Daring Bakers September 2017: Sugar Cookies

One thing I love most about the growing number of baking blogs is the variety of creations I get to read about. Each and every one of us has a way of using quality, unique ingredients to create amazing recipes. Sometimes traditional, other times innovative, but always enticing.
What happens when baking bloggers come together to make the same recipe?
I recently became a Daring Baker through The Daring Kitchen. Each month, one guest host reveals a baking recipe of their choice. The challenges are typically “outside the box” – thus the reason for the name daring bakers. As a daring baker, you have the entire month to create the recipe, share photos of your creation, and (if you wish) blog about it. I’m glad September was my first month – August’s challenge was baked alaska and ice cream petits fours!

This month’s daring recipe was a sugar cookie recipe using royal icing. No break-and-bake sugar cookies, no canned frosting. The real stuff. We all used the same sugar cookie and royal icing recipe. However, we were encouraged to flavor the cookies alternatively if we so pleased. We also had to follow a theme – fall. Our interpretations of fall, in a cookie. Whatever fall makes you think of. 🙂

For my cookies, I chose to add maple flavor instead of the traditional vanilla or almond. I also added pumpkin pie spice, since I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff this time of year. I loved the light brown color my cookies took on with these two additions. So much so that I opted not to completely cover the cookies in icing – they don’t need it!
I was thrilled to come across a New York state cookie cutter this past weekend in Wegmans. Yes, one more reason why Wegmans is in fact the best grocery store on earth – better than TJ’s, if you can imagine. While I may not be proud to call NY my home in the dead of winter, it’s a great place to be in September. Temperatures fluctuate between cool and warm, leaves are beginning to turn, and apples are aplenty.

I had to laugh when I cut the first cookie with the cookie cutter and Long Island fell off. See, even the cookies don’t want to be associated with Long Island!
In addition to my NY cookies, I ended up making some smaller cookies with my new mini fall-themed cookie cutters as well.
If you love to bake and are always up for a challenge, consider joining the Daring Bakers. You don’t even need to have a blog to join! I’m only one month in but I’m loving it already!
Basic Sugar Cookies (Gone Maple Spice!)

My adaptation from this recipe
Makes Approximately 36 4-inch cookies
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 cups + 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. maple flavor
Cream together the butter, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and maple flavor. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture. Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.

Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.

Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/5 inch . Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.

Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies. Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.

Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired. Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.

Greek Yogurt Cookies

Happy day-after-Christmas!  I hope you had a lovely holiday and aren’t feeling too much of a sugar hangover from the past few days… you know how holidays can be.

I don’t know about you, but post-holiday, I’m always trying to keep things a *bit* lighter.  And with New Years next week, you know you’ll be indulging again soon enough.  In times like these, I grab my trusty Greek yogurt and whip up a little somethin’ sweet but sensible, like these Greek yogurt cookies.

Let me tell you, these are some soft, fluffy, pillowy (?) sugar cookies, and that’s all thanks to the Greek yogurt in the cookie dough.  For these cookies, I strained the yogurt overnight (see recipe for instructions), which gives the yogurt a more cream cheese like consistency, perfect for making soft cookies.   I used just the tiniest amount of butter, mostly for the flavor, which keeps these cookies fairly light from a nutritional perspective.

The cookies are reminiscent of a sour cream sugar cookie, if you’ve ever had one.  If not, don’t bother… just make these!

I added extra vanilla to the cookie dough for a very flavorful cookie.  You could certainly substitute some of the vanilla for another flavoring — almond, lemon, peppermint…

If you want to keep the cookies lighter, you can bypass the frosting and enjoy them plain or with a simple dusting of powdered sugar.  For me, I had lots of leftover cookie frosting on hand, so I had no choice but to top my fluffy cookies with an equally fluffy layer of frosting.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter S’mores with Homemade Graham Crackers

It seems every year, as the weather changes, my appetite does as well.  Set aside cakes and pies that take upwards of an hour to bake, and bring out no-bake desserts, ice cream, and everyone’s backyard favorite, s’mores!

