, press down the center of each cookie again with your thumb or the opposite end of a wooden spatula. Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of caramel into each thumbprint. Sprinkle the caramel with Fleur de sel to taste. Let cool completely.

For the chocolate drizzle:

  1. In a small heat-safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips and oil in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Using a fork, dip the tips of the fork into the chocolate and shake the chocolate out over the cookies. Make sure to use a layer of parchment paper to catch the excess chocolate. Let the chocolate set before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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Momofuku Milk Bar’s “Crack Pie”

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For those of you who have never experienced Momofuku (literal meaning: “Lucky Peach”) in New York City, don’t miss out on it next time your in town. It’s one of my friend’s favorite restaurants (the restaurants are noodle bars but also serve lots of other goodies), so I inevitably stop there every time we spend time in Manhattan. And the only thing that’s better, really, than the noodle bar is their dessert shop — or, the Momofuku Milk Bar (fun fact: there’s also one in Toronto, along with six locations in New York).

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Everything they serve is literally addictive. (Hence, the name “Crack Pie” for one of their bestselling pies). They sell cookies, cakes, pies, and fro-yo, all in unconventional but AWESOME flavor combinations — this is not your typical bakery! Christina Tosi, the brilliant chef/mastermind behind Milk Bar is definitely doing something right.

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Milk Bar’s “Crack Pie” is difficult to describe: it is composed of an oat cookie crust and the filling is made with butter, brown sugar, and powdered milk — so it’s essentially a creamy, buttery filling, but doesn’t taste too caramelly. Take my word for it, though: it’s delicious, and very rich. It also stores well, aka it’s perfect for holidays. When I saw the recipe posted on Bon Appétit, I knew I had to try making it myself — and it was very easy! There’s a bit of wait time in the fridge (for the filling to firm up), but otherwise it’s a very simple and straightforward recipe with simple ingredients. Anyway, I’ve posted it below:

Ingredients

Oat Cookie Crust

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Directions

Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
  2. Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

Filling

  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.
  2. Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.

Enjoy!

My Favorite Baklava

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Hello, readers! Sorry it’s been a while. I’m in the midst of finals at the moment (read: procrastinating on my philosophy paper), but I’ll be able to catch up on all the posting I’ve missed soon…and thank you ALL for your lovely comments (and emails)! I read all of them — they really do make my day, and I promise I will try to respond to everyone as soon as I can.

Here I’m posting my favorite baklava recipe. This stuff is so good that my aunt was sneaking it out in napkins during our family’s annual Christmas party. If you’ve never been a baklava fan, I hope you still give this a try — it’s made with walnuts and rosewater (as opposed to pistachios and honey) and is divine when served cold so that the sugars all have adequate time to soak in. I’m a bit of a connoisseur of baklava — I’ve tried baklava at every restaurant I’ve been to that serves it, and nothing has even come close to this.

This is a Lebanese recipe, and you can find it buried in this ancient New York Time’s article (1989 what up), but I’ve also reproduced it below, with a few edits that really help simplify the process. Making baklava may seem intimidating, but I promise — it’s one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. You need to be patient and thorough, but otherwise no special skills are required! See my pointers below before you begin if you’re hesitant.

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Some tips for making baklava:

  • Make sure you butter thoroughly between every layer of phyllo. There is no such thing as too much butter! (Also, if you don’t use enough, the pieces will flake apart). Also be sure to give the corners special attention.
  • Use a glass/pyrex dish — it makes baking and clean up super easy.
  • Baklava stores at room temperature for days — just be sure to cover with aluminum foil/cling-wrap/etc.
  • If you can’t find rose water, you can also substitute orange blossom water (although I don’t really see how that would be any easier to find). You can usually find both in specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods, etc. If all else fails, you can order online (I promise, it’s totally worth it).
  • To thaw the phyllo dough, simply place it in the fridge the night before you plan on making the baklava. This will ensure that the sheets are not too brittle or too thawed, and will be easiest to handle! Sometimes they can still become a little flaky, though — not to worry! Just patch up the layers as best you can (with butter, of course) and the baklava will be just as delicious.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist about clarifying the butter. It will taste the same in the end.

