Tag: homemade

Chocolate Almond Cookies

Chocolate Almond Cookies

These cookies are not really super Disney oriented, I admit it. But they are delicious, and that’s probably even more important! I bought a container of Cocoa Almond Butter from Trader Joe’s, hoping I could use it in some recipes, including a recipe trying to recreate the AMAZING hazelnut-chocolate filled beignets I had at the Boulangerie Patisserie in France at Epcot. But when I opened the container and tried it, I realized it wasn’t going to work. Its delicious – don’t get me wrong – but its all wrong for the beignet.

Instead, I decided to make cookies. I modified an old peanut butter blossom recipe from my grandmother, and it worked out beautifully. Really, you could substitute any nut butter here and get an awesome cookie!

I also have to admit that I have no pictures of the process of baking them. I wanted cookies. It was the night before I had to go back to work at the high school. I was distracted by the thought of cookies.

Sorry.

But this is what they look like. They look yummy, right?

Chocolate Almond Cookie

The actual process is easy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I cream the butter until it’s fluffy, about a minute or so, and then I add in the sugars. Beat it until everything is fluffy and combined. Add your egg and mix that in until it’s incorporated. Then add the cocoa almond butter. Beat it in until it’s mixed through.

This recipe is really simple. You could just do all the wet ingredients at once if you were in a hurry, but I like making sure it’s all well mixed in stages. Add in the milk and flavorings, and make sure to start the mixer on low so you don’t end up slopping liquid all over your kitchen.

Add in all the dry ingredients and start your mixer on low. Don’t accidentally bump the speed up like I did. I’m going to be cleaning flour off the Keurig for the next five months, I swear.

Once it’s all well mixed, scoop out a tablespoon at a time and roll into a ball. If it’s soft, you may need to refrigerate it for an hour or so. (Or you can cheat and use a small cookie scoop and scoop them straight into the sugar. I then rolled them around and got them on the pan. As long as they hold together in a ball-ish shape, they’ll work.)

You’re going to roll the ball in white sugar, and then place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, and then remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet.

These are excellent with coffee or milk!

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Chocolate Almond Cookies
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
27 mins
 
Course: Dessert
Servings: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar vanilla sugar is excellent
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa almond butter
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar for rolling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, then cream until well incorporated.

  3. Add the cocoa almond butter and mix until incorporated. Add the milk, and mix in on a low speed.

  4. Add in the remaining ingredients, beating until well mixed.

  5. Scoop into tablespoons and roll into balls, then roll in granulated sugar and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes and let cool on the pan.

Chocolate Almond Cookie

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dark Chocolate Amaretto Ganache Filling

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dark Chocolate Amaretto Ganache Filling

This recipe can be a little involved, but these cookies are worth it. I’ve seen them at many places – one of which is the France pavilion at EPCOT. Since I’m not going to be there for awhile, I decided I couldn’t wait, and wanted to make them at home. They’re light, delicate, and packed full of flavor – an excellent dessert for a special occasion or any day of the week! As a bonus, they are also gluten free, so if you are GF, then these are a fabulous dessert option.

These cookies are not as hard as you’d think. However, if you did it like I did, you can make it more difficult than it needs to be.

The recipe has no flour – it uses almond flour instead. The best place I’ve found for this has been Trader Joe’s – they sell a bag (I think its a pound or half pound package) for the cheapest price I’ve found. That being said, I apparently used my bag of almond flour, because when I went to retrieve it from the pantry, all I found was the BJ’s bag of almonds.

You can see where this is going, right?

Almond flour, if you didn’t know, is just ground almonds. So, if I have a bag of almonds, I can make my own almond flour. Easy, right? Yeah. Except for the part where I decided to use the food processor to grind them, rather than my spice grinder. Don’t do that. If you have the spice grinder, even if it takes you longer, use it. I used the food processor, and after sifting in what I could, had to put it through the processor twice more before I broke down and used the spice grinder. And I made a ton of difference. I will say that no matter which one you use, pulse it, and don’t process it too long, or you’ll end up with almond butter. While tasty, you’ll have to scrape it out and start over with new almonds. And you don’t want that.

These were the chunks leftover after grinding the first time in the food processor!

Once you have your dry ingredients sifted together, use a whisk to combine them. You don’t have to do that, but because you’re folding this into egg whites later, I like to have it thoroughly mixed before I start folding it in.

