the ultimate chocolate chip cookie

Look, you guys know me well enough by now  (and some of you know me even better) to be a person who loves a cookie. If you couldn’t tell, the last few posts should have been indication enough.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love me some cake, too. Those towering confections, beautifully decorated, layer upon layer of sweet, crumbly goodness… oh yes. Cakes have their place.

But I grew up in a house full of people. People who, while they loved some celebration and they loved some pretty cake, mostly just wanted something to shove in their gobs. (Yes. I have brothers. Three, in fact.) We wanted something we could bring to school, shove in our back pockets, something to come home to and eat on the way back out again. We didn’t want to deal with forks and spoons and whipped cream and icing. Not yet, anyway. That was for a sit-down dinner, a birthday, a special occasion.

Cookies, on the other hand, are easy to make, do not take too much time, and are perfect for people on the run. Like my entire house in the mornings. Hey, we’re students, right? So that means we roll out of bed, blearily make some coffee, maybe shove some muesli down our gobs and tear off for class, hoping we won’t be late. Lunch? Well, depending on your amount of foresight. Snacks? Only if they’re very easily accessible.

And now they are, in my amazing cookie jar. (One day, I swear, I will put a photo up. I just want to do it justice, people! And hey, if you really want to see it, just come over to my house!

Just contact me first. So I know you’re not a stalker. K?

All that aside, chocolate chip cookies are like the ultimate cookie in themselves. The most popular, easy to make, universally pleasing cookie out there. See, chocolate chip cookies are the bomb. That’s all there really is to them.

And every girl and her poodle makes them. So one day, David Leite decided to go out and figure out what it was about chocolate chip cookies that made them so darn wonderful. He went in search of the consummate chocolate chip cookie. And he found it.

Ruth Graves invented it. According to Hervé Poussot, it’s not a recipe you need per se, but an approach; what goes into the making of the cookie. You need to let it rest overnight, it must be served warm, it has to be big, and for the love of all that is chocolatey and wonderful, don’t forget the salt!

Who knew that a chocolate chip cookie was so darn complicated?

Well, it doesn’t have to be (when in doubt, add more chocolate!) But being the person that I am, I did have to try the end result of all this to-ing and fro-ing about the chocolate chip cookie. I didn’t actually follow the recipe as precisely as I could have (and yes, I will be going back to re-make the cookies with the right flour, remembering the salt on top and making them bigger – no, I can’t just leave well enough alone) but these are darn good cookies nonetheless. I suggest you eat one warm.

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

I first heard about this from Smitten Kitchen. The recipe is in the New York Times and on David’s website. The article is also in both places. Read it. Make the cookies. Eat one warm and swoon. Then get back up and try to stop yourself from hiding the rest from your housemates.

Adapted from David Leite

3 1/2 cups plain flour

2 tablespoons cornflour

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

315g butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups raw caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

500g chocolate – I used 250g each of Whittaker’s Dark Ghana and Creamy Milk lines and cut them up into chunks

Sea salt, to sprinkle

Sift flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugars until very light. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add half the flour mix and stir with a spatula until almost incorporated; add the other half, mix until almost incorporated and finish with the electric beaters, if necessary. Fold in the chocolate chunks (I had to use my hands for most of that part).

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 36 hours (I managed about eighty – I kept not having time!) When almost ready to bake, preheat oven to 180º and line baking trays with baking paper. Form the batter into large golf-ball ish sized balls and give them room to spread on the trays. SPRINKLE WITH SEA SALT (can you tell I forgot that part? I only sprinkled on one tray). Bake 18-20 minutes in the oven.

I had two trays in at once and rotated them at about ten minutes. My last tray was all by itself but still needed 18 minutes.

I cool mine on a wooden chopping board because I don’t have a cooling rack (I want one of those three-tier ones!) and they were fine. Eat warm, with a big serviette.

 

 

 

whoopie pies

I’d heard of whoopie pies before the other day but never knew what they were. They look kinda like UFOs or maybe gigantic Oreos, (which, by the way, I hadn’t encountered before the age of 13 or so and don’t actually like. Please don’t hurt me, it’s just the way it is. I don’t like Oreos, I don’t like bananas, I don’t like orange and chocolate together [most of the time…])

I’m weird. It’s been proven over and over.

