Top 10 of 2014!

It’s cliché, but it is hard to believe another year is over.  I’m happy to say I met my goal and did a lot more baking this year than last year.  This year I tried many new things.  There were some amazing results and some horrendous flops!  I like to post about them all, because not everything turns out and that’s ok, frustrating, but ok.

Here are what I think to be my best of 2014 as well as a few honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

I have 2 honorable mentions this year.  The first being, I was a judge at a Butter Tart Taste off!  It was an amazing day and I was so honored to be part of it.

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Second honorable mention is for my favourite cake this year.  I really liked how the Camera Cake turned out

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Here is a list of what I picked as my favourites of 2014

10.   S’mores Cups

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These little delights are so easy and very so tasty.  I first had S’mores Cups at the Relay for Life.  One of our team members brought them and I was hooked.  I searched the recipe and made them as soon as possible.  I am not a fan of real S’mores, but these are great!

9. Snickers Popcorn

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This is something I wasn’t entirely sure I would like.  Amy and I were having a baking day, cheesecake was our main delight of the day.  We needed something that didn’t need to be cooked for a family dessert.  Amy picked Snickers Popcorn. Unreal!  It was delicious, and so addicting!  I could not stop. 3 days later when the humidity had got to it I was still wolfing it into me. Excellent and will make again!  It always helps to have someone else to bring you out of your baking comfort zone.  I would have never tried this, but love it!  Thanks Amy!

8. Toffee Cheesecake

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This Toffee Cheesecake was made with the toffee candy I make, kinda like a Skor bar.  This was really good.  I’d definitely make this one again.

7.  Strawberry Pie

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I am starting to get the hang of this pie thing, my crust is improving.  This was my first Strawberry Pie.  It was good.  It got rave reviews from the pie fans of the family, and I admit, I liked it too.

6. OCC #6

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I have been slacking on my Oatmeal Cookie Challenge.  I have been searching for a very long time for ‘my favourite’ cookie. This Oatmeal Cookie is definitely in the running.  It has a great texture, holds its height and had great flavour. The best part? This recipe makes one cookie! Give it a try.

5. Cherry Pie

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This pie was amazing! Hard to believe 2 pies made the list this year.  I’d say this was the perfect Cherry Pie. Hope I can duplicated it next year.

4. Pumpkin Cake

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I am not normally a fan of pumpkin stuff but this Pumpkin Cake was good!  What made it was the cinnamon cream cheese icing. Amazing combination.  It was a huge hit at Thanksgiving.

3. Toffee Chocolate Bars

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These were amazing! I found these Toffee Chocolate Bars on Pinterest.  The picture caught my eye and I knew I had to make it.  They were a huge success.  I loved them.  The gooey middle layer was fantastic and I loved the sugary base.  Definitely worth a try.

2. Pecan Pie Cheesecake

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This Pecan Pie Cheesecake was by far the best Cheesecake I have ever made! The sweet pecan filling went perfect with the creamy cheesecake top.  This got rave reviews and topped everyone’s list as their favourite cheesecake.  You must try it!

1. Christmas Pudding with White Sauce

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Even though I just made this a few days ago, it was by far the best thing I made this year.  Not only was the Christmas Pudding absolutely delicious, but it brought back a family tradition that I can to carry on for many years to come.

I hope everyone had a great year and here’s to a wonderful 2015 filled with many delicious sweet treats!

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Challenge #6

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I have not posted in over a month!  Honestly, I have been baking, but they have been repeats, so I have not been posting.  I need to get back on track!

Lately I have been craving some cookies, homemade chocolate chip cookies.  When I went back to see what number I was on in the CCCC, I was shocked to see that I had not tried a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in over a year!!! I guess with my new love of biscotti and also trying to find the perfect Oatmeal Cookie, the CCCC got the back burner.  Time to get back on track!

I found this recipe at The Pinning Mama, it was the picture that did it for me.  I eat with my eyes first and this one pulled me right in.