You’re going to need to prep your pan now that you’ve got this part going. Use parchment paper and line a cookie sheet. You can free form your macarons, or you can draw 1″ circles on the back of the parchment (that way you don’t get ink or pencil on your cookies) to use as a guide.

Once your pan is ready, you need to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. You’ll want to use room temperature eggs – if you use cold ones they’ll be harder to separate and they’ll be WAY harder to whip. I also always use a metal mixing bowl for eggs, and I usually dampen a paper towel with a little vinegar and wipe out the inside of the bowl before I put the eggs in. It is supposed to wipe away any leftover residue that might be clinging to a bowl (even a clean one). I don’t remember where I heard that tip, but it does seem to help.

I beat the eggs on a lower speed until they get a little frothy, then I crank it up and pour in the granulated sugar, slowly. Then beat the eggs until they form stiff, glossy peaks. The best way to tell if they are done? When you pull out the beater and the peak stands straight up without falling at all, OR you can hold the bowl upside down and nothing moves. I then cut my vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds into the egg whites, and add the vanilla extract. You do not have to use vanilla beans! Just extract will still make a delicious macaron! Give it a couple more quick beats, and then get out a spatula and your dry ingredients.

You’re going to dump all the dry in there, and then fold them in. If it makes you feel better, you can do it in three parts. But I like just getting it over with. For this recipe, it worked. You don’t want to over mix, but you want to make sure its all incorporated. It takes about 20-30 strokes, and I usually end up doing a figure eight motion through the batter. When its all mixed, it will have the consistency of a very thick but still pourable milkshake. Other people often say it has the consistency of lava. I’ve never actually seen lava, so I’ll take their word for it.

macaron batter

Now we’re onto the fun part!

Pour your mixture into a large resealable bag or disposable piping bag. Snip off the corner (or end) and then use your parchment circles as a guide to pipe the macarons onto the pan. If you end up with a little “peak” on top of your cookie, don’t worry – it will even out. If you’re afraid it won’t, just wet your finger in a little water and tap them down. The water will keep the meringue mixture from sticking to you. Once  you’ve got the pan finished, give it a good tap on the counter. It will help get any air bubbles out.

piped macarons

Now, you need to let these sit for 30-60 minutes to dry out a bit. I leave mine for an hour. While they sit, you can get the filling made!

You can use any filling you like – jam would work just fine! For these, I’m making a dark chocolate amaretto ganache. Its harder to say and write than it is to make. Seriously.

You need to get 4 ounces of dark chocolate – whatever you have on hand will work. I used the remains of a Ghiradelli bar. Chop it up and put it in a heat safe bowl.

dark chocolate

Then pour your cream (you can also use half and half) into a sauce pan and heat until its simmering. Take it off the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let it stand for one minute, and then stir it together with a whisk.

making ganache
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The heat from the cream will melt the chocolate. Add in the tablespoon and a half of butter, and your amaretto and mix again. It will still be pretty warm. I poured mine into a disposable piping bag (you can use a resealable baggie) that was propped up in a cup. Then put it in the fridge to firm up.

Now go sit and have a drink and surf the internet while you finishing waiting for the macarons to dry out.

When the hour is nearly up, you want to move the oven rack to the bottom third of your oven and preheat it to 350. Be sure to only put one pan at a time in the oven, and rotate the pan halfway through baking so they’re all even. You’re going to bake the macarons for 11-13 minutes, until they have risen and set. They’re going to dry out, but you don’t want them to get any color.  After they’ve baked, take them out and let them cool on the baking sheet.

baked macarons

Once they’ve cooled, you can pull out your filling, snip off the corner of the bag, and pipe your ganache onto the flat side of a macaron. Top it with another cookie and viola – you’ve made a dessert that everyone will be drooling over! Next time, I may save back some cookies and try to fill them with ice cream like the ones I’ve seen people posting about from Les Artisans des Glaces in the France pavilion. 🙂

vanilla bean macarons

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This recipe will take some serious time, and does require some more advanced kitchen knowledge. I still think its well worth the effort though! Give it a try – but make sure you leave lots of time for yourself!
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Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dark Chocolate Amaretto Ganache
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
32 mins
 

These are a little time consuming, but totally worth it!

Course: Dessert
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
Macarons
  • 108 grams almond flour
  • 176 grams confectioner's sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 80 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean
Filling
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp amaretto liqueur
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
Instructions
For the Macarons
  1. Move your oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, on the back of which you can draw one inch circles to help guide your piping.