So anyway, I saw this book, the Whoopie Pie Book. Claire Ptak, who owns Violet Bakery in London at which she serves whoopie pies, (and who apparently is Jamie Oliver’s favourite baker) has written this book solely about whoopie pies.

The traditional whoopie pies are like chocolate muffin tops sandwiching liquid marshmallows. This idea has expanded over the years to incorporate many different flavours and fillings, glazes, drizzling, fruit, caramel, cream, vegetables even.

Like carrots. And pumpkin.

So I had a rare day off (both work AND uni.. woohoo!) so I brought some cool people over to my house to bake. And we made whoopie pies.

I think our first ones were much too big. See, I have this muffin top pan and it’s really cool. And I figured, since whoopie pies were basically two muffin tops with stuff in between, I’d use the muffin top pan.

WAY. TOO. BIG. I shared one of the massive whoopies with someone and we couldn’t finish it on our own.

So we made smaller ones. Carrot and chocolate. They’re pretty darn good if I may say so myself.

And perfect for a baking expedition.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Marshmallow insides

Adapted from The Whoopie Pie Book

Now, these whoopies I felt were lacking slightly in flavour. If I were you, I’d see if I could substitute my favourite chocolate muffin recipe and just bake them like cookies.

175g plain flour

100g cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp bi carb soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, softened

200g sugar

1 large egg

225ml buttermilk

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°. Line two trays with baking paper

Sift together first five ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg well. Add buttermilk and vanilla and beat until well combined.  Add in dry ingredients in two batches, mixing just until incorporated.

Spoon tablespoons of mixture onto the baking paper if you want about ten centimetre large whoopies (these are plenty big enough) or teaspoonfuls if you want minis. Make sure you have an even amount of mounds on your baking tray, as you’ll be sandwiching these together.

Bake about 12 minutes for large whoopies or 10 minutes for small. Keep checking them, just in case. Let cool completely before filling with marshmallow fluff.

Apparently there’s a jarred version of this in America. This tastes so good, though, you should make it yourself.

3 egg whites

150g caster sugar

2 tbsp golden syrup

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp vanilla bean paste

Place all ingredients into a heatproof (stainless steel or Pyrex or ceramic) and put it over a saucepan of boiling water. Whisk continuously by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Remove from heat and whip on high speed with an electric hand mixer until it’s white and thick. Use straight away.

Pipe or use a tablespoon to put generous scoops of the marshmallow fluff onto half the chocolate muffin tops. Top with another chocolate disk. Don’t gorge yourself otherwise you might be sick.

Carrot Whoopies with Cream Cheese insides

Adapted from The Whoopie Pie Book

250g plain flour

1 tsp bi carb soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, softened

100g caster sugar

100g brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 carrots, peeled and grated

zest of 1 orange, optional (only because we forgot and it didn’t mean they tasted any less wonderful. I encourage you to try it, though, it’s probably awesome)

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line two trays with baking paper.

Sift first six ingredients together. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Mix in carrot and orange zest, if you’re using it. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

Scoop out tablespoons of mixture or teaspoons if you’d like smaller whoopies. Make sure you’ve got an even amount of mounds of mixture and bake about 12 minutes for large whoopies and 10 minutes for small. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling with cream cheese filling.

300g icing sugar

55g softened unsalted butter

115g softened cream cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 tsp maple syrup, optional

Whip butter until creamy, then whip in cream cheese, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add sifted icing sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy. This is where you’d add the maple syrup and vanilla, except I didn’t. I would, however, next time add more cream cheese, less icing sugar and a dash of lemon juice. Just to put it out there.

Scoop onto half the whoopies, top with the rest, and share with your mum for Mother’s Day.

easter bunny macarons

Well. It is Easter.

I have a bit of a fetish with macarons. I tend to have these loves; in 2008/9/part of 10 it was cupcakes, cupcakes galore; any kind of miniature cake that could be decorated and cute, I fell for. Now it’s macarons. I’ll get one if they’re available with my coffee, I drool over the rows and rows in Larent Boulangerie Patisserie and the Lindt Chocolat Cafés. I read about the best methods to make them, I dream about them. I dreamt about these ones, actually; piping the little ears on weird, bright pink carnival colours. Strange dreams, I have sometimes.

