Chocolate Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies and the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Chocolate Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies RecipeAllow me to share a few things about these cookies.  First…they scream for milk!  Second…they are deeply and irresistibly chocolatey.  And third…they are named after the ‘Turtle’ candy made famous by the Johnson’s Candy Company way back in 1918.  We’ve all eaten them, right?  Caramel and pecans drenched in milk chocolate.  Well, I took liberties with that famous little candy and turned it into a stellar version of a cookie.  The ‘piece de resistance’ is the chopped up Lindt Excellence Dark Caramel with a Touch of Sea Salt chocolate that plays the roll of chocolate chips in this cookie.  Add pecans and loads of decadent Valrhona cocoa, and well…this cookie may just make the Turtle famous all over again.
Chocolate Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies RecipeI was on a very special mission when I created this cookie.  In early November I was invited to take part in the 4th Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap hosted by the lovely ladies over at Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen.  To participate, the only requirements were a passion for cookies and a nominal donation to Cookies For Kids’ Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer.  What better reason to bake!  Along with four generous brand partners: OXO, Dixie Crystals, Brownie Brittle, and California Olive Ranch, we were able to raise a blessed $12,335 for CFDC.  Whoo Hoo!!!  I’m so proud to have been part of this Swap.
Cookie Swaps are such fun!  I was like a little kid with my nose pressed up against the window as I ‘im’patiently waited every day for the mailman to deliver my cookies.  It made me giggle to imagine the hundreds of boxes of cookies traversing the country over the last week or so.  In addition to receiving a box of cookies from three different bloggers, I in turn sent a box of my Chocolate Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies to three other participants.  Take a look at the tasty selection of goodies that came my way.
Chocolate Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies LR-3182Kelsey from A Taste For Trouble sent the dainty Candied Cranberry Cookies.  I love their diminutive size, so irresistible!   Robin, over at A Shaggy Dough Story sent the all fancied up White Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti.  Such a beautiful presentation Robin!  Then, there’s those cute little Raspberry Jam Pie Cookies from Sonja of Ginger and Toasted Sesame.  I wonder if she knew how crazy I am about pie?
Chocolate Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies RecipeI’m already looking forward to next year’s swap.  In the meantime, I’ll keep myself contented by working my way through my three boxes of cookies.
Chocolate Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies Recipe 


Umbrian Snowflake Cookies

Umbrian Snowflake Cookies RecipeIt was the ‘snow’ covered look of these festive cookies that stole my heart.  I felt certain that whatever surprise was hidden inside, it would be just as enticing as the powdery flakey exterior.
Umbrian Snowflake Cookies RecipeUmbrian Snowflake Cookies RecipeSnowflakes rarely dance about in Southern California, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get our snowflake fix in other ways.  When I spied these darling cookies in Saveur this month, I was immediately smitten.  Who knew the folks of Umbria like cornflakes just as much as we Americans.  In fact, everything about these cookies is more American to me than Italian.  Seems they took the basic chocolate chip cookie and fancied it all up with cornflakes.  The cereal plays double duty here; crushed and added to the batter, and whole flakes on the outside.
Umbrian Snowflake Cookies RecipeUmbrian Snowflake Cookies RecipeOur only snowflakes around here might be an hour’s drive away in our local mountains, but until I make it to the real snow, I can get my snowflake fix by sneaking into my stash of these cookies hidden inside the freezer.  Shhh!
Umbrian Snowflake Cookies Recipe



German Coffeecakes and Remembering Gee Gee

Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen RecipeOh, the magical powers of flour, sugar, yeast and butter.  With my wooden spoon as a wand, and a touch of alchemy, could I conjure up a cake just like Gee Gee’s?

