Cure What Ails Ya…Chocolate Chip Cookies

Life isn’t always what you think it will be, but your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe usually is.  I found this recipe probably around a year ago, just after my annual christmas cookie baking bash with my aunt.  We were discussing our desire to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.  And can I note, even writing that sentence felt wrong to me.  I will always be willing to try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, because the idea that there might be one out there that’s better makes me feel twitchy and anxious to know the truth.  But for now, I think this recipe may have changed my mind.

But back to this recipe, which I located while trying to find a recipe that produced a cookie that met one major criteria in particular: it had to be puffy.  So I went to that miracle of all miracles that is Google, and literally typed in “fluffy chocolate chip cookies” and after some prolonged clicking and research found this link.  The recipe is this blogger’s adaptation of a Levain Bakery recipe, which produces these little babies:

The result is pretty darn near perfect–lightly crisp outside, dense but not too cake-y inside.  In order to get this kind of puffiness, most recipes will replace the butter with margarine, but this causes a severe deficiency in taste.  A typical, non-puffy recipe will start out with room-temperature butter to make it easier to cream with the sugars for a fluffy consistency.  But the key to the puffiness in this recipe is actually keeping the batter as cold as possible.  To me this is a bonus because I almost always forget to take the butter out of the fridge ahead of time to let it come up to room temperature.  So you start with the sugars and one stick of butter which the recipe says to cut into small cubes, so I did it in almost a dice:

Now I would show you what the mixed version with the egg and vanilla added looks like, but frankly, it wasn’t very photogenic.

So then you add your dry ingredients in small batches to the butter mixture, and if your like me start to add a sprinkling of chocolate chips before you realize you forgot to take a picture of the chipless batter for your blog. 🙂

Then you (for reals) add the chips and mix it all together:

Now from what I remember of other recipes I have made before, the dough seemed a bit dry to me, but fear not, it will be delicious my choco-chip nirvana seeking friends.  Dare I say it will be legend…..wait for it….dary.

So at this point in our recipe, it says you should use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough onto your parchment papered cookie sheet.  My house no longer has an ice cream scoop, so I used the roundest, moundiest (Yes, the English major made up a nonsense word) Tablespoon I could find.  I think it works out better because smaller cookies are less of a commitment in terms of how much you are able to eat at any given time. SOOO… this is what you’ll get:

Then in a sort of WTF moment, this recipe calls for you to push aside the chicken stock and throw away that quarter of a bag of frozen peas that is faintly reminiscent of garlic, so that you can put the whole tray directly into the freezer for 10 minutes.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  It helps the puffy.  Respect the puffy.  Then you put directly into your preheated oven, and 12 minutes later you have a dozen of these little rascals.  I did this process twice so for me, with the Tablespoon portioning the recipe yields 2 dozen cookies.  But obviously, if you use the ice cream scoop method, your yield will be greater and your cooking time will vary depending on what level of doneness you want in the center of the cookie.  Do all this and you will be the proud (short term) owner of these little creatures:

In case you missed it in my earlier ramblings, find the recipe here, and Happy Baking Cookie Monsters!

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New Year, Old Recipes, Same Delicious Food

Its been a few weeks.  Months.  I wish I had a good reason for neglecting this blog, but really, I don’t.  Writers fall into funks and make excuses, but the important thing is to pull yourself out of it.  And what better time than a brand new year?  I have two recipes to share today, and both of them were made on the same day wayyy back at the end of September.   Lasagna Soup and Beatty’s Chocolate Cake made up my mother’s birthday dinner.  It may have been way back at the beginning of fall, but this Lasagna Soup is perfect for the dead of winter (though it was a balmy 60 degrees on Long Island today so I’d say that’s pretty lively).

A bowl of hearty lasagna soup.

What’s not to love, right?  I think this is a great alternative to lasagna because it’s nowhere near as fussy.  No messing with  assembly stations and making all the components separately.  The only thing you have to make outside of the stockpot is a small bowl of ricotta and Parmesan cheeses mixed together.  Other than that, this dish is a one stop shop.  It’s got all the   main players from lasagna: cut up sausage, pasta with frills, onion, garlic, a tomato sauce (or broth really) and of course, the cheese.  Also this soup allows for everyone to control the level of cheese based on their preferences.  So, if Aunt Sally always complains there’s too much ricotta in the lasagna (do people really complain about this?!?!), she can put as much or as little as she wants at the bottom of the bowl before she ladles the hot soup over top.

The recipe is pretty straightforward too, brown the sausage, cut it into little rounds, and then saute the onions for a few minutes:

Sausage and onions gettin' down (dirtier than I intended).

Then add the garlic, spices, and tomato paste and saute a bit more to let the paste warm through:

Sausage and onions and garlic and tomato paste, oh my!

The you add diced tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock; bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for a half hour:

Ooooh the tomatoey goodness!

And finally, after it’s cooked down a bit, add the uncooked pasta of your choice.  Now, the recipe calls for Mafalda  or fusilli, but since Mafalda (or reginette) are hard to find around here and I don’t care much for fusilli, I was forced to make an alternate selection.  I settled on Campanelle (or what my beloved Italian grandmother called ‘bluebells’) because they have a frilly edge to them which is reminiscent of lasagna, but easier to eat on a spoon:

A little blurry, but I can see enough to make me crave this RIGHT NOW.

Put a little cheese (okay a lot people, new year’s resolutions be damned!) on the bottom of your bowl, ladle this beautiful soup on top, and enjoy.

