The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

I think this is the most exciting time of the year for any baker and I’m gearing up to share lots of goodies with you this month!  I thought we’d kick off the holiday season with THE recipe that every baker should have in his or her bag of tricks: The Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I’m not exactly sure how many different recipes I’ve tried for this classic cookie over the years, but I know it’s in the triple digits.  I was delighted when I came across this article by David Leite in The New York Times, featuring some amazing tips which have led me to what I believe is, The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie!

Secrets to this recipe?  Let the dough rest for (no this is not a misprint) 36 hours, buy the best quality of chocolate you can afford and serve them warm, right out of the oven.

I like to double the batch, roll them all into balls and then freeze half for a later use. You’ll look like a rockstar when last minute guests show up and you break out these warm cookies in a matter of minutes!  The dough keeps for about 6 weeks in an airtight, freezer-safe container or freezer-safe plastic storage bag with parchment paper in between the layers. When ready to bake, place frozen dough balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and add on a extra couple of minutes to the baking time.

Great news for my gluten-free friends!  Shauna James Ahern (of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef) has adapted this recipe into an amazing gluten-free version.  You can find it here.

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from David Leite via The New York Times

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus 36 hours for chilling

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

 

Ingredients:

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

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 (about 3 1/2 cups) bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see Note)

Sea salt

Directions:

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 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. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Note:

Valrhona feves can be found at Whole Foods and also online here.

Jacques Torres Chocolate disks are sold online here at a great price (though I’m not loving the high shipping fees.)

E. Guittard disks also work nicely and can be found at Sur La Table.

If you can’t find any of the above chocolate, use the largest disks you can find.  In an absolute pinch, I’ve used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips and I can assure you, you’ll still find they don’t last more than a few moments out of the oven. 😉

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‘Tis the Season…


christmas tree lucy

Last night was spent trimming the Christmas tree with family and friends along with a throwback meal from the 80’s. Chicken Marbella is probably the most popular dish to come out of the beloved Silver Palate Cookbook.  A superb (mostly make ahead) dish when you need to feed about 10 people (although it can easily be halved) this meal is the perfect crowd pleaser and one you may remember from your parents dinner parties.

Here’s my version for a whole new generation of cooks who may not know about this iconic dish.  I served my chicken over cous cous with a side of broccolini with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fleur de sel.

chicken marbella

CHICKEN MARBELLA

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook
Serves about 10-12 people
Recipe can be divided for a smaller crowd

Ingredients:

About 8 lbs chicken thighs and legs, skin on

1 head of garlic, peeled, minced or finely puréed

2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped fine or puréed with garlic

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup pitted prunes (can substitute dried apricots or figs)

1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives

1/2 cup capers with a bit of the juice

6 bay leaves

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine chicken thighs and legs, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves.  Mix well, cover tightly and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large roasting or baking pan, arrange chicken in a single layer (you may need to use two pans to fit all the chicken pieces.) Spoon marinade over the chicken evenly.  Sprinkle chicken evenly with brown sugar and finally pour the white wine around the pieces.

Bake for about 1 hour until chicken is cooked through.  Juices should be clear (not pink) when pricked with a fork.

Transfer chicken pieces, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter.  Spoon a few tablespoons of pan juice on top of chicken, then sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro. Pour remaining pan juice into a small dish or sauceboat and serve alongside the chicken platter.

I like to serve this dish hot over cous cous, mashed potatoes or rice.  But it also makes a great meal at room temperature.

chicken marbella

 

 

 

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Leftover Day: Cranberry Margaritas!!!

cranberry margarita

What to do with all that leftover cranberry sauce?  It will keep for two weeks in the fridge so don’t throw it away too soon!  Stir it in your oatmeal, swirl into greek yogurt, spread it on some toast.  And for something really fun, try these easy margaritas.

*Note: You can omit the tequila for your non-alcoholic friends and kids.

Cranberry Margaritas

Makes 2 drinks over ice

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons cranberry sauce (you can also use cranberry jelly)
2 ounces orange juice
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
limes wedges for garnish

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker 3/4 of the way full with ice. Add cranberry sauce, orange juice, tequila and lime juice. Cover shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass over ice.  Garnish with a lime wedge.
*For a salt rim: Spread about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt on a saucer. Run a lime wedge over the rim of cocktail glass to moisten. Then dip rim into salt to coat.

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Leftover Day: Pilgrim’s Pie

The day AFTER Thanksgiving has become just as popular in my home as the actual event. Now, I know what you’re thinking: the last thing anyone wants to worry about on Friday is cooking.  Unless you’re making a Pilgrim’s Pie!  Forget cramming 47 leftover dishes into the microwave.  Instead, layer everything in one baking dish (much like a Shepherd’s Pie), heat it in the oven and serve.
Use whatever you’ve got in the fridge (turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, gravy, even cranberry sauce!) and no additional ingredients are needed.

