Thursday, November 26, 2009

Favorite Cookie [041-50]


Happy Black Friday! In celebration of this day of consumer revulsion (yeah yeah "unbelievable" sales, I still freaks me out), I say we take a moment to reflect. Or, let's just say, I'll take a moment to reflect, since I definitely can't go shopping, let alone drive anywhere in this chaotic holiday-season traffic (p.s. I'm sooooo in Los Angeles right now, could you tell?)

Okay, first off, before we dole out awards to winning and losing cookies, let me just apologize a bit for never posting. I don't know why I procrastinate on this so much--because god knows I'm not doing anything more productive (read: homework). Anyway, as an early New Year's Resolution, I will update more frequently. Which means, I will bake more cookies. Which means everyone is happy. Great, let's get started.


1st place (Blue Ribbon!): Iced Hermits
Well, duh, you saw the picture up top. These ones won in a landslide, according to the judging panel. And they deserve it, because even though some might not really consider these "cookies" in the traditional sense, they have a really fantastic flavor, they look cool, and are pretty easy to make. Plus, they ship well, make your house smell totally rad (?), and get better over time. And look like a Jackson Pollock painting. Done, and done.


2nd place (Honorable Mention!): White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Okay, this was a close one, I've gotta admit. These are also seriously delicious. Maybe, if you don't like the whole ginger/spice thing, these would be your number 1! They have just about every add-in ingredient available, and taste so. So. SO. Delicious. Really, I highly recommend these, even if you don't like/acknowledge white chocolate--these just might convince you otherwise.


3rd place: Surprise Cookies
You can't deny these. Seriously, first you've got the name, which makes you intrigued/excited/surprised just upon hearing it. Then you see what the cookie is all about, and you realize, OMG marshmallowz! Then chocolate. Then ganache. Okay, by now you're making them already, right? Right. So I'm done explaining here.


These are intense, and I mean that in the best way possible. Sure, they take a little more effort than some of the other cookies in The Book, but if you are a cashew or caramel (or both) fan, it's definitely worth it. In my opinion (and I think the judging panel agrees with me on this one), the caramel topping puts these maybe just a step over the edge, but it's still so good. Really, really.


I had high hopes for these, and they were definitely really good, but I was rooting for them to at least get Honorable Mention. The soft, pumpkiny cookie is very tasty, but the brown butter icing was a bit of a let down, because I thought it would have more of a browned flavor (which could be my fault, granted). They are totally yummy, though! I still whole-heartedly recommend! Seal of approval!


These are really good. I know that 6th place doesn't sound like much, but they're really yummy, especially straight out of the oven. If you are of the soft-and-chewy inclination, make these ASAP, because there is no way that you'll be disappointed with the results (unless you use Splenda--don't even get me started). But seriously folks, these are perfect chocolate chip cookies, and the dough is good enough to eat raw by the spoonful.


Hellooooo first cookie I made in my new kitchen! Remember the fun we had trying to make do without a cookie sheet? And no measuring cups? Ha, good/awful times. Glad things are better now. But despite the hardships I faced when making these, they were also quite good. I know, I know, we're down to 7th place--but I guess this round of cookies were all really tasty! These were no exception: great flavor and texture, and the icing on top really is just that (did that make sense? It's the "icing on top" of the cookie...nevermind)


The cookie dough for these cookies is so so so tasty, but the resultant cookie is just fair. It tastes like what you'd expect from a traditional Molasses cookie, but they definitely didn't stay chewy once they fully cooled. This could be my own fault in some way, but I'm not sure. Anyway, they're pretty good, and I bet would be even better if you sandwiched two together with some ice cream in the middle. I find myself suggesting this alternative more and more frequently...hmmm. Regardless, these are yummy and yield a huge batch--so go for it!


