Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Cookie Bake 2013

It's so hard to believe the holidays are upon us and 2013 is coming to an end. This year was literally a total blur. But sometimes, amidst all of the chaos, in between work, family, chores, errands and To-Do Lists, you have to take a moment to stop and smell the flowers or, in this case, the cookies!
Every year at Christmas, for the past 12+ years, Yvonne and I get together with a group of special friends to spend a day (and sometimes it literally takes a whole entire day) to bake cookies to give to friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. Some years we spend hours baking what turns out to be thousands of cookies. This year we scaled it back a bit (we're not as young and energetic as we used to  be!), but the spirit of the holidays was as strong as ever.
Honestly, for me it's not about how many cookies I take home at the end of the day (although I do love me a good cookie), it's about sharing our love for baking with friends we love. Regardless of how our lives change, love is the constant ingredient.
 This year we baked several new varieties of cookies; Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Dipped Pecan Pie Bars, Cherry Pecan Tassies, Cranberry Orange Shortbread, Buckeyes, as well as some of the old standbys - Molasses Cookies, Snowballs, Jackie's Tarts and Chocolate Oat Bars.
With so many different varieties, needless to say there was lots of measuring, mixing, sprinkling, slicing, rolling, dipping and glazing going on.....

Rachel showing off her measuring skills...

Our glamour girl, Teresa, mixing while balancing in her 5" stilettos...

Colleen's rolling skills are perfection...

And I dip, you dip, we dip....

One handed decorating with a smile...
And in the end, although we weren't as tired as past years marathon baking sessions, the result was hundreds of delicious cookies....

(warning - too much sugar can make you crazy)
and do silly things involving babies...
Nothing beats baking with some of our favorites girls during the holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and Cheers to a sweet new year from LiveBakeLove!!

This year Yvonne is sharing the recipe for her Cherry Pecan Tassies. It's a delicious and unique twist on the traditional Pecan Tassie.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 oz Cream Cheese, softened
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup Cake flour (not regular flour, see note below)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 finely chopped pecans

Beat the softened butter and cream cheese with mixer until smooth. Add vanilla bean and cake flour, mix just until the ingredients blended (do not over mix).

Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. 

Refrigerate for 1 hour.
About 15 minutes before the hour is over, preheat the oven to 325 and start making the filing.
Add two egg yolks, brown sugar , vanilla and the pinch of salt to the a mixing bowl. Mix until well combined.


Add dried cherries and pecans and mix for about 1 minute.


Line 24 mini muffin cups with holiday liners (this recipe can also be made un-lining the cups, they do not stick)
Remove dough from refrigerator. Divide dough into 24 balls.
Once all the balls are done, press each ball into the muffin cup bottom and up the sides. (3/4 of the muffin cup should be covered.)

Add about 1 teaspoon of filling to each cup.

Bake for 30 minutes.


NOTE: this is the brand of Cake Flour I used.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Red Velvet White Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Where the heck has December gone? Seriously, does anyone know?? With only a few days left until Christmas, I wanted to do some last minute cookie baking for my husband to take to work.  Every year my husband's coworkers look forward to the Christmas cookies he brings to work during the holidays. Last weekend we had our annual Christmas Cookie Bake (post on that to follow), but I have been dying to try this recipe for Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies that I saw on Cooking Classy, one of my favorite food blogs.
This cookie seriously tastes like a Red Velvet Cupcake in cookie form. So good! I've made the recipe several times, a few times testing out some substitutions, but I found that I prefer the original recipe as written (using buttermilk and fresh lemon juice). Definitely use those ingredients if you can. The one thing I do recommend is increasing the amount of white chocolate chips by 1/4 cup (total 1 1/4 cups).
Here's the link to the original recipe. I hope you check it out and give the recipe a try. Santa will definitely not be mad at you if you do!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vanilla Bean Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Salted Dulce de Leche Filling for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap


I have to start off with a confession - I absolutely hate rolling out dough.  There, I said it. Whether it's cookie dough or pie dough, I can't stand rolling it. I don't know why. I will purposely try to avoid making any recipe that requires chilling and rolling out dough. That doesn't mean I won't do it, but I do it begrudgingly knowing I will curse every second I spend with the rolling pin in my hand...
Having said that, rolled cookies are usually the most beautiful cookies around especially holiday cookies. For The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap to raise money for Cookies for Kids Cancer, I wanted to bite the bullet and make a rolled cookie.  I fell in love with this Salted Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookie by America's Test Kitchen, but I modified it a bit by turning the shortbread cookies into vanilla bean shortbread cookies using vanilla bean paste. I love using vanilla bean paste in these type of recipes where the vanilla flavor really stands out and you can see the beautiful speckles of vanilla bean.
Ok, now that you know how much I hate rolling dough, here's the funny part to the story (or not so funny in the moment), but I got so excited that I was almost finished baking and had the exact perfect amount that I needed, that I burnt a batch. I mean burnt. As in dark brown edges instead of beautifully light golden brown. Ahhh!!! My husband rushed into the  kitchen when he heard my screams of frustration (probably thinking I had burned myself) and when he saw the cookies I was so upset over, he asked 'that's burnt?"
Yep! He just  didn't understand, the cookies I was mailing to my fellow Food Bloggers Had. To. Be. Perfect. Period.
Despite the drama (and me being overly critical), these cookies are really easy to make (once you get over the rolling and cutting process), and the pay off is well worth it. The taste is absolutely amazing; crunchy, buttery, "vanilla-y" all perfectly complimented by the Salted Dulce de Leche filling.
I was so excited to pack up these beauties and ship them to Sarah at The Chef Next Door, Jennifer at West Street Story and Kellie from The Suburban Soapbox. Please stop by and show them some love LiveBakeLove style....

