Tag Archives: frankenstein

Chocolate Dipped BBQ Potato Chip Cookies – Gluten-Free

I’m excited to bring to you another gluten-free recipe this week. As you may know, I started doing gluten-free baking a while back because my wife does better when she eats less wheat. She can have some wheat without any ill effects, and so we sometimes don’t think about it. However, issues seem to accumulate over time, and that reminds us. Today while we were out grocery shopping, we did get some fun gluten-free foods, and having them around will definitely help.

But I don’t want her to miss out on my desserts, so I want to bake more gluten-free recipes again. I had that on my mind this week when putting this recipe together. I found a great recipe on smitten kitchen for potato chip cookies. It looked like a great recipe, and easy to make gluten-free, but it turns out I didn’t have any pecans. But by that point, I was kinda set on doing something to use up the potato chips I had. So I did some digging and found this other potato chip cookie recipe which looked good, so I ended up using that. But, I skipped the powdered sugar dusting from this recipe and went with the chocolate coating from the smitten kitchen recipe I had originally wanted to make.

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I tweaked the recipe a bit. One big change is that I went with gluten-free flour instead of regular. I didn’t have any of the Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour I usually use. But I had some Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour. I used some xanthan gum with it, as they recommend it in conjunction with the flour when making baked goods.

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Another change I made to the recipe was that instead of using plain potato chips, I used barbecue potato chips. They say that what you make can only be as good as the ingredients you use. So I didn’t use just any old barbecue potato chips. I used what I consider to be some of the best barbecue potato chips anywhere. They are Middleswarth kettle cooked barbecue potato chips. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a snack food snob (aka gourmet, aka connoisseur). These chips are ones I grew up on, so maybe I’m biased, but I think they’re really good. I used most of one of these 4.5 ounce bags. I crushed them by hand bit by bit inside a sandwich bag. Granted, I was also snacking on them at the time, so let’s say I used about three to three and a half ounces of chips.

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For the chocolate, I used what I had on hand. That may seem contradictory to my statement above about using the best, but I don’t think it is. I used half of a dark chocolate bar, the end of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chunks, and some bulk milk chocolate. It was all good chocolate, so no worries there. And I think one skill that’s useful for a cook or baker to have is being able to make something good out of whatever you have on hand.

The recipe was pretty easy to put together. I mixed everything by hand. I baked the cookies for about 8 1/2 minutes. I ended up with 35 cookies.

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After the cookies cooled, I melted the chocolate and oil in the microwave and stirred it together. I dipped the cookies into the chocolate. Actually, I dunked them a little bit and then splooshed on the chocolate with a spoon. (Yes, “sploosh” is an industry term.) The cookies were a little crumbly and there was some slight breakage during this process. I then let them sit so the chocolate could set.

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After the chocolate set, I tried one. First the cookie part without the chocolate. It’s really good! It tastes kinda like shortbread, but I can also taste all the little crunchy potato chip parts. There is just a hint of the barbecue flavor. I then tried the side with the chocolate. It’s also good! There are a lot of flavors going on there, but they all seem to work together. I think this gluten-free flour is pretty good, too. It’s not quite as smooth as Trader Joe’s, but not bad at all.

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After I tried one, I cleaned up the cookies. While the chocolate was setting, I let them sit on parchment paper on top of the cooling rack. I figured it would be a lot easier to clean up than having them directly on the rack. It was, but some of the cookies got stuck to the parchment paper, and as I pulled them up, some of the chocolate got left behind.

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I brought some into work the next day. After I offered them and explained what they are, a couple of my co-workers took two each before even trying them. I guess they just knew the cookies would be good. 🙂 One of my other coworkers gave me a very funny compliment. She liked the cookie, and gave me a thumbs up. Then she said, “I would give you two thumbs up, but one of them is holding my cookie.”

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As I was going on my dessert rounds, one person was in a meeting, so I was going to come back, but he waved me in anyway, seeing that I had cookies with me. He referred to me as one of the best bakers to his meeting mate. After trying one he said, “I would’ve thought you bought this in a store.” In short, everyone loved them. I didn’t mention to most people that they were gluten-free. No one seemed to notice.

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There’s one other thing I should mention. As it turns out, the particular potato chips that I used are not gluten-free. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I double-checked the ingredients, and the barbecue seasoning in these chips contains wheat flour. However, you could easily make these with another kind of chips. For instance, Middleswarth makes lovely plain potato chips as well, or if you prefer barbecue chips, Martin’s makes some that are gluten-free. Either one would be a lovely choice.

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Do you have a favorite potato chip? I’m biased towards the ones I know, and while I’ve tried many others, I haven’t tried them all. If you know of a particular chip I should try, let me know. I’m always interested to try new ones out. And if you try making these cookies, I’d love to hear how they turn out with your favorite chip in them. So, happy baking and happy crunching!

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If you want to make them how I did, here’s my version of the recipe, adapted and combined from the following:

Potato Chip Cookies recipe courtesy of The Washington Post.

Chocolate dip courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups gluten-free flour

7/16 tsp xanthan gum (if your gluten-free flour calls for it, as mine does)

3/4 cup crushed barbecue potato chips

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the dip:

4 ounces of chocolate

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

I didn’t change the directions significantly, so you can follow along from the original recipes for those. Enjoy!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

Sometimes combining two things makes them better. Sometimes, it makes them more than the sum of their parts. Sometimes, not so much.

Brownie batter.

Brownie batter.

This recipe was on my to do list. And it looked just ridiculous enough to try. I mean a brownie, swirled with peanut butter, and mixed with a chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie. Ridiculous and awesome sounding, right?

Oatmeal cookie batter.

Oatmeal cookie batter.

Another thing this recipe had going for it was that I had all the ingredients on hand. And not having to run out and buy ingredients means it moved up a bit on my list. That, and it called for a bunch of oats, which I was trying to finish up the last of. (In my pantry not, you know, in the entire world.)

Assembly part 1.

Assembly part 1.

There is a lot going on in this recipe, including three different chocolates. For the first chocolate, in the brownie batter, I used bulk milk chocolate that I happened to have. For the second chocolate, mixed into the brownies, I used semi-sweet chocolate chunks. For the third chocolate, split between the oatmeal cookie dough and the top of the brownies, I kinda cheated. I used more of the semi-sweet chunks for that. (I learned a lot about chocolate from this David Lebovitz post.)