I impulsively grabbed a (cheap! $2.29!) bag of Bob’s Red Mill graham flour last week and decided to try my hand at homemade graham crackers.  I doubted myself several times while making them.  Isn’t this dough too soft?  Shoot, I didn’t roll the dough thin enough.  How the heck are these going to end up crisp? 

Fortunately, the results were great – a nice, crisp cracker with a touch of flavor from the molasses.  Next time, I might use honey instead of molasses.

For a fun twist on traditional s’mores, I replaced milk chocolate with two types of peanut butter.  I spread the inside of one graham graham with regular, creamy peanut butter.  Then, I spread the other graham cracker with chocolate peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolate Dreams).

Then, just toast your marshmallow, sandwich it between the two crackers, and you’ve got yourself an ooey, gooey, peanut buttery s’more!

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Pumpkin Cookies ‘n Cream Cookies

Happy Monday! Hope you had a nice weekend. Yesterday I ran the NYC Marathon – great way to relax on a Sunday, I know! I’ll probably blog about my experience soon, but in the meantime, let’s just have some cookies. K?

I’m sort of enamored with these cookies.  You know why?  Well, the short story has to deal with ice cream.  See, if I had to pick just two ice cream flavors to eat the rest of my life (I know, the horror), they’d be:

  1. Pumpkin – everyone’s seasonal favorite
  2. Cookies ‘n Cream – my all-time, makes-everything-okay, favorite

Needless to say, a lot of my thoughts, when it comes to baking/eating/life, involve pumpkin and cookies ‘n cream.

And after having so much success with pumpkin cookie mix (oatmeal cinnamon chip and candy corn M and M bars), I sort of might have gone to the store and snatched a few more bags of mix.

These cookies were everything I hoped they’d be.  The pumpkin flavor wasn’t really sacrificed by adding crushed Oreo cookies, yet at the same time, every single bite was filled with chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs.  And the texture was right on point – crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside.


I could probably think of a million variations based on this cookie.  I actually have a Thanksgiving recipe lined up to make, inspired by these cookies!  No, don’t worry, I won’t be setting mashed potatoes with crushed Oreos on the dinner table this year.  Although, on second thought, sweet potatoes and crushed Oreos…

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Sea Salted Caramel Toffee Cookies

There are some cookies that are just ordinary everyday favorites.  This is not one of those.   Because let’s face it, as simple and delicious as chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies can be, sometimes it’s just more fun to step outside of the cookie boundaries.  Let’s step outside the boundary!

A few weeks ago, in the midst of brainstorming random ideas for the Betty Crocker Mix It Up With Betty Cookie Contest, I somehow made my way to these cookies.  I was driving home from work and somehow caramel popped into my mind.  I’m not the biggest fan of caramel (relative to PB) so this was sort of strange.  I decided to go with it.  I went to the store and grabbed some caramels, a sugar cookie mix (contest rules), and toffee bits.  I was on my way…

Mix up your cookie dough, and then add melted caramels right into the dough!!  A-maz-ing.  I was a little unsure of how the dough would hold up with caramels in it.  Though it was a bit stickier than normal, it held up great!

Then it was time to add in the toffee bits.  Though I figured the caramels would give the cookie a lot of flavor, I wanted them to have some crunch, too.  Toffee bits are great for crunch.  And they also bridge the gap between sweet and salty perfectly.


Just let ‘em cool, and then drizzle with more melted caramel, and sprinkle (generously, if you’re a salt lover like me!) with sea salt.

What ‘outside the boundary’ cookie recipes/ideas do you have?


Sea Salted Caramel Toffee Cookies

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 package (14 oz) caramels, unwrapped

1 cup toffee bits

2 ½ tablespoons sea salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray.  Reserve half of the caramels.

In small microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining caramels on high for 45 to 60 seconds, stirring frequently, until melted.

In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, and egg until soft dough forms.  Stir in melted caramels and toffee bits.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place two inches apart on cookie sheets.

Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely (about 20 minutes).

In small microwave-safe bowl, melt reserved caramels on high for 45 to 60 seconds, stirring frequently, until melted.  Use a spoon to drizzle melted caramel over cooled cookies.  Sprinkle top of cookies with sea salt.