And now onto what I suspect most of you come here for, the dessert.  And the chocolate.  And also this time, some coffee, in your dessert.

Come to the VERY dark side.

Alright so I know these look like cow pies, but I promise you, they form the most delicious chocolate cake I have ever eaten.  And I generally prefer yellow or vanilla cakes.  This cake easily changed my mind.  One note: the batter may seem strangely thin for a cake, but take heed, this is completely normal.  Mine seemed thin but I trusted the recipe and it came out wonderful. The buttermilk keeps the cake unbelievably moist, and on the counter in a plastic domed cake carrier, it stayed that way for an entire week (the last piece had barely dried out at all, and I can speak from personal experience :)).

Lopsided is still every bit as heavenly!

Now if you have it out for buttercream you may balk at the frosting, but I have had many buttercreams I found to be excessively buttery–and this was not one of them.  The bitterness of the instant coffee along with the slight bitterness of the chocolate really balanced out the butter.  I have trouble describing how much I love this cake and what that means considering my sometimes turbulent relationship with chocolate and its various uses and preparations.  This is definitely a must try!

And I leave you with this:

When I asked my mom what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, her immediate, knee-jerk, one word reply: chocolate!

Here’s to a new year full of happy birthdays!

First Post Evar: Adventures in Food Photography

Sometimes I get a little overzealous about the whole “everything-must-be-made-from-scratch-or-else-it-isn’t-authentic” attitude.  I even considered making the marshmallows from scratch on this one.  But then I looked at the time (8:30 PM), got a grip and went to the grocery store to get all the ingredients I didn’t have. 

Abundant culinary energy always seems to strike me at the most inconvenient times, say, when most people are winding down to go to bed.   But then I see the glimmer of excitement in people’s eyes when they hear I’m baking something and I feel powerless to say no to this warmth from within  (no from my heart or soul or something, really).  Fast forward to three hours later, when I’m elbow deep in a made-from-scratch brownie batter and a homemade graham cracker crust, the warmth begins to fade.

Even though I’m not the biggest s’mores fan, I knew I had to try this recipe when tracked it down on foodgawker.  The biggest gripe I have with s’mores is the chocolate–I’m not a big fan of Hershey’s milk chocolate by itself, and it never seems to get melty-y enough.  But this recipe substitutes one chocolate (a typical bar), for another (brownies!) which could not give me greater pleasure.  The brownie recipe also utilizes one of my favorite combinations, coffee and chocolate, with some espresso powder mixed in.  The sharp espresso flavor really gives the very dark, rich chocolate batter an edge and depth of taste that’s incredible.

We were all excited, with everyone in my house peeking in until these beauties came out of the oven at 10:40, and no one was able to enjoy them. 

S'mores Brownies

Taken the morning after, for exhaustion's sake.

 Because they had to cool completely.  Despite all my ill-planning, they came out pretty darn good (even if in all the commotion I forgot to pre-bake the crust, and I substituted the last 1/2 cup granulated sugar for brown sugar …eeeek!).  S’mores brownies and strawberry lemonade is an exceptionally summery treat, even if not exactly breakfast-appropriate (I just couldn’t wait).

But if I thought my late-night baking sesh was the real adventure, my uber-type-A creative side had another thing coming.  I’m still not 100% thrilled with my first food photoshoot, but considering I have about zero photography experience, I think it’s a pretty good start, no?

Ahhhh, breakfast...dessert.

              This AWESOME recipe sourced from the blog browneyedbaker via foodgawker
          
 
 

             S’mores Brownies 

Yield: 32 brownies

Prep Time: 30 minutes | Bake Time: About 45 minutes total

For the Graham Cracker Crust:
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup granulated sugar(This genius, ME,  ran out of sugar and substituted approx 3/4 teaspoon equal parts cinnamon/sugar)
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

For the Brownies:
Chewy Brownies recipe (I also substituted 1/2 cup of the sugar in this linked recipe for brown sugar)
1 bag mini marshmallows
Additional graham crackers, broken into pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Line the pan with foil, leaving some overhang, and then butter the foil; set aside.

2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt, mixing well. Add the melted butter and, using a fork, toss until the entire mixture is moist. Dump the graham cracker mixture into the prepared baking pan, pressing it into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. Meanwhile, prepare your brownie recipe. Pour the brownie batter over the cooked graham cracker crust, spreading it into an even layer. Bake the brownies according to the directions.

4. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, switch the oven to broil. Pour the bag of mini marshmallows onto the brownies, covering it in an even layer. Pop the pan back in the oven for a few minutes. Keep a close eye on them – you want them to start to char so you get that s’mores flavor, but don’t want to completely burn them (and try not to let it get to the point where your smoke alarm goes off and your dogs go bizonkers at 10:30 at night.  My B, neighbors).

5. As soon as the pan comes out of the  oven, top the marshmallow layer with the pieces of graham cracker, pressing down slightly so that the pieces of graham cracker get nestled into the marshmallow.

6. Cool completely and then cut into squares. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

 One final note- all the crumbs from slicing and eating these babies would make an awesome topping for some vanilla ice cream…you’re welcome.  Well, that’s all for now kids, happy baking!

…and some more pictaaaas, for your persuing pleasure.

Brownaaaaay

Good thing mama likes to collect pretty glass dishes 🙂

Summertimeee

Flowers courtesy of my brother's weddangg

 
Dig In!

Before tossing the fork in the sink and gettin' down to business.