Assembly part 2.

Assembly part 2.

Everything went swimmingly, but I did forget to chop the first bit of chocolate before melting it. I mixed everything by hand, one bowl for each part of the recipe. It was pretty straightforward to put together. Each part smelled pretty good: peanut buttery brownies and oatmealy cookies.

Assembly complete.

Assembly complete.

Once both parts were done, I moved on to putting it all together. I dropped the first brownie bits by large drops, maybe only 5 or 6 for the whole dish. Then I spooned the oatmeal cookie bits all around. I did slightly smaller dollops for the rest of the brownie bits.

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

Then I swirled the peanut butter around the brownie bits and then swirled some of that in with the other layers, as it wasn’t quite spread out evenly across the dish. Then I spread the rest of the chocolate chunks over the top.

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I baked it for 30 minutes, but it didn’t seem quite done. I baked it for the other 5 minutes, and it seemed done at that point. I let the dish cool on a cooling rack until after dinner. It smelled lovely.

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How did it taste? It was… okay. Not bad at all, just not as exciting as I was expecting. The peanut butter was inconsistently mixed, which is totally on me, so it was hit or miss on tasting that. The oatmeal bits were fine, but not amazing. The brownie bits were also fine, but nothing special. It was a little bit dry, so I might have been better off baking it a little bit less. (I understand there are a lot of “b” words in that sentence, so I apologize if you’re allergic to “b’s”.)

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My wife said the two different parts were both good in their own right, but they have such different textures that she didn’t think they fit well together. Kinda like two people who are really good people on their own but who shouldn’t date each other. All in all it was perfectly fine, but I wasn’t wowed by it. I don’t think it’s a bad recipe, it’s just not what I was looking for.

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If you try it out, let me know how it goes. If you happen to have any good combinations of brownie and oats, I’d love to hear about it. This is my second attempt. (You can read about the granola brownies here.) Neither of them have been show stoppers, so if you have one, I’m all ears.

Recipe courtesy of Half Baked Harvest.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread

Have you ever had a brilliant idea? Like something just pops into your head, and you go, “Wow! Why didn’t I ever think of that before?” That happened to me the other day. It wasn’t of the  “end world hunger” or “create world peace” type of brilliant ideas, but I thought it was pretty good. I had the idea to make chocolate peanut butter shortbread by using my millionaire’s shortbread recipe and substituting peanut butter for the caramel.

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Great idea, right? I thought so, too. (Although if I could figure out how to end world hunger or create world peace I’d be really happy.) The next step was finding a suitable recipe to borrow the peanut butter filling from. At first I thought I might use the filling from the buckeye brownies that I had made. But I started looking through my to do list, you know, that list of recipes you accumulate when browsing the internet that you want to make one day. You have one too, right? Well, in that list I found a better candidate. The ingredients were easier, and it had a great tip about making sure the peanut butter layer stuck to the other layers, something the buckeye brownies had a problem with. The recipe was similar to millionaire’s shortbread anyway, so I figured it would be a good fit.

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So I started off making the shortbread. I’ve done it like a million times ( 😉 ), so easy peasy. While that was baking I made the peanut butter layer. I decided not to use a mixer for it, but rather to do it the old-fashioned way and mix it by hand. (I know, roughing it.) It was pretty straightforward. To make the mixing easier, I mostly melted the butter instead of just softening it. Then I just mixed all the ingredients together and put it in the fridge to chill.

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Back to the shortbread recipe, I needed to melt some chocolate. The recipe I use calls for 190 grams of chocolate. But the secret from the other recipe for gluing down the peanut butter layer was to use more melted chocolate.

Chocolate glue layer.

Chocolate glue layer.

I went with 240 grams. Why 240? I used a very complex scientific principle called… eyeballing it. (Super extra bonus points if you get the reference.) That recipe needed 1/4 cup of chocolate for gluing it down, so I figured I needed 1/4 cup extra. I looked at how much chocolate might fit into 1/4 cup and I weighed it.

Peanut butter layer with the start of the top chocolate layer

Peanut butter layer with the start of the top chocolate layer.

Then I melted the chocolate as per usual. I ended up spreading about 2-3 tbsps of the melted chocolate on top of the shortbread as the glue. Then I spread the peanut butter on top, partially using utensils, partially using my hands. The other recipe called for refrigerating it after adding the chocolate glue layer, but before adding the peanut butter layer. I didn’t do that. I just added the peanut butter right away. So some of the chocolate oozed up a bit from underneath. I wouldn’t know till later if it stuck properly.

Top chocolate layer.

Top chocolate layer.

After I put the peanut butter layer on, I spread the rest of the chocolate on top. I forgot to take a picture after the peanut butter layer, so I took one as I was just starting to put the top chocolate layer on. Then I put it in the fridge overnight, as it was already late.

Totally chilled.

Totally chilled.

Overall, it was fairly easy to make. Two thirds of it were the same as the millionaire’s shortbread. And doing the peanut butter instead of the caramel didn’t make it any more challenging.

You can see how the bottom chocolate layer oozed up around the side.

You can see how the bottom chocolate layer oozed up around the side.

So the next night we tried it. I took it out of the fridge to let it get to room temperature before cutting it. I love the shapes in the corners caused by the bunching up of the parchment paper. When I started cutting it up, I realized that it looks kinda like a candy bar with a big fluffy center. I also noticed that there was a lot of peanut butter filling in comparison to everything else.

One of the cool corner shapes.

One of the cool corner shapes.

And how was it? Well, first of all, it was delicious. And second of all, the peanut butter is the star of the show. In the millionaire’s shortbread it’s complementary, with all three layers working together. But in this one, it’s all about the peanut butter. It overpowered the other layers, to the point where I didn’t taste much of the shortbread or chocolate. It was delicious, but it was basically a vehicle for the peanut butter. And the chocolate seemed to work well as glue, as the whole thing stuck together well.

Another one.

Another one.

My wife described it as either a “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on steroids” cookie, or as a softer and creamier quadruple decker Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on top of shortbread.

