M&Ms Cookies

M&Ms CookiesHere’s a little midweek cheer! I mean, is it possible to be anything but cheerful when there are M&Ms Cookies around? I think not!M&Ms CookiesThese are simply a homemade version of my favorite bakery cookie. They’re super easy to make and oh-so-colorful and the happiest thing to come out of my kitchen in months. I can’t look at them without smiling. I can’t eat one without smiling either!M&Ms CookiesM&Ms CookiesButtery and heavier on granulated sugar than brown, these cookies have crispy edges and puffy, tender centers that melt in your mouth. And that’s to say nothing of the glut of M&Ms scattered throughout! Soft cookie + melty candy-coated chocolate—YUM.M&Ms CookiesM&Ms Cookies hold up extremely well for days. I’m a bit of a diva about leftover cookies, but I was still reaching for these four days post-bake!M&Ms CookiesM&Ms CookiesThe rest of the batch were taken to an event and placed alongside a coffee pot and a box of Oreos. It’ll come as no surprise that these went first. I suppose homemade cookies almost always go first, but I think M&Ms Cookies are especially hard to resist. Their appeal could be chalked up to a lot of things (homemade, filled with candy, etc.) but I’m choosing to believe it’s the cheer.M&Ms Cookies

M&Ms Cookies
makes about 18 medium cookies

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup M&Ms candy

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment, set aside.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy. Add granulated and light brown sugars, and beat to combine. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing to combine. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in M&Ms.

Scoop dough by in 2 tablespoon increments, roll into balls, and set 3-inches apart on prepared pans.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes, rotating pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back at the 5 minute mark. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, crosshatching, and baking with remaining dough, letting the pans return to room temperature between batches.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.M&Ms CookiesM&Ms CookiesM&Ms Cookies

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Sour Cream Waffles

Sour Cream WafflesI love baking with sour cream for the richness, tenderness and moisture it adds to my cakes and other baked goods, but I have no desire to eat it on anything but pierogis—and I never make pierogis. And so sour cream frequently gets sad and gross in the back of my fridge, having been forgotten until I run out of space for the next cake or bowl of cookie dough or yogurt container.

Until now, that is.Sour Cream WafflesA few weekends ago, armed with a half-container of sour cream leftover from making kolaches, I set out to make some waffles. I had previously tried Molly Wizenberg’s Waffles of Insane Greatness and was intrigued by Stella Parks’s Buttermilk Waffles, but wasn’t going to make either of those recipes because sour cream, duh.Sour Cream WafflesInstead I combined aspects of both recipes into The Best Waffles I Have Ever Eaten In My Life. We’re talking crispy edges and fluffy interiors, light and not too sweet, and gorgeous and golden. Truly, the best waffles I’ve ever eaten in my life.Sour Cream WafflesI have 24 of them in my freezer leftover from testing and have been toasting and eating them plain as a midnight snack for the last few weeks, so I can confirm: these are the fluffiest and crispiest and The Best Waffles I Have Ever Eaten In My Life. Period.Sour Cream WafflesReasons the insides stay nice and soft:

• Sour cream is creamy, rich, and thick, which means it adds lots of moisture and some heft to the batter. Also, it’s acidic, so it reacts with the baking soda in the batter to help with the fluff factor.
• Egg whites are used in their liquid state. That’s right—no whipped egg whites here! This is a waffle recipe for those of us who are never going to be up for whipping egg whites before they’ve had at least two cups of coffee. If you’re skeptical, baking queen Stella Parks says using liquid egg whites instead of the more traditional whipped ones creates more moisture in waffle batter, which creates more steam, which creates a fluffier waffle, and—no surprises—she’s right.Sour Cream Waffles
• The dry ingredients include a large amount of cornstarch. Here, it impedes gluten-development in the same way that it does in cakes, producing a more tender texture.
• This recipe calls for a fifteen minute rest after you’ve prepared the batter. This allows the developed gluten to relax and gives your waffle iron time to get screaming hot, which is important for crispy edges! Speaking of which…Sour Cream WafflesReasons the outsides get crispy:

• Sugar. There isn’t much in this recipe, but the small amount is crucial for crispy waffle success. It caramelizes against the hot iron creating both crisp texture and golden color.Sour Cream Waffles
• Making sure your waffle iron is HOT. I let mine heat for at least 15 minutes.
• Letting the waffles cook until the steam dissipates. That may mean that your waffles take 6-7 minutes instead of the 4-5 it takes for the “ready” light to come on, but I promise you it’s worth the extra wait.Sour Cream WafflesI mean, look at that. Does breakfast get any better than that? I don’t think so.Sour Cream WafflesNeedless to say, half-containers of sour cream are a hot commodity around here now.Sour Cream Waffles

Sour Cream Waffles
makes about 8 4-inch waffles

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2/3 cup full-fat sour cream
2 large egg whites, room temperature
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the waffle iron:
cooking spray

For serving:
butter
warmed maple syrup
seasonal fruit

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large liquid measuring cup (or small mixing bowl), use a fork to whisk together whole milk and sour cream. Whisk in egg whites, melted butter and vanilla.

