Baking with B: Chocolate Spice Cookies

Do you ever get tired of making the same thing, over and over again? (I used to feel that way about birthday cakes.) I was searching for something to serve during a recent family visit and none of my old standards were really grabbing me. Trying something new didn’t really appeal to me either- I didn’t have the time or energy for experimenting.

I was beginning to feel discouraged until I thought- hey, why reinvent the wheel? You know a lot of great classic recipes, B. Why not spice one up so you can have the best of both worlds?

I took my own advice. Literally. I whipped together the ingredients for my favorite butter cookie recipe (also featured here) and turned things up a notch. I’m pretty pleased with the results, too- these Chocolate Spice Cookies melt in your mouth just like a butter cookie, but taste like a gingersnap, with an extra splash of chocolate to keep things sweet.

Chocolate Spice Cookies (makes 28)

3/4 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. nutmeg

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips, melted

Cream together butter and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift together spices and flour and mix with wet ingredients, adding one spoonful at a time until ingredients are fully combined. Divide the dough and shape into two flat discs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Use your hands to shape dough into desired shape, before placing on a parchment-lined cookie sheet approximately one inch apart. Press down each cookie with a fork before baking 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cookie rack until fully cooled.

Melt chocolate in a double-broiler or microwave until smooth. Dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate before placing on waxed paper. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

B’s Tip: Just because I used chocolate chips doesn’t mean you can’t use your favorite baking chocolate or chocolate bar to make the melted chocolate! You may want to drizzle the chocolate over the cookies instead, or skip that step altogether and throw your chocolate chips into the dough before baking.

The best thing about making over a classic recipe like this is that the variations don’t have to stop there- you can change up the chocolate, switch out the spices, or add nuts or your favorite dried fruit for even more flavor. Your cookies don’t even have to be the same shape- I tried molding mine into logs before squashing with a giant serving fork, instead of the usual circular cookies I make. See? Spicing up your old routine can be addictive. I highly suggest you try it too. You never know what you might come up with!

Happy baking!

B

Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.

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Baking with B: Chocolate Pudding Brownies

Isn’t it awesome when you can take something from your cupboard normally used for one thing and then make something completely different using that same thing?

If you don’t follow, then you obviously haven’t made these Chocolate Pudding Brownies where the secret ingredient is (not surprisingly) chocolate pudding. They’re super-soft and moist and honestly do kind of taste like chocolate pudding- if you bake them right, they have that soft, smooth pudding texture that gives the recipe its name. Apologies to brownie purists everywhere-my favorite brownie recipe is still this one-but for people that are short on time and looking for simple baking solutions, this is definitely one you should add to your roster.

Chocolate Pudding Brownies (makes 25 squares)

6 tbsp butter, softened

2/3 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 box instant chocolate pudding powder (4-serving size)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth before beating in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and chocolate pudding powder. Combine with wet ingredients just until moistened. Spread evenly in a greased 8×8-inch pan and bake for 30 minutes until pick inserted in center comes out moist, not wet, with batter.

B’s Tip: Depending on how hot or cold your oven runs, you may want to check up on these babies frequently to make sure you don’t over-bake them. They’re still pretty tasty if you do, but the texture comes out kind of gummy and spongy instead of cake-y and moist.

These brownies are so ooey, gooey good that you should wait until they cool before cutting and serving, but if you just can’t wait why not pair one with your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt for a brownie-licious sundae? Just add whipped cream and chocolate sauce and you’re good to go! Brownie points if you top it with a maraschino cherry. (See what I did there?!)

Happy baking!

B

Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

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I’ve been helping my mother in the kitchen ever since I can remember; I made my first recipe with her when I was seven, and most of my baking skills come from experience rather than instruction.

I think I got a reputation as a good baker mostly because I’m a prolific one, and I’m not afraid to try a new recipe or develop one myself. Just because I enjoy a baking challenge doesn’t mean that I haven’t had my baking ups-and-downs.

I’ve committed the usual rookie mistakes such as over-mixing, or not bringing my eggs to room temperature ahead of time. But to be honest, the majority of my mistakes have usually been oven-related. Cooking times in any recipe can always vary depending on the oven. Investing in an oven thermometer was a revelation. (Thanks, Anna Olsen!)

I’m also kind of a klutz so I’ve been known to spill all manner of ingredients, bend spoons, stain clothes, and yes- drop an entire carton of eggs on the floor.

People who know me personally will remember why I’m wary of microwaves because they’ve heard the story of how I lit a stick of butter on fire because I stuck it in the microwave to melt without removing the foil first. (Please remove the foil.)

My favorite baking mishap, though, happened during university when I served on the editorial board of an arts magazine. We were trying to organize a bake sale to raise more funds to make our publication super pretty. No problem for an experienced baker like me, right? I even went so far as to commandeer a friend’s kitchen for the day and organized a baking assembly line to get things done faster.

What I didn’t bargain for, though, was the fact that we were using cake mixes from a box.

Now I’m not above using cake mixes (see here or here for some ideas on how to fancy them up) but at the time I was a D.I.Y. kind of gal that had been taught by a pretty traditional baker. I had honestly never baked anything from a box before. But again, no problem! Right?

Well.

I don’t know if I messed up the ingredients, or something went wrong with the mixing, or if I had merely been distracted and done a bad job of supervising. What I do know was that my team was in charge of muffins and what came out of the oven did not resemble muffins at all. Well, they were shaped like muffins- kind of- except much, much smaller.

One of the girls turned to me, “I thought you said you knew how to bake?”

“I do! I swear!” I cried. “These are just…pocket muffins.”

“What?”

“Pocket muffins. You know, muffins that you can just grab, stuff in your pocket and go. Perfect for a small snack.” (See? I was into marketing even then.)

She frowned. “I thought we were making the regular size?”

I need to cover. Fast. “Yeah but think of how many more of these we can sell because they’re smaller! They’ll make us more money!”

They did not. The “pocket muffins” sat on the table a day later at the bake sale, untouched, surrounded by more human-sized baked goods. It dawned on us that maybe we should have tried one of them.

We shouldn’t have. They were hard, and kind of chewy like a granola bar, and the dehydrated blueberries included in the mix had somehow liquefied and hardened again into these nasty little lumps.

The squirrels in the quad, on the other hand, loved them.

It wasn’t one of the highlights of my baking career, that’s for sure, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t glean much baking knowledge from the experience. I did learn, however, that there is room for error in any baking endeavor, no matter how much experience or training you have. The most important thing is having the ability to roll with the punches and have a good sense of humor.

But I am happy to report that I’ve never been able to duplicate that pocket muffin recipe.

KBwB-BFlower-50Ok I shared mine, now you share yours! What was your biggest baking or cooking disaster? Bare it all below, or email me and we can keep it between us.

Wanna see some of the recipes that have worked out for me? I’ve archived them all here, plus I have a whole roster of ideas waiting to be made on Pinterest. You can find where I get my cooking inspiration here and here, and if you’re new to this blog you may want to check out my philosophy on coping with stress here. (Spoiler alert: it’s baking.)