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If I made it again, I would put in less of the peanut butter layer (probably half as much). I would also probably add a little bit more chocolate. I think if it was more evened out, the three layers would work better together. As it is, the other two layers are kinda jealous of the peanut butter, and that’s not good for anyone.

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So, I encourage you to try this recipe. The first reason is that it’s delicious, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The second reason is a little more selfish, in that I hope you’ll iron out the kinks. In any case, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your results. And if you have frankenstein creations of your own that you want to share, feel free to let me know that, too.

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Original millionaire’s shortbread recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com. My slightly modified version here. Peanut butter filling (and chocolate glue idea) courtesy of Once Upon a Chef.

Ice Cream Icebox Cake

So as you know last week, I made a giant icebox cake for my wife’s surprise birthday party. It’s her favorite cake, and since I knew it would get devoured at the party, I wanted to make her another one so she could enjoy it. And, as I mentioned, I wanted to kick it up a notch.

I had recently discovered this no-churn ice cream recipe. So I thought, what about making an ice cream icebox cake? That is, replace the whipped cream with ice cream. Surely, I thought, someone would have done it before. But when I looked, all I found were some vague references along the lines of “wouldn’t that be an interesting idea?”. So I plunged ahead into the unknown. I couldn’t get any clear info on whether or not it would work the same, but I figured it would.

The ice cream ingredients. Magic!

The ice cream ingredients. Magic!

I made a double recipe of the ice cream, as I didn’t know how much I would need. I had made a bunch of cookies for the first icebox cake, and this one. I figured I would use about 3/4 of the cookies for the first cake, and use the rest for this one.

Because the ice cream needed a while to set, I made it the night before. I waited until my wife went to sleep, and then gathered the ingredients I had secretly assembled. In this case, I had just hidden the ingredients in another room.

The ice cream, ready to freeze.

The ice cream, ready to freeze.

The ice cream recipe, as I mentioned when I made it the first time, is pretty straightforward. It was complicated a little bit by wanting to do it secretly, but it was still pretty easy. I used our immersion blender with the whisk attachment as that was easier to clean after the fact. It was also easier to transport into another room. The kitchen is not far from our bedroom, and even with my wife asleep and the door closed, I didn’t want to risk it.

I followed the instructions for making the ice cream. I added a little bit of vanilla, as I thought that vanilla ice cream would be a good choice, and it would mirror the vanilla that gets added to the whipped cream in the regular icebox cake.

Packaged up and going to freeze.

Packaged up and going to freeze.

So I made ice cream, and buried it under some other things in the freezer, betting that she wouldn’t go digging through it in the morning. I also sealed the ice cream in containers with lids, as opposed to using wax paper. (It was the cleanest way to bury them.) I cleaned up and let the ice cream set work its magic overnight.

The next day I made the chocolate wafer cookies, as I described last week. I made the regular icebox cake first, as that was going to be used first, and I wanted to give it the longest time possible to set. Once that was done, I went to work making this.

Fresh from the freezer.

Fresh from the freezer.

First things first, what to put it in? I needed something big enough, and that could go in the freezer. I ended up using a 9″ round cake pan. Since it was going to be a cake anyway, this seemed appropriate. I lined it with foil. I figured that would make cleanup easier. I also thought it might let me pull the cake out of the cake pan.

So then how to make it? I was kinda making it all up here. So I just started building it like I would a regular icebox cake. I grabbed some cookies and started filling in between them with ice cream. I laid down a stack of those and started on another. One thing soon became clear to me. It’s hard to build an icebox cake in a circle. A square or rectangular dish would have probably been better.

Assembly. It was a little messy.

Assembly. It was a little messy.

So I soon had a few stacks filling up part of the space, but because it was a circle, I then had to fill in here and there to get all the in between spaces. Eventually I got it reasonably filled. I then had to make another decision. Should the outer layer be cookies or ice cream? If it were a cookie cake, and maybe for structural reasons, you’d want cookies on the outside. But for an icebox cake you wouldn’t. I ended up going for the full icebox and filled in the outside layer with ice cream. I also filled in the rest of the spaces with ice cream. And covered the top with ice cream.

After that, I covered it in plastic wrap and buried it in the freezer for secrecy purposes. I didn’t end up using as many cookies as I thought I might. Maybe 30 or so? I ended up using about one and a half recipes worth of the ice cream, so I’m very glad I made a double recipe.

Assembled, and going back into the freezer.

Assembled, and going back into the freezer.

With the second cake done, I did all the cleanup, and all the major preparation was now done. I sat down for a couple of minutes to relax before the evening’s festivities.

Last week’s post detailed what happened next. One thing I’ll say is that at the party I let my wife know that there was a second dessert waiting at home. When we got home, there was no way we were going to eat another dessert, but I gave her a sneak peek at what was to come. She was very excited and still kinda flabbergasted from the whole surprise party. I won’t say that this was the icing on the cake, but it was very well received.

Voila!

Voila!

We waited until the next evening to try it. The way it had frozen made it challenging to remove, so I decided to cut it right in the pan. But it’s a non-stick pan, so I had to tread carefully. A large spatula ended up being the tool of choice. And letting it sit on the counter to warm up a little bit didn’t hurt either.

Once a slice was freed from the pan, you could see it was clearly a good-looking cake. It actually looked a bit like icebox cake. A sea of white surrounding some layers of chocolate.

Yum!

Yum!

And how was it? Wow. It was an ice cream cake. And it was an icebox cake. It totally worked! I’m not sure exactly why, but it only partially softened the cookies. (It had over a day by the time we ate it.) But this was actually a good thing. It tasted like a Carvel ice cream cake.

I’m sure not everyone is familiar with Carvel, but it’s a chain of ice cream shops. They have these pretty awesome ice cream cakes. And the way the cookies softened in this cake made them taste just like the chocolate cookie/cookie crumb they used in theirs.

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It was a nice soft vanilla ice cream with these great, mostly softened, but slightly crunchy chocolate bits throughout. They went perfectly together and made for a delicious cake. A slight change from the regular icebox cake, but a good change nonetheless.

