Category Archives: Cookies

Mother Rucker’s Peppermint Cookie Brittle

Black Friday is ignored at our house.  There is nothing I want or need badly enough to engage in the shopping madness that seems to begin earlier and earlier each year.  Instead, I usually take advantage of the long Thanksgiving weekend to get the Christmas decorations up, and browse magazines and cookbooks for holiday menu ideas.  I usually end up with enough options to bake 24/7 from December 1 to Christmas Eve!  After several years of too many late nights in the kitchen trying to make just one more batch of cookies or dipping 300 coconut bonbons in chocolate, I’ve learned to scale back a bit.  Maybe more than a bit.

Thankfully, there many great artisan and gourmet foods available to help round out holiday tables or fill gift lists.  The possibilities seem endless from savory to sweet at price points suitable for any budget.  The food producers further tempt us with holiday gift baskets and seasonal flavors. We shared Mother Rucker’s Cinnamon Cookie Brittle with you a while back because it knocked us out with its delicate spicy crunch.  When we saw the holiday flavors Mother Rucker had baked up, we were all in.  It was hard to choose from cocoa, eggnog, gingerbread and peppermint flavors, but peppermint won out.  This cookie should definitely be on your shopping list.  It has the same delectable crispness that we enjoyed in the cinnamon flavored cookie brittle, the peppermint and rich butter flavors are perfectly blended, and the glittering crunchy sugar on top is totally in sync with the sparkle of the season.  The cookies were superb with a cup of hot chocolate!

Based on our taste tests of cinnamon and peppermint cookie brittle, it’s hard to imagine you could go wrong with any of Mother Rucker’s cookie brittle flavors, and it would be a shame to miss the special seasonal cookies.  We found them at Central Market, but you can order them directly from Mother Rucker’s website.

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Ghirardelli Triple Fudge Brownies

Karen’s mom makes some of the most awesome homemade frosted brownies ever, and I love them.  In spite of lots of attempts, I’ve never found my own homemade brownie recipe that delivers really deep fudge chewiness.  When I discovered Ghirardelli brownie mixes, I decided to stop looking for that elusive homemade recipe.  The tagline on the Ghirardelli brownie box says “Better Chocolate.  Better Brownies.”  And that, friends, is the truth.

There probably isn’t anyone who hasn’t heard of Ghirardelli (Gear-ar-delly) Chocolate.  Italian Domingo Ghirardelli came to the United States in 1849, hoping to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush.  When his gold mining attempts failed, he began selling supplies and confections to the miners from a tent.  That enterprise was successful, so he opened a store and hotel in San Francisco.  A devastating fire destroyed his businesses and in 1852, he restarted his career in a candy company that would become Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.  More than 160 years later, Ghirardelli is America’s longest continuously operating chocolate manufacturer.  The company is very selective about the cocoa beans they process; they roast the beans themselves, and have a proprietary system of processing the roasted beans to deliver smooth, complex chocolate taste.  No doubt, their chocolate candies are decadently delicious, but I love their baking products even more.

The Triple Fudge Brownie mix combines cocoa, chocolate chips and liquid fudge for a deep, super-rich, chocolate fudge taste.  These brownies are a stand-out on their own, but I like to top them with chocolate orange buttercream frosting.  I haven’t convinced Karen to try them, as she is not a fan of chocolate-orange combinations, but everyone else has given them rave reviews.  Finding a good chocolate buttercream frosting recipe proved to be more challenging than I would have guessed.  Since the name of the frosting is “buttercream”, I’m wondering why so many recipes call for shortening, milk or water instead of butter and cream?  I adapted a recipe from, adding an orange essential oil which produces intense orange flavor.  I’m sure orange extract could be used to your personal taste.

Triple Fudge Brownies with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream Frosting


1-19 oz box Ghirardelli Triple Fudge Brownie Mix

Mix and bake brownies as directed for an 8″ x 8″ pan.  Remove brownies from oven and immediately cover with foil.  (My mom recently told me about this trick, which keeps the brownies moist and prevents the outer edges from forming a hard crust.  Pretty amazing.)  Let brownies cool completely.


3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

4-5 tablespoons heavy cream (more or less)

1 teaspoon Sonoma Syrup Vanilla Bean Extract “Crush”

3 drops orange essential oil

Beat butter in a small bowl until creamy.  Add sugar and cocoa, mixing well.  Stir in cream a tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition, until frosting is creamy and spreadable.  Add vanilla and orange essential oil.  Spread over cooled brownies.  Cut into 16 squares and store at room temperature.

Ghirardelli baking products are widely available, but there are some nice gift box selections on their website.

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Tate’s Bake Shop White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

Kathleen King began her professional baking career at age 11, selling her chocolate chip cookies from a card table on her parent’s farm. By the time she was 21, she had her own bake shop in Southampton, New York.  Kathleen’s focus is on traditional American desserts using recipes with natural ingredients.  Her bake shop, named for her father, is a favorite with tourists and locals alike.  Kathleen not only shares her baked goodies, but recipes in her cookbook, Baking for Friends.

