Monday, February 23, 2009

Dark Chocolate Goodness

Wow, where did the time go? All of a sudden it's almost April, spring break is over, and I'm in the home stretch of my freshman year of college... Yikes. And yikes for this post being so overdue. I don't really have an excuse for that - life is crazy, sure, but the older I get the more I realize that life will be crazy now and forever. Amen. (Yes, that was a Catholic joke/reference. I'm Irish... forgive me). Now I just have to get to a point where I can manage the frenzy enough to buckle down and get my stuff together. Bear with me, at times I can be a slow learner, especially when it comes to time management. In any case, seeing these cookies a month later makes me want to make them and eat them all over again. Tasty isn't enought to describe them - they're rich, decadent, and everything you need when the economy is (still?) failing, tuition is increasing at a scary rate, and financial aid gets cut. Actually, I think I'll go make them right now...

In other news, this post-spring break era of the semester means that I baked cupcakes gallore and the Daring Bakers March Challenge is coming up! So get excited! But onto the good stuff:

Dark-Chocolate Cookies

Modified from Martha Stewart's Cookies "Milk Chocolate Cookies"

Yield: 3 dozen


1 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (I used Chirardelli's 70% bittersweet cocoa chips), 4 oz. coarsely chopped, 4 oz. cut into 1/4" chunks

1/2 c. unsalted butter

1 1/2 c. sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl

2. Melt 4 oz. coarsely chopped chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bwol set over a pan of simmering water; let cool slightly. I used the microwave but I wouldn't suggest this method as I like the added control of the simmering pan of water.

3. Put chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chunks. If hand mixing, I suggest tag-teaming the mixture on this one. It's more fun and less pain that way.

4. Roll dough into 1" balls, drop dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 15 minutes (cookies should be soft). Let cool on parchment on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days. Technically. Unofficially according to the Bf and me, these cookies are good any time. Seriously. They're super tasty. Go make them.


Chocolate + Hearts = Life

The cookie madness continues, this time with a tasty remix of your standard cut-out cookie. They've got a hint of cinnamon going on which I was a little wary about at first but after tasting them I have to admit that the cinnamon became a magical little ingredient. It just adds an added dimension of flavor to these pretty simple chocolate cookies that bumps the tasty factor up a notch. I think the beauty of this cookie lies in the simplicity of it. They aren't saturated with flavor but they aren't some tea cookie either. The cut-outs aren't the prettiest cookie, even when heart shaped, but they've got that good homey hand-crafted feeling going on. The imperfect aesthetic in these cookies gives them a certain comforting charm, like the kind of cookies your grandma would make for you when you would come to visit. As lactose intolerant as I am, I have to admit that these cookies would be absolutely perfect heated up in the microwave with a cold glass of milk.

These cookies were also sent to the Bf in the Valentine's package of love and in the two days between receiving these cookies and contracting some downright nasty salmonella/bronchitis, he managed to eat a neat little package of these and promptly gave them a thumbs up. If you really can't stand the plain simplicity of the cookie as I made it feel free to add some colorful sprinkles before baking. I think they could hold up with frosting or even in ice cream sandwiches too. Their simplicity makes the versatile so don't hate on them! Also, a word of advice: don't hand mix with this recipe - it's absolute death. I'm pretty sure I have carpel tunnel.

Chocolate Cookie Cutouts
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. sifted confectioners' sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Optional: sprinkles for loveliness

1. Sift flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl. (I didn't do this because as a poor college student sifters aren't in any sort of budget. And if they were the money would promptly go to studio supplies anyway. That being said, I would highly recommend this step anyway)
2. Put butter and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour or overnight.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill in freezer 15 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Using your cookie cutter of choice (Martha recommends a 3" cookie cutter), quickly cut out shapes from dough. If dough begins to soften, chill it in freezer 3 to 5 minutes. Re-roll and cut scraps. Transfer shapes to prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Brush flour from shapes. Sprinkle away now if you're into that sort of thing. Chill in freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Bake cookies until crisp, about 8 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week according to Martha. I don't know about you, but my cookies don't last a week at any temperature...


