Tag Archives: baking

Three Cookies

 

I find making cookies to be immensely satisfying. Not only is dough doable in 20 minutes, but the the ingredients they call for rarely requires a trip to the supermarket and they’re ready to go after a mere 10 min in the oven! Over the past couple weeks, I’ve taken a few recipes for test drives. Here are my results:

No. 1: Ghirardelli Milk-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

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I rarely cook with any chocolate other than bittersweet. But with a couple bags of milk chocolate chips in the freezer, I thought, why not?

Although the cookies on their own were nothing special, they turned out to be exceptional ice cream vehicles. A chocolate chip cookie eaten on its own must to be jam-packed with chocolate in to be delicious in my book. However, add a little vanilla (or better yet, hokey pokey!) ice cream to mix, and they become otherworldly. These cookies are chewy, but at the same time just stiff enough to hold their own against a sandwiched scoop of melty ice cream.

You can find the recipe here. My only advice: add extra vanilla, chocolate, and pecans, while decreasing the white sugar by at least a quarter cup.

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No. 2: Donna Hay’s (Relatively Healthy) Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Let me be frank. Never, ever, use a chocolate chip cookie recipe that calls for oil instead of butter. In theory, these cookies sound great. No butter, a limited quantity of sugar, some of the flour replaced with oats. In reality, if you’re going to bake cookies, make the real thing, not some sort of facsimile.

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The dough looked great, but even at that stage it seemed like something was off. The taste wasn’t quite right. When the cookies came out, they were cute-looking and bite sized, but lacked that essential cookie chewiness, not to mention that gooey chocolatey, buttery, flavor. I should probably hedge this by conceding that I did not use high quality chocolate for this batch, as it was another attempt to deplete my freezer full of chocolate. Nonetheless, even the dough itself was unsatisfactory. When it comes down to good old chocolate chip cookies, the Joy of Cooking recipe is the way to go.

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No. 3: Peanut Butter Blossoms

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A couple days ago, I was twiddling my thumbs looking for something to bake, when I ran across a bag of mini hershey’s kisses stashed away at the bottom of a drawer. Turning the package over, I found the directions for peanut butter blossoms, one of my all time favorite cookies. Tweaking the recipe to suit my taste (and the contents of my fridge), I baked my third batch of cookies in two weeks. These cookies were sensational. Nutty, sweet, chewy, and of course chocolatey, they were perfect. Here is my take on peanut butter blossoms. Enjoy!

Recipe: Peanut Butter Blossoms

Adapted from Hershey’s

You’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (plus extra for rolling)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp nonfat milk
  • 1-1/2 cups flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • at least a tbsp of vanilla extract
  • Hershey’s kisses–full sized or mini

1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF).

2. Beat together the butter and peanut butter. Add the sugars, followed by the egg, milk, and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour, salt, and baking soda.

3. Roll the dough into 1-in sized balls. (They will expand quite a bit so keeping the size small is key.) Roll each dough ball in white sugar to coat it. Place them on a cookie sheet, leaving plenty of space.

4. Press kisses into the tops of each cookie–one if they’re normal sized, three if they’re mini.

5. Bake for 9-10 min. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5 min before transferring.

(Note: the photograph above does not display a full batch of cookies. You can expect to make roughly 45 from this recipe.)

 

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Peanut Butter Nutella Cupcakes

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Smooth, moist peanut butter cupcakes crowned with nutella buttercream. If chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven, then adding hazelnut to the mix makes this a combo forged in outer space.

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The recipe I used comes from here. It’s great on its own, but filling these cakes with something gooey and peanut buttery would only add to the effect. Next time, I’m planning on whipping some peanut butter up with cream cheese and a splash of vanilla (natch!) and piping that into their centers. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

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Sluts and Man-Whores

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What, you didn’t think I was talking about people, did you?

One typical Friday night, a couple friends and I decided to do a little baking. But this wasn’t just any cooking affair. We went all out with Slutty Brownies and Man-Whore Bars–sinful smorgasbords of chocolate confection.

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As evidenced by the above assembly, our only concern was loading up on sugar.

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Slutty brownies first: a chocolate chip cookie layer, topped with oreos, finished off with fudgey brownie.

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Next up, man-whore bars: chocolate chip cookie, followed by chocolate ganache, rice crispy treat, reese’s pieces, oreos, more rice crispy treat, more chocolate ganache, and extra chocolate chip cookie crumbs.

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We bought LOTS of marshmallows for an optimal marshmallow to rice crispy ratio.

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The finished products were delicious, yet a little overwhelming. But, then again, that was the point, wasn’t it?