I got the idea for these from raspberri cupcakes, who makes the most amazing macarons, really, but I decided to take the recipe from Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal, for no reason whatsoever except that I had it on hand and I couldn’t be bothered printing out the recipe.

I’m still a macaron baking newbie; a lot (and by a lot I mean probably most of them) of my bunnies have cracked faces or bums. But they taste delicious. And they are cuter than a button.

Easter Bunny Macarons

Adapted from Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal

100g almond meal

100g hazelnut meal

200g icing sugar

75ml water

200g caster sugar

2x80g egg whites (that’s 160g egg whites in total, about six eggs’ worth)

Food colouring, if desired

For the decoration; I used blue and white muisjes balls for the eyes and noses, which are Dutch aniseed sprinkles. You can just as easily use silver cachous or white sugar balls for the noses, and edible marker pen lines for cute smiling eyelids or eyes. Chocolate sprinkle whiskers and white chocolate chip tails.

For the ganache:

200g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped

200ml cream

50g butter

Sift the ground nuts and the icing sugar together and set aside.

Bring the caster sugar and water to boil and keep boiling until the mixture reaches soft ball stage, 105-115ºC, if you have a sugar thermometer, which I don’t. When the sugar is almost ready, start beating 80g of the egg whites in a stand mixer. When it makes soft peaks, add the hot sugar and water in a thin stream while still beating.

Continue beating after all the mix has been added for about ten minutes, to cool it down. (This is the Italian meringue. If you want to add colours, like I did, add them now. I added about half a capful of pink food colouring.)

While this is beating, combine the rest of the egg whites with the ground nuts and icing sugar. Incorporate about a third of the Italian meringue in, to loosen the batter, then fold the rest in gently. Whatever you do, don’t over mix the macaron batter. When it’s ready, it should be kinda like thick pancake batter; a spoonful dropped back on the surface should disappear in about thirty seconds.

Preheat oven to 150º. Line two baking trays with non-stick paper and pipe 3cm rounds of batter. Make sure you leave enough room to pipe bunny ears on half of them.

Rap the trays on the benchtop and let them set for about half an hour, in which time you can decorate them (i.e., put faces and bunny tails on them. If you don’t have white chocolate chips, you can wait until after you’ve incorporated the Italian meringue into the rest of the batter to colour the mix, and before you put pink colouring in, take out about a half cup of mixture to pipe onto the bums.)

Bake about 14 minutes, and gently place the baking paper on a damp benchtop to make it easier to remove the shells.

For the ganache: bring the cream to boil, then pour it over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool down a little, then whisk in the butter. Keep at room temperature and pipe onto the bunny bums; sandwich with the heads and show off to all your friends.

a word on words

So I hate to be blasting you with links to click on and no return on my part so at the end of this post is indeed a recipe for you to make and share, especially, if you can, with poets; they like their sweets. Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway.

Before we get to the double chocolate mud cupcakes (easy to share; easy to transport; don’t need icing; easy ish to make; perfect birthday cupcakes) we’re talking about poetry.

Poetry, rather like tea, soothes the soul and calms the spirits. Poetry is the words when there are no words to describe what goes on in the heart and in the soul. Poetry writes the words that won’t come, poetry tells us that we are not alone. Poetry is the lyrics to the song of life. Poetry is the imagination of the world written out upon the pages of our collective journal, the words spoken into the darkness when no one will hear, the cry of one in the wilderness, the emphasis of the swear words when they aren’t strong enough.

Poetry lifts you up when you’re high enough to be lifted and sits with you in the deep dark places when you aren’t. It sings your delights and wails your sorrows.

Poetry touches us. Poetry holds our hearts with gentle hands, lets us rest in its soft loving arms.

Poetry challenges us. Poetry reaches in and touches our hearts and says, you can feel this. Don’t pretend you can’t. Do something about it instead.

Poetry is hope. And ‘Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul,/And sings the tune–without the words, /And never stops at all’ *

Poetry can be written, and it is beautiful when written – the Norton Anthology of Poetry is a good place to start. (page 1340).

Poetry can be read but poetry can also be spoken. Spoken Word poetry is one of the most spine tingling experiences you can be a part of.

The Centre for Poetics and Justice is ‘dedicated to the integration of poetics and social transformation.’ There are many different poetry events around Melbourne; try Overload Poetry, the Wheeler Centre, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Poetiq, or tune in to Channel 31 on Wednesdays at 11pm for Red Lobster.