He was articulate in his description.  Holding up a thumb and index finger, an inch of space separating the two,    ‘There was as much crumble as cake, thicker in the middle, lighter around the edges.  The cake was drowned in a pure white glaze.  And there was yeast.  It was definitely a yeasted coffeecake.’
Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen RecipeCinnamon Crumb and Cheese Coffeecakes LR-3088Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen RecipeMy dear friend asked begged me to re-create his Gee Gee’s (grandmother’s) coffeecake.  Her recipe had long since disappeared, or perhaps she had never written it down, but rather baked from memory, which is where so many great recipes of old are stored.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen RecipeAs I prepared to get busy with his request, we tossed back and forth our shared memories of a bakery we both frequented when we were younger.  Coincidently, it was the bakery where my mom worked during many of my childhood years. The place is long gone, but many of the baked goods from that tiny brick and mortar remain my benchmark when describing fine baked goods.  It made sense that his favorite pastry was the cinnamon crumb coffeecake, mine, the cheese kuchen.  I have never come across another one like it, and much like my friend, I too longed to taste again that cake of my memories.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen RecipeCinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen RecipeMy first attempt at Gee Gee’s recipe resulted in a fine cake, but it wasn’t quite right.  Too much cake and not enough cinnamon crumble.  I knew it, and he knew it, but it didn’t stop him from eating the whole thing.  Not one to pass up a good baking challenge, I set out again with recipe number two.  Remembering a yeasted dough I had made once before, I headed for my copy of Carole Walter’s ‘Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More.  I flipped through the pages to her recipe for Rich Sour Cream Dough.  Along the way, I stumbled across her Cheese Kuchen recipe.  With a tweak here and there, I believed it just might be the answer to my own coffeecake memories.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen Recipe  The dough recipe makes enough for two cakes, so I decided to make one with cinnamon crumble for my friend, and one with cheese filling for myself. Oohs and aahs filled the kitchen as we savored bites of our respective cakes.  ‘This is it!  This is Gee Gee’s cake!!’  With flour, sugar, yeast and butter, I was able to paint a culinary portrait of my friend’s grandmother.  Who would think that such simple ingredients could bring such delight – for him and for me.  Along the way, I too found the kuchen of my memories.  A day’s work well done.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Recipe and Cheese Kuchen Recipe

This recipe makes two coffeecakes.  Make two of the same, or one each of the Cinnamon Crumb and the Cheese Kuchen.  If making one of each cake, remember to cut the fillings in half.


Source:  Cakes developed by Mary Weinberg |
Dough and cheese filling adapted from Carole Walter’s Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, & More

Chocolate Spice Madeleines

Chocolate Spice Madeleines RecipeMore than any other year I can remember since moving West have I longed for the Fall weather I knew growing up in Kentucky.  I want to shiver in the mornings as I slip from underneath my down comforter and head for the shower.  I want to stow my flip flops, and pull on my boots, and wrap knitted scarves around me to keep the chill from my neck.  My coats hang dusty and limp in the closet.  Firewood stacked outside the door continues to season in the warm California sun.  I drink my lattes with ice.  These November days, the Mercury rising toward ninety, have me on watch for any sign that Thanksgiving is around the corner.  Can my senses be fooled?  Can I will the weather to turn a hand toward Autumn, bringing crisp nights and chilly mornings with it?  Where are you Mr. Autumn?   Have you skittered on by in your haste to reach winter?  I summon you with pumpkin scented candles.  I hang a wreath adorned with burnished leaves of gold.  And I bake.  The aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves delude the mind and satisfy my longing for the season.  It is the best I can do. Continue reading

Spice Cake with Caramel Swiss Buttercream

Spice Cake with Caramel Swiss Buttercream RecipeOnce upon a time I was intimidated by the prospect of making caramel from scratch.  A pot of boiling hot sugar can induce fear in even the most accomplished of cooks and bakers.  I can’t recall my first successful caramel making endeavor, but it’s pretty likely there were some nerves involved, and possibly a few choice words.  Caramel and I became friends many years ago, and the greatest benefit in slaying that dragon is having the ability to make my own luscious, deep golden confectionery at any time.  Continue reading