Double Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

As my first step away from the computer into the blogger community, I'd say my first year as a cookie swapper was a success.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap of 2012 was the brainchild of Julie and Lindsay, which must have been a huge undertaking. Each food blogger is matched with 3 other bloggers, each of whom receives one dozen cookies from 3 other bloggers. This year, there was a charity contribution and a match from OXO to Cookies for Children's Cancer. Cookies for a great cause near the holidays - who could resist?

Not wanting to get too crazy or inventive with my cookie ingredients, I stuck with a pretty classic play on salty and sweet. Next time I'll use a darker cocoa powder and a bit more salt in the cookie as it didn't quite turn out as rich as I'd envisioned. I also may have overbaked a couple of the cookies which were sent to my matches (sorry ladies!), Kim, Rebecca and Kelly. You really do want to make sure they're taken from the oven when they look a little underdone. Lesson learned - this was also one of the first several cookie recipes I developed on my own, without a recipe.

In return, I received the following delicious cookies in the mail:

Cherry-almond/chocolate-walnut cookies from Nora
Saffron-vanilla snickerdoodles from Kathleen
Salted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Morgan

I can't wait for next year and I really hope my matches enjoyed their cookies.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup crushed pretzels (I used waffle pretzels)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat together on medium-high speed until fluffy.  Blend in the eggs one at a time. Add the cocoa powder and mix until well blended.  Add the flour, salt and baking powder to the bowl and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon, then add the crushed pretzel pieces and mix.

Drop onto a baking sheet and bake for approximately 11 minutes. The cookies should appear slightly underdone; do not overbake!

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

First of all, let me say that these barbecue shrimp will never see a grill. Instead, they are covered in Creole seasonings and cold butter, then quickly broiled until they are slightly charred. Don't ask me why they're called barbecued when they're not - what they are is easy, spicy and it's far too easy to eat a pound by myself.

You will need:

2 pounds medium shrimp, unpeeled but deveined
1/2 stick cold butter, cut into slices
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Black pepper

Rinse shrimp and place in a large bowl. To the shrimp add Worcestershire, lemon juice, hot sauce, garlic, cayenne, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to coat thoroughly.

Transfer shrimp to a rimmed baking sheet. Position oven rack in the top third of the oven and turn broiler to high. Distribute butter slices over the top of the shrimp and place pan in broiler. Watch closely - shrimp will turn pink after about 2 minutes. Remove from oven, and stir/flip shrimp. Place back in oven. As soon as the shrimp begins to brown, remove from oven to turn again, return to oven, and allow to brown on the other side. Remove from oven immediately. Serve with crusty bread.

Classics: Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have to be honest here.

Part of me chastised myself for a moment for even considering posting what has become known as my signature chocolate chip cookies, often complimented among my circle of friends as the best they've ever had (which is the best compliment you can give, in my opinion).

But then I thought - this recipe is not all that different from most chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. There's nothing secret or earth shattering about the ingredient list. There is, however, the inclusion one step that is usually neglected by impatient cooks and PMSing women who must have chocolate rightnow.

You must let the dough refrigerate for quite some time before you bake the cookies. A good 24 hours in the fridge or overnight in the freezer changes the texture of the final product. I'm terrible at explaining it, but somehow the cookie tastes less...something. Raw, perhaps. Or young. Like a baby cookie. Refrigerating the dough matures the flavors and texture noticeably.

But what about when you NEED A COOKIE RIGHTNOW? It's not going to help you immediately, but if you can wait for the first 24 hours, I've successfully frozen bags of the dough for weeks. Perfect for when the craving hits. And as evidenced above, baking it right away isn't necessarily bad, it's just not the same.

You will need:

2 sticks softened butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbs pure vanilla
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (I prefer kosher)
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 oz bag chocolate chips

Combine butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl. With the paddle attachment of your mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat until combined. Add second egg and vanilla; beat until combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda. While the mixer is on low, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in thirds, combining after each addition. If you like your chocolate chips intact, mix them in with a wooden spoon. To break them up a bit, add to the mixer bowl and combine with your paddle attachment.

Transfer dough into a gallon ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or freeze for at least 8 hours.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop spoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake - it is better to remove them from the oven while slightly undercooked and let them stand on the cookie sheet for a few minutes than to overbake in the oven.

Alternative: spread dough into an 11x17 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (watch it!) to make cookie bars. Cool completely and turn dish onto a cutting board or platter. Cut into squares.