Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Peanut Butter & Cream Cheese Filling

whoopie pie peanut butter

Confession: I don’t care for the name “whoopie pie,” but it’s really the quickest way to say “soft, cake-like cookie sandwich with awesome frosting inside.” And these really are awesome. Incredibly light and soft chocolate “cookies” filled with an I’m-so-tempted-to-eat-this-by-the-spoonful peanut butter cream cheese frosting. One of my labmates requested a pairing of chocolate and peanut butter for group meeting this week, hence the veering from traditional marshmallow cream filling. Mm peanut butter and chocolate… oui, s’il vous plaît!

I have a theory that the ugliest cookies taste the best, probably because they get eaten almost directly out of the oven (after an approximate 6.72 second wait for them to cool down). You couldn’t possibly serve an ugly cookie to other people. The only logical action is to put these cookies out of their misery as quickly as possible. And of course, ugly cookies eaten directly out of the oven only have half the calories, right? Right?!

Lucky for me (and you, if you make these), this recipe produces quite a few ugly cookies if you don’t have a cookie scoop. Which I didn’t. Until one arrived in the mail after making these. (Thanks, Lauren!! Once again, that Williams-Sonoma card is making my life!) These are best the day that you frost them, but often that’s not practical, so you can store the sandwiches in the fridge if you’re not going to eat them within a few hours. (Keep in mind everyone in my building ate them the next day and had nothing but praise for them, so it’s perfectly fine to make these in advance!) Make sure to remove them at least two hours before you plan to serve them, though, so they can soften up a bit.

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WHOOPIE PIES WITH PEANUT BUTTER & CREAM CHEESE FILLING

Cookies (from Annie’s Eats)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup peanut butter

4-6 cups powdered sugar

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1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a medium bowl, stir/whisk together the flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs individually, beating well after each one. Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract and beat until just incorporated.

4. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients until just mixed.

5. Using a 1-oz cookie scoop (or a spoon and your talented estimating eyes), drop batter onto the prepared cookies sheets, leaving 2-3 inches between cookies (these spread!). Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on the pan for ~5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. When you’ve baked all the cookies and they’re cool, make the filling. Put the cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter in the bowl of the electric stand mixer and beat until smooth and evenly-mixed. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until you’re happy with the consistency. It should be easily spreadable but thick enough to hold its shape between the cookies.

7. Pair cookies up by size and spread a generous amount of filling on one of the sides. Press the pairs together and store in an airtight container (in the refrigerator if you’re not going to eat them within a few hours).

8. Eat. Smile. Repeat.

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Decadent Triple-Layer Chocolate Cake (Gluten- and Dairy-Free!)

vegan gluten free chocolate cake

Our department is currently hosting a visiting graduate student from Norway. In addition to being one of the sweetest and most genuinely friendly people you’ll meet, he has Celiac disease, which means he can’t eat gluten. Most importantly for the sake of this post, his birthday was on Sunday. He’s staying in a foreign country, for his birthday, and he can’t easily find a birthday cake to enjoy? Yeah… not on my watch!

I searched for a full three weeks to find a good gluten- and dairy-free recipe (why dairy-free? because I wasn’t up-to-date on another student’s conditions who had previously been avoiding dairy, so I figured why not go all out on this cake?). The problem is, I have no intuition for what makes gluten-free or vegan recipe “good,” let alone amazing. And I want (insist on?) amazing! Plus, there are tons of recipes out there for supposedly fantastic gluten-free and vegan cookies, brownies, meals, etc., but to find a birthday cake nicer than a boring sheet cake was incredibly difficult. But settling is forbidden: it’s his birthday, it must be a legitimately impressive birthday cake! Finally, one very helpful blog (thanks, Chocolate Covered Katie!!) and a grocery bag of gluten- and dairy-free ingredients later, we were in business. And folks? Business is good

Thus, without further ado, I present to you: Decadent Triple-Layer Chocolate Cake! Perfect for your gluten- and dairy-free friends and family, and guaranteed to make everyone else happy in the process. As with most cakes of this sort, the cake layer is a bit dry. I improved that a little by spooning sugar water over the bottom cake layer before assembling everything, but you may want to look into ways to bring extra moisture into the cake base. Fortunately, the chocolate mousse layer adds enough silky, creamy texture to balance out the slightly dry base, so it worked out quite well. And of course, topping anything with a layer of chocolate ganache (dairy-free!) and mini chocolate chips is bound to convert even the most skeptical taste-tester. When in doubt, overload the tastebuds with chocolate and people will put up with almost anything. (That was my operating theory, at least!)