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The slutty brownies were based on a recipe from one of my all time lifestyle blogs: the Londoner.

You’ll need one batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, one batch of brownie batter (chewy, not cakey, if you please), 16 oreos, and an 8×8 baking pan. I used the classic Joy of Cooking recipes–always a safe bet.

The procedure is simple. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the cookie dough along the base of a greased 8×8 pan. Lay out the oreos in a neat grid, and pour the brownie batter over them evenly. Stick ’em in the oven for half an hour, or a little longer if the brownies still seem raw when tested with a toothpick.

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Man-whore bars are just as straightforward, with a few more bits and pieces.

The recipe is based on this gorgeous blog post.

The procedure is simple.

1. Bake a batch of cookies–the Joy of Cooking formula is the best in my opinion. (However, I recommend decreasing the butter just a touch–it’ll make for a less gooey cookie crust, something to your advantage, in this particular case). Spread a thin layer–about 1/4 in thick along the base of an 8×8 baking tin. Bake the rest of the dough on a cookie sheet–you’ll need it for the top layer of the bars. Bake them until golden, or according to whatever recipe you choose to use.

2. Next up: chocolate ganache. Melt 8 oz dark chocolate, 2 tbsp butter, and 3/4 cups cream in a double boiler. Let it simmer a bit and stir the mixture over the heat until it becomes shiny. Let it cool. After a few minutes, you can stick the bowl in the fridge to speed the process. At this point, spread half of the mixture evenly over your chocolate chip cookie base.

3. For the rice crispy treats, melt 3 tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Then add in 10 oz marshmallows. When those are all liquefied, mix in 4.5 cups of rice crispies.

4. Rice crispy treats solidify quickly so this stage is critical. Spread half of them over the chocolate ganache layer, then hurriedly sprinkle on the reece’s pieces or peanut butter cups. Lay out a grid of oreos on top of that and then cover that with the remaining rice crispy treat mix.

5. The the finishing touch, spread out the remaining chocolate ganache and press the cookie crumbs on top.

Et c’est tout! Bon appétit!

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Wasted on Chocolate

I know I haven’t posted in a little while… But now I’m back! And trust me, this cake well and truly makes up for my online absence.

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Dubbed Chocolate Wasted Cake, this sugary tour de force is deliciously decadent.

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I found this recipe while trolling around on what is perhaps one of my favorite buzzfeed lists ever: 71 Reasons Candy Hearts are Stupid, a string of 71 images of mouthwatering chocolate creations cleverly set to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”

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Chocolate Wasted Cake is constructed as follows. Two layers of chocolate cake, each soaked with a bit of liqueur, are glued together and coated with chocolate icing. Next, the sides of the cake are tiled with chocolate chips, the top with candy pieces. The final touch is a drizzle of chocolate ganache. Are you drooling yet?

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As I made minimal changes to the original recipe, I’ll leave you to refer directly to those directions.

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You’ll need LOTS of these.

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For the top of your masterpiece, the candy selection is up to you. The original recipe suggest kit kats, twix bars, and kisses. But butterfingers, snickers, and malted milk balls also make for a pretty heavenly combo.

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Hazelnuts and chocolate must be one of the best duos of all time. Frangelico is a liqueur that literally tastes like nutella. Why soak your cake with anything else?

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One slice of this baby and you’ll be wasted on chocolate goodness in no time.

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An Oversized Oreo

This cake looks just like an oreo an tastes like one, too. Two layers of not-too-sweet chocolate cake with a thick, creamy layer of vanilla buttercream between them. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

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Along with the cake pop pan, my mother brought back another kitchenware impulse buy: a set of cookie-shaped cake pans.

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I originally made this cake for a friend’s half birthday (I missed her real one!) but when she was home sick, I had no choice but to find another audience. Luckily we honor choir singers had a 90 minute bus ride in store. The perfect time to enjoy a slice of chocolate cookie-cake. It was a hit, so I have promised to replicate this cake for the birthday girl!

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This recipe was adapted from the one on the cake pan box. While having these items makes for a cool looking cake, I’m sure it’ll be equally delicious made in any other accoutrement.

For the cake, you’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 220 g bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (scant) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • a generous 2 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and grease the pans. If you are using pans with flat bottoms, I recommend lining the bases with circles of wax paper.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler over gentle heat, stirring until blended smoothly

3. Sift and whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

4. In another bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Then the chocolate mixture, and finally the dry mixture.

5. Divide and spread the batter evenly into the two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of center with a few crumbs on it.

