Sunday, December 27, 2009

[Cookie 055] Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies


Okay, so everyone's making resolutions for the 2010 right about now, I realize this. And I realize that right now is probably not the time that you want to bake even more cookies, considering that your resolution probably has to do with eating healthier/losing a few of those pounds gained in the past few weeks. Yes, I realize this. But you've gotta hear me out.

These cookies are way way way worth breaking your resolution.


Hell, you shouldn't even be starting your resolution/diet regime yet anyway! You still have 2 more days to eat yourself into a coma WITHOUT REMORSE! And thus all the more reason for you to make these totally awesome Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies. They are chunky, crunchy, hearty, and amazingly flavored. And furthermore, they answer my craving for the perfect chocolate-peanut butter flavor combination in a cookie, so if you're palate is like mine in this regard (read: totally refined and superior to all other taste palates), you will love these.


Now the specifics of the recipe. It calls for salted, roasted peanuts--but those can get a little pricey at times, and maybe your other New Year's resolution has to do with being more frugal. Enter plain, unroasted, unsalted peanuts. No, you can't just substitute those into the recipe (unless you're okay with totally compromising the taste of the cookie). But you can roast and salt your own peanuts and get the exact same delicious results without much effort at all. Just shell the peanuts, sprinkle a tad of salt on them, spread them onto a cookie sheet and stick them in a 350º oven for 15-20 minutes, and keep an eye on them so they don't burn. Done and done. Saved you a few bucks, maybe.


Anyway, the rest of the recipe is dead easy. The cinnamon is a really nice touch and provides a really subtle flavor--but next time I might add a pinch or two more to the dough just because it tastes so good. It makes the cookie a little bit different from your average peanut-chocolate cookie.


Oh, and also, you can freeze pre-rolled balls of this dough and bake them at your leisure, so if you're worried about late night cookie binges (don't worry, it happens to the best of us), just bake a few at a time and keep the dough stashed in the way way way back of the freezer, behind something healthy like frozen peas or carrots. Just not behind the ice cream. That'll just give you some wicked ideas. Which I wholeheartedly support as well. See? I can play both the devil and the angel on your shoulders, so just don't listen to me.


Here's the recipe. Do what you will. But be sure to eat at least 2. Happy New Years!!


Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate or vanilla ice cream, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Put butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Add sugars; mix 2 minutes. Mix in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips, peanuts, and vanilla with a mixing spoon until well distributed. Refrigerate dough until it is slightly firm, 15 minutes.
  2. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Space balls 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly. Bake until just golden, about 13 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Serve with ice cream.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 2/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 4.5/5
Tastiness: 4.5/5
Attractiveness: 3.5/5 (Sorry about all the half points...I'm feeling indecisive)
Is it worth it?: Worth every calorie.

Drink: Is ice cream a drink?
Song: Salt Peanuts -- Dizzy Gillespie
Activity: Revising that New Year's resolution to include consuming homemade cookies instead of store bought ones! Better for your wallet and your belly, trust me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

[Cookie 054] Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds


I see snow. Everywhere. It's ridiculous--totally, completely, absurdly over-the-top. And I'm not talking New York City snow; this is the results of a legit flurry.

This picture was on the front of the New York Times this morning--that's Central Park!

There's white (not brown) snow all over the sidewalks, piled on top of cars and bikes and fire hydrants, and all powdery and wonderful. Yesterday, when it just began to snow, my friends and I started to flip out when we saw the actual snowflakes on our jackets--so adorable and beautiful and amazing! But sure, it's really beautiful right now, but come Monday it will be disgusting and slushy and brown and icky. But until then, I can pretend that I'm living in a cozy cottage somewhere in the Alps, with a German Shepherd litter of kittens by my side, a fire roaring, a record player playing this song (please listen), and the smell of these Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds wafting from the kitchen.


I think that these are really perfect winter cookies. Sure, they aren't spicey, gingerbready, or pepperminty or anything, but they have this great coziness in their flavor. Maybe it's because they are shortbread and are buttery and rich, which always brings to my mind cold winters; or maybe its because when they are in the oven the house smells completely divine and like hot chocolate; or maybe its because I got to use my tooth-shaped cookie cutter which I got for my birthday exactly one year ago. It could be any of those reasons.