In exchange, I received Molasses Cookies from Foodness Gracious , Italian Chocolate Cookies from Crew Cuisine and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from o taste and see. It was so fun to receive cookies from complete strangers in the mail! And my favorite? All three!! They were all so delicious and so different from each other. I can't wait to get their recipes!
A big, heartfelt thank you to Julie from the little kitchn and Lindsay from love & olive oil for hosting and organizing the event. I am already looking forward to next year!!

If you'd like to participate in this great event, next year please sign up to receive notifications using the following link ( I promise, your heart and your stomach will thank you....

Now onto the recipe....
Vanilla Bean Shortbread Sandwich Cookies
with Salted Dulce de Leche Filling
Makes approx. 36 sandwich cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter softened, then cut into tablespoon size pieces
1 oz cream cheese softened
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar (if you don't have it on hand, pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

Filling Ingredients:
3/4 cup Dulce de Leche ( I used La Lechera brand)
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt


In the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar and salt until combined.

Drape a clean kitchen towel over the mixer (or use your shield attachment if you have one). With mixer on low speed, add butter on tablespoon at a time, mixing until mixture looks crumbly (approx. 2 minutes).

Add cream cheese and vanilla bean paste and mix just until a dough starts to form.

Remove the bowl and knead a few times to form a cohesive dough. Divide dough in half. Form each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Work with one disk of dough at a time, roll dough out onto a floured surface until 1/8" thick. Use a 1 3/4" cookie cutter, cut into shapes. I used squares.

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375f. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bake one sheet at a time in the center of the oven until lightly golden brown, rotate sheet halfway through the baking process to promote even browning.

Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes, then remove the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cookies have cooled completely, make filling and assemble.

Make filling

Place Dulce de Leche in a small microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to loosen. Stir in the sea salt.


Transfer the Dulce de Leche to a medium size Ziploc bag and make a small cut in the corner of the bag. Pipe approx. 1 teaspoon of Dulce de Leche onto the bottom of half of the cookies, then top with the other half of the cookies and press gently to create sandwich cookies.

Here are my cookies all packaged and ready to ship! I hope they arrive safely & I can't wait to hear how the ladies like them!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Caramel Apple Cookies (The Leftovers Club)

For this month's Leftover's Club, I was paired with Elizabeth from In the Loop. She has a great tumblr page with lots of great recipes. You should go check it out!

So once again I had the dilema of deciding what to make for The Leftovers Club. When I saw this recipe for Caramel Apple Cookies on Chocolate, Chocolate and More, I was intrigued; the flavor of a caramel apple in a cookie? I love the flavor of caramel apples, but hate the inconvenience of the big, clunky apple and sometimes the caramel can be overly sweet. But to capture the flavor in a cookie, I knew I had to try it!

The first time I tried the recipe I was surprised by the texture and flavor. The apple chips soften up a bit and become chewy. I substituted Kraft Caramel Bits for the caramel extract called for in the original recipe and I thought it turned out great and gave the cookie a bit more texture. If you're not familiar with Kraft Caramel Bits, they're like chocolate chips only made of caramel (yum!).

I originally used Granny Smith apple chips, but  felt the outcome was too tart so I used Fuji Apple chips the second time around and it was much better!

This is definitely a unique cookie, infused with the flavor of apples and caramel. The cookies are a bit on the thinner side but are very chewy if you enjoy chewy cookies like I do. I hope you give the recipe a try!

If you're interested in joining The Leftovers Club, I highly recommend it. It's a lot of fun getting a surprise package of goodies in the mail each month and checking out what everyone else made!

Caramel Apple Cookies
Makes approx. 15 large cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 2.5oz bag apple chips (I used Bare Naked Organic Fuji Apple Chips)
1 cup Kraft Caramel Bits


Preheat oven to 350f

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

Crush the apple chips into small pieces.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until creamy (approx. 1 minute).

Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until almost combined.

Add the crushed apple chips and caramel bits and pulse on low speed just to distribute the apple chips and caramel into the dough.

Using a large cookie scoop, place scoops of dough onto the baking sheets about 3 inches apart to allow room for spreading.

Bake 8-9 minutes or until cookies are light golden brown and look set.

Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for approx. 10 minutes then remove to parchment lined cooling racks (this is to prevent the caramel from sticking).

Store wrapped in plastic wrap or in a container for up to 2 days.