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Posts Tagged ‘cookies’

I would like to start this post by giving a shout out to the greatest football team ever to walk God’s Green Earth: the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In honor of the World’s Best Football Team, I bring you the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. Each – the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chocolate Chip Cookie – really are the consummate players in their respective fields – professional sports and cookies. As a connoisseur of both, I do not use the term “world’s best” lightly; so rest assured that these are some seriously good cookies.

Last summer the New York Times published a writer’s quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. After interviewing a number of famous bakers, the requirements for the perfect chocolate cookie seemed to boil down to this list:

1. Use good chocolate
2. Use a lot of chocolate
3. Sprinkle the cookies with salt
4. Serve them warm
5. Make ‘em big
6. Rest your dough for 36 hours

I had you until #6, didn’t I?

Let’s break down the list.

#1 and #2 – Use good chocolate and lots of it.

The NYT article features a recommendation for the use of chocolate disks as opposed to the traditional chocolate chip because of how they melt – the disks will melt to create a more uniform strata of chocolate within the cookie rather than the isolated chunks of chocolate the chips create. Also, all contributors to the article strictly adhere to a cacao content of no less than 60%.

I’ve tried this recipe with both – disks and chips – and I will vouch for the use of disks over chips. You can find fancy chocolate disks online, but I found mine in the chocolate section at Whole Foods on a trip I made to the Mainland in November. I used the Noel Royale Buttons with 64% cacao content and was quite pleased with the results.

#3 – Sprinkle the cookies with salt.

Salt is used in baked goods to heighten the flavor of the other ingredients and to add a new dimension to the sweet. Salt is called for in this dough and then, just before you pop them into the oven, generously sprinkle the unbaked cookies with coarse sea salt – the grains will bake into the tops of the cookies and will adhere much better than if you try to sprinkle them post-baking.  MmmmmMMMmmmm ……

#4 – Serve them warm.

This really is a no-brainer. While some things do improve in flavor after a cool down period on a wire rack, chocolate chip cookies are so darn good warm because of the ooey-gooey factor of melted chocolate. Let the cookies cool just long enough so as to not scald your tongue – maybe 10-12 minutes – then break one of these in half and marvel at the perfect-looking ribbons of chocolate spanning between your fingers. Yum! These do, admittedly, taste amazing even at room temperature, but do be sure to enjoy some warm straight out of the oven!

#5 – Make ‘em big.

Again, this seems like a no-brainer, right – the bigger the better! That’s not always true, however, with mini- desserts being all the rage these days – some people will actually turn down a cookie for being too big. Incredible! But there really is a reason for super sizing chocolate chip cookies, and it’s not just so that we can make big pigs of ourselves. The bakers in the NYT article refer to it as the Rule of Thirds:

“First there’s the crunchy outside inch or so … A nibble revealed a crackle to the bite and a distinct flavor of butter and caramel. Then there’s the center, which is soft. A bull’s-eye the size of a half-dollar yielded easily. But the real magic … is the one-and-a-half-inch ring between them where the two textures and all the flavors mix.”

Making your cookies six-inch beasts will result in this symphony of textures and flavors.

#6 – Rest your dough for 36 hours.

The science behind letting the dough rest for 36 hours is that it allows the dry ingredients to fully absorb the wet ingredients. When you first mix the two together, your butter ingredient will act as a barrier between the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. Let the dough rest for a full 36 hours, however, and that barrier is broken down and your wet ingredients get fully absorbed by the dry. This results in a cookie that has a greater depth of flavor; with caramel and toffee undertones from the brown sugar and a more fully developed appearance of brown when baked. The dough is also a bit more crumbly at this point and holds together much better when rolled into golf ball sized hunks and placed on your cookie sheet. They retain their shape better when baked and what you end up with is a perfect looking – and tasting – cookie.

I have made these several times, and a few times I cheated the 36-hour rule – once I rested the dough overnight for about 12 hours and another time I only rested the dough for about 3 hours. You will still end up with very, very good cookies that no one will scoff at – but the magic really is in that 36-hour rest period. 36 hours of rest = cookies that look too perfect to be true.

And that brings us to the recipe. What, in my opinion, makes this version even better than the original? The exclusion of animal products. Below is my cruelty-free version of the NYT original and I cannot recommend these enough. Make these for your Valentine and I promise you they’ll swoon. You can thank me later 😀

Chocolate Chip Cookies
The original NYT recipe can be found here

Adapted from Jacques Torres
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tbsp (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp coarse salt
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) Earth Balance (or other butter alternative)
1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (8 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
½ lb bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream Earth Balance and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add canola oil, one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

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Lemon Gems

When I opened up the December issue of Gourmet, I was instantly drawn to one very sparkly, very pretty, very glittery cookie. But do you know what’s even better than a pretty face? Substance. The object of my affection was filled with fluffy cream.

