Monday, February 13, 2012

Three-Ingredient Red Velvet Cookies!

I came up with this recipe after trying a 2-ingredient cookie recipe that used just yellow cake mix and butter to make an almost shortbread-like crisp bar cookie. The recipe said you could use any kind of cake mix, and with Valentine's Day right around the corner I knew I wanted to try to tweak it a bit. I usually keep boxes of red velvet cake mix on hand (I stock up around Christmas and Valentine's Day, since in my grocery store it's hard to come by other times of year) because I love these cookies, but I hate how sticky-blood-red my hands get after rolling all the dough balls when making them, and don't even get me started on how messy they are to make with kids.

I wanted my red velvet cookies to be a little softer than the two-ingredient kind, and since the other recipe had cream cheese in it I thought that might be a nice addition. I'll go through the directions/ingredients here first, then if you want to stick around I just have to share the trials of my first batch at the end of the post. Luckily it only took me two batches to get it just right!

Here's what you'll need:


1 box red velvet cake mix
1/2 box cream cheese, softened (4 oz)
1/4 cup of butter, melted (1/2 stick)

Optional toppings:
chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup)
Vanilla Candy Coating (1-2 cubes)
Cream cheese frosting would be really good too--you could really do anything you want on top!

After using parchment paper to line my pan on my first failed batch, I decided to try foil the second time around. You can safely use either--my failure had nothing to do with the parchment, I just wanted to see if the foil would work because it's easier to get it in the nooks and crannies of the pan. It didn't stick or tear at all, so I liked using the foil better.

Throw your softened cream cheese (1/2 brick) into the bowl on your mixer--if you didn't let it soften on the counter, the microwave works just fine. Beat it with the mixer a bit to soften a bit more, scrape it off the bottom of the bowl, then add the cake mix and mix on low. It will still be pretty dry.

It's good to have a helper.

Pour the melted butter on top and mix again. It should start to come together at this point, but will remain chunky.

Your helper may lick the beater at this point.

Pour the chunky batter into the pan and spread it around evenly.

Take off your rings at this point--the best way to press it evenly into the pan is to use your bare hands.

Way too many crevices to clean red velvet dough out of.
I know from experience.
Or to let someone else do it.

Yours will not be this squishy.  This is the failed first batch.
You might get some other interested parties as well.

How close can you get?
But guess what?  It didn't even turn our hands red.  A little greasy, but we didn't look like we'd just butchered something, which is a definite concern when working with red velvet.

That's it! You're ready to put it in the oven. Bake it at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes. Make sure your toothpick comes out clean (but it should also have a dry look to the top--my first batch passed the toothpick test but still ended up back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes!)

Now it's decision time. How do you want to top these puppies?

Yes, my candy coating was on clearance.  Doesn't expire for another two years,
so I stocked up--I'll need it for next December's Christmas Crack.

If you're using the chocolate chips, sprinkle them on top right away so they melt from the heat of the cookies. If you want to drizzle the candy coating or put frosting on (or just eat them as is), then let it cool in the pan until you can use your foil or parchment to lift the whole batch out of the pan and onto a cutting board.

Then you're ready to decorate!

Note--this is my first batch, that ended up going back in the oven.
Yours should look drier than this.
For drizzling, I used two squares of the candy coating. Melt in the microwave according to package directions.

Then scoop your melted candy into a zip-top bag and snip off one corner. The bigger your snip, the wider your drizzle will be. I went both vertical and horizontal. Then let the candy cool before doing anything else.

If you're doing the chocolate, sprinkle a thin layer of chips immediately after removing from the oven and let them melt. These chips are milk chocolate because it's what I had--if I were doing this again I would personally prefer dark chocolate chips since the cookies are already pretty darn sweet.

I know, this looks skimpy on the chocolate. But trust me--they're pretty
rich on their own and you don't want overkill.
Once they're melted, spread the chocolate thin to cover the surface:

I only used one cube of the candy coating for this one. And I just drizzled it with a spoon, since it didn't need to look as pretty at this point:

Since I knew I'd be doing this, and I like having the variation in there.

I just dragged a toothpick up and down the length of the pan to pull the white and milk chocolate together--you can vary the widths however you like. Once it's cooled enough, I moved the whole batch to a cutting board. After cutting out one heart, I decided that this decoration didn't show enough valentiney-red for me, so I added some red sprinkles.

SO after the cookies and the toppings have cooled, you can cut them into any shape you want. I chose hearts, since it's valentine's day (duh).

I have to admit though, if it weren't a holiday, there is no way I would have used a cookie cutter on these. So much waste. I don't mind eating the scraps, but it is a bit of a bummer for the kids, especially once they've seen all the pretty heart cookies. Instead I would totally just cut them into squares. Much more efficient.

 If you're really good with wielding a plastic bag, maybe you could just apply your melted candy coating in a heart shape to the top of the squares, and eliminate this whole problem.

Little  Sister doesn't seem to mind the scraps.
But the hearts do make pretty valentines for neighbors, teachers, postmen,  whoever.  If I had some pretty cellophane I might have dressed these up even more.

OK, so here we go with the directions all in one place for easy cutting-pasting--I'll repeat the ingredient list (all three of them) so you don't have to keep scrolling back up:

Ingredients (makes 15-24 cookies depending on how you cut them)

1 box red velvet cake mix
1/2 box cream cheese, softened (4 oz)
1/4 cup of butter, melted (1/2 stick)

Optional toppings:
chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup)
Vanilla Candy Coating (1-2 cubes)
Cream cheese frosting would be really good too--you could really do anything you want on top!

1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  Place softened cream cheese in mixer bowl and beat at medium speed until soft.  Scrape bowl with a spatula.
3.  Dump cake mix into bowl and mix on low to begin blending the cream cheese in .
4.  Pour melted butter over other ingredients, then mix until blended (still chunky).
5.  Pour chunky batter into pan lined with parchment or tinfoil and press evenly into pan.
6.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Decorating with chocolate chips--sprinkle immediately after removing from oven to melt chips, then drizzle white candy coating before dragging toothpick up and down in parallel lines to form a chevron pattern.  Once cookie and topping is cooled, remove in one piece to a cutting board for cutting, either into squares or with a cookie cutter.

Otherwise, let cool in pan, then remove in one piece before decorating on a cutting board.

Once cookie and topping are both cool, cut into squares or use a cookie cutter to cut shapes.

Oh, and if you're still around, I guess my failed batch actually isn't that good of a story--I started with a whole cube of cream cheese and a whole stick of butter, and ended up putting the whole thing back in the oven for an extra 10 minutes, and then AFTER decorating and cutting out, I stuck them on a cookie sheet and baked them AGAIN for another 7 minutes or so before they finally held together.  In the end, they turned out pretty good, but using half the cream cheese and butter tasted just as good, had a better texture and way shorter baking time, and all around were just an easier cookie to deal with.  This may be the first time in history that LESS butter turned out better.  Take that, Paula Deen!

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