Neiman Marcus Cookies

I have been making this recipe since I was 10 years old. It is one of the first cookie recipes I ever made on my own.  I never knew the controversy behind it (we are talking pre-internet days in the rural Midwest). I never knew the story behind this recipe and thought it was just another cookie recipe in my mom’s church cookbook. I loved trying recipes out of those books! It was so neat to make recipes submitted by our neighbors and family, heck they were celebrities in my mind. I wanted to get a recipe into that cookbook so bad. Ah, dreams as a child.
I must have been living under a rock (or the MIdwest) because it wasn’t until recently that I realized the cookies I enjoyed making as a child are actually quite famous. I know there are a few variations of the recipe but this is the one I am most familiar with and used to make.

These cookies were a favorite in my family. I enjoyed using the blender to whirl the oatmeal, it made this recipe a bit more special than others I made. The blended oatmeal creates a chewy texture and a bit of nuttiness that takes this cookie to another level flavor wise. Over the years I have modified the recipe a bit but the original I used to make is the same as the one in the link below.

I have found that a tad less butter does not sacrifice flavor or texture and a larger ratio of brown to white sugar gives a creates a chewier texture and a deeper flavor profile. I also don’t blend the oatmeal to a flour but instead allow a bit of the texture to remain, sort of in between flour and oatmeal. I have also found I much prefer the mix of semisweet and milk chocolate chips, they play off of each other so well! I also highly recommend the walnuts (toasted preferably). They really compliment this cookie. If you have never made these before, go ahead and try the original (from the link) and adapt to your own preferences.

Overall these are a great cookie when you want a chocolate chip cookie but something a little bit out of the ordinary (not totally crazy). My Taste Tester enjoyed these but not as much as I do. He suggested next time to add a bit more flour to make them a bit “thicker” to suit his preferences. I also would like to brown half the butter next time to further develop the nutty undertones.

I rate these cookies an 8

Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe
adapted from here

2½ cups rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature or slightly softer
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract6

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces milk chocolate chips
1½ cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 . Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend the oats in a food processor or blender to a course powder. In a medium bowl whisk together the blended oats with the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. On low speed gradually mix in the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. With a rubber spatula fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Roll the dough into 2-ounce balls  and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Cookies should be lightly brown and set on the outside but still look a little undone in the middle. (this will keep them soft after cooling). Store in an airtight container.

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

With summer in full swing we have been enjoying several weekend visitors which of course means entertaining! Yay! While my Taste Tester sticks to grilling up new reicpes, I take the opportunity to try new dessert recipes!

With my mom and aunt in town last weekend I knew I wanted to make a cheesecake. Each time they visit I always whip one up and we more than enjoy it all weekend long! This time was no exception. I knew I wanted to use fruit but wasn’t feeling strawberries. My Taste Tester smiled and said “yes please” when I was brainstorming a white chocolate cheesecake with raspberry swirls. Sold.

This recipe is based on other cheesecakes I have made over the years. I cheated and used seedless organic raspberry jam instead of making my own. I just didn’t have the time and to be honest, it was great even with the store-bought stuff. If you have time or super ambitious, feel free to whip up your own. If not; welcome to my life and just buy some (good quality of course).

The cheesecake itself was creamy and dense (just the way I like it). The white chocolate flavor was subtle but good. I originally wanted to have a chocolate crust (um, hello, chocolate-addict here) but I used a graham cracker crust because the Taste Tester doesn’t care for Oreos. What??? I know. It is the burden I must live with. I was surprised, however, and really enjoyed the graham cracker crust and would  not use a chocolate  crust in the future unless it was requested.

Because I used jarred jam I was able to whip this up and get it in the oven in about 15 minutes, can’t beat that! I also love the fact that cheesecake needs to set in the fridge for a couple days to reach the desired flavor and texture so I made this on Wednesday to enjoy over the weekend. I love not having to rush around last minute when I could be cleaning (yeah right).

I would highly recommend this cheesecake, play around with the filling a bit and try another fruit flavor. I do feel that the white chocolate flavor could be a bit more complex so I would like to either add more next time or pick a brand with a more dominant flavor.  Let me know if you find a winner!

I rate this an 8.5

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
16-18 graham crackers crushed
2 TBS sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

6 oz white chocolate bars (not chips)
24 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 TBS flour
1 jar seedless Raspberry Jam

Fresh Raspberries for Garnish
White chocolate for garnish (melted) when ready to use

*TIP: I like to line the bottom of my pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with PAM.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 325F.
In a food processor, process the graham crackers until you have fine crumbs. . Add in the sugar and pulse. Stir in melted butter. Transfer the crumb mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack to room temperature.
Place a baking pan filled half way with water on the bottom oven rack (this will help keep cheesecake moist while baking to help prevent a crack. I like this method better than a traditional water bath) Just make sure there is always water in it while the cheesecake is baking.
Melt white chocolate in the microwave in 15 second intervals stirring after every interval until smooth. Do NOT over cook, you can stir lumps out wihtout reheating toward the end. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese to break it up and soften it slightly, about 5 seconds. Continue mixing and add the sugar, sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to medium low and add the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl before each addition. Add the flour and beat just til combined. Add the melted white chocolate and mix until blended. Do NOT overmix.

