Category Archives: Cookies

Whole Wheat Shortbread with Raspberry, Jalapeno, and Goat Cheese Jam

raspberry.jalapeno.cookie.1Sometimes I make a certain dish or recipe simply because I want to. Other times, I make them – once, twice, three times, tweaking with each rendition – because they tell a story. These cookies tell a story…

I’ve recently been meeting a lot of new people for a myriad of reasons, which I will indulge you in at some future point. For now though, the important thing to note is that, as a result, I’ve been talking a lot about who I am to people who have no basis for understanding me. As I’ve talked about me, I’ve noticed a recurring theme: I spend a lot of time also talking about my dad. Maybe it’s our mutual love for food and the hours we’ve spent together in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s our obsession with the St. Louis Cardinals and our even greater one with Illini basketball. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m one of those lucky girls who has the type of dad most only dream of. Regardless, my dad has had an impact on my life more profound than I’ve realized.

dad.jess.1.1

And this impact includes a deep love of shortbread. I have memories of my dad noshing on a box of trefoils, the Girl Scout shortbread cookies that most write off as “boring”, and of my mom making giant batches of the buttery cookies for him. When I saw a recipe for jam shortbread in Bon Appetit several falls ago, I dog eared it with my dad in mind. Then I left it sitting in the back of my head until recently when, knowing I was Czech, my friend Laura asked me to cook for an Eastern European composer focused concert she was performing with her chamber group. I immediately turned to kolachky. Too time consuming though, I decided to whip up a batch of these shortbread and claim them to be some kind of new wave, trendy kolachky with a twist.

The original version had just plain, old raspberry jam in the center. They were good. But good, as we all know, is not great. Luckily, I had quadrupled the recipe and tossed the extra dough in the freezer. I mulled over what I could do with it. Blueberry galette with lemon zest? Cherry tomato tart? Rhubarb anything? Finally, my mind wandered back to the Evanston farmers market, the one I religiously woke up early for each Saturday morning, and the man with the jam.

dad.jess.jord.1.1

Oh, the man with the jam. On my first visit to his stand, he recommended the raspberry jalapeno jam. I was hesitant. It sounded strange. But when he said he liked it spread on toast over cream cheese, my hesitancy disappeared. Done. Done. Done. I bought a jar. The next time I returned, I bought three. Just in case an apocalypse hit or something. You know, better safe than sorry.

That dough in my freezer could be just the perfect canvas for a version of that jam with goat cheese, mostly because I had a giant log in my fridge, in place of cream cheese. So the experimenting began. The rest is, as they say, history. Especially because Jake ate the entire plate in a night. Yes, I helped, because like father like daughter, I love my food.

Whole Wheat Shortbread with Raspberry, Jalapeno, and Goat Cheese Jam

adapted from Bon Appetit and inspired by “the farmers market guy with the jam”

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

10 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

1 large egg yolk, room temperature

6 tablespoons raspberry jam

4 tablespoons goat cheese

15-20 grams jalapeno (depending on the amount of heat you want)

Preheat oven to 400°. In the bowl of a food processor combine the raspberry jam, goat cheese and jalapeno. Mix until well combined scraping down the bowl frequently. The mixture should be an even, pink color. Set aside.

Whisk flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms. Whisk egg and yolk in a bowl; add to flour mixture; stir just to blend.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure dough by 2 tablespoonfuls and roll into balls. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 2″ apart. Make an indentation in center of each ball; fill each with 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture.

Bake cookies until golden, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookies, Desserts

Persimmon Bread

persimmon.bread.2

I wish I had a warm piece of this bread sitting in my stomach as we speak. Sadly, this was a mid-January creation when, you know, persimmons were actually in season. Yes, I am just getting around to posting about it. Maybe by April I’ll have posted about my new favorite kale salad. (Hint: It’s from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.)

My lack of posts is testimony to the chaos this year has thus far brought with it. I would indulge you with stories, but I feel like playing catch up is irrelevant at this point. Instead, I’ll share with you this: I had never had persimmon before this bread. Really, never. In fact, I don’t know that I had ever even heard of a persimmon until two winters ago when a friend’s mom Facebook messaged me. She’d gotten persimmons in her CSA box and was wondering if I had any genius recipes. Since this was my first encounter with even the term “persimmon”, I clearly had no recipes up my sleeve. What I did have was my computer and that meant I could search for ones. My search led me to a variety of different persimmon uses: in a salad, topping prosciutto, or baked into bread. That winter came and went without any persimmon experimentation falling upon my kitchen.  Then, this winter hit and everywhere I turned I saw persimmons. Obviously, I opted for the bread being the baked goods lover that I am. After a brief stint of chopping and stirring my apartment was filled with the sweet, floral scent of a James Beard worthy bread. It was gone in two days.

persimmon.bread.1

On a side note, I made it a goal of mine to hit 100 posts by the end of 2013. So far I’ve posted twice this year. Um, fail. I have 42 posts to go and approximately 41 weeks until the end of the year. A post a week…here I come!

