These Days’ Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

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It’s been some time since I last gave you a chocolate chip recipe of mine, even though I always refer to my constant struggle to find the best recipe. While it is a constant struggle, I’ve been on a break to work on a fun and exciting Nutella cookie…more on this to come. In the meantime, I will leave you with my latest chocolate chip cookie recipe. And I’m not going to belabor the definition of the best chocolate chip cookie, because it’s different for everyone. There’s a quote from market researcher and spaghetti sauce selling extraordinaire Howard Moskowitz pointing out this phenomenon, when describing an experiment with one of his first clients: “There was no such thing as the perfect Diet Pepsi. They should have been looking for the perfect Diet Pepsis” (from Malcolm Gladwell’s essay “The Ketchup Conundrum”).

The point is not that I read a Malcolm Gladwell essay (you should too, though) but that I can’t tell you what the best chocolate chip cookie recipe is. If you happen to enjoy yours chewy on the inside,  butterscotchy, and full of chocolate like I do, this will get you in the right direction.

Happy baking!

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Chewy Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields around 35 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups chocolate chips/chunks

Brown the butter on the stove, constantly stirring. Transfer to a heat resistant bowl and let cool. When the butter is cool, combine with sugars and vanilla. Mix in the eggs. Gradually fold in the flour, baking soda, and salt until just combined. Add the chocolate morsels. If you have time, chill in the fridge for 4 hours to overnight.

Bake in the oven at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are browning and the center is almost-but-not-quite-done. Let cool on the cookie tray.

 

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Five Places to Eat in Portland, Maine

In the last couple of years, Portland, Maine has been getting a lot of attention for its food scene. It’s a very cute coastal town in southern Maine with a lot to do and eat. I took a solo trip for Memorial Day weekend to check it out, mostly involving walking from seafood to fries to doughnuts. I would do it again in a second: here are my favorite five spots for your next trip north!

 

1. Duck Fat

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Duck Fat is a very popular quick lunch and dinner spot in the heart of the food strip in Portland. They specialize in Belgian fries, of course fried in duck fat, sandwiches, shakes and homemade sodas. There was a crowd outside the modestly sized café, and people were waiting half hours to get in, at 2:30pm. I even had to wait 15 minutes just to get seated at the bar. But it was well worth it, as the poutine I ordered came to me in a flash, and was steaming and delicious. Straightforward, nothing fancy: Belgian fries covered in duck gravy, cheese curds, and chives. I also ordered a ginger zinger soda (in a mason jar. Portland’s there). It was extremely refreshing.

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2. Dutch’s

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While dining at a seafood restaurant by the piers, a couple next to me at the bar told me I had to go to Dutch’s for breakfast. This was great news, as it was already on my list. Dutch’s is known for their biscuits-and-gravy-fried-chicken hybrid sandwich. They call it the crispy chicken biscuit, and it’s a piece of fried chicken thigh covered in sausage gravy sandwiched between slices of their flaky, yet substantial house made biscuits. Unfortunately I couldn’t eat this because the gravy was made from sausage, and I don’t eat pork. Luckily, they had a second choice: the spicy chicken biscuit. Same thing as the first sandwich, with smashed avocado instead of gravy, and spicy chicken instead of regular chicken: win-win. I imagine the gravy would have been nice to break up the dryness, but it was still great. Dutch’s is also known for the (truly) crispy hash browns. The couple from the bar insisted I get a side of these. They were right out of they fryer when I got them, and very satisfying. I also got an Earl Grey doughnut for the road, which turned out to be one of the best pastries of the trip. The cream in the middle was perfectly mild – not too sweet, and just enough flavor.