And now for the cupcakes.

Everything I said earlier was true.

These are beautifully dense and chocolaty, while managing not to be overly heavy. They don’t need icing, they travel well, they are great to share – if they get past your own kitchen.

They are fantastic for birthday cupcakes, as well, as we demonstrated tonight.

Double Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

Adapted from Cupcakes from the Australian Women’s Weekly kitchen

I couldn’t find the actual book on Amazon that I got the recipe from, but this one seems quite close.

60g dark eating chocolate, chopped

160ml water

90g softened butter

1 cup firmly brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup self raising flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/3 cup almond or hazelnut meal

Preheat oven to 170ºC. Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with paper cases.

Melt chocolate with the water in a small saucepan and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy; add eggs one at a time. Sift in flour and nut meal; fold in gently and add chocolate. Stir until just incorporated.

Fill cases until about they are about 3/4 of the way full. You should be able to divide the mixture evenly among the 12.

Bake about 25 minutes. They should be lightly springy to the touch; don’t let them overbake otherwise they’ll be dry and crackly on the top. Let them rest five minutes before turning them out to cool on a wire rack.

*Hope, by Emily Dickinson

choc chip meringue cookies

Cookies are the universal pleaser. They have less crumbs than muffins, they don’t have a wrapper you have to toss, you don’t have to cut them to the right size to eat, you can eat more than one without feeling like a pig (unless they’re these) and they live in a cookie jar. Who doesn’t want to reach into a cookie jar upon coming home from school (or uni, work, shopping, that walk you took so you could come home and eat a cookie) and get one of these out?

Or these?

Or these?

I have a long list of recipes to make, and at least half of them are cookies; most of these are cookie jar cookies and they all have top priority. TOP priority.

Today, I’m hanging out with my gluten-free friend and so I had to make gluten free cookies. I was thinking I’d use spelt flour, like I did with those muffins, but then I remembered these from Smitten Kitchen. Deb dares you not to love them. I dare you not to scarf the whole lot by yourself.

I took one tray out of the oven just slightly too early and they stuck to the cooling rack, falling apart in my fingers, so I chopped them up and mixed them into a half-tub of vanilla ice cream I happened to have in my freezer. Needless to say, there won’t be a half-tub of anything in my freezer for very long, be it vanilla ice cream or vanilla choc-chip hazelnut meringue ice cream.

Choc-chip hazelnut meringue cookies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 egg whites

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup caster sugar

100g hazelnut chocolate, chopped finely

150g dark chocolate, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Beat egg whites until foamy; add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar and beat until stiff and glossy.

Gently fold in chopped chocolate until just incorporated. Scoop tablespoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking trays. Bake for about half an hour, rotating trays at the halfway mark.

chocolate hazelnut cookies

I’m on a bit of a cookie bender, in case you hadn’t noticed. There were those snickerdoodles, some choc chip condensed milk wonders, meringue cookies (on the way!) and these babies.

Random collection of facts about these cookies:

They’re big. They’re chewy. And they make people happy.

They’re really easy to make, and they placate a crowd. You get to lick the Nutella spoon and they didn’t fit in my cookie jar!

I still haven’t put pictures of my awesome cookie jar up here. I will be, probably in about a week.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Adapted from Two Peas and their Pod

1 1/3 cups plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

125g butter, room temperature

½ cup nutella

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

¾ cups toasted hazelnuts

150g chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Cream butter, sugars and Nutella. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition; scrape down sides of the bowl.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in to the mixture and fold in until just incorporated.  Fold in hazelnuts and chocolate.

Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto baking tray covered with baking paper, about two inches apart. Bake about seventeen minutes, rotating trays at the halfway mark.

Remove trays from oven and let rest about five minutes before sliding onto a cooling rack with a spatula. Try not to gobble them up in five minutes because they’re really good to share!

comfort, again

Like I said a few days ago, I like to bake to calm myself down, it makes me happy. Today I made choc-chip condensed milk cookies, which I’d never made before – I never thought of using condensed milk in biscuits.

I was going to make them last night because I was super frazzled and basically at the end of my tether, but we ended up whiling the night away by other means, like eating pizza and chatting with friends, then getting into a long discussion on what actually happens when we die; what happens at the end; and how we would cope if we didn’t have hope in Jesus. Because really, at the moment, that’s what’s keeping us together.