Persimmon Bread

adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Beard via David Lebovitz

If it’s persimmon season, aka winter, you can stock up by peeling, pureeing, and then freezing your persimmons. In regards to the bread, using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread. The bread will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. You can also wrap and freeze the bread.

makes two 9-inch Loaves

3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon, or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookies

Garnet Pilaf

garnet pilaf-2In the spirit of the New Year and the reflection that goes along with it, I was going to tell you about everything I learned last year. I composed the entire post, read it, reread it, read it again, and deleted it. It was contrived, not real. And if I learned one thing last year, it’s the importance of telling a raw honesty, of opening your heart, of letting yourself be vulnerable. This year, my goal – resolution if you will – is to implement what was learned last year. To express without a filter. To share without fear. To walk through each day with a love so powerful that the brick wall of vulnerability has carved in to it a gate. Lofty, indeed, but lofty goal and big dreams are what let the mad world spin on so to speak.

Enough about New Year’s and on to this dish, which I made way back in June. Yes, I know that was over half a year ago. I’ll spare you the reason behind its delay and instead just reassure you that the lag in posting is in no way a reflection of its deliciousness. No, no. When my family sat down to a beautiful early summer meal on our back porch, we all agreed that this dish was a winner. Whole foods – sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa – make it an appealing dish to the health nut (mom cough cough). The variety of flavor though – sweetness from the potatoes, spice from the paprika, tartness from the vinegar – lend itself to the palette of a health averse, taste aficionado (dad cough cough). Just try it. Trust me.

Garnet Pilaf

adapted (barely) from the Sprouted Kitchen

1/2 cup brown rice

2 sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon smoked paprika, divided

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup onion (yellow or red), diced

1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed

1 cup water or broth of choice

2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar

Red chili flakes (optional)

1/3 cup fresh chives, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse and cook the brown rice according to instructions. This takes the longest, so start the rice first.

Wash and dice the sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Pile them on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of the smoked paprika, sea salt, and pepper. Toss everything together with your hands to coat and spread them out in a single layer. Roast on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes until the edges are browned and crisp .

In a pot, add a drizzle of olive oil and saute the diced onion until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa, a pinch of sea salt, water or broth of choice and bring it to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15-17 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat, fluff with a fork and cover it for another few minutes to finish.

When both the rice and quinoa are cooked, put them both in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon olive oil, remaining 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika, red wine vinegar, and chili flakes. Toss everything together to mix. Taste for salt and pepper adding more if necessary. Top with the cubes of sweet potatoes and  fresh chives. Serve. (If everything is not piping hot at this point that’s ok. The dish is delicious slightly warmer than room temperature and equally good cold the next day.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookies

Banana Matcha Smoothie

It’s hot in Chicago. So hot, all I want to do is eat smoothies. And frozen yogurt. I’m mildly obsessed. As in, Wednesday I sat on an El for forty minutes just for Forever Yogurt. I told you I was obsessed.

Unfortunately, I’m stuck on a college campus eating dorm food and bagged lunches for the next two and a half weeks as a sleep deprived version of myself plods through Teach for America Institute. That means no frozen yogurt. That also means no smoothies. A girl can dream though, right? And dream of this smoothie I will.

This smoothie is a Jessica original inspired by a drink I once had at, according to their website, the largest Japanese Market in the United States, Mitsuwa. My mom and I make a trip up to Arlington Heights from my childhood home in the western suburbs once or twice a year. While we always take the time to wander through the supermarket, we really go for the food court. I can’t resist the barbeque pork buns or the dirty cheap, amazingly fresh sushi. Nom nom.

In the corner of the food court is a little tea shop slash ice cream store. Usually too full from stuffing my body with spicy tuna rolls, I’ve only ordered from there once. That once, I decided to get a banana matcha drink that caught my eye for some strange reason, particularly given the fact that I had no idea what matcha was at the time. Regardless of the mystery ingredient, when the drink was presented to me I dove right in. Let me tell you, it was good. So good, in fact, I left Mitsuwa with a tiny container of matcha that day.

