cookies

Mallows

As I mentioned in my previous post, the July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. While the Milan cookies were delicious and dainty, the Mallows were scrumptious and indulgent. They were two very different types of cookies, but I learned from each recipe and enjoyed the variety! If I had to choose a favorite, though — and you know I do — it would be these Mallows.


Four types of Mallows (from back): Almond Mallows, Hazelnut Mallows, Cinnamon Mallows, and Plain Mallows

Mallows are chocolate-covered, marshmallow-topped cookies. The wonderful thing about these Mallows (besides the amazing flavor) is how versatile they are. Homemade marshmallows are very easily flavored and customized, so I was able to make four Mallow “flavors” with hardly any more trouble than just making one. I chose Almond, Hazelnut, and Cinnamon Mallows in addition to the plain.


Almond Mallows

Almond Mallows have an almond sliver between the cookie and marshmallow, and another atop the cookie. In addition, their marshmallows are flavored with vanilla, almond, and butter flavorings. The marshmallow is as rich as a buttercream frosting, and so tasty! I bet this version would also be delicious with some creamy almond butter piped on under the marshmallow.


Hazelnut Mallows

Hazelnut Mallows (my favorite!) have Nutella piped on under plain marshmallow, and are topped with toasted hazelnuts.


Cinnamon Mallows

Cinnamon Mallows have cinnamon and nutmeg flavored marshmallow, and a light dusting of cinnamon and cocoa powder on top.

Enjoy experimenting with flavors! Different sorts of nuts, spices, and extracts are all tools for tweaking your mallows. Some Daring Bakers piped a bit of jam or nut butter below their marshmallows for an added surprise. Use food coloring to denote different flavors of marshmallow. There’s a lot of room for creativity here.


All four types of Mallows again (from left): Cinnamon Mallows, Almond Mallows, Plain Mallows, and Hazelnut Mallows

Gale Gand’s original recipe seemed to need some tweaking, since Daring Bakers typically ended up with — I kid you not — hundreds of cookies, and only enough marshmallows to cover around 50. I’ve adjusted the recipe below to hopefully yield the correct amounts! Also, Gand’s original recipe called for melting semisweet chocolate and vegetable oil to make your coating. After reading that about half of the Daring Bakers’ were having trouble with their chocolate not setting — especially those who live in warm or humid climates — I decided not to take a chance with it. Instead, I used my beloved CandiQuik dipping chocolate, which dries in literally minutes! You can probably find this at Lowes Food or SuperTarget. A friend of mine over at Barbara Bakes uses Ghiradelli dipping chocolate, which is another option.

Enjoy playing with your Mallows! My family and friends loved these cookies, and I hope yours will too.

Mallow Cookies


Recipe By: Gale Gand (tweaked quite a bit!)
Yields: about 80 small (bite-sized) Mallows

Cookie Ingredients:
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1.5/8 teaspoon baking soda (this is an odd measurement — eyeball it as best you can!)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 eggs, whisked together (to get half an egg, crack it into a separate cup and lightly beat it; then discard 1.5 tablespoons and add the rest to the recipe)
Dipping chocolate (I used 2 bags of chocolate CandiQuik)

Homemade Marshmallow Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2 egg whites , room temperature
Flavoring (either Plain, Almond, or Cinnamon)

-Plain = 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Almond = 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon almond extract, 1/8 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring, and 4 drops of yellow food coloring (optional).
-Cinnamon = 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch nutmeg

Directions:

Begin by making cookies:
1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough (see my tips for rolling out dough, below).
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 8 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

While cookies are cooling, make your marshmallows:
1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer (though soft ball stage can be eyeballed with a simple cold water test, I love having a candy thermometer around. Mine even has a line marked “soft-ball stage”).
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the flavoring of your choice and continue whipping until stiff (it will take around 15 minutes, so I hope you took your vitamins this morning!). Note: You can also separate the marshmallow into multiple bowls and make multiple flavors, but if you do, reduce the amounts of the ingredients so they don’t overpower the smaller volume they’re flavoring.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Now to finish the cooled cookies:
1. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat and cover with a cooling rack — this will be your drying rack!
3. Melt dipping chocolate according to package instructions. I like to set my bowl of chocolate in a larger bowl of hot water to keep it melted while I work. Just be careful not to let the water touch the chocolate, or it will seize and you won’t be able to work with it.
3. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot dipping chocolate (see my video demonstration below!).
4. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Now’s the time to add toppings if you wish, while the coating is wet. For a chocolate squiggle, let coating dry and use a ziplock of CandiQuik with the corner cut off to drizzle over cookies.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (unless you’re in a very hot environment and notice melting, in which case, store in fridge).

