Lavender White Chocolate Chip Cookies

When you think about New Mexican cuisine, lavender probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The state is better known for its chile laden cuisine.

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And yet, on my recent trip to New Mexico, lavender played a crucial supporting role. Our whole trip was fabulous, from the art galleries of Santa Fe to the beautiful vistas of Taos and gypsum sand dunes down south. But one of my most treasured memories comes from our very first night of vacation, which we spent at a lavender farm called Los Poblanos.

Los Poblanos is on 25 acres of land just outside Albuquerque. It’s surrounded by gorgeous lavender fields, vegetable gardens and tons of beautiful foliage. Our room in the “Field” section looked out to growing lavender, fall leaves and beautiful mountains in the distance.

We were lucky to stumble on this place. Fittingly, I found it because of its reputation for amazing cuisine. I stumbled on their restaurant’s page first, then decided to book the night at their hotel, too. It was completely, totally worth it. Both our dinner and breakfast were fresh, flavorful, memorable meals. And of course, they make sure to work lavender into their menu. At dinner alone, I had a lavender margarita and lavender peach gelato!

IMG_4453My mind has been on lavender since that stay and I’ve been dreaming of these Lavender White Chocolate Chip Cookies. This is definitely one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in 2017. Lavender adds a floral hint to the dough, subtle but distinct. It pairs really well with white chocolate, and the sea salt on top is the perfect finishing touch.

Someday, I hope to make it back to Los Poblanos. Until then, I’ll just have to content myself with a plate of these cookies, and beautiful memories.

Lavender White Chocolate Cookies

Original recipe: Spache the Spatula. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: ~24 cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor

Total Time: ~45 min

Cook Time: ~12 min

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp culinary lavender (I bought mine at World Market)
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 6 tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 1 large egg at room temp
  • 1 extra large egg yolk, at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips or chunks
  • Sea salt to sprinkle on top

Instructions

  1. Grab a small bowl, then combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Set that bowl aside
  2. Throw your sugar and lavender in your food processor. Process the mix for about 10-20 seconds to chop the lavender into really small pieces. Sugary “smoke” will start coming up out of the top of your processor as you grind the mixture together—totally normal!
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, shortening and sugar-lavender mix on medium-high for about 3 minutes
  4. Add the egg and egg yolk, then beat for another 3 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy
  5. Add your flour mixture, and beat on low until it’s all combined
  6. Stir in your chocolate by hand
  7. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper
  8. Scoop dough onto the sheets, about an inch apart
  9. Preheat your oven to 375F. While it’s preheating, throw your cookie sheets in the freezer so the dough can firm up a bit
  10. Once the oven is ready, start baking sheets of cookies! Bake about 11-13 minutes (mine took 12). They’ll look a little undone, but will set as they cool
  11. Throw the cookie sheets on a cooling rack, and immediately sprinkle them with sea salt
  12. Cool the cookies on their sheets for about 10 minutes, then move the cookies straight to a rack to finish cooling

 

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Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

I’ve been waxing poetic about the merits of gooey butter cake for years. It’s not something you see on many menus or at many bakeries…and I can’t understand why. I started experimenting with gooey butter cake recipes back in 2010, and I’ve tried many different takes over the years. Earlier this year I made this Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake, declaring it my favorite version yet.

IMG_5984But now…there’s a new contender for that title. This Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake is truly something else. The top is similar to pumpkin pie: soft, perfectly spiced, comforting. The bottom is cakey, with a slight layer of goo between the cake and pumpkin layers. It all adds up to an awesome flavor combo, and textural mix.

This recipe was inspired by a couple of recipes I kept seeing in my Pinterest feed. I loved the idea of pumpkin gooey butter cake—but didn’t want to follow those actual recipes. They used cake mix for the bottom layer, and I prefer to make my own cake instead.

So: I combined bits and pieces from a couple recipes. The bottom layer comes from the same Butter Baking recipe I used for my Biscoff-flavored version, and the top pumpkin layer came from Averie Cooks. If you want to use a cake mix on the bottom, just follow Averie’s original recipe and use spiced cake mix. If you want to make your own plain cake layer—keep reading below!