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3. Tandem Coffee + Bakery

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So here is Portland’s quintessential hip into-my-coffee-and-chill-time café. It’s even more Brooklyn than Brooklyn: it’s an old gas station! Do you see that slightly askew ceiling? If not for this place, that Earl Grey doughnut would have won best pastry. I can’t get down with the bitterness of coffee, so their great roasts were wasted on me, but their pie and pastries were not. It was extremely difficult to decide on one pastry to try. I could have had a “loaded biscuit” with what you might guess is brie, but is actually a generous glob of butter, and strawberry jam. I could have had a cherry and chocolate scone, or a large chocolate chip cookie. But I went with their massive sticky bun. It looked so inviting from behind the glass display, and somehow more manageable than a dense scone (false). The icing was pooling in the folds of the dough which caught orange zest as a last addition. The top was crunchy and the middle was pillowy soft. I was not disappointed. On my way out of town, I stopped by again for a slice of strawberry hibiscus pie. Good choice.

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With Mast Brothers’ Hot Chocolate

 

 

4. Honey Paw

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I’m generally wary of restaurants with the vague term “Asian fusion” anywhere in a description. It just sounds suspect…what Asian cuisines are you fusing? Are they Asian? Is there also American food? Why? Asian fusion is exactly how Honey Paw labels their food. Well, almost: “regional American cuisine with an Asian sensibility”. I thought I’d step out of my comfort zone and see what the hype was about. The interior decoration is super cool; honey comb lanterns everywhere. My favorite part of the inside was the seating: one large community table, and a bar along the window. I ordered the smoked lamb khao soi with coconut curry, fermented mustard greens, and topped with crispy fried noodles. It was as amazing as it sounds, though I could barely finish my bowl; the rich flavor combination was a lot for my stomach to handle. That said, I’d eat it again, maybe with a friend.

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5. Eventide Oyster Co.

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If you’re into oysters, this is the place for you.Eventide is right next to Honey Paw, and owned by the same folks. Their original Portland restaurant has ten Maine varieties and more “away” varieties, nestled on ice in the stone trench in front of the bar. I’m not a slimy-raw-seafood person myself, but I wanted to see what else they had going on. This place also had a hefty mass of customers waiting to get in, which I bypassed once more by waiting 10 minutes to get to the bar. I ordered one of the specials: deep-fried soft shell crab, which was not as filling as I’d hoped for the price I paid for it. So I ordered a fried oyster steamed bun as reinforcement. Both were delicious, but a tad overpriced. In any case, a good place to spend money on good, local seafood.

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Bonus Round

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A $20 Maine lobster roll drenched in butter is worth it if you’re looking for a good lobster roll in a fancy restaurant by the water. You can find it at the new restaurant, Scales, that wants to overlook the Casco Bay, but really just overlooks a couple other seafood spots on the pier (this is where I met that couple on the bar). Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the butter: this guy’s bun is griddled in butter, and the four ounces of lobster meat are reheated…in butter. It took me nearly an hour just to get through it all without upsetting my stomach.

It’s worth a trip to Holy Donut to see what a potato doughnut tastes like. Luckily, not much like potatoes. I tried a lemon doughnut and was pleasantly surprised. Pro tip: go in the morning so you have more flavor choices that I did.

Any other Portland recommendations? Leave them below!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies


     Let’s get right to it: these things are gluten-free AND vegan! But these cookies aren’t GF and V to be accommodating; they’re really just good cookies disguised as healthy. Who said you need anything more than peanut butter and sugar in a good cookie, anyway?



      I was watching Unique Sweets (explanation of the show here) and they were showing the process for a bakery’s flourless peanut butter cookies, so naturally I tried to make some myself. They came out pretty great.



     There are only four things in these cookies, if you count water: peanut butter, powdered sugar, and a flax egg, made from flaxseed meal and water. Make sure you sift the sugar so you don’t have to deal with squashing tiny lumps later.



Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 12 3-inch cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon + 3 tablespoons water)
Optional: coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Combine the peanut butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the flax egg and mix until smooth. To make the dough easier to handle, you can chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Scoop out dough to form balls of desired size and flatten with hands. Use a large fork to make cool patterns, so people know they’re peanut butter cookies. Bake at 350° for 9 minutes, or until edges look crispy.

     Evidently, you don’t have a real peanut butter cookie in your hands unless it has those fork marks. And if there’s a cookie with fork marks in your hands, it must be a peanut butter cookie.
     Potential variations include covering the dough in granulated sugar before baking, and using brown sugar in the dough. Hooray for peanut butter!


Lemon Zucchini Bread

     On Tuesday, I made some zucchini bread, and there’s half a slice left on the kitchen counter.

     I know zucchinis are not in season, but I really wanted to try out a classic recipe on my own and see what happened. The first time I heard about zucchini bread, I was very skeptical. VERY skeptical. I was unaware of the concept of a vegetable being used to make a sweet bread. But boy, am I glad I gave it a try! If you’re having your doubts about such a beast because of your past dread of sliced squishy, oily zucchini on your dinner plate, prepare to have your mind blown with this incredible loaf of dense, flavorful, and extremely moist quick bread! Plain old zucchini bread would have been great, but there’s nothing like a good old kick of lemon to make your life a little happier. Trust me – you’ll want to stay with the portion size on this one (two loaves!).

It’s such an easy thing to make! Wet ingredients, sugar, dry ingredients, zucchini, oven.

See for yourself when the first turns to the second in an hour.


Lemon Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Sunset Breads
Makes two loaves
Ingredients
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
2 eggs
Zest of one lemon
Two large zucchinis (about 1 pound)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together sugar, oil, eggs, and lemon zest in a large bowl until combined. Gradually add the flour, salt, and baking powder. When well incorporated, grate the zucchinis into the bowl and mix occasionally until all the zucchini has been added.

Pour the batter into two greased and floured 4×8 inch loaf pans. Bake loaves for about an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Let cool in pans, then carefully flip onto cooling racks to let cool completely.
Look at that texture.
The zucchini just does something wonderful where it distributes all
of its magical zu-juice throughout the bread to make it superbly moist.
No chocolate necessary for this thing!

Easy Apple-Cran Crisp

     It is now clear to me that Fall is here to stay. Prepare for scarves, hoodies, and beanies on campus/elsewhere. I wanted to quickly share a really easy recipe for those still with some apples hanging around the kitchen from that one time you went apple picking. We have to make room in the fridge for pumpkin everything anyway. While you wait for an updated cookie recipe, here’s some soft-yet-crunchy apple-cranberry crisp! Really, the hardest part is cutting the apples.

Apple Cranberry Crisp, from Better Homes and Gardens
Here’s to recipes turning out the same as their picture!


Ingredients

5 cups thinly-sliced peeled apples
1 cup cranberries(frozen or fresh)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine apples, cranberries, and granulated sugar. Transfer to a 2-quart square baking dish or a 9-inch pie plate.
  2. In a small bowl combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over apple mixture.
  3. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream. Makes 6 servings.

     In other news, the (no longer) new school year has brought a new food blog! I’ve come together with other college bakers/cooks to bring you varying recipes and kitchen adventures. We call it College Bakers’ Collective, and you can find it right here. It’s been really cool getting to see what other college kids, who are just as busy as the next kid, are up to in their kitchens. Come say hi; if you’re waiting for something new from me, there’s a good chance something has already been posted @ CBC. Stay warm, kids!

Ina Garten’s Coconut Cupcakes

     Way back when I was in San Francisco, I made some cute coconut cupcakes and made a semi-real shoot out of it. I had apparently started an entry for them a week after I made them, so I guess I’ll humor you with the original post…here ya go! In the meantime I will be buying groceries and re-acquainting myself with this apartment’s cozy kitchen. Yes, I’m back in Ithaca for the home stretch!

     This could be considered another rendition/episode of “What’s in the Pantry?”, because for the last month we’ve had so much coconut in the house, and I wanted to do something about it. While searching for vegetable recipes in the Barefoot Contessa cookbook, I stumbled across the recipe for Ina’s famous coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. If you’re also wondering “cream cheese frosting? With coconut?”, we were on the same wavelength. Until it actually happened.

