Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Are you all set for Christmas? Are your gifts wrapped? Cards in the mail? Cookies baked? Or, are you looking for just one more treat to make? If so, you should try these Chocolate Truffle Cookies.  They are chocolaty without being overly sweet thanks to the addition of unsweetened chocolate, which helps to offset the sweetness of the semi-sweet chocolate and sugar.

One thing you will definitely need to make these cookies is time. Once the batter is made it needs to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours so it can become firm enough to handle, but, it’s worth the time. The final result is a cookie similar to a truffle, firm on the outside and soft on the inside.

These cookies were part of a box of treats I mailed to a friend. Included in the box were the Chocolate Covered Pretzels and Candied Nuts I posted about earlier this week. Also included were Peanut Butter Blossoms. All wonderful homemade treats to gift to anyone on your list and can easily be made this last weekend before Christmas.

 

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Ingredients:

12oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

 

Directions:

In a microwave, melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips, unsweetened chocolate and butter; stir until smooth and let cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until well blended. Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat this into the chocolate mixture. Once fully incorporated stir in the remaining chocolate chips.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop, scoop the dough (it will be quite firm) and then roll into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies have puffed and are set. Cool on the pan for 3 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Freezing Cookie Dough

I knew I would be pressed for time this year when it came to baking cookies for Christmas, so, I decided to do something I’ve never done before and was always skeptical of doing… freezing cookie dough. I normally have a good day or two to bake, but, the way things are falling this year I am only going to have one good full day to bake all of my cookies and I just knew that it wouldn’t be enough time due to the fact that I have a few other things to take care of that day as well. So, currently there are about 6 or 7 different batches of drop cookies in my freezer along with the dough for these Checkerboard Cookies . And, there is also a batch of Gingerbread People ready to be popped in the oven. I also went out and purchased some extra-large baking sheets. I am sure you have seen them, the Wilton Mega-Sized Baking Sheet. As you can tell, I am serious about baking these cookies in record time.

So, let’s talk about freezing cookie dough. Were or are some of you skeptical like me about it? Or, is it something you have been doing for years and are shocked to read my apprehension about it? The best cookies to freeze are drop cookies and slice and bake cookies. You can also freeze the dough for roll out cookies (sugar cookies, gingerbread people, etc.), but, I would suggest rolling out the dough and cutting it into your desired shapes first and then freezing it. That’s exactly what I did with the Gingerbread ones. Using a freezer-safe container, I lined it with two pieces of plastic wrap lengthwise and widthwise leaving a few inches of overhang. I layered the cookies in the containers making sure they were flat and placed a piece of parchment paper between each layer and on the top layer. Once filled, I wrapped the plastic wrap over the top layer making sure to press out any air. Topped the container with the cover and placed it in the freezer. You could freeze the entire disk of dough as well, but, I personally think that the time spent waiting for it to defrost would be better spent just making the dough to use immediately. My plan for these is to let them thaw a little and then press mini M&M’s into them before baking and then ultimately decorating them with royal icing.

 

Back to the drop cookies and slice and bake variety…. For the drop cookies I simply made the dough, rolled the dough into balls (scooping it with a cookie scoop) and then placed it on a baking sheet. Since the dough was going in the freezer and not in the oven I was able to place the dough really close together on the baking sheet. I just made sure none of them were touching which could ultimately lead to them freezing together. I then placed the sheet in the freezer for a few hours until the dough was thoroughly frozen. Once frozen, I transferred the dough to a freezer-safe plastic zip bag. I labeled the outside of the bag with the type of cookie it was. Since I wasn’t planning on leaving it in the freezer too long I opted not to include the date, oven temperature and baking time on the bag as well. The suggested length of time for leaving dough in the freezer is 3 months. I actually baked a batch of one of the cookies this weekend and I am happy to say it was a success. To bake them, I placed the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet 1 to 2 inches apart and increase the suggested baking time by 1 to 2 minutes to account for the dough being frozen. The cookies baked perfectly and tasted like I had just made the dough that morning. That’s really what my fear was (and still is to a certain extent), that the cookies will somehow have a weird flavor from the dough being frozen.

