Category Archives: Sweet & Salty

Chocolate Salted Caramel Thumbprints

Chocolate Salted Caramel ThumbprintsWe’re getting close to the end of this year’s posts (two more recipes to go!), but I just couldn’t let 2020 end without making sure you knew about these Chocolate Salted Caramel Thumbprints.Chocolate Salted Caramel ThumbprintsLet me say that again: Chocolate. Salted. Caramel. Thumbprints.

That’s right—chocolate sugar cookies filled with soft, chewy caramel and finished with a chocolate drizzle and crunchy salt. Does a more perfect cookie exist? I think not. Sure, there are a few steps and a chill involved, but none of it is complicated, and you will be rewarded with salty, gooey, chocolaty cookies at the end. The best!Chocolate Salted Caramel ThumbprintsWhile Christmas and New Year’s Eve (and literally everything else) are different this year, these cookies should be a part of your holiday, however it looks. Are you gathering with a tiny group to do a gift exchange? Share some cookies with people you love. Are you spending the holiday by your lonesome, like me? Have a cookie (or four) while you watch Home Alone while you’re home alone. Are you skipping it all and hoping next year is better? Well, Chocolate Salted Caramel Thumbprints are good for that too.Chocolate Salted Caramel ThumbprintsChristmas is only a week away! To accommodate the holiday, I’m changing up next week’s posting schedule from the usual Wednesday/Friday to Monday/Wednesday. Since we’re getting down to the wire, look out for two easy as can be, festive as everything recipes. Oh, and let me know what you’re baking! I love seeing all your holiday (E2) bakes over on Instagram.

Have a wonderful weekend!Chocolate Salted Caramel Thumbprints

Chocolate Salted Caramel Thumbprints
makes about 3 dozen

Chocolate Cookie Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Salted Caramel Centers:
5 ounces soft caramel candies (I use Kraft)
3 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

For finishing:
2 ounces chopped dark chocolate
coarse or flaky finishing salt

Special Equipment:
1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon

Make chocolate cookie dough. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Use your hands to knead dough into a mass, then divide it in two. Cover each half with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Scoop dough by the tablespoon and roll each int a ball. Place dough balls at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Use the back of a very small spoon (like a 1/2 teaspoon) to slowly press a well into each dough ball. They may crack a bit—just smooth them with your fingers. If dough gets too warm and sticky, freeze for 10 minutes.

Bake cookies 12-13 minutes. Cookies are done when puffed and no longer wet-looking. When you remove the cookies from the oven, gently press the back of the small spoon into the centers again; they will crack a bit. Let cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes before carefully removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling and baking process with all remaining dough, letting the cookie sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Make the caramel. 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 and let cool about 5 minutes.

Spoon 1/2 teaspoon caramel into the center of each cooled cookie. Let set 10 minutes.

Finish the cookies. Place chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Use a fork to drizzle it over the cookies. Finish with coarse or flaky salt. To harden chocolate quickly, place the cookies in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Serve cookies. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. For best storage, place layers of wax paper between cookies.

Chocolate Salted Caramel ThumbprintsChocolate Salted Caramel ThumbprintsChocolate Salted Caramel Thumbprints

No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice CreamDo you think Nancy Meyers knows how many lives she changed when she wrote peanut butter and Oreos into the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap? Mine, for one, and probably millions more. Certainly more than when she had Meryl Streep make croissants in It’s Complicated (and in an absurdly short period of time, I might add). Probably way less than when Steve Martin had a meltdown over the quantity disparity between packages of hot dogs and hot dog buns in Father of the Bride. That one still hasn’t been resolved.

Hi, I guess I am a Nancy Meyers completist.No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice CreamAnyway, since I started baking, I’ve thrown peanut butter and Oreos into many recipes because they just *work.* This salty, creamy, bittersweet combination is one of the easiest ways to take a dessert from fine to fabulous.

Exhibit A: my most popular recipe of last year (and all time), Peanut Butter Oreo Magic Bars. Regular magic bars are good. Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars though? Ho-ly crap. Seriously, I’ve never once made a peanut butter and Oreo recipe and regretted it. Not once. They are a perfect pair. Period. End of story. Sorry friends with peanut allergies, I’ll get you next time.