I had zero idea of how the drink was made so I went home and started to experiment. I opted to use a frozen banana instead of the room temperature ones used in the food court shop. I tossed some milk and matcha into the blender along with my banana and managed to create a pretty solid concoction on my first try. That usually doesn’t happen. I’ve played with the recipe since, adding soy milk or yogurt as my liquid, stirring in honey or vanilla extract, and topping it with granola. Below is my favorite version to date. Undoubtedly, my experimenting will continue though. It always does.

Banana Matcha Smoothie 

There are two important ingredient notes to be aware of: First, Matcha green tea can be found in Japanese grocery stores and some specialty tea shops. Do not try to use regular green tea. Matcha is ground into a powder much finer than the green tea found in most grocery stores. The later will not mix into your drink well. And really, who wants to be sipping bits and pieces of tea leaves?

Second, I played around quiet a bit with how to add the bananas. I like my smoothies thick and prefer to eat them with a spoon instead of drink them through a straw. If this is you, peel the bananas, slice them into 1/2 inch chunks, let them freeze, and then add them to your smoothie. If you prefer a more liquidy smoothie, either add more yogurt, let the bananas defrost slightly, or blend for longer. I have found that either way, it is best to cut the bananas into chunks before freezing as it allows them to break down in the blender quicker. Oh! And one more ingredient note. Feel free to use milk or soy milk instead of Greek yogurt.

Serves 1

1 1/2 overripe bananas, sliced and frozen (see note above)

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons honey

1/4 teaspoon matcha

Granola, if desired

Add the bananas, Greek yogurt, and honey to a blender. Blend just until smooth, stopping and scrapping down the sides with a spatula as needed. (Depending on the quality of your blender the bananas may take quite some time to puree. Be patient and try using the pulse function to soften the bananas.)

Add the matcha and, using a spatula, fold it into the banana mixture. Blend for 15-30 seconds. Pour into a glass and top with granola if desired. Eat using a spoon.

1 Comment

Filed under Cookies, Drinks, Fruit

Coconut Macaroons

Hola from Guatemala! Yes, you heard (or rather read) correctly, Guatemala. I made it to Antigua, Guatemala Saturday after over twenty five hours on a bus. I won’t bore you with the story of my arduous bus ride, but I will say it involved a broken air conditioner. Can you imagine taking a bus across Central America without air conditioning? Well, some of us – and by some of us I mean me – don’t have to.

I wish I could share all my stories – the good ones, the bad ones, the hilarious ones, the ones only I’ll think are hilarious – with all of you. That would involve thousands of paragraphs and countless hours of typing. We all know you don’t want to read that and we all know I have better things to do, like haggle in the market and climb volcanoes, than write that much. So for now, instead of sharing my stories, I’ll share these macaroons I made in honor of Passover two and a half(ish) weeks ago. Macaroons made in the United States for a Jewish holiday being written about in Guatemala. Talk about globalization.

Prepared with coconut flakes instead of shredded coconut, these Alice Medrich developed macaroons are far from your typically macaroon. (I have yet to pick up one of Alice Medrich’s books. I hear they’re fabulous though. Cooking from one of them is on the top of my to do list when I get home!) They strike a harmonious balance between chewy and crispy. I coated mine in chocolate but can’t wait to try the lime and cinammon variation below. I have a story about limes and mosquito bites and Spaniards. I’ll tell you about that later though. For now, hit the kitchen!

Coconut Macaroons

from Alice Medrich via Food52

Makes about 22 cookies

4 large egg whites

3 1/2 cups unsweetened dried flaked, not shredded, coconut (also known as coconut chips) or 3 cups sweetened, dried shredded coconut

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (available kosher for Passover, or can be omitted)

Slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large heatproof mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel because the mixture will heat faster than in glass. Set the bowl directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water (if your bowl bobs in the water, simply pour some out). Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and turned from translucent to opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Using 2 tablespoons of batter, make attractive heaps 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. (You can also make these smaller and bake for less time, in 1-tablespoon heaps.) Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Lower the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, lower the heat to 300 degrees. Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool. Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie.

The cookies are best on the day they are baked — the exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Although the crispy edges will soften, the cookies remain delicious stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.

Upgrade 2.1: Chocolate-Topped Coconut Macaroons. Do this for any version of Coconut Macaroons: While the cookies are still hot, top each with a little piece of your favorite milk or dark chocolate. Or drizzle a little melted chocolate over each cookie.

