M&M Cookies

thumbnail_20180203_130745It’s hard not to love M&M cookies — easy, fun, and just plain yummy.

Years ago in a magazine was a recipe for “cookies by the stack” — a single cookie dough recipe that could be used with any number of mix-ins, from coconut flakes and chopped nuts to dried fruit or chocolate pieces. I glued the entire magazine page into my cookbook because it was so useful. I’ve made some of the variations on the page, but I use the recipe most often for chocolate chip cookies (see below).

These are going to taste good no matter what. It’s hard to mess them up! But if you want them to look good, too, there’s a trick: Mix only half of the M&Ms into the dough, and put the rest on by hand before they go in the oven. If you don’t, they won’t show up very well, as you can see here:

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The cookies on the right had all the M&Ms mixed into the dough. The cookies on the left had only half mixed in, with the rest put on by hand.

The food scientist and cookbook author Shirley Corriher, in her terrific book “Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed,” explains how shortening and butter can affect the spread of the dough and give you either a flat, crisp cookie or one that holds its shape. Butter melts over a narrow temperature range, so if you use all butter in the recipe, the cookies will spread soon after they go in the oven.

Shortening, on the other hand, stays the same texture over a wide temperature range, she says — so cookies made with part butter and part shortening will hold their shape better than if you use all butter. This recipe uses both in an equivalent ratio. Knowing the difference in fats, you can tweak the recipe how you like — if you want a crisper cookie, use more butter, for instance.

I mentioned chocolate chip cookies earlier. If you’d rather make those, just replace the 2 cups of M&Ms in this recipe with 2 cups of chocolate morsels (semi-sweet). Three other variations are below.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

Set oven to 375F (190C) degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening and butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the two sugars and baking soda and beat until fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in flour by hand, then add half the M&Ms.

Drop dough by slightly rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, then place reserved M&Ms on top (crowd them together for best results). Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are light brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

*The dough can be kept for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to 6 months (thaw overnight before baking).

Variations:

PEANUT BUTTER-CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Replace the M&Ms with 1 cup peanut butter morsels and 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Mix it all in the dough.

COCONUT-WALNUT COOKIES
Replace the M&Ms with 1 cup coconut flakes and 1 cup chopped walnuts.

FRUIT AND OATMEAL COOKIES
Substitute 1 cup rolled oats for 1 cup of the flour. Stir in 1 tsp. ground cinnamon into the flour mixture. Stir 6 oz. of dried fruit bits into the dough.

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Cookie Frosting

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Adapt the decoration on your cookies, or the color of the frosting, for any holiday.

This creamy frosting is a fun, easy way to decorate cookies. It’s not as fancy or sophisticated as icing, which is smooth and glossier, but it’s simple and yummy, and decorations like sprinkles stick to it easily. It’s especially perfect for spreading on sugar cookies.

I got this recipe years ago from a Williams-Sonoma booklet on making Christmas cookies. I keep that booklet in the front pocket of my dessert recipe binder and refer to it often when making any kind of cookie that needs decorating.

This makes about 3/4 cup, or enough to frost 2 dozen regular cookies (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter).

With the brown vanilla extract, the frosting comes out an off-white color. Try a clear extract if you want it pure white, maybe playing around with some flavors of extract to see how it turns out. This can also easily be tinted with food coloring.

2 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered or icing sugar)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
Food coloring, if desired.

Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a large bowl about 1/2 cup at a time. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and cream. Using an electric hand mixer, beat on medium speed until creamy and spreadable.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Forget any thoughts of those cookie cakes at the mall, because the only thing they have in common with this recipe is the name. Rather than looking simply like one big cookie (as delicious as that sounds), this is a cookie in a cake pan — thick and chewy in the middle with a crispy, buttery straight-sided crust. The slices could even be eaten with forks. (But don’t do that. Cookies are too much fun to be eaten with utensils.)

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The recipe comes from a recent issue of Southern Living magazine, where it was called a “skillet cookie,” baked in a cast-iron skillet. I swapped the skillet for a 10-inch springform pan, greased it well with butter, and followed the recipe as written.

 

If you ever want to serve cookies for dessert, this is how. And there will be no quibbling about who gets how many.

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz.) butter, softened
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (about 9 oz.) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) degrees. Lightly coat a 10-inch springform pan with butter.