Ultimate verdict: our gluten-free birthday boy was very happy and had many wonderful compliments about this cake. Big success! Everyone else who tried it ranged from “Mm this is awesome!” to “I can tell it’s not quite ‘normal,’ but it’s still delicious!” to “This is pretty good!” Which may be a cover for “I’m going to eat this because it has chocolate, but it wouldn’t be my top choice for a cake” or it might be a subdued “FAVORITE CAKE EVER!!!” (Probably not that last one, though, unless you’ve never had a cake made with butter. You can’t beat butter.)

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DECADENT TRIPLE-LAYER CHOCOLATE CAKE (Gluten- and Dairy-Free!)

Cake Layer (from Chocolate Covered Katie)

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour

1 tsp. baking soda

4 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. white vinegar

3/4 cup cold water

Mousse Layer (also from Chocolate Covered Katie)

12.3 oz silken or firm tofu (she recommends Mori-Nu silken-firm or lite for no aftertaste, but I couldn’t find that brand and it was fine. I also used 14 oz)

1 tsp. cocoa powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. almond milk (or soy)

scant 1/8 tsp. salt

1 bag (~10 oz) chocolate chips (read the labels to find a gluten- and dairy-free brand)

3+ tablespoons powdered sugar (I kept adding until I liked the consistency, so I probably ended up adding 1/2 cup or more)

Chocolate Ganache Top

1 bag chocolate chips (3/4 for melting, 1/4 for sprinkling over the top)

1/2 cup almond milk (or soy)

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Make the base cake layer:

1. Preheat oven to 355 F. Prepare an 8- or 9-inch cake pan by greasing and lining the bottom with parchment or wax paper (I used Crisco shortening to stay gluten- and dairy-free).

2. Stir together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar until well-mixed.

3. Add the vanilla extract, oil, vinegar, and water. Mix with a fork until just combined.

4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.

5. If your cake seems dry, combine about 3 tablespoons of hot water with 1 tablespoon of sugar and stir until almost dissolved. Poke small holes in the cake and spoon the sugar water over the entire surface. Be careful not to pour too much water in one place or it’ll get soggy!

Make the mousse:

1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for about 1 minute; stir until smooth.

2. Drain the tofu and add everything to a food processor (including the melted chocolate). Blend until incredibly smooth – no lumps!

3. Put in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before you try to spread it on top of the cake.

Assemble the cake:

1. Place your base cake layer (right-side up) on a cake plate.

2. Spread the mousse evenly onto the cake layer, being careful not to push it over the edges. Then, make a small, wide “well” in the middle of the mousse layer, basically building a small lake for your ganache to pool in. Put the cake in the refrigerator to firm up while you make the ganache.

3. Make the ganache by microwaving 3/4 bag of chocolate chips for 1 minutes, stirring until smooth, then adding 1/2 cup milk and stirring until smooth again (this will take some time and you’ll have to “press” them together between the back of your spoon and the bowl).

4. Let the ganache cool down for a few minutes, then remove cake and pour ganache on top. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips evenly over the top and gently press in so they stick. Store cake in the refrigerator until half an hour before you’re ready to eat. Enjoy this (almost healthy) cake!!

vegan gluten free chocolate cake side view

Sugar Cookie Heart Sandwiches (Chocolate-Dipped and Red Velvet Cake-Filled)

heart sandwich cookies

Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear friends!! I hope you feel loved and appreciated today. Even the snow was bitten by the love bug:

snow heart

Many people will try to tell you how Valentine’s Day is pointless, worthless, or silly. But I ask you: if we didn’t have Valentine’s Day, how could I get away with packing this much pink, white, & red and this many hearts & sprinkles into one sweet treat?!

heart sandwich cookies 4

People would think I was crazy or love-obsessed on any typical day for handing these out. But today it is perfectly acceptable to be a bit over-the-top. So I say, embrace the excuse to be ridiculous! Celebrate Valentine’s Day! Make these treats! Though you’ll want to thank me for this recipe, there is no need – I am sharing it with you because (1) it is Valentine’s Day and (2) this is my way of putting just a bit more love out into the world. Because these treats? These are love.