 {Copycat} Panera Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c butter, softened
1/2 c shortening
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Mix butter, shortening and sugars until light and fluffy.

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2. Add egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.

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3. Combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and mix together.

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4. Mix dry ingredients slowly into wet ingredients and blend well.
If the dough is crumbly, stir in water 1 teaspoon at a time until it just holds together. The dough should not be sticky.

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5. Add in chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

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6. Using ¼ cup measure, scoop out dough and form into a ball. Continue until all dough is formed.

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I got 21

 

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7. Place dough in the freezer for 2 hours or up to 3 months. (I froze mine on the cookie sheet before putting them in the baggie)

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8.  Place frozen cookie onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 min.  I only took 3 out to bake, which is a nice bonus to this recipe!

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Let cool 2 minutes.

 

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I love that they kept their big thick shape and did not fall as they cooled

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Look at the size of these things!!

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Look at the inside! Looks heavenly!

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As amazing as these look, I was not a huge fan.  They were ok, (don’t get me wrong I have eaten many) but had a very odd texture, maybe from the corn starch?  I can’t even describe the texture, just seemed odd, not like any cookie I have had, and I wasn’t big on it.  I think I will try them again, without the cornstarch and see if that makes a difference

Thank you Pinning Mama for the recipe!

OCC #5

 

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It is Family Day long weekend here in Ontario, what better way to spend it than baking! As I was unimpressed with my last attempt in the OCC I decided I needed to try again.  This time I went with Ina Garten’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies.  I can remember watching her cooking show, The Barefoot Contessa, on the Food Network.  She always had such amazing looking food and desserts!  I have made a few others things of hers and they were all successes, so I had high hopes for these cookies.

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
2 heaping cups of Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

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3. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

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4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a medium bowl.

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5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.

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6. Add the oat and chocolate chips

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7. Mix until just combine

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8. Using a small scoop or a tablespoon drop dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand.

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9. Bake until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

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These were good!  They had great flavour and did not fall when they cooled.  I substitute the raisins with chocolate chips so I omitted the cinnamon.  The true flavour of the oatmeal was wonderful.  The outside had a slight crunch but the inside was soft and chewy.  I do think I over baked them slightly, next time I would bake them a few minutes less.

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They were a huge hit! Everyone loved them! I even made ‘smaller’ ones to please everyone – those weirdos who say my cookies are too big!

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Thick and chewy and delicious!

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These are definitely a runner-up….

Thank you Ina!

OCC #4

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As promised, more baking in the new year!  I have revisited my OCC (Oatmeal Cookie Challenge) as I have yet to find my favourite.

I found this recipe at Give a Blonde a Kitchen.  They looked delicious so I thought I would give them a try!

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)*

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

2. Melt butter and let cool slightly.

3. While butter is cooling, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

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4. In a medium bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

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5. Beat in vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.

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Scrape down sides when necessary.

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6. Gradually add the flour oat mixture and mix until just blended.

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7. Stir in the raisins and nuts.

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8. Scoop about ¼ cup of dough and form into balls.

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Bake for 14-16 minutes.  The edges will look lightly browned and the centers soft.  Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes  and then transfer to a cooling rack.

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I thought these cookies were ok.  I liked the flavour, but I found them to be quite dry.  They did not spread at all.  I’m all about a thick cookie, but these were still ‘ball shaped’. Everyone else said they really liked them, but to me they were just ok.  I won’t make them again.

The search continues….

Peanut Butter Cookies

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For this weeks treat for work I went with Peanut Butter Cookies.  I have never made ‘real’ peanut butter cookies before, I have made the 3 ingredient Kraft ones, but not the real thing.  I found a couple recipes that looked really good.  I picked this recipe because I had all the ingredients.  This recipe is from Arctic Studio Garden.  The name of this one caught my attention, Bake Shoppe Peanut Butter Cookies.  I did make an addition of chocolate chips!

