Friday, February 1, 2013

Chocolate chip cookies revisited

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies.  If you don't, I'm sure your friends and family have already let you know how absurd you are.  I also know I've posted on chocolate chip cookies before.  And I know that you probably have made chocolate chip cookies before, and they were probably great.  However, it is exactly because of those things that I'm coming back to this.  Every recipe and cookie I've tried has been pretty good, but I've never had a chocolate chip cookie that just leaves me raving over how good it was. 

So to me, the chocolate chip (or m&m, I must admit I consider them pretty interchangeable) cookie has been a sort of challenge.  Can you make one that's so good people choose it over the gooey Paula Deen ones, or even over those fancy cupcakes someone brought to the same party?  I'm not sure that the answer is yes, at least not yet, but I think I'm getting close.

A long time ago I started with the recipe on a bag of chocolate chips, and since then I've been making changes each time.  Add or remove a little something, mess with the baking time or temp, make different sizes, etc.  The goal in mind was a cookie that held its shape (didn't flatten while cooling), had a crunchy outside, chewy inside, and was flavorful even if you happened to get a bit without chocolate.

So here it is.  I'm pretty happy with it, and I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks.  If you happen to give it a try, please let me know!

1/2 Cup salted butter
1/2 Cup shortening
1 Cup light brown sugar
1/2 Cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 Teaspoons of vanilla
3 Cups wheat flour
1/2 Cup white flour
3 Teaspoons baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
14 oz of chocolate chips or M&Ms

1) Preheat the oven to 365
2) Combine dry ingredients, reserving the sugars, and set aside
3) Cream butter and shortening until completely blended, add sugars and continue to mix until slightly fluffy
4) Blend in vanilla and eggs
5) Slowly mix in dry ingredients until well combined
6) Stir in candy of choice
7) Roll walnut size (just smaller than a golf ball) balls of dough and place 2 inches apart on a non-greased baking sheet.
8) Bake for 16 minutes or until the edges begin to brown (cookie should also have cracks forming)
9) Allow to cool on the caking sheet for 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack

Paula Deen "Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies"

The first thing anyone thinks about when they hear "Paul Deen" is butter, and lots of it. This recipe doesn't disappoint (although you could argue that all cookies have about as much butter...).  At first glance I was pretty un-impressed since the recipe calls for a boxed cake mix, but I'm very glad I let go of that particular dislike because these turned out fantastic.

This was a very quick recipe- start to finish I had two dozen cookies in about half an hour.  The cookies were delicious warm and gooey out of the oven, but kept well for a few days too.  The one thing I didn't like- and this is just cosmetic- was that the powdered sugar sort of soaked in and crystallized after awhile.  I would make
these again in a heart beat, especially if I wanted to
bring a treat somewhere and didn't have much time.

I actually made this recipe twice in the course of a week.  I didn't really feel they were missing anything the first time I made them, but at the suggestion of Chris I added chocolate chips to the mix the second time around.  It was one of those moments where I realized I truly didn't know what I was missing until I had it.  They were absolutely the best chocolate cookie I'd ever eaten.  And I've eaten a lot of cookies...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spice cookies- three recipes in review

Spice cookies.  Who doesn't like a good pumpkin spice cookie when the leaves turn or a ginger bread cookie come Christmas?  Unfortunately I've had only bad experiences with this class of cookie in the past- whether the molasses is too strong, spices aren't right, or the texture is off, something has always seemed to go wrong.  I tried again this fall with a variety of recipes with mixed results, but here they are:

Pumpkin molasses cookies
When I first started Pinterest I had no idea that there were galleries of "Pinterest Fails" and in my naive state was willing to try any recipe I came across.  Some were wonderful (like the caramel apple sugar cookies) and some were not.  Such as this one.

When I first saw this recipe, the weather was changing and anything pumpkin sounded fantastic.  A quick glance at the recipe and looked like a pretty standard recipe.   I followed the directions as written and I was even patient and let the dough chill longer than the required time.

