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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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Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Squares

Passover is a time of family gatherings which means it’s a great time for baking! The challenge with Passover bakes, though, is that they cannot have rising agents. That means that most cakes and cookies are out. For this Passover, I made two bakes. The first is a chocolate raspberry pecan square recipe from Esthero Design.

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Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Squares

Dough:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
2 cups potato starch
2 6oz bags of ground almonds

Topping:
12 oz chocolate chips (I went with milk chocolate)
8 oz chopped pecans
15 oz raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the dough ingredients together.

Grease an 11″x17″ cookie sheet and press a piece of parchment paper onto the bottom. (Note: having some parchment paper hang over the sides will help with releasing the bars from the cookie sheet. Otherwise, you may end up needing to cut the bars on your sheet, which isn’t good for the sheet.) Press the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, making sure its distributed evenly. Bake for 20 mins.

Take the dough out of the oven. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. The jam will get easier to spread as it is heated by the hot dough. Sprinkle the chocolate and the pecans over the jam.

Bake for an additional 25 mins.

Allow the squares to cool completely before cutting.

Note: squares taste great frozen!

Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Bars
Uncut tray of Passover chocolate raspberry pecan squares
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Oatmeal Chai Sandwich Cookie

Today I utilized three different recipes I’ve tried in previous bakes and ended up with something very tasty! How tasty? The entire plate of cookie sandwiches was gone before any could be shared outside of the house! This has become a new favorite.

May I present to you, the oatmeal pecan sandwich cookie with chai buttercream.
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• Chewy oatmeal cookies from a previous post (just use chopped pecans as your mix ins instead of apples or walnuts)

• Chai spice* (from the chai spice sugar cookies post) I make a batch of this to keep handy for experiments like this. The buttercream only needs up to 4 tsp so there will be more than enough left over if you make a batch of the chai spice.

• Chai buttercream (modified from Chocolate, Chocolate and more)

6 Tbsp butter at room temp
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tsp chai spice mix* (see recipe above)
2 tsp whole milk

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 mins. Sift the powdered sugar into the butter in 3 half cup sections, scraping the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition. Add the chai spice and beat again. Add milk a 1/4 tsp at a time and beat for a few mins until the frosting is smooth and keeps its form when manipulated. If it looks too runny, stop adding milk. Adding more powdered sugar will thicken it. Adding more milk will make it less stiff. Mix until desired consistency is reached.

Spread a thick layer onto a cooled oatmeal cookie. Place second cookie on top and press down to secure the cookie, but not hard enough to make the frosting run out of the cookies.

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Baklava

Over a year ago, I tried a bacon baklava recipe. It turned out really well! This time, I tried the recipe that the bacon one was modified from. This baklava recipe is from Closet Cooking.

Baklava is fairly straight forward and easy to make. If you’ve never used phyllo dough before, be forewarned that it is a pain. It is a thin dough so it likes to rip and tear and dry out. The dough may make you want to punch a wall, but the nice thing about baklava is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I had several layers of just pieces of shredded phyllo and some layers of uneven filling yet it looks, smells, and tastes great. So if you have the patience to not throw several sheets of phyllo against the wall in frustration, you will be rewarded with a sweet nutty treat. I used Athens phyllo dough instead of making my own.
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Baklava

4 cups walnuts, chopped (I did 2 cups walnuts, 2 cups pecans)
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 cup melted butter (I always end up needing more, so have some handy)
1 lb phyllo pastry, thawed

Mix the nuts, cinnamon, and sugar into a bowl. Set aside.

Brush a 9×13 pan with butter. Place one sheet in the pan.* Brush the top of the sheet with butter. Repeat until there are 8 sheets in the pan. (*recipe recommends brushing the top of a sheet before placing in the pan, but I found it easier to brush after placing it in the pan)

Sprinkle 1/3 of the walnut mixture onto the phyllo in the pan. Brush the top of another sheet of phyllo and place into the pan. Brush with butter and add a second sheet. Repeat for a third sheet. Sprinkle another 1/3 of the nut mixture into the pan. Butter and place two more phyllo sheets in the pan. Sprinkle the last 1/3 of the nut mixture onto the phyllo in the pan. Brush another sheet with phyllo and place in the pan. Continue until the last eight sheets are in the pan. Slice the baklava with a sharp knife. Bake at 350F until the top is a golden brown.

Syrup
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
2 inch slice of lemon peel
2 inch slice of orange peel
3/4 cup honey

Bring the water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon and orange peels to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add honey and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and peels from the syrup. Pour the syrup over the baklava when it comes out of the oven. Let the baklava cool for several hours.