I think the Sugar Cookies from The Book are getting a bad wrap (rap?). I just don't think that sugar cookies are ever that note-worthy. Maybe I need a truly great recipe to change my mind, and though these are actually pretty good for plain sugar cookies, they left me a little underwhelmed (side note: just watched Ten Things I Hate About You (movie magic!!!) the other night, so "underwhelmed" is returning to my vocabulary). Granted, the lemon zest in these is a nice touch, so if you want sugar cookies, give these a go.


10th place (Brown Ribbon!): Peanut-Butter Swirl Brownies
Hey, Martha...uh...did you know that these were terrible? Because if you did, and still included them in the book just because they look pretty, well, I'll be quite disappointed. These deceived me, Martha. Me, a chocolate-peanut butter fanatic, thought they would soothe my Reeses-related cravings, but no. They were dense, dry, and the peanut-swirls ended up looking all bubbly and funky. Not cool. The leftover peanut butter filling was good when spread on pretzels, though, so I'll give you "brownie points" (har har) for that one. Otherwise, refine this recipe, Martha, and then we'll talk.


So that concludes Round 5! Hell yeah! Bring on Round 6! Actually, I've started Round 6--like 2 weeks ago--but I'm just terrible at updating in a timely manner. I will change that. Keep your eyes peeled, lovelies. Until then, get you butt back in the kitchen and make me a post-Thanksgiving sandwich. Thanks.

Monday, November 16, 2009

[Cookie 050] Iced Hermits

Drumroll, please.

Sound the alarms. Stop the presses.

Hire a couple of flying acrobats and white bengal tigers while you're at it, too. And one or two sword-swallowers wouldn't hurt either (well, maybe for them it would).

Yes--it's here. The big five-oh! 50 cookies! Done! Baked! Eaten! Reviewed! Blogged! Remembered! Honored!


But let's not make this a bragging festival. I'm just excited, that's all. After 50 cookies, I'm even more intent on completing this whole adventure in cookery, and I can't wait to bake all 125 I have left (and now that I've typed out "125" I realize that 50 cookies isn't really that many...uh oh). Anyway, I'm so into this. I can't wait to see how the others turn out.


And another thing. You guys. Readers. Friends, amigos, pals. I think it's pretty swell that you read my blog, I really do. I am continually surprised that people do, in fact--but that's not me fishing for compliments, honest! I love you all! And you've seriously taught me load of new stuff about baking along the way. All your tips and comments make a huge difference, and though I am terrible at responding to them, you better believe that I read each and every one of them, savoring them almost as much as I savored eating the 50th cookie I made from The Book.


I am referring to, of course, these Iced Hermits (how'd ya like that for a seamless transition between topics)! Yeah, I spent a good long while trying to pick out the perfect recipe to celebrate this milestone, and in the end, I have no idea why I chose these. Partly because I wanted to make the Rum Balls but didn't have any rum, and partly because these had peaked my interest. And partly because in my art history class we've been obsessing over Jackson Pollock.


See? Look! It's "Autumn Rhythm"! Ahaha! Okay, sorry for the terrible, awful, art-nerd joke. I remember when I shouted it out after drizzling the delicious icing over the uncut cookies, and my friends seriously died. And not out of laughter--it was more of a cringe-induced death. Terrible.


Anyways, I digress. These cookies actually totally deserve the title of 50th cookie. They are fantastically delicious. Absolutely perfect for fall/winter, easy to make, look great, store well, and taste fantastic (especially after you store them away for a few days--like a hermit!). The ginger-flavor deepens after a day or so, and because of the huge amount of molasses and brown sugar, the cookies stay soft and chewy for a good long while. I bet they'd ship pretty well too, so keep that in mind for the holidays I guess.


So, in conclusion, a toast the 50 down, 125 to go. Cheers!


