Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

IMG_0968Pretty much everyone has a recipe similar to this chewy peanut butter cookie, just like everyone has a favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies. But I’ve had numerous people tell me mine are especially grand. I once brought these to work, and after her first bite a fellow employee said, “I bet lots of men wanted to marry YOU…” For the record, I’ve only had one marriage proposal, but I’ve had tons of requests for my cookie recipes. I think it’s the addition of the Reese’s peanut butter chips that takes these cookies from good to great.

But I have to admit I wasn’t always such a rock star with this recipe. At the ripe old age of 11 or 12, I wanted to treat my family to a batch of PB Cookies. Once I got to the dough-rolling stage, I felt like something was amiss. “Mom, this dough feels kinda like Play-Doh. Is it supposed to feel like that?” It also looked a little different than I remembered—more sparkly than usual. One pan came out of the oven, and we broke off chunks to test, and promptly spit them out. They tasted like Play-Doh, too!!! What went wrong? My mother and I went back through the ingredients one at a time, and she asked me if I’d put in this and that, and then quizzed me on the amounts. When she got to salt, she said, “Half a teaspoon salt?” and I froze. I’d put in half a CUP of salt. We laughed as we pitched that whole inedible batch in the garbage, and I remember that crazy mistake every single time I make these cookies. As I carefully measure the salt.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup shortening (not butter or butter-flavored shortening)
1 cup Skippy’s super chunky peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 of 10 oz. bag of Reese’s peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In large mixer bowl, cream shortening and peanut butter. Add white sugar, then dark brown sugar, and cream ingredients until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and cream. Add vanilla and cream ingredients again.

In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and powder, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and stir until combined. Dough should not be overly-sticky to the touch (too little flour), but also should not be crumbly. (If dough is crumbly, that means you have too much flour in your dough and cookies will be tough, not soft and chewy.) Stir Reese’s peanut butter chips into dough with wooden spoon until chips are incorporated.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place on baking sheet, 12 to sheet. Using tines of fork, make cross-cross pattern on top of cookies, pressing to flatten slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges of cookies are lightly golden brown. Let cool at least 5 minutes before removing to wire rack or container. Store in air-tight container.

Ginger Crinkles

FullSizeRenderWe’ve all bitten into gingersnap cookies that are so hard you practically break a tooth on them. This soft, chewy cookie has all the sweetness and spice of a gingersnap, but none of the dental danger. And these Ginger Crinkles are SO good, my 30-something nephew Jacob actually asked for a take-home bag when he and his wife had been over for dinner once. He said he wasn’t really a cookie person, but thought he’d try one to be polite, and then couldn’t stop.

It helps to serve them nice and warm, fresh from the oven, although they keep well in an airtight container. They’re a great fall and winter cookie, since they use the same spices as gingerbread, but your family—and guests!—will be happy to eat them year round. (I like to make these when Chocolate Chip and/or Monster Cookies are boring me. A nice change of pace.)

I found the recipe on the McCormick spice site several years ago, but it is no longer posted. They had used corn syrup in their recipe (which I don’t keep on hand), so I tried molasses instead. Worked great! And probably added more flavor, too. 

Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 ¼ cups white sugar
¼ cup dark molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup white sugar (for rolling cookies)

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In large mixer bowl, cream butter. Slowly add white sugar, then molasses, and beat with electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg, and cream all ingredients. Add vanilla, and cream ingredients again.

In separate medium-size mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and salt. Stir with spoon. Slowly add flour mixture to creamed butter and sugar mixture. Remove bowl from mixer.

Put ¼ cup white sugar in small bowl. Take spoonfuls of cookie dough and roll into balls. Roll each ball in sugar before placing on baking sheet. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing cookies from baking sheet. Store in airtight container.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_0760When you need a chocolate fix bad, these double-chocolate cookies will definitely do the trick. I got this recipe years ago from a B&B that placed one warm, delicious cookie on the pillow of each guest in their rooms. (Don’t recall the name of the inn…) Our cookies never make it past the kitchen, as they get gobbled up lickety split. At first glance these look just like the Devil’s Delight Chocolate Cookie recipe I posted for Cinco de Mayo, but those have heat and spice, and these are just gooey goodness. They’re also a little easier to throw together than the Devil’s Delight.

This is another recipe to make when you only have one egg in the frig—but you still have cocoa, chocolate chips, and nuts, that is. You can certainly use Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder, but I prefer the Dutch process cocoa from Penzy’s, which is processed for a “milder, smoother flavor” (quote from their website). You can also get this cocoa through King Arthur’s Flour, or at higher-end grocery stores. Now, unless you’ve got the princess-and-the-pea living with you, your cookie devourees may not notice the difference between the two right away. But I do find the Dutch process cocoa makes rich, smooth baked goods. It’s especially awesome in chocolate buttercream frosting, but that’s for another blog post…

Makes 2 dozen

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/12 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans*
1 cup Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Combine cocoa, milk, and vanilla in a measuring cup, and stir. (It will take a bit for the cocoa powder to break down the surface tension** in the milk and actually allow you to combine the powder and liquid. Stir, let it sit, then come back to it and stir again until you have a dark paste. Use the back of the spoon to press the powder to edge of cup.) Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, cream butter. Add granulated sugar and cream again. Add brown sugar and continue to cream ingredients. Add egg and cream once more. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to creamed butter and sugar mixture until combined. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips by hand. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet and press down slightly on top of dough so cookies bake up flat instead of in mounds. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or just until cookies are no longer glossy in center.

*NOTE: To make these extra delicious, toast the chopped pecans in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes. Let cool to room temp before adding to dough, or they will melt the butter and make the batter runny.

