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Tag Archives: cookies

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.

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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.

Apple and Toasted Oat Cookies with Penuche Frosting

26 Sep

A few years ago, we were lucky enough to be gifted a beautiful Akane apple tree. Akanes are a fantastic type of apple—sharp, only lightly sweet, and boasting a fantastic crunch. Last year we ended up giving a great deal of our tree’s apple harvest to our son’s school, but this year we will be in charge of eating these crisp little fellows on our own. I have no complaints about this. Akane apples are great when plucked from the tree and eaten straight away, but they are also superb for baking. Their less-sweet flavor lends itself well to being folded into baked goods, and their firm flesh is a champ at holding its shape and resisting the urge to melt into mush when exposed to hot temperatures.

Which makes me wonder: When did the pumpkin become the official food of autumn? It seems as though the mere mention of autumn will unleash the squash recipes with full force. Summer is barely over, and yet it is impossible to walk down the street from my house without seeing coffeehouse after coffeehouse after bakery practically screaming the virtues of pumpkin. Pumpkin bread is mighty fine, I admit, but what about the other fruits of the season? Have we forgotten about the apples and pears?

Truthfully, I think I do actually understand the tendency to learn towards pumpkins when autumn makes its first appearance. Due to the fact that one is able to make year-round purchases of apples and pears at the grocery store, the pumpkin harvest is a more notable signifier of the arrival of a new season. Pumpkins signal something, whereas apples, well, apples just mean apples.

Not that they have to. Those apples you’re getting at the market in June are nothing compared to the apples that first start showing up in September and October. June apples have been sitting in storage for months, ever since the previous year’s harvest ended, but September apples have only just barely been freed from their trees. Like warm June strawberries plucked fresh from a backyard patch, fresh September apples are a revelation in apple-eating.

However, if you’re like me and you did not manage to treat your apple tree in time to ward off spring’s deluge of codling moths (note: I treat my apple tree with an organic insecticide called Spinosad, which is unfailingly effective if you treat the tree before the moths arrive to lay their eggs, which I, unfortunately, was not able to do), sometimes you have to do a bit of slicing and dicing in order to enjoy your homegrown apples. A cookie like this, with bursts of apple and the heartiness of oats and whole wheat flour, is the perfect welcome mat for autumn’s new fruit. Drizzled with a slip of caramel-tinged penuche frosting, it tastes like the arrival of autumn, all wrapped up in a tidy cookie package.

Last Year: Balsamic-Glazed Chicken and Zucchini with Grilled Limes

Apple and Toasted Oat Cookies with Penuche Frosting Recipe

1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)

1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup milk

juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ cups finely chopped, peeled apple

Penuche Frosting

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup milk

pinch of sea salt

1 ½ cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread oats in a single layer on a large baking sheet, then toast in the oven until the oats are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove oats from baking sheet and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes on high speed. Add milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, egg, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add toasted oats, all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, spices, and salt, then mix well on low speed. Stir in chopped apple.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoon-fuls, spaced about 2 inches apart, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake cookies in center of oven until lightly golden, about 10 to 13 minutes. To ensure even baking, only bake 1 sheet of cookies at a time. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

While cookies are cooling, make penuche frosting by combining butter and dark brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir to combine the two, allowing mixture to come to a light boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

After mixture has cooled for about 10 minutes, add milk and beat until smooth, then add powdered sugar and beat until mixture is smooth and combined.

Using a large spoon, drizzle cooled cookies with penuche frosting.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on how generously the tablespoon-fuls of dough were portioned out.

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