The recipe is dead easy, like most shortbread recipes, and even drizzling the melted white chocolate is super simple. I tried to decorate the first cookie, and failed miserably because I am absolutely awful at cookie decorating, but it was really easy to drizzle back and forth on top of the rest of the cookies and make them look totally professional. Unfortunately, the next day the white chocolate started to detach itself from the surface of the cookies, but hopefully you'll only be concerned with eating the cookies at this point.


Now, if you want my honest and harsh opinion, I thought these were a tad on the boring side. They taste great and look great, but they are just chocolate shortbread. If you like rich chocolate cookies, make these straight away, but don't expect anything shocking or unusual. That's not a bad thing though--I'll take shocking and unusual snow storms any day over traditional, albeit a little boring, chocolate shortbread. Wait no, I'll take them both. Simultaneously. Thanks.


Anyway, stay warm East Coasters! And I'll be sure to soak up some nice 68º degree sunshine for you once I get to L.A.! Oh, and Happy Holidays! If you're thinking of giving cookies as gifts this season (which is a great, awesome, totally fab idea), these cookies package up really nice:

Grammy's Chocolate Cookies (wrap a stack with a ribbon or some cute striped bakers twine)
Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti (I had some issues cutting the biscotti, but they would make perfect Xmas cookies because of the green and red in the dough)
Amaretti Crisps (tie a ribbon through each loop--very Martha)
Rosemary Butter Cookies (stick a bunch in a mailing tube wrapped with a cool paper print)

Also, check out these boxes...perfect for shipping cookies cutely!

Now go! Get festive, or seasonal, or whatever you do.


Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds
Makes about 14

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces best-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pulse flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and vanilla, and process until mixture comes together. Shape the dough into a ball.
  2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick; cut out shapes with a 3 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch diamond-shape cookie cutter. Space 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies until firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cookies cool completely on wire racks.
  3. Melt white chocolate, stirring, in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Drizzle chocolate over tops of cookies. Let set before serving, about 30 minutes. Cookies can be stored in a single layer in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 2/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
Tastiness: 4/5
Attractiveness: 4/5
Is it worth it?: Yes! Just don't expect anything crazy or out of the's a very basic recipe.

Drink: MILK.
Song: Winter Wonder Land -- Animal Collective
Activity: Knitting, crocheting, or cross-stitching by the fire. Or if that's too femme for you, you could always go outside and chop some fire wood while the white chocolate icing is setting. Or build me an ice fortress in Central Park--your choice.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

[Cookie 053] Coconut Macaroons


I have a very vague, small, hidden away memory that is of relatively little importance in my life as a whole, but makes for a good starter topic for today's cookie: Coconut Macaroons. I was in the kitchen of my Nana and Poppy's house circa 1995, and my Aunt was sitting at the glass kitchen table, right beside the faux-colonial painted plates mounted on the wall and across from Sam (Nana's Parakeet with a nasty habit for screeching and a sweet tooth for human flesh) who was pacing inside her rattly cage. On the table were a lot of things, most of which I don't remember (I'm sure there must have been at least 3 pairs of knitting needles though), but I do remember my Aunt offering me a Macaroon from a small box. I was hesitant to taste them--partly because I was a picky eater as a kid, and also because I was worried it might taste like Gefilte fish--but I reached into the box anyways and pulled out a wad of golden, flaky strangeness. A Macaroon. I think I tried it. And I'm pretty sure I hated it.


I don't remember much of what it tasted like because I only ate about 0.0001 grams of it, but it didn't go over that smoothly on the ol' palate. It had a funny chewy texture unlike anything else I had eaten--unlike any real food at all--and it tasted like coconut (a long time foe during my childhood, and only recently a friend as of about 3 months ago). Not my cup of tea, to say the least, and I most likely spit it out in favor of a couple of slices of Kraft American cheese or a bag of M&Ms that had been sitting in the pantry since 1983. What can I say--I was 5 and notion of cheese coming in such perfect, prepackaged slices was beyond awesome to me. But, what I'm trying to get at is that Macaroons actually are derived from real ingredients, with real flavors, that are actually pretty delicious and edible.


A Macaroon is quite a simple treat--and I say 'treat' not 'cookie,' because it really doesn't have any of the qualities of the latter. It's basically a glob (sorry--horrible word choice) of coconut, egg whites, and sugar, plus a few add-ins here and there. For this recipe I made the Macaroon entirely chocolate, and though I might not have baked them long enough, they tasted pretty good.