  2. Sift the almond flour and confectioner's sugar together into a bowl through a fine sieve. You can put any large pieces of almond flour left behind through a spice grinder and sift again into the bowl.

  3. In a metal mixer bowl, beat 3 large egg whites with the granulated sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form.

  4. Add the vanilla extract, and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the beaten egg whites. beat for 5 seconds to incorporate.

  5. Dump all the dry ingredients into the bowl. Using a spatula, fold the mixture in, using 20-30 strokes. The mixture will be thick, with a consistency similar to a thick milkshake.

  6. Pour the macaron mixture into a piping bag with a large round tip, or snip off the end of a disposable piping bag. You could also use a resealable plastic bag with one corner snipped off.

  7. Pipe the meringue mixture onto your baking sheet, filling int he circles. Let these sit for 20-60 minutes until a skin forms on top. How long this takes depends on the heat and humidity of your kitchen.

  8. Put one pan in the oven at a time. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until the cookies have risen and set, but not browned. 

  9. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan.

For the Filling
  1. Chop your dark chocolate fine and place in a heat-safe bowl. 

  2. Heat the cream to a simmer on the stove. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for one minute.

  3. Stir the chocolate and cream, until it has melted together. Add the butter and amaretto and whisk together until all is incorporated. 

  4. Let the mixture cool until it is thick, but still pourable. Pour into a resealable bag or piping bag and continue to let it cool until it reaches a frosting consistency.

  5. Pipe onto the bottom of a macaron cookie, and then cover with a second cookie to make a sandwich.

  6. Wrap any leftover cookies tightly in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Vanilla Bean Macarons

Bananas Foster Cookies

Bananas Foster Cookies

Remember how I told you we had a Moana dinner and movie party, and the food was themed around Polynesia? These cookies were our dessert. I came up with the recipe from the ground up, and I’ve been tweaking them for awhile. This recipe is easy, delicious, and you’ll never make enough! They are also great if you have someone who has an egg allergy, because there are no eggs in the cookies! I prefer these without nuts, because I’m weird and I have texture issues with food. I mean, I like nuts, and I like cookies, but they aren’t friends as far as I’m concerned. I feel the same way about chocolate and nuts, mostly, which makes some of my friends think I’m weird. If you don’t have such qualms, feel free to add nuts to these!

They taste like a sweeter version of banana bread, really. I made about three dozen, and when I came back after the party for clean up, there was only about 10 cookies left! I think they tasted okay!

They’re super simple to make. You don’t need to refrigerate them (though you could make the dough in advance and put it in the fridge overnight), and they make a ton. The biggest suggestion I can make is to make sure you set your butter out about 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to make them. You want it a little soft, or it will take forever to beat smooth. In the summer, it only takes about 30 minutes to accomplish that in my kitchen. You know how warm yours will get (or doesn’t.) so you can judge accordingly.

The cookies come together pretty quickly. First thing, heat the oven to 350 degrees, and then lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, or use parchment paper to line it. I’m all about not having to wash any more dishes than is necessary, so I opt for the parchment paper. Plus, you can use it multiple times. I use mine through a whole batch of cookies – sometimes more if I’m making several batches at a time (like at holidays).

Dump your butter and sugar into the mixer and beat it until light and fluffy. You can use all butter or all margarine if you like, but I prefer a stick of each. A bonus tip – if you have the ability, it is totally worth it to get a special container and fill it with sugar, and then drop in a whole vanilla bean or two. It doesn’t take long for the sugar to pick up the vanilla flavor, and it really adds something to baked goods. Honest! Try it! Plus, you can cut the beans open, scrape out the seeds and use them in a recipe, and put the scraped pods back in the sugar. It will taste just as good.

Anyway, once your sugar and butter are beaten, add the bananas, which you can puree or mash. I only bananas when they are super ripe (like they’re pretty much on their way to overripe. They’re good. Don’t judge.), so mashing them pretty much turns them mushy enough. If you use greener bananas, I recommend blending them. Mix themin with the rum and spices. Once that is all incorporated, add the salt, flour, and baking powder. Mix this until everything is combined and well blended. Don’t overbeat it. If you want to add nuts, just mix them in here with a wooden spoon.