Upgrade 2.2: Coconut Macaroons with Lime Zest and Cinnamon. Stir 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest into the batter before scooping it. Using a fine grater or Microplane zester, grate a little cinnamon stick over the cookies just before serving.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookies

Apple Butter and the Beginning of Holiday Baking

After school and my home, the majority of my childhood was spent at the house of my best friend from those early, yet not too distant, years of my life, Grace. Grace’s family loved food just as much as mine. I remember indulging in the most delicious tacos topped with queso fresco, a cheese foreign to me up to that point in time. I remember eating steak on an average weekday night and digging into a mound of homemade crepes the morning after sleepovers. And I remember being introduced to apple butter. To the elementary school aged Jessica, apple butter seemed elegant and elusive. I associated it with teatime in the South of France and imagined myself eating it straight from the jar in an ironically lady-like manner. But I was a lowly American living in the suburbs of Chicago, which instead of cobblestone streets and scenic nature views, boasted towering, gray skyscrapers and pollution. Apple butter was clearly out of everyday reach…

…until I realized sometime in high school that apple butter was quite easily concocted in the comfort of my home in those same Chicago suburbs where I’d been born and raised. My apple butter kitchen experiments began with a recipe found online that called for a disastrous cup of sugar to every pound of apples. That sounded like apple butter induced diabetes waiting to happen. Regardless, I tried it and realized, yes, it was far too sweet. After tweaking the recipe for several years, I developed my apple butter. This is the apple butter I would package up in mason jars with a red bow and a hand decorated holiday tag for my aunts and uncles one Christmas. (A jar of which I found this summer still sitting in my Aunt Alison’s fridge. Apparently, not everyone loves apple butter as much as I do.) This is the apple butter I make each winter and slather onto thick, toasted slices of the hoska my Grandma brings us from the Czech bakery. And this is the apple butter you should make. Right now. Unless, like me, you’re busily filling your kitchen with mountains of cookies. Then you can wait I suppose.

Today my list of things to cook over winter break reached thirty. Thirty recipes! How in the world am I going to cook, and then eat, thirty different dishes? Of those thirty, ten are for cookies and of those ten I have already tried three: World Peace Cookies, Ginger Sandwich Cookies, and Gooey Buttercake Cookies. If you’re observant, unlike me, you may have notice I’ve only included recipes for the first two in this post. There’s sadly a quite unfortunate reason for that. When whipping up the Gooey Buttercake cookies, a seemingly simple recipe, I made an amateur mistake. I used baking soda instead of baking powder. Me? Make a mistake in the kitchen? Yup. It happens more regularly than I care to admit. And this time it resulted in flat, baking soda flavored cookies. Fail.

While I continue on my cookie-baking quest, perhaps you can take a step back and give them a try for me. If you do, let me know how they are. And maybe even save one for me.

Apple Butter

I usually use a combination of apples. Braeburn, Pink Lady, Fuji, and Gala all work well but there are certainly many more viable options. In general, I’d say go with what’s on sale. Additionally, the sugar and spice quantities can be adjusted to taste. Keep in mind though, I’ve been adjusting this recipe for a while now and this is the best combination of flavors I’ve come up with thus far. Just saying. I also like my apple butter lightly spiced and not too sweet though. If you prefer a different flavor some adapting may be in order.

Makes about 8 cups

5 to 6 pounds apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the finely chopped apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugars, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples and mix well.

Cover and cook on high 1 hour stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours until the mixture is thickened and dark brown. Stir occasionally. 

Uncover, turn off the heat, and let cool for about 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one month. 

World Peace Cookies

from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

I added a tablespoon of orange zest to the original recipe to give these cookies a little bit of a holiday flare. The results were highly approved by my family. I’ve made these cookies without the orange zest before though too and they were equally as delicious!

Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

5 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 85% cacao), chopped (no pieces bigger than 1/3 inch)

1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)

Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended (mixture may be crumbly). Add chopped chocolate; mix just to distribute (if dough doesn’t come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball). Divide dough in half. Place each half on sheet of plastic wrap. Form each into 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. Wrap each in plastic; chill until firm, about 3 hours. (Dough can be made 3 days ahead of time if kept chilled.)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using thin sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

Ginger Sandwich Cookies

from Food and Wine

Makes about 20 cookies 

For the Cookie

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

For the Filling

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350° and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl.

Working in 2 batches, drop scant tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, until risen and fallen and slightly firm; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Let cool slightly, then transfer the parchment paper to racks and let the cookies cool completely. Bake the remaining cookies.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the lemon juice.

