It’s cookie season.  It’s cookie exchange time. I love seeing what everyone makes.  I love that there are twelve days of cookies on  Ironically I don’t even love cookies.  I just love the opportunity to get into the kitchen.  I love trying something new.

My mom and my brother’s girlfriend get together every year around this time to spend a whole day in the kitchen and make winter goodies.  It’s the winter equivalent of “putting up” the harvest by canning in the fall/summer I suppose.   This is one of the recipes they had tried together.  My mom was telling me that I “had to try” to make them.  That they would be so easy and you just couldn’t go wrong with them.  Perhaps she was right…but it took me way longer to make these than it would have taken me to make regular cookies, and in my oh, so humble opinion they were waaaaaaaaay more labour intensive than drop cookies.

That being said, they aren’t really cookies.  They are more of candies.  Almonst a chewy Almond Roca.  I thought my mom had created these, but upon some internet searching, I believe it was Giada De Laurentis’ recipe.  As usual, I reviewed and looked at ways to put my own spin on them.  I opted to roll them in chopped up toasted almonds.  Building on the almondy goodness.

As I munched on my one tester.  I think I would do them differently next time.  I think the idea is right, but the texture needs a little work.  The caramel centre is a little confused.  It is kind of chewy, and kind of brittle.  I feel like it needs to be one or the other…otherwise my jaw might need strengthening if I was to eat these on a more regular basis…come to think about it, perhaps it is a good idea that you can only eat one or two at the most at a time.  IF I was to make these again, I think I would make my own caramel.  I would add the almonds to the silicone liners and then ladle in the almond roca caramel mixture into the cups, cool and set, and then dip in the choclate and roll in the crushed almonds.  Basically creating little Almond Roca bites, rather than the bark I made a few years ago.


1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) toasted slivered almonds
24 individually wrapped caramel candies (about 6 ounces)
1 cup (about 6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
4 to 6 tablespoons cream, room temperature, divided
1 cup (about 6 ounces) white chocolate chips

1 cup toasted chopped slivered almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease the mini-muffin tins with vegetable oil spray. If you have silicone mini muffin liners or the pan, use that instead and you won’t need the oil.
  3. Place 1 teaspoon of slivered nuts in each of the muffin cups. Unwrap the caramel candies, cut each candy into quarters and place 2 quarters (1/2 candy) in each of the muffin cups, in the bottom, add the nuts and then add the other 2 quarters on top of the nuts in a single layer. Bake in the oven until the caramel is just melted and beginning to spread, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to over melt the caramel or it will bubble, burn, and become too hard. Place the mini muffin tins in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to cool. Remove the nut clusters from the tins and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Whisk 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream into the chocolate to slightly thin the chocolate for coating the clusters. Dip half of the nut clusters in the bittersweet chocolate , remove exand place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Return the clusters to the refrigerator to harden, about 30 minutes.
  5. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Wisk 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream into the chocolate to slightly thin the chocolate for coating the clusters. Dip remaining half of the nut clusters in the white chocolate and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet with the other chocolate-covered clusters. Return the clusters to the refrigerator to harden, about 30 minutes.


Cookies, cookies, cookies! A few weeks back, I attended a cookie exchange, hosted by non-other than the lovely Ms. Jackie Connelly. A sunny (albeit, blustery) Sunday afternoon, armed with two dozen cookies, and a bottle of wine, I spent the afternoon with some fantastic foodies.

Cookie exchanges are a fantastic way to expand your horizons. Sometimes we, and by we, I really should really say, I get into ruts in the kitchen. I tend to default to the tried and true. As a kid, my mom made THE best chocolate chip cookies. Undoubtedly there was always cookie dough in the freezer to thaw and have cookies at your finger tips. That tends to be my go-to cookie.

A cookie exchange means you can stay within your comfort zone, if you really want, but sample the wonderful selection brought to the table from all the other participants. You could always make your usual, but why not try something new? There are so many options out there, it can almost become overwhelming. Narrow it down, do you want chocolate? Chewy? Traditional? Maybe you don’t even want a cookie, but perhaps a truffle…be daring!  For a handful of great recipes from this cookie exchange, you can find them on Jackie’s site.

In my adult life, access to cookies was/is not as important. I prefer savoury to sweet. But, it is the holidays, there are guests, and little home-baked packages to be dropped off…and so, into the kitchen we all head.

As usual, I started with a base recipe, tweaked it, and made it my own. I was inspired to put a little wasabi salt on the chocolate as it set to counter the sweetness of the chocolate, and compliment the buttery-ness of the shortbread. It’s all about exploration right? And in this case, I thought it paid off!


