Category Archives: Dessert

A Few Of My Favorite Things – Holiday Goodies!

A couple of months ago, I teamed up with two of my cousins and we had ourselves a bake-a-thon.  The thought was to finish all of our holiday baking in one fell swoop!  We each came armed with recipes and ingredients for 4-5 things, and we made double batches of everything, which we divided into freezer bags, took home and piled in the freezer to be brought out as needed for holiday parties and such.

Well, as you can imagine, most of it didn’t make it to Christmas.  But it sure was nice to have on hand for company, last minute things to take to a potluck, and family dinners.  And of course, some just called to us in the evenings and had to be eaten.  I was very happy to discover that EVERY SINGLE THING froze beautifully and tasted fresh when thawed out.

Although I have a few things left up in freezer town, I am going to do a little more baking this weekend for Christmas.  So I thought I would put together a few of the recipes I will be pulling from for the holidays, in hopes of helping those of you in need of ideas.  Merry Christmas to each and every one of you out there!

Simply click on each recipe to go to the post.  Any of these will make a wonderful gift or a welcome addition to any holiday party.  Happy baking!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Rich and indulgent, I love these!

Inside Out Peppermint Patties

Incredibly easy and only a few ingredients!

Classic Chocolate Brownies

My go-to foolproof brownies.  I make these all year long.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Always a holiday favorite.

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Decadent, chewy, and gluten and dairy free (and you won’t miss either one)!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

I know it sounds weird, but these were delicious!  They also come down on the healthier side of holiday treats at a fraction of the calories of regular brownies.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

My bumped-up version of banana bread.  So good!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with a Twist

My favorite cookies, soft, rich, with a twist of orange and cinnamon.

Lemon Zucchini Bread

A delicious twist on an old favorite!

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The Fanciest Apple Cream Pie

A shortbread crust.  Creamy filling.  Flowers made out of apples?  Yep!

Usually for the holidays I try to make something just a little fancy.  So I happened upon a recipe for this fancy pie covered with apple roses!  It looked like a challenge, but it was so pretty I had to make it.  To make it a little more challenging, the recipe was in another language.  Unfortunately the translator didn’t translate very well, and I am far from a master pastry chef, so I took the idea for the roses, and found crust and filling recipes elsewhere, made my own little tweaks, and a pie was born. It was a gorgeous addition to the Thanksgiving feast this year.

My one complaint about this pie is that when I cut into it, it kind of fell apart.  I would have loved to have a perfect little wedge but it didn’t happen.  I think next time I make it I’ll use ramekins and make individual little pies so I don’t have to mess up my fancy flowers!

The Fanciest Apple Cream Pie

The Fanciest Apple Cream Pie

The Fanciest Apple Cream Pie

Crust:

3/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. orange zest

Cream:

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. corn starch
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. grand marnier (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter

3-4 apples
2 tbsp. apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 350°. In a food processor, pulse almonds and sugar until finely ground, being careful to stop before they turn into nut butter. Add flour and salt and pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. With motor running, add egg, egg yolk, and orange zest and whirl until dough comes together.  Press dough firmly into tart pan or pie pan.  Refrigerate while you make the pastry cream.

To make the pastry cream, in a medium saucepan mix 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 3 tablespoons flour, and a pinch salt. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups whole milk, then add 1 large egg and 2 large egg yolks. Whisk until smooth. Place over high heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture boils and becomes quite thick, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla and Grand Marnier, and 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Pour mixture into a medium bowl; set bowl in ice water and stir often until pastry cream is cool, about 12 minutes. Pour into crust.  Keep chilled.

Using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife (I had better luck with the knife), cut thin strips from the apples, keeping an edge of peel on them.  The thinner the strips the easier they are to wrap into shapes.

Make a bunch of different sizes, long and short pieces.

Make a bunch of different sizes, long and short pieces.

Roll and wrap apple pieces around each other to make flowers and place on pastry cream, pressing down a bit to hold in place.

Start by rolling a piece into a little circle to make the inner rosebud, then curve short and long "petals" around it to form a flower.

Start by rolling a piece into a little circle to make the inner rosebud, then curve short and long “petals” around it to form a flower.