So I was home alone for a few hours and I couldn’t just spend it all trawling the internet, much as I’d love to; I’d go stir crazy simply because I need to DO something. So cookies it is.

I promised them for after Easter, because I was giving chocolate up for Lent; I’m sure I’ll pontificate at some point on sacrifices and the importance of them, but that went out the window approximately a week ago and for some reason, I don’t think God will mind. So here they are; a day late and a buck short, but here they are.

Choc-chip condensed milk cookies

This makes a lot of cookies. A LOT of cookies. I fit about five or six on each pizza tray (we don’t have baking trays; pizza trays work just as well. We’re students. We make do.) Also, I think you probably won’t need as much butter, I felt there was too much there.

adapted from the back of the Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk* can

450g butter

½ cup sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3 ½ cups self raising flour

250g dark chocolate, chopped

250g milk chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line baking trays with baking paper (I used two and reused them. It worked fine, even though I didn’t really let the trays cook in between uses). Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in condensed milk; add flour and stir till combined. Mix in choc bits. Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls, place on trays and flatten gently with a fork. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until golden.

*Look, I know Nestle are evil; I’ve read the articles and I totally support fair trade and ethical eating and shopping (check out the ethical consumer’s guide to shopping for more on that) but it was either this or home brand and that’s just as bad. We wanted to make condensed milk cookies and after the week we’ve had, ethics are pretty much the last things on our minds.

flourless chocolate cupcakes

I love love love to bake. So any occasion where I get to bake and not have massive amounts of leftovers (living, as I used to, pretty much by myself) is  a happy occasion. Today, I had an incredible day where I heard many stories of everyday missionaries, people who live their lives for God just as they are. These people live in urban areas and just live life with people, reaching out to all different types of people, and making a worldwide community of hope. And I get to be part of that. Isn’t that awesome?

I brought cupcakes, in case you couldn’t tell by the title and/or first paragraph. One of the people I was spending the day with is allergic to gluten, so I made these amazing flourless chocolate cupcakes that I found on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb calls them chocolate soufflé cupcakes and tops them with mint white chocolate cream. I dislike the pairing of chocolate and mint (call me a heathen, call me a pagan, call me an idiot, it’s not going to change my mind. I’m sorry, I know it’s a classic, it just does nothing for me.) so I omitted the mint but I still got raves about them. They look awesome, too.

So. Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream. Made while listening to all released albums of The Cat Empire on shuffle.

For the cupcakes:

170g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces (I used a combination of 85% cocoa and 70% cocoa solids; I’m sure regular dark chocolate would be fine although I suspect milk could be overly sweet. Use your discretion.)

90g unsalted butter, cubed

1/4 tsp ground espresso coffee (apparently you could also use instant. I’m a snob so I don’t keep it in the house. It doesn’t add any coffee taste, just enhances the chocolateyness.)

3 eggs, separated

6tbsp caster sugar

1/4tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line eighteen cupcake cups with paper pans – I managed twelve cupcakes and nine mini cupcakes, so I’m speculating as to the exact amount, because I was told there would be nine or twelve cupcakes. Maybe the Smitten Kitchen cupcakes are larger than these cupcakes. I wouldn’t make them any bigger, although the minis were  well received.

Stir butter, chocolate and coffee in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat until almost melted, then remove and whisk until fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat yolks and 3tbsp of the sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale. Briefly beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.

In a separate, clean, dry bowl, beat (with clean, dry beaters/whisk) egg whites until soft peaks form; add 3tbsp sugar and salt gradually and beat until glossy and stiffer. Fold into chocolate mix with a metal spoon in three batches.

Fill cupcake pans to about 3/4 full – if any fuller, they will overflow, I promise. 3/4 means they will puff up beautifully, almost like soufflés.Bake in preheated oven 15-20 mins. Mini cupcakes will take 10-15 mins. Keep an eye on them, though.

For the white chocolate cream:

60g white chocolate

200ml thickened cream

Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Place white chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over; stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Chill at least two hours in the fridge or overnight. Beat to soft peaks and scoop quenelles over cupcakes. Scatter with dark chocolate shards. Eat and enjoy.