Then scoop out the dough with a small cookie scoop, or a teaspoon. I can’t tell you how handy the cookie scoop is, especially if you make cookies often. Its so much easier. Of course, I am also REALLY messy when trying to use a couple teaspoons to scoop the dough.

You’re going to bake them for 10 – 12 minutes until they are set and the bottoms are golden brown. Transfer them to a linen towel and let them cool. If you can wait that long.

They are very tender, moist cookies, so if you store them together, I’d recommend a tin with a layer of wax paper or parchment between each layer. Otherwise, they’ll stick to each other. Of course, if you want a good reason why you HAVE to eat three or four cookies at a time, sticking together is a bonus.

Either way, this will make about two or three dozen cookies, and they’ll get eaten fast!

If you try them, I’d love to know what you think!

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Bananas Foster Cookies - Cooking With Character
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c margarine
  • 1 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 banana, mashed
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 c flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray (or line with parchment paper).

  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the margarine and sugar together until fluffy. 

  3. Add the vanilla, banana, rum, salt, and spices and mix until just combined.
  4. With the mixer on low at first, add flour and baking powder. Mix until combined.
  5. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet, and bake 10-12 minutes until set and slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool on a rack or linen towel.

 

Dill Honey Mustard

Dill Honey Mustard

You may be wondering why I’m putting a recipe for homemade mustard up here. You’re probably thinking, “Its not related to Disney, and I can pick up a bottle for so much cheaper at the store.” Let me put your mind at ease.

The mustard isn’t tied to Disney by itself. That’s true. It is, however, going to get used in several recipes I have planned. And seriously, if you like mustard like I do, making your own is the next step. All those fancy little pots of mustard with different additives – champagne, honey, cider, etc – will have nothing on what you can make yourself.

And its SO EASY.

No, really. It takes next to no effort. Just a little patience.

You have to get whole grain mustard seeds – which are available in the spice aisle, or at specialty stores like the Spice and Tea Exchange here in Williamsburg. I’ve also ordered from World Spice Merchants. They’re both good. You only need a couple tablespoons to start out, so don’t buy a ton. (Or do – if you’re like me, you’ll need them eventually.) You also need some apple cider vinegar, dried dill, dried mustard powder, and some local honey. (I’m all about buying local – and it usually tastes better than the cheap stuff at the store which may not be all real honey in the first place)

That’s it.

Measure out two tablespoons of each kind of mustard seed. I put mine in a mason jar, but anything with a lid will work. You’re going to pour about 1/4 cup of vinegar over the seeds. Close the jar. Leave it out on the counter to soak 24 hours. You can let it go up to 48, but it doesn’t make too much difference. I only did  it because I got sidetracked.

So a day later, you’re going to put that mustard seed and vinegar mixture into a food processor, blender, or smoothie machine. Add about 2 teaspoons of dill, a 2 teaspoons of the dried mustard, and a tablespoon or two of honey. How much honey will depend on how sweet you like your mustard. You want more bite? Add a little less.

dill honey mustard
I left mine with a lot of mostly whole grains. You can leave them even more intact, or go really smooth.

Now, this part really depends on your taste preferences. If you want lots of whole mustard seeds, you can blend only a few pulses. If you want smoother, blend longer. When it has a consistency you like, pour it into a jar and close it. You can taste if you want, but you’ll be disappointed. The mustard really needs to sit in the jar for about a week before you eat it. It needs that long to let the flavors hang out and make beautiful music together. I didn’t believe it either the first time I made this stuff, but it really, really makes the difference.

After a week, feel free to use it on whatever you like. I love this stuff – the only mustard I love more is Hot Pepper Mustard, which I’ll post a recipe for later on. Just make sure to keep some of this mustard around. You’re going to need it for some of the recipes I’m planning!

The recipe will make one small jar, but if you need more, you can easily scale this up to make any amount you like. Just remember that it isn’t canned or sealed, so it has to stay refrigerated.

Dill Honey Mustard

snack rating

dill honey mustard
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Dill Honey Mustard - Cooking with Character
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
1 d 10 mins
 
Course: Condiment
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp dark mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp light mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tsp dried ground mustard
Instructions
  1. Measure out mustard seeds into a mason jar or other container with lid. Cover with vinegar and let soak for at least 24 hours.
  2. Pour mustard seeds and vinegar into a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to desired texture.
  3. Pour into a jar, close, and let sit in refrigerator for at least one week.