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Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie and Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches

5 Jul

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I did not come up with this genius ice cream sandwich combination. The combo was the work of Asha Dornfest, the lovely mind behind Parent Hacks and the author of several different books. Asha was able to dream up her own ice cream sandwich combination when she made a donation to this great campaign, of which I was greatly honored to be a part.

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It bears rather sheepish mentioning here that, although I maintain a website, I am not a very website-oriented person. I do not cultivate personal relationships online, I don’t follow a long list of personal sites (in fact, as you might have noticed, I don’t even like to use the word—it starts with a “b” and ends in “log” –that is now used to describe nearly every website on earth that is not a commerce site or a longtime news site), and, aside from the MLB.TV subscription that keeps me in baseball games all summer long, I don’t spend a lot of time hovering around the internet. I read books with actual, physical pages, I like my subscription to the New Yorker to remain in paper form, and when I write emails I follow rules of punctuation, grammar, and general story form. In short, I am a 60 year-old school marm stuck in the body of a 36 year-old woman, and I am totally okay with that.

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However, I will say this: you can’t beat the power of the internet to connect total strangers in the name of doing something good. My participation in the aforementioned online bake sale was due to my connection with Go Mighty, the fine organization that helped me kickstart my goal of baking 50 cakes for 50 people. Because of Go Mighty, I got to help some kids buy much-needed books, and, though I may be the world’s least active and willing participant in social media, that is precisely the type of thing I like to see social media accomplish. If only all interactions with total strangers turned out to be this wonderful.

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Last Year: Blueberry Cream Pie in a Gingersnap Crust and Olive, Lemon, and Herb-Stuffed Sole 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie and Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches

Caramel Ice Cream

Adapted slightly from Room for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

1 ½ cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split

2 ¾ cups heavy cream

¾ cup milk, not skim

pinch of sea salt

5 egg yolks

Sprinkle an even layer of sugar into a heavy, medium-sized saucepan (at least 2 quarts). Add the vanilla bean, then cook the sugar over medium heat until it begins to liquefy around the edges. As the sugar melts, swirl the pan to move the sugar around, and occasionally give the sugar a stir with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula to prevent it from burning in any one spot.

Once the sugar has begun to darken, it will finish cooking very quickly. When the edges begin to bubble and the lighter, amber-colored sugar has begun to smoke, remove the pan from the heat and very quickly pour in the heavy cream, stirring to dissolve the caramel. The mixture will bubble and steam furiously, so be cautious with your pouring and stirring. If your caramel begins to seize up, do not fear. Simply return the pan to low heat, and gently stir the caramel cream mixture until the caramel pieces dissolve.

Whisk the milk and salt into the caramel mixture. Lightly whisk together the egg yolks in a bowl, and very slowly add the caramel cream, whisking constantly as you pour in the hot liquid. Return the mixture to the saucepan in which you cooked the caramel, and gently heat the custard mixture over low heat until it reaches around 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture should easily coat the back of a spoon.

Strain the custard mixture into a medium or large bowl, and refrigerate until completely chilled, overnight, or at a minimum, 3 hours. When chilled, pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is frozen, remove to a container and freeze several hours or overnight, until firmed up enough for scooping.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Sandwich Cookies

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz

2/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups rolled oats, not instant or quick-cooking

½ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips

½ cup unflavored vegetable oil

3 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 or 3 baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, both sugars, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, being sure to break up any large lumps of brown sugar. Stir in the oats and chocolate chunks.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour in the oil and milk. Add the vanilla and egg and stir until the batter is smooth.

Scoop the batter onto a prepared baking sheet, measuring out each scoop to be a heaping tablespoon. You will be able to fit 6 scoops on 1 sheet—try to fit any more and your cookies will spread into one another. Flatten out each scoop slightly, until the top is no longer rounded.

Bake a sheet of cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden at the edges, rotating the sheets halfway through baking (Lebovitz’s book dictates that you bake the cookies for twice as long as this, for reasons unknown. I followed his instructions at first, but the cookies came out burned and hard as rocks). Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Finish baking all cookies in this manner. You should end up with 16 large cookies.

