Thursday, December 15, 2011
I have been so busy in the kitchen lately! Lots of goodies to share with you in the coming weeks, if I can find some spare minutes in all of the Christmas craziness! I must say, though, that God has granted me a good deal of peace this year and I'm using that to focus more of my attention on Him. Christmas is, after all, all about Christ!
Back to the cookies...
I decided to try something new this year. I know the concept isn't new at all. There are tons of toffee cookie recipes out there. But I didn't use one of those. That would have been too easy! No, I wanted to create my own.
It wasn't too hard, though. I already have my own sugar cookies recipe. Add to that some homemade toffee, which I just learned how to make, and voila! My own Toffee Cookies! And, I must say, they are fantastic!!
Take another look at this toffee goodness....
Ahh, went into a bit of a cookie trance there....
Let me show you some details and give you the recipe! Yeah!
First, make the toffee. I used a recipe from Country Kitchens. I paid for a class to get my recipe and don't want to step on their toes by giving it to you for free. But I did find a similar recipe online that they have already chosen to post for all to see. So, you can have it! Click here to get the toffee recipe. Just omit the chocolate and the nuts. We are making plain toffee here to put into the cookies. But you should make the full version with chocolate another time because it is a very tasty treat!
Start the toffee by melting the butter in a large pot over low heat. You want a large pot because it will bubble up quite a bit once it gets going. After the butter melts, add the sugar, salt, water, and lecithin. This is what it will look like.
Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then put your candy thermometer in the mixture and cook to 290 degrees F over medium heat. Stir it occasionally. You want the color to be even and, especially towards the end, you will notice it darkening a bit more in some spots. Watch it carefully! As soon as you walk away, it will burn. That's like the law of candy-making I think. Kind of like Murphy's law. It just always seems to happen!
While that's bubbling away...
...let's talk about a couple of things. First, the lecithin. Some of you may be wondering, as I did at first, what in the world is this stuff? And why do I need it? Well, lecithin is an emulsifier. A fancy way of saying that it is something that will help the butter blend with the sugar a little better so that your finished toffee will have a surface that is more dry and less greasy. And so that your mixture comes together the way it should. Yes, you can make toffee without it. But it's not that expensive. I got mine at Country Kitchens candy and cake supply store. You can order it from them online and I am sure there are other online suppliers if you can't find it near you.
The other thing I wanted to talk about it preparing your pan for the hot liquid. You will need to be ready because as soon as your toffee reaches 290, you must immediately pour it from the pot. I use a silicone mat. Silpat is the most well-known brand and it is pricey, but worth it for things like this. Nothing, and I mean nothing, sticks to it. And it can withstand very high heat. Mine is not Silpat brand and so it was a little less expensive. Put the mat into a heat-proof pan. This recipe is perfect for a quarter-sheet pan. I don't have one. At least not one without high sides. So, I used a cookie sheet with sides and put parchment under my mat just in case the liquid flowed off of the mat. I didn't want to scrape it off the pan later! You can also just butter some aluminum foil really well and put that in a pan. Either way works!
Once you reach 290, immediately pour the toffee onto your prepared pan. It's better if you pour in a circle motion or back and forth instead of pouring into one spot. This way the heat is distributed a little better and it will cool a little more evenly. Once it starts to set, you can use a bench scraper or something similar to start scoring your toffee. You will have to go over your score marks a couple of times. Scoring the toffee while it is cooling will allow you to break it into even pieces later on. Of course, you could always just let it set and break it unevenly too. Whichever way you like it is fine with me! For the cookies, we are going to crush it all up anyway.
Here it is all set and scored. Mine got a touch dark this time, but still tasted fantastic!
Now mix up your cookie dough. I've included my fluffy sugar cookie recipe at the end of this post. That is the recipe I used. Crush up as much of the toffee as you would like, keeping in mind that it will melt a bit while the cookies are in the oven, so if you incorporate too much, you may end up with a sticky mess. Play around with it and see how you like it! I used about a quarter of my toffee, but I wasn't using a full batch of dough. (I used part of my cookie dough to make peppermint pinwheel cookies! A yummy treat for another post!) You want the pieces of toffee to be fairly small.
Stir the toffee pieces into the cookie dough.
Then spoon or scoop into tablespoon-or-so sized balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 8-9 minutes, then cool on a rack. Try not to eat all of them at once!
Soft and Fluffy Sugar Cookies
2 cups (7 ounces) cake flour*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening**
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 whole large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream shortening with sugar. Add extracts and mix well. Add the eggs and mix just enough to blend. Add half of the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until blended. You may have to do this last mixing by hand. The dough will be thick. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire cooling rack.
* You can substitute self-rising flour for the cake flour, salt, and baking powder. That is what I do!
** I know, I know. Shortening is evil, right? Why am I using it here? Well, I do have my reasons. I wanted a fluffy cookie and it's difficult to get that with butter because of butter's low melting point. I admit that the shortening makes me cringe just a bit, but it really is the right ingredient for this type of cookie. Feel absolutely free to substitute a good unsalted butter, though, understanding that your cookies will spread a bit more. This recipe is delicious either way!
You can make these as-is and then frost them with a nice buttercream frosting. Or you can mix in pretty much anything - toffee like in this post, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. It isn't a good recipe for rolling out, like for sugar cookies cut-outs, because it is a little sticky. I'm still working on adapting it for that!
Time for you to get baking! And time for me to get another cookie! Enjoy!!