 

For the slice and bake cookies, you can follow your directions and form the dough into a log, wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap, place it in a freezer-safe bag that has been labeled and then freeze it. It’s not necessary to refrigerate the dough prior to freezing as most slice and bake cookies require prior to slicing. To bake these cookies, let the dough sit at room temperature unwrapped for 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should feel cold to the touch, but soft enough that you will be able to slice it. Slice and bake per the directions, once again adding an additional minute or two to the time.

Since my test batch was a success I am little less unnerved by the process. Fingers crossed I will still be singing high praises come Sunday when I bake quite a few more batches.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

Sweet & Salty is as good a combination as you can get and there’s no better way to get satisfy that craving for both than with chocolate covered pretzels. If you’re looking for a last minute treat to give your loved ones this Holiday season these may be the answer. You only need three ingredients to make them, pretzels, chocolate and a topping (if you choose). Now, when I’ve made chocolate covered pretzels in the past I’ve used the mini pretzel twists and while they taste good I always have an issue with getting the excess chocolate to drip off… It never does. I never end up with pretzels that are nice and evenly coated with chocolate, there is always one or two spots that has a little too much. As I mentioned, they taste good, but, I am just not 100% happy with how they look. This year, I decided I would make chocolate dipped pretzels rods rolled in sprinkles. Figuring that the sprinkles could easily cover any imperfections with the chocolate. Which it did!

Now, I know a lot of directions for chocolate covered pretzels call for a bit of shortening to be added to the chocolate when melting, I have never done this. From what I have read the shortening creates a smoother and more manageable consistency of chocolate – which I suppose would be ideal for the chocolate covered pretzel twists – but, I have also read that it can alter the flavor of the chocolate and that sometimes the chocolate doesn’t harden as well, so I stick with plain old chocolate. If I find that the chocolate is beginning to thicken too much while I am working with it I pop it back in the microwave for a quick 10 seconds just to get it smooth again. Not much longer because I don’t want to scorch the chocolate. Oh, and I melt my chocolate in the microwave as well. I have melted chocolate in my own make-shift double boiler – I place a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water – but, I find the microwave quicker and with less clean-up. I simply pour a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl (I normally use a silicone one) and heat it for 1 minute. I give it a good stir and continue melting the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring the chocolate between each zap in the microwave. I don’t melt the chocolate completely in the microwave. Once it begins to melt stirring it will help melt the rest of the chocolate into a smooth mixture. For dipping pretzel rods you want to use a small bowl that is pretty deep so you can get a lot of the pretzel rods coated in the chocolate. As you go along and find yourself with less and less chocolate but pretzel rods remaining you can use a spoon/knife to spread the chocolate on to the rod.

Once the chocolate is ready I pour my sprinkles onto a rimmed baking sheet and push them to the center of the pan. Using a baking sheet will make it easy to roll the pretzel rods in the sprinkles. I set up another baking sheet with wax paper to place the rods on once they are dipped and sprinkled. And then I simply dipped a rod into the chocolate and then rolled it in the sprinkles. I then placed it on the wax lined paper so it could set and once I was done I placed the entire pan in the refrigerator to be sure that the chocolate would harden.

Here are some tips that may help you get a good coating of chocolate on your pretzels… If you have too much chocolate and it’s just not dripping off use a butter knife to smooth it out, or, another pretzel rod. I did the latter a few times. I simply rolled the pretzels next to each other over the bowl to coat the one without the chocolate. For those rods that I wasn’t planning on rolling in sprinkles I actually rolled it on a sheet of wax paper to smooth the chocolate out and then placed them in the refrigerator so the chocolate could harden and then drizzled them with the red and green chocolate the following day. To do so, I melted candy melts and then poured it in squeeze bottles and drizzled the chocolate over the pretzels and once again placed the sheet back in the refrigerator so the drizzle could harden.

