Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cookie Monster Challenge

I love cookies. I'm an unapologetic cookie monster and I love to bake. I'm a connoisseur of cookies, if you will, but I'm not a cookie snob. I have no problem making a batch of slice and bake cookies, in fact I think Toll House ready-to-bake cookies are downright delicious. But, I've never made box cookies... until now.

Last week, I picked up a box of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Shortbread Cookie Mix. They only sell it at Target, and every time I see it there, I am tempted. But, this time it was on sale-- the magic word-- so I finally picked it up. The directions are ridiculously easy: blend dry cookie mix and one and a half sticks of butter. That's it. Instant shortbread dough. Ridiculous, right? Plus, the box has three separate packages of cookie mix, so you can make smaller batches if you'd like. Amazing, no?

Cookie #1: I suppose I decided that with such an easy recipe I could pull out some of the tricks up my sleeve (the ones I make as I go along) and do some "cookie doctoring". Or maybe it was guilt about making yummy cookies from a box that made me feel like I needed to put more effort into it! Anyhoo, for whatever reason, I challenged myself to a cookie throw-down...with myself. I started with the cookie recipe suggested on the box: form 1-inch balls, bake, then press a chocolate wafer into each one. Cookies sampled. Passed yummy test. Success.

Cookie #2: I'm not a cook. You couldn't make a meal out of anything in our pantry unless you call stuffing mix, tomato paste and canned peaches a meal. Seriously, I just checked the pantry. But, if you turn to the baking section, you'll find a healthy toolbox just waiting for cookie doctoring. So, I dive in and come out with dark chocolate wafers and vanilla. I give you Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies With Extra Vanilla. Catchy, eh? By the way, my only beef with the magic cookie dough: there are exactly 24 chocolate wafers per cookie mix bag. They claim each batch yields two dozen cookies, but I found that I could make about 40. Good thing I always have extra baking and melting chocolate in the pantry. P.S.- If you choose to add any extra liquid ingredient to your recipe, like vanilla or apple juice, make sure you balance it out with a bit of flour to maintain the dough's consistency.

Cookie #3: Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies. The great part of this cookie challenge is that I was able to use some flavorings that have been patiently waiting in the baking section for their time in the sun. So, this recipe stars almond extract and raspberry preserves. I added almond extract to the dough to taste, then formed the multi-talented 1-inch balls and made a "thumbprint" in them with a wine cork--washed of course. It works so much better than your thumb or a melon-baller, because it makes a perfect little pool that holds the filling and doesn't let it spill out and make your cookies ugly. I topped them off with a dusting of powdered sugar so they don't look exactly like the other cookies. I'm not a pastry chef after all!

Cookie #4: Orange Almond Cookies. Feel free to help me out with fancier names. Almond Bisquits al'Orange, perhaps? This time I added minced almonds and orange zest from one jumbo orange to the dough, baked the cookies, then let them cool. I made a light glaze with powdered sugar, a bit of water and orange extract. It adds a little more sweetness to the cookie and really gives it it's orange flavor. After I iced the cookies, I sprinkled a bit more orange zest on top not only to make them pretty, but more importantly so people would know they are orange flavored, so they don't take one bite and remember they hate oranges.

So, there you have it. The Great Cookie Challenge of 2008. I had plans for some cookie bars, but I used the wrong kind of caramels and it turned into a rock. Then, I thought peppermint, but decided against it since it seemed too Christmas-y. I think I did pretty well. A few for chocolate lovers and a few fruit-flavored yummies. Something for every taste. P.S.--the things in the middle are peanut butter balls. More on those later.

One last note, if you'd like to do your own "cookie doctoring", but don't have a box of cookie mix, use Martha Stewart's shortbread recipe. It's my favorite. Plus, you'll find that she has loads of shortbread variations using that one recipe. But, it's a whole lot more fun when you concoct your own!


  1. I have never, ever seen a more beautiful Plate of Cookies!! My mouth is watering, and I would definitely like to invite myself to tea and cookies!! :-) PLEASE!!! Well done friend. Blessings~Sharon

  2. Oh my I had forgotten about sweets,LOL.Those last ones,the orange ones OMG they look scrumptous.Not that the chcolate ones dont.But for some reason I love orange in the wintertime.I just got done finishing an orange,LOL.I would love the recipe for the orange cookies could make them for Easter.;)

  3. I have made those cookies before and even snuck them in (undetected!) with the homemade tray of cookies. Delish!
    Happy New Year & Best Wishes for a very prosperous 2009!

  4. MMMMMMMM. That looks delish, and so pretty!

  5. Thanks, everybody! Becky, I have to say that my favorites were the orange cookies and I usually don't go for orange flavored things! I don't actually have a recipe, since I used the shortbread mix from the box, but if you get a plain shortbread recipe and add to it like I did, they should come out yummy! When I am making my own shortbread, I use Martha Stewart's recipe. You can find it on her website.

  6. They were beautiful and delicious!

  7. My mouth is watering. Right now.

  8. hey sweets,
    i loe those cookies.

    hope you are having a fab new year.


  9. omg...seriously! Im on a low carb diet... and you bring me here?!?? they look to die for and I reeeeeeeeally want the lemons ones, the 1 and 2 chocolate ones and the orange ones and I WANT THEM ALL!

  10. Okay, I may need these. They all look so delicious!

  11. does anyone know what else can be done with shortbread mix, such as the base of a gooey butter cake? THanks!