3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp instant coffee
1 Tbsp hot water
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
500 grams bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Wasabi salt to top, optional


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the instant coffee and water, combine until all crystals are dissolved. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and roll shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 2-inch snowflake-shaped cutter. Place the snowflakes on an ungreased sheet pan – place in fridge to chill – this will help the cookie retain its crisp edges.. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Melt chopped chocolate over a water bath. Once nice and smooth (achieved with a whisk), dip each cookie into the melted chocolate, place on a cookie rack to set. Once the chocolate has cooled, but not fully set, add a small sprinkle of wasabi salt.

However you choose to celebrate, may you enjoy the beauty, warmth and tradition of this holiday season…hopefully with a little sweetness in hand! ~ bakergirl

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Shortbread Hearts Recipe.

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Now the posting date was yesterday.  I don’t know where the month flew, but between a good friend coming in town for another friends wedding, vacations, busy times at work, I blinked and the challenge post date had come and gone… oops!  So here we are.  Posting about baking cookies on quite possibly the hottest day of the year here in Vancouver.  I really liked the simplicity of the Milan Cookies and opted to just make them as I didn’t need all of them in our house of two.   My piping was not the best it could have been nor did I follow the recipe to a tee.  In fact I didn’t have the lemon extract in the cupboard, so I looked at my options, coconut, pineapple, rum, and pepermint.  If it was Christmas time, I think pepermint might have been the choice, but given the tropical nature of our “historic heatwave” I thought coconut and chocolate might be a nice combo.

So here they are:  Dainty, and super simple to make.  And a great treat with a cup of tea or a tasty coffee…though neither of those appeals to me right now in this +30C weather!  Thank you to Nicole for this fun recipe. Check out the other Daring Baker’s Milan and Mallow creations.

milan cookies

These were the cookie exchange cookies I made for my office.  The cookie monster would sing blissfully the cookie song if he got to enjoy these fresh from the oven! My friend Lana had posted in the comments that these cookies, featured in the New York Times in July were supposed to be the ultimate chocolate chip cookie…and they don’t disappoint!

The key to these are how delightfully moist they are, if baked absolutely perfectly. A smidge too long in the oven and they dry out. According to the recipe they should bake 18-20 minutes, however I found 15-18 worked better with my oven. The other wonderful aspect to these cookies is the combination of salty and sweet – absolutely melt in your mouth goodness!


The recipe can be found here, the only things I modified was that I didn’t have chocolate wafers, I just went with plane old chips and I used all purpose flour instead of the bread flour it called for.

It is the season of cookie exchanges, office goodie parties, and holiday baking to last through the month. Every where I turn people are busy in their kitchens, getting ready for company and some time to relax away from the hussel and bussel of every day life and prepare for a little hibernation.

Both my bookclub and office are holding cookie exchanges. Bookclub is today, and the office, tomorrow. I made two different batches of cookies for the two different exchanges, the roca cookies, and the perfect chocolate chip cookies (stay tuned for those!).

My very first blog entry last December was for home made almond roca bark. It is something I love! Mmm. But we don’t tend to eat the sweets during the rest of the year in the same way that we do over the holidays, so I figure it was time to bring those flavours back into the house.

As they bake the cookies smell amazing. The are solid and tasty and feel like a little bit of an extra special treat. I found this recipe on the Food Network website, courteousy of Lynn Scully.



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 package toffee bits
1 cup coarsely ground almonds
4 ounces milk chocolate
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend sugars together on medium speed.
  4. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla and mix at medium speed until light and fluffy. At low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and then the toffee bits. Mix until just blended; do not over-mix.
  6. Place ground nuts in a small bowl. Using hands, roll balls of dough into 1 to 1 1/2-inch balls, then roll in the ground nuts. Place on cookie sheets several inches apart.
  7. Bake approximately 22 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
  8. Melt the chocolate with the vegetable oil in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
  9. Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled cookies.
  10. Place cookies on a cookie sheet and place in freezer or refrigerator until chocolate is firmly set.

Yields 6 dozen small cookies.

I love summer…but sometimes I love fall even more. There is something so lovely about the fresh air, the consistently warm weather, the crisp evening air. AND, I feel like the fall brings on the baking bug for me. The call of the oven is louder because the house isn’t melting from July/August heat! And work slows down as everyone gets settled in once classes start.

All week long I have been brainstorming things I want to make: cookies, muffins (pumpkin and zucchini) and homemade bread (to accompany several soups I want to make!). I’ve been reading the food blogs and it seems like everyone is picking up again! One of my favourite bloggers, Annie, made some delicious looking Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. I thought I would take a stab at them given that I was craving baking, and here they are…

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

(If I was to make these again, I would use less chocolate chips and add some pecans or walnuts to the batter!)


  1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined.
  4. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.
  5. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball.
  7. Bake, rotate cookie sheet by 180 degrees halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes). Do not overbake.
  8. Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated