Monday, September 30, 2013

Soft-Baked Maple Bacon Cookies with Easy Peanut Butter White Chocolate Frosting {Mystery Dish Challenge}



I am a glutton for punishment. I make it my life's work to take on too much, too often, and stress myself out like crazy. Ask anyone who knows me; they'll tell you. All my friends and family who are reading this right now: you are nodding your heads vigorously, aren't you?


Which is why in the midst of work ramping up, this blog demanding a great deal of my attention, planning an incredible, but complex, international trip (more on that soon) the last couple of months, and, starting this month, planning a wedding, I also signed up for this Mystery Dish Challenge. I'm probably driving myself crazy, but what else is new.


This challenge is probably the last thing I need to add to my obligations, but you know what? I don't care. I am so excited to be participating. First of all, it has introduced me to a whole new group of women who have been blogging longer and with greater intensity than I, and I feel like I am going to learn so much from them. Second, this challenge requires me to come up with creative ways to use random ingredients, which is, oddly, probably my one and only Stupid Human Trick (making meals and dishes out of random, seemingly-nonsensical ingredients in the fridge, that is.) and something I really enjoy. So, here we are. Any although there may be moments when I am in over my head in terms of meeting deadlines with too little time, I could not be more psyched. So, here we go.


The idea of this challenge is that one of twelve bloggers designs a "mystery box" of random ingredients each month. The box can have a theme, or just be a list of loosely-compatible ingredients. That blogger also dictates how many ingredients must be used in the dish, which can be sweet or savory, and for any meal. Obviously, mine will mostly be desserts. Oh, and I am designing the box next month, so if you have any creative ingredient/theme suggestions, leave a comment below! I already have some ideas, but am always open to more.


This month, the ingredients were apples, cheddar cheese, bacon, cinnamon, maple syrup and peanut butter. I was only required to use a minimum of two ingredients, but I felt like making it a little tougher, really put the challenge in Mystery Dish Challenge (er...that would probably be a good example of the aforementioned gluttony). I wanted to do something a little outrageous just to kick off the challenge. So I went with the last four ingredients, and made a cookie. I've been curious about this recent trend of incorporating bacon into desserts, so I figured it's now or never. Oh, and I admit, I've been looking for an excuse to bake with bacon so that I could use the adorable pig sprinkles that I picked up in Door County. That might be the real reason for the inclusion of the bacon.


Speaking of which, you can feel free to leave out the bacon if you wish. A few people who tried it said that the cookie would have stood on its own without it. I might try it without, since - confession - I don't eat bacon so I had to force feed these to several friends in order to get an accurate reading of the result (for the record, I did try the batter before adding the bacon, so I knew these didn't totally suck! I'm not trying to poison anyone here.). The result was overwhelmingly positive. So, if you're into that sort of thing, the bacon is a welcome addition.


However, the process of preparing the bacon was an extra step that I wasn't too fond of (but, again, it was worth it), so to compensate, I made the frosting as easy as possible. You can make it in the microwave. The microwave! No need to beat the butter into oblivion, clean a stand mixer, or any of that nonsense. Make it in a bowl, stir with a fork, frost with a butter knife, and throw it all in the dishwasher when you're done. Just a heads up (and I made a note to this effect in the recipe below), the frosting is very peanut-buttery. I love the taste of PB and can't get enough, so it was alright by me, but if you'd like a subtler frosting flavor, you might try going with a traditional buttercream flavored with peanut butter. Google has some great recipes.


Note that these cookies take some forethought because they require you to chill the dough overnight (or at least for about 6 hours) before baking. I have never tried not chilling this dough but from previous experience with room temperature cookie dough I can tell you that you can expect these to spread a lot if you don't chill them. I think they need to be thick and soft in order to best highlight the bacon. Trust me, it is worth the extra time and planning.




Soft-Baked Maple Bacon Cookies with Peanut Butter White Chocolate Frosting
Cookies Adapted from Averie Cooks

For the cookies:
9 oz. uncooked bacon (I used nitrate-free from Trader Joe's)
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract (or more, to taste)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional - depending on how salty your bacon is)
4 cups all purpose flour

For the frosting*:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind**)
1/2 cup good quality white chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For decoration:
Pink pig (or other) sprinkles (optional)

*Some of my taste testers commented that the frosting was a little too peanut-buttery for them and they would have liked less PB intensity. Personally, the more peanut butter taste the better, but if you prefer a subtler flavor, it may be best to use a standard peanut butter buttercream recipe instead of my version here.

**If all you have on hand is the natural kind, it's not a big deal. Simply add 1 Tablespoon of butter to the melting mixture. When the mixture is totally melted, if it is not smooth enough to spread easily, add vegetable oil, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. I only used 1/2 teaspoon.

