Southern Belles

Northern cooks can make ‘em too!

Better Half and I visited friends to help them put a roof on a rental home they own.  Well, let me clarify: Better Half was going to help with a roof and I was playing around with my buddy C.   These Southern Belles (courtesy of my cookbook Sassafras)  are my contribution to the good folks that volunteered to roof.  It takes maybe five minutes to prepare these caramel morsels.  I also made a few snide comments to some of the guys—those count as contributions too. . . .

C and I had a blast.  We shopped in a little Ozark town and played around on their 100 acres.  We went on a golf ball hunt, (the men love to see how far they can hit the golf balls) which sort of reminded me of an Easter Egg hunt.  Not surprisingly, I found very few while C found a sackful!  We walked around the property quite a bit and listened to the beautiful sound of the water rushing through their cave.  The cave is huge and amazing; archaeologists have visited to find and document Indian artifacts.   C’s husband is awesome at finding arrowheads in the creek and cave.  We played multiple games of dominoes, marbles, and gin rummy.  We made homemade feta and mozzarella cheeses, as well as visiting their workshop where we gals utilized saws, drills, and other myriad “manly” tools and crafted something special for my knitting. . . . (another post!).

We had a lot of fun cooking loads of food for the men and talking until the wee hours.  Oh, we also damaged a few items: an antique chair from France (honestly, I don’t weigh that much!) and C’s thumb (which I’m sure will grow back together.  Thank God she’s an RN!).

Southern Belles

2 c flour
1¾ c packed light brown sugar
1 c butter, softened
1½ to 2 c whole pecans
1½ c chocolate (semi, milk, etc.) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix flour, 1 c brown sugar and ½ c butter until crumbly.  Press on bottom of ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Sprinkle with single layer of pecans.  Combine remaining butter and brown sugar in small saucepan and boil one minute.  Pour over pecans (making a thin layer).  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until caramel layer bubbles.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips, gently spreading as chocolate melts.  Cool and cut into bars.

Enjoy y’all!

Cranberry-Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whole-wheat cookie: why?

In my ongoing quest to eat (and cook) more healthfully, I’ve been perusing Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007.  When I saw these cookies I decided I would (as is typical in my world ) slightly tweak the already pretty darn healthful recipe and try out a batch with Better Half being the designated guinea pig.  He’s very truthful (as is my friend R) about telling me if something is thumb’s up or thumb’s down.  I gotta be honest; when I first saw the cookies come out of the oven I thought what a dud, but it turns out they’re pretty tasty!  My changes to the original recipe are in red and, seriously, eight hours in the fridge?  I like fairly instant gratification–two hours is sufficient!

If you’re on Weight Watchers, these little gems are only 2 points a cookie–not too shabby, eh?

Cranberry-Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

¾ c all-purpose flour
¾ c white whole-wheat flour
¾ c regular oats
½ t baking powder
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
¼ c dried cranberries
2½ T finely chopped walnuts pecans
1 T sunflower seeds
2½ T semisweet chocolate minichips
¾ c packed brown sugar
5 T butter, softened
2 T honey
¾ t vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
Cooking spray Parchment Paper

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flours, oats, baking powder, and the next 5 6 ingredients (through chips) in a large bowl.  Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add honey, vanilla, egg, and egg white; beat well.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate 8 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray covered with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10 12 minutes.  Cool 2 minutes on pans.  Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.  Makes 36 cookies.

I’m feel healthier already!

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Gooey Meets Crunchy

Since I’ve been on my kick to eat better, get in shape, blah, blah, I haven’t been cooking as usual.  I’ve been jonzing for butter and chocolate.  Enter these amazing cookies.  Don’t be put off by the peppers.  I dislike black pepper but do like cayenne, paprika, chili, etc.; black pepper=ick.  This recipe is courtesy of Cooking Light, but these cookies taste anything but light.  They’re crispy on the outside and fudgy-gooey on the inside with a hint of cinnamon and a little unexpected kick.   Better Half, a man of few words, was very vocal in his admiration, and we’ve decided this is our new favorite !

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

5 ounces bittersweet (60%-70%) chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth.  Cool to room temperature.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); stir with a whisk.

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes).  Add egg; beat well.  Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended.  Add flour mixture; beat just until blended.  Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.  Bake for 10 minutes or until almost set.  Remove from oven.  Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set.  Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.  Optional:  sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar.