To assemble ice cream sandwiches, top one cookie with a generous scoop of ice cream, then top the ice cream with another cookie. Press down slightly to help the ice cream fill out the circumference of the cookie. Freeze ice cream sandwiches, wrapped in plastic wrap, if you wish, until firm enough to not splat out everywhere when you bite down on them, at least a few hours.

Makes 8 large ice cream sandwiches, with ice cream leftover (yay!).

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Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

15 Mar

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It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? To all seven of you who read this website, I apologize for my sustained absence. There was work—lots of it—and there were late nights—lots of them—and then there was the inevitable crash afterwards that involved lots and lots of sleeping. Boy, that really makes it sound like my work involved the unregulated consumption of gratuitous amounts of alcohol, doesn’t it? It didn’t, by the way. There was no alcohol involved in any way. But! Moving along! Look what happened after all the work: cookies.

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My brother, cookie aficionado, tells me that these are his favorite chocolate chip cookies. This is no small amount of praise, since my brother just might be the world’s foremost expert on chocolate chip cookies. On more than one occasion, I have given him chocolate chip cookies as a birthday or Christmas gift, and the reception those cookies received was nothing short of rhapsodic. It was like watching a person being greeted by a heavenly specter. Or, you know, by really, really good chocolate chip cookies.

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The heart of this recipe lies with Cook’s Illustrated, they of the test-it-until-it-is-perfect methodology. Their recipe provides a good starting point, but I have always thought that the recipe fell short of perfect on account of its lack of oomph. The cookies were crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle—which was lovely—but the flavor was far too sweet for my tastes, and the sweetness sort of killed all the other elements of the cookie. Over the years, I have tinkered with the recipe until I came up with my own version, one that I like ten times better than the original, though I realize that such a statement is entirely reliant upon my own personal taste, and not the tastes of the masses. Still, if you enjoy the subtly nutty taste of brown butter, the deep flavor of brown sugar, and the undertone of sea salt, you’ll love these cookies as much as I do. And, of course, as much as my brother, Expert in All Things Chocolate Chip Cookie.

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Last Year: Italian-Style Herb Bread and Matambre-this dish’s name roughly translates into “hunger killer,” and, reading the recipe, you’ll soon see why

Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

As noted in the ingredients below, you’ll really want to use either coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate chunks or féves. Regular chocolate chips are specifically formulated to not melt when baked, and you really want pure, melty chocolate in these cookies, as it really makes the whole cookie shine just that much more. If you are really keen on the saltiness of a sweet baked good, feel free to sprinkle just a touch of flaky sea salt on top of the cookies as they emerge from the oven.

1 ¾ cups (8 ¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter

1/3 cup (2 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar

¾ cup packed (5 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar

1 ¼ teaspoons flaky sea salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 ¼ cups bittersweet chocolate chunks, féves, or chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Set aside.

In a medium skillet or pan set over medium-high heat, melt butter. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly (or stirring with a wooden spoon) until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty scent, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, then pour butter into a large heatproof bowl.

To the browned butter, add both sugars, sea salt, and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Let mixture rest for 3 minutes in order to allow the sugar to really dissolve, then whisk again for 30 seconds, let mixture rest for 3 minutes, then repeat once more. The mixture will be smooth and shiny. Gently fold in the flour using a spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is completely incorporated, stir in the chocolate chunks.

Measure out dough into 16 portions of roughly 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. If you don’t desire such enormous cookies, portion out the cookies in 2 tablespoon chunks. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, baking no more than 8 cookies at a time, per sheet (lest your cookies ooze into one another and attach into one long cookie).

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time, in the center of the oven, until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and the centers are still soft, about 10 to 14 minutes for cookies made in 3-tablespoon portions, fewer minutes for smaller cookies. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack. Allow cookies to cool almost completely before eating (I like a still-warm cookie, but you can certainly let the cookies cool completely before eating and nothing bad will come of it).

Makes 16 to 24 cookies, depending on how large your cookie dough portions are.

Apricot Brown Butter Cookies

10 Dec

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Though I will most likely never win the Nobel Prize (most likely, but not never, because what if the Nobel committee might starts awarding the prize to people based on their dedicated contributions to the study of delicious baked goods?), the Fields Medal (nope—no way I’d ever win that one, baked goods or no), or the National Medal of Science, I did just achieve a profound and nearly unbelievable scientific feat: I just reverse engineered a cookie that I ate four months ago and had to recreate based entirely on memory.

