New Year’s Eve preparations

After yesterday’s impassioned post you may have expected me to have a supremely productive day to make up for recent laziness. Unfortunately you’d be wrong, but I didn’t stay in bed all day either. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between. I intended to spend a few hours at Disneyland this morning, but I slept in (again) instead. I don’t consider it wasted time, though, since the holiday break is meant for catching up on sleep. After running a few errands I had an appointment at the DMV to renew my driver’s license. I had to do it in person this time around so that was annoying. Luckily with the appointment I was done in about ten minutes. After I left I realized that I might not get my new license before it expires (on my birthday), which could complicate my upcoming trip to Orlando. Having an expired driver’s license when I’m trying to fly back home to Los Angeles could cause a bit of a headache with TSA. Fortunately the solution is simply to bring my passport. Problem solved!

When I got home from the DMV I tackled some New Year’s Eve preparations. Specifically, cookie baking! I promised to bring treats to a New Year’s Eve party and I didn’t want to leave making them until the last minute. So this afternoon I whipped up two different kinds of cookies – peanut butter blondies (because I still had a jar and a half of peanut butter left over from my Christmas cookies) and chocolate chip snickerdoodle bars (a holiday favorite). For the peanut butter blondies I started with this recipe from Averie Cooks and simply replaced the original mix-ins with a combination of semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate chips. (I had to sort through quite a few ancient bags of chocolate chips in my cabinet before finding some that weren’t expired! That’s a testament to my attempt to eat healthier over the last couple of years.) The jury is still out on these blondies so I’ll give you the verdict in another post. For the chocolate chip snickerdoodles, I got the idea from Pinterest, but I based them on my own amazing snickerdoodle bar recipe. I simply added some mini chocolate chips to the dough before I baked them. I’ll have to ask my friends what they think about them because I’m not immediately a fan. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think the chocolate chips may have ruined the snickerdoodles! At this point I wish I hadn’t tampered with such a perfect recipe, but I’ll wait to pass final judgement until I get a few more opinions on New Year’s Eve. Only two more days left in 2016!

Belated Foodie Friday – Brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookies

My chocolate chip cookies were a hit with both my East and West Coast co-workers last week. The three batches I ended up making weren’t quite what I originally intended, though. The notable difference was these brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookies. I started out planning to just make some brown butter chocolate chip cookies based on a request from one of my co-workers, but as I was mixing the dough I decided to add some molasses on a whim. So this is the third time I’ve tried molasses in a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I’m glad I was persistent because the result was absolutely perfect. Something about the combination of the brown butter, molasses, and potentially the little bit of bacon fat I threw in there for good measure made for some of the best cookies I’ve ever baked. Of the three different varieties that my co-workers sampled last week I got the best feedback from this recipe. So if you’re looking for a chocolate chip cookie that’s just a little bit different, definitely give these a try. They are amazing!

1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c dark brown sugar (light brown works too)
1/2 c (1 stick) salted butter, browned
2 Tbsp bacon fat (optional)
2 Tbsp molasses
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl combine the sugar and brown sugar. Set aside. Brown the butter in a medium saucepan. Make sure not to burn it! (If you need help with this step refer to this post on Serious Eats with a great tutorial.) As soon as the butter is browned immediately pour it over the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add the bacon fat at this point if you want. I had some left over after cooking bacon for another batch of cookies so I threw it in just for fun. Add the molasses and eggs and stir to combine. Add the baking soda and flour and stir until almost all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips and stir until the flour is completely combined. Spread the dough into a 13×9″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Something Swanky’s Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Getting back to my roots