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Ingredients:

For the syrup:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons rose water

For the pastry:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons rose water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 16-oz. package frozen phyllo pastry, thawed (should contain 2 separate rolls of pastry)

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Directions:

  1. To make sugar syrup, boil together sugar and water for about 2 minutes over high heat, being careful it does not burn or boil over. Just before removing from heat, stir in the rose water. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. To make the pastry, first clarify the butter. Melt in a pan over gentle heat. Spoon off the milky froth that rises to the top and the solid residue that settles to the bottom. One pound of butter should yield about 1 1/2 cups clarified butter. You can pour the butter into a mug for ease of use later on.
  3. Place walnuts and rose water in bowl of food processor and process in spurts until walnuts are minced. (The rose water helps keep walnuts from getting oily.) Add sugar and process briefly to mix well.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on a work surface. Open phyllo pastry and spread on the surface.
  6. Using the clarified butter and a pastry brush or clean paintbrush, butter a 10- by 14-inch baking pan liberally, bottom and sides. Place one sheet of phyllo pastry in bottom of pan. Butter surface of pastry. Proceed with the remaining sheets, buttering each one, until you have used about half the sheets in the box (aka one package). The phyllo sheets may be somewhat crowded in the pan, folded up a little along the sides and at each end. Be sure to butter the corners of the pastry.
  7. Distribute the walnut mixture over the pastry in an even layer.
  8. Place the remaining phyllo sheets over the walnut mixture, again buttering liberally between each layer. When all the sheets have been used, cut the pastry with a sharp knife lengthwise into strips about 1 inch wide, then on the diagonal to make diamonds. Be sure to cut right down through to the bottom of the pan. Pour any remaining clarified butter over the top of the pastry.
  9. Place in oven for 30 minutes, then raise temperature to 425 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown on top. Remove from oven and immediately pour cold syrup over hot pastry. Set aside to cool to room temperature before serving.

Let me know if you end up trying this recipe — it’s one of my favorites, and I’ve made it more times than I can count. If you like Middle Eastern/Greek food or simply awesome pastry desserts, you’ll love this stuff. (And sorry I don’t have more photos of the actual process…I realize in retrospect that would have been helpful for this recipe.)

Also, I’ll be posting more in a week or so…look out for some more DIY and travel posts next!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This is an unconventional twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie, made with rich chocolate chunks, cinnamon, and a hint of orange. The result is a sophisticated, unexpected, and totally delicious cookie. The recipe also uses a combination of bread flour and cake flour in lieu of your typical all-purpose, which ensures that your cookies will be perfectly chewy and won’t fall flat in the oven, no matter what you do during the baking process to mess them up. Enjoy!!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

(adapted from Chasing Delicious)

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 4 ounces bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 4 oz pecans (1 heaping cup whole), roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons zest from an orange

Directions:

  1. Preheat a conventional oven to 375 degrees or a convection oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars together in a bowl. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
  3. Add each egg one at a time, mixing well after adding.
  4. Add the vanilla and orange juice. Mix well.
  5. Add the flours, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon to the bowl and mix until the batter comes together.
  6. Before adding the extras, mix the nuts, chocolate, and zest well in a bowl. This ensures the orange zest is evenly distributed.
  7. Add the extras (nuts, chocolate, zest) to the batter and mix in until it is evenly distributed.
  8. Place tablespoon-sized blobs of cookie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  9. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes until cookies are golden.

Super Chocolate Cookies

These chocolate cookies are delicate and delicious. I’ve never had much luck baking cookies — I inevitably overbake the first batch and undercook the second, and can never get the recipe just right. These were no exception, but they were still chewy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The trick is to use excellent cocoa powder for the most chocolate-y cookies possible. I used extra dark European cocoa, and the result was a very dark cookie that tasted incredible.

Below is the recipe I started with, from FoodNetwork.com. As suggested by several reviewers, I added 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to the recipe because I didn’t have Dutch process cocoa powder on hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • white sanding sugar, for garnish
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, add the butter and sugar and cream together with a hand mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the mixture and mix until combined.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and continue mixing until incorporated.
  3. Roll the dough into 2 logs that are about 2 inches high and 1 foot long. Wrap them in waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Once thoroughly chilled, slice the cookies into 1/2-inch thick rounds and cover with sanding sugar. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
I ended up chilling the dough overnight, using regular granulated sugar instead of sanding sugar, and sprinkling with powdered sugar at the end.