My apologies for not having step-by-step pictures, but, I made these late at night (a lot later than I had planned since my car decided to act up that day and I had to be towed from work to the mechanic and then have a friend bring me home… thankfully my car was fixed and back on the road the following day!) and I have learned that late-night pictures are not good for blogging!

So, to recap, all you need for these Chocolate Covered Pretzels is a bag of pretzel rods (I used a 12oz bag that had about 30 good (unbroken) pretzel rods), a 12oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and to decorate sprinkles, candy melts, chopped nuts or coconut. You will also need wax paper, at least 3 baking sheets and a bowl to melt and dip the chocolate.

Happy Dipping & Rolling!

Rainbow Cookie Cake

This cake might be a stretch as a holiday cake, but, since I normally make Rainbow Cookies around the holidays I figured a Rainbow Cookie Cake would be a nice addition as a holiday cake. It definitely has a bit of a wow factor and it’s much easier & quicker to make than the cookie version.

One of the things that made this cake easy was using three boxes of white cake mix. I prepped each following the directions on the package and added in 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to each. While the almond flavor was noticeable, I think it would have been better to add in 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of extract to each. Or, you could skip the extract altogether and grate in almond paste. I would suggest buying one package of almond paste and dividing it into three equal parts. Once the cake mix was prepped I then added in gel food coloring to achieve the pink, yellow & green colors. Here’s a tip, instead of adding a bunch of one color to achieve your desired shade, add in a little orange to the yellow, add a drop of red to the pink and a bit of blue for the green. This will also result in more vibrant shades of each color as well.

I baked each of the layers in a 9 inch square pan. While the directions said to bake the cakes in a 350 F oven for about 35 minutes, I found that after 30 minutes my cakes were still undercooked so I lowered the oven temperature to 325 F and baked the cakes for an additional 10-12 minutes. I let the layers cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then inverted them on wire racks to cool completely.

Once the layers were cooled I leveled each of them with a serrated knife. I placed the pink layer on a cake board, trimmed side up, and spread about 1/2 cup of raspberry jam. I repeated this step with the yellow layer and then topped the cake the green layer, trimmed side down. While the directions called for the cake to be frozen for 1 hour, unfortunately I used a round cake board that wouldn’t fit in my freezer so I ended up refrigerating it for about 2-3 hours. Don’t worry if your layers are not flush, i.e. not the same width, you will be trimming the sides of the cake once you top it with chocolate. This ended up happening to me because while both of the pans I used were 9 inch squares the sides of one of the pans was straighter than the other.

Before removing the cake from the refrigerator I made the chocolate topping. I melted chocolate and butter together in the microwave in 30 second intervals. Well, to be truthful, I microwaved it once at 30 seconds and the second time at 45 seconds and then stirred it together until smooth. I set it aside for about 10-15 minutes so it could cool and thicken before pouring it on the cake. If you pour it right away the chocolate will be too thin and just run down the sides of cake when you try to spread it. Also, you won’t be able to create the usual wavy lines in the chocolate that rainbow cookies normally have.

Once the chocolate was ready I removed the cake from the refrigerator and poured the chocolate over the top and using an offset spatula I spread it into a thick even layer over the cake. And for the final touch, using the tines of a fork I created wavy lines in the chocolate. If you find that the chocolate isn’t holding the wavy pattern, wait a minute or two and then go over the patter again with the fork. It could just be that the chocolate needs to cool a bit more. I then returned the cake to the refrigerator so the chocolate could set, but, not harden.

And finally, I trimmed all for sides of the cake. I did find this part a bit tricky as my cake was crumbling while doing so. Partly because, as per the directions, I only used eggs whites in the batter which produces a much lighter cake. You could use whole eggs as opposed to the egg whites which would produce a denser and moister cake and one that is slightly yellower, which would be good when tinting the yellow layer of the cake.

