Salted Caramel Apple Rugelach

Rosh Hashanah is coming soon, and luckily it is a bit late this year.  I always appreciate the years that I don’t have to pull my kids out of school on the 1st or 2nd day of the school year.  So, since I have a bit of free time on my hands (ha!), here is a little recipe that I created as a mash-up of my 2 favorite recipes from The Great Holiday Baking Show last year- my Rugelach and my Salted Bourbon Raisin Caramel Apple Pie.  I will be teaching a group of women this recipe in Massachussetts next week and can’t wait to share this one!

Many people are intimidated by making rugelach from scratch, and it really needn’t be daunting.  I like making this simple, quick dough in the food processor.  It really only takes a minute to throw together.  First, add your flour, powdered sugar, and salt to the processor and pulse to combine.  Then add cubed cold butter and cream cheese to the mixture.  Process and pulse until a coarse consistency dough forms, and starts to pull away from the edges of the bowl (3rd photo).  Divide dough into 2 balls.  Roll out each dough ball into a thin, 9 inch circle.  I like to do this between 2 well floured pieces of wax paper or parchment.  Stash discs in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes, but even overnight is fine.

Now, the filling:  You can definitely make your own caramel, like I did on the show.  This Bourbon caramel was Mary Berry’s favorite thing I made (I think).  She kept coming back between shots and grabbing a spoonful of it!

So, the alternative to making caramel is buying a good quality salted caramel from a jar.  That is what I did today.  Smuckers makes a nice, affordable one.

In a small food processor, combine nuts (optional), caramel, and apple butter.  Add a tablespoon of bourbon.  Process well until smooth and spreadable.  You will see fine bits of nuts, and that is okay.  Spread 1/2 filling in a very thin layer with an offset spatula, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge.  Repeat with other dough disc and the rest of the filling.

Now, I like to divide this into 12 wedges.  You could do 16, if you would rather have smaller cookies, or 8 if you want to have large ones.  Here is how I cut my rugelach, using a pizza wheel.

Then, I roll each wedge up as if it were a crescent roll.  Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown at edges.

image

Now you have some options.  You could just sprinkle these with powdered sugar and call it a day.  Or you could make a caramel drizzle.  Here’s how you do it:

Combine powdered sugar, a bit of your caramel (homemade or store bought), some salt, and thin it with milk or cream until it is a thick drizzling consistency.  If too thin, add more sugar.  If too thick, add more cream.  Easy peasy!  Now, transfer the mixture to a ziptop bag, snip the very edge of cone corner, and drizzle over the cooled rugelach.

Voila!  At this point, you could sprinkle with a little sea salt (very sparingly) or even sprinkle a bit more chopped nuts.  Really, whatever you want works.  Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Apple Rugelach

For the dough:

1 cup flour, plus additional for dusting
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cream cheese, cold
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
honey-bourbon caramel (optional, or buy salted caramel from a jar):
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons butter, sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons bourbon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For filling (per 2 rounds):
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, finely ground
1/2 cup apple butter
1/4 cup of prepared caramel (from recipe above or jar)

For icing drizzle:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup caramel (from recipe above or jar)
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream to thin to desired consistency

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the dough, combine flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a large food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cold butter and cream cheese to processor, and pulse until dough begins to form a ball and pull away from sides. Divide into 2 equal pieces. Sprinkle parchment paper and top of dough with approximately 1 tablespoon of flour each, to prevent sticking. Roll out both dough balls to 9 inch diameter circles. Leave on parchment and place in fridge until firm. Can be done ahead.

To make the caramel sauce, in a medium-sized saucepan, bring sugar, water, and honey to a simmer without stirring. Let mixture boil until it becomes caramel in color. Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter, vigorously. Add cream, bourbon, and salt. Whisk well until smooth. Set aside in clean bowl. Can be done ahead and refrigerated. Prepared salted caramel sundae topping can also be used, if desired. Just add 1-2 tablespoons of bourbon if using jarred caramel.

To make the filling: Combine all filling ingredients, mixing in a small bowl with whisk or spoon or process in a small food processor.  Divide, using half to spread on top of each dough round.

