Monday, December 31, 2012

Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have found it. The peanut butter cookie.


Not surprisingly, it comes from America's Test Kitchen. I swear, there isn't a dud recipe comes out of that organization...probably because they test the recipes to extreme perfection.


This is the peanut butter cookie which is chewy and peanut buttery, not crumbly or dry or cakey or bland. The one which will hold its own sans add-ins or graciously welcome chocolate (or other kinds of) chips, coconut flakes, dried fruit, chopped nuts, oreo crumbles, seeds, etc.

I am so excited about this recipe. Cannot wait to make it again and add something new. They're so unctuous and hearty and unapologetically good. My brother kept going back for more when he was home!


Oh, and also? Happy New Year! It's been a great year meeting new people, figuring out how to bake at school, and learning what's fun to eat in the dining hall. It's my 50th post on this blog, too! So much new knowledge and wisdom this year, and yet I know it's only a fraction of what's to come.

Bring it, 2013. I'm ready.


Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: about 4 dozen cookies


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (~11 oz) creamy peanut butter  (processed is best, and you could instead do 1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter if you want peanut chunks in there!)
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) packed light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup (5 7/8 oz) light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 big handfulls (2 cups?) chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, granulated sugar, egg, yolk, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Divide dough in half, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough by the heaping tablespoon and shape as with chocolate chip cookies, breaking in half and smooshing together to make a craggy surface.
  3. Bake cookies until puffed and edges are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight container for 3 days, if they last.
Note: dough can be frozen in balls and baked straight from the freezer whenever you want fresh cookies! Just add a minute or two to the baking time. 

Recipe from Cook's Country.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bûche de Noël

I used to love craft projects when I was a kid. Clay, beading, those beads that fuse together when you iron them to make coasters, loop looms, painting various terra cotta vessels, you name it. I went through phases of knitting and crocheting, macrame, friendship bracelets, embroidery, bedazzeling...you get the picture.

Making a cake like this Bûche de Noël is half craft project, half science experiment, and half culinary exploration. Except unlike that scarf that refuses to be long enough to wrap even once about your neck, it's done in less than a day. People eat it, it's gone, and there's room for another project to be made!


This was a fun project:
Getting messy? Check, you'll separate 7 eggs.
Decorating? Check, do as much or as little as you want to the outside of the cake.
Science? Check, cooking the meringue syrup for the frosting (it's not hard, don't worry, and there's no chance to mess it up) and weighing ingredients.

And besides, it tastes amazing! Bûche de Noël is often made with a vanilla Génoise or sponge cake, rolled with chocolate frosting, but this one has a chocolate sponge cake and espresso Swiss meringue buttercream filling. My family swooned over it. The rich, creamy frosting, the light, deeply chocolaty cake, and soon it was gone.


To half of the espresso buttercream you add some melted chocolate to make a mocha frosting for the outside. There is definitely more frosting than cake in this situation.

The buttercream has 3 sticks of butter. But it also has 4 egg whites--protein, right? Hmmm, nevermind. Just enjoy and luxuriate.


This recipe comes from Portuguese Girl Cooks, a wonderful blog. It's a bit tricky, and you basically need a dozen eggs, but once you get going, it's not too hard. Make it a project, experiment, have fun, get messy. Go forth with confidence into the world of meringue and chocolate and holiday tradition!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Butter Fingers

These are not the butterfingers people pass out at Halloween. Nothing wrong with peanut butter crispy candy covered in chocolate, but these cookies are awesome. Lightly sweetened shortbread is jam packed full of crispy, buttery pecans. And I mean jam packed...there are basically as many pecans as there is dough, volume wise.

Rolled into finger shapes, baked, then rolled in a soft, thick blanket of powdered sugar.


Common scents: don't wear black while eating. Because that fabulousness just can't be contained.

Recipe courtesy of my boyfriend's mom, who makes these often (with good reason, too). I tried one he brought back after a break, and oh man, was I honored to get the recipe!

I made them in my grandmother's tiny kitchen while my dad made a lamb roast (yumyumyumyum.). And let me just set the scene: we're talking the grandmother who melts a See's candy on her toast for breakfast. She loved them, as did the aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members who passed through her living room throughout the week and were greeted with a hug and the leftover chinese takeout container full of cookies.


Another plus of being at my grandmother's house is that she has beautiful china. She collects teacups and saucers, so as you drink cups and cups of tea--I love tea--you get to enjoy the unique patterns and delicate handles.

Saucers make great cookie plates, because the dainty cookies look substantial in comparison to the small size of the plate and beautiful against the similar daintiness of the china.


These few ingredients leave a strong impression of butter and sweetness and crunch and holidays.

Butter Fingers
Yield: about 3 dozen

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups (one 8 ounce bag) chopped pecans
about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (to roll the cookies in)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter, then add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Add in the flour and vanilla, mixing until just combined. Then, add the pecans and mix to combine.
  4. Roll 1 tablespoon-ish of the dough to make "finger" shape.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until firm. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheets.
  6. Carefully roll the still-warm cookies in the powdered sugar. Note: If they crack, it's chef's treat! It helps to press the sugar onto the cookies from all sides. Coat completely so the cookies are entirely white.
  7. Eat up!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frank Pepe's Pizza

Frank Pepe's is a classic, a tradition, a legend. And for good reason.

It's a pizza place in New Haven's Little Italy district, just down the street from its competitor, Sally's (which, according to my friend who has frequented both in under 24 hours, is better, but I'm not so sure after tasting Pepe's!).

Left: Sausage, Pepperoni, onions, cheese; Right: cheese
New Haven is known for its pizza because of these two restaurants. Pepe's pizza is made in a brick oven, just a few pies at a time, which means they are fresh and baked in a super hot oven. It also has the added benefit for of increasing the demand and hype--on weekends, lines can stretch a block or two and wait times are well over an hour.

It's worth it. Granted, we went on a Tuesday night of finals week, which is not prime time for lines and such, but the restaurant was full. We got a table quickly, though, just one or two families also waiting.

Let's talk pizza. I'm a Chicago girl. I get thick crust. It's amazing and bready and filling. My favorite at home is spinach pan pizza from Piero's...it's dense and rich and uber cheesy. The spinach is abundant and mixed with the cheese, giving the mouth-feel illusion of having twice as much cheese, and the sweet/salty/tart tomato sauce on top of the cheese necessitates eating with a knife and fork.

I'd always assumed that thin crust pizza meant the crackery, dry, thin crust of Domino's pizza parties. Little squares that never seemed filling.

Thin crust pizza is not that, let me tell you. Pepe's changed my view. The crust is still chewy, with charred, bubbly edges that leave ash on your fingers and cheeks. The toppings are out of this world, too. You have to ask for cheese separately, otherwise you get a tomato pie (which I've heard is also excellent, but we are hungry college students and want cheese and meat!)

This is the lovely group of people with whom I had my first Pepe's experience. The experience was amazing, half because of the food and half because of the company.

It's finals week...judge not our crazy expressions!
We ordered three large pizzas, one bacon, one plain, and one with sausage, pepperoni, and onion, all with mozzarella. There was plenty left over, and we ate quite a bit.

My favorite topping was the bacon. Thick, salty, smoky, and greasy, it was lush and decadent to have the dairy fat melding with the meat fat but also a little disgusting, in the best way possible. As in, disgustingly delicious.

Everything's better with bacon.
If you're in New Haven, pizza is a must. There are plenty of good places besides Pepe's or Sally's, though those are the traditional town favorites and live up to and exceed to their glowing recommendations.