I would highly recommend trying this out. The ice cream is super easy. The cookies are just mix, slice, and bake. The cake assembly is easy. And all in all, it’s greater than the sum of its parts. And for me, it checked off all the boxes I needed. Second birthday dessert, check. Keeping true to my wife’s favorite dessert, check. Kicking it up a notch, check. Trying something new, check. And “inventing” a new recipe, also check.

Close-up.

Close-up.

So when summer hits, and you’re looking for an easy, yummy, totally homemade and totally knock your socks off dessert, you’ll be glad you remembered this. And when you want to wow them a second or a third time, you’ll also remember that the ice cream is easily modified into many, many, different flavors. So go forth and enjoy. I’d love to know how it all turns out!

Inside the cake pan.

Inside the cake pan.

Ice cream recipe courtesy of The Kitchn. Chocolate wafer recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Cake recipe inspired by Nabisco, but imagined and created by me.

Icebox Cake Surprise Edition

I’m a firm believer that birthdays should be special. I think we generally fail to appreciate the people around us. So on people’s birthdays I like to take advantage of the opportunity and show people that I’m thinking of them and that I think they’re special. There are lots of ways of doing this. Obviously telling them is the most straightforward way. But I also like to bake for them.

If I know someone well, I often have a good idea of what to make them for their birthday. My wife’s favorite cake is icebox cake. I’ve made it for her birthday a couple of times so far. (You can see previous posts here and here.). Because it’s her favorite cake, she never gets tired of it. But even so, every year, I try to kick it up a notch. The first year, making it was a big deal. The second year, I baked the chocolate wafers that make up the cake, instead of buying them. This year is no different. What I did to kick it up a notch this year was two-fold. First, I made a giant icebox cake. And second, I actually made two cakes. (I’ll tell you about the second one next week.)

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What made this year’s cake more complicated was that her whole birthday was a surprise. It started with a surprise party. Well, actually it started with nothing. At first, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for her birthday, so we didn’t plan anything. But as it got closer to her birthday it became clear that she wanted to celebrate with her friends. It seemed too late to her to throw something together at the last-minute. But I was undeterred, and I put together a last-minute surprise party. It was a little bit of a challenge – I won’t say how much, but there was a spreadsheet involved – but in the end we got a bunch of people together.

And since the party was a surprise, I decided to make the dessert a surprise too. I bought the ingredients ahead of time, and I hid them. The small container of milk was hidden at the very back of the fridge. I got shelf stable whipping cream and hid it in another room. Everything else was hidden in plain sight. I also had to find time to make the cake while she wasn’t around. That’s difficult when you live with someone. So I took off work on the day of her birthday, which had the added benefit of making sure I got home in time to celebrate. I spent a good chunk of the day baking the cookies and putting the cakes together.

The dough, all mixed up.

The dough, all mixed up.

That’s because I needed to make a lot of cookies. (In case you don’t know what icebox cake is and you’re confused about why I’m referring to cookies in a cake recipe: icebox cake is made of chocolate wafer cookies which are slathered in whipped cream and put in the fridge. After several hours, the whipped cream turns the cookies into a cake-like consistency.) Because I was making two cakes, and one of them needed to be party size, I made a double recipe of the cookies. This is roughly equivalent to 4 boxes of the original wafer cookies.

Making the cookie dough involves mixing it in the food processor. After mixing, I kneaded it all together on freezer paper. Then I rolled the dough into a log and refrigerated it for about 90 minutes wrapped in that same freezer paper. For ease of measuring and mixing, as well as not overloading the food processor, I did it in two batches and repeated these same steps over for the second batch. (The second batch was in the fridge a little over an hour.)

The dough, in log form.

The dough, in log form.

After chilling, I took the logs out of the fridge to cut them into cookies, but in between cutting each batch of cookies, I put the dough back in the fridge. The freezer paper was easier to cut on than the foil I used previously, and refrigerating it in between sheets of cookies helped keep the dough the right consistency. I cut them as thin as I could. Since I was just eyeballing it, the rolls were a little uneven, but I reshaped them as I cut them, and re-rolled any bits I had cut off.

I did one sheet of cookies. Then I did the second and put it in at the half way point when I rotated the first sheet and moved it to the other rack. Then I pulled the Silpat, with the cookies still on it, off the baking sheet and let them cool on a cooling rack. I then used the baking sheet to prepare the next batch.

First sheet, unbaked.

First sheet, unbaked.

I kept them in rotation. I started off with two baking sheets with Silpats on them, but when it became clear I needed a third baking sheet, I started using parchment paper as well. Between cooking, cooling, and prepping, I kept the three baking sheets in constant use. It was a pretty efficient operation.

I baked them for 12 minutes. I wasn’t exact on the sizing, so while they all got cooked, some of them got a little overcooked. I ended up making 138 cookies. I was expecting 160, but I didn’t measure that carefully.

First sheet, baked.

First sheet, baked.

I ended up using around 100 or so cookies for this cake for the party. A regular cake recipe uses 40 cookies, but I needed it to be bigger, as I was expecting between 15-20 people at the surprise party. It took a little longer than I expected to put it together, so it only got to sit in the fridge for about 4 hours before the party.

One reason that it took a little longer was that I had a slight mistake as I was making the whipped cream. I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and I let it go too far. It turned into something closer to buttercream. So, I had to run out and get more cream. Once I got that settled, it was pretty easy to put the cake together. In a moment of inspiration, I spelled out “Happy Bday” in chocolate chunks on the top.

All the cookies!

All the cookies!

As the cake lay secretly resting in the fridge, my wife and I went out to dinner. I had arranged for everyone to meet us at a different bar/restaurant in the neighborhood. I had also arranged with one of our friends to stop by earlier in the day and pick up keys, so that while we were out to dinner she could pick up the cake and bring it to the party.

After dinner, we walked back home from the restaurant, but I told my wife we couldn’t stop at home. I told her there was one more stop we had to make. She was a good sport and joined me on the unknown adventure. The party was only a block away. As we walked in, and walked toward the back, she started to notice a whole gaggle of her friends assembled. She had no idea what was happening, and was pleasantly surprised.

Omnomnomnom!

Omnomnomnom!