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You see, over the summer, when we were wrapping up our annual trip back to San Francisco to watch baseball games and gorge ourselves on ice cream, I stopped off at Bi-Rite Market to grab some snacks and treats for our journey back home. After locating a number of reasonable of healthy foods to accompany us, I also decided to buy a bag of gorgeous toffee colored cookies. The cookies were thick and chewy, rich with brown butter, and topped with a spoonful of sticky apricot preserves. They were some of the best cookies I have ever eaten, and, folks, I have eaten a lot of cookies. We ate most of the cookies while traveling, but I made sure to save one last cookie to enjoy while back home. Also, I had already decided that I had secret plans for that last cookie. Like a scientist entrenched in the lab, I was going to break down that cookie, bite by bite, and recreate it in my own kitchen.

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I started with brown butter, deeply cooked so its toffee notes stood front and center, then, looking to create a cookie with a nice, chewy finish, paired it with brown sugar. Since the cookie I was looking to make was essentially a souped-up butter cookie, I followed the pattern of butter cookie know-how, creaming the lightly firmed brown butter with sugar and flour, then chilling the dough to allow it to hydrate and set up. When baked up with a spoonful of apricot preserves, the cookies were a dream. With a pronounced brown butter flavor, a sticky lid of apricot preserves, and a delectably crisp-yet-chewy bite, they were just like my long lost cookie friend of the summer. Only now, the code cracked, we’ll be able to make this cookie’s acquaintance all year long.

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Last Year: Ginger Almond Toffee

Apricot Brown Butter Cookies

I first made these cookies much larger than the ones pictured here (in the interest of recreating Bi-Rite Creamery’s cookie as closely as possible). The tiny cookies seen here were made for a holiday cookie swap, so a small size seemed like a reasonable idea. If you want to make the cookies more like Bi-Rite Creamery’s, triple the scoop size, multiply the apricot topping by the same factor, then bake the cookies for 2 to 5 minutes longer, checking the cookies every couple of minutes to reach the proper level of doneness. When made larger, the cookies will end up much chewier than a tiny cookie.

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/2 cup to 1 cup apricot preserves

In a medium skillet or pan, melt 2 sticks (1 cup) of the butter over medium heat. When browning butter, it is always best to do so in a light-colored pan so you can closely gauge the changing of the butter’s color. Slowly cook the butter, swirling the pan around every few seconds so the butter cooks evenly. The butter will begin to foam, then spatter a bit, and then you’ll see the little dots of milk solids begin to turn brown at the bottom of the pan. This can take anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes, so be sure to watch the butter very carefully to keep it from burning, and stir the butter every now and then to keep the milk solids from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the dots of butter solids have turned dark brown and the butter begins to emit a lovely nutty aroma, pour the butter into a medium bowl. Immediately place the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer. Allow the butter to cool, stirring every few minutes, until it is the spreadable consistency of softened butter (you basically want it to be the same texture as the remaining stick of butter that has been left to soften at room temperature). Getting the browned butter to this texture can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on whether you place it in the refrigerator or freezer, how often you stir it, etc.

When the browned butter has reached the proper consistency, place it in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, along with the remaining stick of softened butter. Cream the butters together until they are light and fluffy. Slowly add in both the brown sugar and granulated sugar, beating all the while, until everything is blended together. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. With the mixer on medium low speed, slowly add in the flour and salt and mix until everything is well combined and the dough is relatively smooth. Cover the bowl of dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using about 1 teaspoon of dough at a time (or, for a much larger cookie, a couple of tablespoons of dough), roll dough into a roughly 1-inch ball (or, obviously, larger). Place balls of dough about a inch or so apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Using the tip of your finger, make a small indentation in the center of each dough ball. Drop a small scoop of apricot preserves into the indentation (a small ball will handle about ¼ of a teaspoon of preserves, but a larger ball can take about three times that much).

Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for 12 to 14 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden. Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

If you make these cookies using 1 teaspoon scoops, you will get around 6 dozen or more cookies.

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