Pour 1/2 the cheesecake mixture into pan.
Heat jam in microwave just until easily pourable but not too runny.
Spoon 1/2 the jam over the cheesecake batter and swirl with a knife. Pour the remaining batter over the jam carefully. Drop spoonsfull of the rest of the jam over the cheesecake. Carefully swirl but do not go through to second layer or it will not be swirled (just pink).

Bake until the center jiggles slightly, the sides start to puff, and the surface is no longer shiny, about 55 to 60 minutes. The center should read about 150 degrees F. Turn off the oven and prop the door of the oven open with a potholder or wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool in the oven for about an hour. Transfer the springform pan to a wire rack and run a small paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Let it sit to room temperature for 2 hours.

Before serving top with raspberries and drizzle with melted white chocolate

And the Winner is………………..

STEPHANIE!

Here is her comment:

 

I have been eyeing the G. Cooper dress for work for so long. I just can’t pull the trigger!!

 

I used my trusty Taste Tester (my husband) to randomly select a (comment number) winner of this giveaway. Since it was my first I wanted to get him involved in the process.

*Stephanie, please email me by midnight Friday July 1, 2011 to claim your prize:

I will need:
Your name
Your address
Your email
Your dress size

Congratulations!!

Email me at: bakingblonde at yahoo dot com

Shabby Apple Giveaway!

CLOSED, 
Winner announced Wednesday!

If you are a long time reader you will know that this is a first for me. I am super excited to announce that Shabby Apple is wanting to give one of my readers a brand spankin new dress just in time for all of those fun summer events that I am sure you have planned! If you don’t know me, know this. I will never host a giveaway of a product that I, myself, would not use.

Let me tell you, I have been trying to whittle down a dress to buy from their site ever since I popped over there before deciding to host this giveaway. I have a list at least 10 items long!

If you haven’t visited their site Shabby Apple, please do! You will find not only fun yet sophisticated dresses but aprons, swimwear and clothing for kids.  Oh, and did I mention they also have accessories, sportswear, and even maternity items? Seriously, stop on over and check them out. I mean, look at some of these items

The Jack and Jill dress (perfect for bridesmaids or other special events). How elegant is this dress?  And the color?? Amazing!

Check out this Venezia Swimsuit! LOVE IT! The stripes on this suit would flatter just about any body type. This suit manages to be flirty, sporty and modest yet sexy all at the same time!

Oh, and check out the Lost at Sea Skirt. Makes me want to rent a boat for the weekend. Aren’t those stripes fun?

After much deliberation, I decided on the Lighthouse Dress! It is casual yet feminine and oh so fun! This dress is perfect for a summer wedding, date nights on the town, wandering around your local farmer’s market on a Saturday morning or while making and baking some wonderful tasty summer treats! (this is a baking blog afterall).

And a plus? It is machine washable! Um, hello low maintenance! Feel totally confident in the kitchen sans apron with this perfect little number! Get it dirty? Who cares, in the wash she goes!

So, are you hooked yet? How do you get your hands on this little dress? Easy Peasy!

*Go to Shabby Apple and leave a comment on my blog telling me what item you like the most and where you would where it. Easy as that!

For a second chance to win, pop over to ShabbyApple on Facebook, share the love and “Like” them. After you do, leave another comment on my blog telling me you did so.

Giveaway will close at 12am Central Standard Time on Sunday June 26 2011.
Winner will be announced on this blog on Wednesday June 29, 2011.
One winner will be chosen at random.

WAIT a sec. You didnt’ think that was all did you? The fun folks at Shabby Apple are also offering a 10% discount to my readers, all you have to do is enter the code bakingblonde10off when checking out to receive the discount. Not too shabby (pardon the pun)

Product Crush

I get quite a few emails inquiring about what products I like and if I have any recommendations. Here  is a new product I am crushing on right now.  I, in no way, have been paid for or asked to complete this review.

Fiber One 80 Calorie Honey Squares.


Wow, what a mouthful for a name, seriously, who names a cereal by using a calorie count?!
Let me tell you, I purchased these on a whim while strolling around the grocery store. Yep, love to stroll and eat samples. I am that person.
Those end-caps always seem to suck me in and I end up with the most random items in my cart some times. Well, this time I hit the jackpot! I am a self proclaimed cereal addict. Have been since I was the age of 2 and addicted to Alphabet Cereal, remember those? I have no will power around cereal and have far too often eaten an entire box in one setting. I don’t discriminate, I eat pretty much any cereal including Raisin Bran and Grape Nuts, as well as Cookie Crisp and Cap’n Crunch and EVERYTHING in between.
I rarely purchase cereal unless I know my taste-tester (aka my husband) will be eating it as well (keeps me from snarfing it down the first day!).