**My father, the chemist, happened to answer several of our youthful queries with “it’s the surface tension.” This happened so often that we assumed every question we asked could be explained away by “surface tension,” and it became a running family joke.

Devil’s Delight Chocolate Cookies

Devil's Delight Cookies IMG_0650A fun surprise for Cinco de Mayo—or any time you’re feeling a little adventurous—chocolate cookies with a little heat! The Vosges Red Fire chocolate bar doesn’t seem to be sold at the upscale grocery stores that used to carry it (like Kowalski’s, or Lunds and Byerly’s). If you can’t find the rather spendy Vosges bar ($10!), try the Lindt Excellence Dark Chili bar instead. I’ve used the Lindt bar several times. It’s a third of the price of the Vosges bar, and it tastes the same once baked in the cookies. I’ve also found the chili chocolate bar isn’t completely necessary to the success of the cookies. Lindt bar IMG_0657With the cocoa powder and cayenne, you get the sweet-heat combo anyway. If you’ve not tried Mexican vanilla, it’s clear, not amber in color, and has a woodsy or nutty flavor. It isn’t essential if you can’t find it, but it adds an interesting subtle twist.

I heard about these from a friend who found the recipe in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Michelle Clark of St. Paul, Minnesota entered it in a contest sponsored by the paper, and won. (A similar recipe is sometimes called Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookies by others posting it online.) If the thought of a sweet-and-spicy mix scares you, don’t be afraid! I’m a total wimp about heat in my food, and I love these sweet treats. In fact, my sons tease that I might say, “Oooh boy, that mayonnaise sure has some KICK!” Just for the record, I have never said that.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup flour
3 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile or cayenne pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract (or regular vanilla)
1 (3.3 ounce) Vosges Red Fire chocolate bar, or 1 (3.5 ounce) Lindt Excellence Dark Chili bar, chopped
1/2 cup (3 ounce) cinnamon chips, such as Hershey Cinnamon Chips

For dusting:

4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile powder or cayenne

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Optional: line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a double boiler over simmering water OR in glass measuring cup in microwave (on high 2 minutes), melt bittersweet chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and cool melted chocolate for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cayenne powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until crumbly.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until mixture is pale, light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add lukewarm melted chocolate and vanilla, and beat until just combined. Fold in flour mixture, then fold in chopped chocolate bar and cinnamon chips. In a small bowl, stir together sugar, cinnamon, and chili pepper or cayenne.

Drop batter by tablespoon onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Sprinkle a pinch of dusting mixture over each cookie and bake 15-17 minutes, or until tops are evenly cracked but cookies are not yet firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool cookies completely on baking sheets. Store in airtight container.

Monster Cookies

Monster CookiesThis makes a monstrous batch (thus the name), but it’s usually gone pretty darn quick, as they’re the favorite cookie for 3 out of 4 men in my family. Generous amounts of old-fashioned oatmeal and peanut butter in these chunky treats give granola bars some stiff competition, and make these hearty enough for breakfast, if you like cookies for breakfast. And who doesn’t?

Surprisingly, the appeal of monster cookies spans the globe. Our house guests from Norway, France, and Japan have all requested this recipe, which I’ve packed in their bags along with a set of U.S. measuring cups and spoons. (Easier than figuring out how to convert the measurements into metric…)

Monster recipeI’ve actually halved this recipe from the original to make it more manageable. I got it from a woman who had seven kids, so she needed the jumbo batch. As you can see from my tattered and stained recipe, this really has become a family fave.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen

1 ¼ cups Skippy super chunky peanut butter
¾ cup shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup M&M’s
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In large mixer bowl, cream peanut butter and shortening. Add dark brown sugar, then white sugar, and cream ingredients until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and cream. Add vanilla and cream ingredients again.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, and baking soda with a spoon. With mixer on low, slowly add oatmeal mixture to peanut butter mixture until all ingredients are combined. Remove bowl from mixer, and stir in M&M’s and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon until combined.

Drop by large spoonfuls on to baking sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Let cookies cool for 10 minutes before removing from baking sheet. Store cookies in an airtight container. Deliver to starving college student.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_0727Everyone has this recipe—it’s right on the package of Nestle Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips —but I’m often told my chocolate chip cookies are something special. This winter we hosted students from France and Japan (not at the same time), and it only took one warm, gooey, bite to make them disciples of the chocolate chip cookie cult. Antoine C., Antoine G., and Kana loved these so much that they requested the recipes, meaning this silly little cookie recipe is my first to go global.

My secret to fabulous cookies is to turn on the mixer and cream, cream, and cream again. I often turn on my KitchenAid mixer to cream the shortening and sugars, then let it go while I do other stuff. It doesn’t seem that you can over-do the creaming to make light, fluffy cookies. The other trick is to not over-bake. Remove from oven when lightly brown on edges. And of course you have to put love in your cookies. Don’t forget the love. That’s the secret ingredient.

Makes 2 dozen cookies (I make them big)

1 cup shortening (do NOT substitute butter in this recipe)
¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¾ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (or 12 ounce bag) of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips or Nestle Chocolate Chunks

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In large mixer bowl, cream shortening with beater attachment on electric mixer. Slowly add dark brown sugar, then white sugar, and cream ingredients until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and cream ingredients. Add vanilla, and cream ingredients again.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt with a spoon. Slowly add this flour mixture to the creamed shortening and sugar mixture until all ingredients are combined. Remove bowl from mixer, and stir in chocolate chips.

Drop cookie dough onto baking sheet with small spoon. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing cookies from baking sheet. Continue cooling on racks. Store cookies in an airtight container.