Continue until entire top of pie is covered with apple roses.  Put apricot preserves in a small bowl and microwave until it melts into liquid.  Brush over the top of apples.

All ready to go in the oven.  Isn't it pretty?

All ready to go in the oven. Isn’t it pretty?

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Let cool on a rack and then chill until ready to serve.  Serve cold.

 

 

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Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

In my quest to use up a massive amount of zucchini given to me this summer I came across this gem of a recipe.

I have to say when it comes to baked goods, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the gluten-free, no flour, no sugar, no butter (no good stuff!) variety.  While there are some good recipes out there, most of them just can’t hold a candle to the real thing…in my humble opinion.  Now if you’re on a special diet and you have to go there, I understand but otherwise?  Why bother?  This recipe is worth bothering.  It’s every bit as good as something that has the sugar, butter and flour.  The fact that one of these brownies is just a fraction of the calories of a regular one AND are gluten-free just makes them easier to justify.  But the real reason to make them is because they are delicious!  And if you ask me, that’s the main reason for making dessert to begin with, am I right?

The original recipe only called for 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and you can use that amount if you want.  I am a chocolate fanatic so I doubled it, and used the big bittersweet ones.  Fabulous!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you?  Yep!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you? Yep!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
(slightly adapted from ambitiouskitchen.com)

1/2 cup all natural unsalted peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup dark chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×11 baking pan (or an ultimate brownie pan!) with nonstick cooking spray.

Place oats in blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be perfect but it should take a few minutes. Mine still had some whole oats and pieces mixed in with the ground stuff.  Worked fine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl of electric mixer, cream together peanut butter, applesauce, honey and vanilla until smooth. Add in zucchini, cocoa powder, ground oats, baking soda, and salt; mix until well combined. Gently fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tooth pick inserted into middle comes out almost clean.

Cool brownies on wire rack then cut into squares. Yum!

Cooling brownies.  I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges!  The edges are my favorite part.

Cooling brownies. I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges! The edges are my favorite part.

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Roasted Strawberry Parfait

I’ve never cooked strawberries before, unless you count making jam.  They usually don’t last that long since we tend to dig in as soon as they appear.  But I saw a recipe for a roasted strawberry parfait on Pinterest and thought it sounded intriguing.  I didn’t have (or want) granola or nuts or anything else that the recipe had and I really wanted something more dessertish than breakfastish, so I added some whipped cream and vanilla too.  Roasting the strawberries brings out the natural sweetness even more, and makes them extra juicy.  This was a wonderful summer dessert, and so pretty too.  Although it was just for me and the kiddos, we fancied them up in pretty glasses and they were sooo pretty!

Beautiful and delicious!

Beautiful and delicious!

Roasted Strawberry Parfait

1 quart strawberries, quartered
2-3 tbsp brown sugar – divided
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Toss strawberries with 1 tbsp. brown sugar.  Spread out on parchment paper.

Ready to roast.

Ready to roast.

Roast for 10 minutes, until they start seeping juice, but still holding their shape.

Don't roast them to death, just until they are juicy and syrupy.  So good!

Don’t roast them to death, just until they are juicy and syrupy. So good!

In a bowl combine whipping cream, greek yogurt, 1 tbsp. brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat for 4-5 minutes until thickened.  During the beating, taste and add another tablespoon of sugar if you want it sweeter.  Layer cream in dishes with strawberries and eat it while it’s warm.  Yum!  If you’re feeling really crazy you can drizzle it with chocolate syrup.

Serves 3-4.

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Greek Yogurt Soufflé

I have no intention of giving up dessert.  That being said, I am trying to eat healthier (most days anyway).  So I occasionally attempt a lighter dessert in my efforts to be good.  Sometimes you get pretty much what you’d expect.  Something okay.  Something less.  Less satisfying.  Less tasty.  Less what you were craving.

But sometimes you get a surprise.  A tasty, wonderful surprise.  That something “lighter” is still delicious and crave-worthy.  It stands on its own as a dessert and yells “EAT ME!”