And for the icing…

  • 4 1/2 cups (560 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 185 g unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 tbsp skim milk (you may or may not need to add a little more to adjust the texture)
  • vanilla!
  • a pinch of salt

Sift the sugar and mix all of the ingredients. If the icing feels too stiff, simply add a touch more milk. This buttercream is divine! The sugar-butter ratio works beautifully and makes for a smooth and sweet interlude to crumbly chocolate cake.

Assembly: Wait about 10-15 minutes before taking the cakes out of their pans. Put one layer down, smooth all of the buttercream frosting out evenly across the top, and lay down the second cake. Voila!

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Cake Pops

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A couple days ago, my mother returned to Tokyo, her suitcases packed with goodies from the States. Among them were a number of new and exciting baking implements, including a cake pop pan! I couldn’t resist. So, last night, I made an inaugural batch of pops.

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Traditionally, cake pops are made by mashing together cake and icing in order to get neat little rotund structures. With a pan, all you need is a nice, dense cake or, alternatively, brownie batter.

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As this was my first attempt, I followed the chocolate cake instructions on the packaging, making just a couple alterations, like adding vanilla – every recipe of this ilk can benefit from a splash.

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When the batter was finished, I spooned it into the pan, put the cover on, and slid it into the oven.

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While we waited, my mother and I completed the New York Times crossword over tea and stolen bites of batter.

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Finally, twenty minutes were up, and out they came.

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Now, for the assembly.

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For the cake pops’ chocolate coating, I purchased couverture chocolate, high quality chocolate made with extra cocoa butter. This confection melts quickly and hardens beautifully with a lovely, smooth sheen.

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I usually melt chocolate in a double boiler. But as I was a little short on time, pyrex and microwaving, it was. The white chocolate got a little singed on top. Not to worry! Everything always turns out for the best. The little bits of crusted white chocolate ended up tasting like praline, not to mention add a satisfying crunch to the coating.

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Recipe for 24 cake pops (includes extra batter for eating)

You’ll need…

  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter (I used a scant half cup since many recipes seem to add too much.)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • a nice dose of vanilla
  • lollipop sticks (I didn’t have any so I tried jumbo toothpicks… They worked but orchestrating decorations and coating was bit tricky.)
  • approx. 400 g couverture chocolate (I used half white, half dark. The choice is up to you!)

1. Heat the oven to 375ºF and grease the pan. Greasing both sides completely is important as it ensures easy pop extrication.

2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter together. Stir until smoothly mixed.

3. Pour the chocolate mixture into a new bowl and add the following gradually, beating as you go: sugar and cocoa powder, then eggs and vanilla, then flour and salt.

4. Generously spoon the batter into the bottom half of the pan, cover it up, and bake for 20-22 min, or until a toothpick comes out almost completely clean.

5. Allow the cake pops to cool for about 5 min before removing them from the pan and let them cool completely before inserting lollipop sticks.

6. Carefully melt the couverture.

7. Insert a lollipop stick into each pop. I didn’t try this, but I’ve heard that dipping it into a bit of melted couverture can help it stay in.

8. Dip each pop into the melted chocolate and delicately spin it to get rid of excess chocolate. Sprinkle on desired decorations and set on a sheet of wax paper.

9. Place your sheet of wax paper (on a plate) into the fridge for 15 min to harden the chocolate coating and you’re done. These treats will not disappoint!

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Oatmeal Caramelitas

A couple weeks ago, my mother and I were perusing the chocolate aisle at one of our local supermarkets carrying when we came across something that had long eluded Tokyo stores, or at least our notice, which seems less likely considering our attention to detail when it comes to sweets, let alone those built for baking. What we found were caramel candies. Naturally, we bought two bags on the spot. You never know when you’re going to want 2 lb of caramels.

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Now, I am usually in favor of trying recipes that call for a homemade caramel, but Brown Eyed Baker, one of my go-to baking sites had a couple über appealing recipes requiring pre-made candies. Reading through her formula for Oatmeal Caramelitas, I knew I had to sample them. A layer of crumbly oatmeal crust, topped with chocolate chips, pecans, and caramel sauce, then decked out with an additional layer of crust. What’s not to love?

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This is a very simple recipe and Brown Eyed Baker explains it flawlessly. It calls for a fair amount of butter so I reduced it. Mistake. Don’t. My bars were decadent and delicious, but the crust could have been less dry and a little more cohesive. Follow Brown Eyed Baker’s instructions. She knows what she’s talking about.

I do have two suggestions, however.

  1. Use high quality chocolate. It’s one of the main ingredients. If you use hershey’s, trust me, you’ll taste it.
  2. Ice cream. Don’t get me wrong, these bars are delectable. But sweet. VERY sweet. (As you can imagine, give all of that chocolate and caramel.) A nice not-to-sugary vanilla will cut that flavor just enough, not to mention taste delicious with warm, melty bars right out of the oven.