It’s been months since I baked any chocolate chip cookies. (And even then, the results weren’t quite up to my standards. I need to revisit that molasses chocolate chip cookie recipe one of these days.) On one hand, this is a good thing because it keeps me from eating unhealthy baked goods and wrecking whatever decent dietary habits I’ve established this year. But on the other hand, I don’t have any delicious recipes to post on Fridays! Also, no cookies makes my co-workers grumpy. Granted, we eat our weight in Oreos every time we have an event, but it’s just not the same as homemade treats. So this week I’m going to do some baking. I’m going to DC next week so I promised to make some chocolate chip cookies to share with my East Coast co-workers. They need a little pick-me-up after digging themselves out after their recent snowstorm! (Speaking of that, I am so thankful that I’m flying out there this weekend rather than last weekend. This Florida/California girl does not have the right clothes, shoes, or attitude to handle large amounts of snow.) I am planning to whip up three batches of cookies before my flight on Saturday – 1) brown butter and bacon chocolate chip cookies, 2) classic chocolate chip cookies with a little bacon fat (procured from cooking the bacon for batch #1), and 3) rum soaked cherry chocolate chip cookies (similar to a batch I made with bourbon last year). Don’t those sound great? And making double batches of each means I can leave some cookies behind for my West Coast co-workers as well. Everyone wins! Except maybe my waistline. It’s worth it, though!

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!

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 – Chocolate chip cookies #53

Chocolate chip cookies #53: Based on Call Me PMC’s Chocolate Chip Potato Chip Cookies. Baked on 7/25/15.

I know it’s hard to see in the above photo, but this batch of chocolate chip cookies has potato chips in it! I took these cookies to my co-workers in DC along with the Bourbon soaked cherry chocolate chip cookies (recipe #52) that I wrote about last month. I’ve experimented with so many different mix-ins during my search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, so it was only a matter of time before I threw in some potato chips. Someone told me the best chocolate chip cookies they ever had included crushed potato chips so I definitely had to give it a try. I’m not sure it really matters, but I used Ruffles. And the double batch of cookies that I made (a 13×9″ pan’s worth) contained almost 2 cups of coarsely crushed Ruffles as well as 1/2 cup each of milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips. When you’ve got chocolate chip variety, use it! The potato chips gave these cookies a nice crunch and a salty kick. A sweet and salty combo in a chocolate chip cookie is always good. These cookies were very popular with my co-workers, but I think there are some slight improvements to be made. In my opinion I either crushed the potato chips too fine or I just didn’t add enough of them because the flavor/texture wasn’t as pronounced as I was expecting. I’ll just have to try again. Anything to make more chocolate chip cookies!

Chocolate chip cookies #52

Chocolate chip cookies #52: Based on Imperial Sugar’s Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Cookies. Baked on 7/25/15.

Before leaving for my business trip in DC I baked two batches of chocolate chip cookies. One of my East coast co-workers specifically requested two types of cookies (one with dried cherries and another with three different kinds of chocolate chips), but I doctored them both up a little to try a couple of new recipes from my “Best chocolate chip cookies?” Pinterest board. I was especially excited about this one in particular. I’ve saved several chocolate chip cookie recipes that include some kind of liquor, but I wasn’t at all sure how any of them would turn out. I was definitely looking forward to finding out, though. So on Friday I went to BevMo and bought a couple of tiny bottles of bourbon since I don’t usually keep alcohol in my house. At first I intended to add 1/4 cup of bourbon to the cookie dough, as the recipe instructed, but then I decided to try something a little different. I reconstituted the dried cherries in bourbon instead (by microwaving them in 1/2 cup bourbon for 1 minute) and drained the excess liquor before folding the fruit into the dough. In addition to that change, I didn’t really follow the rest of the original recipe either. Call me a rebel, but I used my perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe (because how can you improve on perfection?) and just added the boozy cherries. And the result was delicious! The bourbon flavor is pretty subtle, but you can definitely taste it along with the cherries. Out of curiosity, I think I’d like to try this again with a little more bourbon and see if I can make the flavor a bit more pronounced. Not overwhelming, but more obvious. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Chocolate chip shortbread cookies

