Just a Typical Friday

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I’m not sure what your normal Friday looks like, but mine is usually full of catch-up chores and projects to get ready for the weekend. I don’t usually work on Fridays, so I try to make time to play in the kitchen along with the other things I have to get done.

Today I have been to the store to pick up ingredients for a date night dinner with Rich. Calvin is spending the night with my parents and Rich and I are cooking dinner together and then going out on the town. Don’t get too excited – the going out includes shopping for a new mailbox. But do get excited about our dinner. I am. We are having Cornish game hens roasted on a bed of apples and shallots, a red rice and kamut medley and caramelized acorn squash. They are all experiments, but if they turn out I’ll post recipes and methods soon.

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I have cinnamon almond ice cream churning right now and there is butter softening on the counter for chocolate chip cookies. Both are for tomorrow’s delayed family celebration of Rich’s birthday. The ice cream is another experiment, so if it turns out I’ll be posting that one too.

I also have injera batter fermenting on the counter and plans to make a starter for an Austrian buckwheat bread tonight. Tomorrow I am leading a bread baking session to make several kinds of bread for World Communion celebrations at our church on Sunday. We have done this for the last several years and it is always fun. The picture at the top of the post is the selection from last year – we made a Xichuan flatbread, sorghum rolls and a round schiacciata.

I enjoy the challenge of finding recipes to use every year. It is always a lesson in planning to figure out the timing on three different breads so that we can make them in a couple of hours, with one oven and one stovetop. This year we are making Ethiopian injera, Austrian buckwheat bread and Persian flat bread.

Baking, cooking and experimenting. Yep, that pretty much sums up my usual Friday. What are your plans for Friday and this weekend?

I am a Dessert Sponsor for the Midtown Alley BBQ!

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I took a leap a few weeks ago and volunteered to sponsor the desserts at the second annual Midtown Alley BBQ. Rich’s company, Atomicdust, hosts the event, which is a barbecue competition among ad agencies in the area. In honor of Hunger Action Month, the event will benefit Food Outreach St. Louis, a local charity that provides healthful food for people living with HIV/AIDS or cancer. All proceeds and suitable food leftovers will go to Food Outreach.

Not that I ever really need a reason to bake, but it is fun to bake for an event. And one that has my name, well, the blog’s name, on publications. And it’s icing on the cake that Rich’s co-workers are such enthusiastic supporters of the blog and my baked goods.

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I have been taunting providing updates via Twitter and email to the peeps at Atomicdust as I bake my way through the days leading up the barbecue on Thursday. So far I have made gooey butter tarts, chocolate gooey butter tarts and gingersnaps. I’ll make chocolate chip cookies later this week.

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Everything is very small, so they will be bite-sized. I made the tarts in mini muffin pans and the gingersnaps with my smallest cookie scoop as a portion guide. I want people to be able to pop their sweet treats in their mouths – no plates or utensils required.

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The freezer has been my friend, as I get ready for the barbecue. Tomorrow I will bake the last tarts and stash them in the freezer until Thursday.  I will bake the chocolate chip cookies on the day of the barbecue. I find the chocolate chips sometimes lose their gooeyness when I freeze them, so I’m not going there with them.

If you are in town, feel free to stop by on Thursday evening. Eat a little barbecue, support a worthy charity and sample a sweet treat made by yours truly.

Last Days, First Days and Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_4380Yesterday was Calvin’s last day of school, so today is the first day of summer for us. To most people, summer starts Memorial Day weekend, so we get a one-day jump on it. Summer means no alarms (at least for Calvin), lots of reading and lots of playing in the kitchen, of course.

We usually give homemade gifts to Calvin’s teachers at the end of the school year. Last year we gave each teacher a stack of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Calvin decided he wanted to do the same thing this year. And he wanted to make the cookies himself. Of course we waited until the last couple days of school to do this and time was working against us. Calvin had time to make the dough Tuesday evening and I baked them the next day, while he was at school.

Note to self: make sure the kid can read your notes in the family cookbook if he is working by himself. The cookies were a little flat because Calvin couldn’t decipher my scribbles that indicated the dough needed extra flour. But they tasted as fabulous as they always do, so to school they went. Calvin reported compliments all around, so they were a success.

All the cookies went to school, and I forgot to take pictures of their crisp, buttery flatness. You will have to imagine the above cookies a little flatter and darker brown. If you make them as written, they will look like the pictures. If you only use two cups of flour, they will be flat and crispy. I understand there are actually people who prefer them that way. I have even met a few of them, and they seem perfectly normal. Can you tell I am in the tall, soft cookie camp?