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Julie’s tips for rolling, gathered from various internet sources, my mother, and some lovely friends during a moment of panic:

  • Work with small batches (about 1/3 of the dough) at a time, while keeping the rest chilling in the refrigerator.
  • You can coat your workspace in equal parts confectioners’ sugar and flour if you’re worried about using too much flour (which can cause dough to get dry/tough).
  • Roll dough immediately from the refrigerator, turning it often and redusting lightly with flour mixture to prevent sticking.
  • If you don’t have a cool metal counter or marble slab (which I don’t), set some frozen vegetables out on your counter for a bit before you roll to cool it off. Then dry your workspace and roll. You can also refrigerate or freeze your rolling pin for a few minutes.
  • Have a sheet pan in the freezer. If you sense your dough is getting sticky/warm, put a sheet of wax paper on the dough and press the frozen sheet pan on top to cool it down quickly.

The One Minute Dipping Demonstration!
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvyI3i4nYLY&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6&border=1]

Process Photos!


Ready to roll!




Fresh from the oven and not so pretty.




Getting organized to make my four types of Mallows (and not confuse them!)




Is it soft-ball stage yet? (notice my faithful Coke Zero in the background!)




Piping Nutella filling onto my Hazelnut Mallows. The more you can fit, the better!




For Almond Mallows, I used a bit of the almond marshmallow mixture to “glue” an almond sliver on the cookie before piping my marshmallow.




Marshmallows of all flavors piped on.




Dipping — see video above for a demonstration!




Finished!




Mmm! Have one of each!

Visit the Daring Bakers (temporary) Blogroll to see more of these treats from amazing bakers!

Baking to Freeze: Introduction!

New babies are such a joyous occasion, but the stress of getting used to a new, totally dependent little person in your life is sure to be a bit overwhelming. I’m so excited for my friend, A., who is expecting her new little one any day now (I’m sure it’s a girl, though we don’t actually know yet). She’s already so organized and has been nesting for months, but I wanted to do something to help her through the first busy days. What better than to do something I love (baking!) to support her as she adds to her family? I decided to make and freeze some dinners (and dessert, of course) for her to pop in the oven after Baby comes.

I’ve always loved the idea of giving friends gifts of food. Beyond merely supplying a need, personal, handmade gifts of food also supply warmth and affection. Sitting down to a hot meal is always satisfying and pleasant, and even moreso when it also represents the bond of friendship. It’s an intimate way to share a tiny piece of the load your friends are carrying. It’s lovely to be able to do something to help, and I hope the food turned out lovely for her.

The first step of creating A.’s meals was scouring the internet for which dishes would freeze well, thawing and baking instructions, and packaging tips. After all that searching around, I thought it might be nice to create a “one-stop” post on Willow Bird Baking about creating frozen meals. Hopefully this will be helpful for those of you with expectant friends, new neighbors, or even friends going through times of grief. Using this post, you ought to be able to bake one (or both) of two freezer-friendly casseroles and a batch of frozen cookie dough, print labels/thawing instructions, and get tips on preparing products for the freezer.

Now, onto the food! I chose two lasagnas for my freezing escapade. One is a Mexican Lasagna, which folks joke is neither Mexican, nor a lasagna! It’s very easy to throw together. The other is a Classic Italian Lasagna, which is Italian and is lasagna, and is much more time consuming. It’s a labor of love. Which casserole you choose really depends on your goal: if you want a quick and easy recipe, choose the former, but if you enjoy making more complex recipes, choose the latter (or both). I personally hadn’t made a “real lasagna” before, so I wanted to give it a shot! Finally, I chose to make some cookie dough for a dessert, since it freezes very well. Martha Stewart’s Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies sounded hearty and delicious. Because of the large quantities of food, I decided to keep half and give half. That way the baking does double duty, and A.’s freezer doesn’t get overbooked!


