I’m just posting a couple at a time because, hey, don’t want to overwhelm everyone with cool possible recipes. But check these out:
SWEET POTATO-CHOCOLATE-GINGER PILLOWS
I admit that my first attempt at sweet potato cookies were a major flop. I knew exactly the texture I wanted: cakey and soft and pillowy. What I got was far too moist and sticky, a total waste of excellent chocolate. I’d tried a variation on a pumpkin cookie, but I was so disappointed in the result that I switched completely to a recipe that originally used sour cream, for which I substituted an equal amount of cooked pureed sweet potato. Then I changed the spicing and added fresh grated ginger and chopped bittersweet chocolate and, well, here you go:
4 ½ C. flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cayenne
½ C. margarine – this will give a softer, more cake-like texture than butter – I used a brand that is only about 50% fat, which is going to give an even softer texture.
8 oz cream cheese – again, this helps give a soft texture
2 C. sugar
1 C. cooked pureed sweet potato, or I imagine pumpkin would be fine.
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 ½ C. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, or you can use mini chocolate chips. Or, for that matter, you can leave out the chocolate. I thought these cookies were really good without chocolate. I made them without chocolate first, see, because I was afraid of wasting more great chocolate on another flop. But this version was fine.
6 oz cream cheese
3 C. powdered sugar
½ Tbsp grated fresh ginger
½ C. minced crystallized ginger
Combine the dry ingredients. Cream the margarine and cream cheese with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, sweet potato, and grated ginger. Stir in the flour mixture. Chill at least one hour.
Roll out the dough 3/8 inch thick (measure it, this is thicker than you may expect). Even after chilling, the dough will be soft. Roll it out with a light touch, adding as little extra flour as possible – rolling it out thick will help here. But don’t be obsessive about it, they’ll be fine if you do have to use a bit more flour. Cut out cookies with a 3 inch round cookie or biscuit cutter and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Was quite pleased with the texture of these cookies even after the dough had been re-rolled three times. Anyway, when you get as many cookies cut out as possible, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until set and just browned on the bottom. Cool on sheets for a few minutes and then cool completely on racks.
Combine the filling ingredients, adding enough powdered sugar to make a decently thick and spreadable filling, and assemble the cookies.
DEATH BY HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE COOKIES
For these, I started with a chocolate-hazelnut cookie I found online, which had garnered comments such as “More like a dog biscuit than a cookie.” Obviously lots of room for improvement there! I punched up the sugar a lot and added English Toffee Bits. I also made a kind of homemade Nutella as the filling, but nothing stops you from using actual Nutella, which I think would work great. Also,I know hazelnuts are super expensive; I think I’ll try these again with walnuts and I bet that will work just fine. If you try this recipe with some other kind of nut, let me know how it works out!
1 C. butter
½ C. sugar
½ C. brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbsp Frangelico, or ½ tsp hazelnut extract, or hey, both – I didn’t even know there was such a thing as hazelnut extract until I happened to fortuitously stumble across it at the right moment.
½ tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp cocoa
1 ¾ C. flour
2 ¼ C. chopped toasted hazelnuts, divided
½ C. English Toffee Bits
If you want to make your own hazelnut filling:
1 C. toasted hazelnuts
2 Tbsp sugar
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
¼ C. butter
½ C. cream – I used coconut milk because of contest rules, but really I suggest you just use cream.
2 tsp Frangelico or ¼ tsp hazelnut extract
If you have untoasted hazelnuts, toast them: spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 13-18 minutes, until decidedly golden in color, shaking occasionally. Cool. Rub off skins by wrapping in a kitchen towel and rubbing briskly.
Make the hazelnut filling: Combine the hazelnuts with the sugar in a food processor and grind into a gritty paste. Melt the chocolate with the butter. Whisk the cream into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in Frangelico and/or the hazelnut extract. Whisk in the nut paste. Chill until thickened.
Make the cookies: Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the salt, the egg, the Frangelico and / or hazelnut extract, the vanilla, and the cocoa powder. Stir in the flour and 1 ½ C. chopped nuts and the toffee bits. Spoon down the middle of two sheets of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to help you form the dough into two logs (which is a bit soft, but you can get it shaped into logs if you work at it for a minute). Freeze the logs overnight. Roll each log in the remaining chopped nuts. Slice ¼ inch thick and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes, just until set. Try not to overbake. Cool a minute or so on the sheets, then cool completely on racks.
Assemble into sandwich cookies. Unusually for sandwich cookies, I think these are significantly better the day they are assembled, while the toffee bits retain some crunch. If I make them again, I will keep the filling separate and assemble cookies right before serving.