Sunday, September 05, 2010

Coco would be proud of these cookies

Chocolate cookie recipes are, for me, like those little black dresses the ladies are always yammering on about--you can't have too many of them.

Continuing the analogy, I consider the following recipe to be akin to something the pioneering French fashion designer Coco Chanel would have produced in her prime--simple, sleek and elegant. 

If you're looking for a cookie with a bit more bling, check out
this recipe, which includes all sorts of accoutrements (in the form of almonds, chocolate chips and white chocolate chips).

Grammy's Chocolate Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 sticks plus 4 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar (plus more for dipping)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and then set aside.

Then, in the bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment), cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill until firm (about one hour).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into two-inch balls and then dip in reserved sugar. Place about two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper--you should be able to fit about six cookies on each sheet--and bake for about 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 18-20 cookies.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Gut-busting brownies

If you like your brownies like I do--dense and fudgey, as opposed to cakey and light--the following recipe is for you.

Interestingly enough, I came across said recipe when I bought a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking pan at Williams-Sonoma some years ago.

I've mixed in all sorts of ingredients--chocolate chips, M&Ms, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Thin Mints--since then, but the mix-in mentioned below--Reese's Pieces--may be my favorite.

Reese's Pieces Brownies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups Reese's Pieces (or the "mix-in" of your choice--chocolate chips, M&Ms, Thin Mints, etc.)

Before you do anything else, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. After that, line a 9-inch square baking pan with lightly greased parchment paper.

Once that's done, toss the butter and the chopped chocolate into a medium saucepan set over low heat. Stir the concoction until completely melted. Take the pan off of the heat and stir in the sugar and the salt, then add the eggs and vanilla and stir until well blended. Finally, add the flour and stir just until it has been incorporated. Stir in the Reese's Pieces.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost completely clean, 40-45 minutes. Don't overbake or the brownies will be crumbly and dry. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool completely before cutting into squares.

Muy bueno!

It's hard to believe something so wonderful is so easy to make.

That's a good thing and a bad thing, if you're me. It's good because it means I can whip it up on a whim, but it's bad because I can then eat it in less than a week, spoonful by sinful spoonful.

 Oh, well--that's what the gym's for, right?

Daisy Martinez's Dulce de Leche

Two 12-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk

Set a rack in the center of your oven and then preheat it to 350 degrees.

In the meantime, heat a few cups of water--four should do the trick--to boiling. While it's heating, pour the two cans of  sweetened condensed milk into a pie plate or some similarly sized baking dish.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and then set in a shallow roasting pan. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the pie plate/baking dish.

Place the whole thing in the oven and bake, without stirring, until the milk thickens and turns golden (it should look like caramel). Pour the hot, thickened milk into a bowl and whisk vigorously until it's as smooth as possible. (Don't worry if there are a few small lumps.)

 Enjoy warm, at room temperature or cool.

Adults only!

By "adults only," I mean that I can't imagine the kids eating this one--unless, of course, they're really open-minded kids.

Actually, I have a feeling only open-minded
adults will appreciate the following recipe, which I found in the most recent issue (September 2010) of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine.

Thankfully, David and I love brussels sprouts, mushrooms and whole-wheat pasta, so the only things we had to open to enjoy this dish were our big ol' mouths.

Whole-Wheat Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

Coarse salt and ground black pepper
1 pound short whole-wheat pasta (such as penne or rigatoni)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded
4 garlic cloves. minced
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Set aside 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, pour about two tablespoons of oil into a large skillet placed over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with salt to taste and then cook, stirring now and then, until browned. Add the mushrooms to the pasta and then add about two more tablespoons of oil to the now-empty skillet. Add the brussels sprouts and garlic to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the the brussels sprouts are soft. (This should take about six minutes.)

Add the brussels sprouts mixture, lemon zest and lemon juice to the pasta, then stir in enough of the reserved pasta water to create a thin sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with shaved or shredded parmesan.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Black and white and yummy all over

Chocolate chip cookies are all well and good, but every now and then you need a cookie that grabs you by the short and curlies, you know?

Well, the following recipe, shared on a recent episode of Ina Garten's
Barefoot Contessa television show, fits that bill and then some.

(BTW, these really should be called 
triple chocolate almond cookies, as they have cocoa, semisweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips, but I'll leave the name as is out of respect for Ms. King.)

Kathleen King's Double Chocolate Almond Cookies

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) salted, room-temperature butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped

After you preheat your oven to 350 degrees, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer that's been fitted with the paddle attachment and then add the egg and vanilla. Once those two ingredients have been incorporated, add the flour mixture and continue beating until just combined. Finally, add the chocolate chips and the almonds and mix until combined.

Using a small or medium ice cream scoop, drop the dough about two inches apart on sheet pans that have been lined with parchment paper. (You should be able to get about six cookies on each sheet if you use a medium ice cream scoop.) Bake for about 15 minutes.

Don't worry if the cookies seem a bit soft when they're pulled from the oven; they'll firm up nicely as they cool. Speaking of which, allow the cookies to cool on their cookie sheets for about 10-15 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

Yield: Approximately 20 four-inch cookies, if you use a #16 (1/4 cup) ice cream scoop.