When I met Shane, he was living with three friends from college. After spending a little time with these guys, there was one in particular (we'll call him Ben) that I couldn't help but think might be a good match for one of my best friends from college (and let's call her Lauren). I set them up, and long story short, they wound up getting married a few years later. Even better, shortly after Shane and I bought our house and moved to this town, Ben and Lauren bought their first house about 10 minutes down the road from us. It's been so much fun to have them so close, especially since the remainder of our friends have stayed up around Boston.
Ben and Lauren had their first baby about a year and a half ago so they're pretty busy these days, but Lauren and I still try to get together as often as possible. About once a month we jump in the car and head down to Trader Joe's to spend obscene amounts of money. Trader Joe's is a lot like Target for me - even if I only go in for one thing, I rarely walk out having spent less than $40. But anyway, after we work up an appetite we usually head across the parking lot to Panera for lunch. Love that place! If you've been to Panera recently you know they now have the cards they swipe when you make a purchase, and from time to time you'll earn free things. A few months ago, I had a free pastry on my card, so I snagged an M&M cookie, mainly because it was right next to the register and was therefore the first thing I saw.
I was too full to eat my cookie after lunch, but I threw it in a bag and brought it home. We probably had plenty of sweets sitting around our house at the time, so the cookie wasn't a high priority but eventually I did get around to trying it. And oh my word, it was so much better than I expected! I remember thinking it was essentially going to be a chocolate chip cookie made with M&M's rather than chips, and I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to have a sugar cookie base. It was perfectly soft and chewy (my favorite kind of cookie!) and I have basically been wanting to recreate it at home ever since. I probably would have done it sooner, but I'd been holding out to find mini M&M's, which I prefer for baking. I searched everywhere, but couldn't find them so recently I decided just to make them with traditional M&M's. (Anyone know where I might be able to buy some minis??)
I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe to make these copycat M&M cookies. It contains a few slightly unusual ingredients like cream cheese and oil, but the cookies consistently bake up with the best super chewy texture so I'm not going to complain. You can also make the entire recipe in just two bowls without the need for a mixer so that's a plus! I'm not a big fan of chocolate chips in cookies, but I just love M&M's, and these cookies definitely hit the spot, helping me to satisfy my craving for the Panera cookie without having to change out of my pajamas :)
Chewy M&M Sugar Cookies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 oz cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/4 cups M&M's
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine 1 1/2 cups of sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl (no need to stir them together yet). Put the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a pie plate and set aside. Pour the warm butter over the cream cheese mixture and whisk to combine - the mixture won't be completely smooth yet, that's fine. Whisk in the oil then the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to start folding the dry ingredients into the wet. When the dry ingredients are partially incorporated, add 3/4 cup of the M&M's to the dough. Continue mixing until a soft dough comes together. (Don't wait to add the M&M's until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated - you'll end up overmixing.)
Portion the dough onto the prepared baking sheets with a cookie scoop, using about 2 tablespoons for each cookie. Working quickly (if you handle the dough too much you're more likely to wind up with flat cookies), roll the dough into a ball with your hands then roll in the sugar set aside in the pie plate previously. Repeat until you've used all of the dough, placing 12 cookies on each baking sheet. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten the dough balls into discs that are about 2 inches in diameter. Gently press 2 or 3 more M&M's into the top of each cookie.
Bake the cookies, 1 tray at a time, for about 11-13 minutes, or until the edges are set. The tops will be puffy and slightly cracked. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes then transfer them to the rack to cool completely.
Makes about 24 cookies