The basic layout: sugar cookie + red velvet cake with cream cheese filling + sugar cookie, edge-dipped in chocolate and topped with sprinkles. Each sandwich has one sugar cookie that’s white with a pink heart and one that’s pink with a white heart, so the sides are reverse mirror-images of each other, sort of like a sugar cookie ying yang metaphor for love. Yup.

A few people declared this their favorite treat that I’ve brought to lab so far. Which is mighty high praise indeed! If you haven’t been convinced up to this point, now I’ve got you: you should really want to make these. And they’re not too difficult! Promise. There are a lot of steps, yes, but it’s quite fun and the payoff is worth it in both appearance and taste. How could you go wrong with sugar cookies, cake, chocolate, and sprinkles? (You can’t.)

I pretty closely followed this Valentine’s Day Cookie Cake Pop recipe from Bakingdom. My changes came in the details: instead of stamping pictures and words on the cookies, I swapped heart cutouts. Instead of lining the edges with candy melts, I dipped the sides in chocolate so you can still see the red velvet filling (and to save time). Finally, I decided to make them little sandwiches instead of putting them on cake pop sticks. Just a few variations, but the general theme of love remains and the genius of combining cookies, cake, and candy belongs to Bakingdom. :)

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SUGAR COOKIES (from: Bakingdom)

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

5 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

red gel food coloring

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RED VELVET CAKE FILLING

1 box red velvet cake mix

required ingredients to make the cake (eggs, vegetable oil, water, etc.)

1 can (16 oz) cream cheese frosting

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TOPPINGS

2 bags (~12 oz each) chocolate chips (I used 1 white and 1 semi-sweet)

2 tsp. shortening (for white chocolate only)

Valentine’s-themed sprinkles!

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IMPORTANT SUPPLIES

1 large heart-shaped cookie cutter

1 mini heart-shaped cookie cutter

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Preparation (aka my Day 1):

1. Make cake according to instructions.

2. While the cake is in the oven, make the sugar cookie dough. In a medium bowl, whisk/stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl + hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well-combined after each egg, and then beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the dry mixture until everything is well-mixed; scrape the sides of the bowl regularly.

3. Remove half the dough and press into a fat, round disk. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

4. To the remaining dough, beat in red gel food coloring until you are satisfied with the color (keep it mind it will lighten slightly during baking). Press into a fat, round disk, cover with plastic wrap, and chill with the other dough.

4. When the cake is done, let it cool completely. If you are waiting overnight, cover with plastic wrap until you’re ready to use it.

Baking the cookies (aka my Day 2):

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with baking spray.

2. Roll each chilled dough disk out on a floured surface to a thickness of slightly less than 1/2-centimeter.

3. Using the large heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many hearts as you can from both the pink and white dough, pressing the dough scraps together until you can’t make any more cookies.

4. Using the mini heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out small hearts from every cookie. The small hearts should be offset inside the big hearts, on either the right or left side. Make an even number of right- and left-side cutouts for both the pink and white doughs. Swap hearts with the opposite colored dough and gently press the mini heart and the large heart together.

5. Gently transfer cookies to the lightly greased cookie sheet (use a spatula or they’ll fall apart!). Bake for 8-10 minutes, until you start to see any edges turn slightly brown. (Watch these like a hawk: they’ll turn crispy really, really fast. Ideally, you want to catch them right before they brown.)

6. Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Assembly (aka my Day 2 continued; could be a Day 3):

1. Match up cookies of opposite color so that when they’re back-to-back, the mini hearts are touching. Do your best to pair up similarly shaped cookies.

2. In a large bowl, crumble the cake and stir in the frosting until very well-mixed.

3. For each cookie pair, place 1.5-2 tablespoons of the cake mixture onto the bottom side of one of the cookies. Gently press the dough until it fills the whole cookie evenly, then top with the other cookie and gently sandwich together.

4. Chill the sandwiches in the refrigerator for half an hour or freezer for 15 minutes.

5. Pour 1 bag of chocolate chips into a bowl and microwave for 1.5 minutes. Stir together until all the chips are melted. (For white chocolate chips, add 2 teaspoons of shortening immediately after microwaving to thin it out.)

6. Dip in chocolate the side of the sandwiches that does not have the mini heart cutout. Using a spoon or the side of the bowl, gently scrape off excess chocolate. Make some sandwiches with the pink side face-up and others with the white side face-up. Set on wax paper to harden and decorate with Valentine’s Day sprinkles.

7. When half of the sandwiches have been dipped, repeat steps 5 & 6 with the other bag of chocolate chips.

8. Do not store or stack until the chocolate has set; you may have to let them harden overnight.

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I recognize that this recipe has a LOT of steps, but it’s really not too difficult. You can do it! And they’re so, so good. Seriously: make these. You won’t regret it!

heart sandwich cookies 3

Also, did you notice how gorgeous these photos are? Robin and Ruby (two amazing people in my department) both told me that my photos had a lot of room for improvement (apparently iPhone photos aren’t good enough for them…). To help me step up my game, they both volunteered to share photography duty. So today, Robin conducted a mini modeling session complete with fancy lighting and a studio box and everything. My little babies, all grown up and turned into supermodels! Expect better photos from now on, folks: I’ve made it to the big leagues. I’ve got PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS!!

heart sandwich cookies 2

Heart-Filled Cupcakes

heart cupcakesValentine’s Day is almost here! It should come as no surprise that I am quite fond of this holiday. Not the processed, packaged, generic, store-sold Valentine’s Day stuff… well, except for those cards that kids pass out. I have a weak spot for those. They’re just so cute and silly, and remind me of being a kid. And some of them have stickers or holograms! So, so cool. But aside from those, I don’t like the Valentine’s Day that stores try to push on you. What I do absolutely adore is everyone dressed in pinks, reds, and whites. I’m smitten with all the hearts, hugs, smiles, songs, and handmade cards. And I truly treasure the celebration of friendship, appreciation, and love. What’s not to love about all of that?! Add the chance to make super cute, heart-themed treats and this becomes a holiday worth celebrating!

Ever since Katie sent me Megan Seling’s book, Bake it in a Cupcake, for my birthday, I’ve been obsessed with the heart-filled cupcakes that grace the cover. I’ve waited three months now for Valentine’s Day to come just so I could make these, and I’m so glad I did – they are adorable! You have to cut into them just right in order to see the heart, but the wonderful surprise of seeing a heart inside your cupcake never gets old and makes it 100% worth the effort.

You’ll need a small heart-shaped cookie cutter for this recipe. For me, this proved to be surprisingly difficult to find. After visiting numerous stores without luck, I finally ended up asking one of my labmates to help me make a cookie cutter in the lab’s machine shop. He is really talented and has made all sorts of utensils and whatnot, so I figured he would be up for the challenge. I wasn’t wrong! Check out this awesome, handmade cookie cutter he made for me:

cookie cutter

Impressive, right?! He said he’s going to make an octopus next, so keep an eye out for some crazy cookies… ha!

The one downside to these cupcakes is that despite all their visual bravado, they are a bit on the bland side. I think the strawberry frosting included in the recipe would remedy this, but since I strongly dislike artificial strawberry flavoring and I am the baker, I decided to go with a buttercream frosting (which could also easily be tinted pink). I think next time I would make the hearts white and bake them into a red velvet cupcake, or keep the hearts pink/red and bake them into a chocolate cupcake. Don’t get me wrong – these are still very good, and their cuteness quota is off the charts, but I’m a chocolate loyalist at heart. Try whatever sounds best to you!

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Megan has posted the recipe on her blog so follow this link to make the cupcakes: Pink Heart-Filled Cupcakes. Because I dislike artificial strawberry flavor, I topped them with this fluffy frosting recipe from Cooking Classy.

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A few hints:

1.Vanilla beans are great but expensive; 1.5-2 tsp. vanilla extract can be used as a substitute.

2. When you’re cooking the small pink/red cake for the hearts, put the rest of the batter in the refrigerator. Do not leave it on the counter! I made two batches, and the first batch I didn’t refrigerate the batter (it doesn’t say to in the recipe) and half of the hearts floated to the top of the cupcakes during baking. Oops. The second time around, I refrigerated the batter and didn’t have any issues getting the hearts to stay upright in the batter. Much better. Learn from my mistake and you’ll save yourself the heartache of a bunch of cupcakes with rotated hearts!