The resulting cookie was extremely flat and floppy.  It never set the way the recipe suggested it would, and they were extremely difficult to get off the pan.  They tasted fine, but who wants to eat a cookie that looks more like a pancake?  I'm not sure if it was me or the recipe, but I won't be trying this one again any time soon.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
This is another Pinterest recipe, but it went over much better than the last one.  The cookie itself still wasn't what I wanted though.  For one thing, they were way too soft- still almost cake-like. They also turned out really domed, which made them difficult to frost.  Other than that they were great.  The maple icing turned out well too.  I'm not sure how to fix the doming issue, but I would probably try these again.

Break Your Water Cookies
As you can probably guess by the title, I was a little desperate and very done being pregnant when I made these (did I mention Elaine was a week over-due?) .  Don't let it throw you off though- these are actually the dark horse winners of this spice cookie show-down.

 These cookies had it all- flavor, texture, looks.  They were just barely crunchy on the outside with the soft center associated with spice cookies.  They stayed that way too, which is always nice.  They were definitely spicy, but not in an over-whelming way, and it all worked well with the molasses flavor.

I did eat about a dozen of these a few days before going into labor, and regardless of whether they helped or not, it was a pleasant way to try to move things along.  I brought these to work and a family gathering and everyone agreed they were great.

Carmel Apple Sugar Cookies (could it get any better?)

The next few posts are going to be very cookie-heavy.  To start, I tried a Pinterest recipe and this one was a total success (unlike a few others I've tried... but that's for another time).

Basically, you use powdered apple cider mix to flavor a sugar cookie recipe, wrap it around a soft caramel candy, and bake.  The only thing I changed from the original recipe, was to cut the caramels in half.  Using the whole ones got really messy and resulted in enormous cookies.  And just a note- the part about allowing them to cool upside down should not be ignored.  I tried it with a few just to see and the cookie ends up looking very sunken.

I also highly recommend warming them over a hot drink as the author suggests.  Unless you eat them all warm off the baking sheet- I wouldn't judge if it happened!

Reese's Cupcakes

A loooong time ago I saw a package of the new "minis" Reese's peanut butter cups on sale.  I immediately thought of their uses in baking and bought a few packages with no particular plan in mind.

About two months later I came across a recipe for peanut butter buttercream (scroll to the bottom), along with a chocolate cake recipe, and thought this would be an opportunity to use them.  After scanning the cake recipe I decided it looked like too much work, so I used my old stand by recipe instead. 

 I used foil cupcake cases for these since they seemed more candy-bar-ish than regular paper ones and I topped them off with the minis Reese's.  After doing a few, I decided it looked better to cut the Reese's in half, so the rest of them followed suite.  No matter how cute the minis Reese's are, the real star of this show was the peanut butter buttercream. It was so light and creamy and full-flavored, without being overwhelming.  I received many compliments on these from everyone who tried them and almost everyone commented on the icing.  Definitely a fun recipe to keep on hand!

Apple Pie

I'm pretty sure the phrase "as easy as pie" doesn't apply to many pies other than apple.  It's just such an easy process, especially in comparison to other pies.  I've posted on apple pies before, but I had added a bunch of new things.  This was just straight-up apple pie and it was so pretty I had to post a picture.  Gala apples were on sale this time and I got to practice my new lattice crust technique.

I also used wheat flour for the crust and it tasted great!

Georgia Peach Pound Cake

I made this pound cake with the same batch of peaches that I bought for the peach cobblers that I made.  They were a bigger success than the cobbler was a flop!  I couldn't believe how well they turned out in every way.

It was super dense and sweet, cut like a dream, and kept for almost a week.  The outside was coated in sugar and it added a great little crunch to it.

The only thing I would give caution about is greasing the pans before coating them in sugar.  I did a moderate coat of baking spray, but since the sugar partially melts while baking, it got very stuck in some places.  I will definitely be using shortening next time to get a good all-over coat.

Chris and I ate the loaves ourselves, so I can't give any objective positive testimonial, but we loved them!