Bake Shoppe Peanut Butter Cookies

Adapted from Arctic Studio Garden

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

Directions:

**NOTE: Dough should chill for 3 hours before baking

1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and set aside.

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2. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy (this should take about 5 minutes on medium speed).

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3. Scrape down the edges of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until thoroughly incorporated, about 3 minutes.

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4. Beat in the peanut butter, both creamy and crunchy until thoroughly combined. (I only had creamy, so I just used 1 3/4 cup if it)

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5. Slowly add dry ingredients with the mixer on low-speed. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined, but be careful not to over mix. As soon as the dry ingredients are incorporated, turn off the mixer.

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*5b. I added chocolate chips, mix on lowest speed to combine.

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6. Scoop the dough into a covered container and refrigerate for about 3 hours before baking the cookies.

Really wish I had noticed this part of the recipe when skimming over the ingredients.  I did not start making them until 6 pm.  Needless to say, these did get refrigerated for 3 hours, only about 1.5 hours.

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7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

8. Line the top cookie sheet with parchment and drop the dough in 1/4 cup balls onto the baking sheet. Space about three inches apart.

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9. Flatten each ball slightly and use a fork to give it the criss cross pattern.

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10. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Let them sit on the baking sheet to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

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Look at the size of these cookies, they more than doubled in size!

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They look delicious!

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These were pretty good.  I am not a huge fan of peanut butter cookies.  It’s not that I don’t like them, I just would prefer a chocolate chip or an oatmeal cookie.  The texture was not as I was expecting.  The only peanut butter cookies I have had were all soft, these were different.  These cookies had a bit of a crunch to them.  The outside had a crisp shell and the centre was a little more soft.  I would say they are comparable to some chocolate chip cookies. They were also not very sweet, maybe this is why I was not a huge fan.  When I think cookie I want a sweet treat!  I will make these again, they were a hit.  Although, I will make them smaller, I was not expecting them to get that big!

Macaroons

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Until a few years ago these little delights were the only thing I knew as a macaroon.  They are not pretty, but they are delicious!  I have since learned that Macarons are meringue based, filled cookies, which I attempted (and failed) for a Daring Bakers Challenge back in October 2009.  I have since had this type of macaron, that were properly made by a bakery and I was not a fan.  I much prefer my kind.

As I have mentioned many, many times my Mom is not a baker, but at Christmas she did try.  These macaroons were another Christmas staple at our house.  They are simple, require no baking and are delicious!  Last Christmas I went looking for the ‘go to’ macaroon recipe “Meg’s Macaroons” a recipe my Mom got from her cousin years ago, and it wasn’t there!  I started to panic a little (ok a lot).  The recipe was hand written, in pencil, on lined paper with many splashes of chocolate and coconut dust. I could picture it exactly, but could not find it.  I flipped though my baking book 4 times, and even had my Mom look, because Mom’s can find anything!  It’s GONE!   I think when I did over my recipe folder into my baking book it my have accidentally been thrown out 😦  After a minor meltdown I headed to the internet to find the recipe.  I found thousands of recipes for macaroons, most of them were called Haystacks, Cow Plops or No Bake Brownies, they looked similar to ours but none were right.  I tried several and they were not even close.   After much begging and complaining Mom finally contacted her cousin and asked if she still had the recipe.  She said she did not, but knew where she could get it.  I was thrilled!  Weeks passed by, as did Christmas, but we finally got a copy of “Meg’s Macaroons”.  Meg turned out to be a friend of a friend of a cousin.  After all that work (none of which I was involved in) this recipe is staying a secret, just pictures for this one, sorry 😉

Meg’s Macroons in Pictures

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There just never seems to be enough room on the pan for ALL of the warm mixture, such a shame!  This is my favourite part, I like to eat the ‘extras’, warm, right out of the bowl with a spoon, YUM!

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They were perfect!  Just as I remembered and everyone loved them.  I took a huge container to work and they were gone very quickly.  I am so thankful I was able to get this recipe back, I will be much more careful with this one.  Thank you Mom and everyone who helped track it down.

