Peppermint Mocha Cookies

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Welcome to day one of my Week of Christmas Cookies! Like most of my mornings, it just seemed right to start it off with a coffee kick.


You know it’s the holiday season when Starbucks rolls out their red cups and special holiday drinks. I probably get a little too excited about it, to be honest. The excitement that comes over me as I take my first sip of a hot Peppermint Mocha is shameful. It’s probably only second to Pumpkin Spice. Am I the only one that can’t imagine a Target Christmas shopping spree without a Peppermint Mocha in my hand?


After deciding to include a Peppermint Mocha cookie in my week long feature, I started an online search for recipes already floating around out there. Some of them looked good, but none of them had everything I was looking for. I wanted the cookie to have a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate quality, with a hint of coffee and cool peppermint finish. I also didn’t really want to use candy canes IN the cookie. So I had to adapt a recipe I already have.

My first attempt was a flop. I tried using chopped up York peppermint patties, but they melted and spread and the cookies weren’t really cookies as much as they were melty dough patties. Not wanting to stick a peppermint patty in the middle of my cookie, I had to go a different route. Attempt number two was a total SCORE, to say the least. They hit all of my criteria and then some.


Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Ingredients

8-ounces Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp real peppermint extract
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 Tbsp flour
2 1/2 Tbsp espresso powder (instant espresso, found in the coffee aisle at my grocery store)
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a microwave safe glass bowl, microwave the semi-sweet chocolate for 1 minute on high power. Remove from the microwave and stir, continuing heating in 20 second increments until it can be stirred smooth. (Mine took 2 minutes total) While the chocolate is melting, sift together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. To the melted chocolate, add the butter, brown sugar, and eggs, stir until blended then stir in the peppermint extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Finally, add the chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop, place dough 2-inches apart on the cookie sheet*. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until the tops no longer look wet. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, while cooling garnish with crushed candy canes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

*Do NOT chill the dough in the fridge. It will look wet, like it will spread and make a mess, but it won’t. Chilling will make the cookies more tough and less visually appealing. Spoken from experience.

Adapted from The Cookie Bible

Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

I have a love hate relationship with my apartment. Love: This weekend we explored some tide pools, biked around the bay, and did a little shopping – all within 5 miles of our little apartment. It’s hard to beat the location. Hate: My kitchen has been a complete and total disaster since the weekend we got home from China. It’s so tiny it’s nearly impossible to keep up with mess. You would think a smaller space would mean a smaller mess. But no. It means there are lots of dishes, baking supplies, food items, and other kitchen goods that have to be kept in places other than the kitchen. Also, things kept in the kitchen can have only one very specific place where it can be stored. Pots and pans have to be stacked in a very specific order and turned in a very specific direction so as to leave room for the very specifically stacked colanders to be placed in front of them.

What’s that have to do with a messy kitchen? Welllll, I guess it comes down to laziness – no wait that sounds bad, busyness. I’ve been so busy and going right from one project to the next that things just don’t have time to be put back in their proper and specific place. There is no sense in walking the spare mixer bowl to the bedroom closet just to have to pull it back out later. Just in the time that I’ve been home I’ve made Lasagna, Lemon Greek Chicken, Black and Tan Brownies, Banana Oat Muffins , Whole Wheat Bread, my birthday cake (talk about a mess!), this Chipotle Pulled Pork, and of course a few other favorites. That makes for one messy kitchen.

It’s been worth it, though. Especially for this meal. This pulled pork was awesome, even better when paired with cheesy grits with roasted corn. Don’t be scared off by the coffee in the rub. It doesn’t taste like coffee. It just adds depth to the flavor.

Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

(adapted from Homesick Texan)

Ingredients

1 3-lb pork shoulder
3/4 cup water
Coffee-Chipotle Rub (recipe below)
BBQ Sauce (recipe below)

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Rub the Coffee-Chipotle rub all over the pork roast. Place the roast in 5-quart dutch oven (or other oven proof pot/pan with a lid) and pour the water around the roast. Cover with a lid and roast for 4 hours.

At 4 hours remove the pan from the oven and pour most of the liquid off into heat proof measuring cup and set aside. Stick a fork in the middle of the roast and give it a jiggle. If the meat is still tough (doesn’t start to fall apart when you stick the fork in the middle) return the pan to the oven and roast for another hour. Check again with a fork and continue roasting until it’s ready (mine took 5 and half hours). When the pork starts to fall apart increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Shred the pork with 2 knives and pour 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce over it. Return to the oven for 15 minutes until the BBQ sauce starts to glaze over the pork.

