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Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Chocolate, hazelnut, more chocolate…sounds like a yummy treat! Earlier this year, I tried this double chocolate hazelnut cookies with sea salt recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod. I enjoyed it so much that a version of these were included in February’s cookie care packages and were sold at Muggles Market Too.

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February 2020’s cookie care package theme was chocolate and included brownie sugar cookies, chocolate hazelnut, and chocolate chip raspberry.

These cookies are easy to make and come together in no time. Give the recipe a go and treat yourself to a special treat.

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Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Sea Salt from Two Peas & Their Pod

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt (optional. I always make recipes without salt)
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa*
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
sea salt for sprinkling on cookies
(*Dutch cocoa replacement: use the same amount of regular baking cocoa, like Hershey’s, as the recipe calls for (3/4 cup) and add and extra 1/2 tsp for baking soda. So, for this recipe, instead of 1 tsp baking soda and 3/4 cups Dutch cocoa, use 1 1/2 tsp baking soda and 3/4 cups baking cocoa.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Next, add in vanilla extract and mix until combined.

Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts. Scoop the dough into rounded tablespoons (or use a scoop) and place on the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with sea salt.

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are set, but are still soft in the center. Don’t over-bake. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.

 

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Butterbeer Cookies

One of the flavors in November 2019’s geek-themed cookie care packages was a butterbeer cookie! If you love a good butterbeer flavored treat, try these cookies and then try the infamous butterbeer fudge!

The first time I made a version of these cookies was using a recipe from Sugar & Soul. It utilizes pudding mixes, extracts, and chips for a blend of flavors resulting in a tasty cookie. Check out the original post for tips and notes on variations for the recipe.

 

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Butterbeer cookies, one of the three flavors in November 2019’s geek-themed cookie care packages

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Butterbeer Cookies via Sugar & Soul

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
1/4 cup instant butterscotch pudding mix, dry
2 large eggs
1 additional egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp butter extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup Heath toffee bits, straight toffee, not the chocolate toffee mix

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed.

Add the pudding, eggs, additional yolk, vanilla, and butter extract. Beat for about one minute on medium speed.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients 1/2 cup at a time and mix until combined.

Mix in the toffee chips.

Form the dough into a giant ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least two hours. Remove the dough a little while before baking so the dough can soften a bit and be easier to work with.

Scoop the dough using a medium cooking scoop and roll the dough between your hands to form round balls of dough and place onto a nonstick baking sheet about two inches apart.

Bake at 350°F for 10-13 minutes.

Cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

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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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WBTV Morning Show – Muggles Market Too

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A plate of butterbeer fudge made it on to a local morning show today! Check out leader of the Charlotte Geeks, Joey Starnes, as she shows off goods from many of the vendors you can visit and purchase from at Muggles Market Too, next Saturday and Sunday, March 7th and 8th, at the University Hilton in Charlotte, NC. Click to watch the WBTV Muggles Market Too spot.

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Butterbeer fudge on display with many other vendor goods for Muggles Market Too during a tv segment on WBTV

 

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Muggles Market Too and the Saga Conference

Greetings! Only one week to go until the Saga Conference and Muggles Market Too in Charlotte, NC!

Be sure to swing by, say hi, and grab some tasty treats.

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Muggles Market Too tables! Come see me at I16!

 

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These are some of the goodies that will be available for purchase while supplies last. If you’d like to preorder, send an email to CasualConfections@gmail.com. You can pay via invoice or pay day-of in cash. Your order will be ready for you to pick up at the table.

  • Assorted Cookies
    • Brownie sugar cookies
    • Chocolate hazelnut
    • Chocolate chip raspberry
    • Apple cider sugar cookies
    • Chai sugar cookies
    • Maple sugar cookies
  • Dean’s I Want Pie bars
    • Strawberry
    • Red raspberry
    • Pineapple
  • Butterbeer fudge

 

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Macarons

Macarons are a tasty sandwich cookie that can be customized in many ways. It’s also a very finicky treat to make. There are many ways these cookies can go wrong, but that’s no reason to avoid trying to bake them. Whether you over mix, under mix, end up with hollows, or little nipples on top of your cookies, your oven may be too hot or cold, the non-slip mats may be better for your oven than parchment paper…you’ll still end up with a tasty cookie and a fancy new recipe under your belt!

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Macaron shells after resting and baking. The tops are not flat but the feet are looking good!

