New Things #4 & #5: Double-Feature!

I’ve been away a lot lately. I started a new position at work which has resulted in me traveling probably 80% of the time since I began the job. It’s hard going from seeing my boyfriend every day after work to seeing him practically just on the weekends!

He doesn’t cook much, so I try to do some food-shopping with him before I go on long trips so he can have stuff to eat that isn’t fast-food or Chinese delivery. Besides that, I also like cooking and/or baking him something he loves before I leave, so he can have a taste of real cooking (as opposed to his Chef Boyardee and ramen noodles).

I decided to spoil him a bit by making something not as healthy and wholesome as I usually do: cookies. We had all the ingredients, as well as lots of mix-ins like chocolate chips and M&Ms. I never made cookies with M&Ms or any candies in them before, so I was pretty excited to give it a go. But, I came into a problem: I assumed I had brown sugar in my pantry when, in fact, I didn’t. Crisis? Nah.

Did you know you can make your own brown sugar? I feel dumb for not knowing this to be true!

To make molasses, the cane of a sugar plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is extracted usually by crushing or mashing, but also by cutting. The juice is boiled to concentrate it, which promotes the crystallisation of the sugar. The result of this first boiling and of the sugar crystals is first molasses, which has the highest sugar content because comparatively little sugar has been extracted from the source. Second molasses is created from a second boiling and sugar extraction, and has a slight bitter tinge to its taste.

[source]

Well, I had blackstrap molasses in my possession. I knew it was a healthy product, which is why I bought it, but I’d only ever used it to make a healthy, whole-grain molasses/ginger bread for a friend. So, what is it?

The third boiling of the sugar syrup makes blackstrap molasses. The term is an Americanism dating from around 1920. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has been crystallized and removed. The calorie content of blackstrap molasses is still mostly from the small remaining sugar content. However, unlike refined sugars, it contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of several minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the daily value of each of those nutrients. Blackstrap has long been sold as a health supplement.

With a bit of worry that my final product would be bitter, I dug up the sugar and the molasses I had in my pantry and prepared to make brown sugar!

How to Make Brown Sugar
From here.

For every cup of brown sugar you need, get…

  • 1 cup sugar (preferably organic)
  • 1 tbsp molasses

I only needed 3/4 cup so I added 3/4 cup of sugar to a medium bowl and topped it with about 3/4 tablespoon of molasses.

I just whisked like crazy and in about a minute I had the fluffiest brown sugar ever!

With all of the nutrients blackstrap molasses has, my cookies are about as healthy as cookies can get… or at least that what I’m convincing myself! Hah!

One-Bowl Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies
Adapted from the Cranberry-Chocolate Cookies recipe on the side of my King Arthur White Whole Wheat Pastry Flour bag. Yields about 18 cookies.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, margerine, or other bake-friendly spread
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/4 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
  • about 1/2 cup M&Ms

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, vanilla, butter, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (If you make your brown sugar from scratch, just use the same bowl!) Beat in the egg until completely combined.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula, then add the flour, mixing until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using a small cookie scoop, space balls of dough about 1.5 inches apart. Flatten with your palm or a spatula to flatten out top. Add 3 M&Ms on top of each cookie.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on edges. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

There are no photos of the cookies, sorry. But all you have to do is imagine some imagery of delicious, sweet perfection… the smell of the Keebler Elves’ tree… and the taste of pure joy…!

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Hello, Autumn!

Farewell, summer: today is the Autumnal Equinox!

Summer may be the season all kids (and teachers) love, but as an adult I personally love Fall. Hell, even as a kid I loved fall!

Autumn is when the leaves change to shades of pure warmth.

Summer may be s’mores season, but Autumn is Mallomars season!

Some of my favorite holidays are in the Fall season: Rosh Hashannah/Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and [topping the list…] Halloween!

Every Sunday (and sometimes Monday) in the Autumn season involves me yelling at the TV, with the assumption that my beloved Giants can hear my cheers.

Autumnal fashions of fingerless gloves, skinny jeans, and Toms Botas.

The best day of Autumn is November 1st, of course *ahem*mybirthday*ahem*

Fall treats truly are the best: pumpkin spice lattes, candy corn, caramel apples… oh my!

Or, if you’re up for the true Autumn experience, picking your own pumpkins and apples from your local farm!

Speaking of which, I came upon some local apples that are about the size of a softball. I had just one left earlier this week and decided to use it to make something for my coworkers.

I bake something to bring to work about once a month, at most. I used to do this more often, but I definitely spoiled them to the point that they’d get upset if I didn’t bring something in every Monday morning! I’ve got to pace myself…!

So, what to do with a huge apple? I like the nontraditional. I like blowing people’s minds (especially with food). I like trying new things… obviously… so I decided to bake something I’d never attempted before: whoopie pies.

I’d never heard of whoopie pies until I moved to Boston for college. Apparently New England claims they created whoopie pies first (though Pennsylvanians disagree), so many families, supermarkets, and bakeries have their own secret recipes for this awesome treat. The first one I had was traditional: marshmallow cream in between two chocolate cakes, made by my college friend’s older brother. Ahhhhmazing!

But, how do I go about making these with a humongous apple? When in doubt, ask Google. Using the cookies from this recipe and a modified version of the cream from this recipe, my problem was solved!

Apple Cinnamon Whoopie Pies

Apple-Cinnamon Whoopie Pies
Yields about 13 sandwich cookies + some leftover icing.

For the cookies:

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup grated apple, peeled first (one huge apple was enough!)

For the filling:

  • 3/4 block of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, cream the softened butter and brown sugar. Add vanilla and egg. When combined, add all remaining ingredients except the apple. Once dough is thoroughly mixed, reduce speed, add the mixing attachment, and add apple. Cover dough and refrigerate for about 45-60 minutes. (I refrigerated mine for about 50 minutes.)

During your wait, make the frosting. In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, combine cream cheese, coconut oil, and vanilla. When completely smooth, begin adding powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments. Add nutmeg and cinnamon, whisking until combined. Refrigerate until use.

When your dough is done in the fridge, preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Drop balls of dough onto your lined cookie sheet using a heaping teaspoon or a cookie scoop. Flatten each ball slightly using the back of a spoon, trying to keep each round about the same size.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine were done at 12 minutes exactly) or until golden around the edges. Keep cookies on the cookie sheet for at least 2 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

Once completely cooled (I recommend letting them cool in your refrigerator), put a heaping tablespoon of filling in between two sort-of-equally-sized cookies.

Needless to say, these disappeared in record time when I brought them to the office. Nobody knew what a whoopie pie was, so I had to actually draw an illustration explaining what each component was! Regardless, they were enjoyed by all and definitely a great way to welcome Autumn into our lives.

Yeah, I’m the best coworker ever. 🙂