Note that the bottom layer bakes faster than the top pumpkin layer, so make sure to keep an eye on your oven. And allow time to let this chill for a few hours before you cut in.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Source: Bottom layer came from Butter Baking, and the top layer came from Averie Cooks. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: 36 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 1.5 hours, but I recommend tacking a few more hours on to let the bars cool completely before you cut them.

Cook Time: ~45 minutes

Ingredients

Cake layer 

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pumpkin layer 

  • 8 oz of cream cheese, softened
  • 15 oz of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I used this recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Make your cake layer 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F
  2. Mix your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  3. Add your egg, butter, milk and vanilla, then stir until it’s just combined
  4. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper, leaving a little extra hanging on the sides so it’s easy to pull out your cake later
  5. Pour your cake layer into the prepared pan, making sure it’s evenly distributed

Make your pumpkin layer 

  1. Use your mixer to beat your cream cheese and pumpkin until it’s smooth. This can get pretty messy, so I suggest using your mixer cover if you have one!
  2. Add the eggs, vanilla and butter, then beat until it’s all smooth again
  3. Add your powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Beat until ingredients are totally incorporated. You’ll need to scrape down the bowl a few times to get there
  4. Pour the pumpkin mixture on top of your cake layer
  5. Bake for 43-48 minutes (mine took 45). When it’s done, the edges will be set—but your center will look a bit jiggly. Resist the urge to bake longer, because you’ll start to burn your cake! Rest assured that the cake will set up more as it cools
  6. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for a bit. Then cover it, and move it into the fridge to cool completely. It’ll be much easier to cut chilled
  7. After a few hours, cut your cake into bars

These bars kept nicely in a covered container for a few days. You could also store them in a fridge for up to 5 days.

 

Caramel Apple Butter Snickerdoodles

I first made apple butter snickerdoodles in the fall of 2014. I liked them so much, I made them again a couple weeks later for a fall-themed potluck. And then…they fell victim to my tendency to try new recipes. I thought about them every fall, but always ended up making something new instead.

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This year, I decided it was time to change that. But I also had a new idea: what if I mixed caramel bits into the batter? Caramel apple is such a classic flavor, after all. I’d never mixed caramel and apple butter together before, but I had a feeling it’d be great.

It turns out caramel bits were a really good idea. They add another layer of flavor to an already great cookie, taking it up just one more notch. The base of this apple butter snickerdoodle is pure delight. It’s a cakey cookie, with a subtle apple flavor. You mix apple butter right into the dough, then mix in the caramel bits, and roll the cookies in a cinnamon sugar mix before you bake them. That adds up to a delicious pillows of apple butter goodness, with a hint of cinnamon and a bit of chewy caramel.

Make sure to allow time to chill this dough so it doesn’t spread during baking. These cookies stay fresh for a few days in an airtight container, and freeze nicely too.

Caramel Apple Butter Snickerdoodles

Original recipe: Crazy for Crust. I modified it and rewrote things a bit. 

Yield: 36 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~4.5 hours (including chill time)

Cook Time: 14 minutes

Ingredients

For your dough 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup apple butter (any brand will do!)

For your cinnamon sugar

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Make your dough 

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl
  2. Using your mixer, cream butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until fluffy
  3. Mix in your eggs, vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and the apple butter. Beat until it’s just mixed
  4. Add in your flour mixture, and mix the whole thing until it’s blended together
  5. Throw your dough in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours. This keeps your cookies from spreading, so you don’t want to skip this step!

Bake your cookies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and line cookie sheets
  2. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl so it’s fully combined
  3. Scoop a ball of dough, roll it in the cinnamon sugar and place it on your baking sheet. Repeat until you’re out of dough!
  4. Bake your cookies 12-14 minutes. Mine were perfect at 14 minutes, but make a call depending on how you like your cookies
  5. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely
  6. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temp, or freeze for later

 

 

10 Pumpkin Recipes for Fall

Growing up in southern California, I was a bit disconnected from this whole “pumpkin season” thing. Fall certainly brought pumpkin carving, and a trip to the local “pumpkin patch.” But…our pumpkin patch was just a straw-covered section of a mall parking lot. It wasn’t exactly the experience you get at an actual pumpkin farm.

