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Chocolate

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a couple of years ago for hanukkah, my parents gifted me with what i consider to be my very own bible: the all-american cookie book by nancy baggett. this book is where 99% of my favorite cookie recipes come from, with the exception of one: the peanut butter kiss.

 you’ve probably had a peanut butter kiss before. in fact, in high school i once made out with a guy after a party who tasted a lot like peanut butter. et voila, a peanut butter kiss! no, but really – it’s my experience that many a man taste like peanut butter when you kiss them. hey, it’s better than tasting of cigarettes and stale beer, right?

 anywho, you’ve also probably had a peanut butter kiss COOKIE before, too. you know, those deliciously crackly peanut butter cookies wrapped in sugar, the ones with a hershey’s kiss melted smack dab into the middle. there’s little better in life than peanut butter and chocolate (mint and chocolate is pretty damn amazing too), as reese’s cups and haagen dazs’ chocolate peanut butter ice cream demonstrate. these cookies are incredibly simple and take less than 10 minutes to whip up, then another ten to bake. they taste amazing, look adorable, and make a great gift. right now, there’s a bunch of them sitting in my glass cookie jar, looking pretty all day every day. 

 seriously, you can’t go wrong with these. they converted my peanut butter hating roommate into a fan. girl ever asked for the recipe. that’s when you know she’s come over to the dark side of PB and chocolate. you’ll notice that i went for hershey’s white chocolate swirl kisses. this wasn’t intentional. i was actually quite unhappy when i opened the bag and saw i’d gotten the wrong kind –  but you know what? turns out peanut butter is just as good with white chocolate as it is with milk chocolate. 

The Recipe *adapted from a cooks.com recipe search

 1 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 egg

4 tbsp milk

2 tsp vanilla

1 bag hershey’s kisses (flavor of your choice)

 additional 1/2 cup white sugar

 to make, preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease two baking sheets (or cover with parchment paper or silicone mats).

 combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. set aside. in a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer, if you’ve got one), mix sugars, butter, peanut butter, egg, milk and vanilla until creamy. go on, dip your finger in. it’s goooood, isn’t it? now, slowly mix in the dry ingredients.

 take your additional 1/2 cup of white sugar and put it in a small bowl. roll your dough into golf-sized balls (or a little smaller) and roll in the sugar. place on cookie sheet, about 1″ apart. bake for 8-10 minutes (they should be golden and cracked around the top), and immediately place a single chocolate kiss* in the center of each cookie.

 *insider’s tip: peel the wrappers from your kisses ahead of time, and stick them in a bowl in the freezer. this ensures that they won’t melt entirely when you put them into the hot cookies.

 now, resist the urge to eat the whole batch at once. or don’t. but don’t blame me if you have a tummy ache tomorrow. 

as my few loyal followers (hi, family and a couple friends) may recall, last week i posted a recipe for best ever brownies, which, i have to remind you, are totally delicious. as you also may remember, i stated in that post that these brownies were perfect for mix ins, like s’mores, for example.

well, now i’ve gone and mixed in graham crackers and mini marshmallows, and the results are spectacular. the marshmallows give the brownies an ooey gooey quality that can’t be beat, and the graham crackers somehow melted into just a tiny bit of crunch – but not too much crunch, so you’re not biting into a bit of brownie and scraping your gum. since in new york we don’t exactly have campfires on the regular, i’ll be putting this brownie recipe into regular rotation. next up, i’m thinking i’ll attempt s’more ice cream sandwiches…can ya dig it? YUM. 

anywho, if you want to make these, consult the best ever brownies recipe, and then throw in 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers and 1 1/2 cup mini marshmallows.

try and resist the urge to eat the entire pan as soon as they come out of the oven. i tried and all i got was a burnt tongue and singed fingers.

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as much as i love cookie dough – straight to the face, homemade, eaten sitting on my couch in my oversized flannel PJ pants while watching house hunters – sometimes, a girl just wants a brownie. an ooey gooey mess of chocolate that leaves a trail of crumbs in its wake. i’ve tackled red velvet brownies, but last night, i just wanted to plain old CHOCOLATE. so i turned to my ice cream guru david lebovitz, who, surprise surprise, has some pretty other fantastic recipes too. like these brownies, which are quite possibly the easiest thing in the world to make. you’ll have to trust me when i tell you these are THE BEST. THE BEST EVER. as in, you can cover me with these brownies when you bury me (or at the very least, leave a few in my coffin for me to eat during my eternal slumber). i added some extra chocolate chips to mine, but i get the sense that you can add just about anything to these and they’d still be delicious. which makes me think that next up, i’m going to make s’more brownies. think of it…chocolate…crushed graham crackers…MARSHMALLOWS…i’m salivating just thinking about it.

so, without further adieu, best ever brownies.