Prepare the bacon:
In your biggest frying pan over medium-high heat, lay the bacon flat, in a single layer, close together but not touching. The pan should be completely dry - do not oil, butter, or spray the pan. Let the bacon cook down until its fat starts to melt, which it will fry it until thoroughly crisped. You'll need to flip the bacon to make sure both sides are crisped. For me, this took a little over 2 minutes on each side. (Note: Be careful of grease spatter. Use of a spatter guard, if you have one, is highly recommended.)

While the bacon is cooking, layer about 4-6 sheets of paper towel on a plate and set aside. When the bacon is very crispy (but not burnt) remove from the pan and place in a single layer on the prepared plate. If you have more bacon to fry, pour the remaining grease out of the pan into a heat-proof bowl or cup and start the frying process over. Make sure you add another layer of paper towel to the plate if necessary. Also, ensure you set aside the grease to cool before discarding. The best way is to soak it up in some paper towels and throw it in the trash.

Let the bacon drain and cool completely before chopping into approximately 1/2" pieces. You should have roughly 1 cup of bacon bits (don't worry if it's a little more or less). Set aside.

Make the cookies:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar for about 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup and mix until just combined. Then incorporate egg and vanilla. Add cornstarch, baking soda and salt, sprinkling each in an even layer over the top of the batter before turning the mixer on. This helps each ingredient incorporate into the batter more evenly. Finally, add the flour, all at once, and mix into the batter at the slowest speed until just combined. Finally, add the cooled and chopped bacon and slowly and gently mix until evenly distributed.

Using a standard 2-inch ice cream scoop, scoop the dough into cookie balls and place in a single layer in a large airtight container (or on a plate, which you can cover with plastic wrap). Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, and ideally overnight.

When you're ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and place 6 dough balls, evenly spaced, onto a prepared cookie sheet (covered with parchment, nonstick pad or cooking spray). Bake for 15-17 minutes or until slightly golden.

Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:
In an oven-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter and white chocolate chips (add the Tablespoon of butter, too, if you are using natural peanut butter). Microwave on high, in 15-second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. This took about a minute and 15 seconds for me. Stir in cinnamon (and oil, if necessary). Allow to cool slightly.

Using a butter knife (or frosting knife, if you have it), spread about 1 heaping Tablespoon of frosting evenly across the top of each cookie. Add decorative sprinkles, if using. Serve immediately. If you are not serving these immediately, I'd recommend waiting until the last minute to add the sprinkles.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The unfrosted cookies can be frozen for up to three months.

Makes 13 cookies.

**

Check out what others did with the mystery ingredients! Are these a bunch of creative cooks, or what?


37 comments:

  1. Now, when you say force feed do you mean FORCE FEED or "force feed?" I have a hard time believing you had to be overly convincing for them to try these.
    And I LOVE your pig sprinkles!! I kinda sort REALLY want them (now who's the glutton?). I can't make these for Hubby's coworkers without the sprinkles!
    I'm glad you overloaded yourself and took on this challenge. Or...hmmm...not the right wording, but I AM happy you joined in! I can't wait to make something with your ingredients next month :-D

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  2. BACON! I love bacon and I've always wanted to try it in a cookie. These are happening VERY soon. I love your sprinkles as well :) cute little piggies.

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  3. Mimi @ Culinary CoutureSeptember 30, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    I love the pig sprinkles! Super cute! Btw, how did you get the links under the collage to coordinate with your blog colors? Also, I couldn't comment on this post using Internet Explorer - I had to open up Chrome. Something to do with Disqus? Is it new or have you always used it cause my computer might just be out of whack.

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  4. Well .... I think there was some hesitation at first, but once I convinced people to try them, they went for seconds!


    I know exactly what you mean and I am glad I took this on too. This is the *fun* kind of overload :) Can't wait to see what you make next month!

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  5. There were mixed reviews on the bacon, but it lends a salty and decidedly bacon-y taste to each bite. So, if you love bacon, I'll bet you'll love these cookies! Let me know what you think if/when you try them!

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  6. Thanks!


    I actually had to re-do the links, so they defaulted to the theme colors. It was a little extra work but I wasn't clear if the links would work otherwise. So, that's how :)


    Sorry to hear about the trouble with the browsers! I'm pretty surprised, because Disqus is usually reliable. I wonder if it might have been taking a really long time to load or something. I'll definitely look into it - thanks for the heads up!

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  7. I am in love with these cookies! I am all about soft baked cookies and these just made my weekend baking list! I cannot wait to have a dozen of these cookies! Thanks for being awesome!

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  8. Hahaha the pig sprinkles are so cute!! I'd totally add bacon to my cookies for that reason too. This challenge sounds really cool, and I think you did an awesome job with it! Your directions are very thorough (:

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  9. Thanks, Kat! I am with you - with a few exceptions, a cookie must be soft, or it's not worth eating. I really hope you like them! Let me know what you think :)

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  10. Aren't they!? I saw them in a little store and had to have them. There are SO many left, and I have no idea what to do with them. I'm so glad you like the challenge!