My pumpkin patch experience got a serious upgrade in college. I started going to the Fall Harvest at the Kirkwood Farmer’s Market. Kirkwood is a small-ish suburb that’s part of St. Louis County. It was only a 20-minute drive from my college dorm, but felt like worlds away. It was always a nice reprieve from college life….small town vibes, fresh food, friendly vendors. I often invited friends, but sometimes I’d just go alone and unwind.

The market is great year-round, but fall is especially fun. I’d walk around sampling all the ciders and pumpkin treats and apple pies…and I got totally hooked on fall flavors. So thanks, Kirkwood, for helping me discover my love of all things fall. This list of pumpkin recipes is dedicated to you.

Here are the pumpkin recipes I’m most excited to try this year, and some old favorites:

 

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Nutella Bread from A Treats Affair

 Pull Apart Nutella Filled Pumpkin Bread: Just reading this recipe name makes me hungry. I love surprise pockets of Nutella, so there’s no doubt I’d devour this bread.

 

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake: This recipe is especially appropriate given my ode to St. Louis. Gooey butter cake is a St. Louis gem. I’ve made it with Biscoff…now it’s pumpkin’s turn!

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Snickerdoodles from Half Baked Harvest

Pumpkin Gingerbread Coffee Cake: I’ve made pumpkin gingerbread before, and the flavor combo turned out great. This kicks it up a notch with the streusel topping.

Pumpkin Chai Snickerdoodles: I had planned to make this recipe last year, but never got around to it. Hope to make it happen this year!

Soft Batched Frosted Pumpkin Cookies: These are pretty simple compared to some of my other picks, but sound incredibly satisfying. Cakey pumpkin cookies are my favorite, and I bet they’re awesome frosted.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice: Did you know it’s super easy to make your own pumpkin pie spice? I make a batch every year  instead of buying it. I like controlling the spice levels, and this is my go-to!

Pumpkin recipes already on this blog:  

Craving more fall flavors? Check out last year’s pumpkin roundup, or my fall recipes Pinterest board.

Strawberry Basil Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream

A couple of months ago, we had a cooking challenge at work. There was only one rule: you had to use basil. People tried all kinds of recipes, from pesto to pizza. But the minute I heard the challenge, I knew I had to bake with basil, rather than cooking with it.

IMG_4381I’d baked with basil before, and loved these lemon basil chocolate chip cookies from a bit ago. So, I had good faith in basil as a baking ingredient. Now I just needed the perfect recipe. Given that 1) I work at Pinterest and 2) I’m obsessed with Pinterest, it felt pretty appropriate to turn to Pinterest for ideas. I stumbled on this recipe for basil cupcakes, and knew I’d found my winner.

And this recipe was a winner in every sense of the word. The cupcakes turned out great….and I won the cooking challenge, too! I ended up submitting two entries, and will share the other recipe another time (hint: it involves tangerine).

For now, let’s talk about these cupcakes. When you bake with herbs, you have a few options. You can throw the herb directly into batter, infuse it into an ingredient, or mix it into an ingredient. This recipe takes the latter route, and you mix bits of basil into regular sugar for the cake, then powdered sugar for the frosting.

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Basil sugar

I loved the cupcakes the minute I tasted them: strawberry’s sweetness balances nicely with basil’s earthiness. And since the basil is mixed into the sugar, you don’t get distinct bites of basil as you chomp on the cake. At first, I wasn’t so sure about the frosting, though. I tried a bit of it on its own and couldn’t decide if it was distinctly delicious, or too salty, or too basil-y. I figured the only way to know for sure was to slather it on some cupcakes, and pass them out to taste testers.