These little beauties pass the dessert test in my book.  I love cheesecake but it’s about one of the most evil desserts on the planet.  These soufflés taste like a fluffy, delicate cheesecake cloud and are absolutely delightful.  And at about 140 calories each (vs. 500-800 calories for a slice of cheesecake), you don’t even have to feel guilty about it.

For the most impressive presentation serve immediately, as soon as they come out of the oven.  They start to fall as they cool but no worries!  Even if they do, they are mouth-watering.  You can also eat them the next day, although don’t be alarmed if they are about half their original size.

Greek Yogurt Soufflé

Greek Yogurt Soufflé

Greek Yogurt Soufflé
(from julesfood.blogspot.com)

1 cup greek yogurt (original plain)
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
a little butter and sugar for prepping the ramekins
Berries and/or lemon zest for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375˚.  Rub the inside of each of 6 ramekins with a very light coating of butter.  Sprinkle some sugar in there and swirl it around to coat the surface.  Dump out any excess sugar.  Place prepared ramekins on a baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together yogurt, egg yolks, flour, salt and vanilla.  Set aside.  In another bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar and continue to whisk or beat until soft peaks form.

This is about what they looked like right before I mixed them together.

This is about what they looked like right before I mixed them together.

Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the yogurt mixture and incorporate well.  Add in another 1/3 of the mixture and carefully fold it in, then do the last of the mixture.  You don’t want to mix too much, just fold until incorporated; you want to retain as much volume as possible.

Divide among your ramekins, filling about to the line (at least on the ones I have).

I use 8 oz. ramekins and this is how full they were.  A 6 oz. ramekin would probably work fine as well.

I use 8 oz. ramekins and this is how full they were. A 6 oz. ramekin would probably work fine as well.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Do not open the door to peek!  They should be lightly browned and puffed up nicely.  Remove from oven, garnish and serve immediately for the full effect!  They will begin dropping as they cool.  No worries, they will still be delicious, but not quite as impressive after they’ve fallen.

Just out of the oven.  Serve right away!

Just out of the oven. Serve right away!

Already starting to fall a bit after about 10 minutes, but still sooo good.

Already starting to fall a bit after about 10 minutes, but still sooo good.

 

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Getting Springy with the Cupcakes

For my daughter’s 13th birthday (how did that happen??), we had a Spring theme.  Fruits, veggies, bright colors and flavors.  Pasta salad on a stick!  It was all good, but the best part was the cupcakes.  Not only were they delicious, but they were so darn fancy!

I’ll admit I used a box mix for the cake.  If you like to make cake from scratch, go ahead.  Since I was short on time, Ms. Crocker came to my rescue.  But the frosting was my own creation and let me tell you, with this frosting, cake is a complete afterthought anyway.  It’s so much better than anything you will buy in a can.  AND you can pronounce all the ingredients!

Since I was making these for two events – a sleepover and a party the next day, I made two batches of cupcakes.  Some large ones, and some mini cupcakes.  The large ones were perfect for butterflies and the mini cupcakes made beautiful bite size flowers.  So much fun and so delicious!

A little touch of Spring.  Hello Mr. Butterfly!

A little touch of Spring. Hello Mr. Butterfly!

Spring Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

24-48 cupcakes (I used a mix, but if you prefer you can use your favorite cake recipe)
2- 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 tbsp. raspberry syrup (I used syrup you’d use for coffee drinks, find it by the coffee & tea in the store)

For butterflies:
Small pretzel twists
Sour gummy worms

For flowers:
m&m’s or jelly beans
sliced almonds

Make cupcakes and set aside to cool.

Red Velvet and Triple Chocolate cupcakes cooling off.

Red Velvet and Triple Chocolate cupcakes cooling off.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together until creamy.  Add whipping cream and raspberry syrup.  Beat on medium high for 4-5 minutes until thick and fluffy and creamy.  Be sure to scrape down the sides from time to time.  Add more syrup for more of a more intense raspberry flavor if desired.  Frost cupcakes.  I scored some disposable piping bags with tips at Bed, Bath & Beyond that worked beautifully, but use whatever you’ve got. This easily made enough frosting for all of my cupcakes, with a little leftover for dipping…well whatever you want.

