Friday, November 21, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies like the Bakeries Do Them

There’s something extra special about walking into a bakery or a cafĂ© and seeing an array of clear plastic jars lining the counter, all filled with different varieties of extra-large cookies: the kind that one’s mother seldom, if ever, would bake in her kitchen. These are exceptional, in their size and in their taste, and no matter the quality of other homemade chocolate chip cookies, the glass-jar kind are of a seemingly unusual breed.

In reality, though, this is not entirely the case. Yes, there are singularities to these behemoth cookies, but once the secret is known they are exceedingly simple to make at home. The only thing that really needs to be done is a small adjustment of ingredients.

That’s what I did with these extra-large chocolate chip cookies, slightly modified from a recipe on Baking Bites. The secret is in the extra helping of brown sugar and vanilla extract, with a decrease in granulated sugar making them richer than the average cookie. The cooking time is also increased, in order to thoroughly bake through, and I allowed the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes longer than I would normally allow before transferring them to wire sheets. For my trial recipe, though, I used one part applesauce to one part butter, as I sometimes experiment with when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, in order to see how the consistency would be affected. As a result, my cookies did not spread as wide, but they still had a wonderful chunkiness and chewiness that I find very appealing in the bakery style cookies, but without so much of a buttery taste.

Giant Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen

1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies/puffed rice cereal
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugars and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture, followed by rice krispies and chocolate chips.
Using a 1/4 cup measure as a spoon, drop 1/4 cup scoops of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave at least 4 inches between cookies to allow for spread (I put 5 or 6 on a sheet). Cookie dough should be shaped in the 1/4 cup measure, not in a round ball (as this results in the most even baking).
Bake for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are golden at the edge. Remove from oven and let cookies set on cookie sheet for 6-10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Potato Chips and Cookies, Together at Last

When it comes to food, I try my best to be adventurous. I see nothing wrong in sampling a dish that has a strange description or a smattering of unusually paired ingredients, if for no other reason than to say that I tried it. This was the case when I bought a Vosges Bacon Chocolate Bar or when I ordered Egg Cream gelato at Grom in Greenwich Village. So maybe I'm mainly exploratory when it comes to sweets, but to be fair, I go out for dessert much more often than I go out for a regular meal. But I still spend a good amount of time in the kitchen, and I've been thinking that my confectionary open-mindedness should extend beyond what other chefs are trying and into my own repertoire. Which is why I was pleased to have found a cookie recipe that I had not seen before; I had not seen even similar types of cookies in the past. The name "Potato Chip Cookie" is, to me, not very appetizing, but only because I'm not a fan of potato chips in general. However, when I thought about it, I love chocolate covered pretzels, with the mixture of sweet and salty, and so perhaps potato chips in cookie dough would not be so far-fetched. The final product turned out quite well, in my opinion (and the opinion of my co-workers!). The potato chips gave the cookies a bit of extra fluffiness but they did not give themselves away: as unwitting tasters tested the cookies, none were able to identify the secret ingredient, but many agreed that it had a "familiar" flavor. Additionally, the dough is of the standard, buttery variety and is difficult to do much harm to. Personally, these are not my favorite cookies; I found the combination of butter and potato chips to be slightly overwhelming. However, they were a real crowd-pleaser with their crunchy mystery ingredient.

Potato Chip Cookies

Yield: About 3 dozen


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 - 1 1/4 cups crushed potato chips


Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the egg.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt, then stir into butter mixture. Stir in potato chips.
Drop tablespoonfuls (1-inch balls) of dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches between each cookie to allow room to spread.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until light golden.
Cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dessert Cornucopia: A Good-bye Feast

While the rain passed through Brooklyn this weekend, I spent most of Saturday in my kitchen creating a buffet of baked goods for a party on Sunday: the three recipes below, and one of my favorites, the Chocolate Crinkle cookies which I wrote about in March. The mini cupcakes were the real winner out of all the choices; everyone enjoyed the hint of sweetness in the cakes paired with the confectioners' sugar of the icing, appreciating the flavor balance along with their cute size. My favorite were the brownies, since I used the Valrhona cocoa powder I had been saving for a special occasion, and they made me realize just how much the quality of the ingredients matter in a baked dish.
It wasn't the cloudy weather that had me pause from time to time, smiling sadly out the window; it's the fact that the countdown has begun until I leave this apartment – and this wonderful, tiny kitchen – for my cross-country move. At the end of November, I'll vacate, hand in my keys, and say goodbye to the counter top and oven that helped me to grow as a baker over the past several months.
Although I'm giving away or selling most of my things, I'm reluctant to part with the kitchen items, not because they are of any great quality, but because my bowls and wisk and measuring spoons remind me of the various new desserts I've tried, the chocolate chip cookies that I've compulsively attempted to perfect, and as always, the delighted reception of my treats. Maybe it's ridiculous, but it is, after all, my first set of baking tools and I don't believe I've worn them down sufficiently yet. So I'm keeping the pink mixing bowls and the plastic measuring cup, and even my requisite Betty Crocker cookbook (amongst a few others).
With a few weeks left, I doubt this will be my last day turning on the oven and pulling the flour from the cupboard, which is a relief. And I only hope that the brownies and the cupcakes and all that I've made have absorbed some of the nostalgia, comfort, and bliss that I've felt myself working around my kitchen this weekend.

Dessert Cornucopia: Valrhona Chocolate Brownies

Valrhona Double Chocolate Brownies

1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking dish.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave (about 45 seconds, but watch to be sure).
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt.
4. Add the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and continue to mix until well combined (but do not overmix). Finally, stir in the chopped chocolate.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

Dessert Cornucopia: Baby Cakes

Baby Cakes
Yield: About 48

Adapted from The Food Network


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. fine salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ cup milk
1 ½ cup confectioners' sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the muffin tin with mini cupcake liners.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
3. In another medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. While beating, gradually pour in the butter and then the vanilla.
While mixing slowly, add half the dry ingredients, then add all the milk, and follow with the rest of the dry ingredients. Take care not to over mix the batter. Divide the batter evenly in the prepared tins (about 2 teaspoon batter per cup cake.)
4. Bake about 15 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack in the tin.
Whisk together the confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth and sugar dissolves. Dip the tops of each cake in the glaze, sprinkle with sugar or top with tiny candies and let set.

Dessert Cornucopia: Gingerbread


From Cooking Light

1/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup stick margarine or butter, softened
1/3 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2/3 cup 1% low-fat milk
Cooking spray
2 tsp. powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Beat granulated sugar and margarine at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 5 minutes). Add molasses and egg; beat well.
3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through cloves). Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Pour batter into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Sift powdered sugar over top of cake, and serve warm.