Back to the topic at hand. This cereal reminds me of a love child between Oat Bran and Golden Grahams, in a good way. They mini squares (these are about 1/2 the size of a Golden Graham square) are slightly sweet and taste a bit like graham crackers but healthy, you know? Not only do they taste great but they only have 80 calories per 3/4 cup (i hate when serving sizes are only 1/2 cup, come on, who eats 1/2 cup of cereal?) and 10 grams of fiber! Yes please!  Even if you up the serving size to 1 cup you don’t need to feel guilty.

What I am most excited about is I can’t wait to try these in some recipes! I may crush some and use in a crust for a tart or some other baked goods, can not wait (I will probably buy another box for that since this one is 1/2 gone and I just bought it 2 days ago).

Some recipes I would love to try these in (will probably use both cereal and graham cracker crumbs):

Smore’s Bars
Key Lime Cheesecake
Strawberry Cream Pie
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Magic Bars

Caramel Crumb Bars with nuts

I haven’t made bars in what seems forever. I enjoy baking bars during the warm months because they can be baked in a shorter amount of time than a batch of cookies so my oven is not heating up my house for over an hour! I do freeze a good portion of cookie dough so I don’t typically bake a whole batch at once.

I found this recipe on several blogs,  it comes from Nick Malgieri, who has said that he would choose this cookie above all others in the recipe’s intro. With a declaration like that, I had to give these a go.
Imagine, if you will, a crust that is  buttery and a bit crumbly, much like a delicate shortbread cookie. On top is a sweet and gooey caramel filling.  To top them off you crumble more of that delicate crust over the caramel.

Overall, I was not overly impressed with the final result. Each component was OK, but together they weren’t “WOW”, ya know? I added toasted walnuts to the topping and to be honest, that was my favorite part of this recipe. These are good, don’t get me wrong, but I think I had too high of expectations going in and found myself feeling let down. My taste tester liked them, but too, enjoyed these bars much better.   The crust on these bars was a bit too delicate to hold the next 2 layers and the edge peices really crumbled making transport and presentation difficult.

If I make them again I think instead of making my own caramel sauce I will use Dulce de Leche or something else, for the extra work it required it really didn’t ‘wow’ me, I have had far better caramel sauces.

I rate these a 7

Caramel Crumb Bars
from The Modern Baker

2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Caramel Filling
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Spray a 13×9 pan with cooking spray, then line the  pan with aluminum foil or parchment (leaving an overhang so you can lift the bars out) and spray again with cooking spray.

To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until soft and light, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add 2 1/4 cups of the flour, beating just until the dough is smooth and the flour has been absorbed, and stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle as necessary.

Transfer 3/4 of the dough into the prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan to form the bottom layer. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator while you make the filling and top layer.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to the remaining dough in the mixer bowl and work it in with your fingertips until 1/8 – 1/4-inch crumbs form. Set aside.

To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally. When the mixture begins to boil, whisk frequently until it begins to thicken and darkens in color slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling over the bottom crust. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly then distribute the crumb topping over the filling.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is gently bubbling and a dark caramel color. Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack until lukewarm, about 15-20 minutes. Use the foil (or parchment) to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Once completely cool, cut into 2-inch squares.

Granola Bars


I had about 3/4 cup of Rice Krispies cereal sitting in my cupboard (does this happen to anyone else? Having small random amounts of foods left over?). I was not in the cereal eating mood so turned to my online BFF Google.

About 30 seconds later my BFF  introduced me to this recipe. It calls for 1/2 cup Rice Krispies…perfect! I can finish this box up and use the newfound pantry space for a big bag of Cheetos, double win!

These bars were a cinch to make, you basically just dump a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, press in a greased pan and bake. Easy Peasy. I did adapt the recipe just a bit based on what I had on hand. The end result was great. Mine did not turn out quite as chewy as the original claimed (thus my removing ‘chewy’ from the title of these bars). There were still great. The flavor of the peanut butter, chocolate and butterscotch was a winning combination and I found it rather addicting.
I easily ate 3-4 of these bars over about an hour by simply breaking peices off every time I went into the kitchen.  Next time I may not bake them quite as long to see if they will turn out a bit chewier, but I really did enjoy them crunchy. My only complaint was that they crumbled a bit when removing the edge peices. now worries, just  easier to shovel in my mouth.

These bars taste hearty yet sweet. I think these will be perfect to take on hikes, boating, sporting games. Pretty much anytime you need a sweet treat on the go this Spring and Summer. Don’t be afraid to mix and match ingredients to suit your family taste preferences. These would be great with almonds, cranberries and white chocolate or mini M&Ms and peanuts. Really, use your imagination!

I rate these an 8

Granola Bars
original recipe here

2 1/2 cups quick rolled Oats
1/2 cup Rice Krispies cereal (I used about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter (my addition)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup  butter, softened  (I used 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 pan with PAM.
In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients and stir until combined well. Press into pan.
Bake for 16–20 minutes or until golden.

Cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Cut into bars.