So right about now, you are saying “what about the cookies?”  In a word, delicious!  I admit that I’m a soft, chewy cookie fan.  Yet, Kathleen won me over with crisp, very thin cookies.  They really do melt in your mouth.  They are buttery rich, with loads of white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts throughout.  I had to try a couple, just to be absolutely sure that first wonderful cookie wasn’t an isolated case.  I may keep testing…there are still cookies in the package!

Tate’s Bake Shop has a very user-friendly website where you can order goodies by flavor, by product, by occasion or by price.  Not only can you order cookies, but also pies, breakfast breads and bar cookies.  There is also a selection of gluten-free treats.  Be sure to check out the beautiful holiday gift packages!  While we might not be able to get to Southampton to visit Tate’s quaint bakery, we can certainly enjoy the bounty of Kathleen King’s baked goods.


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Cheryl’s Cookies

I’ve had a couple of occasions to order bouquets from 1-800-flowers this year, and I’ve been tempted to add a sweet treat to go along with the flowers. I’ve also had a couple of occasions when I’ve received mail-order sweets that were less than exciting, so I wasn’t sure about sending something sight unseen, or in this case taste untested.    What to do?  Research and tasting, of course!  Cheryl’s Cookies is part of the 1-800-flowers brand family, but has artisan roots.  Success takes many forms for food artisans.  Some revel in maintaining personal relationships with their customers, making their products in small batches, and retaining a high level of personal control over their business.  Others, by plan or providence, grow their businesses to the point where they bring on partners, merge or are bought out by other companies.  Cheryl’s falls into the latter category.

College roommates Cheryl Krueger and Caryl Walker opened Cheryl’s Cookies in Columbus, Ohio in 1981 in a small storefront with six cookie flavors.  The business grew and the product line expanded to include fancy cut-out cookies with Cheryl’s buttercream frosting, brownies and cakes.  In 2005, Cheryl & Co. became part of the 1-800-flowers brand, while still maintaining their own retail outlets, internet business, and a business gifts division.

Cheryl’s website offers a nice variety of of cookie collections for many occasions.  We created our own box with buttercream frosted, chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, sugar, and oatmeal raisin cookies.  All were good, but the buttercreams were far and away our favorites, with great texture and very tasty frosting.  We love Cheryl’s cookie club with 6 deliveries per year to the recipient of your choice (or yourself).  The cookies are individually wrapped and sealed to retain freshness.  They have a fall collection of gift boxes and tins available now.  You can add your own decorating panache to Cheryl’s cookies by ordering ready-to-frost holiday cut-out cookies and a tub of vanilla, cinnamon, or mint buttercream frosting.   Be sure to check out their $5 cookie greetings, a single cookie in a gift box sent with your personal message.  A huge red, white and blue salute to Cheryl’s for offering free shipping to APO and FPO addresses!

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Immaculate Baking Co. Gingerbread Spice Cookies

Now that it is fall, and less than 95° in the shade here in Texas, I’ve been craving the classic fall spices: ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.  During an emergency run to the grocery store this week, I saw Immaculate Baking Co.’s Gingerbread Spice Cookies in the refrigerator case.  Ready-to-bake refrigerated cookie dough is generally not on my list of desirable desserts, but Immaculate Baking Co.’s “all natural”claim piqued my interest.  The ingredient list sealed the deal:  unbleached flour, brown sugar, molasses, whole eggs, spices, and none I couldn’t pronounce!

Warm cookies for dessert sounded really good, so as I finished up dinner preparation, I preheated the oven.  When I opened the package, I found a small bag of coarse sugar for topping the cookies.  Very nice touch!  The gingerbread aroma soon filled the kitchen, they baked up beautifully, and the taste really exceeded my expectations for refrigerated cookie dough.  In fact, Allen and I both thought they rivaled homemade cookies.  We loved that we could bake them exactly to our preference (soft and chewy), and bake only as many as we wanted to eat while they warm.

Scott Blackwell’s love for baking was inspired at age seven when he saw the movie, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.  He paid for his college education by baking pies, then became one of the first Ben & Jerry’s ice cream franchisees.  His next venture was operating his own restaurant, followed by a coffee and cookie business run from his garage.  He was still headquartered there when he received an order from Williams-Sonoma.  He has since moved on to bigger and better facilities!

Scott’s love for baking seems equally matched by his love for Southern folk art.  He is an ardent supporter of folk artists, featuring some of their works on Immaculate packaging.  Various artists are featured on his website.  Immaculate has also partnered with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for pediatric cancer research, and encourages groups to organize bake sales for this very worthy cause.

Immaculate’s product line includes a variety of natural and organic cookie dough flavors, gluten-free cookie dough, scones, pie crusts, crescent rolls, sweet rolls and biscuits.  You can search for a retailer near you on their website, or order online.  Try these great “cookies with a cause” soon!