To assemble: Spread chilled dough with a thin layer of the filling, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge. Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut dough in quarters. Then, cut each quarter into thirds. Starting at the outer edge, roll each triangle into the center to form the rugelach. Place on parchment lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden at edges. Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the icing drizzle ingredients, adding milk until desired consistency is achieved. Place in a piping bag or plastic zippered bag and snip one corner with scissors. Drizzle in back and forth motion across cooled rugelach.
Let dry for 10-15 minutes to set icing.

Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies (for Passover and beyond)

I have a strict rule about Passover desserts:  One should never try to make cakes or cookies with matzo meal or any of it’s derivatives.  They always taste like matzo and the bondage of my people, rather than dessert.  I am only partly kidding, people, so please don’t try to convince me that you made a delicious Passover cake with matzo cake meal.  You didn’t.  So, my approach to Passover baking is to instead choose desserts that are flourless by nature, like pavlovas, flourless chocolate torte, and macarons/macaroons.  These Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies are a spicy variation on the popular gluten-free favorite that can be found at Whole Foods.  The spices were inspired by another old favorite of mine the “Mayan Mystery Cookie,”  which is a well-known recipe that has been circulating for a while.  My version is a bit more interesting with warm spices and lots of ginger.  Of course, if you like the original or are serving kids, feel free to omit all the spices and the crystallized ginger.  These cookies are made in one bowl, quick, easy, gluten-free, can be dairy free, Parve, nut-free, and very low in fat.  Enjoy!

First you want to sift your powdered sugar and cocoa into the bowl of your mixer (you can definitely use an electric hand mixer).  Add your dry spices at this point, if using.  Give it a mix on low, just to combine.  Then, just add your egg whites and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed for ablout a minute.  Fold in chocolate chips and minced ginger by hand, if using.

This is the crystallized ginger that I minced.  It is optional, and only suggested if you are a ginger lover or hosting adults only.  Kids tend to think it is too spicy.  I like to cut it with kitchen shears.image

Drop by tablespoonful onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until set and shiny on top and still a bit soft in the center.

Let cool completely and peel off of parchment.  Happy baking and Happy Pesach!

Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies

Parve, perfect for Passover, gluten-free/dairy-free/nut-free diets, and for all year round.

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (find the Kosher for Passover variety)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Small pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup egg whites (approximately 3 large eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (parve and K for P variety)
2 tablespoons crystallized or candied ginger, finely minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine powdered sugar, cocoa, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne. Mix on low to combine.
Add in egg whites and vanilla, mixing well for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl. Fold in chocolate chips and minced ginger (if using). Spoon by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 12-14 minutes until tops are set and shiny. Let cool for 10 minutes on parchment. Peel cookies off parchment and serve or store in airtight container.

Healthy Oatmeal Banana Chip Cookies

I realize that I might seem a bit Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde with this blog- One week decadent desserts, the next healthy treats, with almost no in between. That is actually pretty much the way I roll with my diet in real life, too. I love to eat for absolute pleasure and look for rich, gooey sinful treats that are no good if made “low fat” or “low sugar” or my favorite… “low carb.” I eat that way until it catches up with me, then it is time to reign it in and eat a healthier, whole food type diet. Recently, I decided that this oppositional yo-yo approach is not great for me, mentally or physically. So, I am going to work on balance this year, having the occasional decadent treat, but mostly opting for better choices for my health. Enter the “Healthy Oatmeal Banana Chip Cookie.”

I had been seeing a similar recipe pop up on Facebook from time to time. That other recipe pretty much consists of bananas, applesauce, almond milk (a no-no in this nut free home), oats, raisins, and a couple of other ingredients. I decided that the recipe looked flawed to me (too much liquid), and I could recreate it in a yummier (albeit slightly less perfect nutritionally) way. I cut a lot of the liquid, added some soy nut butter (you could use almond or peanut butter), and added a small but satisfying amount of brown sugar and mini-chocolate chips. Voila! A healthy cookie that would make the perfect pre-workout energy/carb boost without breaking the caloric bank. There is no butter in there, and only a minimal amount of brown sugar for flavor. They have a nice dense, chewy texture and are best enjoyed warm. You could reheat them in the toaster oven for a minute before serving.