So, everyone who tried this cake, including me, loved it. They all agreed that it was light and not crazy sweet. The perfect type of dessert.

Rainbow Cookie Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 16 to 18–ounce boxed of white cake mix (plus the required ingredients)

1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Pink, yellow and green gel food coloring

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

Chocolate Topping:

2 4–ounce bars semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch square pan with baking spray and set aside.

Prepare 1 cake mix per box directions adding in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Tint with the pink food coloring, stirring well making sure no white streaks remain. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat to make the yellow and green layers.

Trip the tops of each of the cakes to make level. Don’t worry if the widths of the cakes are different, you will even it out at the end.

Place the pink cake, trimmed side up, on a cake board and spread with 1/2 cup of jam. Top with the yellow cake, trimmed side up, and spread the remaining jam on top. Top with the green layer, trimmed side down. Freeze for 1 hour.

Microwave the chocolate and butter together in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth. Let it cool slightly.

Pour the cooled chocolate over the top of the cake and using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate in a thick even layer over the cake.

Using the tines of a fork create a wavy lines pattern in the chocolate. Return the cake to the freezer so the chocolate can set, but not harden, about 15 minutes.

Using a long serrated knife trim all four sides of the cake.

 

Recipe notes:

You can use whole eggs as opposed to the recommended egg whites on the box directions

For a stronger almond taste try adding in more almond extract, or substituting it with almond paste.

To achieve brighter shades of pink, yellow and green, add a little red to the pink, orange to the yellow and blue to the green

You can place the cakes in the refrigerator as opposed to the freezer, but, will need to leave them in longer.

Recipe from Food Network

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

For today’s Holiday Cake Week treat I am bringing you Snickerdoodle Cupcakes. Snickerdoodles are a simple cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar and are a traditional Christmas cookie. People sometimes confuse them with sugar cookies, but, there is a distinct difference between the two of them, besides the cinnamon sugar topping, Snickerdoodles are chewy while sugar cookies traditionally have a more crisp bite to them. These cupcakes have a cinnamon sugar topping similar to the cookie and are the perfect texture. The original recipe called for a Brown Sugar Buttercream frosting that I opted to omit, I truly feel the cupcake is enough on its own. If you’re interested in the frosting, follow the link after the recipe below. And, if you are looking for a yummy Snickerdoodle recipe, check out the one I post a few years ago. I still use it to this day.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

  • Servings: 18 cupcakes
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Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Then whisk in the sugar, buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.

Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the batter until combined.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full – about 1/4 cup batter in each one.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon for the topping and sprinkle a generous 1/2 teaspoons on top of each cupcake.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs.

Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire tack to cool completed.

Recipe from The Cake Blog

Yule Log Cake

Each day this week I will be bringing you a cake / cupcake idea that is perfectly festive for this time of the year… It’s Holiday Cake Week.

To kick off Holiday Cake Week a traditional cake seen around the holidays… A Yule Log Cake. It originated in France and is a sponge cake rolled and then frosted with chocolate frosting to resemble a tree bark. Customarily a small portion of the cake is cut off and either placed on top of the cake or protruding from the side of the cake to resemble a chopped off branch. The cake can then be furthered decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow, fresh berries, mushrooms made of marzipan and so forth.

I opted to go the easy route with my cake and used a box cake mix and a container of vanilla frosting for the filling. Also, while the recipe didn’t call for it, I ended up a slicing off a portion of the cake and placing it on the side to get that traditional branch look. And to top it off, I sifted confectioners’ sugar over the cake and placed some decorative holly berry picks I got from a local craft store around it.

Yule Log Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

6 eggs

1 box of Devil’s food cake mix

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

 

Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Filling:

1 container whipped vanilla frosting

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 F. Line the bottom of a 15x10x1-inch (Jelly Roll Pan) pan with foil or waxed paper, spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl beat the eggs with an electric mixer on high until the eggs are thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes. Add the cake mix, water and oil and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 1 minutes. Pour about 2 3/4 – 3 cups of the batter into the prepared pan. Use the remaining batter to make cupcakes, or as you wish.