Millionaire Shortbread w/ a Twist

A Twix in Disguise

I needed a dessert for company, and after perusing the internet for a bit, I kept seeing posts for Millionaire Shortbread. Never heard of it, but was intrigued after several bloggers likened it to a Twix Bar.  Whoa Nellie!  I’m so a fan of anything in the chocolate candy aisle that I decided this recipe must have been heaven-sent just for me.  It’s a shortbread base, with an embarrassingly easy caramel filling, and to top it off, a lovely chocolate ganache.

Virtually all the recipes were identical with the exception either making a 9″ x 13″ pan of shortbread or basically the recipe being cut in half to make a 9″ x 9″ pan.  Of course, I opted for the bigger version. . . .

I used my easy trick of making shortbread in my food processor (pulse, pulse, done!) and then pressing it into the pan.  Easy peasy.  Made the embarrassingly easy caramel, spread it over the shortbread and popped it into the fridge overnight.  The next morning I made the chocolate ganache and while making it suddenly decided the “Twist” needed to be some freshly grated orange zest.  Mmmm.

Millionaire Shortbread w/ a Twist

½ cup sugar
2-½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2-½ cups all-purpose flour (KAF)
1 large egg yolk
⅛ tsp salt
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (Scharffen Berger)
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Zest of one orange
⅛ tsp orange extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter bottom and sides of 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
Place first five ingredients in food processor and pulse until the consistency of wet sand.  Using your hands and fingers, gently press dough into baking pan.  Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Place condensed milk in large microwave-safe bowl. Cook on 50% power for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cook on 30% power for approximately 10 minutes (stirring every 2-3 minutes) or until the milk is thick and caramel colored.  Stir the milk until smooth and pour over shortbread.  Refrigerate until cool or overnight.

In double boiler (or in glass bowl set over simmering water) combine chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Stir mixture and once chocolate has melted, add orange zest and extract, and stir until smooth.  Pour ganache on top of caramel and spread gently to all sides.  Place in refrigerator and chill for approx. one hour.  Allow shortbread to stand at room temperature for approx. 30 minutes for easier cutting.

Cinnamon Basil Shortbread Cookies

A friend sent me a recipe last week for lemon shortbread cookies that sounded incredibly decadent, but a little time-consuming for a self-imposed ADD cook.   Plus, while I adore lemon, the last few days I’ve had this vision in my head utilizing my cinnamon basil, which has been begging me to actually quit having only visions and to let it do its job.

Last night I had a EUREKA! moment.  When I say last night, I pretty much mean this morning.  I am not lying when I say that I think I have come up with the World’s fastest, easiest, delicious shortbread recipe.  I started it at 11:45 pm and by 12:07 am the entire kitchen was cleaned up and I was curled up on the couch reading.  I’m not lying.  Seriously.  And get this: these cookies rock.  They actually don’t just rock, they rock and roll.  I feel bad Better Half is not here to try these delectable, delicate morsels of yumminess.  I’m not sure what made me realize that everything could just be thrown into the food processor and mixed together in less than a minute, but I make my pie crust that way, so it made sense to me.  The additional of cornmeal was just a lark.  An 1/8 cup is not a lot, but it definitely adds another dimension to the shortbread, but it’s a pretty yellow color which looks good against the green flecks of the basil.

I’m taking them to a friend’s house for lunch where yet another friend (a self-confessed “Basil Wh*^e”–his words, not mine!) will be joining us, and I’m hoping these cookies will win over both these healthy, skinny people!  In fact, I think I will drop by another friend’s house on my way; she’s an excellent cook and sometimes unfortunately for me, brutally honest.  I’m not worried; I think I have a winner here.

Try these, and tell me if you don’t think these are the World’s Easiest and Best Shortbread Cookies Ever!

Cinnamon Basil Shortbread Cookies

2 cups all-purpose (I use unbleached) flour

1/8 cup fine ground cornmeal

10 fresh cinnamon-basil leaves (+/-, depend. on your need for cinnamon basil)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon basil flowers, opt.

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1 egg

Place first nine ingredients (everything but egg) into food processor and pulse until mixture resembles sand (see below pic).  Add egg and pulse, scraping sides of bowl if necessary, until egg is incorporated into mixture.  Form dough into a log about 2” in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut dough into 1/4″ slices and bake 7-10 minutes until bottom only of cookie is light golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.  Makes about 2.5 dozen cookies.

Flecks of cinnamon basil in sandy dough mixture

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