Overripe bananas
I always have overripe bananas laying around.

Begin with 3 very ripe (brown) bananas. Mash those babies up with one egg, a teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of soy nut butter (or almond or peanut butter!). Stir in 2 cups of old fashioned or rolled oats and 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips. The dough will be wet, but will firm up during baking. Scoop out cookies and spread them out slightly on the parchment, leaving a little bit of space between cookies. They won’t spread much. Bake for 14-16 minutes at 350 degrees on parchment lined baking sheets. Makes 12 large cookies (about 100 calories each) or 24 smaller cookies (50 calories each). The larger ones are great as a breakfast cookie. Serve warm or reheated.

Allergy friendly versions:

You could definitely make these dairy-free by using chocolate chips that contain no dairy ingredients.  You could leave out the egg, and I think they would still work, though I have not tested them.  At that point, they would be vegan.  If you used gluten-free oats, they would (obviously) be gluten free as well.  If you are not eating added sugar, feel free to leave out the brown sugar and/or chocolate chips.

Healthy Oatmeal Banana Chip Cookies

Healthy Oatmeal Banana Chip Cookies

Healthy cookies, warm and ready to enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy, sun, almond, or peanut butter
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mash bananas in large mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in egg, vanilla, brown sugar, and "nut" butter.
  4. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon 12 large cookies or 24 smaller cookies onto parchment paper, spreading batter out slightly until 1/4 inch thick. Batter will be wet, but will firm upon baking.
  6. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until golden around edges.
  7. Let cool 5 minutes and serve warm.
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Easiest Cut Out Sugar Cookie

I have tried many “Roll Out” Sugar Cookie recipes for use with cookie cutters, and I am always surprised that many do not hold their shape or taste very good.  This is my go-to recipe, and I actually found the basic recipe on the tag of a cookie cutter.  Of course, being the weirdo I am that can’t just follow a recipe as written, I have changed it a tad.  Plus, I have about a million ways to make them really special….Hello Tangerine-Chai Sugar Cookies from Cookie Week on The Great Holiday Baking Show!  They really are my favorite thing to make from the show, and it all started with the easiest cut out Sugar Cookie recipe.  They will hold a cookie cutter shape perfectly, are not too sweet and can stand up to some icing, and the dough is easy to roll and handle.

Basic Roll Out Sugar Cookies
Tangerine and Chai Sugar Cookies, all gussied up for Valentine’s Day

Lauren’s Sugar Cookie Dough

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon additional extract, any flavor-almond, lemon, orange, etc… (optional) and/or 1 tablespoon citrus zest or fresh herbs, finely grated or chopped (I love tangerine zest!)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 325 degrees convection.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy (1-2 minutes).  Add egg and vanilla to mixer, beating on medium speed until just incorporated.  At this point, if you are using any citrus zest, herbs or additional extracts, add them now and mix for a few seconds.

For the dry ingredients, there are two options:

For basic dough, just add the flour and salt, mixing until the dough just comes together.

*Or for a dry mix in, such as **Chai tea, Earl Grey tea, freeze dried fruit (I love this with freeze dried strawberries!), or dried herbs and spices, run the extra ingredient and the flour and salt in the food processor for a couple of minutes until very finely broken down.  I do this step so that you don’t get bits of tea in your teeth.  Then, add the blended dry mixture to the wet ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

Chill dough for at least 2 hours.  You can chill the dough faster in the freezer, if desired.  Also, this step can be done up to 3 days in advance of baking.  Take dough out of the refrigerator, let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Dust counter and dough liberally with flour, roll to just under 1/4 inch, and cut into desired shapes.  Bake for 9-12 minutes or until edges just barely get a hint of color.  Remove to cool on wire rack.  Decorate with glaze, royal icing, or whatever your heart desires!

many different cookies

**To add tea, cut open 3 tea bags and blend in the food processor with the flour.

To add freeze dried fruit, add 1 cup to food processor, pulse, then add flour and blend for a minute until combined.