PILGRIM’S PIE

Preheat oven to 350º.
Grease a baking dish with butter or non-stick spray.
Chop up turkey meat into bite size pieces.
Start to layer leftovers, one by one, into a baking dish. (I like to begin with the stuffing to give it a nice base.)
Add remaining layers and top with mashed potatoes.
Bake at 350º for about 20-30 minutes- until hot all the way through.  Let the potatoes brown a little on top.  If they start brown too much before dish is completely heated, cover with foil for the remaining time.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart

Every Thanksgiving, I try to add a few fun twists to my sweets table.  So this year, I’m combining two of the best desserts I know: Pumpkin Pie and Cheesecake.  Made with a Gingersnap Cookie crust and baked in a tart pan, this will be a standout dessert at your holiday table too!

Store bought gingersnap cookies will work beautifully but if you have a little extra time and want an INSANELY good crust, use my recipe for Soft and Chewy Gingersnap Cookies (add an extra minute or two to the baking time- you’ll want them a little crispier for the crust.)  I mixed up a double batch of cookie dough, baked off about 6 large cookies and froze the rest of the raw dough balls (that’ll come in handy for a last minute holiday party in December.)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups gingersnap cookies, crushed into fine crumbs
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, softened (2 eight ounce packages)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin, (not pumpkin pie filling)
¼ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, (can substitute with vanilla extract if you don’t have paste)
powdered sugar, to dust on top after baking

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  (You can also use a pie dish if you don’t have a tart pan.)

For the crust:

In a medium bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients.  Add the melted butter and mix until all is combined.  (I like to use my hands for this part.)

Press the mixture over the bottom of the tart pan.

Bake crust for 12 minutes. Set aside to cool completely while you make the filling. Keep the oven on.

For the filling:

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a hand held mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and no lumps remain- about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula during mixing.

Add the sugars, flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes.  Again, scrape down the bowl with a spatula once or twice so that everything is evenly combined.

Add the pumpkin and sour cream and mix until combined.

Add each egg one at a time, followed by the vanilla bean paste and beat on low speed just until everything is combined.

Pour batter into tart pan with cooled gingersnap crust and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until set (give cake a jiggle- if the center stays put, it’s done.)

Cool cheesecake on a wire rack.  Once cooled, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

When ready to serve, remove the tart ring. Run hot sink water over an offset spatula to get it hot.  Dry spatula completely and while it’s still hot, slide it right under the cheesecake to release it from the bottom of the pan.  Transfer cheesecake to a serving plate.

Dust top with powdered sugar and serve with freshly whipped cream.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Chickpeas

Roasted Cauliflower Cauliflower is this year’s “it” veggie.  And for my Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll be adding a modern twist to my holiday table with this scene stealing side dish.  It can be served hot or at room temperature (making it a nice d0-ahead dish.)

Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Chickpeas

Makes about 8 side servings

Ingredients:

1 medium cauliflower head, cut into florets

1 onion, chopped large dice

1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and dried

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon curry

2 teaspoons paprika

1 /8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine cauliflower florets, chopped onions and chickpeas.  Set aside.

Melt butter over stovetop in a small pot.  Remove from heat and stir in olive oil, all the spices and salt, followed by the balsamic vinegar.  Pour over cauliflower mixture and toss until all is evenly coated.

Lightly spray a large baking sheet and place cauliflower mixture in a single layer in pan.

Roast for about 30 minutes, gently turning 2 or 3 times during roasting for even cooking, until cauliflower is caramelized in color and fork tender.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

 

 

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Apple Pie with Scotch-Spiked Cherries

Look who’s photobombing my food photography!  Even Lucy can’t help but get excited over this just-out-of-the-oven pie.  I think she’s hoping a crumb will magically fall in her direction- nice try Lu!

This is a new addition to my Thanksgiving sweets table this year- fancifying the traditional Apple Pie, adding dried cherries soaked in Scotch.  Bourbon or Jack Daniels would also work beautifully in this recipe.

Apple Pie with Scotch-Spiked Cherries

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

Flaky Pie Crust for 2 crust Pie (*see below for recipe)
1 cup dried cherries
4 tablespoons Scotch whiskey
3 pounds (about 5 large) apples (use a combination such as granny smith, pink lady and fuji), peeled, halved and cored
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, for glaze
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, for glaze

Directions:

Prepare pie crust dough, shape into a disk, wrap in plastic and put in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.  You can do this the day before.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix cherries and Scotch and let sit for 30 minutes.  Toss a few times during soaking to make sure all cherries get covered.

In another small bowl, mix together sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

 

Slice apples thin and add them to a large bowl.  Toss in the sugar/flour mixture followed by the cherries and their liquid and combine all ingredients until mixed well.  (I like to use my hands for this.)  Set aside.

Remove pie dough from the refrigerator, cut it in half, roll out the bottom pie crust and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate.

Pour apple filling into pie crust.  Dot with butter (pinching butter into tiny bits with your fingers and dotting evenly over filling.)

Roll our remaining pie dough and arrange over filling, crimping bottom and top of pie crust edges together.

Mix the milk or cream and tablespoon of sugar to make glaze and brush top of crust (except edges.)  Cut several slits in top crust.