Readers, let me tell you: do not doubt the basil buttercream. It was the perfect complement to the strawberry cupcakes, and worked really well once you took a bite of cake and frosting together. It’s super hard to explain what it tastes like, but every bite of cupcake gives you a really nice range of flavors. You get a bit of saltiness, then herb-ish flavors, and then the sweetness of the strawberry cake.

You’ll need to try this recipe to see what I mean! It’s probably not a cake flavor you’ve ever dreamt of before…but trust me, you should give it a shot.

 

Strawberry Basil Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream

Original recipe: Cupcake Project. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Suggested equipment: Food processor, mixer

Total Time: ~1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup basil sugar (Make this first; you’ll need 1 cup sugar and 1 handful fresh basil leaves)
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt (plain)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh strawberry puree (I used 7 strawberries)

For the frosting 

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups basil powdered sugar (you’ll need 2 cups sugar, and 2 handfuls of basil)
  • 2 cups regular powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Make your cupcakes

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Make your basil sugar, following the link above in the ingredient list
  3. Use a medium mixing bowl, and mix your basil sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  4. Add butter, then mix until it’s fully combined
  5. In a small mixing bowl, whisk your eggs, yogurt, oil and vanilla until the mixture is smooth
  6. Add your egg mixture to the flour mixture. Mix until it’s all just combined
  7. Fold in your strawberry puree, and mix until just combined
  8. Add in your milk, and mix until it’s just combined
  9. Line a cupcake pan with liners, and fill ’em up about 3/4 of the way
  10. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cupcakes bounce back a little when you touch the tops. Mine took 19 minutes on the dot
  11. Let cupcakes cool completely before you frost them

Make your frosting 

  1. First, whip up your basil powdered sugar using the link in the recipe list above
  2. In a mixing bowl or mixer, beat your butter until it’s light and fluffy. It should take just a few minutes if you use a mixer on high speed
  3. Add your basil powdered sugar in increments, mixing in between each addition
  4. Mix in your regular powdered sugar in increments, mixing in between each addition
  5. Add in your salt, and mix thoroughly to make sure it’s evenly distributed
  6. Frost your cupcakes!
  7. Wow people with this totally unexpected-but-amazing flavor combo 🙂

Lemon Cucumber Cake with Lemon Frosting

A couple of years ago, I saved a recipe for a kale and apple cake. I mean…kale in a cake!? I figured I had to try it.

…I’ve still never tried it. But turns out that kale cake was a gateway to an awesome baking blog. Veggie Desserts is full of creative recipes, from parsnip cakes to cauliflower popsicles. I got hooked on the blog, and dreamt of the day I’d surprise my friends with vegetables in a cake.

IMG_3753And finally, that day arrived! I made four types of cake for my birthday this year, and simply had to include a veggie cake in the mix. As I pored over all the recipes I’d saved from Veggie Desserts, this Lemon Cucumber Cake caught my eye. It sounded intriguing, refreshing and delicious. It also sounded like it’d go well with cocktails—an important consideration when you’re hosting your birthday at a bar.

Making this cake was so much fun. I couldn’t predict quite what it’d taste like, but figured cucumbers are somewhat sweet, and would complement lemon. The cake turned out great, with a really nice texture and a sunny, tangy flavor. There’s a little bite from the lemon, complemented by cucumber puree.

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Cucumber puree

My friends really loved this cake! No one could quite place the flavor, but lots of people said the cake reminded them of a summery cocktail. I also learned that people were very open to the idea of a cucumber cake. That’s not always with the case with my more experimental recipes…and sometimes I just don’t tell people what’s in something before they take a bite 🙂

I only made one layer cake, then got some cupcakes out of the extra batter. The original recipes calls for gin in the frosting, but I omitted it and still thought the lemon frosting came out great.

Lemon Cucumber Cake with Lemon Frosting

Original recipe: Veggie Desserts. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: One 9-inch cake, two 7-inch cakes or three 6-inch cakes

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 75 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the cake

  • Half a cucumber, keep the peel on (about 200g)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened (150g if you can weigh it)
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the frosting

Note that this recipe assumes you’re making a “naked cake” with just the tops frosted. If you want to frost the sides, double the frosting. 