Now, I'm not raving about this recipe. The recipe itself is fine, but I still haven't been won over by the Macaroon committee. I love coconut. I love love love chocolate. But they were a little on the "eh" side for me. Maybe I'll try again and bake them a little longer to get them more toasted on the outside. Or maybe I'll just make a different recipe. Either way, if you like Macaroons, give it a go! It's dead easy, and they look like dog poop! Hahaha sorry, but they do. Proof:

Don't worry--it's wheatgrass. Stayin' healthy!

So by now you are reaching for your cookbooks to find a completely different recipe to make, but don't let me discourage you! Okay...this is beginning to sound like I'm pleading, so I'll stop writing and let you make the decision. Go coconut!


Coconut Macaroons (Chocolate)
Makes 2 dozen

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Reduce heat, and allow it to simmer. Place chocolate in a small bowl, and set over saucepan. Stir until chocolate is melted, and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cooled chocolate, cocoa, sugar, coconut, egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Use your hands to mix well, completely combining ingredients.
  4. Dampen hands with cold water. Form 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture into a loose haystack shape, and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture, placing macaroons 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake until just firm to the touch but still soft in the middle, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven to a wire rack, and let cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 1.5/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
Tastiness: 3.5/5
Attractiveness: 1/5 (Even when they are made perfectly, they aren't much to look at)
Is it worth it?: If you like Macaroons, this recipe is easy and tasty! But you don't have to stop what you're doing and make these ASAP, by any means.

Drink: French-press coffee. No sugar. Take Macaroon. Drop into coffee. Drink/Eat. Done.
Song: Give Me Just a Little More Time -- Chairmen of the Board
Activity: Washing your hands--this shits messy! (Get it?! Get the pun?? Okay, I apologize...enough's enough.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

[Cookie 052] Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies


There is a place in New York City that makes the single best chocolate chip cookie that I have ever tasted in my entire life of tasting cookies. True, I have not tasted every chocolate chip cookie available--nor have I by any means tested out hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes. But let me just say, there exists a cookie of this variety that is so spectacular, so supreme, so sexy, that it has become my ultimate aspiration--my holy grail, if you will--in my quest to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.


Now, The Book has several chocolate chip cookie recipes, and all do a great job of highlighting a certain texture of the cookie: you've got the Soft and Chewy, the Cakey, and now, the Thin and Crispy; and out of all the recipes, I think that these come the closest to this golden cookie that I so strive to replicate.


But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you more about this uber-cookie. It comes from The City Bakery--an incredible bakery/lunch spot up by Union Square in Manhattan. Go there for lunch and you'll be totally bowled over just by their completely amazing buffet (and I'm definitely not a buffet person, on the whole, but I just can't say no to Israeli couscous or maple-roasted Butternut Squash or caramelized Bosc pears). But their chocolate chip cookie. I can't even describe how good it is, but I'll try: it has a crispy exterior, but the moment you bite into it, you realize that the inside is barely even set. It's so soft and undercooked (in the BEST way) and each chocolate chip melts sublimely with every bite. And the dough has this complex caramely flavor that takes the normally boring dough in this classic cookie to an entirely new level. Don't believe me? The New York Times even wrote about it in their quest for the best chocolate chip cookie.


Okay, so, what I want in my chocolate chip cookie is this perfect balance between crispiness and underbaked-ness. And it needs to have a great flavor not only in the chocolate used, but also in the dough. Martha's recipe fulfills the former part of my demands, but only when the cookie is first brought out of the oven. And because cookies don't really last more than an hour after their baking time in my dorm room, it satisfied me for the time being.

Now, the recipe is supposed to make thin and crispy cookies, but mine turned out thick and only crispy after they hung around for a day or so. I'm sure if I made each cookie with less dough I would have produced a cookie just like what the recipe intends, but I wanted mine to be more like City Bakery's, so I used more dough in each mound. In fact, after I had baked 2 batches I just dumped the remaining dough onto the cookie sheet and made an mega cookie--and it was SO RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS.

You can't tell how big it is in this picture, but trust was quite large

Because I used way too much dough in this last cookie, it didn't get cooked all the way through in the amount of time the recipe required (obviously!). But this is just what I wanted--and for the second half of the baking time, I actually turned up the heat quite a bit so that the exterior would get crispy without cooking the inside. Success! I'm not so sure how this cookie would taste if given the chance to set overnight, but my roommates and I agreed that straight out of the oven it tasted like pure gold.


