Bar Bites by J. Kenner and Suzanne M. Johnson ~ White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Before Austin’s hotspot, The Fix on Sixth, became known for its sexy and fun Man of the Month calendar contest, the fictional downtown bar had already developed a reputation for fabulous drinks and mouthwatering bar bites—exactly the kind of venue to take a date and strike up a romance. Now it’s your chance to see exactly what’s on the menu … and to get a peek at the private lives of the men and women who not only work at The Fix, but who’ve made it the place to be in Austin, Texas.

Join Man of the Month creator, New York Times bestselling author J. Kenner, and USA Today bestselling Southern food expert Suzanne Johnson as they guide you through their favorite bar bite and drink recipes served at The Fix on Sixth. Learn how to make the delicious bar bites that Tyree’s bar has become famous for. Whip up your favorite cocktail with the same flare as Cameron or Eric. And don’t forget to spend some time learning a little bit more about the private lives of your favorite characters in all new snippets and short stories!

Most of all, come share a drink, a bite, and a laugh with us! We’re so glad you’re here.

So pull up a chair, raise a glass, and dig in with your favorite Man of the Month characters, and meet a few new ones, too!

Cheers!

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I am fortunate to have several helpers, while I am usually sous-chef to my husband’s head chef.  Unless we’re baking, I’m the master baker.  So, you’ll see lots of pictures of little hands.  I hope you enjoy our foray into being a cooking blog for a day.  Also, I’m on a (dr. prescribed) ketogenic diet, so all observations on the taste of these cookies are made by boys between the ages of seven and thirteen.

WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY COOKIES

My boys were so excited for this recipe, and couldn’t wait to help make cookies.  They didn’t even want to wait for the cookies to bake before they tried to eat them.  You’ll note that I am not a professional or even amateur baker, I’m a hobby baker as indicated by my lack of KitchenAid mixer.  I’d love one though, so if you’re looking for something to get me for my birthday, it’s in September.

The first step whenever you’re baking is to grab all your ingredients, so here’s what you’ll need.  I’ll also the amounts of ingredients as we go along and the entire recipe at the end.

1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

I live at altitude (about 5000 ft.), so I have added in the modifications I make when baking.  For those of you below 3000 feet you’ve probably never experienced an issue with crumbly cookies or cake that doesn’t rise when you follow your recipe perfectly, but it is a thing here.  Especially dry, crumbly baked goods.

If you’re like me, you have no softened butter.  So, pop that stick of butter (1/2 cup, if for some reason you have a tub of butter instead of sticks) in your microwave for about 45 seconds at half power.  Then measure out your sugar (1-1/2 cups, minus 1 TBSP for altitude) and mix it in.  If you bake you know what it should look like, if not here’s a pic of the creamed sugar and butter:

Eggs (2) and vanilla (1 tsp.) extract come next.  I’m not a huge fan of eating shells (not that I can eat these anyway) so I did the egg adding.  While I love my boys, they are not great at not including shells in their eggs.  (This is what your pictures look like when you have a thirteen-year-old boy help. I hope you all enjoy my arm and that tiny bit of bowl with egg in it.)

BAKING HACK: Always mix your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder) in a SEPARATE bowl before adding to your recipe to ensure you have an even distribution of soda and powder throughout your cookies.  (2-3/4 c. flour plus 1 TBSP for altitude, 1 tsp. baking powder minis 1/8 tsp for altitude, 1 tsp. baking soda minus 1/8 tsp. for altitude)

Then my little helpers added the flour mixture to the dough ½ cup at a time while Mom used the mixer.  It may take a while to get all the flour incorporated but adding a small amount at a time helps immensely.

See how dry and crumbly my dough looks?  That is NOT how you want cookie dough to look; it will make horrible, crumbly, dry cookies.

Which brings me to another ALTITUDE BAKING modification: add liquid.  You can use just about anything, but I advocate for water.  It’ll have the least effect on the way your cookies bake and no effect on the taste.  I have to add about 3 TBSP of water to my cookie dough to make it the right consistency.

Much better!  This is what your dough should look like, not that crumbly mess from before.

Now, the fun part, adding cranberries (1 cup) and chocolate chips (1-1/2 cups).  People will tell you to stir them in or ‘fold’ them in or some BS like that.  The hands-down best tool to get your chunky ingredients mixed into your cookies is your hands.  Clean them up and get in there, get dirty, and have fun making sure your berries and chips are well mixed in.

Your dough is perfect now and just waiting for you to make it into cookies.  I prefer to measure my dough out, so I have consistent cookies, but you do you.  I measure a little more than a TBSP of dough and form them into balls.

BAKING HACK:  You’ll notice I never told you a temperature to set your oven to.  There is a reason for that.  The best way to get nice, fluffy cookies is to REFRIGERATE your dough before baking.  After your cookies are all formed stick them in the fridge for about an hour (at least half an hour) and tell Alexa to set a timer, it will help solidify your butter back up, so your dough doesn’t melt into a puddle as soon as you put them in the oven.  While you’re waiting for your cookies to be chilled preheat your oven to 350 degrees (plus 15 degrees for altitude).  After Alexa tells you those cookies are chilled, pull them out put them on a baking tray covered in parchment paper (or greased, your preference) about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 12-14 minutes (minus 1-3 minutes for altitude).

