Spumoni Drop Cookies

1-DSC_0881Spumoni (from spuma, meaning foam), is an Italian flavor of ice cream containing chocolate, fruits (usually cherries) and nuts (typically pistachio).  Like Neapolitan ice cream, it is created in layers, and it is very popular in countries with large Italian populations such as the US and Argentina.  (I am a US citizen of Argentine descent, so naturally I love spumoni!)  National Spumoni Day is August 21st in the US.  I love spumoni ice cream, and what’s not to love?  Chocolate, pistachios and cherries…naturally this combination also belongs in a chewy, delicious cookie.

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Spumoni Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 packages instant pistachio pudding mix (I think they are 3.4 oz each)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips  (you can use milk chocolate chips in the alternative)
1/2 generous cup chopped maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift flour and baking soda; set aside.

Cream butter and sugars in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the instant pudding and mix well. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Fold in chips, cherries, and pistachios. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven until light brown, about 10 minutes.  Take them out when they are a still a bit blonde and let them firm on the pan a few seconds before transferring to baking racks to cool.

 

Chocolate Walnut Bars with Sultry Caramel Sauce

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The word caramel was first recorded in English in 1725. It came via French from the Spanish “caramelo.”  Whatever its origin, caramel is decadently rich, sweet and sultry with its buttery finish and soothing texture.  I wrote this recipe on a chilly, windy, midwestern day with damp air and blowing leaves, the kind of day that makes you happy to be indoors with a warm and fragrant kitchen and a personable dog near by.  It is fabulously sugary and fatty and spares no calories.

1-DSC_0592Chocolate Walnut Bars

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts, divided into two 1/2 cup portions
2 cups unbleached, organic flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large organic eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups high quality, dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Caramel Sauce

1 and 1/2 cups organic sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil and spray foil with a coconut cooking spray or butter.  In your food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of walnuts until coarsely ground then whisk them together with flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Beat the butter with brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl.  Add vanilla.  Gradually beat in the dry ingredients and then the chocolate and then the remaining 1/2 cup of walnuts.

Spread the batter into your prepared pan and bake until just done, about 30 minutes.  Place pan on a rack to cool.

While the bars are cooling, make your caramel sauce.  Place sugar and water into a heavy saucepan and heat until boiling over medium heat, swirling constantly.  Once the syrup is just boiling, reduce the heat enough to keep it boiling but not so hot to burn the sugar.  Continue to swirl and heat the syrup until it turns a rich brown color.  Be very careful because it is easy to burn caramelized sugar.  Once the color is sufficiently rich and brown, turn off the heat.  Carefully add the heavy cream, butter and vanilla.  It will bubble up furiously at first.  Turn heat back to low and stir and heat the caramel mixture until all of the caramelized sugar has dissolved and the sauce is finished.  Allow sauce to cool.  It will thicken as it cools.

Serve Chocolate Walnut bars warm with warm Caramel Sauce spooned over them.