After hanging out with everyone for a while, and after she got over some of the shock of it all, we eventually got around to eating the cake. Lots of people had never heard of icebox cake before, but that didn’t stop it from being devoured. Since the cake didn’t get to sit as long as it should have, the cookies were still pretty solid, and not as cake-like as they should have been. It was still quite tasty, but it wasn’t quite icebox cake consistency. However, the birthday girl was very happy with it (and everyone else was, too). That’s what mattered.

What also mattered is that everyone got to celebrate her. As I said, I like to celebrate people on birthdays, but it wasn’t just me. Everyone was truly, honestly, and emphatically excited to be there. People remarked to me over and over how happy they were to be a part of it, how much fun it was, and how great it was to get to appreciate her.

Not pictured here is the extra whipped cream I had to run out and get.

Not pictured here is the extra whipped cream I had to run out and get.

It took her a while to let it all sink in, which was good, because it was a lot to take in. She was happy, I was happy, everyone was happy. And in the end, that was the most important thing.

Normally I would take time here to thank my wife for her help, but this time I want to give a shout out to all of her friends for helping put this together. You know who you are. Thank you.

The cake, almost completely frosted.

The cake, almost completely frosted.

I encourage you all to try icebox cake sometime, whether or not you make your own cookies. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s delicious. But what I really encourage, more than anything, is to find out what makes the people around you happy, and, if at no other time, see if you can arrange to make that happen on their birthday. I can assure you they’ll be glad you did.

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Chocolate wafer recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Icebox cake recipe courtesy of Nabisco.

Chocolate Pie Sticks

Who likes pie? I’ll just assume all your hands went up. Who thinks tiny versions of bigger things are fun and adorable? I’ll just assume the same thing again. One more question: who likes chocolate? I know, three for three, right? Well, have I got a treat for you. This week’s post is about an adorable recipe called chocolate pie sticks. In case you’re wondering what it is, it’s probably exactly what you think it is.

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I wish I could take credit for coming up with such an incredibly simple and awesome idea, but alas, I cannot. I will take credit for being inspired to make them, however. The impetus for making these was a visit from a co-worker. I work in the NYC office of a company, and the company’s other big office is in Los Angeles. My boss and his counterpart in the LA office came up with the idea of an exchange program so that everyone could learn how the other office works. This visit was part of that plan.

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Since he was coming all that way, I thought it would be nice to make something in his honor. You know, welcome him to the other side of the country. Also, we have these weekly conference calls with both offices, and the NYC team is always boasting about my baked goods. So I thought it would be nice to let him share in that.

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The recipe was originally designed to use up scraps of dough leftover from making a pie. However, I didn’t have any pie scraps sitting around, so I made a batch of pie dough from scratch. This recipe came with its own pie dough recipe, in case you needed it, but I decided to go with my standby pie dough recipe from smitten kitchen.

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The dough was quick and easy to make, as usual. I followed the recipe as is, except I used half butter and half shortening in order to use up some shortening I had left. Also, I only let it sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill, instead of the hour recommended. (I was making these at night, and I didn’t want it to be too late of a night.)

With the cream wash and sprinkled with sugar.

With the cream wash and sprinkled with sugar.

I rolled out the dough. I kinda measured it. (In retrospect, I could’ve just used the ruler on the pastry mat as a guide.) I cut the dough and lined up the resulting dough strips. It was fun to put together. To make assembly easier, I got little ramekins to hold the different ingredients in: water, chocolate chips, sugar, cream. Once I had the chocolate chips all lined up in a row, the adorable factor was off the charts.

The first batch, fresh from the oven.

The first batch, fresh from the oven.

I had a little problem with sealing the chocolate inside the two layers of dough to make the pie sticks. I’m not sure what the issue was. Possible reasons I could think of were: not chilling the dough long enough, the composition of the dough (that is, using shortening), and not working quickly enough. The second round was easier than the first, because I went back and re-applied water to the top layer in order to stick the layers together better.

The second batch, fresh from the oven.

The second batch, fresh from the oven.

Then I pierced them with a fork. I applied a wash on top, but I used a cream wash instead of the egg wash called for in the original recipe. (The car wash was not available.) Then I sprinkled sugar on top. (A spoonful of sugar helps the chocolate go down?) The pie sticks were hard to move. So after the first couple were a little bit of a mess, I waited to move the rest until after sealing them.

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Again, I’m not sure which reason (see above, or maybe that they were too big), but it took forever to bake them. The original recipe called for 12-15 minutes. I kept doing it in 2 minute increments after that, so as not to overcook them. I lost track on the first batch, but I think it was 23 minutes. The second batch I baked a little longer, maybe 25 minutes. The second batch seemed like it was cooked better.

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I got 18 individual strips which made 9 pie sticks from the first batch, and 18 strips from the second batch, so 9 more. Plus 2 extra not well-formed pieces which made one more, for a total of 19 pie sticks.

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They looked nice. They weren’t as pretty as the pictures from the original recipe, but they were pretty good. The second batch was better looking than the first, I think from having let them bake longer to get that nice golden brown color. I let them cool. I tried one, the “extra” one from the second batch. It was very good. It was like a portable chocolate pie you could eat with your hands. They were simple to make, but tasty.

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I brought them into work. Everyone loved them. The coworker I specifically made them for really enjoyed them. So much so, that he came back for seconds. A couple of people asked for the recipe. One person even commented that they were like something you would get in a bakery. I work with such nice people. 🙂

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So if you’re looking for a way to use up leftover pie dough, this is a great recipe to have in your toolkit. And even if you’re not, it’s worth making some pie dough just for the occasion. But what about you? Do you have any great recipes for using up pie dough? Any creative ideas for miniaturized versions of bigger desserts? The world wants to know!

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Recipe courtesy of Domestic Fits.

Pie dough recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

Let me know if this sounds familiar. You find a great recipe which you have most of the ingredients for, but you’re missing one key ingredient and have to get some. You want to just get a little bit of it, because you don’t generally use it, and you wouldn’t want the rest of it to go to waste. But they never sell it in quantities that small. And you figure, well, I’ll just use the rest in something else, so it’s no problem getting it.

