I have been selected as a winner in the Martha Stewart Cutest Cupcakes Contest for 2009!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I have been selected as a winner in the Martha Stewart Cutest Cupcakes Contest for 2009!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
You know....from the back of the Nestle's Chocolate Chip bag? Because she anticipated the almost frenzied response she would get from us, my mother always tried to bake them in complete secrecy. But we always knew. Always.
"Ruth Wakefield invented the Toll House brand of chocolate chip cookies. Ruth Graves Wakefield graduated from the Framingham State School, Department of Household Arts in 1924. (I think that's the same as Home Economics) She worked as a dietitian and lectured on food, until, together with her husband she bought a tourist lodge named the Toll House Inn.
Ruth Wakefield prepared the recipes for the meals served to the guests at the Inn and gained local notoriety for her desserts. One of her favorite recipes was for Butter Drop Dough cookies. The recipe called for the use of baker's chocolate and one day Ruth found herself without the needed ingredient. Instead of panicking, she substituted a semi-sweet chocolate bar cut up into bits. However, unlike the baker's chocolate the chopped up chocolate bar did not melt completely, the small pieces only softened. As it so happened the chocolate bar had been a gift from Andrew Nestle of the Nestle Chocolate Company. As the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe became popular, sales of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate bar increased. Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield struck a deal. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its packaging and Ruth Wakefield would have a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate."
Or so the story goes. Betcha didn't know all of that, did you??? Hopefully this topic will come up while you're playing Trivial Pursuit and you will blow everyone away with your extraordinary facts about Ruth Wakefield and the Toll House Cookie.
I love them, really I do. But one day I found this recipe and ever since that time I've wanted to test its claim that it is the best chocolate chip cookie. Ever. Jacques Torres developed this recipe and published it in the New York Times. Among other things, he is a pastry genius. The key to this recipe is to refrigerate the cookie dough for a minimum of 24 hours before baking the cookies. The article suggests that allowing the dough to "rest" make the cookies more moist, therefore more flavorful. This is Jacques.
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 (2 1/2 cups) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Using a mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar about 5 minutes on medium speed.
Don't forget to add the eggs. The eggs always get the "bums rush" in cookie recipes. Speaking of "bums", I'll have to remember this particular photo as I'm taste-testing these cookies. Would it be counter-productive to eat these cookies while using the Elliptical? Just asking.
Add the chocolate pieces and incorporate them into the batter with a large spatula making sure not to break up the larger pieces.
Where was I? Ah yes. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown. About 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool and repeat with remaining dough.
I placed a dozen per baking sheet and found that by using the scoop, I got a consistent result every time.
Jacques Torres's Chocolate Chip Cookies are really delicious and well worth the few extra steps. However, the 24 hour "hold" kind of threw me. I kept throwing glances at the refrigerator all day as if waiting for it to explode. That was one of the toughest 24 hours of my life. The anticipation was excruciating. But are they the "best chocolate chip cookie. Ever?"
I really had to think about it. And taste test. With milk. Cold milk. It was a roller coaster ride of emotion until I finally reached my decision.
Mr. Torres, you bake a mean cookie, sir. My hat is off to you. Your talents are unsurpassed, your ingredients are sublime.
What it comes down to for me is just this: The differences between these two cookies are unremarkable yet immeasurable. They are so similar yet they are still worlds apart.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
After a couple of hours of research, we decided to use a recipe adapted from a bunch of different baking websites which also included Zabar's in NYC. Although Zabar's recipe was for a vanilla cookie, I really liked their recipe so I assembled the ingredients and made some adjustments to make them chocolate.
Sweet Moses, I just love using shiny kitchen tools!
These are Kathy's measuring cups. She can't remember where she bought them, but I love them. They are so shiny yet so heavy. I'll bet that if someone broke into her house, she could easily render them unconscious by delivering just a slight clunk on the head with the 1/4 cup. In fact, the 1 cup measurement would probably kill someone. So I know they don't look it but yes....they are that heavy. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. In case you haven't figured it out already, I tend to do that sometimes. But I only exaggerate when heavy, good quality measuring cups are involved.