The Recipe

Makes about 9-12 brownies, depending on how big/little you slice ’em.

6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (i just used about 3/4 of a bag of semi sweet chips from trader joe’s)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla (i added 2…whoopsies, a bit liberal with the pouring)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup all purpose flour (yes, that’s it)

1 cup walnuts, or whatever else you want to mix in (you can skip this step all together if you’d like)

to make, preheat your oven to 350. line a 9 x 9 baking pan with tinfoil or parchment paper.

melt the butter in a saucepan* over medium to low heat. once butter is melted, mix in the chocolate. stir until melted and smooth. resist the temptation to stick your fingers in it/slather your body with it. it should resemble willy wonka’s chocolate river.

*if you have a stand mixer, use a small pan – you’ll do your mixing in the kitchenaid. if you don’t have a stand mixer, use a large saucepan  – you’ll do all your mixing in it.

remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the sugar and the vanilla. transfer the mixture to your stand mixer and beat in the eggs, one at a time. if you don’t have a stand mixer, keep everything in one place – but still beat the eggs in one at a time. once evenly combined, add the flour. beat vigorously for 60 seconds. count it out. twirl your hair. practice your vocabulary. call your BFF and leave a lengthy voicemail. whatever you do, make sure you beat for the full minute. at the onset, the batter will appear grainy, but once you’ve beat it (just beat it…BEATTT ITTTT…BEAT ITTT…sing it, MJ!), it will be smooth and creamy and delicious. now you can stick your fingers in. just one little taste. you deserve it. it’s been a long day.

if you’re adding mix-ins, add them now and mix just enough to fold them in. pour the batter into the pan and use a spatula to ensure it’s spread out fairly evenly. bake in the middle of your oven for about 30 minutes. mine ended up taking around 40 to be done; ovens vary. check with a toothpick to ensure that the brownies are done before you take them out for good.

let cool fully. as in, don’t try to cut yourself a bite after twenty minutes. the brownies need to set. once they’ve cooled down, you can cut them up and distribute them to friends and loved ones and the homeless guy outside the post office if you feel so inclined.

ps: david lebovitz, you’re a good among men.

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what’s better than chocolate?

NOTHING. that’s right, folks. there’s little in life i believe to be better than chocolate. well, maybe cats. cats, and cookies – is it a coincidence that all these things start with the letter “c”? i think not. 

so, back to the chocolate. you know what’s good? a really well-made snickerdoodle. you know what’s even better than a really well-made snickerdoodle? a CHOCOLATE snickerdoodle. oh yes, my friends, a choc.o.late. snickerdoodle. break it down and think about it. think about all that cinnamon sugary goodness mixing with the amazing invention that is chocolate. i’m one of those people who thinks most things are made better by the addition of chocolate. peanut butter? way better when it’s with chocolate. mint? HELLO, peppermint patties! junior mints! those babies would be nothing without my dear friend chocolate. and while we’re on the subject, i’ll go right ahead and say it: when my dear aunt flo comes to visit, get outta my way, especially if “in my way” means “standing in front of the chocolate at the grocery store.” i think most women would agree, when it’s that time of the month (and when we’re sad/angry/happy/frustrated/cranky/tired/emotional), we need to find us some chocolate, and fast.

it was in one of these sad/happy/emotional states that i decided that snickerdoodles, an old standby in the spiced cookie category, could use a little, well, spicing up. and what better way to improve upon something already delicious than by adding chocolate? so add chocolate i did! and i am proud to say the results were pretty darn spectacular. these cookies still taste like traditional snickerdoodles, but they also, miraculously, taste like chocolate. these are so good, they’ve got me thinking i need to make me some mexican chocolate (cinnamon, almonds and vanilla) sometime soon. but we’ll save that for another day.