Stand mixers are still very exciting. Coconutty awesomeness.
#artsyoverheads

Making frosting is so fun, and so dangerous. I’m hoping cream cheese frosting
is healthier than buttermilk frosting. The one issue that never seems to be resolved is the overwhelming amount of frosting that is left once you have frosted the cupcakes.
I think Jake and I halved the ratio of cupcake:frosting for the chocolate chip cookie dough
cupcakes
, and only three cupcakes were left unfrosted. Note to self: halve frosting recipe
always.

Look at that pretty cupcake! It’s all about using the knife tip to make those cool-lookin
layery lines.
Just like this!
Have I mentioned how much I love rubber scrapers? I’ve gotten whole cookies and cupcakes
from using rubber scrapers. Just. Saying.
Enjoy the following photos from the miniature shoot proceeding the baking.
Carmen’s recipe notes: first off, you can always squeeze more cupcakes out of these recipes than they say. Second, I used yogurt and twoish teaspoons of lemon juice instead of buttermilk (not in the pantry) and they came out fine – dense, but not dry. Lastly, do what you will with the frosting recipe. However, I do recommend halving it if you don’t need a sweetener for your next 15 bowls of oatmeal.
Ina Garten’s Coconut Cupcakes
(3/4 of this recipe) Makes 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Recipe can be found here

What’s in the Pantry: Sunflower Seed Butter

    Before Ramadan started, I got on another baking kick. It’s easy to do in this house, always equipped with ingredients and interesting foods that we’re not sure what to do with. But Ramadan can’t stop me from getting in the kitchen, either. I already tried plans for popcorn chocolate chip cookies. I was inspired by the cocoa powder in the pantry. I was feeling a classic pairing of chocolate and peanut butter, but we didn’t have peanut butter. What we did have was sunflower seed butter. Have you heard of such a thing? You may have seen it among the cookie butters in Trader Joe’s. This place clearly carries everything. I found this jar sitting in the pantry, and it seemed to be waiting for the right moment to be used. No one had opened it, so I thought I would see what I could do. It wasn’t the smoothest of nut butter, but that’s not an issue if you like texture with your chewy. Thus materialized from the kitchen and my free Saturday afternoon, my sunflower seed butter-stuffed double chocolate cookies!

     I don’t care what the back of the cocoa powder packet says – melting chocolate is always the best way to go when baking cookies and brownies. Moist, dense, and excellent.

     You could always add some cocoa powder for that extra oomph, though.

     Electric mixers! I’m all about manual labor and traditionalism, but sometimes electric mixers just give you a texture you can’t get any other way that I’ve found.

     The art of moderate-sized stuffed cookies. You have to stick a hole in the first half of dough and stick a little bit of ss butter in the center then top it off with just enough dough, so the cookies don’t get massive. These came out just right. But I’ll warn you now: it will quickly become very challenging to manipulate the dough, oily fingers or not. I had to wash my hands and restart multiple times. I guess one disadvantage of the melted chocolate is the extra stickiness of the dough when you’re working with it.

     So shadows. Much sunny. Wow. So much chocolate – but not too much! Dig right in.

Sunflower Seed Butter-Stuffed Double Chocolate Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients

6 tablespoons butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
Peanut Butter Cookie Filling
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions
In a large bowl, melt butter, bittersweet chocolate and 1 cup of chocolate chips with double boiler setup or in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted completely. Set aside and let cool.
In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add sugar and eggs, beating until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla extract and melted chocolate/butter, beating for another 1-2 minutes until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients with a large spatula until thoroughly dispersed. Fold in remaining chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer while you make the peanut butter cookies. Let the dough sit in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Place sunflower seed butter and sugar into a medium bowl, mix to combine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the cookie dough from the freezer. and scoop out about a teaspoon of dough placing them about 2 inches apart. Using oiled hands, make a small well in the dough. Now take about 1/2 teaspoon of the sunflower seed butter and place it in the well. Scoop another teaspoon of the cookie dough and flatten into a disk. Place this over the filled well, pinching the cookie dough layers together. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Consume rapidly.