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Hi blog readers – it has been a while since I’ve posted anything, and I apologize for that. I’ve been spoiled by the professional baked treats at my wonderful job, and swamped by the work they get me to do in return. Anyway, that’s the excuse I’m going to use. 🙂

If you know me in real life, you can’t miss the fact that I recently made a huge change for my health by adopting the Paleo lifestyle. It’s more than a diet (I know, that’s a super cheesy line, but it’s true). If you don’t know anything about Paleo, I highly encourage you to visit RobbWolf.com, BalancedBites.com, Whole9Life.com, or MarksDailyApple.com. The quick and dirty version is this: eat meat and vegetables, seeds and nuts, and some fruit. Avoid all processed food, starches, grains, beans/legumes, dairy, and sugar. YES, you read that right, this means I no longer eat sugar. That’s quite a conundrum for a baking enthusiast, right? Wrong! There are some amazing Paleo bakers out there (I’m looking at you PaleOMG.com), so I’ve decided to start chronicling my adventures in Paleo baking. I may also still post a recipe here and there for you non-Paleo folks too, since I do love to bake for my friends and loved ones.

With that – here’s my first, from scratch, completely original Paleo recipe: Paleo Protein Cookie Bars! These are chewy, just sweet enough, and full of healthy fats with a kick of protein from the almonds, pepitas, egg, and protein powder. I completely improvised here based on what I had in my kitchen – feel free to do the same!

Paleo Protein Cookie Bars

Paleo Protein Cookie Bars
(Somewhat adapted from PaleOMG.com)

Cooking Time: About 14-16 minutes
Servings: About 18 1.5″ x 1″ bars

  • 8 Medjool dates
  • 1/4 C almonds
  • 1 C unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 large scoops of vanilla protein powder (chocolate would also work)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 C raw pepitas
  • 1/2 C mini chocolate chips (I use the Enjoy Life dairy, nut, and soy-free brand)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 C coconut chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a glass baking dish or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In your food processor, pulse your pitted dates until they form a paste and come together into a ball. Remove from food processor.

Add your almonds and pulse until coarsely ground. Add the coconut, coconut oil, and protein powder and process until blended. Add the date ball (you may need to break it up in order for it to process back in with the rest of the ingredients). Once fully combined, add egg and pulse until you get a nice sticky dough-like product. Remove the dough from the food processor and place in a separate bowl.

With a large spoon, mix in pepitas and chocolate chips. Spread dough onto parchment linked dish/baking sheet until it’s about 1/2 to 2/3″ thick. (I used my hands.) Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and coconut chips.

Bake at 350 for about 14 minutes or until dough is firm and browning on the edges. Remove from dish/baking sheet to cool and then cut into bars.

I first made this recipe last year at the holidays, and I was unsurprised that Hannah S. specifically requested them again this year. These cookies are delicate but delicious, and this year I added some nonpareils to the chocolate coating to make them extra festive!

Pecan Lace Cookies

Cooking Time: 8 Minutes
Servings: About 3 Dozen Cookies

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • Nonpareils or sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (this is essential to this recipe).

In a food processor or by hand, finely chop pecans.

In a medium size bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar.

Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix very well.

Stir in pecans. Place by teaspoons on your lined baking sheets. Note that this dough will look very different from regular cookie dough. Make sure not to make the cookies very large or too close together as these spread out quite a bit.

Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes, or until the cookies are dark golden brown. They may look a little puffy – they will sink down as they cool. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before removing to wire racks.

If you don’t allow the cookies to cool completely on the sheet, when you remove them you may end up with cookies that look like this:

Whoops! Anyways…

When the cookies are completely cooled, you can start working on the chocolate coating. In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips and shortening.

Stir every 30 seconds until smooth and fully melted.

Using the back of the spoon, spread chocolate over half of each cookie and then place on waxed paper to dry. If desired, add sprinkles to the chocolate side.

Store in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container.

These cookie bars are deceptively simple to make, but absolutely heavenly! They’re always one of my first choices for holiday baking, and can easily be modified based on who you’re making them for or what you have on hand.

7 Layer Cookie Bars

Cooking Time: 25 Minutes
Servings: About 18 2″ x 3″ bars

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (fat-free or regular)
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350. You’ll notice that I lined my 9″ x 13″ baking pan with waxed paper – I do NOT recommend this, and you will see why later. I think, for this particular recipe, you don’t need to line the pan at all.

Place the stick of butter in the pan and put it in the oven for a few minutes until the butter is melted. Be careful not to let the butter scorch! Remove the pan and make sure the butter is swirled around the full bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle the butter evenly with the graham cracker crumbs. Next layer the semisweet chips, the butterscotch chips, and the walnuts.

Poke two holes in the can of sweetened condensed milk so that you can drizzle it all over the top of the other layers. You should end up with a very solid coating of the condensed milk. Top this all with the shredded coconut. The layers should look something like below.

Put the layered pan into the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the coconut starts to brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. If, like me, you used wax paper, you can lift it up out of the pan to make your bars easier to cut; however, the wax paper will not remove from the edges so you will need to leave a “shell” as I did below. Cut the bars into your desired size and enjoy!

I first made these chocolatey treats over a year ago, and they have become a regular in my baking rotation now. They are a hit with chocolate lovers and coffee lovers, especially depending on how you modify the amount of coffee. I’m pretty sure these are Little Bayley’s all time favorite cookies, and they may be yours too once you try them!

C3 Cookies Ready to Eat!

