Eyeball Butter Cookies

   

Halloween is always a great time to be creative in the kitchen. What other time of year can you make foods to look like witch fingers and brains without anyone batting an eye? I gotta say that the idea of eating a litter box cake still makes me cringe though. Hey, we all have our limits.

When I set out to make a Halloween themed post I had lots of ideas rolling around in my head. After settling on doing a cookie, I knew that I wanted to make one that had a fun, holiday-appropriate look, while still being easy to accomplish. The subject of choice – eyeballs. A lot of the eyeball cookies I’ve seen involve breaking out the icing bags and tips for piping work. Another option involved using Lifesaver candies for the iris. These are both great in their own way, but I wanted to make a cookie that looked the part and was easy to do without sacrificing taste (I like Lifesavers just fine but I don’t really want to bite into one while eating a cookie). And by golly I feel like I’ve done it!

Eyeball Butter Cookies 

The base is a very simple vanilla butter cookie that comes together ridiculously fast. I think I would compare the flavor and texture to a cross between a shortbread and a sugar cookie. You can prepare them one of two ways – clear or bloodshot. The clear eyes are rolled in white sugar before baking, while the bloodshot dough gets tinted pink first and is rolled in powdered sugar. Once removed from the oven they are finished off with a small dollop of dulce de leche and a black M&M for the pupil. In the end the powdered sugar cookies were slightly favored between the two, because in the oven it takes on a creamy, almost melty texture on the outside. If you’re familiar with the Argentinian sandwich cookies alfajors – they remind me a little bit of that, but with a kiss of chocolate in the middle. Aww yiss.

Eyeball Butter Cookies

For the pupils I used a black M&M candy… except it was actually a knock-off M&M from Party City. At first I tried using a dark chocolate chip with the flat side up, but given how dark my dulce de leche was it didn’t provide the contrast I was looking for. If you have a lighter caramel sauce that you’re using you might be able to get by with chocolate chips, brown M&Ms, brown Reeses Pieces, or whatever easily available candy you have access to. While at Party City I also noticed they sold mini packets of black Sixlets for 7 cents each. Pick up a few of those and you’re good to go, and it will be cheaper than buying a bag of the black M&M style candies. I prefer the taste of M&Ms over Sixlets though, so I was willing to shell out a couple of dollars for them. Another optional step I took was mixing my dulce de leche with a little bit of edible pearl dust. Because my dulce de leche was so dark, I wanted to try and lighten it a tad. The pearl dust also gave it a really pretty extra level of dimension and a consistency that was a nicer to work with. I took a picture to show the two side-by-side.

Eyeball Butter Cookies

I think almost all of the steps in this recipe are suitable for little helping hands. One part that should remain an adult responsibility is creating the indentations for holding your caramel. Unlike most thumbprint style cookies, you’re not going to create the cavity before baking. While the cookies are still warm from the oven, gently press the back of a teaspoon (or whatever else you have around for the job) into each one. It will flatten out slightly and get a few cracks around the edges. Don’t fret over the cracks- that’s what produces the nifty vein effect in the eyes, particularly with the blood shot variation.

Eyeball Butter Cookies

If you’ve got an upcoming Halloween party and you want to bring an easy themed dessert, these cookies might be just what you’re looking for. Depending on the size of your balls (HA!) you will get about 3 dozen cookies from the batch. I would say it’s feasible to get all 3 dozen finished in about an hour, so they would work well as a last minute treat too. And you know, what’s with all of the eyeball cookies being blue and green? It’s time to get some brown-eyed love up in hurr!