I always break the egg(s) in a separate bowl or cup before adding them to a recipe. After years of fishing eggshells out of batters, you'd think I'd have learned quicker. Nothing grosses me out more than biting into a soft, moist piece of cake and suddenly crunching down on a piece of eggshell. Yuck.
This recipe called for 2 cups of cake flour as well as 2 cups of all purpose flour. We didn't have cake flour so I gave Kathy the task of "googling" a substitute. We found out that for 2 cups of cake flour, you can use 2 cups of all purpose flour minus 5 tablespoons of flour*, then add 5 tablespoons of cornstarch*.
Ahhh. Here it is! This is my favorite bowl. It lives at my sister's house because she has a lot of cabinet space. My big bowl has it's own shelf in a big cabinet and other little bowls to talk to. Some day, (hopefully sooner than later) when my new kitchen is finished, I'll strap it in to the front seat of my car and drive it home. I'll make it a little dinner....maybe a salad.....give it a nice bath and put it to bed in a big cabinet on it's own shelf. Sigh. Someday.
Black & White Cookies
1 3/4 granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
4 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour minus 5 tablespoons of flour*
5 tablespoons cornstarch*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
3 ounces bitter or unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon corn syrup
3 tablespoons Dutch Process unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 375. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix by machine or hand until fluffy. Add eggs, milk, semisweet chocolate and vanilla and mix until smooth. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt and stir until mixed. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients stirring well after each addition.
Mix it up well but don't over mix it! If you mix it too much the flour will develop too much gluten and it will toughen your batter, which could result in the end of the world and we're all doomed. Doomed I say! So don't overmix, O.K.? Mix it just enough to combine the ingredients. So when you peek into the bowl and think, "I wonder if it's done"......................it is.
Place heaping tablespoons or measured scoopful of batter on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges begin to firm, about 13 - 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.....
Emily stood guard at the front door during most of the baking process. There are lots of birds to watch and bugs to stomp on outside my sister's house.
Boil a cup or so of water in a small pot. Place confectioner's sugar in a large heat-safe mixing bowl. Gradually stir in enough boiling water to the sugar to make a think, spreadable mixture. Remember that a too thin frosting is hard to undo......so add the water slowly, stirring well after each addition. Leave the remaining hot water in the pot on the stove. Once the white icing is used on the cookies, place the bowl of remaining frosting over the hot water and bring it back to a simmer. Stir in the bitter (unsweetened) chocolate until it is melted as well as the corn syrup. Frost the other side of the cookies and set them aside to let the frosting set. Store in an airtight container.
Okay, all black and white aside, my sister and I saw the premiere of Julie & Julia the other night. Hands down, one of the best films I've seen in years. Not a "chick flick" at all. It was funny, warm, happy and sad. Meryl Streep has done it again, and in my opinion, this one is one of her best............next to "Out of Africa", "Sophie's Choice", "The River Wild",. "Heartburn", and of course, "The Devil Wears Prada". When the film ended, the entire theater applauded and then everyone sat through the credits. Truly the mark of a movie hit! I was instantly energized and wanted to cook Julia's Coq au Vin, or Beef Bourguignon or something equally inspiring. So as we were leaving the theater at 10: 45 p.m., I told Kathy that I wanted to go to Barnes & Noble right then and there to purchase Julia Child's cookbook. She looked at me like I was crazy. But we went anyway and purchased THE LAST TWO JULIA CHILD COOKBOOKS IN THE STORE. The salesperson said that they have been flying off the shelves for the last six hours.......and that was just the first day of the movie release! Can you imagine? In fact, since last Friday, Amazon has sold out of over 75,000 copies of Julia Child's cookbook.
It's as simple as Black and White.