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Mistake That Went Right

It turns out this week of cookies has been prolonged to a week and a half. Oh gosh. I have to apologize and I hope I can make it up to you... With lovely cookies! Hooray!
These cookies are supposed to be those "soft and chewy" chocolate crackles compliments of Martha's cookie book... But that depended on baking powder and I had only baking soda. I figured it wouldn't make much of a difference untill the cookies started spreading out like crazy and i was left with a panful of flat chocolate and powdered sugar. In Victoria's Secret terms, think more of a sports bra compared with the B-cup these cookies are supposed to be. The issue at hand was that this travesty happened at 2am and I had to mail the Bf his valentine's day package the next day so I went with it regardless - heart shaped cookie cutters to the rescue! In any case, I ended up with a cookie thats more of a combination of crisp, chewy, and full of chocolatey goodness. And decidedly "Brietarded" in their character. Hope you'll find them as tasty as the Bf did...

(Flatty) Chocolate Crackles

adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

Yield: about 5 dozen


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 70% bittersweet chocolate chips, unchopped. I'm lazy like that)

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process if you're a Martha purist...)

2 tsp. baking soda (use baking powder if you want your cookies to be B-cup, use the baking soda if you'd like to try my trainer version)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/3 c. whole milk

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. confectioners' sugar


1. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring (I used a microwave, not going to lie...). Set aside and let cool. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

2. With an electric mixer (or by hand if you want to be unfortunate like me), beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 - 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla, and then the melted chocolate. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Wrap each in plastic; refridgerate until firm, about 2 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide each piece into sixteen 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners' sugar to coat. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

4. For my flatty cookies, bake 10 minutes rotating halfway through until cookies look pretty solid. Take the sheet out of the oven, count to ten, then take a cookie cutter (if you want them to look pretty at all) and cut out your lovely shapes. Transfer to wire racks, dip in some more powdered sugar when cooled for looks, then feed the scraps of leftover cookies to your hungry pre-med friends. Or anybody. The scraps are tasty too, trust me.

5. For Martha's real version, bake until surfaces crack, about 14 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

6. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature. Martha says for up to three days, but they're good way past that. Can cookies even go bad?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cake + Chocolate Chip Cookies = Madness

Though this isn't the first time I've ever baked for a long distance package, it's defintely the first valentine's day away from the bf. Well technically it's only the second v-day but that's not the point. Basically this whole week has been full of happy couples holding hands around campus and various fliers and coupons and sales letting me know that yes, this Saturday is one of those Saturdays you don't want to be alone on. And yes, I am a little bitter about it. So I harnessed that bitter energy and went all out on a bake-athon to create sweetness for valentine's day. After all, I've been slacking on fattening up the significant other. Not as easy as you'd think from 600 miles away. That combined with the almighty stress that is school. In case you were curious, in my world, stress equals hardcore baking. I whipped out the brand spanking new Martha Stewart Cookies book and went for the four recipes that seemed the most comforting and tasty. Eating my feelings through tester cookies? No, never. Not me. Anyway, that means that the rest of the week will be cookie week! Get excited.

Aw, look at that lonely little cookie. Anyways, this first recipe, compliments of Martha herself, is the traditional chocolate chip cookie with a cake-y twist. Since I can't resist anything with the word cake in it, naturally I had to test these out. And I've found that things that are traditional with a snazzy twist are just plain tasty. And lovely. As well as snuggly and exciting all at the same time. Oh, I sense symbolism. No worries that's about as deep as I'll get. Back to the sugar. These cookies have a little less sugar and butter in them to get a thicker and fluffier texture than your standard tollhouse result. As a result they're a little less sweet than I'm used to, but I have to admit that Martha did good on this one.

Onwards to the good stuff...

Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies
yield: 3 dozen

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract (add an additional tsp. if you want to follow my "always add extra vanilla rule)
2 large eggs
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (use mini chocolate chips for the best cookies. trust me)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Whisk together flour and baking soda in a bowl
3. Put butter and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. I did it all by hand. I don't recommend it.
4. Reduce speed to low. Add salt, vanilla, and eggs; mix until combined, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets (lined with parchment paper if you'd like), spacing about two inches apart. Bake until cneters are set and edges are colden, 10 - 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.

6. Let cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Eat and be merry!


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