This is why I prefer parchment paper for baking when I take those cookies out of the oven I can lift that entire piece of paper and transfer all my cookies to a cooling rack in one go.  At any rate, remove the cookies from the hot tray onto a cooling rack as soon as the cookies come out of the oven to prevent continued cooking.

When they’re no longer going to spew molten hot chocolate in your mouth as soon as you take a bite, enjoy!

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies**

1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

  1. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well incorporated
  3. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a separate bowl
  4. Slowly add flour mixture to wet mixture, until completely blended
  5. Work white chocolate chips and cranberries in with your hands
  6. Form dough into balls, approx. 1 TBSP each
  7. Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes, preheat oven to 350 degrees
  8. Place dough balls on lined or greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes
  • **Altitude adjustments
    1. Subtract 1 TBSP sugar
    2. Add 1 TBSP flour
    3. Subtract 1/8 tsp. baking powder and baking soda
    4. Add 3 TBSP. water
    5. Increase cooking temperature 15 degrees
    6. Decrease bake time 2-4 minutes

***  FINAL THOUGHTS  ***

‘They were real, super good’ ~Boy, 13

‘I really loved them.  I like how they were soft on the inside and I like the white chocolate.’ ~Boy, 11

‘Delish.  They were really good, delicious, and yummy.’ ~Boy, 9

‘They were delicious, so yummy!  It was just delicious.’ ~Boy, 7

Spencer Dean knew her better than anyone in the world, and in that moment, she knew that she didn’t have to explain. He got it. More important, he got her.

He reached down and she put her hands in his, relishing the comfort of their connection as he tugged her gently to her feet. “They’re gone,” he repeated. “At least for now. And I’m so, so sorry.”

It was that apology that finally got her mind humming again. That, and the simple fact that having him beside her had sent relief coursing through her with so much power that she didn’t have any room left inside her for the irritation and frustration.

“You don’t have anything to apologize for,” she said. “I’m the one who lost it.” She released his hands and dragged her fingers through her long, blond hair. “I tripped over my own damn feet and everything inside me just exploded, but it’s not your fault.”

“Isn’t it?” He cocked his head toward the den, then pressed his palm gently against her back and steered her off the sunporch and into the house proper. She sat on the sofa they’d picked out two episodes ago. This was the first room to be fully finished, and as she settled back against the thick, comfortable cushions, she looked up at the high, tiled ceiling and the restored period molding. Not a detail had been ignored, and the room was a showplace now. And she and Spencer owed that to the television program as much to their own hard work and planning.

She drew in a long breath, then released it again. “No,” she said firmly. “It’s not your fault.”

“I’m the one who pushed for Mansion Makeover. I’m the one who made this show happen.” He sat down next to her, his thigh hard against hers.  Then took her hand and twined their fingers together. She squeezed, relishing this connection to him. The man she loved. The man she’d lost once, but had miraculously regained.

“I want it, too,” she said. “I love this place.” The historic mansion had been stunning even in its dilapidated state, and slowly but surely they were bringing it back to life. It was work she loved with a man she loved. There was just that one little hitch. “It’s only…it’s just…I mean, I guess I finally reached my limit of being under the microscope. I don’t normally mind—I really don’t. I knew what I signed on for when I agreed to do the show with you. But they’re here all the time. And tomorrow—our engagement party? Except it isn’t even really our party because it was their idea. Molly and Adam’s.”

She sucked in another breath and leaned against him. “I know I sound whiny and ungrateful considering that once it’s over we’re going to have this incredible home. It’s just that every time I turn around it feels like someone from the production is behind me.”

“I get it,” he said, brushing his thumb along the curve of her jaw, the contact sending shivers through her. “I really do.”

Slowly, he kissed her. His mouth firm against hers. Tender at first, then with rising heat, until the ache inside her consumed her, so that she gasped with love and longing when he pulled away, his eyes shining with need.

“And Angel,” he said, “they’re not here now.”

Julie Kenner (aka J. Kenner and J.K. Beck) is the New York TimesUSA TodayPublishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres.

Praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations,” J.K. writes a range of stories including super sexy romances, paranormal romance, chick lit suspense and paranormal mommy lit. Her foray into the latter, Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner, is in development as a feature film with 1492 Pictures.

Her most recent trilogy of erotic romances, The Stark Trilogy (as J. Kenner), reached as high as #2 on the New York Times list and is published in over twenty countries.

J.K. lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and several cats.

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USA Today bestselling author Suzanne Johnson is family trained, a south Georgia native who’s been cooking all of her life, creating not only some really unique food, but precious memories that re-occur every time she smells something simmering in the oven. In all of her books, Suzanne shows that making a delicious meal doesn’t have to be complicated–it just has to be made with love. So go ahead, don’t be bashful, dive right in. Who knows? You might just make a few memories of your own.

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