I’m sure I’m not the only lady with this problem – I love to bake and enjoy the occasional treat, but my waistline just can’t handle having cookies and brownies and cupcakes and candies around for days and days. Sometimes I’ll bring stuff to work or send it with my husband, but gets kind of repetitive (and besides, you don’t want those coworkers to get in the habit of expecting!). When I heard about Operation Baking Gals, a group which matches teams of bakers with a deployed soldier to provide him or her and their fellow troops with lots of delicious goodies. I joined Bridget’s team, and we were assigned a soldier named Joshua. Coming up with ideas about what to bake wasn’t too hard, but I did have a goal in mind – I wanted my goodies to be extra-special, something impressive in size and texture and flavor like you would get in a coffee shop or bakery. I wrapped my baked goods individually in plastic wrap and then put them in ziploc containers, so I really hope they’re almost as good when Joshua receives them.
At the end of Halloween, we were left with quite a bit of candy leftover. Rather than keep it around for snacking, I decided to get it out all at once and load it up in some kind of cookie to send away. I thought a cookie bar, baked in a sheet pan, would be delicious, and save a little time. When I came across the bar-version of the infamous Cook’s Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie, I knew I couldn’t go wrong since so many have loved this cookie. I found this version of the recipe on another blog, so I can’t say for sure whether the instructions are those of the original recipe of the blogger. Most of the cookie versions I have seen on other blogs say to mix by hand OR with an electric mixer; this recipe only instructs to hand-mix. So that’s what I did. And these came out absolutely perfect. So thick, chewy, rich and delicious. I cut them pretty large, getting 24 squares out of a half sheet pan.
“Loaded Halloween Hangover Cookie Bars”
Based on the Cook’s Illustrated Thick and Chewy Cookie Bar, via “Meanwhile Back in the Kitchen”
Double batch, half sheet pan
21 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 sticks of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 cups light brown sugar (14 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
about 5 or 6 cups chopped candy; I used Reese’s crunch bars, kit kat, and Take 5
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Line an 18″x13″ sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
3. Whisk melted butter and sugars in medium large until combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not over-mix. Fold in chips and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with spatula.
4. Bake until top is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 27 to 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into squares and serve.
Another ingredient I had on hand and wanted to use up was buttermilk. We had bought some to treat ourselves to pancakes, but you can’t exactly ship pancakes! I did a little online searching, and found that the old-fashioned style soft molasses cookies typically use buttermilk, but no eggs, to get that characteristic soft and chewy texture. I decided to go for it. These came out great – they have a somewhat unique taste, with the tang of the buttermilk quite apparent alongside the sweet molasses and spices. I made the cookies fairly large and rolled them in sugar. They may not be everyone’s favorite cookie, but I think they’re a welcome and different treat and I hope the troops like them too!
Giant, Old-Fashioned Super Soft Molasses Cookies
Adapted from Allrecipes
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups dark molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
white sugar, for rolling cookies
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses slowly, stirring constantly on low speed. Mix spices with cream of tartar and add to mixture.
Mix baking soda and buttermilk. Add alternately with the flour to the sugar and spices mixture.
Using a large cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Remove cookie dough from refrigerator and toss in sugar to coat. Place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the back of a spatula.
Bake for 11-13 minutes. The cookies should appear to have a slightly crispy edge and have a bit of cracking on top. Let cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a cooling rack.