This happens to me all the time. And then I end up with lots of random bits and bobs of different ingredients just waiting to be used up. For instance, almond extract. And I have to say, I can’t really let the food go to waste. Don’t get me wrong, around here, if food spoils before we get to it, we definitely throw it out. But if we can use something up before it goes bad, we will try hard to do so. And in the house I grew up in, letting food go to waste was something that was just not done.

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Why do I bring all that up? I had lots of oats, shortening, and eggs that I wanted to use up. Granted, these things are far from exotic, but we just don’t use them much. I turned to Food Blog Search. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a handy resource for finding recipes. You can enter in search terms (like ingredients), and it scours the blogosphere for recipes. Pretty nifty. I ended up finding this recipe. I like the Pioneer Woman. I’ve used some of her recipes before. And this one sounded good.

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If you’re playing (reading) along with the recipe at home, here are some ingredient notes. I used organic shortening. (I had originally gotten it for making the homemade Oreos). The water I used was not quite boiling water. (I just microwaved it on the beverage setting.) I didn’t have quick oats. I just used regular oats and pulsed them in the food processor (as I learned here).

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It’s a very easy recipe. I just mixed it all together. I melted the butter to make it easier to mix, because I was doing it all by hand. (See below for more on that.) I used two cookie sheets for  each batch, and I baked them all over two batches. I used a dinner teaspoon not a measuring teaspoon when measuring out the cookies. I had thought that made them a little bit bigger, but I ended up with a few more cookies than the original recipe.

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I cooked them for 10 minutes, and they smelled ridiculously good while baking. After 10 minutes, they seemed a little gooey still. So I baked them for one more minute. I had a little trouble getting them off the baking sheet, as they were still a little fragile. I let them cool while I did the second batch. When the second batch was done, I let them sit on the baking sheet a bit before taking them off to see if that was easier, which it was.

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Now, if you’re following along, you’ll notice that the original recipe was for whoopie pies. But what I made ended up being flatter and thinner. So I’m calling them cookies. And I’m calling the finished treat sandwich cookies. I ended up with 44 cookies which made 22 sandwiches.

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While they were baking and cooling, I put together the filling. Instead of either of the fillings that were mentioned in the recipe, I used the filling that I used for the homemade Oreo cookies. As before, it was really easy to put together (and it used more shortening). The KitchenAid made short work of it. Because I knew I would need the KitchenAid for that, I did the cookie part by hand.

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My wife cleaned up, as she often does. (Thanks, hon!) There was a little bit of an oat spill which I warned her of. She asked if we needed to get Li’l Sebastian in to clean it up.

The next step was putting them together. I had put the filling in the fridge, as I had eaten dinner between making it and using it. But when I took it out of the fridge, it was cold and I couldn’t work with it. I used a plastic bag to pipe the filling, and so I could warm it up with my hands. The bag fell apart fairly quickly, even though I only cut a small hole in it. Thankfully by that point the filling had warmed up, and I was able to just spread it with a knife.

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Like usual with this filling, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough so I skimped in the beginning. In the end there was clearly plenty of filling, so I had to go back and refill the early ones. My only excuse this time was that it was a different cookie recipe. There wasn’t a ton of filling in these, but that was okay because…

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These were rich cookies. What I actually said when I first bit into one was that these were big cookies. But what I meant was rich. The cookies weren’t too sweet, but they were big and substantial. And when you put two together with the filling, it was a lot. You might not think oatmeal cookies are going to be that rich, but trust me these were. The other thought I had right away was that they were missing raisins. They weren’t, but I think I’ve just been conditioned by years of oatmeal raisin cookies.

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Besides being rich, they were delicious. They had a crunchy outside and a chewy inside. The filling was good. Sweet, but since there wasn’t too much of it, it wasn’t too sweet. They went well together. I remember oatmeal cream sandwich cookies growing up, but those were much smaller cookies that had much more filling, while these had much more cookie and less filling. (More cookie! Less filling!)

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My wife and I brought some in to our respective workplaces like we usually do. They were described variously as “really good”, “darn good”, and “magical”. I also should note that I can’t tell you how long the cookies will keep for, because they disappeared in just a couple of days. So if the cookies themselves are magical, and I can make them disappear, does that make me a cookie wizard?

I would highly recommend these. If you try them, I’d be curious to know how they turn out with either of the suggested fillings. I’d also be curious to hear any thoughts you might have as to why they didn’t turn out like whoopie pies. And if you have any magical recipes yourself, I’d love to hear those, too!

Cookie recipe courtesy of The Pioneer Woman.

Filling recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Granola Brownies

When I was growing up, I used to experiment in the kitchen. I experimented everywhere really, now that I think of it. I would pull things apart (old telephones and radios and such) and put them back together just to see how they worked. I once built a crude transformer (the robot car not the electrical device) out of Legos. I taught myself how to use computers by double-clicking on every file on the computer to see what it did.

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The kitchen was no different. I learned some basics by working alongside my mom on lots of recipes, but I obviously didn’t learn everything. There were some mishaps, but one in particular comes to mind. I remember making a cake using what I had on hand. It was a lemon cinnamon cake, a bold flavor mixture to be sure. But what really made it stand out was the texture. It came out as a dense, rubbery mess. Fascinating, but inedible. I think where I went wrong was not knowing the right proportions to use as far as solids, liquids, fats, and leavening. I’m pretty sure I used baking soda and baking powder in it, but I couldn’t tell you how much.

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Experimenting was totally fun, whether it worked out or not. I don’t always get to experiment as much these days, but baking is one place where I can. This recipe was a bit of an experiment. It was also a “use what you have on hand” or “clean out the pantry” type of recipe. I wanted to try to make something new. And I wanted to use up a bunch of oats, pretzel M&M’s, and various bits and bobs of chocolate (leftover from previous recipes).

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I came up with the idea for oatmeal crusted brownies. The chocolate crusted banana blondies served as inspiration. I thought I would make a crust with the oats and M&M’s and put it on a regular brownie. So I used the brownie part of the pretzel toffee brownies, and I used the aforementioned blondie recipe for rough numbers/instructions on how to put the crust together.