3. On that note, once the small pink/red cake is done baking, pop it in the refrigerator/freezer for a few minutes to cool it down asap. The longer you wait, the “flatter” your batter in the refrigerator is going to get and the denser your final cupcakes will be.

4. These cupcakes won’t rise too much, but if you fill up the cupcake liners more than 4/5-ths full or so, the batter will run over the edges and cement the liner to the cupcake tray. I lost a cupcake that way: trying to pry it loose from tray, I ripped the cupcake in half. You win some, you learn some. On the upside, I got to do some quality assurance, so I can’t complain too much!

5. She provides a single baking time (20 for the small cake, 24 for the cupcakes) but you should start testing your treats earlier. Mine were done at 19 and 22 minutes; if you don’t know how your oven behaves, then just keep an eye on your cupcakes to make sure you don’t over-bake them.

6. For the buttercream frosting, use gel food coloring to dye it pink/red. Gel food coloring doesn’t affect the consistency like liquid food coloring does, and it gives the frosting a nice vibrant color. Since I made 24 cupcakes (2 batches), I frosted 8 with plain white frosting. Then I added some red food coloring to the remaining frosting and beat it until the frosting was light pink, and used that to decorate 8 more cupcakes. For the remaining cupcakes, I adding additional food coloring to the frosting and brought it to a darker pink color. The three shades of frosting looked quite cute sitting together on the cupcake tray!

heart cropped

Joyeuse Saint-Valentin! I hope you spread and receive lots of love this week!

Chocolate Mint Hearts

chocolate mint hearts

In case you don’t have a bunch of friends posting pictures of the recent blizzard that attacked New England, let me bring you up to speed: Nemo found us. He left piles and piles and piles of snow EVERYWHERE. It’s a winter wonderland out there! It’s gorgeous and fairytale-like, perfect for playing and exploring and gawking at the whiteness that covers absolutely everything. That said, something about bundled up people treading slowly down the center of car-less streets (the cars are all completely covered in snow, not to mention there was a travel ban) with huge mountains of snow everywhere lends a bit of an eerie, post-apocalytpic vibe to the wonder. It’s a strange world, my friends, and a bit disconcerting in all its magnificence. What better way to bring back some normalcy than with homemade treats?

I knew I wanted to use powdered sugar in honor of the blizzard. With Valentine’s Day coming up, the heart sprinkles were a natural choice. My labmate is a wizard in the machine shop and helped me make a small heart-shaped cookie cutter last week. (Translation: he made it, I hovered around taking up space. More on that later, since the cookie cutter is actually for an upcoming project you’ll hear about soon!) Finally, I had a box of Junior Mints from Christmas that were begging to be used in some way. Some searching later, I found this Food.com recipe that looked perfect for adapting. Thus, meet these darling treats! These would be oh so cute in little cellophane bags tied up with cute pink, red, and white ribbons to give away to friends for Valentine’s Day. These hearts are somewhere between a cookie and a brownie, come in a sweet bite-sized heart shape, pack a delicious minty chocolate punch, and, according to my friend, “could put Girl Scout Thin Mints out of business.” I don’t know if I’d go that far (don’t kill me, Thin Mint fanatics!), but these are very addicting. And the best part is how easy they are to make!

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CHOCOLATE MINT HEARTS

2 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 package (~4oz) Junior Mints

Heart sprinkles

~1/2 cup powdered sugar

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1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray that has edges/walls (about 12×15×1-inch) with parchment paper, so that the parchment paper goes up over the edges. Do not a use flat sheet; if you don’t have a walled baking tray, use a pan or something else with walls (you might have to divide the batter between pans).

2. Stir/whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together well. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, vegetable oil, and sugar together until soft and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs individually, beating well after each one. Beat in the vanilla extract.

5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet one, beating in small scoops at a time. The mixture will be fairly thick.

6. Add the Junior Mints and beat a few times so the mixer crushes up the mints and mixes them throughout the batter.

7. Spread onto the baking tray. Press the dough into a flat rectangle, leaving about a 1-inch clearance to the edges of the tray. Spread heart-shaped sprinkles all over the top and press them gently into the batter so they stick. Bake for about 16 minutes, then remove and cool on the tray.