Eyeball Butter Cookies

Eyeball Halloween Cookies
Serves 36
A simple, soft vanilla cookie with dulce de leche makes an easy Halloween themed dessert.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1/3 cup white sugar
  3. 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  5. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  6. 2 cups all purpose flour
  7. 1/4 cup powdered sugar or granulated sugar for coating, plus more as needed
  8. 1/2 cup dulce de leche or other caramel of choice
  9. Black M&Ms
  10. Red or pink food coloring, optional
  11. Pearl dust to mix with your caramel, very optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cream butter, sugars, salt, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in flour 1/2 cup at a time until well combined.
  4. If doing the bloodshot styled eyes, mix in your food coloring, otherwise skip this step. I would also recommend adding a small amount of red color to the caramel for the bloodshot eyes as well.
  5. Measure out small amounts of dough (I used a melon baller to ensure they were consistent in size) and roll into roughly 1″ balls.
  6. Put granulated or powdered sugar (powdered sugar is necessary for the bloodshot eye effect) in a small ziplock baggy. Coat each dough ball with sugar and transfer to baking sheet, leaving a couple of inches between each one – I was able to fit one dozen on a sheet. If using powdered sugar make sure to be very generous with the coating. When you think you have enough do a little bit more. Skimping on the sugar will result in a cookie that is more an all over pink rather than contrasting white and pink.
  7. Place cookie sheet in oven and bake for 11-15 minutes. 11-12 minutes will give you a soft cookie whereas 14-15 minutes will give you a crunchy cookie.
  8. Remove cookies from oven and while still hot, immediately press the back of a teaspoon into each one to create a small cavity for your caramel.
  9. Put a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon) of caramel in the center of each cookie. I find that doing this while the cookie is warm makes it easier. The warmth softens the caramel and let’s it fill out the edges and get smooth on top with almost no effort.
  10. Place one black candy in the center of each cookie.
  11. Transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.
Calories
  1. 110
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Eyeball Butter Cookies


Vanilla Bean Semifreddo with Caramel & Pecans

   

Once again it’s been a while since I updated my blog. Though previously I had wanted to avoid posting two sweet dishes back to back, this recipe is so easy that I really wanted to share it. The first time I made it I decided to make the caramel sauce from scratch following David Lebovitz’s recipe. Making caramel seems to be hit or miss with me. Sometimes I will get the batch right on the first try, but other times I’m likely to turn an entire bag of sugar into charcoal. Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman) has a great fool-proof recipe for caramel sauce as well, if you’re not prepared to tackle the daunting task of creating molten sugar syrup the old fashioned way. And of course if you want to take the easiest way out, get thee to a local grocery store and buy a jar of their tastiest caramel. Ideally you’ll want something with pouring consistency that can easily be swirled throughout your vanilla mixture, but let me just say that I tried this with a jar of super firm dulce de leche and it was awesome. While you don’t get the beautiful marbled appearance that comes with using a more liquid sauce, the finished product is chock full of hidden caramel treasure globs. Yeah, that’s right – treasure globs. Whichever way you decide to do it it’s gonna taste incredimazing.

 

Vanilla Semifreddo with Pecan Caramel on a Chocolate Pecan Crust

 

Some of you may be sitting there asking yourself, “What the heck is semifreddo anyway?” Well, it’s basically a frozen dessert similar to ice cream, except it is served slightly soft… which makes sense when you consider that semifreddo literally translates to “half cold”. The texture is silky and creamy and wonderful… but that’s not even the best part. The really great thing about it is that there is no churning required. It is a fine day indeed when an apartment dweller with limited storage space for single use appliances learns how to make a delicious no churn ice cream. Honestly I am torn between feelings of righteousness and guilt over sharing this recipe. On one hand you’re going to learn that you can make a super awesome dessert that people will think you slaved over (when it’s actually in the freezer in about 20 minutes), but on the other hand I’m giving you the key to a vault that holds eleventy billion scrumptious calories. You know what? I’m over it. Go make this and thank me later.