Add liquid ingredients to dry in two installments, whisking until combined and mostly smooth (a couple of small lumps are okay). Let batter rest at room temperature for 15 minutes while the waffle iron is heating.

Preheat oven to 200F. Place a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Grease waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup of the waffle batter into each well of the iron and close the top. Let cook until steam dissipates and the waffles are turning golden, about 6 minutes.

Transfer cooked waffles to the prepared rack-over-pan and place in the oven to keep warm. Re-grease the waffle iron and cook remaining batter.

Serve waffles with butter, warmed maple syrup, and seasonal fruit, if desired. Enjoy immediately.

Leftovers may be layered with parchment, placed in a freezer bag, and frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat in the toaster.Sour Cream WafflesSour Cream WafflesSour Cream Waffles

Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}

Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}While many of my food memories of my childhood in Texas revolve around Tex-Mex and barbecue, I also have a place in my heart for Lebanese food. My dad began going to a Lebanese restaurant called Hedary’s in the 1970s and, over time, got my mom, my sisters, and myself hooked on their mezze, lahem meshwi, and steaming hot pillows of fresh pita. And tabouleh. And the rice pudding. And the sodas that came in short, round glass bottles.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}For years, Hedary’s (“heh-dah-rees”) was our restaurant of choice for weekend dinners and special occasions alike, and as we grew up and moved away, a must-go whenever one (or all) of us came back to Fort Worth to visit. That is, until they closed the original location near my parents’ neighborhood a couple years back.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Our unanimous family-favorite Hedary’s entree was Frarej, a roast chicken dish made with tons of lemon and garlic and served with tender potatoes, tomatoes and onions. It somehow towed the line between light and bright and deeply comforting and was always the centerpiece of our extensive order.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej appears to be specific to the Hedary family—I’ve never seen it on any other Lebanese menu, the owners of my beloved Sahadi’s have never heard of it (nor have my Lebanese friends), and a quick internet search turns up only recipes by people like me who are trying to recapture the magic of this dish from a now-closed restaurant in a strip mall in Fort Worth, Texas.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}My older sister started making a version Frarej at home when she was in graduate school and has honed it over the years. She gave me her recipe when I wanted to impress a new boyfriend* a few years ago and since then, I have slowly made adjustments—not many though—until I achieved a Frarej I could make and eat any day of the week.

*I’m the sort of person who will try to seduce you with garlic. This is why I’m single. Although, to be fair, that boyfriend stuck around for a few years so…?Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Start by chopping (or pressing) 8-10 cloves of fresh garlic. Mix that with 1/3 cup of olive oil, 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pour it all over a bunch of sliced Yukon gold potatoes and onion wedges.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Let that roast for 15 minutes at 500F (yes, 500F) before stirring in some tomato wedges and topping it all off with some bone-in skin-on chicken thighs that you’ve given the lightest coating of olive oil. Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Throw that back in a 500F oven (again, yes, that hot) and let it go for 45 minutes, occasionally spooning accumulated liquid over the chicken, but otherwise leaving it alone. You’ll know it’s ready when the chicken is gorgeous and golden and the potatoes are tender. Your kitchen should also smell ahhh-mazing. Lemony and garlicky and chickeny—amazing.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej will be good the day it’s made—what could possibly be bad about juicy roast chicken, lemony potatoes, sweet onions and tangy tomatoes?—but the leftovers are where it’s at. I turned down a dinner invitation a couple weeks ago just because I wanted to eat the Frarej leftovers* in my fridge. The vegetables absorb all the lemony, chickeny fattiness and are just so…effing…delicious.

*This is actually why I’m single.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}

Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}
inspired by Hedary’s Restaurant, adapted from E1’s recipe
makes 4-6 servings

2 small Spanish onions, sliced into 8 wedges each
1 1/2 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, sliced in quarters
2/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 3-4 large lemons)
1/3 cup olive oil + more for coating chicken
8-10 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
3 pounds skin-on chicken thighs (about 6-8 thighs)
4 large or 5-6 small Roma tomatoes, sliced in quarters
chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 500F.

Toss onions and potatoes together on a large rimmed sheet pan.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a liquid measuring cup or small mixing bowl. Stir together with a fork (it won’t emulsify). Pour mixture over potatoes and onions and toss together with your hands. Bake for 15 minutes.

Pat chicken thighs dry. Rub them all over with olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Remove onions and potatoes from the oven. Stir in tomato wedges. Carefully nestle chicken thighs over the top.