Serve on buns with cole slaw or over cheesy grits.

Coffee-Chipotle Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp black pepper
1/8 cup of finely ground dark coffee (or one VIA instant coffee packet)
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder (or 1 pulverized chipotle pepper)
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin

Combine all ingredients together until it is thoroughly combined with no lumps. If you’re using the chipotle pepper instead of the powder, rub it into the other ingredients with your fingers (and make sure to SCRUB your hands when you’re done!).

Chipotle-Honey BBQ sauce

1 tsp canola oil
1/2 half a medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups ketchup
1/8 cup yellow, ball-park style mustard
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup reserved cooking liquids from pork
2 canned chipotle pepper (not full cans, but 2 peppers from a can)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low-heat for 30 minutes before serving.
 

Caramel Macchiato Kind of Cookie

>Sometimes I get an idea in my head about something I want to do, or try to do, and I just can’t get it out of my head. I guess you could say I have obsessive tendencies. That’s what these cookies are kind of about. I have had an idea for probably 2 years about making a vanilla caramel cookie with a subtle coffee hint, kind of like a caramel macchiato from Starbucks. I actually tried a few years ago to create the cookie in my head but they didn’t work out the way I had planned. The idea was pushed to the back of my head in the moving craziness of the last year but it was still there.

About 2 weeks ago I was shopping in Target and I was just browsing their baking aisle, I didn’t really need anything I was just looking around. As I was looking at the variety of chocolate chips I saw a bag that instantly brought my mind back to the “caramel machiatto” cookie I have imagined. It was a bag of caramel bits, intended for easier melting and eliminating the hassle of unwrapping a million caramels. So I bought the bag and started brainstorming.


I wanted to use a vanilla pudding packet in the cookie to up the creamy vanilla flavor I was looking for. I did an online search for sugar cookies with vanilla pudding and I found this recipe. I was intrigued because it calls for vegetable oil, which I have never used in a cookie before. I was a bit skeptical but the raving reviews convinced me to try it. In the end they were good, but a bit crunchier than I had imagined (thought still somehow a little chewy, which was good). After 15 seconds in the microwave they were perfect, but just straight out of the storage container the next day they were too crunchy for me.

Because they were good after warming them up, and because some people really like crunchy sugar cookies and these were strangely crunchy and chewy, I am going to share the recipe now. But I am still going to work towards getting this cookie exactly as I have been imaging it so don’t be surprised if you see similar cookies again soon. And a little warning, I had a LOT of fun taking pictures of these, so there are a couple photos 🙂


Sugar Cookies with a Caramel Macchiato Kick
(Cookie adapted from Cookie Madness; Caramel Topping my own recipe)

2 sticks (8 oz) salted butter, softened**
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix — lemon works too
4 cups all-purpose flour (18 oz)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
*I added 1/2 cup of the caramel baking bits to the dough but they were a little sticky in the cookie so next time I am going to do more of a thumbprint wit the caramel topping instead of the caramel bits directly in the cookie
~3/4 cup caramel topping, recipe below

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or a large bowl, cream the butter, oil and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and dry pudding mix.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and with the mixer on slow-medium speed, mix well.

Using a medium scoop, or by heaping tablespoon, drop the cookies 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (ungreased). With a flat bottom glass, press down the top of each cookie.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Set the wire rack over top of parchment paper or aluminum foil and drizzle the caramel topping over the cookies.

Caramel Topping Recipe (I had a good amount of this caramel mixture left after drizzling, but it would make an excellent topping for ice cream!)

1/2 cup caramel bits
1/4 cup half and half, room temperature
1 packet Starbucks VIA coffee (for less potent coffee flavor use half a packet)

In a microwave safe bowl melt the caramel, starting with 30 seconds and continuing in 15 second intervals until melted.

In a small measuring cup add the VIA to the half and half and stir to dissolve.

Using a silicone spatula, pour the half and half mixture into the melted caramel and stir until smooth and completely combined. It may need another 15 seconds in the microwave.

For ease of decorating you can transfer the caramel to a decorating bottle, but you can also just use a spoon to drizzle on top of the cookies.