*gets off soap box Costco-sized box of Oreos*No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice CreamToday’s offering is one you probably saw coming from a mile away: No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice Cream! Of course—of course!—I was going to combine them in an ice cream someday. And by someday, I mean today, which just so happens to be National Ice Cream Day. I swear I didn’t plan it like that.

The base of No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice Cream is rich, peanut buttery and incredibly easy to make. It’s made from just two ingredients: sweetened condensed milk and whipped heavy cream. Together they make for a thick, rich, airy and decidedly not-icy ice cream, no machine required. Here, I added a touch of salt, some vanilla and 1/3 cup of creamy peanut butter to the sweetened condensed milk before folding in the whipped cream. Just a warning that this is very difficult not to eat right out of the mixing bowl, but patience is a virtue and you should (mostly) hold off because Oreos.No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice CreamOh yes, it’s the big chunks of Oreo cookie that are the real magic here. That’s one thing I have a lot of feelings about: big chunks of cookie instead of cookie crumbs in my cookies & cream. It’s not called crumbs & cream, am I right?!

The “secret” (not a secret) to getting big chunks of cookie in your scoops? Quartering the Oreos before folding them into the base. The pieces will seem too big, but I promise they’re not. They’ll soften slightly while the ice cream freezes so that, when scooped, each portion gets some big pieces and some little, which is absolute heaven for a texture person like myself.No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice CreamActually, this whole situation is heaven. Cold, creamy, sweet & salty, Oreo-studded heaven piled in a cone.No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice Cream
makes about 8 cups

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup creamy-style peanut butter (not natural)
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
24 Oreo cookies, cut into quarters

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, salt and vanilla.

In a separate medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to whip heavy cream to stiff peaks. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into sweetened condensed milk mixture just until combined. Gently fold in the another 1/3 of the whipped cream, followed by the last 1/3. Carefully fold in quartered Oreos.

Transfer ice cream into a 9×5″ loaf pan, or other 8 cup vessel. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the ice cream. Cover plastic wrap with aluminum foil. Freeze ice cream for 6 hours or overnight, until completely frozen. Scoop and enjoy!No-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice CreamNo-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice CreamNo-Churn Peanut Butter Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

Potato Chip Clusters

Potato Chip ClustersWhen thinking up recipes for the week between Christmas and the New Year—a time when I have tons of leftovers, don’t want to take on any intense kitchen projects, and mostly just need a nap—I knew it had to be easy.Potato Chip ClustersEeeeeeeaaaaasy. E-A-S-Y. No chill, one bowl, no mixer, limited ingredients—easy!Potato Chip ClustersPotato Chip ClustersPotato Chip ClustersPotato Chip ClustersThat’s exactly what these Potato Chip Clusters are: golden, salty-sweet, lightly-candied morsels that require four ingredients, come together in five minutes and bake in seventeen.Potato Chip ClustersThey’re brown at the edges and crispy throughout, and stay that way for days. You won’t have to worry too much about softening since their primary structural component is a single egg white.Potato Chip ClustersI envision these as the perfect thing to go alongside a cocktail, mocktail or glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, but I also think they’d be great for Super Bowl Sunday, drizzled with chocolate and tucked into a cookie tin next Christmas, or whipped together any old time you need to knock out the last of a bag of potato chips.Potato Chip Clusters

Potato Chip Clusters
makes 12-16 clusters

1 large egg white
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups crushed potato chips (about 40-45 chips)
coarse or flaky sea salt

Place oven racks in the top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 325F.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together egg white and sugar until bubbly, about 1 minute. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in crushed potato chips until all pieces are coated.

Scoop by the tablespoon and drop 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten out slightly with the back of a fork. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake 10 minutes. Rotate top-to-bottom and front-to-back and bake another 7-8 minutes, until deep golden.