No matter how you like them, chocolate chip cookies are always a hit no matter where you take them. If you are short on time, press the dough in a sheet pan and make cookie bars. Pick up a few bags of chocolate chips the next time you are at the grocery store. Summer is here and you never know when you will need a quick dessert for a spur of the moment backyard barbecue, or teacher gifts, if school isn’t out already for you.

Download or print the recipe here.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Nestle Tollhouse Cookies by The Cook’s Life
4-6 dozen, depending on size

You can use all-purpose flour in place of the white whole wheat, but it adds a nuttiness to the cookies. Everyone who tries them will wonder what your secret ingredient is.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup white whole wheat flour*
1½ cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups chocolate chips, semisweet or 60% dark

*White whole wheat flour can be found in the baking aisle, next to the other flours. Store any unused flour in a zip-top bag in the freezer to keep it fresh for up to a year.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter, sugars and vanilla at medium high speed of a mixer until well-combined and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until fluffy again. Add white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt and beat at low speed until mixed. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets by teaspoon, tablespoon or 2 tablespoons. Flatten larger cookies slightly before baking. Bake 7-8 minutes for smaller cookies, 9-11 minutes for medium and 11-13 minutes for larger cookies. Remove cookies from oven when they are lightly browned, but still slightly soft in the middle. Let cool on sheets for a few minutes and then remove to racks to cool.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Calvin came up with this recipe almost two years ago, when he was eleven. We train ‘em young around here. As soon as he was old enough to sit up unassisted, I had him sitting on the counter next to me while I worked in the kitchen. When he was a little older he would lick the beater from the mixer while I finished the recipe – usually kneading bread dough by hand. I can’t believe he used to eat all that raw dough, or that I let him. But he never had any ill effects and I got my baking fix, even with a little one around the house.

Back to the cookies – during dinner one night, Calvin was wondering how we could make a chocolate chocolate chocolate cookie (yes, recipe development is dinner conversation at our house). He wanted to start from scratch, with no recipe, but I suggested he start with our tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie recipe and go from there. Together the three of us decided to add both cocoa and melted baking chocolate to the dough, along with the usual chocolate chips, to get the chocolate effect. And we convinced Calvin that we should tighten up the name just a bit.

Our first try was almost there, though they weren’t quite dark enough. The second time we made them, we tried increasing the cocoa, but that made the texture a little odd, losing the chewiness and making them almost dry and too dense. So we settled on the quarter cup of cocoa from our original attempt and increased the melted chocolate from two ounces to three. Perfection.

We made these on Father’s Day (Rich’s request) when it was 95 degrees outside. We wanted cookies, but really only enough to have dessert that night. I certainly didn’t want a whole batch of cookies hanging around the house all week, calling to me to eat them. I had read in a King Arthur Flour blog post about freezing cookie dough in individual portions that you can just pull out of the freezer and bake a few at a time. It worked perfectly and was the solution to the baking “dilemma.” I kept a few portions of dough on a pan in the fridge to bake after dinner and froze the rest. We’ll see how much restraint we have with the ready-and-waiting dough in the freezer. It’s been a few days and we haven’t succumbed to the temptation yet.

Calvin’s Triple Chocolate Cookies
From the Cook’s Life
Makes 6-7 dozen small cookies or 3-4 dozen large

If you would like to freeze the cookie dough to have a supply of ready-to-bake cookies – line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Spoon the portions of batter on the pan – no need to leave room between them. Freeze the cookies, on the pan, for about an hour. Remove the frozen cookie dough balls to a ziplock bag (be sure to label it) and freeze for up to a couple of months. Bake cookies directly from freezer, adding a minute or two to the baking time.

1 cup butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup white whole wheat flour*
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate and beat until well combined. Add flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda and mix on low speed until well combined. Add chocolate chips and mix on low or by hand.

Lightly grease baking sheets, or line with parchment paper. Drop cookies by teaspoon or tablespoon onto sheets, leaving room for them to spread a bit. Bake 7-8 minutes for small cookies or 10-12 minutes for large. When done, cookies should still be soft, but not raw in the middle. Cool on sheets for about 5 minutes before moving to racks to cool. Store tightly covered.

*The whole wheat gives a fuller flavor to the cookies and will be that “mystery ingredient” in your cookies. You can use all-purpose flour instead, if you prefer.

Download the recipe here.