Saturday, January 29, 2011

brown butter chocolate chip cookies

Oh my cookie.

This is a good one.

It starts with nutty brown butter. Dark brown sugar and bittersweet chocolate add a carmel-like sweetness without tasting sugary. Sea salt tops it off (literally).

Have you ever craved potato chips after eating sweets? That's because your taste buds are calling out to you to balance the sweetness with some salt. That won't happen with these cookies; they won't leave you desiring anything. They might, in fact, be perfect.

I hadn't realized that there were people who devote their entire kitchen time to achieving the perfect chocolate chip cookie. My pondering of this recipe began when I knew I wanted something traditional, but with a twist. I must have heard of the brown butter/chocolate chip combo somewhere before, because it's not something I would have come up with on my own (having never browned butter myself). But it had somehow become catalogued in my mind and I retrieved the idea earlier in the week, then started my online search for a recipe to model. This is where I came upon the chocolate chip cookie fanatics. The interesting thing is that none of them seem to be competing against each other; rather, they are competing against themselves, trying to outdo their most recent "best" recipe.

The recipe below is based on one such best recipe. It's from Sugar Cooking, and apparently was based on a recipe featured in the New York Times, but with brown butter. I made a couple very minor changes (mostly due to ingredients I had on hand). The original recipe called for a combo of cake flour and bread flour - I used all purpose flour, which turned out fine. I substituted dark brown sugar for light brown sugar. For chocolate, I used a combo of a 70% cacao bar, chopped, and 60% cacao big chocolate chips (since that's what I had on hand). The recipe below reflects my changes.

This makes a lot of cookies, but that's a good thing because you're going to want to give some to everyone you know so they can experience the same joy that you do when you bite into one.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 5 1/2 dozen

3 2/3 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
scant 1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 1/2 sticks butter, sliced
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. bittersweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
coarse sea salt

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Heat a thick bottomed pan over medium heat (I used my Le Creuset French Oven - the light interior of the pan makes it easier to see the color of the butter to help prevent burning it). Add butter to pan. Once melted, whisk constantly. It will foam and eventually begin to brown (this took about 10 minutes for me, but I imagine this varies widely depending on your pan and heat). Once the butter has reached a deep caramel color and has a nutty aroma, remove it from heat and pour over sugars (do not mix). Transfer sugar-butter bowl to fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the bowl from fridge and secure to stand mixer. Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Mix in chocolate. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll 1 1/2 balls of dough and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Top with sea salt. Bake about 12 minutes, until golden. Let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, January 17, 2011

slow kitchen

There has been a lot going on lately. That's probably a gross understatement. But suffice it to say that one result has been a drastically reduced amount of time spent in the kitchen. When I get distracted by life and other projects, as I have been lately, I find myself turning to staple, tried and true dishes, vs. adventures in the kitchen. Fear not, the adventures will still come, however likely with less frequency than they have in the past.

This morning, I woke to a lovely extra weekend day and decided to put forth some effort to prepare and consume something besides coffee for breakfast. Leftover baguette, blueberries bought on a whim, and eggs from the fridge were morphed into simple and tasty french toast. I hesitate to even post the recipe here (due to simplicity of both ingredients and method). However since this was the source of the only hot pan that's been in my kitchen for a while, it can be found below.

Adventures will follow when culinary inspiration does. I'm trying to be patient for it. I hope you will be, too.

Simple Blueberry French Toast
Serves 1

1 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs
2-3 slices from baguette or rustic bread
a handful fresh blueberries
maple syrup

Melt butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Whisk eggs together in a bowl. Dip bread into eggs, one slice at a time, allowing the bread to soak up eggs. Transfer eggy slices to hot pan.

Cook until golden brown, then flip. Add blueberries to pan. Continue to cook until toast is golden on the second side. Transfer french toast to plate. Top with hot blueberries and maple syrup.

One year ago: leek and potato soup

Saturday, January 1, 2011

chocolate pistachio shortbread

Happy 2011 to all who are reading. It is crazy to me that a single day takes us from one year to the next: yesterday 2010, today 2011. The time seems to pass so quickly and so slowly, all at the same time.

I made this batch of cookies a couple of weeks ago... Before Christmas. Before beaches, sunshine (and rain), and helicopters in Kauai. Before 2011. Before all of the other things that happened in between.

Given that Marika and I have consumed many (many) dozens of shortbread cookies over the course of our friendship, I suppose it could be considered alarming that this is the first time I've made shortbread myself. I had decided to try something new to bring to my work team's holiday celebration and found myself perusing cookie recipes. There were a couple from Mary Engelbreit's Cookies Cookbook (which I picked up in college; it's now out of print) that caught my attention: one for classic shortbread, and another featuring cookies dipped in melted chocolate then sprinkled with pistachios. I decided to merge the two.

Strangely, I had trouble finding plain pistachios at the grocery store. After much searching, I found an endcap rack with bags from Santa Barbara Pistachio Company, however they were mostly in savory flavors, which would certainly not pair with chocolate. Then I found a single bag of Lemon Zing and decided to give them a try.

I am tempted to call this the perfect cookie: the shortbread provides crisp, buttery goodness without being overly sweet. The salty, lemony pistachios provided a bit of zing (true to name). And who doesn't like a cookie that has been dipped in chocolate?

Chocolate Pistachio Shortbread
Makes about 3 dozen

1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. all purpose flour
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c. pistachios, finely chopped

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour.

Divide dough into half. Shape each half into a 7x4-inch rectangle and chill until firm, about 45 minutes.

Roll out each piece of dough between sheets of plastic wrap to form a 10x6x1/2-inch rectangle. Peel off the top sheet and trim edges even. Cut dough into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until just beginning to golden around the edges. Cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a small pan. Dip cookies into chocolate, coating about a third, then sprinkle dipped portion with pistachios. Place cookies on wax paper. Let stand for about 1 hour, until chocolate is set.

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