Monday, May 14, 2012

The Most Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

When my sister and I were younger, now and again we would be grounded for some minor, or major, offense.  Usually it was Dad who played the heavy and if we were in especially big trouble or say, there was a dance or outing taking place over the weekend (or we were just ready to be in Dad's good graces once again), we'd break out with some kind of homeade sweet treat. Usually that softened him up, which resulted in our sentence being lifted and immediate freedom.  But there was one secret weapon that was all-powerful and most persuasive that worked every time: the chocolate chip cookie.

Most recently, I discovered a recipe that claimed to be the "best chocolate chip cookie" (seen here).  Usually, I just roll my eyes at anything claiming to be the "best" of anything because it's such a matter of opinion.  Not to toot my own horn but I make a somewhat decent chocolate chip cookie. Yet, I admit that I was still in search for that perfect recipe: you know, one that guarantees that the cookie doesn't come out looking thinner than Flat Stanley, is just the right balance of crisp + chewy while showing off those trademark bumpy ridges on top and one that's consistently dependable.  

And now, the only eye rolling going on now is the kind that happens because these are gloriously good: this recipe should, scratch that...will, be the only chocolate chip cookie recipe you'll need from here on out (I'm not too proud to admit: I was wrong).  Take special note of the use of bread flour and cake flour which are essential ingredients and the 24 hour chilling time in the fridge (don't skip doing this...for a quick 'Alton Brown' explanation of why, visit here).  I also snuck in some wheat flour which I noted in the recipe below because I'm just sneaky like that. 

And you can bet my Dad will be getting a batch of these, just for good times sake :)

Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe (adapted from Jacques Torres via NY Times)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour (8 1/2 ounces)
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour *
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate chips (try Scharffen Berger or Trader Joe's brand)  **
Sea salt, for sprinkling

{bread flour, butter, two eggs- one was a double yolked egg! and lastly, vanilla}

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6: 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

*I used 1 1/3 bread flour and 1/3 wheat flour.
**Or you can use 1 1/4 pounds of bittersweet choclate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content if you want emulate Jacques Torres' original, bakery-made chocolate chip cookies.


Posted by Dawn.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sunshine and Lemon Cream Shooters.

Lemons are one of my all time favorite fruits to cook and bake with, especially when it's the star of dessert.  For me, each bite of lemony goodness seems to promise warmer weather and magically transport me back to the happy times of my childhood.  Recently, I was lucky enough to be gifted with a couple of Dorie Greenspan recipe books from my favorite West coast cousin, Lori (yep, thee Lori from Tales) and I knew, without a doubt when I stumbled upon Dorie's favorite lemon cream recipe, originally derived from Pierre Herme, that would be the first recipe I would try. 

I waffled between making a fruit-topped lemon tart and something on a smaller scale for Easter holiday.  I decided to make petite lemon shooters with a shortbread cookie crust.  The end result was a bit of an epiphany...the clouds parted, the sun peeked through and angels started singing.  Okay, maybe not, but the lemon cream is deliciously lighter and fluffier than a traditional lemon curd and the slightly salty-sweet cookie crumbs are a fabulous foil for the tartness of the lemons.  In one word: heavenly...but don't take my word for it!  Try it yourself!

Here's the recipe below
(i'm eating a shooter for breakfast right now....)

Shortbread Cookie Recipe (via Joy of Baking):

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute).  Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch circle, making one big cookie.  Place on prepared baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cookie is lightly browned (I checked it at 10 minutes).  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool, crush the cookie to a fine-textured crumb.

Lemon Cream Recipe (via Dorie Greenspan at Serious Eats):

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and   cut into tablespoon-sized pieces


Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes. 

As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Hint: The lemon cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Vanilla Whipped Cream Recipe (see here, via Two Tarts)
handful of roughly chopped pistacios

Assembling directions:

Line up about 10-15 shot glasses (depending on size).  In each glass, place about 2-3 teaspoons cookie crust or to your preference and pat down gently.  Next, place 2-3 teaspoons of lemon cream over the crumb crust, wiping any tracks on the side of the glass with a damp paper towel.  Repeat layers.  Dollop or pipe whipped cream on the final layer and sprinkle with pistacios. 

(photo via Vanilla and Lace)
*Special thanks to Lori for the wonderful cookbooks and Luisa for always pointing me in
the right direction- this time for the shortbread cookies!

Posted by Dawn.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fresh Pineapple Galette & Strawberry-Mango Crostata

Yay! It's a double your pleasure posting! (also a "feeling guilty for not posting in a while so trying to make up for it" posting!). Let’s begin with the Fresh Pineapple Galette, shall we? :-)

I had a beautiful pineapple sitting on our kitchen table for a few days, along with a fiancé who consistently kept asking "What are you gonna do with that pineapple?” That pineapple finally met its glorious destiny in the form of this lovely rustic tart. The aroma of pineapple roasting in the oven, slowly caramelizing with the sugar and the all butter crust baking is enough to bring you to your knees. But just wait till you taste it. Alongside a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt, I guarantee you'll quickly fall into a pineapple love coma!

Fresh Pineapple Galette
  • 1 1/4 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp organic sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed (european style preferably)
  • 3-4 Tbsp ice water
  • 1 ripe hawaiian gold pineapple - peeled, cored, sliced into rings
  • 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
To serve:
  • vanilla frozen yogurt (or ice cream)
  • fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

In a food processor, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter into the flour and pulse until the pieces are smaller than peas, Add ice water and pulse until dough comes together. Transfer dough to work surface lined with parchment, flatten into disk and wrap in paper. Allow to rest in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

After resting, on a work surface flour the dough and roll out dough to 12 in. in diameter and 1/4 in. thick. Place dough (with the parchment still underneath) on a round baking sheet. Overlap the rings of pineapple to cover the middle of the dough leaving a border of 1-2 inches. Fold the edges of the dough over the edges of the pineapple leaving the center open, pleat the dough however you like. Dust the pineapple with the brown sugar. Put pats of butter over sugar then place in refrigerator to firm the dough, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees then place in lower third oven rack. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the crust becomes golden in color and the pineapple is soft when pierced with a fork. Cool slightly and serve warm.

and now, on to the Strawberry-Mango Crostata!

This was a last minute Easter dessert I whipped up, inspired by having no eggs and strawberries and mangos on hand. I thought strawberry and mango smoothies are delicious, so why not together in a tart? I looked online and saw that no one has combined these 2 fruits this way before so I was excited to try it out. What resulted was a colorful and mouthwatering dessert that we had on it's own, although I'm sure another scoop of that frozen vanilla yogurt would be ok with this too :-)

Strawberry-Mango Crostata

For the pastry:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
  • Grated rind of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
  • 1 ½ pounds strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
  • 2 mangos, peeled and cut into chunks
  • ¼ cup sugar (a little more or less, depending on sweetness of berries)
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Mix all filling ingredients together and Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Mound fruit mixture in center of dough, leaving a 1½- inch border. Fold pastry over fruit, pleating it to make a rough edge. Don’t worry about cracks; some juice will leak out during baking. Optional: brush crust with a beaten egg mixed with a bit of water.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cutting board. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted by Luisa