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Janis & Melanie Key Lime Cookies

Jamie Parham founded J&M Foods with the help of her daughters, Janis and Melanie, more than twenty years ago. It is inspiring to see a family turn a passion for their traditional family foods into a successful business, and this mom and daughters team did exactly that, using a 100 year-old recipe for cheese straws.  Today, they have four varieties of cheese straws:  original, asiago cheese, bleu cheese and jalapeno.  They also make traditional and tea cookies, and we tried their key lime tea cookies.

Tea cookies sometimes seem to be the underrated segment of the cookie kingdom.  They aren’t stuffed with chips or nuts, or slathered with icing, but their light, crisp taste and texture have their own special appeal.  J&M’s petite key lime cookies have a very nice balance of sweet and tart, and are dusted with confectioners’ sugar.  Although we enjoyed them straight from the box, they would be great with coffee or tea.

The Parham family takes pride in using natural ingredients and they have gone the extra mile to assure their customers of quality by being certified by the Safe Quality Food Institute.  The certification provides confidence that food is handled, prepared, and processed in compliance with international food safety requirements.

J&M’s website offers an online store for ordering their tea cookies, traditional cookies, and cheese straws.  We enjoyed the key lime tea cookies so much, we may have to try the white chocolate key lime cookies next!  The cheese straws would make excellent holiday buffet additions or hostess gifts.  There are attractive holiday gift tins for family or business associates.  Jamie, Janis, and Melanie can be very proud of their family’s great line of products!

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Mother Rucker’s Cinnamon Cookie Brittle

Karel (aka “Mother”) Rucker’s co-workers and colleagues were beneficiaries of her passion for baking before she “turned pro”.  Karel finessed her family recipes and created new ones for cookies, brownies, truffles and other confections.  In 2006, Karel and a colleague, Greg Raynes, launched Mother Rucker’s Sweets in Fort Worth, Texas.    The company has grown its catalog of cookies and sweets to an impressive array of specialty and corporate gift boxes.

Karen and I found Mother Rucker’s Cinnamon Cookie Brittle on Central Market’s shelves.  Opening the foil-sealed package released the spicy cinnamon aroma, instantly alerting us that these unassuming little cookies were going to be something really special.  This is one treat you will simply have to try yourself because words can’t convey how crisp and delicious they are.  The cookies are buttery rich with a topping of crunchy sugar.  Although stellar on their own, we immediately starting thinking about how they could be used.  Allen immediately thought they would be excellent with coffee (his highest dessert accolade).  We decided they would be fantastic crumbled over ice cream.

And then — we made s’mores!  We spread one cookie with melted dark chocolate, topped it with a toasted caramel and sea salt marshmallow and another cookie.  Dessert heaven!  I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat s’mores with ordinary graham crackers again.  The only thing better than finding these cookies is knowing there are two more flavors to try–almond and lemon.  And try them we will.  Mother Rucker’s website has more dessert ideas for their cookie brittles, including cobblers using cinnamon cookie brittle with apple pie filling, almond brittle with cherry pie filling and lemon brittle with blueberry pie filling.  How quick, easy and fantastic would those be?

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Wackym’s Kitchen Margarita Cookies


Life is sweet ~ eat great treats

Now, that is a corporate slogan we can all get behind, right?  Wackym’s Kitchen Margarita Cookies were an impulse buy during a trip to Central Market, and these sweet and savory treats exceeded our expectations.  Margarita flavored desserts are plentiful, especially in Texas and the Southwest.  So often, they are super-sweet confections that have more lime than margarita flavor.  Not so with these cookies!  A serious dash of salt balances the lime sweetness, reminding us of (surprise!) a margarita.  The cookies are perfectly crisp and rich, and could easily become an addiction.  No hangover worries, though!

Wackym’s cookies are made from fresh ingredients with no artificial flavors or colors.  The website offers seven flavors in addition to margarita:  lemon, peanut crunch,  chocolate snicker doodle,  mocha chocolate chip, oatmeal walnut currant, salted caramel, and rosemary cornmeal shortbread.  Is your mouth watering yet?  The gift collection is very reasonably priced with some classy options, including a keepsake bamboo box stuffed with seven bags of their most popular cookie flavors.  Even better, Wackym’s Kitchen will bake to your order, so corporate gifts or special occasion cookies are just a mouse-click away.  Wackym’s Kitchen cookies are also sold at numerous retailers in Texas.

Paul Wackym, the Chief Cookie Officer,  was a food product development manager for Neiman Marcus before he opened his own kitchen.  What a training ground!  As he learned the business end of successful food development and production, he realized he wanted to have his own products.  He develops his own recipes, using the foods he loves, working with flavor combinations that intrigue him, and some that baffle him!  Paul is also the marketer-in-chief for his delectable treats.  Wackym’s Kitchen’s Facebook page lists his promotional appearances at various markets in Dallas and surrounding areas.  I hope I run into him before his seasonal Hatch Chile Chocolate Chip cookies are gone!


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