Beat brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, beating until bended.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add to butter mixture gradually, beating at low speed until combined.

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Add 1 cup of the chocolate chips, beating until combined.

Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Bake in preheated oven until golden and set, about 50 minutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

This is like a peanut butter version of blondie brownies, but it’s slightly thicker thanks to the peanut butter. It uses natural, unsweetened peanut butter and whole oats, so you could kind of convince yourself it’s healthy — despite the chocolate morsels! Like brownies, it slices better and holds together better the next day, especially when it’s been stored in the fridge.Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

It’s easy to make — you need only two bowls — and although you could use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar, it worked just as well to mix by hand.

Makes one batch in a 9×13-inch pan.

1 1/4 cup plain all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
16 oz. jar natural unsweetened peanut butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups whole oats
1 cup chocolate morsels, divided

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and peanut butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla, stir in flour mixture, oats, and half the chocolate morsels.

Place in an ungreased 9×13-inch pan and press down slightly to fill the pan. Sprinkle the remaining half of the morsels on top. Bake 15-17 minutes, until just golden around the edges.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This mound of a cookie is a peanut butter and chocolate lover’s dream. It’s a thick peanut butter cookie loaded with bits of peanut and chunks of chocolate. They actually taste best when warm, right out of the oven.

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Makes about 2 dozen

2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup (4 oz. or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy natural (unsweetened) peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 bag (11 oz.) semisweet chocolate chunks or jumbo morsels
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350F degrees. In a medium bowl, blend flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add both kinds of sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. On low speed, beat in vanilla.

Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Stir in chocolate chunks and peanuts. Drop by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto baking sheets. Bake for 18 minutes and let cool on wire racks.

Note: If you miss your chance to eat them warm, you can microwave them on a paper towel for 15 seconds.

This recipe originally appeared inĀ Family Circle magazine.

S’mores Bars II

20150303_144157[1]Back in 2011, I published a recipe for S’mores Bars using Golden Grahams cereal. It’s a no-bake recipe that was very popular. I recently came across this s’mores bars recipe in my binder from about 15 years ago. Like the other one, this recipe uses marshmallows and chocolate — but instead of using the cereal as a shortcut, it has a baked graham cracker crust. You add melted chocolate and marshmallows, then briefly brown them in the oven.

The two recipes end up having the same s’mores taste and are equally scrumptious. I’m not sure I have a favorite, so which one I make will probably depend on how much time I have (baking or no baking?) and what kind of dessert I want — big, crunchy squares in the style of Rice Krispie Treats, or crumbly layer bars with toasted marshmallows. Which one would you pick?

14 graham cracker rectangles, crushed finely
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate (do not use milk or dark chocolate)
4 heaping cups mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the first four ingredients, then press into the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with the back of a spoon. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool.

Heat oven to 450F/230C degrees. Melt the chocolate and spread over the cool crust. Cover with marshmallows. When the oven is ready, place the pan inside and bake until the marshmallows are just browned, about 5 minutes.

Important: Let cool completely — preferably overnight — for the best taste. It’s not easy to wait, but it’s worth it!

Holiday Cornflake Wreaths

20141211_220232[1]These are like Rice Krispie Treats, only with cornflakes. They are a fun dessert to make at Christmastime, and very easy, too. Plus, they have only five ingredients.

Makes about 18

6 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
10 oz. marshmallows
1 tsp. or more green food coloring
Small red cinnamon candies (Red Hots)*

To prepare, butter two or three baking sheets — you will form the wreaths on them later. Put the cornflakes in a large bowl.

In a medium pot over low heat, melt the margarine. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until completely melted. Add the food coloring, starting with 1 tsp. but adding more as necessary until the mixture is dark green. (The ones in the picture above aren’t as dark as I intended.) Pour the marshmallow mixture over the cornflakes and mix carefully with a spoon until completely coated.

With buttered fingers, take out a small handful of the coated cornflakes (just enough to fill your palm). Put it on the buttered baking sheet and form into a wreath. Put four or five cinnamon candies on the wreath to look like berries.

Refrigerate the wreaths for several hours before serving. Use a spatula carefully to lift them off the baking sheets.

*I found the Red Hots in the baking aisle, next to the bottles of sprinkles — not in the candy aisle.