Iced Hermits
Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for baking sheet
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped candied ginger, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, plus more if needed

  1. Make bars: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheet. Line bottom with parchment paper, and butter parchment; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cloves in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Put butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and yolk, and molasses. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Mix in 1/2 cup candied ginger and the raisins.
  3. Spread dough evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until firm, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool completely in baking sheet on a wire rack.
  4. Make icing: Put brown sugar, milk, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat; whisk in vanilla and confectioners sugar. If icing is too thick to drizzle, stir in more milk, a teaspoon at a time. If icing is too thin, stir in more confectioners sugar, a teaspoon at a time. Let cool slightly.
  5. Drizzle bars with icing; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup candied ginger. Let stand until icing has set, about 15 minutes. Cut into 2-inch squares. Bars can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 3/5 (Spreading out the dough on the cookie sheet is a little annoying, but just be diligent! It is worth it!)
Ingredient Accessibility: 2.5/5
Tastiness: 5/5 (Yeah, I went there--the big 5 for the big 5-0)
Attractiveness: 4/5
Is it worth it?: Yessir!

Drink: I bet they would be great with some Chamomile or Rooibos Tea
Song: Back to the Sea -- The Sandwitches
Activity: Celebrating my success.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

[Cookie 049] Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing


Happy late Halloween. Notice, no exclamation mark after that sentence. Nope, it doesn't get one. Halloween, for me, was thoroughly mediocre. Not to be a downer, but it rained--probably because I was dressed as a rain cloud--and I had a headache, and my knee hurt. Yeah yeah, bitch bitch's just that I always have such high expectations for this holiday. But upon reflection throughout this first week of November, I realized that the main thing that made me love Halloween so much was all the fun I used to have trick-or-treating in my neighborhood back home. I trick-or-treated for a good 18 (or so) years of my life. Do the math. That's up until my senior year of high school.

Don't judge me. It's not like I went alone or anything!

Anyway, in the years since I have come to college, Halloween has been less than spectacular, and I think it's because of the lack of trick-or-treating. I mean seriously, screw the parade (especially when the cops won't let you watch it from the roof of an apartment!). And screw sub-par dance parties. I just want candy.


Or these cookies. I could easily settle for a pillow-case full of these Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing in lieu of a bag full of SweetTarts and Tootsie Rolls (however, I'm not sure I would exchange them for a bag full of Reese's Peanut Butter cups...that's a decision that would take some serious thinking-over).


But honestly, these cookies are great. And I made them into adorable little mummies (with the help of my friends, who are far better cookie decorators than me). I mean seriously, just look at them. Precious. Delicious. They're soft and puffy, and most importantly pumpkin-y! The icing is good too, but mine didn't come out tasting enough like browned butter, so maybe I should have browned the butter more. Either way, though, they're really yummy and perfect for Thanksgiving, since Halloween isn't for another 357 days.

Psst! How much do you love our fabulous collection of cans?! Check out the ham!! Premium!

Also, they are dead easy, so you have no reason not to make them! They do require evaporated milk, which is something I've never used before, but it's used just like regular milk. I halved the recipe since I didn't want to use up all my flour, so I had half a can of pumpkin left over and half a can of evaporated milk--and used them to make Martha's Pumpkin Custard! Yeah! Vive la citrouille! (That's French for the word pumpkin, for you fancy folk.)


So, in conclusion, next year I am going to go trick-or-treating as a 20 year old. And my friends and I figured out how to avoid angry glares from parents doling out candy to far cuter, younger kids in costume--dress up as ghosts with sheets obscuring our faces! GENIUS! I'll just have to walk on my knees, that's all. All in the name of sugar, though, so it's obviously worth it.


Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
Makes about 6 dozen

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk,
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Make cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.
  3. Transfer 1 1/2 cups batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip (such as Ateco #806). Pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.
  4. Make icing: Put confectioners' sugar in a large bowl; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Immediately add butter to confectioners' sugar, scraping any browned bits from sides and bottom of pan. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; stir until smooth. Spread about 1 teaspoon icing onto each cookie. If icing stiffens, stir in more evaporated milk, a little at a time. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 3/5 (Just make sure you don't burn the butter for the icing!)
Ingredient Accessibility: 3/5 (Just the evaporated milk, but you can find that at any supermarket)
Tastiness: 4/5
Attractiveness: 3.5/5 (Googly eyes help...a lot)
Is it worth it?: Yep!