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I lightly ground the oats in the food processor to make them more like quick oats. Then I did the same with the M&M’s, but more so, as they were bigger to begin with. I made sure the total volume was the same as the crust in the original recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t take good notes while I was making it, but the prep I had done ahead of time suggested that I used 2 cups of oats and 1 cup of M&M’s. I mixed the two together (along with the butter, brown sugar, and salt) and baked the crust per the original recipe.

You'll notice the different bits and bobs of chocolate.

You’ll notice the different bits and bobs of chocolate.

Once that was done, I made the brownies following the instructions from that recipe. (One thing I do differently is I just melt the chocolate in the microwave. You do it for short bursts, mixing and checking each time.) Then I poured it over the crust and baked it. I thought about putting stuff on top, but I figured the crust had enough stuff in it.

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I was originally going to call them “oatmeal and pretzel M&M crusted brownies”. But then I would have put people to sleep by the time I finished saying the name. Thankfully I settled on “granola brownies”. Partially because it’s shorter and easier to say, but more importantly, they taste kinda like granola. You can definitely taste the oats, but you only get a hint of the M&M’s.

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If I had originally set out to make granola brownies, I probably would have gone about it differently. I would have used different ingredients and possibly constructed it differently. So now that I stumbled upon them, I may have to put some thought into the recipe and try again.

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I may also try making these again but differently. One thought I had was to use less oats, grind them up a bit more, and then add in some other flour. This way I could make them oaty without having the oats be overpowering. Another thought I had was to grind up the M&M’s less, so their flavor would be more pronounced. Also worth considering is making a crumble with the oats and M&M’s and sprinkling it on top.

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Why so much effort into re-imagining them? Well, the reaction to them was mixed. People generally really liked the brownie. This makes sense, as I’ve used this brownie recipe before, and it’s awesome. But the granola part didn’t go over as well. I really liked that part of it, but others not as much. I don’t think anyone hated the oats, but they didn’t really do anything for most people, so they were just kind of in the way. And who wants to have something in the way when you’re enjoying dessert?

Upside-down shot

Upside-down shot

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So, lots to ponder here as to how to redo these. If anyone has any other thoughts, ideas, or suggestions, I’d love to hear them. And if you have any of your own experimental recipes/stories that you want to share, please do!

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Granola crust adapted from this recipe from The New York Times.

Brownie recipe courtesy of Baked, via The Crepes of Wrath.

Mini Peppermint Oreos – Contest Edition

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s hoping that you and yours had a fun time celebrating. Here at Needs Baked headquarters, we kept it pretty low-key. I did do some baking which I’ll share when I catch up to it.

In the meantime, let’s pick up where we left off. As you may recall, I had entered a cookie contest and decided to make mini peppermint Oreos. That last post was the test batch where I decided to make them and did the final experimentation to make sure they would work.

The next step was to make the mountain of cookies I needed for the contest. They said I needed about 200 cookies. Yup, 200. I was making cookie sandwiches, so that meant twice as many. The test batch had made just under 100 cookie sandwiches (200 cookies), so I figured I needed three batches. Two would almost be enough, but three would definitely be enough and would allow room in case some broke or didn’t look right or whatever.

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I went through the ingredient list and figured out how much I needed of everything, subtracting what I already had on hand. I went to get the ingredients on the Friday night before. (The contest was on a Sunday). I had to get soft mint candies at the drug store. This store only had a big tub of them. It was more than I needed, but ended up being cheaper than the individual packages, and I figured I could always find a use for the rest of them later. I figured I would get the rest of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s, but they were out of unsalted butter and cocoa powder. I got everything else there, but went to my favorite little neighborhood shop for the rest.

I decided I would do one batch of cookies Friday night and the other two Saturday afternoon. This would then be followed by making the filling and then filling them all. I made one batch pretty quickly and easily. It’s an easy recipe, and I’ve done it a few times at this point, so it was very quick. (There are not a lot of pictures of this because I wanted to do it quickly, plus it wouldn’t have looked any different than the last post.)

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I used a rounded 1/4 teaspoon for the cookies, baked 3 minutes, then rotated and baked 3 more minutes. I fit 30 cookies on the bigger trays and 25 on the smaller one. I made the cookies, put them on the tray, and flattened them. My wife helped by doing much of the rest (putting them in the oven, taking them out, etc.). She was a tremendous help again, and it made things go so much quicker. (Thanks hon!) We were all done with this batch in about 2 hours.

I figured we would get about 200 cookies (100 cookie sandwiches) out of this first batch. We got 266 cookies! That’s 133 sandwiches, which meant if we could do that again, we would only need 2 batches.

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I tasted a couple to see how they were. They were excellent. There were just a handful that looked a little small/overcooked or otherwise unacceptable. Mostly they looked amazing. Some were bigger and some were smaller due to the vagaries of sizing. I was doing my best to keep them the same size, but I was also trying to do them quickly so that once one sheet was done, the next one could go in. (We had three trays working in rotation.) They looked like a lot all lined up, but they didn’t take up much space once we put them in containers (to store them overnight).

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We made the second batch the next day, and it was 284 cookies for 142 sandwiches. Add that to the 133 from the first batch and we ended up with 275. The target number was 200, so that was plenty. It took a little over 2 hours for the first batch and a little under 2 hours for the second. We got better at it. We also added a fourth tray to the rotation, which helped.

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Since we didn’t need to do a third batch, we didn’t end up needing all of the ingredients I got. I guess that just leaves more for next time. 🙂 While cleaning up, my wife also ground up the soft mint candies. I figured we only needed 25 per batch, as 30 was too much the previous time.

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I made the filling. It was a better consistency because of using fewer candies, and it still had a great peppermint taste. We made the cookie sandwiches like last time. Again, I had to go back afterwards and put more filling into the ones we had done first because they didn’t get enough filling. There was some filling leftover like the test round. (I think because adding in all the candies added some volume.)

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I took a few pictures then finished packing them up. My wife got the decorations together. Because it worked well, we used the same table wrap she had put together last year. She also had the idea to use a Lazy Susan to serve the cookies on, so we grabbed that as well. (It turns out Susan’s not lazy at all. I don’t know where she got that reputation.) I grabbed my mini business cards (which I had printed up for last year’s competition). After they were packed up, the cookies took up much less space than the cookies did last year.