The Recipe (adapted from The All American Cookie Book’s recipe for “Best Ever Snickerdoodles”)

2 3/4 cups all purpose white flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

3 tbsp cocoa powder (i get mine at trader joe’s)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened (note: this means you can stick them in the mic – but only for about 15 seconds!)

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup

2 large eggs

2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For topping

1/4 cup sugar, combined with 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

preheat oven to 375. grease several baking sheets or line them with silicone baking mats. 

in a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and nutmeg; set aside. in another large bowl (preferably a stand mixer), beat together the butter, sugar, and corn syrup until well blended and fluffy, about two minutes. add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended and smooth. turn the mixer to low/off and add half the flour mixture. increase speed and beat until the flour mixture is evenly incorporated. turn back down to low, add the remaining flour mixture, and beat again until incorporated.

let the dough stand for 5-10 minutes to firm up slightly. in the meantime, mix up your cinnamon sugar topping in a small bowl. 

when your dough is ready to go, roll portions into soft 1 1/2 inch balls. roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture until fully covered. place on baking sheets, spacing evenly about 2-3 inches apart. bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 8-11 minutes (mine took about 10). transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 1-2 minutes. then, transfer the cookies to wire cooling racks. if you keep them on the hot baking sheets, they’ll continue to cook. let stand until completely cooled. now, eat, drool, and proceed to eat again.

store in an airtight container for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 2 months. 


when i was a wee little thing back in high school, my nickname was “mrs. fields” – after the infamous cookie shop found in every suburban mall around the country, and supposed maven of all things chocolate chip. i loved me a good bake sale, and my a capella group always needed to raise more moolah. i spent many a first period sitting outside the library in a little nook that was positively made for bake sales, touting my brownies and cookies and things.

chocolate chip cookies are one of the first recipes i learned to bake myself (though i also make a mean no-cook peanut butter ball), but it took me years to truly perfect the art. you see, folks, there is an art to chocolate chip cookie baking. too sweet means you can’t eat much of them. too salty means they don’t taste like cookies. too flat means a crunch that simply shouldn’t be associated with anything in the cookie family, and don’t even try to talk to me about anything that comes from the pre-made area in the supermarket.

here are a few things i’ve learned over the years, otherwise known as “follow these rules if you want a perfect cookie.”

* always add a little more vanilla than the recipe calls for. don’t think, just pour.

* don’t over-melt your butter! it took me years to figure this out. YEARS, people. i’d read “slightly softened” and stick that baby in the microwave and end up with flatter than flat cookies. i have had many a meltdown over cookies that came out flat. i don’t even want to talk about it. actually, yes i do. in these situations, i freak out and through out the entire batch. i don’t do pancake cookies. can’t handle it. they make my eyes water the way onions do. when it comes to butter, room temperature means leave it out for a little while to soften. as a general rule, don’t put butter in the microwave. when you do, you tend to over-melt it. leave it out and let it do its thing. if your butter goes into the dough 75% melted, it’ll melt the other 25% in the oven – which is what makes for pancake cookies.

* keep your chocolate chips in the freezer. this way, when you add them into the dough, they’re cool – so they won’t totally melt when the dough goes into the oven.

* invest in a stand mixer. once you go kitchen aid, you never go back. trust.

The Recipe (taken from The All-American Cookie Book)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (two sticks) butter, slightly softened (remember what we learned about butter above)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (note: i like to add 3)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (i use the bag from trader joe’s)
optional: 2 cups nuts (i hate nuts. no nuts for me. keepin’ it simple.)
preheat the oven to 375. grease your baking sheets, or lay silicone baking mats (lifesavers!) on your baking sheets instead and grease those lightly. 
in a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. set aside. in a large bowl (or stand mixer), beat together butter, brown sugar and sugar until well-blended and fluffy. this may take a few minutes. once fluffy, add the eggs and vanilla. mix well. stir in the flour mixture, then add chocolate chips (and nuts if you’re one of those weirdos that likes that sort of thing). 
now, eat at least three spoonfuls of dough. consider putting aside a bit of dough for those bad days when you just need to stuff your face with something delicious. 
once you’re feeling sufficiently nauseous from the raw egg consumption, drop the dough onto your baking sheets about two inches apart. they should be about the size of a tablespoon. bake cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of your oven for 8-11 minutes. take those babies out when they’re golden brown all over and slightly darker at the edges. Let cool on the sheets a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks. 
store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 1 month.