Saturday, April 30, 2016

Soft Baked Red Velvet Cookies

Soft Baked Red Velvet Cookies - made dough March 19, 2016 from Bakes by ChiChi
I’m kind of ambivalent about these cookies. I certainly like the artistic concept of them: wonderfully dark red cookies with white chocolate chunks for interesting contrast in appearance, taste and texture. But I think I missed somewhere on execution because mine didn’t look as good as the original blog I got the recipe from. Plus I wasn’t wowed by the taste. It’s possible I just wasn’t in the mood for cookies or red velvet at the time I made these (pigs do fly, you know) or I didn’t bake them properly or something.

It’s a standard cookie recipe in that you throw the ingredients together and I followed my normal process of making dough balls, freezing them and baking off the frozen dough for less spread. These did spread somewhat so that was a disappointment. They weren’t as pretty as the ones I was trying to copycat from the original blog. And the taste didn’t grab me either even though I used the good cocoa.

I know, not a rousing endorsement, eh? You could still try them, especially for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Memorial Day and 4th of July. But I think I’ll stick with my red velvet cookies with cream cheesefrosting if I really want red velvet.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup full fat cream cheese
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon milk
red food coloring
1 1/2 to 2 cups white chocolate chips or chunks
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, cream cheese and sugars until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder and baking soda; set aside.
  3. Whisk together egg, vanilla extract, vinegar. milk and red food coloring. Add to sugar mixture and mix until combined.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add flour mixture and eat just until combined. Do not overmix. Mix in white chocolate chips and/or chunks.
  5. Portion dough into golf-ball-size dough balls and flatten slightly into thick discs. Cover and chill or freeze overnight or for several hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Evenly space discs on baking sheets and bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are set and middles no longer look raw. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before moving cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Soft Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies - hold the chips

Soft Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies - made dough March 19, 2016 from American Heritage Cooking
Usually I’m good about following a new recipe exactly then making modifications later on. But sometimes I get bold and, coupled with a flash of inspiration, I’m getting more comfortable with just doing my own baking thing. There’s no law that I have to follow a recipe exactly the way it’s laid out. That was just my own mantra. But hey, mantras can change.
Sometimes I just look at a picture of a cookie and immediately want to make it so I can have something that looks as good as that picture I saw. Sometimes it turns out, sometimes it doesn’t. I was inspired by the picture of this one because you can tell just by looking at it that the texture is going to be perfect. Chewy, soft perfection. And because I wanted that chewy soft perfection to be unmarred by the more rigid texture of chocolate chips, I decided to omit the chips completely and instead, added dollops of Nutella in the batter. Because I figured the 1/3 cup of Nutella that goes directly into the batter couldn’t be enough to make it super Nutella-y, right? So why not actual pools of Nutella swirled throughout the cookie?

So that’s what I did. I made the cookie dough first, dropped Nutella dollops on top, “swirled” it once or twice with a spatula (and I mean swirl, not mix or else you’re just incorporating the Nutella into the dough again and not leaving distinct pockets of Nutella), then scooped out into balls of dough. You want generous amounts of pure Nutella in each dough ball. Freeze then bake later on. These turned out pretty well and I was glad I made the modification because then they really were “Nutella cookies”. And delicious ones at that.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
heaping 1/3 cup Nutella
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella (or more), for dolloping
  1. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat together butter, Nutella, sugars, egg and vanilla on medium-high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until well combined, about 3-4 minutes. 
  3. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Dollop the Nutella on top of the dough and swirl very slightly. Do not try to mix into the dough but leave distinct swirls of Nutella. Scoop into golf-ball-size dough balls, cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Evenly space dough balls about 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until the edges are set and the middles no longer look raw or shiny. Let cool for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Coconut Bread

Coconut Bread - made March 19, 2016, modified from Ever After in the Woods
I'm a bit lukewarm on this recipe, although I love coconut and I did like this when it was - ha - lukewarm, the glaze was melting over it and the coconut inside the bread and on top of the glaze added both sweetness and chewiness. Then it had a nice texture and the glaze sweetened it up.

But when I had a taste test slice from the larger loaf I had made and it was at room temperature, it wasn't as good. It wasn't sweet enough for my particular taste buds and the texture was a bit too heavy and not chewy or cakey enough, even for a quick bread.
I don't know if I overbaked it or that's just how this particular coconut bread was supposed to be but I think I was looking for something more like a coconut pound cake and this wasn't it. If you make this, it's best eaten warm.
For the glaze, I simply added a little milk to some confectioners' sugar until I had the desired consistency and whisked it with a teaspoon of vanilla for flavor.
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut flakes
  1. Spray 9 x 5" loaf pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a mixer, combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until just combined. Add vanilla extract.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add flour mixture and milk, alternating. Mix until just combined. Add coconut and pour batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies (Levain Bakery copycat)

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies - made dough March 12, 2016 from Love from the Oven
I first heard of Levain Bakery when my old college roommate sent me their chocolate cookies for my birthday.  It was more than 6 or 7 years ago but to this day I remember they were huge slabs of chocolate goodness. It seems almost misleading to call them merely "cookies" because that makes them sound so normal and there's nothing normal or modest about a Levain cookie.
They were so huge that I literally could not finish a cookie in one sitting. I did manage to consume one in one day but that involved me going back periodically to snitch a bite throughout the day. They were hearty, they were big and there were delicious. I've only had the mail order version but it's on my bucket list to go visit in person the next time I'm back in New York City.