Bake 14 to 16 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Turn the cake out on a clean kitchen towel sprinkled with the confectioners’ sugar. While the cake is still hot, carefully roll up the cake and towel together from one shorter end to the other. Cool completely on a wire rack from 1 hour.

While the cake is cooling make the chocolate frosting… In a medium pot heat the whipping cream over medium heat until the cream starts to boil. Remove from the heat and add in the chocolate chips and corn syrup, let stand for 3 minutes. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth and then add in the vanilla. Refrigerate for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until it’s a spreadable consistency.

After an hour, unroll the cake carefully and remove the towel. Spread the vanilla frosting evenly over the cake and roll it up once again. Place the cooling rack on sheet of waxed paper and return the cake to the wire rack and frost the cake with the chocolate frosting. Drag the tines of a fork through the frosting to give the cake a log look. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes and then refrigerate loosely covered until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature prior to serving.

*If you want to make the log resemble more of a branch, prior to frosting with the chocolate frosting, cut a piece of the cake off and place on the side of the cake or on top and then frost.

Recipe from Betty Crocker

Cookie Palooza: Key Lime Crinkles

How about some crinkles for Mr. Kringle? Sorry for corniness, but, I couldn’t resist. While crinkles are customarily a chocolate cookie I decided to switch things up a bit and bring you Key Lime Crinkles for the last cookie of Cookie Palooza week. And in case you didn’t know, crinkles are a drop cookie that is rolled in confectioners’ sugar prior to baking. The sugar draws moisture out of the cookie while it’s baking allowing the cookie to crack and dry out. Leaving the exterior of the cookie with a bit of a crust and the interior soft and yummy. This key lime version is a great cookie for someone who wants something sweet but not with all the decadence of chocolate.

The search for these cookies came about because I recently asked some friends what cookie they wanted for Christmas and one friend said rugelach and a key lime pie. So, I started searching for key lime cookies since I wasn’t planning on making a pie during my weekend of cookie baking in a few weeks. The first cookie I came across was a thumbprint cookie that actually has a key lime filling, I was all set to make that one for Christmas and then I came across this recipe and decided that I would share this recipe with you as my final cookie for Cookie Palooza week. While I normally share a no-bake cookie as my final cookie, I just couldn’t find one this year that I liked 100%. My friend who wants the key lime pie tried these and he said that while they are good and they do have the key lime flavor he likes, he was hoping for a key lime filling, a la the aforementioned thumbprint cookie. So, I will be making the pie after all since that is quicker and easier than the cookies.

It may be hard to find key limes this time of year, so, you can use bottled key lime juice. I usually find this key lime juice in the baking aisle of my supermarket. This is the same juice I use to make my key lime pie when I am short on time to squeeze key limes, or they are not available at my supermarket. In all honesty, I’ve made key lime pie with fresh limes and with this juice and the taste is exactly the same. And if all else fails, you can use regular limes. I actually used the zest of a regular lime in this recipe. And speaking of zest, if you want more of a lime flavor I suggest adding in more zest. I would avoid adding in more lime juice as that will alter the consistency of your dough.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Cookie Palooza 2018 as much as I enjoyed baking the cookies and bringing you the recipes. Check back next week for Holiday Cake Week. I’ve also got some other Holiday treats hitting the blog soon as well… Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Slow Cooker Spiced Nuts (they are really Candied Nuts) and a Chocolate Truffle Cookie (which I initially was thinking would be cookie #5 for this week).

 

Key Lime Crinkles

  • Servings: 30 cookies
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Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon key lime zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon key lime juice

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, zest and salt.

In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Mix in the lime juice.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl.

One chilled, use a cookie scoop to scoop the dough and roll into balls and then roll in the confectioners’ sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookie begin to brown along the edges.

Cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Bake or Break