Arrange the cookies in pairs on a large work surface. Spoon or pipe 1 rounded tablespoon of the lemon filling onto the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with the remaining cookies, pressing them together so the filling spreads to the edge.

These can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to one week.


2 Comments

Filed under Appetizers and Snacks, Breakfast and Brunch, Cookies, Desserts, Fruit

David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I get to play professor this quarter. That’s right. Professor. And not for your typically math, English, or science class. No, no, no. I get to play professor for one of those elusive higher education subjects. Community building to be exact.

Given the focus of the class, my co-teacher and I made it one of our many goals to establish a strong sense of community within the classroom. And in my opinion, there’s no better way to build community than around food. After all, our adviser for the course has told us repeatedly that community is created out of shared self-interests. And isn’t it in every one’s self-interest to eat a cookie now and then? With my strong belief in the community building power of food – If you doubt me, spend some time on a college campus. At the mention of free food you’ll certainly be faced with a stampede of hungry, poor students coming together under the mutual desire to have a full stomach. – and the requirement we hold office hours, the decision was made that we would try bringing food to office hours hoping that it would be an extra incentive to come.

On the topic of goals, sometime in late August I read a “New York Times” recipe dating way back to 2008 for chocolate chip cookies. The article accompanying the recipe bore the tantalizing title “Perfection? It’s Warm and Has a Secret”. The article described the quest for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie detailing the baking tactics of cookie geniuses, Ruth Graves Wakefield, Jacques Torres, and Dorie Greenspan. Inspired by the “New York Times” and their noble quest I decided to make it my very own goal to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe by the end of fall quarter. I had every intention of starting with the Times recipe but had a sudden change of heart after reading David Lebovitz’s version of the chocolate chip cookie, which he claims is even better than that in the Times. Extensive research proved Lebovitz’s recipe was indeed loved by many a baking fanatic. So it was his recipe I knew I would attempt as soon as I had a reason to bake cookies.

And these office hours were my reason. With them, I could kill two birds with one stone. That is, take a step towards achieving that somewhat immeasurable goal of building a strong sense of classroom community and another step towards that perhaps equally immeasurable goal of finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.  (Not to mention, if people actually showed up to office hours I would be able to pawn off my cookies and avoid the danger of having massive amounts of them just chilling out in my apartment. As you probably well know, my self control when it comes to anything remotely sweet is not so good.)

So now you ask, did my belief in the power of food hold true? Did people actually show up to office hours even though they routinely go unattended? I mean, in three years of college I’ve gone to office hours maybe four times. Not something I’m proud of but something that is none the less the truth. My students are either far better students than I am or I have found the missing ingredient to office hour attendance, food. They showed up. They stayed and talked. They ate cookies. Success. Made an even bigger success by the fact that I still have dough sitting in my freezer just waiting to be baked in to the arguably perfect chocolate chip cookie complete with chocolatey, nutty, chewy with a touch of crunchy, outer-edge goodness.

David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

My family always jokes that I never follow recipes even when it comes to baking. This time though they’d be surprised. I made no changes. That’s right, I followed the recipe to a tee minus the fact that I didn’t bother toasting the nuts seeing as how I have an affinity for burning them. In terms of ingredients, I used pecans for the nuts (although I think walnuts would be equally delicious) and used half semisweet chocolate and half bittersweet. I know it’s more expensive, but splurge for good chocolate. You’ll thank yourself later. Make sure to let the dough chill in the refrigerator for twenty-four hours too. It’s the secret to the texture. Again, you’ll thank yourself later.

Also, the recipe notes that the dough logs can be refrigerated for one week or frozen for up to one month. I sliced all four of the logs as instructed below, rewrapped two in plastic wrap, and stuck them in the fridge. Already slicing them makes it that much easier to pull one out and bake it off!

Makes about 48 cookies

2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces/225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (215 g) packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups (about 225 g) nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, or macadamia nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

14 ounces (400 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/2- to 1-inch (1.5- to 3-cm) chunks or 3 cups (340 g) chocolate drops

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla on medium speed just until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated, then stir in the flour mixture followed by the nuts and chocolate chunks.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into quarters. Shape each quarter into a log about 9 inches (23 cm) long. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, preferably for 24 hours.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Slice the logs into disks 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick and place the disks 3 inches (8 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. If the nuts or chips crumble out, simply push them back in.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies are very lightly browned in the centers, about 10 minutes. If you like soft chocolate chip cookies err on the side of under baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack. Baked cookies can be stored in an air tight container for up to four days.

1 Comment

Filed under Cookies, Desserts