Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #37 revisited

When we were in Alaska in August my family and I stayed at Tonglen Lake Lodge. It’s a beautiful spot that’s fairly close to the entrance to Denali National Park. Since there is no place to get food inside the park we got a lot of our lunches to go from the lodge’s café. This is when I discovered their absolutely amazing chocolate chip cookies. They were rich and flavorful with crispy edges and chewy middles. I couldn’t believe how delicious they were. Of course I was a bit jealous because I’ve been working on my chocolate chip cookie recipe for several years now and I haven’t made anything quite that good yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great cookies, but after tasting those chocolate chip cookies in Alaska I realized there was still progress to be made. One morning I asked the baker what her secret was. I didn’t know how much she would want to divulge, but I figured I had to ask. Luckily she was very forthcoming. I didn’t get an exact recipe, but she gave me a lot of tips. In my defense, I’ve already tried a lot of things that she told me. Lots of butter, of course (although I’ve made really tasty cookies with olive oil or coconut oil instead), a mix of white and brown sugar, and a combination of chocolate chips. On top of that I garnered two additional important tips – 1) omit the vanilla extract, and 2) add molasses. The funny thing is, I actually made molasses chocolate chip cookies back in 2013 (recipe #37), but the result wasn’t anything special.

“The original recipe called for white sugar in the cookie dough, but I figured the molasses flavor would be much more pronounced if I used brown sugar instead. Just call me a chocolate chip cookie rebel! But I was right. The molasses flavor was definitely pronounced with this substitution. That’s probably why the original recipe used white sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I liked these cookies, but the molasses was just a tiny bit too strong for me.”
11/29/13 webpage post

A few weeks ago while watching a Florida football game I decided to revisit molasses chocolate chip cookies to see if I could replicate the cookies I loved so much in Alaska. I started with the same base recipe – Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies – but made a few changes. First of all, I used white sugar instead of brown. This made the cookies a little lighter and dialed down the molasses flavor a bit. Second, I left out the vanilla extract. As much as I love vanilla, it might not work in this recipe. And last, I used just 2 Tbsp of molasses in a small batch of cookies (an 8×8″ pan). The goal was to have the molasses enhance the cookies without overwhelming them. And I think it worked. These cookies definitely tasted a lot like the ones I had Alaska (and my co-workers gobbled them us, as usual), but there was something missing. I think it’s the texture. I am planning to try this recipe again, maybe which watching football this weekend, but make drop cookies instead of bars. The crispy edges of the cookies might be the key to their deliciousness. It means more work for me, but hopefully the payoff will be worth it!

Foodie Friday – Buttermilk pumpkin bread

Fall officially started over a week ago, but we’re still waiting for it to arrive here in Los Angeles. But luckily according to my self-imposed rules I can bake with pumpkin again since it’s after September 1st! Until it finally cools off (although this week has been slightly more comfortable) at least we can enjoy pumpkin-flavored treats! Like this delicious pumpkin bread. Last year I posted a great recipe for spiced pumpkin bread, but I’ve been wanting to try a slightly different version for a while. This new recipe contains buttermilk which is always a plus. It does amazing things for banana bread so why not pumpkin bread too? I’m really glad I tried this recipe because it is delicious. Everyone at work loved it, and I ate a few too many pieces of it myself. This pumpkin bread was the perfect way to welcome the fall and celebrate the approaching holiday season.

INGREDIENTS:
1 c canola oil
3 c sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
2/3 c buttermilk
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (I mixed a homemade version since I was out)
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 c flour

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, mix together the canola oil, sugar, pumpkin, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. I usually use an electric mixer for this to make sure the batter is smooth. Add the pumpkin pie spice (or homemade mix of spices like I made), cardamom, salt, and baking soda and beat until combined. Add the flour to the bowl and blend until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Divide the batter between a couple of greased loaf pans. The original recipe calls for three small loaf pans, but since I don’t have any of those I used one 9×5″ pan and one 8×4″ pan instead. (There was actually some batter leftover in this configuration so next time I’ll try three 8×4″ pans and make slightly smaller loaves.) Bake at 325 deg F for at least 1 hour (mine took a bit longer to set in the middle), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Based on The Mommy Mess’s Buttermilk Pumpkin Bread.