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Macaron Party

Macaron Party

Macarons have always been on my radar screen. Recently, they have been a recurring topic of conversation and food lust. Naturally, I found an excuse to experiment with crafting these mouthwatering French cookies. A couple nights ago, a good part of the debate team came over to cook and consume macarons, and dinner, too, of course.

The first order of business was basic vanilla macaron batter in pink and white, followed by chocolate.

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With these treats safely in the oven, we started on the filling: bittersweet chocolate, caramel, and raspberry.

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Here is the caramel sauce. Unfortunately, the chocolate and raspberry disappeared so quickly that the following record is all that’s left.

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But dessert wasn’t the only memorable culinary experience of the evening.

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My signature sun-dried tomato hummus got rave reviews.

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The truffle risotto was rich, flavorful, and oh so decadent.

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Finally, we assembled the macarons.

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The consensus was that the caramel was the best. That being said, the plates were empty within minutes.

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As if we hadn’t eat enough already, a second dessert course followed the macarons: red velvet cupcakes kindly provided by a friend.

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Recipes:

Basic Macaron Cookies

Adapted from Macarons: 30 Recettes Faciles by Daniel Patzelt

  • 125 g almond powder
  • 205 g icing sugar
  • 100 g egg whites
  • a pinch of salt
  • 65 g white sugar
  • a splash of vanilla extract
  • a few drops of food coloring
  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF).
  2. Mix the almond powder and icing sugar. Pulse through a food processor to remove clumps and refine the mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. When they are about halfway done, gradually add half the granulated sugar. When they are done, add the rest of the sugar and the vanilla.
  4. Gently fold the dry mixture, one third to one half at a time, and food coloring of choice into the beaten egg whites. (The French verb for folding in this context is actually macaronner. It’s sort of perfect!) The mixture is done when it is “lisse et brillante” or smooth and shiny.
  5. Cover two cookie sheets with oven paper and using a pastry bag, or a zip lock bag with one corner cut off, in my case, pipe out small rounds, separating them by a few centimeters.
  6. Leave the cookie sheets alone for 30 minutes before putting them into the oven and allowing them to cook for 12-15 minutes. The cookies are done if they feel hard when tapped in the center and can be peeled off the paper easily.

For the chocolate macarons and ganache, I used David Leibovitz’s recipe. His instructions are always clear, his ratios well-vetted. Here are the recipes for the Caramel Fleur de Sel and Raspberry Fillings. We lessened the amount of butter in the caramel by about 1/2 to 2/3, as 140 g seemed a little excessive. For the raspberry, we started with all of the amounts given but had to add a little extra cornstarch to bring it to the proper consistency. All of the fillings should be chilled before assembly. Trust me, this makes life so much easier.

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Truffle Risotto to serve 4

Inspired by Bevan Smith’s recipe for Broad Bean Risotto
From Riverstone Kitchen: Recipes from a Chef’s Garden,
(A book acquired in New Zealand with lots of delicious, albeit rich, recipes)

  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 15 g unsalted butter
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 300 g (a scant cup and a half) carnaroli risotto rice
  • 120 mL Noilly Prat dry vermouth
  • 700 mL vegetable stock (I used hot water and vegan bouillon cubes.)
  • roughly 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • juice of half a lemon
  • another 15 g unsalted butter
  • 40 g grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • however many truffles you want, finely chopped
  1. Finely chop the onion and celery. No big chunks, please. Think about what would taste good in a bit of smooth, creamy risotto.
  2. Sauté the mushrooms with a touch of extra butter until soft. Set aside.
  3. Sweat the onion and celery with the olive oil and first dose of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.
  4. Add the rice and continue to sweat for another 2 minutes, or so.
  5. Add the vermouth and reduce the mixture until there is almost no liquid left. Then, begin to add the stock, stirring constantly and pouring in a little bit at a time. You may need more than 700 mL to cook the rice properly. Taste it when you think it’s getting close and add more water if it’s still too al dente.
  6. When the rice is cooked, add the mushrooms, then the cheese, extra butter, lemon juice, and parsley. Next toss in your truffles, salt, and pepper.

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They may not look quite as good as the real deal, but I’d say not bad for a first attempt.

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Cookie Bowls

This weekend, I was trolling around the internet looking for desert ideas for a nice home-cooked meal when I ran across some luscious looking cookie bowls. I read through a few recipes, but most seemed to be either sugar-cookie bowls or chocolate chip ones made with margarine. Ich. I wanted something chocolate, without compromising flavor. So, I opted for my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe of all the time: the classic Joy of Cooking model.