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  11. Sherri@TheWellFlouredKitchenSeptember 30, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    These look delicious! What a creative combination, bacon in cookies! I don't think I would have to force feed these to my family :)

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  12. Thanks, Sherri! You probably won't have to try too hard to get people to eat them. I had to do a little convincing at first - I think the bacon threw people for a loop - but my friends all went back for seconds!

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  13. I love the flavors that you chose to use! Peanut butter, maple, bacon, and cinnamon are a match made in heaven! And those piggy sprinkles are just too cute... I want to take a big bite! Ps- I think I've already taken on too much too, especially with the holidays approaching! I'm stressing already, lol!

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  14. You took a box of crazy ingredients and turned them into cookie gold! Next stop: Food Network "Chopped." Can't wait to hear what trip you are planning too!

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  15. HOLY YUM Nora, these look absolutely to die for. The pictures make them look incredibly moist and soft and then the peanut butter topping is a great way to finish these off. Definitely need to try!


    Krista @ joyfulhealthyeats

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  16. Those look very interestingly fantastic! I need to make some for myself. It's fun participating with you!

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  17. That was quite the enjoyable read! I am jealous of your big soft and heightened cookies and all of the flavour profiles that you have made work together. My oven is basically an all round cookie flattener...
    Cant wait to hear more about this international trip!

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  18. Thanks, Pamela! The frosting is prettttttty badass, if I do say so myself. I highly recommend eating it with a spoon ;-)

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  19. Allie, as much as I am sorry you are stressing, it kinda feels good to know someone else is in the same boat. Let's stress bake!

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  20. Haha! This does sort of feel a little bit like chopped. Trip details coming soon! :)

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  21. Thanks, Krista! I hope you get a chance to try them. Let me know what you think!

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  22. I'm glad you enjoyed my absurd rambling, Em :) I will have to do a post about my tricks for thick cookies. I'm certain you can do it, despite your oven's best efforts!


    Trip details coming soon!

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  23. Thanks, Reeni! The sprinkles were the inspiration for the whole cookie, and I'm so excited I finally got to use them. I agree, frosted cookies are the best!

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  24. You're ENGAGED!! Right?! Congratulations!!!!!! I hope you share a few details on the blog!! I was hoping you were going to get engaged during you amazing trip but didn't want to say anything before haha. So exciting!! Yay for wedding planning and umm love!


    Also, I love your marble cutting board and the idea of a white chocolate + peanut butter frosting:)

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  25. I am notorious for taking on too much also, so I totally get it! but when cookies like these come out of the oven...it is somehow all totally worth it.

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  26. Haha, yep! You are the only person who noticed that so far ;) And thank you!! Actually, we were engaged the week before we left because he didn't want to have to worry about getting the ring through security, etc, without me knowing. Just booked venues today - it is mind blowing how fast and far in advance this all has to happen! When is your wedding? I might have to email you for tips because it seems like you have this allllll under control (which is the opposite of me. Thank goodness for my mom, wedding planner extraordinaire).


    The cutting board is from Amazon btw! I can send you the link if you want!

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  27. Can I borrow your mom? haha! I need a wedding planner extraordinaire!! Our wedding is December 28th...so much to be done before then! We've got our venue, photographer, DJ, my dress, and all my bridesmaids dresses. Everything else is still in the works. I have 3 appointments Friday for florals, linens and, most importantly, CAKE TASTING. I think I've been waiting my entire life for wedding cake tasting haha:)

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  28. Anne ~ Uni HomemakerOctober 3, 2013 at 1:21 AM

    I'm intrigued! Bacon and maple syrup in a cookie? How yummy Nora! Thank you for posting! :)

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  29. Whoa, you have it all under control. I'm impressed! I hope you don't mind but I am going to email you with some questions (I'll spare everyone reading this!). You're definitely going to have to give me the scoop on everything cake-tasting-related!

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  30. You sound just like me. Why must we take on more than we can handle?! But seriously, I'm so happy we're in this Mystery Dish together! Even though you have so much going on, you came up with a fantastic cookie recipe. These pictures have me drooling! I'm a hoarder or sprinkles and I NEED those pig ones! I hope your life settles down soon! Can't wait to try these! :)

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  31. I think it's the curse of the type-A person! This challenge is absolutely well worth making room in our schedules for, though. It's so much fun to make these dishes and meet all the ladies! By the way, I am pretty sure you can get the pig sprinkles on Amazon... ;)

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  32. Wow I am so glad I came across this recipe! Can't wait to try it very very soon!

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  33. I'm so glad you came across it as well! :) I would love to hear what you think of the cookies whenever you have a chance to try them!

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  34. Hey! I tried making them, but it turned out bad! A few of my ingredient swaps did not work out haha, I will definitely be retrying them soon. http://lecarroll.com/recipe-gone-wrong-soft-baked-maple-bacon-cookies/ Here's a post on my blog about it if you want to read it.

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