But until then, I was pleased to find this copycat recipe on pinterest. The pictures from Love From the Oven lured me in first because they looked exactly like how I remembered Levain Bakery's cookies looked. Even if they weren't the same cookies, they looked the part and yes, you know, that chubby appeared got me.

I was even more pleased when I made the cookies myself and mine turned out just as thick and chubby. And also delicious. Use the dark, good quality cocoa (I always use Pernigotti) for the rich chocolate flavor. You don't want your butter too soft or your dough will mix up too soft and your cookies will spread more than they should. I did make my cookies a bit smaller than the Levain Bakery size since I didn't want these to be an all-day eating project. Don't overbake. Bake just long enough that the middles don't look raw. Then once the cookies are cool, they'll be fudgy goodness.

1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed. Mix in the cocoa powder until blended.
  4. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder; mix on low speed just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Portion dough into golf-ball size dough balls and flatten slightly into thick discs.
  6. Evenly space on prepared baking sheet and bake 16-20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes then transfer to wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Chocolate Cookie Cups with Nutella or dulce de leche and Cadbury mini eggs

Chocolate Chip cookie cups as Easter nests - made dough March 25, 2016, recipe adapted from Something Swanky
I don’t have a short title to describe these Easter-themed calorie pockets. And yes, I'm woefully late in posting them since Easter was a few weeks ago. They were originally from a blog that considered them a Throwdown with Bobby Flay for chocolate chip cookies. I made the recipe, fully intending to serve them “as is”. Except when I baked off the taste test cookie, it spread and flattened thin. Eek. Thin chocolate chip cookies just don’t cut it with me. Granted, they were delicious but they were thin. I don’t do thin when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, literally and figuratively.

So if they were going to spread anyway, I decided to repurpose them into chocolate chip cookie cups. The dough was frozen by the time I discovered their dismaying tendency to spread while baking but I cut the dough balls into thirds and placed them in greased mini muffin tins. No need to shape the dough into cookie cups prior to baking because they’ll just lose shape in the baking anyway. Instead, what you want to do is, as soon as you take them out of the oven, press the rounded side of a half teaspoon in the center of each mini muffin cavity to make a depression. Not too deep but not too shallow either. 

Taking them out of the mini muffin tins can be tricky. You don’t want to take them out while they’re hot because they’ll still be too soft and mushy to come out whole. But you don’t want them to cool completely either because they’ll stick to the pan and be harder to dislodge without breaking apart. If they get too cool and start to fall apart, place them briefly (very briefly!) back in the warm oven, just enough to soften slightly and allow you to take them out of the pan. You may need to press the half teaspoon bottom into the “muffins” again to make the indentation stay. 

Once the cookie cups are completely cool, spoon a bit of Nutella or dulce de leche (you can also use salted caramel) into the cavities, filling just enough to barely reach the rims. You don’t want it overflowing if you’re going to add the Cadbury mini eggs on top. Which I did to make Easter nests. I’d like to tell you I was channeling my inner Martha Stewart baking goddess and that’s why I did it but the reality is I had my annual bag of Cadbury mini eggs that I hadn’t even opened yet and I was about to give up sugar (again) for a month (again) and didn’t want the mini eggs around to tempt me. So I pushed them into the Nutella or dulce de leche instead to make these cute Easter-themed treats. 

Couple of other tips to make these better: use mini chocolate chips for the cookie dough. At the time I made them, I hadn’t known that’s what I was going to use them for so I used regular size chocolate chips. The problem with that is when you bake them in the mini muffin tins, the chocolate chips had a tendency to stick to the pan and were more stubborn about it than the cookie part which led to more easily falling apart. Mini chocolate chips shouldn’t give you that problem. 
Also make sure you fill the mini muffin cavities with relatively the same amount of dough. You don’t want some mini cups to bake more than others because you have to take them all out at the same time so they should all be relatively the same size. You do want just enough that it’ll fill the cavity when baked but not so much that it overflows the top. This is one time where having a muffin top isn’t a good idea. The reason is the overflow also has a tendency to stick to the top as it’s cooling and will separate from the body of the mini cookie cup when you try to take it out of the pan. Trust me, I know. 

