I feel like I can be proud of my life’s accomplishments. Tons of people have told me I make the best chocolate chip cookies they’ve ever had. While I’m incredibly flattered, I think it’s kind of funny because I basically just use the recipe on the back of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips (just a tiny bit altered). I tell people that and they seem dubious since everyone has made the Toll House recipe yet mine somehow taste better.
One thing I think that might make my cookies different would be the butter; I mix the butter and sugar for an incredibly long time (probably 8 minutes minimum). Oh, and the sugar? I like using a higher ratio of brown sugar to white sugar. It’s weird how just the tiniest deviations on a recipe (especially when baking) make such noticeable changes. And of course, my recipes all include love. Awwwww.
Knowing how much everyone enjoys the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe, I took it upon myself to use it as a basis for a sinfully chocolaty cookie. I reduced the flour a smidge, added some cocoa powder, added instant coffee (because coffee is always great in anything chocolate), and added not one, not two, but three different kinds of chocolate (in addition to the cocoa powder). While I’m certainly known for enjoying things in excess, there was a perfectly good reason for adding so much chocolate: depth of flavor. All semi-sweet chocolate would be a bit boring so I wanted to add some bittersweet to cut the sweetness a smidge. Then I decided why not add white chocolate too? The three chocolates (along with the cocoa) make for a wild chocolate experience that manages to be the perfect level of sweetness.
Quadruple Chocolate Cookies
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
- 1 cup white chocolate chips (or white chocolate coarsely chopped)
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or semi-sweet chocolate coarsely chopped)
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar over medium-high speed for a minimum of 8 minutes (although more won’t hurt), or until light and fluffy.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
Once butter mixture is light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and coffee powder.
Gradually mix in flour (about 1/3 of the mixture at a time) until just mixed. Add all 3 chocolates and mix just a smidge more.
Scoop cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets (I find using a scoop makes this process so easy and all your cookies will be uniform in size). Bake for 10 minutes (11 if you want firmer, slightly crispier cookies). Let cool a minute or so on baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
Every year, right around Thanksgiving, my dryer starts to shrink all of my clothes and they all get tighter and tighter with each passing day. It’s weird, since I’ve lived in different houses and apartments and no matter how new or old the dryer is it breaks the same time each year. Then right around the middle/end of January my dryer starts to enlarge my clothes and they start to fit correctly again, especially the waist of my pants. Does anyone else have this problem?
On a completely unrelated note to my clothes shrinking, here is another dessert recipe (the fourth one this week)…
Russian Tea Cakes (aka Russian Tea Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, butterballs, and probably other things) are little crumbly, sweet, nutty, concoctions of goodness. Packed with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar, they manage to be sweet, but not excessively so, and would be a welcome gift or dessert brought to a potluck. They’re versatile (delicious with pecans [my personal favorite], walnuts, hazelnut, macadamia, or probably any kind of nut) and are a great make ahead item as they store really well (in an airtight container at room temperature) for well over a week. They’re quite simple to make, only require a few ingredients, but somehow seem very complex.
Russian Tea Cakes
From Emeril Lagasse (although most recipes are practically the same)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 heaping cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread pecans out in an even layer. Place in preheated oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until aromatic (keep an eye on them as they can go from perfectly toasted to burnt rather quickly). Remove from baking sheet and let cool.
Lower oven to 325 degrees F.
In a food processor, pulse cooled pecans until finely ground (or very, very finely chop with a knife if you do not have a food processor).
Cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla then gradually add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, sift the flour and salt (be sure to yell “BAM,” Emeril style), add gradually to the butter mixture. Add the pecans and mix well.
(Most recipes specify to chill the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes at this point. This particular recipe didn’t [and I forgot that I typically do chill the dough] so I formed the balls immediately. The dough was sticky, but I didn’t notice much change in quality between refrigerated v. non-refrigerated dough. So do whatever your heart desires.)
Shape the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment of silicon mats. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are very lightly browned. Let cool for a few minutes before gently rolling in powdered sugar. Cool on wire racks before storing in an airtight container. I usually dust with additional powdered sugar before serving.
So, don’t get me wrong, I have an amazing life, but sometimes I feel it’s lacking spice and crazy adventure. I never do wild things, but that’s probably due to my crippling fear of heights, excessive speed, clowns, chickens, glaciers, electric lines, and large containers of milk. I think the most daring thing I’ve done in the past two years is say I was going to go zip lining. Of course I didn’t, because that sounded terrifying when I actually thought about it.
Wanting to spice things up a bit I literally decided to add some spice to my life… via the kitchen!
Every holiday season I always end up eating a few “ginger” cookies that have the texture of cardboard and the flavor of flour. If you’re going to give something a name with ginger in it I think it had better be intense in flavor. Knowing there had to be a rich and spicy ginger cookie out there I searched the interwebz for a recipe that would really pack a punch. And seeing as you can find everything on the world wide web, I of course found a cookie recipe that was truly amazing.
With a healthy amount of fresh cloves and a generous amount of chopped, candied ginger, these cookies from Barefoot Contessa certainly had a ton of flavor. They were pretty easy to make and had a flawless texture consisting of a crunchy exterior and creamy, soft, slightly chewy interior. Best of all, even on day 5 these babies were perfect.
Spiced Cookies with Candied Ginger
Adapted, just a smidge, from Ina Garten
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
- Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies (about half a cup)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with silicon mats or parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for an additional minute. With the mixer still on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the bowl, scraping the bowl after each addition, and mix on medium speed for a minute or so, until fully incorporated. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.
Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. Bake for 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
So delicious you could easily eat the whole batch in one sitting, but you may also store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.
I don’t typically buy many packaged desserts since I think homemade is usually better. How many times have you been disappointed with a mediocre sheet cake from the grocery store or a stale cookie from the bakery section? That’s not to say we don’t all have bad days in the kitchen (I make plenty of subpar and disastrous dishes) but more often than not I’m pleased with my cooking and baking skills.
The one time of year I go a bit crazy buying pre-made cookies is during Girl Scout Cookie Season (which, as of the day of writing, is only 50 days away!). I like almost all of the cookies but the shortbread is without a doubt my favorite and I buy way too many boxes and eat them way too quickly.
Oddly enough I typically forget about shortbread the rest of the year. And I don’t know why. Shortbread, in it’s most basic form, is butter, flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla. How simple? While even the most simple shortbread is mouthwateringly delicious, the possibilities are really endless. You can dip them in chocolate, cover them with frosting, or mix in any variety of additional flavorings and ingredients. I love tea shortbread (mixing in ground tea leaves into the batter) and stirring in finely chopped pecans is also phenomenal.
With the holidays coming up I thought mixing in white chocolate chips and dried cranberries would be festive and I have to say my hunch had good results. Their appearance was not only Christmasy, but the chewiness of the cranberries, creaminess of the chocolate, and buttery yet crunchy crumb of the shortbread really made for a trifecta of awesomeness.
White Chocolate & Cranberry Shortbread
Basic shortbread recipe from Claire Robinson
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes). Gradually add in flour, salt, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Stir in cranberries and white chocolate.
Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks (since there are some chunky ingredients the slices may not look perfectly smooth, but they even out once baked). Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature. Once baked these stay fresh and delicious for several days, although I doubt they’ll last that long.