There are several different methods to try, too, so if you don’t succeed at first, check out another method that might be easier for you. For my first and second go, I used King Arthur Flour’s recipe. This recipe gives you a nice plain macaron shell to work with. The base recipe is easy to add color and other details to (I added some cinnamon on top of some of mine the second go-round). This ended up being a great first recipe for me, though I do recommend checking out a video or two on YouTube to see someone go through the process. The first time I pipped macarons, I did a swirl instead of a flat pipe and ended up with plenty of air pockets resulting in a hollow cookie (still yummy).

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Inside a macaron. The top shell has an air pocket toward the top. The bottom shell is full. Both are very tasty!

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Plain Macaron Shells (via King Arthur Flour)

1 1/2 cups almond flour (sprinkle lightly into a dry measuring cup and level with a straight edge)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
3 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp water

Process the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor for about 20 seconds (I skip this step). Sift to remove any large pieces and to aerate the mixture (don’t skip this step).

Separate the eggs and put the whites in the bowl you will use to whip them (use whisk attachment). Don’t start whipping yet, but add a pinch of cream of tartar.

Combine the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until dissolved, then bring to a rapid boil. Boil for about 2 minutes. The temperature should reach 235°F-240°F (I go by temp, not time for this step). Take the syrup off the heat. Immediately start whipping the egg whites using an electric mixer. When they hold a curved peak on the end of the beater, stop, grab the pan of the hot syrup, resume beating, and pour the syrup steadily into the whites as you beat them.

Continue beating until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and forms soft peaks. Remove from mixer.

Fold in the almond flour mixture until everything is evenly combined. Then, start stirring. This will thin the mixture. Stir until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in 10-20 seconds (the batter should be sort of thick, not too runny). Test frequently and stop when you reach this point.

Pipe onto parchment-lined baking sheets. The cookie should flatten out. If it doesn’t spread, stir the batter some more. Cookies can be positioned close together since they don’t spread while baking.

Allow the cookies to rest on the sheets in a dry place with good air circulation (counter top is fine) until you can touch the top and come away with a clean finger (roughly 2 hours).

Toward the end of the baking time, preheat oven to 275°F. Bake 25-30 mins, until firm on top. Remove and let cool completely on the sheet. Use a thin spatula to remove them from the parchment (I’ve been able to lift them easily with my hand). Spread half of the cookies with filling. Top with the remaining cookie.

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Macarons (second attempt) with chocolate peppermint buttercream

 

Chocolate Peppermint Buttercream Filling

This I made up as I went along. I took about a stick of butter and beat it until soft. I added some unsweetened cocoa and mixed until combined. Then, added a splash of milk and mixed again. Then I went back and forth with adding powdered sugar, milk, and cocoa until I got a flavor and consistency I liked for the macarons (not too stiff, not too soft). Add a tiny splash of peppermint extract, mix again, and then you’re ready to go.

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Brownie Roll-out Cookies

I was on the hunt for a tasty chocolate sugar cookie that didn’t spread when baked, didn’t need to be chilled for 2 hours, and could be handled well as a cutout. After looking over several recipes, one from Smitten Kitchen was recommended. After reading the blog post description of the cookies, how to work with the dough, and comments from others who have experimented with it, I decided to give it a go. This recipe is amazing! Some people have used it for hamantaschen and ice cream sandwiches. The chocolate flavor is so rich that it would make for a great s’more cookie or any sandwich cookie (raspberry filling anyone?)! I’m using this recipe to make Cookie Cat sandwich cookies which will include strawberry and vanilla marshmallow creme in the middle. Yum! The Cookie Cat cookies will be available for purchase at the Muggles Market in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 2nd! I’ll have a post up about how to make the cookies later that month.

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Muggles Market 2019

The dough is soft, which is why there is a recommended time for chilling it, but it is totally workable whether at room temp or having been chilled.  So use it right away or make the dough and store it away to bake later.

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Brownie Roll-out Cookies via Smitten Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup lightly salted butter, softened (use 1 stick salted, 1 stick unsalted to achieve lightly salted) *as usual, I used unsalted butter since I bake without salt by choice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk dry flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa in a mixer (can do it all at once, just start the mixer on low speed until the wet and dry ingredients are mixed a bit so they don’t fly out. Then raise the speed to medium). Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Cover the bowl in plastic and chill for at least an hour (some bakers do 15 mins while they clean everything else up, I’ve done as few as 10 mins and as much as an hour).

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Cutting shapes using brownie roll-out cookies

Roll out chilled dough on floured counter (use flour or cocoa powder). Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra flour off (can do with a dry or slightly wet finger). Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for 8-11 mins (former for 1/8″ cookies, latter for 1/4″ cookies) until edges are firm and centers are slightly soft and puffed. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

 

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Available Now: Carrot cake cookies!

Package of carrot cake sandwich cookies

Carrot cake cookies are everything you love about the dessert, down to the cream cheese filling, but in a snack portion!

