Sunday, January 24, 2010

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had a bag of chocolate toffee pieces that I wasn't sure what to do with (other than the obvious thing: eat them straight from the bag...) and happened to come across the following recipe in a cookbook I got for Christmas. The cookies were even featured on the cover, so they must be good, right?

I really had no idea that we would like them as much as we did! For basically being just a chocolate chip cookie with some toffee thrown in, these were darn tasty. The toffee added this buttery, salty flavor that really took them up a notch. And a sprinkle of my secret ingredient*, sea salt, on top before baking really rounded them out. M asked if I could make a batch every day. He was serious.

*I'm no good at keeping secrets. ;)

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 42
3/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. chocolate-covered toffee candy bar bits (or several bars, such as Heath, chopped)
sprinkle of sea salt, optional

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, mix together brown sugar, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches and mix on low just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped chocolate toffee bits by hand with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Drop the dough in heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets (lined with a Silpat, if you have one), spacing the cookies about two inches apart. For an extra hit of flavor, sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Bake 10 minutes, until golden. Leave them on the cookie sheet for about two minutes then transfer baked cookies to wire racks to cool.

See the toffee oozing out on the left? YUM.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scout's 2nd Birthday: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Well, my little puppy is now, officially, an adult dog.

Let me preface this post by saying that I never thought I'd be that dog owner. Talking to him like he's a baby? Crazy. Birthday parties? Ha! You have got to be kidding me.

"Hi, momma. I waited right here for you to come home."

...then it all went out the window.

He's my starter-kid. My fluffy protector. My companion. My running buddy. My comedic relief. MY BABY!!

I knew a small slice of carrot cake would make Scout very happy, but if feeding to doggies, omit the frosting on that piece, since dairy and dogs don't mix.

One thing I like about this recipe is that matchstick carrots are a great time-saver. You can chop them for a few seconds in the food processor or run a knife through them just to make them slightly more palatable in the cake. So simple.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice (I used pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 t. nutmeg
dash of salt
2/3 c. canola or vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly fork beaten
1 1/2 c. finely grated peeled carrots or matchstick carrots, chopped
1 c. chopped walnuts (reserve some for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round pans, two 8-inch square pans, one 13x9-inch cake pan, or prepare 18 cupcake liners.

Whisk together the first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Add canola oil and fork-beaten eggs. Stir chopped grated carrots and walnuts into mixture.

Scrape batter into pan(s), and spread until even. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean: 25–30 minutes in round or square pans; 30–35 minutes in 13x9 pan; 20 minutes for 18 cupcakes.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Slide knife around edges to loosen if removing from pan. Frost when completely cooled.

Cream Cheese Frosting (half recipe of what I use for red velvet):*
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners' sugar, or to taste

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Frost cake when completely cool, and top with additional chopped walnuts, if desired.

* You may need to double the frosting recipe for a layered cake, but this was enough for a single-layer 13x9 pan.

Happy Birthday, Scouty!
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