No need to press the Cadbury mini eggs too far into the Nutella or dulce de leche. You want to press down gently, just enough so that it’ll stay but no need to submerge all the way or completely. I think it’s prettier when you can actually see the mini egg in its cookie cup nest. These are super cute at an Easter lunch or tea. I didn’t think of them until Easter Sunday itself and am getting them up too late for this year but bookmark this for when you buy those Cadbury mini eggs next year. I put a plate of these out in the kitchen at work and they went fast. I guess I’m not the only one who considers the Cadbury mini eggs to be a form of Easter crack. 
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups mini chocolate chips
1 bag Cadbury mini eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Mix together flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.
  4. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, portion dough evenly into each mini muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. Bake until golden brown and middles no longer look raw, 9-10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately make indents in the center of each cookie cup, pressing the rounded side of a half teaspoon in the center.
  6. Let cool for several minutes before gently removing using a small metal spatula. Place cookie cups on wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Once cool, fill cavities with nutella and/or dulce de leche and press several Cadbury mini eggs on top to make an Easter "nest".

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies

Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies - made dough March 6, 2016, adapted from Averie Cooks
It’s extremely rare – as in has never happened before – that I tell you I tried a recipe from Averie Cooks and….I didn’t like it. I typically love, not just like, but love most of her recipes. There have been a handful where mine haven’t turned out as well as hers looked but most of them have been amazing. Unfortunately, not this time and I blame it all on lemon extract.

I actually liked everything else about this recipe: it was easy to make, the dough was great, the cookies didn’t spread and remained chubby (you know I like the chubby) and the texture was perfectly soft and chewy as the title advertises. I also added lemon chips for a little extra lemon flavor. But I hated the taste of the lemon extract. Seriously. Just hated it. I don’t like most extracts anyway, with the notable exception of vanilla extract which I love. Any other extract just has too much of a metallic tang. Almond extract is a no-go. Much as I love coconut, I hate coconut extract. I’ve used lemon extract before and been fine but this is the first time I’ve used it in such a relatively large quantity and it ruined the cookie for me.

When I say ruined, I mean, I threw the taste test cookie away after eating half of it. That’s right – tossed it. I thought later maybe I was being a mite too persnickety (like I haven’t been accused of that before) so I baked off the rest of the cookies, intending to give them away along with a couple of other kinds of cookies I’d made for a lunch. Then I tried the cookie again. This time I got through 2/3 of the cookie then I couldn’t do it. I tried but I just couldn’t. I can’t give away something I can’t even finish myself. That’s not how I roll.

I do want to try making these cookies again though since I liked everything else about it but next time I’m either going to leave the lemon extract out completely or just it down to a max of a teaspoon, maybe half a teaspoon. I’m fine if they’re not super lemony if it means I can get rid of that metallic lemon taste.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon extract (beware this is a lot of extract and what I didn't like about it - try cutting to 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon honey
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup lemon chips, optional
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugars, egg and lemon extract and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, light, fluffy and well combined, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add lemon zest and honey and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. Add lemon juice. Beat until just combined.
  4. Using a large cookie scoop, portion into golf-ball-size dough balls, cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space frozen dough balls on baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges have setand middles no longer look raw. Do not overbake. Cool completely before serving.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies - made dough February 15, 2016 from The Domestic Rebel
I think I have to get over my prejudice in using oil in recipes. My first inclination is I only want to bake with butter but I have to admit, in the right recipe, oil serves a good purpose. And it’s the right recipe in this one for sugar cookies. The oil helps prevent the cookie from spreading too much and it adds a crispness to the edges while still keeping the rest of the cookie moist. I’m still a butter girl but I can’t argue with oil in this recipe.

Next to an amazing chocolate chip cookie, my next favorite is a good sugar cookie. And this is a good sugar cookie. I like the simplicity of the recipe and, unlike my penchant for tinkering with plain brownie recipes to fancy them up, I prefer to keep my sugar cookies as plain as possible so you get the full hit of that sugary, buttery goodness with nothing to interfere with the taste. Love it.

Just make sure you beat the butter until it's creamy and there are no lumps. I like to beat the butter first before I add the other ingredients. If you combine the oil and butter while the butter is still cold or lumpy, it's harder to get the lumps out after all the oil or eggs are in.

Oh and don't let their modest, homemade appearance fool you - this is a really delicious cookie.
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1 cup oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Additional granulated sugar, for rolling
  1. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla and eggs until creamed and well combined, about 2 minutes. 
  2. Add in the baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and flour; gently mix until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a cookie dough scoop, portion into golf-ball-size dough balls and roll in the additional sugar. Evenly space on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until edges are golden brown and middles no longer look raw. Do not overbake.