22 May 2011

Granny-esque Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Cookies (the way my grandmother never made them)

I woke up today wanting to bake (and eat) a chewy chocolate cookie reminiscent of the old-fashioned, made-by-grandma, touch-of-molasses, sugared-exterior cookie of my imagination. See, neither of my grannies nor my mom ever made me chocolate cookies like these, but I know I had them somewhere.

So, with my mom's chewy ginger cookie as a guide, I created my own darkly satisfying Chewy Chocolate Cookies, the ones I will make for the wee ones when I am a granny — or a great auntie, at least.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup vegetable shortening (don't usually partake of the stuff, but it works well here)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped to within an inch of its life (I massacred a Ghirardelli 70 percent bittersweet baking bar — seriously, you want bits more than chunks)
granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter, shortening and brown sugar. Add molasses and vanilla. Beat in egg.

Add flour mixture in two batches until fully combined.

Stir in massacred bittersweet chocolate.

Form 1-inch (or so) balls of dough and roll them in granulated sugar. 

Place dough balls on prepared cookie sheets, leaving them room to groove.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and leave cookies on sheets for about a minute before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Have a cookie binge, even if you told yourself you wouldn't.

13 May 2011

Love-My-Butt-the-Way-It-Is Bars

Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars (AKA Love-My-Butt-the-Way-It-Is Bars)

A word before we begin: if you're having a Fat Day, a Beat-Myself-Up-Because-I-Am-Less-Than-Perfect Day or an I-Miss-My-Eating-Disorder Day, do me and yourself a favor and don't make Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars. These bars don't care about your insecurities or your body-image issues. They don't care that you count fat grams or that you "try to eat healthy." They only care about gobs of butter and cupfuls of toasted coconut and chocolate chip-age, which they know you will be hard-pressed to steer clear of ...

On the other hand, these rich little numbers may be exactly what you need to snap out of your guilt-ridden funk. After all, food isn't the enemy. Go the everything-in-moderation route and treat yourself once in a while.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars
(Cookie of the Week)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter, use 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sweet, flaked coconut
2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch pan and dust with cocoa powder.

Spread flaked coconut on another (ungreased) baking sheet. Toast in oven for 4-5 minutes, giving flakes a stir every 2 minutes or so, until light golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Turn oven up to 350 degrees.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until just combined. Add dry ingredients in 2 batches until fully incorporated.

Stir in chocolate chips and cooled, toasted coconut. (Feel free to add nuts as well. I live with a no-nuts man, so I refrained.)

Spread dough into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes. Bars are fully cooked when inserted knife comes out clean.

Transfer pan to wire rack to cool completely. Cut into bars.

Have at least one gallon of milk on hand when you gobble up these chewy, gooey Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars.

06 May 2011

Tart & Sweet

Cucumbers dressed in a simple vinaigrette

Did you grow up in the sticks? With a bountiful garden, the fruits of which your mom would pickle and preserve, lining your cellar stairs with Ball jars filled with juiciness? Pickled cucumbers? Beets? Jams and jellies?

I did.

Sadly, my garden isn't what my mother's was back in the day. I'm trying, but I have yet to reach the stage where I have bounty to pickle and preserve. I'm at the staring-at-the-rocky-soil-wondering-if-anything-tasty-will-come-of-it stage.

Anyway, if you have a few cucumbers kicking around, try this simple way of serving them. It might not remind you of your childhood, as it does me, but it's a fast and refreshing way to pound some cukes.

(My mother cooked her vinaigrette on the stovetop, as I recall. And she didn't call it vinaigrette. Adapted from The Moosewood Collective's Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook, this recipe is much simpler.)

Simple Cucumber Side
2 medium cucumbers, peeled (That is, peel them if they're waxed. If not, do what you want with the peel; I used English cucumbers and left the skin on.)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground dried mustard
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Slice cucumbers as thinly as you can (I used a mandoline slicer —handy dandy). Set aside.

Make vinaigrette: Whisk together all other ingredients. 

Add the cucumbers and toss enthusiastically to make sure all slices get coated. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. (Be sure to give cucumbers a good toss before serving.)

02 May 2011

The bigger your thumb, the better

Strawberry Thumbprints: Fruity jam loves a buttery cookie.

The title of this post is a tad misleading: I use a 1/2 teaspoon measure, not my thumb, to form the wells in my Strawberry Thumbprints. The choice is yours. I started out using my thumb — it did a fine job — but I like the uniformity achieved with a measuring spoon.

Anyway, thumb ramblings aside, you may have picked up on the fact that this is Love & Scraps' Cookie of the Week, late as usual but still lovable. 

Strawberry Thumbprints are one of my all-time favorites: buttery cookie dough with a splash of citrus is the perfect complement to a fruity filling. I was in the mood for strawberry this go-round, but raspberry is also delicious in this cookie. Around the holidays, I like to add ground nuts to the dough. But I'll tell you more about that, well ... around the holidays.

Strawberry Thumbprints
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest (optional, but it makes a huge difference — be sure it is finely grated)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, use 1/4 teaspoon salt)
for filling, thoroughly mix the following two ingredients:
1/3 cup strawberry jam
1 tablespoon orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

In small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder). Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add vanilla, 1 tablespoon OJ, orange zest (if using) and egg yolks, and mix until incorporated.

Stir in dry ingredients a cup or so at a time. Do not over-mix dough.

Pinch off 1-inch nuggets of dough and gently shape into balls between the palms of your hands. Evenly space balls on prepared cookie sheets, 12 to a sheet.

Using your clean thumb OR a 1/2-teaspoon measure, form a well in the center of each ball. (Don't get too crazy. You don't want to press down too hard and end up touching bottom or with crack-riddled cookies [you know, like some of mine].)

Fill each well with about 1/4 teaspoon of jam mixture.

Bake cookies in preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, rotating trays at about the 9-minute mark.

Cool cookies on wire racks.

Eat 'em up.