For butterflies, I used a gummy worm (sour ones are my favorite, plus they are pastel colored) for the body, and small pretzels for the wings!

So cute!

So cute!

For tiny flowers, use an m&m or jelly bean for the center, and place sliced almond “petals” around it in a circle.

So pretty!  And soooo tasty!

So pretty! And soooo tasty!

Present to your guests and prepare yourself for many accolades.  You may also want to plan an extra few minutes on the treadmill the next day to make up for all the scrumptious cupcakes you’ll probably eat!

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Creamy Crunchy Berry Bites

This weekend I challenged myself to come up with a creative dessert for Easter dinner.  Okay, okay… I just didn’t want to go to the grocery store so I made up something with the odd collection of ingredients I had on hand.  Same thing!  Sometimes you discover the coolest things when you’re playing in the kitchen.  Like wonton skins!  And how they are not just for wontons!  In fact, they can be transformed to the perfect receptacle for tasty treats.

I was actually really happy with how these delicious little morsels turned out, and two dozen of them disappeared in a flash, so I think others agreed with me.  I’ll definitely be making them again.

Creamy Crunchy Strawberry Bites (or as my daughter calls them, Creamy Crunchy Yummy Thingies)

Creamy Crunchy Berry Bites (or as my daughter calls them, Creamy Crunchy Strawberry Yummy Thingies)

Creamy Crunchy Berry Bites

2 dozen wonton skins
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
1 pint strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Lightly spray two mini muffin tins with cooking spray.  Poke one wonton skin into each well.  Kind of fan out the edges making a little bowl shape of sorts so you’ll be able to fill them.

Wonton skins.  You can find them in the produce section at most grocery stores.

Wonton skins. You can find them in the produce section at most grocery stores.

Bake shells for 5-8 minutes.  Watch closely to make sure they don’t cook too long (my first try was a bit on the crunchy side), you just want them a golden brown and crispy.  Take out and let cool in the pan.

Watch closely so they don't burn.  They don't take long!

Keep an eye on these so they don’t burn. They don’t take long!

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat until creamy.  Add whipping cream and beat several minutes until thick and fluffy, scraping down the sides once in a while.

Fill a piping bag or ziplock bag with creamy mixture, snip off the corner and pipe cream into the wonton shells.  If you have extra filling, it will keep in the fridge for several days, if it lasts that long.

You could do this with a spoon, but much easier to fill the nooks and crannies with a piping bag.  If you don't have one, a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off works just fine.

You could do this with a spoon, but it’s much easier to fill the nooks and crannies with a piping bag. If you don’t have one, a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off works just fine.

Top with strawberries and serve.  Makes 24.

I could eat this whole pan myself.

I could eat this whole pan myself.

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Jello Pinwheels

Jello is one of those things that’s fun to make, fun to play with…and that I usually have no desire to eat.  I’m not sure why that is.  Is it that I associate it with being sick and low-carb diets?  Maybe.  I don’t hate it, but I rarely go out of my way to have some.  My kids feel the same way.  That being said, occasionally we see a recipe that needs to be made, just for the fun of it.  So we’ve made the jello aquarium (complete with Spongebob and friends), we’ve pinned jello oranges, and now we’ve discovered jello pinwheels.

These jello pinwheels are easy to make, and they involve marshmallows, which in my opinion only improves the jello.  They are definitely a fun snack, especially for the smaller kids I think.  I’d love to tell you we gobbled them up like crazy but I think we had more fun playing with them and making them than actually eating them.  But if you’re a jello fan, they are a must.

Jello Roll-ups

Jello Rollups
(from Joy of Jello)

1 (3 oz) package of jello
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Lightly spray an 8 or 9 inch square pan with cooking spray.

Stir together water and jello powder and microwave for one minute.  Remove and stir to make sure all the jello is dissolved.  Microwave a few seconds more if needed.

Add marshmallows and return to microwave for 20-40 seconds, until marshmallows just begin to puff.  This is the key to a successful marshmallow layer! If you overcook the marshmallows they will just dissolve and you will not have two distinct layers.