Let cool on the pans. Serve. Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.Potato Chip Clusters Potato Chip Clusters

Pretzel Shortbread

Pretzel ShortbreadFor the third year in a row, my first Christmas cookies of the season are being posted as part of the Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange, in which food bloggers post festive goodies and donate money in support of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We believe in their mission to raise funds for pediatric cancer treatments and research through bake sales and cookie swaps. Many supporters (“Good Cookies”) do this throughout the year, and I always look forward to supporting them by participating in the Sweetest Season. Making cookies is my favorite thing in the world to do, and the fact that it might help someone this week makes it even better. I made my donation on Giving Tuesday, but if you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here.Pretzel ShortbreadLet’s talk about Pretzel Shortbread. Salty, sweet, crisp, pretzely (inside & out!) cookies, with or without a drizzle of dark chocolate. Oh my lord, y’all. These are absurdly good.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadToday’s cookies are inspired by Philadelphia-favorite Lost Bread Co.’s Pretzel Shortbread. I first saw them when my friend, Claire, who co-owns Philly’s Root Market, posted about how quickly they were selling out. After that, I went down an internet rabbit hole and found out that they are made out of ground up stale soft pretzels, then brushed with lye before baking for maximum pretzelization.*

*I’m twisting the word “pretzel” a lot today and I will not apologize.Pretzel ShortbreadInstead of being a normal person and ordering from Lost Bread Co. online, I decided to figure out a version for the home baker…but without the lye because who keeps food-grade lye around?Pretzel ShortbreadTaking a cue from Lost Bread Co., my Pretzel Shortbread dough is made with a mix of flour and ground pretzels, and sweetened with dark brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar for both flavor and texture. The rest of the ingredients are butter, vanilla, and salt. It’s all mixed together in the span of a few minutes, then rolled and cut into shapes. I went with stars because that’s what I like.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadNext up: the pretzeling! After the cookies are rolled and cut (and also briefly frozen a couple of times), they are dipped in a warm mix of water and baking soda, or as I call it, “pretzel wash.” This is simply a small batch of the solution traditional soft pretzels are boiled in to achieve their signature golden finish. It’s literally just water and baking soda (no lye!), but it’s the thing that takes these cookies over the top!Pretzel ShortbreadInstead of tossing the shortbread in boiling liquid, which would probably destroy them instantly, I let the pretzel wash cool until I can touch it, and then dip the frozen cookie dough stars into the mix. This is followed up by a swipe of egg wash and sprinkles of coarse salt and sugar before being baked to a brown, burnished, decidedly pretzelesque* finish.

*“Pretzelesque” is my new favorite made-up word.Pretzel ShortbreadFinish the Pretzel Shortbread off with a drizzle of chocolate, or not. I did a little of each—I like to have options.Pretzel ShortbreadSalty, sweet, pretzeled inside-and-out, chocolaty, Christmasy, delicious options.Pretzel Shortbread

Pretzel Shortbread
makes about 3.5 dozen cookies

Pretzel Wash:
2 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda

Shortbread Dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups ground pretzels (about 1 1/2 cups whole mini pretzels)

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Garnish:
coarse salt
coarse sugar (optional)

Chocolate Drizzle:
3 ounces pure dark chocolate, chopped
coarse salt, for garnish (optional)
coarse sugar, for garnish (optional)

Read this recipe in its entirety before beginning.

Make the pretzel wash. Pour water into a 3-4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Wearing an oven mitt (or other protective hand gear), whisk in baking soda. Mixture will bubble and expand violently. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Place softened butter in a medium-large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add dark brown and confectioners sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in flour and ground pretzels. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched. Divide dough in two parts.

Working with one half at a time, sandwich dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll until 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to the freezer (on a baking sheet, if desired) for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. It is okay to stack the sheets of dough in the freezer.

While the dough is freezing, place racks in the center positions. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Peel on of the pieces of parchment off. Use a lightly floured 2-inch cookie cutter to cut cookies. Place them close together on prepared pans. Freeze for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough sheet. Scraps can be re-rolled, frozen, and cut.

Dip cookies in pretzel wash. Remove frozen cut cookie dough from freezer. Wearing a latex glove (highly recommended), dip cookies into pretzel wash and place back on baking sheets. Freeze again for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining cut cooking dough.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl, and use a fork to whisk until combined. Brush egg wash over the tops of the cookies, then sprinkling with coarse salt & coarse sugar.

