Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Best" Chocolate Chip Cookies

Anyone who has ever made chocolate chip cookies claims to have the best recipe. Some people swear by their Great Aunt's secret family concoction that has been passed down for generations, while others will always follow the recipe on the back of the Toll House package. Finally, some home-cooks will search for hours on allrecipes.com, scanning the web for the most promising cookie photograph.

But when it comes down to it, the "best" chocolate chip cookies come from the pros. Baking aficionado Jacques Torres to be specific, via the Martha Stewart website if we want to get technical.

The recipe below yields crunchy, chunky chocolate chip cookies that are not overly sweet. I sprinkled large-grain sanding sugar on the raw dough before popping them into the oven because I was feeling snazzy.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies
From the Martha Stewart Website

1 pound unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

4 large eggs

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour

3 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 pounds Jacques Torres House (60 percent cocoa) Chocolate or other best-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.

Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 15 minutes for smaller cookies. Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Perfect Brownies

Sometimes it seems as though all the good food comes from Europe. France has its beignets, eclairs and crepes, Italy has its tiramisu and gelato, Belgium has its chocolate and waffles. 

And America has what? Fast food burgers and delivery pizza? 

With America's birthday a day away, it is fitting that our country should get more credit for its culinary contributions. Take the brownie for example. This tasty confection originally appeared at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and since then the recipe has been reproduced thousands, (shall I say millions?) of times since, both domestically and abroad. 

This recipe, found on the fantastic blog, Smitten Kitchen, creates fudge-like, dense and delectable brownies, laden with chopped walnuts. While some people are fond of cake-like brownies, I say, if you are going to have a brownie, have a brownie. 

So try Perfect Brownies for a stellar ending to a July 4th barbecue. Serve with strawberries and blueberries if you are feeling patriotic. But frankly, there is nothing more American than a brownie. 

Perfect Brownies
From Smitten Kitchen

10 tablespoons butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, cold

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cups walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a brownie pan with parchment paper
Combine the cocoa, sugar, butter and salt into a medium sized bowl. Using a double-boiler, melt the ingredients together, stirring constantly. 
Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and eggs, beating after each one. 
Stir in flour. 
Stir in walnut pieces. 
Pour the mixture into the brownie pan and bake for around 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.