Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Creation Sunday" - Creating "boutique bakery" style cookies from a mix

In an effort to bring more regular and varied content to the blog, we are going to start a regular segment called "Creation Sunday" in which Hillary talks about what she has been creating recently.  We show off pictures of new merchandise all the time, but this will be a chance for people to see other projects such as recipes, drawings, paper crafts, etc.  Today's "Creation Sunday" is about creating "boutique bakery" style cookies in your own kitchen, with minimal fuss.

Cute little storefronts with stripey green or pink polka-dot logos, sparkling cookies, cutesy cupcakes and unusual flavors like "strawberry soda pop", "banana split", and "mocha with sea salt and caramel" are all the rage these days.  But you don't have to go to a pricey bakery or spend hours in the kitchen to get uniquely flavored treats with a professional flare, you can easily make them in your own kitchen in almost no-time.

Before I dive right into the recipes I created for a couple of different "boutique style" cookies, I wanted to share a few secrets and pointers so that, if you're so inclined, you can think about how you would create your own:

-I almost always cook with a mix.  Scratch baking produces results like no other and is generally healthier than anything made with a mix, but, if I want to make something good, fast, using a mix saves a lot of time and effort.
-Any time I cook with a mix, I add flavor somehow.  Even if I am just making a yellow cake with the yellow cake mix, I add vanilla or rum.  For "boutique bakery" style treats, the flavors are usually unique, but they range from wildly unusual to simple, slight twists on classic flavor.  For example, you certainly could make "bacon and dark chocolate cookies", but you could also simply take a classic combination like chocolate and raspberry and kick it up a notch.  How?  What about orange Liqueur or Amaretto or Fresh mint?
-For flavors, any variety of things could be your inspiration: the season, a favorite ingredient you have in the cabinet, your favorite alcohol, something you picked up at the farmer's market, a random craving you've had or the herbs you have growing in your back yard.
-When you add flavors, the less artificial, more fresh, and more "real" you can make the ingredients, the better.  We're starting with a mix, so to get it to taste less "mix-like", it needs to taste less processed and pre-packaged.  A good way to do that is to make sure you use real vanilla, and actual juice, herbs, fruit or liquers instead of "flavoring".  "Rum flavoring", "Raspberry Flavoring" and the like all have their place in the baking world, but, for this project, we're starting with something processed and artificial tasting and trying to make it taste as much like homemade as possible.
-You can substitute ingredients that a mix calls for if you're careful.  If you substitute liquid for liquid, fat for fat, etc. you can generally get away with switching things up.  Why would you want to do this?  Because you can either add flavor (try lemon or lime juice in your sugar cookie mix) or change the consistency a little (try substituting something like half and half if you want a recipe to be richer).
-Experimentation is not a bad thing.  Don't be afraid.  The worst thing that could happen is that you have to eat cookies that aren't quite what you intended, which means OMG BAKING MORE COOKIES!

Now, On To the Recipes (these are actually recipes that I came up with, but, great minds think alike, so if this looks a lot like anyone else's recipe, it's totally unintentional):

Recipe #1: Mega-Peanut Butter Cookies

-1  (17 oz) Package of Peanut Butter cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
-1/4 Cup Peanut Butter
-2 Tablespoons Half & Half (not fat free)
-3/4 Teaspoon Real Vanilla extract
-1 Egg
-1/2 Cup peanut butter chips
-1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)
-1/2 Cup Mini Peanut Butter Cups

Preheat oven as directed on package.  Put cookie mix, peanut butter, egg, half & half and vanilla extract in bowl.  Mix until well combined.  I usually stir with a large spoon or spatula until it gets too hard to mix and then finish mixing with my hands.  Add peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.  Mix until candy bits are evenly distributed throughout.  When you add them, you will think that there are too many candy bits for the amount of dough and you'll almost be right, but if you keep working it until everything is even, you shouldn't have any candy "left over".  Use a tablespoon or small disher to scoop cookies on to sprayed (or greased) baking sheet.  Smash each cookie flat with your fingers or a spoon (using a fork like the cookie mix calls for won't quite work with this variant).  Bake as directed on the bag of mix.  Cookies are done when bottoms are brown and very edges of cookies have barely started to brown.  Cookies may look underdone but will solidify by the end of cooling.  Makes A LOT of cookies.

This recipe doubles nicely.  In theory, you could triple it and use all of the candy bits in each bag, but I have not tried it that way yet.

Recipe #2: Chubby Hubby Inspired Cookies

-1  (17 oz) Package of Double Chocolate Chunk cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
-Oil, Egg and Water called for by the mix
-3/4 Teaspoon Real Vanilla extract
-1/2 Cup peanut butter chips
-1/2 Cup Pretzel M&M's
-1/2 Cup Malt Crunchies I used Wilton brand,  but I can't find a link to theirs online.  Here is a link to a similar product.

Preheat oven as directed on package.  Put cookie mix, oil, egg, water and vanilla in large bowl.  Mix until well combined.  Add peanut butter chips, pretzel M&M's and Malt Crunchies.  Mix until candy bits are evenly distributed throughout.   Use a tablespoon or small disher to scoop cookies on to sprayed (or greased) baking sheet.  Bake as directed on the bag of mix.  This recipe also makes A LOT of cookies.

This recipe also doubles nicely. 

Aside from their full and interesting flavor, the best part of the above recipes is that they only take 25-45 minutes from start to finish, and only about 15 minutes of that is baking time.  If you wanted to add to the "boutique" feel of your cookies, you could buy or make a cute box to put them in and even label them.  I know that "boutique style" cookies in 30 minutes without spending an exorbitant amount of money doesn't seem possible, but I just had a friend tell me today that she thought the cookies I brought the last time I was at her house were from a specialty bakery when, in fact, they were the chubby hubby inspired cookies above in a cute fall colored "treat box" that I got from a chain craft store.

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