Oatmeal Cookie Challenge #2

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Giant oatmeal cookies!  One of the biggest complaints I get when I make cookies is “They are too big!”.  Now, I have had a lot, and I mean a lot of cookies in my day and never, ever have I said, “man, this cookie is just too big!” To me there is nothing better than a giant, thick and chewy cookie, especially oatmeal or chocolate chip (hence the OCC and CCCC). There are many reasons I prefer a giant cookie, for one, they usually have a nice golden, crisp edge with a chewy soft centre AND you can say, well I only had one! 😉

It has been a while (3 months!) since I have made a cookie for the OCC.  I have still been looking for recipes just haven’t been baking as much, it has been hot, humid and yucky here, not really baking weather.  Now that the summer is winding down, only 2 more days until I head back to work after summer holidays, I decided I needed to make an end of summer treat.  I went with oatmeal cookies because I had a ton of oatmeal in the cupboard that needed to get used up.

I came across this recipe on Pinterest which lead me to Si’s Bountiful Kitchen, well worth a stop by, she has some amazing recipes!

Giant Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from A Bountiful Kitchen
2 cups butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups quick oats*
2 cups chocolate chips or raisins

*I used old fashioned oats

Directions:

1. The day before ( yes you read that right, the day before, plan ahead when making these cookies)or several hours before baking:
Cream butter and sugars.

**tip on quickly getting butter to room temperature – slice thinly, takes very little time at all, especially in this hot weather**

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2. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until no longer grainy. About 3 minutes.

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3. Combine all dry ingredients in bowl.

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**at this point I realize I have a problem, all that dry is NOT going to fit into the mixer bowl!  Had to do some bowl switching**

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This will work much better…

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4. In 3 additions stir into the butter mixture . Do not over mix. Blend just until wet and dry ingredients are combined, You may also mix by hand to prevent over-mixing.

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5. Fold in chocolate chips.

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I also took some dough in a small bowl and added some raisins

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6. Scoop dough onto a large pan, using a 2-3 inch cookie or ice cream scoop. To please those ‘big cookie haters’ I also make both kind of cookies in a smaller scoop.

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7. Cover pan with Saran wrap and place in refrigerator overnight or for at least 2 hours…and now I wait…..

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***18 long hours later, after a good sleep and a run (I don’t feel as guilty eating the cookies now that I have started running 🙂 )***
9. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°F

10. Place dough onto cookie sheets, no more than 6 cookies per pan. Slightly flatten top of cookie with spatula or palm of your hand. (I flattened some and left some just as balls, mostly because I forgot to flatten them)

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The ones I forgot to flatten

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11. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cookies cool completely on baking sheet. **In my oven 8-10 was not quite enough, they were still raw, even though I like a slightly undercooked cookie.  Worked best 12 minutes for the small ones and 15 for the big ones**

Flattened

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Not flattened

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Size comparison for the fussy small cookie lovers

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So far so good, they did not fall like a lot of other ‘thick’ cookies I have made

Check out the centre of that cookie!!! (Keep in mind I could not wait until it cooled, this is right out of the even and has not completely set)

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The flattened version

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These cookies were good.  Everyone said they loved them.  Even my Uncle who ‘doesn’t eat sweets’ ate 2 and took a bunch home!  I love how they stayed nice and thick without falling as they cooled.  The texture was excellent, they stayed nice and chewy inside and had a slight crunch around the outside.  Both versions were great, but I think my favourite was the oatmeal raisin ones.  I do have to add that even the ‘small cookies’ were complained about being a ‘whole meal’ they were still too big! I give up, have a half a cookie lol.

The cookies were good, but not my favaourite yet!  I loved the size and how they kept their shape but I think they were lacking in flavour.  I will try them again with a few of my own adjustments.  Now, in saying that, it didn’t stop me from eating them, I wont admit how many I had!!!

Thanks for a great recipe Si