I set out to make these Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies on Thursday evening, in anticipation of bringing them along to my many meetings on Friday. The recipe in Gourmet instructed me to place “scant teaspoon” sized balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. My cookies were going down on the pan as chubby tablespoons. When they came out of the oven, I laughed out loud at the idea of making sandwich cookies out of them – they would have been the fattest cookie sandwiches ever. Well, maybe not ever. I believe that the long ago forgotten Oreo Big Stuff still holds that title.

But they would have been uncomfortably big for people to eat. So I ditched the sandwich idea and just piped the lemony icing right on top of each cookie and served them up as singletons. People were singing their praises all Friday long.

I was instantly enamored of these cookies. They are so darn pretty. And the taste … oh my goodness. They are good. These are perfect holiday cookies: glittery, pretty, and delicious.

Lemon Gems
Recipe adapted from Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies – Gourmet, December 2008

Makes about 50 cookies

Cookies

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
2 sticks Earth Balance (or butter substitute of choice), softened
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
Sanding sugars

Filling

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp light corn syrup
½ stick Earth Balance, softened

Make cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silipat sheet.

2. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt.

3. Beat together Earth Balance and confectioners sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in zest and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture just until a soft dough forms.

4. Put sanding sugars in different bowls. Roll a scant tsp of dough into a ball and drop into sugar, turning to coat. Reshape if necessary and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat, spacing balls 3/4 inch apart, until baking sheet is filled.

5. Bake until tops are slightly cracked but still pale (bottoms will be pale golden), 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. Form and bake more cookies on second baking sheet.

Make filling:

6. Beat together all filling ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined well. Transfer to sealable bag and snip off a corner. Pipe about 1/2 tsp filling on top of each cookie.

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Spritz Cookies

After the cake debacle left me with no sweet treat for my guests, I kicked into overdrive to find an adequate replacement that I could make with the clock ticking. As I scanned my cupboards for inspiration, one thing jumped out at me, a most unsuspecting item: a box that looked like it came to me straight out of 1972. It was a cookie press that I had scored new in the box for $1.99 several years ago. It remained new in the box in my kitchen as I had never even opened it to make use of it.

I quickly found a recipe for cookie press cookies from Martha Stewart that looked easy and for which I had all the ingredients on hand. I subbed in Earth Balance for butter and canola oil for egg yolks (2 tablespoons of oil per each large egg yolk the recipe called for). To make the dough festive, I divided it in half and mixed in green food coloring to one half and red food coloring into the other half. I topped the cookies off with some sanding sugars before popping them into the oven.

I could not believe how easy these cookies were to make, or how easy the cookie press was to use. Literally, just point and shoot! I can’t believe that for all this time I have been missing out. Now I want to make spritz cookies every day … just because I can. One trick that I did develop was to use two cookie sheets, but only put one in the oven at a time, so as to chill the other. I had found with my second batch that the dough coming out of the press did not stick to a hot cookie sheet. As one batch baked, I let one sheet cool over my sink and stuck the dough and press into the fridge to let it chill. I found that this system worked quite efficiently for me.

My secret for perfectly done cookies is to pull them out of the oven before they look done. If you leave them in until they start browning they are, in my opinion, already too far gone. I know that some people enjoy the crispiest cookies the best. Admittedly, I am not one of them. For these types of cookies, in particular, I enjoy a nice crisp outside that yields easily to a soft inside. To achieve that effect, I timed these cookies at exactly 10 minutes. I sacrificed the first batch by letting them go for 12 minutes, which resulted in very crispy browned edges and bottoms. They did not end up the trash, though – I set those aside for the extra crispy lovers among us to enjoy. I did not, however, put them out for all to see!

Spritz Cookies
Adapted from this recipe by Martha Stewart
Makes 6- 8 dozen cookies

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) Earth Balance (or other butter substitute of your choice)
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
3 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Colored sanding sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance and sugar until light and fluffy. Add canola oil and mix, then add flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

2. Fill a cookie press with the dough, and turn out cookies 1 to 2 inches apart onto a non-oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with colored sanding sugars.

3. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. To ensure even baking, rotate sheet halfway through the baking process. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

One of my guests who enjoyed these cookies asked about any sweetener substitutions I made. Oops – busted! Despite my commitment to cutting out refined sugars, the two holiday recipes I’ve made thus far this season – fruit cake and these cookies – have found me sneaking sugar back in. We discussed the difficulty of mitigating health resolutions and ingredient substitutions with tried-and-true traditions. Have any of you had success with substituting some of the naughtier ingredients in traditional holiday recipes with their nicer and healthier counterparts? If so, please share your stories and tips in the comments below.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

To brighten up everybody’s day at work, I made a batch of iced heart shaped cookies. I used my all time favorite Christmas cookie recipe, which I found in an old issue of Vegetarian Times (and it can be found here), and paired it with the royal icing recipe from Vegan With A Vengeance. These cookies marked my first attempt at “flooding” icing, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results!

I hope that everyone enjoyed a sweet day!

 

Iced Sugar Cookies

Makes appx. 3 dozen cookies

Cookies
Recipe from Vegetarian Times

2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. egg replacer
1 1/2 cups plus 1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup vegan margarine, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extractRoyal Icing
Recipe from Vegan With A Vengeance

2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons soymilk powder
1-2 tablespoons of water
A few drops of almond extract
Food coloring1. Preheat oven to 325F. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper or silpat mat. Combine flour and baking powder in small bowl. Whisk egg replacer with 2 Tbs. water. Set aside.

2. Cream sugar and margarine in bowl with electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add egg replacer, and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture, and beat until soft dough forms.

3. Divide dough into 2 balls. Roll one ball to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough ball and scraps.

4. Bake cookies 15 to 17 minutes, or until light brown around edges. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

5. To make icing, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of water and stir. Add the almond extract and food coloring and stir. Continue to add water a little bit at a time until desired consistency (thick toothpaste) is reached. If it gets watery or drippy, add more sugar.

What I did: I tinted my icing with pink food coloring, and then used my mechanical pastry bag with the #1 tip to draw the heart outlines around the cookies. I let them sit for about 20 minutes. I then tinted the frosting (the same pink frosting used for the outlines) red and added water until it was a runnier consistency (like that of melted ice cream). I used a spoon to place icing in the center of each heart cookie and used the back of the spoon to spread the icing to all of the edges. I then let them sit out overnight for the icing to set (no worries about the cookies hardening – the icing will keep them moist).  Voila! My first attempt at the “flooding technique” with royal icing was a resounding success!

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Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

I first caught wind of this culinary concoction at Culinary in the Desert.   I was in complete and utter awe of the thing and immediately resolved that it would be mine.  I then went to the source, veganized it, and happily paraded it into a room of unsuspecting people – all of whom reacted with wide eyes and mouths shaped into “O”s of wonder.  When I declared it was time to slice and serve the giant cookie cake, I turned my back on the room in order to cut the cake, and when I turned back I was faced with a line of eager people, forks and plates in hand.  Given the enormity of this cake – five layers of chocolate cookies with four layers of frosting – I was shocked that there was no cake left at the end of the party.
The original recipe called for heavy cream, which caused a moment of head scratching.  What in the world would a vegan use instead of heavy cream?  I usually just avoid recipes that call for it as an ingredient.  I decided upon coconut milk, which did the just the trick.  Be sure to only use regular coconut milk and not the lite version – what you’re after isthe fat (and c’mon: you’re making a giant cookie cake – it’s a little late to start worrying about calories!).  Just plan in advance – the coconut milk needs to be refrigerated for at least four hours before being used in this recipe.
Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
6 tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread, softened
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup vanilla soy yogurt
2 tbsp canola oil
¾ cup coconut cream (see directions below)
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Frosting
1 package Tofutti Cream Cheese
4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tbsp vanilla soymilk
1 tsp vanilla

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

2.    Put Earth Balance and sugars into mixer bowl; mix on medium until pale and fluffy. Mix in vanilla, soy yogurt, and oil.

3.    Remove chilled coconut milk from the refrigerator and spoon out the thickened cream at the top of the can.  Reserve the coconut water for another use (I like to use it to replace some water when making rice).  Alternate adding cream and dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until everything is well incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips.

4.    Trace an 8 inch circle onto a sheet of parchment paper.  For each of the 5 layers, drop 1 cup of batter onto the center of a baking sheet lined with the parchment (keep unbaked dough refrigerated) and use your spatula to spread the batter into an 8-inch circle.  Bake until edges are pale golden brown, about 18-22 minutes. Remove from oven.  Cool each giant cookie on a wire rack.

5.    For frosting: Mix Tofutti cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla sugar in a medium bowl on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, adding soymilk as necessary to achieve desired consistency.   Spread onto 4 cookies. Stack cookies, placing unfrosted cookie on top.   Enjoy!

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