Chocolate Chocolate Coffee Cookies (C³ Cookies)

Cooking Time: 12 Minutes
Servings: About 2 1/2 Dozen Small Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (use the good stuff!)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-3 tsp fine ground espresso (optional, but that makes them C² Cookies)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, any combination of dark, milk, or semisweet
C3 Cookie Ingredients

The Full Cast of Characters

Preheat the oven to 350. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or, if you don’t have parchment paper, spray your cookie sheets with cooking spray.

Quick aside about parchment paper – I LOVE this stuff. I always used to wonder how people made such nice-looking cookies, and it turns out that parchment paper is part of the secret! It helps keep your cookies from spreading super flat, allows you to easily remove the cookies from the sheet, and makes clean up a breeze. The experts recommend against re-using your parchment paper, but I often use each sheet at least twice. Just make sure that you place the second batch of cookies in different spots on the paper (avoid the grease spots left from the first batch). Also, whether you’re using parchment paper or not, never put your second or third or fourth batch of cookies onto a warm cookie sheet. That’s a great way to end up with the bottoms of the cookies burned.

Parchment Paper Rocks

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and coffee. If you use 1 tsp of fine ground espresso, the flavor will be just barely noticeable but you could also omit it completely. If on the other hand you’re baking for a real coffee lover, feel free to use as much as you like! The brand I like to use is Café Bustelo, which is already finely ground and can be found for a really good price at most grocery stores in California. Instant espresso would work well too, just be careful about the strength of the flavor.

C3 Cookies Dry Ingredients

In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.

C3 Cookies Creaming the Butter Action Shot

Action Shot!

Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.

C3 Cookies All Wet Ingredients

Gradually add the flour mix. I recommend adding it in thirds; this prevents a lot of mess since I tend to be messy enough as is. Mix well – this batter will be a bit sticky.

C3 Cookies All Mixed Up

Stir in the chocolate chips. For this particular batch, I used 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, but my classic version is all semisweet. You can use whatever chips you have on hand or prefer – you could even use white chocolate chips if you were feeling really crazy.

Place by rounded tablespoons on the cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches or so between cookies.

C3 Cookies on the Sheet

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies crack on top. Cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. If your cookies ended up a bit puffy, you can press them down with a cookie spatula while they cool on the sheet.

Little Bayley called me up this week and asked if I would make cupcakes for her boyfriend’s birthday… silly question of course.  I thought about their relationship for a bit and one thing stuck out: their mutual love of whiskey. As a fan of alcoholic baked goods in general, I figured this could be a very fun adventure.

A few searches led me to this recipe, which sounded absolutely amazing – I mean, coffee AND whiskey? Yum! Clearly I had to modify it to make it my own though, so as I was whisking the chocolate mixture I was inspired to add a bit of cinnamon and cayenne pepper (similar to Mexican Hot Chocolate). Now that’s a wicked cupcake.

Wicked Whiskey Cupcakes Final

These turned out heavenly – just a hint of the spices in the moist cake, plus a nice Jack Daniel’s flavor in both the frosting and the cupcake to bring the whole thing together. They aren’t too spicy nor are they overwhelmingly chocolatey, but you could adjust amounts based on your preferences.

Chocolate Wicked Whiskey Cupcakes
(Adapted from Piratecupcake on Bakespace.com)

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: About 32 Regular Cupcakes

The most important ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (get the good stuff, it’s worth it)
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 cup of American whiskey (I used Jack Daniel’s, but you can pick your own poison)
  • 2 Sticks of unsalted butter cut in to one inch pieces.
  • 2 Cups of sugar
  • 2 Cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (to taste)

Put oven rack(s) in middle position and preheat oven to 325F.

Melt the butter

Heat coffee, whiskey, butter, and cup of cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking until butter is melted. Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes.

All 3 components ready to be whiskedy

While chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Add flour mixture in thirds, whisking after each addition, and whisk until just combined (the batter will be a bit thin and bubbly).

Thin and bubbly batter

Scoop cupcakes into lined cupcake pans, filling from 1/2 to 2/3 full. I like to use my ice cream scoop for this, just be careful of drips with this batter.

Two pans and an ice cream scoop

Side Note: As you can see, I have two cupcake pans, but one is darker than the other. I know that this darker one tends to cook faster, so I filled the light one first, put it in the oven with a 30 minute timer, then filled the dark one and put it on the rack above. That way both batches were ready at the same time!

Bake Cupcakes for 30 to 40 minutes. They are ready to go when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place them on a rack to cool and then ice with my JD Fudge Frosting or just dust with powdered sugar.

JD Fudge Frosting

I’ll be honest, this frosting stemmed from a pure desire to use up my leftovers. I had extra fudge leftover from making Peanut Butter and Fudge Oatmeal Cookies, and I was certain I could make it into a great frosting. This recipe will act like you are starting from scratch in case you’re not a hoarder like me.

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 14oz can of fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Jack Daniel’s (or any other whiskey)
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and the condensed milk. Stir regularly until you have a creamy, homogeneous fudge mixture. Remove from heat and transfer the fudge to a medium bowl.

Jack Daniel's Fudge Frosting

Add the half of the Jack Daniel’s and half of the powdered sugar and mix with an electric mixer. Add more whiskey to taste and more powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. I found that this frosting did not pipe well, but did smooth out into a beautiful frosting shell.

Finished, decorated cupcakes!

Decorate the cupcakes as desired – I used red sugar to keep the wicked, spicy theme going. Enjoy!

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