I couldn’t wait for Friday to share this amazing recipe. I’ve been tinkering with this chocolate chip shortbread for a long time now and it is finally perfect. I first tried my hand at shortbread for Thanksgiving 2013 and I was encouraged by the initial results. Since then I’ve made some tweaks here and there to come up with a recipe that I absolutely love. The biggest change was using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar. I shared my first attempt (Chocolate Chip Cookies #41) back with that ingredient swap back in February when I baked desserts for a Super Bowl party. The powdered sugar gave the shortbread cookies an amazing crumbly texture, but I didn’t think they were quite sweet enough with only 3/4 cup. Luckily folks still seemed to like them. However, I thought there was room for improvement. After doing some research about substituting different kinds of sugars in recipes I decided to double the amount of powdered sugar (1 1/2 cups) and see how that worked. Well, the flavor of the resulting cookies was incredible! They were buttery and just as sweet as I wanted them to be, but unfortunately the lovely shortbread texture was missing. So today made another batch with 1 1/4 cups of powered sugar and it’s perfect! I’m so glad I stuck with this recipe until I got it right. Go and make a batch and see for yourself how great these cookies are!

1 c butter, softened
1 1/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 c flour
1/2 c mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. (Measure the powdered sugar like flour, loosely spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling the top with a knife.) Since powdered sugar has a tendency to clump (and I don’t own a sifter), I usually use an electric mixer for this recipe. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Add the flour and beat until almost completed incorporated, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Spread the dough into an 11×7″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 deg F for about 25 min (check after 20 min just in case), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is starting to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 min and then lift the cookies out of the pan with the sides of the aluminum foil. Slice into squares before the they cool (it’s easier while the cookies are warm). Cool completely before eating. Enjoy!

Based on Kirbie’s Cravings’ Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies and Add A Pinch’s Shortbread Cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies #51

Chocolate chip cookies #51: Based on Amanda’s Cookin’s Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 4/2/15.

Happy Easter, everyone! I bought some buttermilk to make muffins this weekend (more on that in another post), but for some reason there’s no way to buy less than a quart of buttermilk at the grocery store. What the heck? Even my largest cake recipe doesn’t use more than one cup! No matter how many muffins I made I knew I’d have leftover buttermilk, so I figured I’d better find some other ways to use the extra. Then I remembered that a long time ago I found a recipe for buttermilk chocolate chip cookies on Pinterest. It was the perfect fit! Granted, the recipe didn’t use a lot of buttermilk, but any way to make use of it was good. I hadn’t made any chocolate chip cookies since October so I was eager to get back in the kitchen and try something new. Unfortunately something about these wasn’t quite right. Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but I think the buttermilk made the texture more like cake than cookies. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. The cookies might have been better with a different mix-in besides chocolate chips. I’m glad I tried the recipe, but I’ll save the buttermilk for something other than cookies next time!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #50

Chocolate chip cookies #50: Based on Averie Cooks’ Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 8/7/14 and 8/30/14.

Obviously I made these before I went grain-free, but I’m still committed to perfecting my cookie recipes. Just because I don’t eat grains anymore doesn’t mean other people can’t enjoy them! (Plus, I always try at least a little of everything I make to ensure it isn’t terrible. You’d be surprised how often that happens!) And what better way to use grains than in a chocolate chip cookie?

I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies as well as coconut chocolate chip cookies so I thought combining the two would work really well. And apparently I’m not the only one because I found several cookie recipes online that use both oatmeal and coconut. I settled on this recipe, which called for coconut oil in place of butter. I planned to use butter instead, but I realized I was completely out (gasp!), so coconut oil won that battle. I also used a full 1 cup of oatmeal and 1 cup of coconut, as directed, but I diverged from the recipe by toasting it first. Both of these things turned out to be a problem. As I mentioned in chocolate chip cookies #49, I think the toasted oatmeal is just too dry in this context. I know for a fact that toasted coconut in cookies is delicious (see my co-worker’s favorite cookies here) so the oatmeal must have been the main reason these weren’t a success.

I made these cookies again over Labor Day weekend when my parents were visiting. This time around I used just 3/4 cup each of oatmeal and coconut to try and improve the texture. And it worked somewhat, but not enough to really win me over. The cookies were good, but not my favorite. They were still too dry for me. It’s possible that reducing the amount of oatmeal and coconut even further would yield perfection, but I’m not sure I’ll devote the time or ingredients to find out. There are so many other chocolate chip cookie recipes to try instead!