Flavor combinations I like:

  1. Orange zest and fresh rosemary
  2. Lemon zest and fresh thyme (leaves only, no stems)
  3. Grapefruit zest and Earl Grey tea
  4. Lemon zest and British Breakfast tea
  5. Tangerine zest and Chai tea
  6. Freeze dried strawberries and vanilla bean seeds
  7. Fresh basil and freeze dried strawberries
  8. espresso powder and vanilla bean
  9. mint extract or fresh mint and cacao nibs
  10. Orange zest and ground cloves
  11. Fresh ginger and lime zest
  12. Freeze dried blueberries and lavender (go light on the lavender!)

The sky is the limit.  Let me know if you try any good combinations.  The trick is not to add any ingredients that are soggy or inherently waterlogged.

 

Perfect Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

This cookie is simple and unassuming, but I swear it calls to me like no other.  So much so, that I have inadvertently eaten a whole batch by myself without surfacing for air.  My family is not known for their baking, or even cooking, for that matter.  They are kind of famous for their eating skills, but that is another story.  Anyway, the only particularly notable recipe that I remember from childhood would be my Aunt Ruth’s Crispy Oatmeal Cookies.  They are highly addictive, perfectly crisp, lacy yet substantial, and delicately flavored with brown sugar, nutty whole oats, salt and vanilla.  Just try to resist them.

Aunt Ruth, who is not actually my blood relative (more of a relative by marriage through another relative), was a sweet, kind, adorable lady that you couldn’t help but love.  Her charming barely-there Southern accent and warm, perfect manners made her a lovely host and gave her cookies something extra that nobody since has been able to replicate….even with her exact same recipe.  My Aunt Adele, who has even made them side by side with Aunt Ruth, says that she can’t get them to taste just right.  So, I set about testing this recipe with little tweaks in the method to see if I could get close to the original.  They came out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  Maybe, just a hair different than Aunt Ruth’s cookies, but definitely worthy of making on a leisurely day of baking.

Crispy Oatmeal Cookie

Aunt Ruth’s Crispy Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats

Makes 4 dozen cookies

In a large bowl, cream together softened butter (or margarine for pareve cookies) and sugars.  Aunt Ruth specified to do this whole method by hand, but I used the kitchen aid on low speed.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Mix until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Again, do this by hand or on very low speed with mixer.
Fold in oatmeal by hand. Refrigerate dough for 3-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll into small balls (a rounded teaspoon) and flatten until very thin (the thinner the better) onto greased cookie sheet.  You can flatten with a fork or your hand, but try to get a very thin, even layer.

Flatten well! This is the key to a crispy cookie all the way through.
Flatten well for a crisp cookie.

Bake 9-12 minutes or until medium brown and crisp at edges.  Remove from oven and let sit on pan for 1-2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Can be stored in airtight container for a few days, if they last that long.  Enjoy!

imageimage image

Copycat Levain Bakery Ginormous Chocolate Chip Cookies (Nut Free)

Once upon a time, when I only had two kids (and they weren’t babies any more), I took a weekend trip to NYC to visit my cousin, Aunt and Uncle, and BFF.  I decided to also take a tour of the most highly rated bakeries in Manhattan.  Levain Bakery was at the top of everyone’s list of “must visits”, and coincidentally was in walking distance of my cousin’s apartment in the Upper West Side.  Coincidence or fate, I ended up trying many of the cookies from Levain, with their doughy centers, crispy rugged exterior craters and plateaus, and ginormous soul satisfying size. When I tried their chocolate chip cookies, it was love at first bite.

Fast forward 6 years to the present…I have not been able to get these cookies off my mind.  It turns out I am not the only one, and their are tons of copycat recipes out there.  I researched as many as I could, watched the footage of the owners baking them on Beat Bobby Flay, and put together my own recipe that combines tips and tricks from many of the recipes….

While researching, I noticed a few odd things about this cookie recipe:

1.  They almost all called for cold butter, cubed, instead of the usual creaming of room temp. butter.  Curious, I kept this oddity in my recipe.  I believe it contributes to the craggy exterior.

2.  The bakery apparently doesn’t use vanilla in their recipe.  It feels wrong to me, just as a vanilla lover, so I put a tad in my recipe, but feel free to leave it out for the sake of authenticity.