Two boxes (update: Only one left!) of six carrot cake cookies are available for purchase today! $15/box + tax.

Local pick up only (Charlotte/Matthews, NC).

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Casual Confections Q&A

Lauren Widrick of Lauren Widrick Coaching and I did a Q&A about Casual Confections. We discussed where I started, how I made the baking blog into a business in the past 5-6 months, and what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. There’s also a nice plug for the Charlotte Geeks Muggles Market and Geek Gala!

 

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S’more Sandwich Cookies – Version 4

If you’ve been following Casual Confections on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ve noticed several different versions of s’mores sandwich cookies that I’ve made over recent months. Each batch has had aspects that I’ve liked and aspects that simply didn’t work. Each new version explored a new take or technique for the cookie.

For version 4, I made several changes that have resulted in a cookie I am very happy with! Version 5 will text out a few small tweaks to the cookie for easier packaging and other similar logistics.

So what did I do differently for version 4?

Let’s start with the graham cookie. Versions 1 and 2 used the graham cup recipe for s’mores cup. As a cookie, the taste was very good but they fell apart a bit too easily while being eaten. Versions 3 and 4 utilized a recipe that was based off of a s’mores cookie recipe by Brown Eyed Baker. For the sandwich cookie, I left out the chocolate chips and the marshmallow bits since those flavors would have their own components. Version 3’s cookies were made in a whoopie pie sheet whereas version 4 was done as drop cookies. There was a noticeable difference in color and texture, but both versions of the cookie were absolutely delicious! This graham cookie recipe will be used for a variety of graham-based flavors in the future. It’s that good!

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Version 1: S’mores sandwich cookies
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Version 3: A layer of egg-free marshmallow surrounded by graham cracker cookie and coated in milk chocolate.

While the drop cookie version was a hit, it does not work well for packaging cookies that need to be shipped or transported. I will 100% be making them any time I serve them at my house. Otherwise, it’ll be the whoopie pie versions. Their flat sides are perfect for packaging, storing, and easier eating.

Next, let’s talk about the marshmallow! Versions 1-3 utilized an egg-free marshmallow creme that uses honey and maple syrup as sweetener. The recipe is one of my favorite flavors of marshmallow to date! The one drawback to the recipe is that the creme sets really fast, even with continuous whipping with the stand mixer. The first two cookies would spread so beautifully, but the third on would end up with lots of globs. While that aspect didn’t impact texture or flavor, it made the cookie look less put together and more thrown together. For version 4, I tried my hand at a marshmallow fluff recipe from LivforCake which she adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.

If you were on the Facebook or Instagram feeds Sunday night, you likely saw my misadventures in making the fluff (if you missed it, go check them out). The sugar syrup was slowly climbing in temperature while on the stove, and I got cocky and decided to shift my attention to something else, just in time for the temp to jump past where it needed to be and burn! First thought: dump it. Second thought: pour it on a non-stick mat and see what happens. I’ve always wanted to try sugar work and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to play, even if I wasn’t going to be able to eat the results. While pouring my bitter brown syrup, I went back and forth in my head, debating whether to throw another round of ingredients into the pot after it was de-syruped and try again or whether to call it a night and try again another time. I already had the egg whites whipped in the mixer, so I opted for cleaning and starting over.

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Sugar work using burnt sugar syrup intended for marshmallow fluff.

This time, paying full attention, it didn’t take long for the sugar syrup to heat up and be perfect! Before I knew it, the stand mixer was churning away, mixing everything into a sticky, shiny, white fluff. The next step was getting the fluff into a piping bag to quickly and easily add the marshmallow to the cookies. This was my first time trying to wrangle fluff this way and it was a mess! I did end up with enough in the bag for the cookies and once I started piping, it was so easy!

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Piped marshmallow fluff on s’mores cookie halves.

Now, the flavor isn’t as strong as the marshmallow creme recipe, but it played in my favor as now the honey and other flavors from the graham cookies were not dominated by the maple/honey flavor of the creme. Instead, this smooth marshmallow added just the right light flavor to the cookie. I’m really excited to flavor this fluff recipe, too, as it seems like it will showcase each of them well. There are a lot of great things to say about this fluff recipe. I was able to store the leftover fluff and scooped it out several days later as a topping on chocolate cake. Yum!

The chocolate. What about the chocolate? The experiments with the chocolate have been less about finding which chocolate I wanted to use and were more about how I wanted to use it. Versions 1 and 2, I used a chocolate ganache to cover the cookies. This resulted in some not so clean looking treats and some messy fingers and faces. Version 3, I opted for straight melted chocolate instead of a ganache and did a half-dip for easier holding. The flavor was exactly where I needed it to be, but I gave up on coating the outside. Having the chocolate on the inside, like a traditional s’more, was going to be the way to go.

