"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Friday, May 7, 2010

Surprise cookies: stupid name for a delicious treat

Recently Jeremy went out of town for a few days on business, and I thought to myself, Self, what better way to welcome home your gent than with a pile of soft, chocolatey cookies with a gooey surprise center? Since I'd be at work when he got home in the middle of the afternoon, I wanted some sort of treat to fill the void of my absence, so he was welcomed by two dozen scrumptious surprise cookies.

Now, as much as Martha Stewart's smug attitude of superiority to the rest of humanity bugs me, the woman knows how to put out an amazing cookbook. I have been loving her Cookies cookbook, which not only features an amazing variety but which is also absolutely beautiful to look at. (It is worth the price of admission alone for the chocolate gingerbread recipe, which is out of this world.) And I appreciate that there is a photo on every page, something that not every cookbook offers. It was here that I found the recipe for Surprise Cookies. I sort of hate the name, because it's vague (a better name would be Hot Chocolate cookies, because that's what they remind me of), but let me tell you: these cookies are the bomb. They are chocolatey, cakey cookies with a piece of marshmallow on top that are then covered in a simple chocolate frosting. So delicious! Check out the recipe and look at the drool-inducing photo I got from the website.

 Mon dieu! Look at that melty, marshmallowy center, peeking coyly out at you! What a flirt!

I did change a few things from the recipe. First off, I found that cutting each marshmallow in half resulted in too thick of a marshmallow, so I cut each jumbo marshmallow into fourths and found that size much easier to work with. But if a giant marshmallow is your thing, by all means, go for it. Second, I didn't bother to sift together the dry ingredients; I whisked them instead, and my batter was just fine. Third, I don't own a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and I have never found that an impediment; a regular hand mixer works just as well. Fourth, I don't have a variety of ice cream scoop sizes, so I just used two spoons and used those to shape the dough. Fifth, I ran out of vanilla extract after I made the batter and it was 10 p.m. and I was in jammies and not about to go to the supermarket to get more vanilla, so I didn't put any into my frosting and it was still scrumptious.

Below is my version of the recipe with my changes and comments integrated. You really should try making these. They are a real joy and everyone I shared them with really liked them. Who doesn't like surprises?

Makes about 2 dozen
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (not Dutch processed, although I can't imagine that the world will end if you use Dutch processed cocoa powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (you can speed up the process by placing the stick on a dish and microwaving at 5 second intervals until it is soft but not yet melting)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 large marshmallows, cut horizontally into four discs (or just in half is fine) *
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. Using an electric or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture about a half cup at a time and mix until it is completely incorporated. The batter will be extremely thick and sticky. Stirring this is a good upper-arm workout.
  3. Use two spoons to drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Scoop up about a walnut-sized gob of dough with one spoon and use the other to shape and scrape the gob into a ball onto the sheet. These cookies do not spread much, so if they aren't spaced quite right, don't worry. Bake until cookies begin to spread and become firm, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Remove baking sheets from oven, and place a marshmallow in the center of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Return immediately to oven, and continue baking until marshmallows begins to melt, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer cookie sheets to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes and then remove them from the sheets and place them directly on the racks so that they're cool before frosting. 
Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 cups confectioners' (powdered) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional, as I learned)
  1. Melt the butter and cocoa powder together in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula, until the butter is completely melted and has completely incorporated with the chocolate.
  2. Put the sugar into a large bowl. Pour in the butter mixture and add the milk and vanilla (if using). Whisk everything together until well combined. When I was whisking, I found it a little thick, so I dribble in just a bit more milk and everything smoothed out.
  3. Immediately frost each cookie, starting at the center and spreading the frosting with a butter knife to completely cover the marshmallow. Let the cookies sit out in a single layer for a bit and the frosting will firm up. 
These cookies stay fresh and chewy for a few days. Store them in an airtight container in a single layer. The frosting recipe I used actually called for larger amounts of everything, so I ended up with some extra frosting (darn, what a shame) that I stashed in the fridge. 

*Note to my vegetarian friends: If the thought of eating marshamallows is more than you can bear (due to the gelatin), something tells me these cookies would be just as amazing sans marshamallow. Just don't skip out on the frosting. It is amazing!

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