3.  Some of the recipes called for bread flour, some called for AP flour.  I decided to split the difference and use both.  I think it was perfect.

4.  Some of the recipes called for cornstarch, which I found interesting, so I kept it in.  Not sure if it is necessary, but I believe it contributes to the center being soft and doughy, but not raw or falling apart.

5.  Lastly, this is sold as a chocolate walnut cookie (which is my all time favorite), but since we are nut-free, I left the nuts out.  You could add them back in, if you are not allergic.  Please use good quality semi-sweet, dark or bittersweet chocolate in these.  I have heard rumors that the use Guittard chips at Levain.

First, take two sticks of cold unsalted butter and cut them into tiny cubes.  Place in a stand mixer with the white and brown sugars, and vanilla.  Cream them together, adding eggs one at a time until just incorporated.  It will be lumpy at first, but after a minute or two, it should look like this.  Stop here, and resist the urge to beat until smooth.  Those lumps of butter will contribute to the rough exterior later!

Chocolate Chip Cooki dough

Add in your flours, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt.  Mix until just combined.  Or until your paddle attachment breaks in half, like mine did, signaling the end of mixing….forever.  Adieu, after market paddle attachment.

Chocolate Chip Cookie dry ingredients

Yes, it actually did break at the thickest point.  I have a knack for these things.

borken mixer paddle

Then, if your paddle isn’t broken, mix in the whole bag of chocolate chips.  If you were me, you would be folding it in by hand at this point.

chocolate chip cookie dough with chips

To look like this.  If you are adding nuts, now would be the time.  There are still a few small chunks of visible butter.  This is awesome.

chocolate chip cookie dough mixed

Okay, this might actually be the key to this recipe:  loosely grab gigantic balls of dough, like baseball size.  Resist the urge to make smooth balls, and actually try to keep the batter loose and rough.  See those valleys and craters on the outside?  Now stash these in the fridge (or even the freezer) for at least 30 minutes.  Mine were in there about 1 1/2 hours.

chocolate chip cookie dough balls

Bake at 375 degrees (Or 350 convection)for 18-24 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking.  They are done when they are still soft in the center, but golden brown at edges and gooey, but not too gooey, if that makes sense?  Sometimes, when I pull a particularly gorgeous baked good from the oven, I start singing bow-chicka-bow-bow…This was one of those times.

chocolate chip cookie baked

You definitely need a glass of milk for this baby!  And the beauty of this recipe is that they are HUGE, so 1 is enough even for the most dedicated sweet tooth.  I almost feel less guilty having one of these, even though I would not want to know the calorie count (don’t tell me), than when I make my usual chocolate chippers and devour 6 of them.  It is so much more fulfilling to eat one of these while it is warm, breaking off little chunks, and actually savor it a bit.

chocolate chip cookie

The soft center….

chocolate chip cookie center

My last little bit…For scale purposes, this was only about 1/8 a cookie.  Like my green mani?

chocolate chip cookie closeup

Levain Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies (Nuts Optional!)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I used light, but I suspect dark would be even better)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1 1/4 cup bread flour (could sub AP, if you don’t have bread flour)
  • 2 cups AP Flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups good quality chocolate chips (Guittard or Ghirardeli would be great)
  • *Optional- 1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream cold butter cubes with sugars and vanilla until mostly smooth, but with small lumps evenly distributed throughout.  Add in eggs, beating just until incorporated.  There will still be small chunks of butter.

Add all dry ingredients to mixer on low until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips (and nuts, if using).  Do not overmix.  Form dough into 11 or 12 gigantic balls, being careful not to pack them together.  Place cookies onto parchment lined cookie sheets with lots of space in between.  Keep the exterior rough and bumpy.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or freeze for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (mine was 350 convection).  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the center is set but soft (should seem just underdone), and outside becomes golden brown at edges and peaks.  Let cool on parchment for 5-10 minutes and serve warm with milk.

**One more interesting thing about this recipe.  It was developed by the bakery owners, who are triathletes.  They were trying to find the perfect cookies to fuel their grueling workouts.  These definitely fit the bill.

Let me know what you think!  I thought these were pretty darn close to the originals, if not exactly the same.