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Version 3: S’mores sandwich cookies

So, for Version 4, I melted some milk chocolate and coated the bottom of each cookie. Since I did this Sunday night after my marshmallow mishaps ate up most of my time, I had no patience to wait for the chocolate to cool and piped the marshmallow on the very slick chocolate. After pressing two cookies together, some of them slipped and slid all over the place, making for white the fun and tasty mess. Those that stayed balanced, however, made for some deliciously gooey photographs! And let me tell you, they tasted as good as they looked. I’m typically not one to eat a lot of sugar right before bed, but I had to enjoy the fruits of my labor while I cleaned up.

I am super stoked that I pretty much have my s’more sandwich cookies figured out. I love s’mores but don’t have too many opportunities to make them around a campfire, so I made them out of everything else (s’mores brownies anyone?).

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Crystal from Casual Confections taste testing version 4 of the s’more sandwich cookies.

Are you drooling at the end of this post? S’mores will be one of the three flavors in September’s cookie care packages! The theme is sandwich cookies. Monthly cookie care packages are limited to six and there are only two left for September! Order yours now!

Want a half dozen or a dozen s’mores sandwich cookies all for yourself? You can order those, too!

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August Cookie Care Packages

The theme for August’s cookie care pages was “comfort cookies.” Included in this month’s box are snickerdoodle, hot chocolate, and chocolate chip cookies.

Wishing you had ordered a box? I have one extra available for purchase! $30 includes shipping and tax. Email CasualConfections@gmail.com or use the form at CasualConfections.com/Menu to order.

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Flourless Fudge Cookies

Hanging out with friends while they indulge in sweet treats can be a bummer if you stick to a special diet. This is the concern a recent client brought to me. She and some friends were headed to ConCarolinas and a member of the group was gluten free and felt as though she was missing out. The idea my client had was to create a con care package of gluten free treats that hit that sweet spot. A con care package has to meet a few criteria: the treats should not melt easily, they need to travel well, be easy to eat on the go, and stay fresh for longer than a day.

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Ready to hit the cons!

After kicking around a few ideas, we landed on some flourless fudge cookies. Half of the cookies were chocolate chocolate chip and the other half were chocolate chocolate chip with raspberries. There are a few great things about the right flourless fudge cookie recipe: 1. it really hits the sweet spot, 2. it satisfies chocolate cravings in the best way, 3. it can easily be made dairy free by using dairy free chocolate chips or using mix-ins other than chips!

King Arthur Flour is a great place to start for gluten free recipes and gluten free ingredients. The base recipe I started with comes from their site. I highly recommend checking out their link for the recipe, their blog post for lots of tips and tricks, and the comments sections to see what others have done in making this recipe. Another big plus about using recipes from King Arthur Flour is that you can select whether you want to bake by volume, ounces, or grams, and the site automatically updates the amounts for you!

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Flourless Fudge Cookies (gluten free, can be made dairy free)

9 ounces (2 1/4 cups) confectioners sugar
3 ounces (1 cup) cocoa powder
3 3/4 ounces (3 large) egg whites (it is helpful to have an extra egg white or two on hand)
2 tsp vanilla extract
8-12 ounces (2 cups) chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and/or chopped dried fruit (my batch used far fewer mix-ins than the recipe called for)

Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper and grease parchment (you want the surface to be as non-stick as possible).

Whisk together egg whites and vanilla (I used the whisk attachment in the stand mixer and walked away for a second, resulting in starting a meringue…whoops! If this happens, add an extra egg white to help get the mixture wet again.)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (powdered sugar and cocoa powder). Stir in the wet ingredients. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir again until smooth. The sticky batter will be the consistency of thick syrup. If the recipe appears too dry and not syrupy, then add another egg white.

Mix in chips (I used mini semi-sweet chips), nuts, and/or fruit. I split my batter in half after adding the chips and added chopped, freeze dried raspberries to one half. The raspberries and chocolate smelled amazing!

Drop the syrupy batter onto the prepared baking sheets in 3″ circles (for large) or 1 3/4″ – 2″ circles (for small). A Tbsp or tsp cookie scoop works well here, respectively.

Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F.

Bake the cookies for 7 mins (smaller) or 8-9 mins (larger) They should spread slightly, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackled tops. Note: large cookies with chips or nuts need to bake for 10 mins.

Remove from oven and allow them to cool on the pan. While nearly cooled, use a spatula to carefully loosen them from the pan. The cookies can also be peeled carefully from the parchment paper.