Chocolate chip cookies #54 and #55

Chocolate chip cookies #54: Based on a couple of my own recipes – My Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies and My Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Baked on 8/8/15.

I think the most popular form of chocolate chip cookies that I’ve ever made are the ones with toasted coconut. My co-workers absolutely love them, and even folks who usually eschew all sweets will dig in to these absolutely delicious cookies. So last month when I had the inclination to bake something I pulled out a bag of unsweetened coconut that I’d bought at Whole Foods on a whim. Might as well try it in some cookies! My usual recipe calls for toasted sweetened coconut, so using the unsweetened variety was going to be something a little different. In the end I basically just toasted the unsweetened coconut (5-7 minutes at 350 deg F) and then added it to my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (with semisweet and milk chocolate chips). And they were amazing! The coconut provides a lovely nutty flavor to the cookies and adds a bit of a chewy texture. What more could you ask for?

Chocolate chip cookies #55: Based on Cupcake Project’s Cacao Nib Cookies and My Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Baked on 8/8/15.

The unsweetened coconut wasn’t the only out of the ordinary ingredient that I’ve had hanging out in my pantry for a while. Another one was a bag of cacao nibs, also bought on a whim at Whole Foods. (I really need to avoid the baking aisle when I’m there.) So in an effort to actually make use of the cacao nibs, I decided to dump them into a batch of chocolate chip cookies. (With my well documented obsession with chocolate chip cookies, what else did you expect?) I started with a double batch of my favorite recipe, with about half the usual amount of chocolate chips (1/2 cup semisweet chips and 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips) and simply added the cacao nibs. I don’t remember how many ounces the bag contained, but I think it turned out to be something like 1/2 cup of cacao nibs. The combination of the chocolate chips and cacao bibs made these cookies supremely chocolatey. The cacao nibs not only augmented the chocolate flavor, but they added a bit of a crunch to the cookies. They were quite lovely. Not my favorite, but a nice change of pace. And, of course, my co-workers loved them. Free cookies are always popular!

Foodie Friday – Mustard and maple chicken

This year I’ve been doing a great job of making healthy lunches to take to work, but I’ve gotten into a rut with the meat and vegetable recipes that I use. I have a few favorites that I make regularly (curried chicken tenders, ranch turkey tacos, Korean ground beef), but my taste buds are demanding more options! In an effort to mix things up a bit I tried this new chicken recipe a couple of weeks ago. It’s advertised as the “World’s Best Chicken” so my expectations were high. Luckily it did not disappoint! This chicken is really delicious. Baking chicken is the simplest and least messy way to prepare it, and the sauce is made from basic pantry staples that you probably already have in your kitchen. The Herbs de Provence wasn’t in the original recipe, but I added it because I thought it sounded good. I figure Italian seasoning would be just as good, but I haven’t tried it myself. I will next time. This recipe is definitely going into my lunch rotation. I love it!

INGREDIENTS:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lb)
1/2 c Dijon mustard
1/4 c maple syrup
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Herbs de Provence (or Italian seasoning)
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
In a small bowl whisk together the Dijon mustard, maple syrup, red wine vinegar, and the Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning. (When I made this I just sprinkled a generous amount of the Herbs de Provence into the mustard, maple, and vinegar mixture. I’m just estimating that it was about 1 tsp. The amount isn’t really critical.) Place the chicken breasts in an 11×7″ or 13×9″ glass baking dish that’s coated with cooking spray (I use Trader Joe’s olive oil spray). Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then pour the mustard and maple sauce on top. Make sure each breast is coated with sauce. Bake at 400 deg F for about 40 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

Based on Rachel Schultz’s World’s Best Chicken.