Roast for 40-45 minutes, spooning a little of the accumulated liquid over chicken every 15 minutes. It’s ready when chicken is golden and cooked through, and vegetables are tender and browning in places. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. They will get more and more delicious as time goes on.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsFor a short week, this one has seemed endless. There has been change and growth and letting go and construction and a migraine that began on Tuesday night and continued well into Wednesday afternoon.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsWhat I’m saying is that I could use a treat. Luckily, I have a refrigerator full of these Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars, which are the perfect chewy, gooey, crispy-edged, chocolate-studded sweet to counteract all the negative energy in my immediate vicinity.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsIn addition to being a perfect flavor and textural combination, these bars are super easy to make. The cookie layers are simply a chocolate chip cookie play on the crumb I used in my Sweet Cherry Sugar Cookie Crumble. It comes together in five minutes and only requires one bowl—score!Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsA little more than half of the cookie mix gets pressed into the bottom of a 9-inch square pan. Then comes the salted caramel, which is simply a bag of soft caramel candies that are melted with salt and heavy cream.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsThe remaining cookie mix is scattered over the top of the caramel and then everything is baked until the edges are crisp and the caramel is starting to bubble up through the cookie crumble.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsLet your bars cool completely before slicing. If you try to cut them before they’re cool, you won’t get the satisfaction that comes with clean edges and beautiful layers (if not perfect evenness).Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsAnd that’s to say nothing of the buttery chocolate chip cookie layers and the gooey, salty caramel filling, which are a match made in dessert heaven. So, so delicious.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsI logically know that dessert is not going to change the world, but I can’t seem to look at these and see anything but goodness. Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars can’t solve my problems, but four bites of salty-sweet caramel sandwiched between layers of crisp cookie can certainly help soften the blow, am I right?!Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars
makes about 16 bars

Chocolate Chip Dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 reaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Filling:
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies, unwrapped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make the chocolate chip dough. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add vanilla and melted butter and whisk until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in mini chocolate chips. Set aside. Dough may seem crumbly.

Make the salted caramel layer. Combine caramels, heavy cream, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Firmly press about 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chip dough into a thin, even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Try not to leave any huge areas of caramel uncovered, lest it burn.

Bake full pan for 23-26 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Caramel will be liquid straight out of the oven, but will set as bars cool. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature.

Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin CookiesI have baked with oats a fair amount over the last few years. Granola, baked oatmeal, gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookies, graham crackers, oatmeal creme pies, jam squares—I’ve made them all, but the most iconic oat dessert of all, the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, has eluded me.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOh, I’ve tried. Of course I have. But, prior to this, every oatmeal cookie that has come out of my kitchen has been disappointingly flat in both appearance and flavor, and I’ve had a bit of a complex about it. I mean, is it so wrong to want a thick, chewy cinnamon-scented cookie with toasty oats and raisins with actual flavor and texture???

Well, no. No, it is not.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesEnter my dream Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, the results of years of boredom and frustration and some concentrated testing. They take a little longer to prepare than your average oatmeal cookie, but that’s because you’re adding big flavor and texture you just can’t get otherwise.

  • I toast my oats because toasted oats have an incredible nutty flavor and crispness that regular oats do not. The process takes all of five minutes and makes a huge difference in the final product. Oatmeal cookies should have big oat flavor!
  • Nothing is worse than a tough, waxy raisin in an otherwise great cookie. I like to ensure that my cookies will be studded with plump, flavorful raisins by giving them a quick soak in boiling water. This step is hands-off, but makes the final cookies extra chewy and delicious and has the added benefit of keeping them from drying out after a day or two.
  • Most oatmeal cookie recipes call for creamed softened butter to aerate the dough, but melted butter generally produces chewier results. We want chewy cookies, do we not?! You could just use plain melted butter here, but I like to take it a step further—brown butter, y’all. That depth of flavor cannot be matched!Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • This dough is sweetened with only dark brown sugar for both flavor and texture. The molasses in brown sugar helps these cookies stay soft and chewy for days.
  • I swapped some of the usual baking soda for baking powder, which is 4x weaker. Using equal volumes of both leaveners means that we get results that spread out less and puff up more.
  • I chill this cookie dough (and most of my others) because cold dough spreads less in the oven. We want thick cookies, not flat ones!Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin Cookies

The cold dough is scooped and rolled in two-tablespoon increments before being baked for 11-13 minutes, or until they look just slightly underdone. They’ll finish cooking as they cool, and the centers will stay soft and chewy.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesY’all! Are those not the most delicious-looking Oatmeal Raisin Cookies you’ve ever seen? Because those are the most delicious-looking Oatmeal Raisin Cookie I’ve ever seen. The best I’ve ever eaten, too–thick, rich and chewy with big hits of molasses and cinnamon, and all those toasty, buttery oats and raisins, of course!Oatmeal Raisin CookiesLike I said, they’re the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies of my dreams. (And maybe now your dreams, too.)Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups raisins
water
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Plump the raisins. Place raisins in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat over medium-high heat until it simmers, then remove from heat and set aside.

Toast the oats. Heat a large dry skillet over medium heat. Add oats and toast, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant with some darker pieces. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl. Let cool a few minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Whisk dark brown sugar into brown butter. Add eggs one at a time, whisking to combine, followed by vanilla. Mix in flour mixture. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in toasted oats, followed by raisins. Cover cookie dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments and roll into balls. Set at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 11-13 minutes, rotating pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front at the 6 minute mark.

Let cookies cool on their pans for 7-10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat dough rolling and baking until all dough is used.

Cookies may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.Oatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin CookiesOatmeal Raisin Cookies