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I didn’t print out any signs for the cookies this time because I didn’t think we needed them. (Everyone asks you what they are anyway.) Plus, we were still trying to decide what the name should be: minties, peppermint crisps, mint buttons, etc.

All the cookies packed up and ready to go. (Picture courtesy of my lovely wife.)

All the cookies packed up and ready to go. (Picture courtesy of my lovely wife.)

So with all the cookies made and packed up, and all the other accoutrements collected, we were all done. We were all ready for the next day’s competition. Thank you again to my wife. (You were a huge help, and I couldn’t have done it without you!)

This adventure now nears its completion. Tune in next week for the stunning conclusion! And in the meantime, feel free to comment below and guess how I did. (No cheating if you already know!)

Original Oreo recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Peppermint flavoring courtesy of The Kitchn.

Mini Peppermint Oreos

If you’ve been following along, you know that I was trying to figure out a recipe for a cookie competition that I entered. I made the peppermint cream squares. And then the homemade Oreos. I decided to make the Oreos and then take the peppermint from the squares and mix it into the Oreo filling. And I needed to test it out to make sure it would work.

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Besides combining the two recipes, I also needed to try shrinking the cookies down. Why, you might ask? Smaller is better for the competition because people eat so many cookies they can’t really eat anything that big. Also making them smaller means it’s easier to make more of them.

1/2 teaspoon size

1/2 tsp size.

1/2 tsp size smooshed. (You're supposed to smoosh them before baking.)

1/2 tsp size smooshed. (You’re supposed to smoosh them before baking.)

I made a full batch of the cookie batter. I could have made less to test, but I needed to use one egg for the batter anyway, so I decided to just make the whole batch. I did the full amount of sugar for the cookies.

1/4 tsp size

1/4 tsp size.

The original ones were made with a rounded teaspoon of dough. I tried doing a rounded 1/2 teaspoon. I baked them for 6 minutes (3 before rotating). Those were nice but still too big. I then did a rounded 1/4 teaspoon, also for a total of 6 minutes. Those turned out to be the right size. I tasted one and they seemed to be cooked the right amount. I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures, but they were the most adorable little cookies you’ve ever seen.

1/2 tsp size baked.

1/2 tsp size baked.

1/2 tsp size close-up.

1/2 tsp size close-up.

I decided to use Silpats (silicone baking sheets) when baking these. We had gotten some as wedding gifts but hadn’t managed to use them yet. (Long term readers may sense a pattern here.) We only had so much parchment paper and didn’t want to go through it all. The only problem was we only have two cookie sheets that our Silpats really fit on, so we ended up using parchment paper on a third one just so we could have more going at the same time.

1/4 tsp size baked.

1/4 tsp size baked.

I say we because my wife helped tremendously with this recipe. She helped with spooning out the cookies, taking some pictures, unwrapping and processing the soft peppermint candies, and all kinds of other things. I might still be working on them if she hadn’t helped. Thank you, thank you, thank you dear!

Here you can see the difference in size between the two. I went with the smaller size in the end.

I made the Oreo filling as per the recipe. I compared the fat and sugar content of the cream/filling of the two recipes and it looked equal. So I figured I could just drop the soft mint candies into the regular Oreo filling. I used the same amount as in the peppermint cream squares recipe (30).

Filling!

Filling!

Since my wife had already unwrapped and ground up the mints, after I made the filling, I mixed the resultant peppermint candy powder into the filling. I also added a teaspoon of peppermint extract, as I had done with the squares. It was a little dry and crumbly so I mixed it more until the consistency got back to where it should have been (or at least close).

Peppermint candy powder!

Peppermint candy powder!

The cookies had cooled pretty quickly. So once the filling was ready, we started filling them. I filled and my wife sandwiched. In the face of so much adorable mini cookie-ness, I came up with a little game. I said that each of the cookies had a friend and that we needed to find each cookie’s friend to make the other part of the sandwich. At first I wasn’t sure how much filling to use, so I was a little spartan. I ended up going back at the end to add more to those, but there was still a bunch of filling left over. (My guess is adding in all the candy powder added a lot of volume.)

Peppermint filling!

Peppermint filling!

The consistency of the filling was not quite as good as it was with the original Oreo recipe. The  candy powder made it not as creamy. Maybe I shouldn’t have used as much of the candy powder. Maybe I needed to make sure the candies were more ground up. Maybe I needed to mix it in a little bit more. Or maybe there’s no way to do it without altering the consistency and that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

So many cookies to fill!

So many cookies to fill!

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We made close to 100 mini sandwich cookies. (A few less because we ate some cookies while testing, some were bigger than the size we ultimately went with, etc.) But it makes sense. The original recipe makes 25, and we used 1/4 of the dough for each. For the competition, I’ll need 200 or so. I will need to make at least a double recipe, maybe triple, just in case.

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We tried some that night. Not only were they were the cutest little sandwich cookies you’ve ever seen, they were also delicious! They had a nice minty chocolate mix. The mint was good but not overpowering. The candy powder gave the filling a nice pink color. Yum, yum, yum!

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Because “mini peppermint Oreos” isn’t the greatest name, I wanted to come up with a better name for them. My wife and I brainstormed that a bit. Some names we came up with: minties, mini minties, mini chocolate oblivion, Santa sandwiches. Nothing really stuck, so more work to do there.

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My wife and I each brought some in to work the next day, and people really liked them. People said things such as, “Oh yeah, I’ll need to grab two of these.” Also, I had been talking to someone about all the recipes I was trying out for the contest, and I said I was thinking of making these, and she said, “Oh yeah, definitely make these.” Our company holiday party was that night, and apparently word had spread about the cookies because I was asked about them at the party. So that’s a good sign. My wife had similarly good reactions at work.

Sandwich cookie sitting on a teaspoon for size comparison.

Sandwich cookie sitting on a teaspoon for size comparison.

So, I would call this a successful test. I finally had my recipe for the competition. The next step was to gather the amount of ingredients I would need and make the actual cookies. Stay tuned, as this saga nears its completion! But in the meantime, let me know: do you have any favorite recipes that are combinations of other recipes? Drop a line below!

Original Oreo recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Peppermint flavoring courtesy of The Kitchn.