Cookie Bowls

First, I made the batter just as I would have for normal cookies, decreasing the butter a little to make the dough a little stiffer and thus more likely to hold a bowl-like shape.

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I did not, however, lessen the amount of chocolate. A full cup went into this dough.

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Next, I rolled my dough, that is, what was left of it, into a log and set in the freezer to toughen up a bit. Cookies are good, but dough is better. With my sister and mother circling the bowl like vultures, a good chunk of it definitely disappeared during transfer.

Ok… maybe I had something to do with that too…

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A few hours later, out came the log. It was time to experiment. As dictated by some of the recipes I found online, I took out a cupcake tray, turned it upside down, and covered a few of the molds with tin foil. I then molded cookie dough over these mound… and promptly consumed the remaining morsels.

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When the bowls came out, the results were, shall we say, interesting.

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Oozing over the baking sheet, they almost looked alive.

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Some of them were not as bowl-ish as I would have hoped.

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Others actually came out pretty well, although I have to admit that taking the foil off them was a real effort.

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Recipe:

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • vanilla!

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

2. Mix the flour and baking soda.

3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add both sugars.

4. Next, beat in the egg, salt, and vanilla, followed by the flour mixture and chocolate chips. (For the record, lessening the chocolate chips might make the cookie bowls hold up better – not a compromise I was willing to make.)

5. Turn a muffin tin upside down on a cookie sheet and cover 5 or 6 of the metal mounds with tin foil.

6. Mold cookie dough onto the mounds.

7. Cook. Start with 12 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through. I generally undercook cookies because I like them doughier and chewier. In this case, however, cooking them for longer will yield more bowl-like cookies. Cook them until golden brown.

8. Let the bowls cool completely before peeling off the foil.

9. Invert, add ice cream, and enjoy this over-the-top dessert!

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Viennese Chocolate Nutcake

I love to cook, consume, and chronicle beautiful food. So it’s high time I inaugurated my food blog.
This afternoon, in lieu of studying for senior semester exams, I decided to bake a cake. A recipe from Ladies, A Plate, a cookbook acquired in New Zealand, this Viennese Chocolate Nutcake did not disappoint. Made with ground almonds instead of flour, the cake itself had a mildly sweet and wonderfully textured, nutty flavor. Its gritty chocolate buttercream – with white sugar rather than the typical confectioner’s variety – was the perfect complement. Jumbo (and standard) nonpareils topped it off, giving my cake a little bit of colorful character.

Viennese Chocolate Nutcake

Recipe:

Adapted from Ladies, A Plate: Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston
http://www.ladiesaplate.co.nz/

You’ll Need…

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 oz (115 g) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp matzo meal (I used whole-wheat)
  • A generous splash of vanilla (I add vanilla to anything and everything sweet, it can’t hurt, right?)
  • 4 oz (115 g) butter
  • A scant 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 7 oz (200 g) dark chocolate, melted but not hot (use high quality since this is the main ingredient in the buttercream – côte d’or is my personal favorite)
  • 1 egg

1. Start by setting your oven to 190ºC (375ºF) and greasing an 8-in diameter cake pan with butter. Line the base with a circle of oven paper.

2. To make the cake, begin by beating the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla until pale yellow.

3. Next, beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff but not dry.

4. Fold the ground almonds and matzo meal into the yolks. When that’s done, fold in the egg whites, adding one third to half of them at a time.

5. Pour the batter into your cake pan and cook. Alexa recommends cooking this cake for 45 min, but in my oven, 35 min was plenty. Situate the cake on a rack in the middle of your oven and rotate it after about 20 min, to ensure that it bakes evenly. The cake is done when it pulls away from the edges and is golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

6. Now it’s time to tackle the buttercream. First, cream the butter until smooth. Then add the sugar and vanilla.

7. Next, add the chocolate, followed by the egg.

8. After you take the cake out, let it sit for a bit (let’s say at least 5 min) in order to cool down. Then, carefully invert it onto a plate.

9. To cut it into two layers, use a serrated knife to make the first incision (the outer edge of the cake is made of sturdier stuff than the inside). Then follow through with dental floss – be careful not to use the flavored kind! I find that a large spatula really helps when it comes to lifting off the top layer.

10. Lather the bottom layer with icing. This recipe make more than enough, so there’s no need to skimp.

11. Replace the top layer of cake, centering it carefully. Ice its top and sides and decorate as desired.
A Single Slice

Hokey Pokey ice cream to finish: two commonwealth treats in one!

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