In the end, the recipe is by no means intended to make the cookie that City Bakery makes, but if you alter the baking time (less time/higher heat), you'll get close. One day I'll really buckle down and experiment with all these variations and come up with a recipe that gets closest to my idol cookie, but until then, this will have to do.


Now, if you live in/near Manhattan, you should be planning your next trip to City Bakery (it's on 18th St., btw). If you don't live nearby, you should be preheating your oven. So, everyone's busy now, right? Good. Hop to it!


Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, 1/4 cup water, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake until cookies are golden brown 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 1/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 5/5
Tastiness: 4/5
Attractiveness: 2.5/5 (As far as chocolate chip cookies go, they weren't that glamorous)
Is it worth it?: If you like them thin and crisp, duh, make it! But, as I said, there's a chocolate chip cookie recipe for everyone.

Drink: Why mess with the classic? Milk would be the drink of choice.
Song: Heroes -- David Bowie
Activity: Watching The O.C.--which I've been doing a lot lately. Don't judge! I still have a poster of the show from season 1 hanging in my room. Seth Cohen and I are getting married. Okay, I've spoke too much...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

[Cookie 051] White Chocolate-Gingerbread Blondies



Okay, this past week was so beyond insane I can't actually believe that I survived. I'm now working 2 jobs, one at school and one at this truly fabulous hat store! Selling hats! Yes! But, it's a hat store for night owls, and is open until 12 am half the week, and 1:30 am for the other half of the week. I'm working the late shift, so I've been pretty tired/busy/ahhhomgFINALS! Just wanted to let you guys know, though, that I'm still here and am still going to be here. Once I write this lame-o paper on Jackson Pollock I'll be golden and I'll be baking/updating a lot more often. The end of the semester is right around the corner, and it smells like gingerbread and chocolate meringues.


In other news, some other web journalist/blogger (sorry for the over-abundance of slashes) spent a good amount of time and effort writing a quite succinct little review of my blog here, and let's just say, it was oddly .... critical? I don't know, I was quite bemused by it because it seems that this journalist already tried baking all the Martha cookies from this book, and now I guess feels that I'm either a) ripping her off or b) some how doing an inadequate job of "cooking the book." I dunno, it was all very strange, considering that I'm not trying to prove anything with this blog, and though I love all of my readers dearly (and I tell no lie when I say that!), first and foremost, this is a project that I'm doing for myself! I like to bake. I like cookies. I like making little projects for myself on the side. And I really don't think I have to justify anything whatsoever regarding this site. Ah, sigh, I guess this all comes with the price of fame, no?


Sorry, just had to get that done with.

But, really now, who wants to read about my complaining, right? Cookies are why you're here--and why I'm here. So without further ado, let's get down to it. Although I baked these cookies ages and ages ago--or at least that's how it seems--I still remember them quite well, because I really really liked them!


As you can see, these White Chocolate-Gingerbread Blondies are another bar-type cookie and are formed in a similar manner as the Iced Hermits were, utilizing a rimmed cookie sheet to bake one, solid mega-cookie which then gets sliced and diced. It's all quite simple to do, and the flavors are really nice. I love the ginger-molasses spiciness paired with the super sweetness of the white chocolate chips. I never would have guessed those two would go together, but they really work in this cookie.


Again, it is a little annoying spreading the dough across your parchment paper or Silpat on your baking sheet, but you don't really have to get it all the way to the borders because the dough expands a good amount while baking. I was pretty surprised that when I pulled the sheet out of the oven that the dough had filled up the whole sheet really nicely and puffed up quite a bit too.


Ah yes, and lest I forget, these cookies pair nicely with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio, if that's your thing. And when I say "pair nicely," I actually mean that my roommate's dad gave her a nice bottle of white wine and we just happened to drink it while eating these cookies. I know nothing about wine pairings. But regardless, cookies + wine = high brow evening, if I do say so.

Now, bake away! Kiss kiss!


White Chocolate-Gingerbread Blondies
Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch squares

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 2/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
Tastiness: 4/5
Attractiveness: 3/5 (Kind of boring looking, but the white chips are nice, right?)
Is it worth it?: Totes. I mean totally. I'm sorry for that horrid abbrev. Ah!

Drink: Pinot Grigio, amirite??
Song: Busy Little Bee -- Oneida
Activity: Studying for finals! Or, if you're not a student, maybe you could just write my Pollock essay for me--I'll bake you cookies!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Public Service Announcement: I am not dead


I want to post I want to post I want to post. But I am so insanely busy right now.

Apologies! Cookies for just wait!