LOTS of food!

Click on the recipe below that you’re interested in baking (or baking to freeze!) to find the recipe, printable labels, and thawing instructions:

Recipe #1: Mexican Lasagna

Recipe #2: Classic Italian Lasagna

Recipe #3: Chunky Peanut Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies

Finally, here are some great tips for freezing casseroles, to which I would add the following:

  • Consider packaging: disposable baking dishes are a kindness, since they won’t need to be returned. Make sure all of the dishes you’re preparing will fit in the freezer when packaged and wrapped!
  • Label your meals: In addition to the name of the dish, include instructions on thawing/baking, a “date packaged” and “good until” date, and the recipes (this will allow friends to calculate nutrition information, peruse ingredients, and even make the dish again, if they wish). I’ve included PDF labels for each of the dishes below, so feel free to download and print them. The labels can be cut out and glued on 4×6 index cards to make them sturdier.
  • Wrap food better than you think you need to. Double layers of plastic wrap, pack things in ziplock bags, etc.

Baking to Freeze: Chunky Peanut Chocolate and Cinnamon Cookies

Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies are the third and final recipe in my “baking to freeze” series (see the introduction post here, if you missed it!). These cookies taste festive: cinnamon and spice, along with crunchy peanuts and rich chocolate chips.


Ziplock of Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookie dough partitioned into 4-cookie logs, with thawing/baking instructions.



Cookies after baking.



Baking to Freeze Recipe #3: Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies


Recipe by: Martha Stewart
Yields: About 40-50 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Put butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Add sugars; mix 2 minutes. Mix in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips, peanuts, and vanilla with a mixing spoon until well distributed. Refrigerate dough until it is slightly firm, 15 minutes. If freezing, roll into logs using wax paper. Double wrap logs of cookie dough (in desired portions) in plastic wrap and seal in a ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 6 weeks.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Space balls 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly. Bake until just golden, about 13 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Can serve with ice cream.

Thawing Instructions: Thaw desired amount of cookie dough in refrigerator for several hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Space 2-3 inches apart on greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake until golden, about 13 minutes.

Click here to download thawing/baking instruction labels and recipe card to include with this dish.

Preview:

Quick and Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

Last night around midnight, I was poking about online and found this super-easy, flourless peanut butter cookie recipe. I immediately ran out and measured my peanut butter . . . juuuust shy of a cup! Of course! Not to be deterred, I threw Byrd in the car (actually, I let her jump into the car herself) and drove to the grocery store to pick up some extra peanut butter, along with things I’ll need for my savory cupcakes this weekend (stay tuned for these! I’m hoping they’re going to be amazing!)

I was excited about this recipe because of the possibility of making a weekday snack. I eat lower carb during the week, and since they have no flour, these cookies (when made with sugar-free peanut butter and Splenda) are low carb. About 125 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates per cookie, to be exact.

The only issue I was concerned about is the effect these substitutions would have. Natural peanut butter can be oilier or drier (depending on how well-mixed your jar is) than regular processed peanut butter, and Splenda works in most things, but not all. The cookies came out dry because of the peanut butter difference, and a little crumbly as well, but you know . . . for a low carb sweet, they hit the spot. After refrigerating overnight in an air-tight container, they were quite yummy. Nevertheless, if you’re not worried about the carbs, I would use regular ol’ JIF and sugar for a moister cookie.

Flourless Quick and Easy Peanut Butter Cookies


Recipe By:

Nadia

Yields: 14-18 cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

Mix ingredients together for about 2 minutes. Cover and chill in refrigerator for half an hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a cookie sheet. Shape dough into small balls (and roll balls in sugar, if you’d like). Use the back of a fork to press balls flat vertically and horizontally (forming that lovely crisscross pattern). Bake for 18 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack and store in airtight container.

Note: As mentioned above, the low carb version of this won’t be quite as moist, but is yummy as a quick treat. If substituting low carb ingredients (and maybe even if not), I think refrigerating overnight in an airtight container makes the flavor better. If you’re making the regular recipe, I could see these being fantastic with some mini hershey kisses or dipped in jam, as several folks on the original post suggested. Mmm peanut butter cookies! Enjoy!

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