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened (75g or about 6 tbsp butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice OR gin

Directions

Make your cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. Wash your cucumber, then cut it in half lengthways. Scrape out the seeds inside the cucumber. Then cut the cucumber into chunks, and puree until smooth
  3. Stir your lemon juice into the cucumber puree, and set that bowl aside
  4. Use your mixer to cream the butter, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla for a few minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy
  5. Add your eggs one at a time, beating in between
  6. In a separate mixing bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together
  7. Stir 1/3 of your flour mixture into the butter mixture. Then, add in 1/3 of the cucumber puree. Repeat this process until all of your ingredients are combined (puree, wet ingredients, dry ingredients)
  8. Pour your batter into a lightly greased cake tin
  9. Bake 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of your cake tin. Mine took 28 minutes for a 9-inch tin.
  10. Let the cake cool completely before frosting
Make your frosting
  1. Beat the butter, powdered sugar and lemon juice/gin together until it’s smooth and fluffy
  2. Frost away! Store any extra icing in the fridge until you’re ready to use it

 

Gooey Chocolate Chip Fudge Bars

Plain and simple, these bars are crowd pleasers. What’s not to like? Delicious, chewy chocolate chip cookie bars with a gooey, fudgy middle layer. Every bite oozes with chocolate and buttery cookie dough.

IMG_4445I made these bars for a “Cookies and Cocktails” event I hosted with a friend a couple weeks ago. It started from a joke: the friend had asked when I’d host my next cookie party. But you know: why not? So we invited a bunch of our friends to this cool new cocktail bar in Hayes Valley, I made a ton of cookies, and we had a fabulous afternoon.

I ended up making 5 type of cookies for the party, and wanted a mix of “simple” recipes and “surprising” recipes. I’d saved this recipe on Pinterest a while ago, and it seemed like the perfect pick. These bars technically fell into the “simple” category, but they’re still a twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie.

These are easy to make, but make sure you allow time to chill them when you’re done. You’ll need to let the bars set for a couple hours before cutting into them…or you’ll end up with a gooey mess, rather than gooey centers!

Our Cookies and Cocktails party was outside, and I was a little worried the centers would melt in the sun. The bars kept their texture just fine but I live in San Francisco, where hot is relative and it’s never really that sunny. I’d be careful bringing these outside on a super sunny day in other parts of the world!

Gooey Chocolate Chip Fudge Bars

Original recipe: Back for Seconds. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: I got 40 bars out of this, but I didn’t make them all even! Your yield depends on sizing, but you should expect around 32 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes (includes 2 hours of “chill time” so the bars firm up)

Cook Time: ~25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 4 cups chocolate chips (some for the dough, some for the filling)
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (typically one can)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, then spray it lightly with nonstick spray so it’s easy to remove the bars later
  3. Use your mixer to cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until it’s light and creamy
  4. Add eggs, vanilla and salt, then mix well
  5. Add baking soda and flour. Mix until combined
  6. Stir in 2 cups of the chocolate chips
  7. Press 2/3 of your cookie dough into the lined pan and set the pan aside
  8. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the condensed milk and the other 2 cups of chocolate chips. Use 30 second increments, and stir the mixture in between each run in the microwave. Keep doing this until the chocolate is entirely melted and smooth. You might want to shorten the increments near the end so you don’t burn the chocolate
  9. Pour your fudge over the cookie dough, and smooth it with a spatula
  10. Use your hands to make a cookie dough top layer. Take a portion of dough, flatten it with your hands, and press it on top of the chocolate. Repeat until the fudge layer is entirely covered in dough
  11. Bake 22-25 minutes. When it’s done, the top will look golden and the edges will pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Mine took 24 minutes
  12. Let the bars cool completely on your counter. Then, pop them in your fridge to firm up for a couple hours. Once they’ve set, cut the bars with a sharp knife
  13. Store the bars in a covered container. I left mine in the fridge and took them out an hour before serving, because I wanted to make sure the fudge layer stayed firm.

 

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