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Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Turtles are a delicious treat of chocolate, caramel, and pecans. I can never eat just one! When the opportunity to try a turtle cookie recipe presented itself, I had to jump on it!

This recipe by Live Well Bake Often makes a very chocolaty cookie stuffed with caramel. That’s right – a caramel center! These babies are best fresh from the oven or reheated in the microwave for 15 seconds to remelt the caramel. Yum!

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Chocolate Turtle Cookies by Live Well Bake Often

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (I always omit salt as a personal preference)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
9-10 soft caramel candies, unwrapped and cut in half (or could use whole depending on the size of the cookies you’re making)
3/4 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar for 1-2 minutes; mix in the egg and vanilla extract until fully combined. Slowly ad the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Cover the cookie dough tightly and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat and set aside.

Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, measure out two Tbsp-sized pieces of cookie dough onto a prepared baking sheet. Flatten each piece of cookie dough, place half of a soft caramel candy in the center, then wrap the dough back around the caramel, and roll the dough into a ball. Roll the top and sides of each ball of cookie dough into the chopped pecans.

(My notes on this segment: Used a 1 1/2 Tbsp scoop for my cookies and used only one half of a caramel in each one. While this was tasty, I will add a whole caramel next time to get a better filled center. The amount of a caramel to add will vary depending on the size of the caramels you have. Rolling the dough in the pecans did not go as easily as I expected to. I ended up pressing the pecans into the top and sides as much as I could and many still fell off. I still ended up with enough pecans on the cookies but not nearly the coverage I was expecting based on the photos.)

Place each piece of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave a little room between each one. Bake in two separate batches at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (You’ll be tempted to try one fresh from the oven, but remember, the caramel is hot! Let the cookies become warm before trying them.)

Cookies may be stored on the counter in an air-tight container for up to five days. Cookies may also be frozen for up to three months. Thaw at room temperature before serving. (and remember, microwave for 15 seconds to get that gooey center back).

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Maple Pecan Sticky Buns

The ooey gooey topping of a sticky bun along with the crunch of the pecans is a combination of flavors and textures that is difficult to beat. I decided to try my hand at making my own version this holiday season. As baking goes when you have family around, distractions happen which lead to mistakes, which lead to lessons learned.

This go-round, my misstep was not separating out the butter I needed for the different steps of the buns. Instead, I had all of the butter sitting out to reach room temperature and didn’t section the amounts off as I typically do. Can you see where this is going? When everything was ready, I excitedly started making the dough. When it came time to knead, it was a silky texture but seemed a bit wetter than expected. I was still excited thinking about the soft flaky texture of the rolls. The moment I put the dough into the oven for its first rise, it hit me. I had added all of the butter – the butter for the filling and for the topping as well as that for the dough. Nothing left to do at that point other than see what happens, right?

Since the dough was so buttery, some separation occurred during the rise but folded back in fine during the kneading. Adding more butter for the filling onto the already over-buttered dough had my laughing pretty hard. I love butter, especially on white breads, but this seemed excessive. After rolling and cutting the rolls, I noticed they didn’t fill out the pan as nicely as I’ve seen in photos. Maybe it will change when they go in for their second rise… They kind of did, but there was still room for the topping to rise up instead of it being trapped beneath the dough. That meant that while baking the rolls, much of the topping boiled over the sides and onto the oven. This resulted in quite the mix of amazing smells and burnt smells in the kitchen. In hindsight, I should have tried to bake the rolls longer since they were so moist. I also waited too long to turn the rolls out as the topping mostly stuck to the pan and not the rolls. Nothing some scooping out and plopping on top couldn’t fix.

Stuck toppings for pecan sticky rolls
Most of the maple pecan sticky roll topping stayed in the pan. Time to scoop!

All said and done, the rolls turned out ok, a bit dense but ok. Now my first attempt at them is done and I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do for next time. These rolls are actually super easy to make (when you pay attention) and I’m really excited to add these to my repertoire.

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Maple Pecan Sticky Buns via Sally’s Baking Addiction

Dough
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more to flour work surface

Heat milk to about 95ºF. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a mixer with the dough hook attached. Whisk in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let rest for 5-10 minutes, until foamy.

On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Then add the eggs one at a time. The butter won’t really mix into the mixtures, so don’t be alarmed.

On low, gradually add the flour. Once it’s all added, beat the mixture on medium high until dough is soft and supple, about 6 mins.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead with hands for 1 min. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely and let sit in a warm place* for 1-2 hrs, or until doubled in size. (*can heat oven to 200ºF, turn oven off, then place bowl into warm oven)

Pecans
Pecans to top some maple pecan sticky rolls

Topping
2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ baking dish. Spread pecans in an even layer in the pan. Set aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted, then bring to a boil for 3 mins. Remove from heat and pour on top of the pecans. Set aside.

(back to dough) Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly flour surface and roll it out into a 12″x18″ rectangle. Make sure dough is smooth and even.

Filling
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Spread softened butter all over the dough (since the dough is still generating heat, the butter will further soften once placed on the dough, so bits that are harder to spread will spread more easily if they’re let to sit for a minute). Top evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18″-long log. Cut the log into 12 even rolls. Arrange them in baking pan. Cover tightly with foil and let rise in a warm environment (could be the same oven) for 30-40 mins.

(remove rising dough from oven but leave it covered) Preheat oven to 375°F. Place uncovered rolls in oven and bake for 25 mins or until golden brown. If some parts are browning more quickly than others, cover the rolls loosely with foil to slow down the browning.

MaplePecanRolls
Very buttery maple pecan rolls
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Chai Spiced Candied Nuts

Nuts typically make for a good road snack. They’re more healthy than a candy bar or cookies and can be quite tasty. Candied nuts are great but chai spiced candied nuts are even better! This recipe comes from My Baking Addiction and utilizes her homemade chai spice mix which we used trying her chai spiced sugar cookies previously.
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Chai Spiced Candied Pecans

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp chai spice blend (I accidentally only used 1 tsp. Whoops)
Pinch of salt
1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb pecan halves

Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, stir together sugar, chai spice, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white and vanilla until frothy. Add in the pecans and stir to coat.

Stir in the sugar mixture and stir until the pecans are coated. Spread onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 60 mins, stirring every 15-20 mins. Cool completely before serving.