Bake cookies for 23-25 minutes, or until burnished and brown. Let cool on the pans for 7 minutes. Use a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

Line two baking sheets (or a large surface) with parchment. Place cooling racks over the top. Arrange cookies on racks.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (30 second increments, stirring in between). Use a fork to drizzle chocolate over cookies. Scatter coarse salt & coarse sugar over the tops, if desired. Repeat with remaining cookies. Chocolate will set after a couple of hours at room temperature, or a few minutes in the freezer.

Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel Shortbread

Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesI’ve been making Thanksgiving food since mid-October, and while that’s my idea of a good time, it’s a bit of a relief that I’m not going to be anywhere near an oven on Thursday. My family traditionally travels and makes reservations for this particular holiday, so all I have to do is pack that skirt I marked as my “Thanksgiving outfit” back in September, get on a bus to D.C., and leave the cooking to a bunch of chefs.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesWe’ve been doing this routine in different cities since 1997, so it’s second nature now. In fact, the only issue I have with my family’s Thanksgiving tradition is that I’ll have to wait til Christmas to make them this Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesPoor them—they don’t know what they’re missing. I do, though, and so I am here to tell you that you absolutely, unequivocally should make this three days from now.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesI know. I know! The menu’s set. You’ve made the list. But just go ahead and add a brick of feta and some dates to the tail end. I promise it’s worth the change in plans.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesYou’ll only need five ingredients (plus something carby for serving) and fifteen minutes to put this appetizer together, and I would be utterly shocked if it lasts more than another fifteen minutes. I was alone when I made the feta and dates pictured here, and I had trouble keeping myself from eating half the brick in one go.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesThe feta is baked for ten minutes and broiled for a couple more. It turns soft and salty with crispy edges and corners that slump in the most pleasing way. It’s brushed with olive oil all over and honey on top before going into the oven, so it gets brown and blistered and…seriously, good luck not hoarding this all to yourself.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesIt won’t melt—feta doesn’t do that—but it will soften to the point where you can practically slice it with the edge of a cracker. Frankly, you could serve the feta by its lonesome and it’d disappear in minutes, but then you’d be denying yourself the magic of Sautéed Dates, and that’d be a real shame.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesI mean, if there’s anything in the world that can stand up to the wonder that is Baked Feta, it’s these dates. They’re sautéed in olive oil for a minute or two while the cheese is in the oven, just until the edges begin to caramelize. The results are mostly sweet and a little savory—they’re great with yogurt, labneh and hummus. Here, they’re spooned over the warm feta and sprinkled with finishing salt before being scooped up with crackers or baguette or whatever and shoveled into your mouth as quickly as possible because—oh my goodness—this stuff is delicious.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesSalty, sweet, cheesy, savory, fruity, eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good. You’re not going to want to share, but you should because…manners, I guess? But go ahead and plan to make this for every party between now and January 2nd, because if you can’t eat a brick of cheese during the holidays, when can you?!Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesHappy Thanksgiving, dear readers!Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates
dates adapted from Renee Erickson
makes about 8-10 servings

Baked Feta:
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 8-ounce brick feta cheese, blotted with paper towels
1 teaspoon honey (or maple syrup)

Sautéed Dates:
1 tablespoon olive oil
10-12 medjool dates, pits removed, sliced in half
coarse or flaky salt, for garnish

For serving:
water crackers
pita or pita chips
sliced baguette

Preheat oven to 400F.

Bake the feta. Use a pastry brush to apply 2 teaspoons olive oil to an 8-inch broiler-safe dish. Place gets brick in the center. Brush exposed feta with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Brush the top of the feta with a teaspoon of honey. Bake feta for 10 minutes or until soft and slumping. Feta will not melt.

Preheat broiler. Broil feta for 2-4 minutes, until the top is blistered.

Meanwhile, sauté dates. Heat 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add halved dates and cook, flipping once or twice, until they have all been coated in a thin layer of oil and some are beginning to caramelize (about 2 minutes). Do not burn.

Spoon sautéed dates over baked feta. Sprinkle with coarse or flaky salt. Serve warm with crackers or bread of choice.

Baked feta will firm up as it cools. To rewarm, place in a 350-400F oven for 5 minutes or until soft again.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed Dates