 

Vanilla Semifreddo with Pecan Caramel on a Chocolate Pecan Crust

Vanilla Bean Semifreddo with Caramel & Pecans
Serves 12
A delicious no churn ice cream pie swirled with caramel and nuts.
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Prep Time
25 min
Total Time
6 hr 25 min
Prep Time
25 min
Total Time
6 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 half sleeve chocolate wafer cookies (about 15-20); I used Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers
  2. 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup of roasted, salted pecans
  4. 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  5. 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  6. 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  7. 2 tablespoons spiced rum
  8. Pinch of salt
  9. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  10. 1 cup caramel sauce
  11. 1/2 cup roasted salted pecans, chopped
  12. Chocolate sauce for drizzling (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In food processor add wafer cookies, 1/2 cup of pecans, and brown sugar. Pulse until coarse and crumbly then add in the melted butter and pulse until mixture is just moistened. Press into bottom of a round springform pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together sweetened condensed milk, rum, vanilla bean scrapings, salt, and 1 tablespoon of your caramel sauce. Set aside.
  5. Whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. I prefer to do this in my food processor, but you can always use a hand held beater or even good ol’ elbow grease if you like.
  6. Very gently whisk half of the whipped cream into your sweetened condensed milk mixture. When combined gently whisk in the rest until smooth.
  7. Stir chopped pecans into prepared caramel sauce. Depending on how much “swirl” you would like in your ice cream you can always adjust the amount of caramel and pecans to suit your taste.
  8. Pour half of the cream mixture onto the baked and cooled crust. Follow by spooning half of the pecan caramel on top of it. Repeat this step so you have cream, caramel, cream, caramel in the pan. Gently swirl a knife through it to create a marbled effect.
  9. Transfer to the freezer, cover, and allow to set for a good 6 hours, preferably overnight. To release it from the pan run a sharp knife along the edges and pop the springform clasp so the pan opens up. Top with additional caramel, chocolate sauce, or chopped pecans if desired (trust me, it’s desired). It should keep in the freezer for about a week, but holding onto it any longer could risk the formation of ice crystals and the loss of that silky texture.
Calories
  1. 438
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Tim Tam Caramel Crumble Bars

   

If you’re like a lot of Americans, it’s likely that you’ve yet to be introduced to the glory of the Tim Tam. If you’re Australian then you’re probably sleeping on a Tim Tam mattress at night in your knitted Tim Tam footsie pajamas. I happen to know that most of the people that visit my blog are from the states though (thanks Google Analytics!), so I’ll tell you a bit about this delightful little cookie… or biscuit as it’s more appropriately called. Actually, I’ll just let Wikipedia do the work for me:

“A Tim Tam is composed of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate.”

Do I have to tell you how awesome it is that the word chocolate is listed in the description three times? Nope? Alright then, because we’ll be much better friends if you appreciate chocolate in the way that I do – Inception style. Chocolate within chocolate within chocolate. So why not take this awesome store-bought treat and I don’t know… cover it with more chocolate, some dulce de leche, a chewy oatmeal crumble, and salty chopped pretzels? The amount of win in these bars is out of control, man.

 

Tim Tam Crumble Bar

Tim Tams haven’t always been easy to get in the U.S. and I’d go on to say that they still aren’t easy to find, but since Pepperidge Farm started making them it’s become a lot easier. The true brand is called Arnotts, and I’m able to find them at the local World Markets in the Dallas area. The Pepperidge Farm version is a pretty good knock off – slightly different than the original – but still a suitable replacement. I haven’t actually tried them in this recipe but I see no reason why they wouldn’t work just as well. I’ve been able to find them at Target. I suggest you try to get your hands on two packages. One for the unforgettable (and absolutely required) Tim Tam Slam experience, and the second for making these addictive dessert bars.

Tim Tam Crumble Bar

 

