Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sweet cookies with a salty surprise...

There is a certain flavor combination that both Jeff and I adore. For this week's Weekly Wednesday Treat Day, we fulfilled our own love of salty-sweet treats by making these Chocolate Chip-Pretzel Cookies.

While the ingredient amounts have been fiddled with a bit, these cookies are based on that classic chocolate chip cookie recipe, though there is one additional star ingredient - crushed pretzels! When we make chocolate chip cookies just for us, we usually cut half the butter with shortening to get a crispier/firmer texture and to control spreading issues. However, since that texture doesn't always groove with everyone, we decided to use entirely butter for that fat in these cookies. Instead of an equal ratio of white to brown sugar, we bumped up the brown for a little extra depth and chew.

Once the creamy dough was beaten together and smooth, we added a generous amount of crushed pretzels and let the mixer run briefly to disperse them throughout the dough - then we folded the same volume of bittersweet chocolate discs. I tested a couple cookies before loading up the baking sheets to see how they would bake - the look and texture was what I was looking for at the 10 minute mark, but I felt they could use a helping hand by slightly flattening the dough before baking.

If you want a softer cookie, take them out when they are set around the edges and the center looks slightly underdone. For a bit more crispness, let the center become set and the edges turn lightly golden, which is what we did. This gave our cookies a crisp perimeter, but they still had a nice chew as you reached the center. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop gave us well-portioned cookies that had decent thickness - however, if you are into big, fat cookies (good for bake sales!), use a quarter cup to measure out the dough and extend the baking time slightly. The coarse nubs of pretzels, with their delightful salty crystals attached, balanced the sweetness of the cookies well and shed light onto how well those two profiles mingle together.

For dinner tonight, we had a fun take on burgers by making them veggie-friendly and without any meat. Jeff was quite skeptical - burgers without the meat? He then muttered "Ugh, does that mean there are mushrooms in it?". I told him to raid the refrigerator and he was relieved there were none in there.

With the help of our food processor, the method to make these Cashew Burgers was a breeze! Chunks of an onion were up first in the processor bowl to be finely chopped - cashews, old-fashioned rolled oats and a couple spoonfuls of tahini were next and they were processed until chopped, but not too fine. If you've never had tahini before, it is usually one of the key ingredients in hummus for its nutty quality - it is an oily pale paste made from sesame seeds. You can use whatever kind of binder you want here though - other nut butters, tomato paste or even miso to vary the background notes. Also tossed into the mix to act as a binder is an egg - seasoned with chili powder, the chunky mixture is pulsed together just until the ingredients are combined. You don't want to process this to oblivion - keep it fairly coarse for the best texture.

Right out of the processor, the burger mix may seem excessively damp - however, as it sits, the oats will absorb more of the moisture and firm up. You can let it sit for awhile before working with it, but I just lightly wet my fingers, formed four patties and let them hang out in the refrigerator to let the oats their thing while I was off taking care of the pups' dinner. When we were ready to eat, I slid the patties into a hot skillet that had just enough canola oil to cover the bottom. After a few minutes, we flipped the patties to reveal their rich golden bottoms and let the other side cook for just a couple more minutes. Thanks to that rest in the refrigerator, the burgers held together remarkably well and we had no issues with them falling apart in the pan.

Serve these as you would a regular burger with a bun and your favorite condiments if you like, but we had them simply with a dollop of sour cream and set them atop a few leaves of baby spinach. Not dry, but not leaking with juices as a meat burger would be, this turned into a happy compromise between the two. Nuts and oats certainly make for a filling combination and both of us found we liked the cleanness of these veggie burgers. Season these as you like, but Jeff and I enjoyed the spice the chili powder brought - enough to come through and lift the burgers, but not too much that it muddled the nuttiness of the tahini and cashews.


  1. The sweet and salty combo of those cookies drew me in, but I think that cashew burger is exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you!

  2. I remember eating a strawberry salad where the crumb crust had crushed pretzels. It had a really nice flavor as I'm sure these cookies do. The recipe is going in my book!

  3. Alisa - Yeah! I hope you enjoy.

    Karen - I've read about that strawberry/pretzel combo before... we'll have to try it out sometime!

  4. ooh i've been on a baking binge (been unemployed for a couple months now)... MUST try these cookies!!

  5. so i saw the cookies and decided to make them for the weekend and i did - they were a hit! =P thanks for the idea!!

  6. Lydia - I'm glad you gave them a try!

  7. I made a batch of the cookies this weekend and brought some into work. They're a hit! I love the sweet and salty combo and so does everyone else. Thanks!

  8. Michelle - Awesome! Thanks for the feedback.