Whisk quickly until marshmallows have dissolved.  Pour into prepared pan and chill in the fridge for at least 45 minutes, until well set.  The creamy marshmallow layer will float to the top.

Remove the pan from the fridge.  The jello should be very firm and easy to handle.  Gently pull one side away from the pan and lift the entire sheet onto the counter or other clean surface.  Starting at one end, roll up tightly.  With the seam side down, cut into 1/2 inch pinwheels.  An easy way to do this is with a piece of thread or dental floss.  Simply put the string around the roll, cross and pull. Makes 10-12 pinwheels.

Easiest way to cut the pinwheels.

Easiest way to cut the pinwheels.

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Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

I got a speeding ticket this morning.  And broke a nail.  One might suppose that this was the start to a rough day.  But I’m sitting here munching on a fabulous granola bar, one that transcends most granola bars as we know them.  And drinking a perfect mocha.  And watching a few rays of sun breaking through the clouds as I get ready to head to yoga class.  And I’m thinking life is pretty darn good.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs and thought, “oh those look good, and healthy too!”  And then when I was making them I thought, “hey, what if I add a cup of mini chocolate chips to them?” So…maybe mine are a little less healthy.  But you could still do worse.  I made some changes in the original recipe, based mostly on what was in my cupboard and a few flights of fancy.  And was also reminded that you should always read the recipe all the way through before starting.  My mini chocolate chips seemed like an inspired idea until I realized I would be pouring hot liquid on the mixture.  Um. I didn’t really think that through.  My chips melted.  Which really turned out to be wonderful, since the chocolate permeated the bars rather than staying in chip form.  It was unanticipated but quite delicious, and a contributing factor in the “gooey” description to be sure.  The end result is a chewy, gooey, indulgent (and still somewhat healthy) treat.  So take a moment, slow down, and eat one.

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars
(adapted from Chewy Cherry Granola Bars by Canyoustayfordinner.com)

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup puffed rice (or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, which I happened to have)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Heat oven to 350˚.  Spread oats out on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  In a large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, puffed grain or rice, cranberries, and chocolate chips.  Lower oven temp to 300˚.

In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract and salt.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir one minute.  Remove from heat and pour over grain and fruit mixture.  Mix well until all ingredients are combined.  Line a 13 x 9 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Put mixture in the pan.  Wet fingers and press evenly and firmly into the pan.  Bake at 300˚ for 20-25 minutes.  Cool at least 2-3 hours (I know!  But seriously, you need to wait) before cutting into bars.  Cut into bars and store in airtight containers, using wax paper to separate the bars so they don’t stick together.  Makes 24 bars.  187 calories per bar.

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

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April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I don’t have any cookies in my house at the moment.  If I had them, I would eat them.  I have no self-control when it comes to cookies.  So I don’t make them often.  When I do, they do a very quick disappearing act, because they are (if I do say so myself) spectacular.

These are one of my favorite cookies to make.  My little spin on your basic chocolate chip cookie.  I used to use half butter and half margarine or butter flavored crisco to make them a little fluffier.  But these days, I’m using less and less “fake” food, which margarine is in my book (did you know it’s chemically very similar to plastic?) so now I use all butter.  I think they taste better, but they do tend to come out a bit more flat.  I don’t really have a problem with that, although they are not quite as pretty.  But they still taste wonderful and I would happily sit down and eat a whole plate of them, were they here.  It might be time to bake another batch.

Right now, I’m craving a cookie.

A stack of cookie love.

A stack of cookie love.

April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter (2 sticks, slightly softened)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange rind
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
6 squares Bakers bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
1/2 – 1 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon) in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl beat or stir butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and orange rind.  Beat until combined.  Gradually beat or stir in flour mixture about 1/3 at a time.  Fold in chocolate and nuts.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate.  You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method.  Some big chunks, some tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to flavor the dough.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate. You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method. Big chunks, tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to permeate the dough.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  If you prefer you can line your baking sheets with parchment for easier cleanup.  Bake 8-10 minutes until just barely brown around the edges.  Remove from oven.  Using a spatula, transfer cookies to wax paper or cooling racks to cool.  Try not to eat them all at once.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

 

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