Tim Tam Caramel Crumble Bars
Serves 16
An addictive dessert bar that is chewy, sweet, rich, and a little salty.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 package of Tim Tams
  2. 5 tablespoons butter, chopped into cubes
  3. 1 tablespoon sugar
  4. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  5. 1 cup old fashioned oats
  6. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  7. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  8. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/2 cup butter, chopped into cubes
  10. 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  11. 1 cup salted pretzels, chopped
  12. 3/4 cup of dulce de leche (up it to 1 cup for a thicker caramel layer)
  13. 3 tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter an 8×8 inch baking dish.
  2. In your food processor pulse together the Tim Tams, 5 tablespoons of butter, and 1 tablespoon of sugar until crumbly. Press into bottom of your baking dish. Spread 1/4 cup of the dulce de leche over the top – it will be a very thin layer.
  3. Go back to your food processor and combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, 1/2 cup of butter, and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly and scatter half of it over the top of the dulce de leche. Press lightly into place and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. While that is baking pulse the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk and the chopped pretzels into the rest of the oatmeal mixture.
  5. Remove pan from the oven and while still warm, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Drizzle remaining 1/2 cup of dulce de leche over the chocolate chips (I found microwaving the dulce de leche for a few seconds helped make this part easier). Using the back of a spoon very gently level out this layer. You don’t want it mixed, you just want the melting chips to meld with the caramel sauce a little and to have the layer be even.
  6. Scatter the remaining oatmeal and pretzel mixture over the top. Press gently to pack the layer down slightly and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes.
  7. This next step is the most important: Let the bars cool completely before cutting. I actually think they do better if you let them cool, transfer them to the fridge to chill, and then cut them. You want that chocolate to be completely firm or you’ll have a gooey mess on your hands. I know that sounds delicious and tempting, but trust me when I say it’s worth the wait to do it right! Slice into 16 squares and serve.
Calories
  1. 370
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Tim Tam Crumble Bar

Tim Tam Caramel Crumble Bars


Brown Butter Caramel Spice Cookies

   

Every weekend I allow myself one major “cheat dessert” outside of my usual attempts at healthy eating. Sometimes I like to go out and get a dessert from a nice restaurant, but other times I’m in the mood for something specific enough that it can’t be found anywhere. In this case I was craving dulce de leche, cinnamon, and chocolate. The idea was to craft a spice cookie with a gooey caramel center and drizzle it with chocolate. In the end I opted for a brown butter chocolate chip cookie style dough instead of my original idea of using a sugar cookie style dough. When I tried these out of the oven I knew they were good enough as is and that the chocolate drizzle wasn’t necessary… and let me tell you that if there is something that I say doesn’t benefit from the addition of chocolate, it must be amaaaaazing. These cookies are warm and chewy, nutty and buttery, sweet and salty, and many other combinations of awesome.

I made my dulce de leche from scratch using the oven method, but using a jar purchased from the grocery store would be fine. Just make these cookies!

Brown Butter Caramel Spice Cookies
Serves 24
Rich, chewy, spicy brown butter cookies filled with dulce de leche.
Print
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
13 min
Total Time
1 hr 43 min
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
13 min
Total Time
1 hr 43 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cup all-purpose flour
  2. ¼ cup chopped pecans
  3. ¼ cup rolled oats
  4. 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
  5. ¼ teaspoon of salt
  6. ¼ ground fresh nutmeg
  7. ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  8. 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  9. 1¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  10. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  11. 2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer + 3 tablespoons warm water (or 1 egg + 1 egg yolk)
  12. 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  13. 1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
  14. 1 cup dulce de leche, chilled
  15. Sea salt for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. In a food processor add the rolled oats and pecans. Process until it has the texture of a coarse meal.
  2. Whisk together the flour, oat & pecan mixture, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam and eventually subside. Whisk regularly until the butter turns a rich amber color and releases a nutty aroma. Transfer to another container and allow to cool.
  4. With an electric mixer, cream together the browned butter and sugars until lighter in color. Beat in the egg replacer, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, beating slowly until combined.
  5. Take a slightly heaping tablespoon of cookie dough and flatten it in your palm. Add ¼-½ a teaspoon – I used a heaping quarter teaspoon – of the dulce de leche (it’s chilled so that it’s easier to work with) to the center of the dough and carefully seal the edges around it. Place the ball onto a parchment lined sheet. Repeat until all dough is exhausted and transfer the unbaked cookies to your freezer for about 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Keep the remaining dough balls chilled while this batch bakes for 11-13 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes (they will be very soft right out of the oven) before transferring to a wire rack to let cool completely. Sprinkle with salt while still slightly warm.
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