Brownie Cookies, Many Ways
I've been making these cookies nearly nonstop in the last few months, but I never got to take a good enough photograph to post on the blog, until now.
I also always have the dough stored in my freezer but it never lasts long because people are always requesting them! Luckily, they're so easy to make and store that I really don't mind at all.
When my sister asked me to make some strawberry shaped cookies for my 5-year-old niece's Strawberry Shortcake themed birthday party, I knew I wanted to make these. It was only my second time decorating cookies though, and I think I did a pretty sloppy job (although I didn't hear any complaints from the kids).
I actually adore prettily iced cookies in bakeries and grocery stores... They look so enticing yet they're always disappointing me. They're usually overly sweet and cloying for my taste. These are my all-time favorite version of "sugar cookies" because they're not very sweet at all. The royal icing used to frost the tops are often extremely sweet, so having a dark brownie like cookie base offsets it perfectly.
For Friendsgiving, I made an assortment of desserts (with to-go boxes!), including these cookies with a salted caramel filling, pictured above, bottom left. (Apologies for the poor photo quality; I didn't have my camera and used a friend's very old digicam).
I used a very small cookie cutter and made about 50-60 of them, thick, so they tasted like a real brownie sandwich. They were all gone before the night was over. Who knew my friends could devour them that fast! I certainly didn't. I did have one friend who couldn't make it to the party, and decided to make these cookies and send them to her, and these (the hearts) are the ones I'm sending.
Speaking of, it was really fun making all the desserts for Friendsgiving 2011! I couldn't blog about it before since I didn't get the photos till this weekend from my friend. I made: red velvet cakes, carrot cakes, fall spice sugar cookies, bourbon pecan pie tartlets, apple cider donut holes, assorted macarons, brownie cookies with salted caramel, and lemon fruit tartlets. I just wanted to see if I could make this many things, en masse, and turns out, I can. I let my friends frost the cakes and brought to-go boxes so everyone could get a chance to try everything.
For these cookies, the salted caramel filling, in particular, is divine. I used the same salted caramel frosting I use for these cupcakes. When I made the cookies again for New Year's Eve, I shaped them as thin snowflakes and iced the tops blue, without making them sandwiches. I'm still regretting the fact that I never took any photos of them! They looked very pretty but some of my friends were actually disappointed that there was no salted caramel involved. So that's the recipe I'm choosing to share with you today.
I find these cookies the most delicious sandwich style, eaten at room temperature with a melt-in-your-mouth, finger-licking delicious salty caramel filling.
*Update 8/20/13: Made these about 6 times since and they're the most requested for kids' parties... always delicious :)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 4 dozen (depending on size and thickness)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 sticks butter, room temp
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (your finest)
Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl until combined.
Add in the cocoa and then the flour mix, until a dough forms.
Gather the dough into a log, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out the cookies on parchment paper, to the thickness of your choice.
Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter (or you can slice and bake from the log, see how easy this is?!)
Bake on parchment or a silpat mat for 8-11 minutes until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly puffed.
Let cool before filling.
*For the sandwich cookies, I made them about 1/4-inch thick and baked for 9 minutes to keep them chewy/soft; but it's all about preference. Thicker and under-baking will yield a more brownie texture.
Salted Caramel Filling
1/4 cup sugar2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy cream1 tsp vanilla
*Alternatively, just use about 1/3 cup readymade caramel (or salted-caramel) sauce
3/4 sticks salted butter (softened)
1 cups powdered sugar (add more if necessary)
1 tsp vanilla sea salt
Put the water and the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. I would go ahead and measure out the cream and the vanilla since the sugar crystallizes so quickly. Keep an eye over the water/sugar mixture and keep stirring. As soon as it turns golden, take it off the heat. Some people wait till it turns brown but it tastes too burnt to me by that point, so I would stop after it's been golden for a few seconds. Slowly (it will splatter) add the cream and vanilla and keep stirring with a spoon over and over until it's fully incorporated. Then pour into a jar and let it cool.
This caramel sauce recipe makes 2 servings for the frosting, so only use half of it for the frosting above.
Beat the butter and the sugar until it becomes fluffy and pour in 1/2 the amount of caramel sauce you made, to taste. Stir in the sea salt.