Drink: Spiced apple cider!
Song: My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion -- The Flaming Lips
Activity: Whipping up a few dozen cornucopia a la Martha S. for your Thanksgiving feast...KIDDING! Even I have to draw the line somewhere between cuteness and insanity.

Monday, November 2, 2009

[Cookie 048] White Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Okay, look. Let's get this straight. It's not all glamour and glitz around here. Sure, last entry's cookie was all dolled up and fancy, but sometimes I want an ugly cookie that tastes way better than it looks. You know, like the Steve Buscemi of the cookie world--pretty fantastic (for the most part), but definitely not a sight for sore eyes (I just finished watching The Big Lebowski last night, and Fargo a few nights before, so you'll have to excuse me for that seemingly completely out of the blue reference). Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that sometimes when a delicious cookie is actually one of the uglier, less appealing ones you've made, it makes the cookie taste even better.


Let me elaborate. As you can see from the photos, this cookie has no eye-catching decorations (like swirls of peanut butter), no beautiful colors (like a chocolate so dark it looks black), and no shape whatsoever (like a perfect, cookie-scoop shaped circle). But this cookie is seriously delicious. Like, really really really good. And the fact that such a homely cookie can be so fabulous just rocks my world.


Let's talk specifics, yes? This cookie, aside from being extremely tasty in its own right, has just about every ingredient in it known to humans. Oats--check. White chocolate--check. Raisins--check. Coconut--check. Walnuts--check. Plus all your other standard drop cookie components. So when it comes to combining all these tasty add-ins to the cookie dough, you better make sure you have a big mixing bowl and big biceps because this ain't easy. I found it easiest to add each ingredient one at a time (white chocolate chunks, then raisins, then walnuts...) because that way I wouldn't spill too much over the edges of my ever-so-slightly-too-small Pyrex mixing bowl. Once you manage to mix it all together, however, you're in the home stretch. Just plop the dough onto your baking sheet and stick it in the oven. And make sure you don't use a cookie scoop for this one...I think you can figure out why!


So, right. Back to my Steve Buscemi reference. But first, let me back track a bit and explain to you something else. White chocolate is a rather controversial ingredient, at least in my book, because I view it as more or less a travesty to the name of chocolate. It is not chocolate. No. And I resent it being put in the same category as its far more delicious truly cacao-derived cousin. But the one exception I can make for using white chocolate is in cookies like this. When it's put in cookies, white chocolate becomes that extra flavor that makes the cookie exactly what should be. It's like Steve Buscemi's teeth (bare with me). Completely taken out of context, he has a pretty wacked out set of choppers; but Steve Buscemi without his teeth just wouldn't be half as grand, am I right? Amiright?!


Anyways, I digress. The point is, this cookie is spectacular and I hope that you actually aren't even reading this entry anymore but have skipped down to the recipe and have already preheated your oven and set your butter out to thaw. If not, do it now. And while you wait for your oven to warm up, pop in Ghostworld and get some Steve Buscemi/Thora Birch/Scarlet Johansson action. Or Reservoir Dogs and get some violent, "you just shot my ear off!" action. Whatever your style...


White Chocolate-Chunk Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups good-quality white chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (about 4 ounces)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in eggs one at a time until combined. Stir in vanilla.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Gradually stir into butter mixture until combined. Stir in oats, chocolate, coconut, raisins, and walnuts.
  3. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly. Bake cookies until golden, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 2.5/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 2/5 (You'll probably have to make a trip to the supermarket, but nothing is difficult to find)
Tastiness: 4.5/5 (I am still drooling)
Attractiveness: 1/5 (Fugly. But don't judge a book by its cover!)
Is it worth it?: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Drink: Hot Cocoa, to get your real chocolate fix.
Song: The White Whale -- Beirut
Activity: The Big Lebowski? Fargo? Reservoir Dogs? Ghostworld? You get where I'm going with this, right?