Put a cookie sheet on the very bottom rack of the oven to catch and drippings.  Place the pie dish on the rack above that and bake for about 1 hour until crust is golden brown and juices bubble through the top crust.  If edges are browning too quickly, cover them with foil or a pie crust sheild.

Cool pie for at least 30 minutes to an hour on a wire rack.  Serve warm with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Flaky Pie Crust (for 2-crust pie)

I’ve been making this pie crust since I was 16 years old.  My secret is to use equal parts of COLD butter and COLD shortening for a crust that’s flavorful AND flaky.

Ingredients:

2 1/2  cup sifted all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup  cold vegetable shortening, (like crisco) cut into roughly 1/2 inch cubes

4-8 tablespoons ice water

Directions:

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt.

Add cold butter and shortening cubes to flour mixture and with your fingertips or a pastry blender (I like using my fingers for better control), pinch or cut in fat until mixture forms clumps about the size of tiny peas (clumps will be uneven.)

Quickly sprinkle ice water 1 tablespoon at a time over all of the flour mixture, tossing lightly with a spoon until you can form the dough into a ball.  (Don’t overwork dough.)

Flatten the ball into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest refrigerated for at least 30 minutes.  (I like to make my pie dough the day before.)

Take the pie disk out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes just to soften a bit.

Choose a smooth surface to roll out the dough like a cutting board or counter.  Dust surface and rolling pin lightly with flour.

When ready to roll dough, remove disk from plastic and place in the middle of your surface. (Cut disk in half for a two crust pie.) Dust the top of the dough with some flour and begin to roll, starting at the center and working your way out on all sides. After a few rolls, turn the dough over, lightly reflour the board and continue to roll into a 12 inch circle of about 1/8 inch thickness.  Close up any cracks by pinching them together and smoothing out gently with the rolling pin.

To move the dough, fold it in half, then in quarters and place into pie dish.  Gently open up the folds and fit dough into the bottom of the pie dish.  Crimp edges with your fingers and cover up any holes or cracks at this time.  (A little water can be used to help with cracks just by dipping your finger in the water and gently pinching the dough back together.)

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

For those of you looking for something a little less traditional for Thanksgiving, this dessert combines two favorites- pumpkin pie and bread pudding.  All prepared in one bowl, it can be thrown together in a snap.  With warm Sea Salt Caramel Sauce drizzled on top, this is one of my favorite comfort recipes.  And the leftovers the next day make for a great breakfast treat!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

6 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 15 ounce can 100% pure pumpkin

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon salt

6 cups day-old french bread , cut into about 1 inch cubes

½ cup toasted pecans, chopped, (optional)

Sea Salt Caramel Sauce (see recipe below)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9X13 baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs until light and fluffy – about a minute.

Add the heavy cream, milk pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Mix until all is well combined.

Add bread cubes and pecans and mix well.  Let sit for about 5 minutes to allow the bread to really soak up the wet mixture.

Transfer to the baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes until pudding is firm to the touch.  It should be moist but not runny or dry.

Remove from oven, and serve warm with drizzled Sea Salt Caramel Sauce on top.

Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

Makes a little over a cup of sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar

1-2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon corn syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

In a clean, medium sized, heavy saucepan, off heat, add sugar and just enough water to make a “wet sand.” Dissolve completely and stir in the corn syrup.

On medium heat, cook sugar and bring to a low boil. Once it starts to boil, don’t stir anymore.  Instead swirl the pan every now and then.  It will take about 10- 15 minutes before sugar starts to caramelize and turn light brown.  However, once it starts, it will turn dark in a matter of seconds so you need to watch it closely, especially at the end so it doesn’t burn.

When the color of the sugar mixture is that of a penny, immediately remove from heat and add the butter.  Mixture will foam a bit.  Stir with a whisk or rubber spoon.  Add the heavy cream.  Then season with the sea salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  Feel free to play with the amounts of spices to your taste.

Note: When cooking with sugar, wear long sleeves and be very careful.  Hot sugar is VERY hot and can cause a terrible burn.  Never taste out of the pot and keep children and pets at a far enough distance.

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Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie for Thanksgiving?  Oh yeah baby!  This light, citrusy dessert is the perfect balance after a heavy meal and one of my most requested dishes on turkey day.  It adds a whole lot of pizazz to the dessert table, no to mention, it’s one of the easiest desserts you’ll ever make.

Key Lime Pie

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

5 egg yolks

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (squeezed from about 1 pound or 18-20 key limes)

1 teaspoon zest of key lime

1/4 teaspoon salt

*1 Graham Cracker Crust Pie Shell

** Whipped Cream Topping

lime slices for garnish

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, lime zest and salt and mix until well combined.

Pour into graham cracker crust and bake for 15 minutes until filling is set.

Cool completely, slice pie and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a lime slice for garnish.

*Graham Cracker Crust Pie Shell

Makes one 9 or 10-inch Pie Crust

Ingredients:

2 cups crushed graham crackers

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter- melted

Directions:

In a medium to large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar.

Mix in the melted butter a little at a time, using your hands to combine all ingredients.

Press crust mixture evenly into a 9 or 10-inch pie shell.

 

 

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