8. When the dough is cooled, use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many cookies as you can. (Oh darn, look at all those leftover pieces… You know what to do. Grab a glass of milk and you’re good to go!) Lightly dust with powdered sugar. Voilà! So cute!

NOTE: If you don’t have a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, or if you want to make something else, any cookie cutter shape would work. You could even cut them up into squares to save time. Similarly, you could use any kind of sprinkles, so these could be decorated for different holidays or just everyday fun. Have fun playing around with these!

Happy Face Cookies (Nutella-Stuffed Peanut Butter Oatmeal)

Happy Face Nutella Cookies

Many things make me smile. Using my boots to make a giant heart in a field of freshly-fallen snow. Getting to know the bus driver through weekly morning commute conversations. Hallway high-fives. Discovering simple fixes to potentially time-consuming problems with the field instruments. Recognizing your friend’s handwriting on a letter in the mail. Carpool karaoke. Skype dates with best friends and phone calls home.

And these cookies, which smile right back at you. And have crunchy peanut butter oatmeal edges and soft centers. And are filled with a creamy, delicious layer of Nutella. Yes indeed, these cookies are something to smile about!

I adapted this recipe ever-so-slightly from Not Your Momma’s Cookie. I added extra butter to avoid buying shortening (we’re only in this house for a little while and wouldn’t use it all). Also, because the batter seemed too wet/weak and knowing that the butter-for-shortening substitution would make the cookies spread more, I added an extra 1/4 cup oats to boost structural support. The balance between the oatmeal, peanut butter, Nutella, and a few chocolate chips is perfect. Make these; they’re a little bit of work but nothing too crazy, and the payoff is well worth it. Trust me, one bite is all you need to fall in love with these sweet faces!

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HAPPY FACE COOKIES (NUTELLA-STUFFED PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL)

¾ cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened (or: 1/4 cup butter + 1/4 cup shortening)

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

⅔ cup peanut butter (any kind; I used chunky)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup quick cooking oats

½-1 cup Nutella

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1. Cover a cookie sheet/pan/large flat plate with parchment or wax paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop 25 balls of Nutella onto the paper. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter. Add the egg and vanilla; stir until combined. Add the dry mixture in thirds, stirring just until incorporated each time. Gently stir in the oats.

5. Take about a quarter-sized scoop of dough and flatten it into a mini pancake in your palm. Place a frozen Nutella drop into the center and fold the edges of the batter up around the Nutella until no Nutella is exposed. Gently shape into smooth, slightly flattened balls. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

6. Press in chocolate chips in the shape of a happy face. Since these cookies will spread quite a bit, put the smile’s chips right next to each other and the eye’s chips far away from the smile.

7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from the pan to cool. The chocolate chips will stay soft for a while, so wait a few hours for them to harden before you try to store these or you’ll mess up all the faces!

Nutella drops need to be in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before you try to use them. You'll have to keep re-freezing them, because they soften quickly.

The Nutella drops need to be in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before you try to use them or they’ll get all over your fingers. Right after you take them out of the oven, pop them off the paper. Then when you’re assembling the cookies, it’ll be easy to pick up a drop instead of trying to pop one off every time. You’ll have to keep re-freezing them, too, because they soften and start making a mess quickly.

The chips for the smile need to be as close together as possible because the cookies spread in the oven. Try to keep the eyes distinctly separate, too, or when the cookies spread you won't get a clear happy face.

The chips for the smile need to be as close together as possible because the cookies spread in the oven. Try to keep the eyes distinctly separate, too, or when the cookies spread you won’t get a clear happy face. (Side note: aren’t they just the cutest?! I practically want to hug them!!)

SMILE!

Look at how happy they are! I bet it’s the secret Nutella layer inside. That would make anyone grin!

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookies copy

Field campaigns require nourishment. Seeing as we are currently residing in a cute Cape Cod house with a rather well-stocked kitchen, clearly we needed to get baking. What better than these Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies from Picky Palate? Not much, my friend, not much.

Although these field site views aren’t too bad, either.

site

site2

Oh, and let’s not forget…

ocean

But then again, can anything really compete with this?

cookies and milk

Follow the link above for Picky Palate’s instructions. She does such a great job, you don’t need me to recap them here. But you do need these. Get baking!! Also, a hint: for ones that you don’t eat fresh out of the oven, pop them in the microwave for about 20 seconds to get them warm and gooey again!