The busy holiday season has passed and I am no longer elbow deep in cookie dough.
Here’s a summary of my holiday baking:
6 pounds butter + 1 kg of flour + Slightly over 1 kg of chocolate = Resulting in a little over 26 dozen cookies
Every year I like to mix it up a bit and try a new cookie recipe. This year I tried Alice Medrich’s Gooey Turtle Bars from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich. True to the name, these are so-gooey-it’s-messy. But messy messy heaven. The only description I could give for these cookies were, “They’re really friggen awesome.” The combination of a shortbread crust (I’ve decided I only like shortbread as a vehicle for other much tastier things), pecans, caramel and chocolate is a winner. Turtles are one of my favourite holiday chocolates so it’s no surprise that I love these cookies.
Back to the book.
Medrich has divided her book by textures: crispy, crunchy, chunky, gooey, flaky and melt-in-your mouth. Sound familiar? Martha Stewart did something similar in 2008 with Martha Stewart’s Cookies. I like that Martha Stewart has photographed each cookie with the table of contents so you get a nice visual. I wish there were more pictures in Medrich’s book, there’s about 1/4 of photos which seems so little with most cookbooks providing many more photos now. That being said, it’s not a deal breaker for me. I have plenty of cookbooks sans pictures that I reach for all the time. I like the addition of a “smart search” in the back of the book where you can quickly find recipes that are wheat-free, dairy-free, quick and easy and low-calories treats. The low-calorie treats section (named Less Fat and 2-point Treats) tells you exactly how many cookies you can have that equals 2 points. Medrich makes sure that the cookies listed packs serious satisfaction so you get the most bang for your buck.
I’m also happy to say to say that several of her cookie recipes from her previous books are in here. My absolute favourite is her Bittersweet Decadence Cookie. Absolutely sinful and rich, this was the cookie that was the catalyst for all my baking. I saw the recipe online and instead of making the recipe from the online source, I purchased the book not knowing a thing about baking. Several years later and I’m regularly baking up a storm.
Since my 2011 food resolution is to bake more cookies, expect to see more of this book.
Gooey Turtle Bars Note: I found the cookies easier to slice when put in the fridge for a bit.
For the sweet tooth: salty and sweet, crunchy and creamy all together in one decadent bar. Divine-but-easy-to-make soft vanilla caramel atop a buttery shortbread crust with loads of toasted pecan halves and chocolate shards. Sinful but celebratory. Might as well make a big batch. This shortcut caramel with sweetened condensed milk is fairly foolproof if you follow the directions and use a silicone spatula to keep the sides of the pot clean. Salt fans will want to top these with extra tiny pinches of flaky salt. Be my guest.
Note: There was an errata in the book. It should be 350F for the shortbread.
Makes thirty-five 1 3/4-inch bars
1 recipe Shortbread Crust (recipe below)
1 3/4 cups (12.25 ounces) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey or light corn syrup
3/8 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon for coarse or flaky sea salt)
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (7 ounces) whole pecan halves, toasted
6 ounces milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
A 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan, the bottom and all 4 sides lined with foil
Prepare the shortbread crust as directed.
To Make the Topping In a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan (about 8 inches in diameter), combine the brown sugar, honey, salt, and water. Set on medium heat and drop in the chunk of butter. Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the corners and bottom of the pan as the butter melts. From time to time, scrape the mixture off the spatula against the top edge of the pan and scrape the sides of the pan clean. Bring the mixture to a medium boil and continue stirring and scraping the pan for about 3 minutes, dissolving the sugar. Stir in the condense milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly, scraping the sides, corners, and bottom of the pan. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils actively but not too furiously. Continue stirring and cooking until the mixture registers 235°F. Total cooking time will be close to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Scrape the hot caramel over the warm crust.
Tilt the pan to level the caramel. Scatter the toasted pecans and chopped chocolate over the surface and set aside until the caramel is cool and the chocolate is set.
Lift the ends of the foil liner and transfer to a cutting board. Peel the foil away from the edges on all 4 sides. Slide a knife or spatula under the crust to detach the foil. Holding the bars in place, slide the foil out from under it. Use a long sharp knife to cut 35 bars. May be kept in an airtight container for at least 1 week.
Tender, buttery, crunchy; this is a great base for cheesecake bars, pudding bars, and more.
Makes one 9-by-13-inch or 8-by-12-inch crust
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line the pan as specified in the individual recipe with foil.
In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft or oily. Press and smooth the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is a rich golden brown with well-browned darker edges. Let cool on a rack before proceeding as directed in the recipe.
Excerpted from CHEWY GOOEY CRISPY CRUNCHY MELT-IN-YOUR-MOUTH COOKIES by ALICE MEDRICH (Artisan Books)
Copyright 2010. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.