Eid Mubarak, Ramadan Reflections

Ramadan has come and gone, like a plastic bag drifting through the wind. Alright – not really like that – I just wanted to take advantage of that Katy Perry lyric. It did, however, feel like a very short amount of time, as it does every year. This year, I hoped to take advantage of every day, and not feel like my month was snubbed by my own mindlessness. But no matter how diligent we are each day in Ramadan, the end creeps up on many. You might think that we’d look forward to the end of Ramadan and be happy to stop fasting, but in my experience, the opposite is true. Yes, we do get excited for Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday that comes right after Ramadan has ended, when you spend the day with family and friends and get to eat. But for me personally, there’s something about coming together on a regular basis with my community to break our fasts and pray together, and taking a month to remove anything that would distract me from myself and my time to come closer to my faith. You don’t get to see the community come together as often, and the same mental/religious/other focus that comes with fasting is harder to come by. That said, Ramadan can be considered something of a reset, where you restore your body~mind~spirit~etc to its natural state…factory settings, if you will. This year I tried to avoid eating cane sugar and processed carbs for the month, and I promised a report back. So, below the final outcome.

carmen-ladipo_plantain_rubber-scraper-mvt

First question: Did I make it all the way to the end of Ramadan on my diet? Answer: a resounding Yes! And I’m not too bashful to say I’m quite proud of myself! In the days leading up to it, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to go through with my challenge. But it just goes to show you that you really can do anything you set your mind to. I emphasize mind because it’s a total mind game. What is it that makes me go for the cute cupcake after lunch or croissant for (second) breakfast? Cravings are your brain telling you that you want something because “remember how good it tasted last time? And remember how good you felt?” Did my cravings go away because I was fasting and I wasn’t eating sugar? Nah. But I was forced to get creative and  come up with healthy ways to trick my brain into thinking I was having dessert. Dates, so many dates, plantain, fruit smoothies, pretty-much paleo banana bread (recipe coming soon), and more fruit. Notice a trend? Fruit came through for me in my times of need during Ramadan.

Before I started, I thought my biggest takeaway would be that life is too short to free oneself from the burdens of sugar and that I am a miserable person without it. But in fact, I learned that there are many alternatives to baked goods for those with a sweet tooth, and exercising restraint is good for the soul. Did I get sugar pangs halfway through the month while looking at the Islamic Center’s bake sales? Yes. Did it feel better to resist the urge to give into the craving? Very yes. I can’t say how my body felt this month in comparison to a month of regular eating habits, since I was dieting under special circumstances and my body was not in its normal digestive state. However, I do feel like it’s good practice to say no to your superficial desires if it’s not something you do with ease. I might institute a no-treat Tuesday or something similar as a reminder to check myself before I wreck my stomach. Walking the streets of New York City sometimes makes it harder to say no when you’re passing a cafe on one block, a doughnut bakery on the next block, and an ice cream shop down the street. I’m hoping the habits I formed during Ramadan will stay with me, and that I won’t even need the no-treat Tuesdays. I’m excited to see how it goes!

carmen-ladipo_levain-cookie_rubber-scraper-mvt

But, you know…of course I had to celebrate my accomplishment and one of our two holidays with a big cookie from Levain Bakery! it was delicious and I felt no body malfunctions.

Thanks for following along on my annual journey through Ramadan; I feel like this was a particularly special one. Come back later for that banana bread I was talking about. And in the meantime, let me know how you curb your cravings below!

Top 5 of 2016

Poor 2016…it’s going in the history books with a hashtag next to it. Lost your job this year? #2016. Lost a beloved celebrity role model? #2016. Despite the slew of unfortunate events in the last 365 days, it’s still important to look back to remember the progress we made and good things that happened. Here are 5 of your and my favorite posts from 2016, and here’s to a new year that we’ll be proud of 365 days from now.

chocolategif
1. Mast Brothers: Genius or Nah?
What’s all the hype about? Is their chocolate chip cookie recipe really all that?

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
2. Don’t Get Pancakes at a Place Called “egg”
Lessons learned: 1. It’s best to order something that a restaurant is named after, and 2. Not all brunch is created equal.

skilletsmoresgif
3. Skillet S’mores
The most impressive party dessert to whip out in your times of need.

DSC_3693
4. The 3 Why’s of Chocolate Chip Cookies
So many questions…here are 3 answers.

mlkgssmktPan2
5. The Art of Dining Solo
The ultimate treat-yourself with its own perks.

Don’t see your favorite? Leave it in the comments below!
Happy New Year!

These Days’ Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

cookiestackgif

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!

studio-test_carmen-ladipo_0108

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.

 

The 3 Why’s of Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are a lot of decisions that go into making the best chocolate chip cookies. Do you ever stand at your kitchen counter, looking at a recipe thinking “what’s the big deal about leaving my butter at room temperature? Can’t I just melt it?” Or a slew of other concerns? I’ve broken down three of the basic cookie enigmas to get to the reasons behind the recipe.

1.  Why do I cream my butter and sugar?

When you start baking your cookies with soft butter, it allows for pockets of air to be created when combined at a rapid pace with the sugar. They say that this gives your cookies a better texture, that they come out  with more body. But why? When the cookies are in the oven, the air from the creaming evaporates, and steam allows the dough to rise taller in the oven and become less dense. That’s why the cookies have a lighter texture when you cream the butter instead of melt it. For those who love cookies that crumble instead of sink into your teeth like paste, this is logical solution for you.

Kassandra076

 

2. Why do I chill my dough?

What a bummer it is to reach the part of your chocolate chip cookie recipe where it says to chill your dough, either for a couple hours, or overnight. Don’t they know you’re craving these cookies right now, and have no time for dough firming? Kenji Lopez-Alt swears by leaving your dough to rest in the fridge overnight – and I got to hear it from the food scientist himself. He told me that’s the easiest way to enhance the flavor of your cookies. All the flour and starch proteins in the cookie have more time to break down when the dough is resting, creating a more intense butterscotchy cookie flavor. When the cookie bakes in the oven, these same proteins are breaking down anyway, but they get to go even further if you just give them more time to pre-game. This leaves you with maximum depth in your cookies.

DSC_7437

 

3. Why heat the oven to 375°?

There are a lot of super cool chemical reactions that happen in the oven when your cookies are baking, that this TED Ed video illustrates very well. One of these reactions is caramelization, but this only happens at 356° F. At this temperature, the sugar molecules in the dough break down and create the nutty quality that caramel has. If your recipe calls for an oven set to 350°, this reaction won’t occur and your cookies will come out differently. The change in flavor is better or not, depending on personal preference, but it would be a good experiment to try out and see which you enjoy more.

DSC_3693.jpg

There is an abundance of factors to consider when baking something as simple as chocolate chip cookies. These are the all-stars of basic cookie improvement that will help guide you in your next journey to the best chocolate chip cookies. Have a favorite recipe? Leave it below!

IMG_6990

Chocolate Comfort Cookies

I’ve written about this recipe before, but it merits some revamping, AKA more-than-subpar-photographing. Surprisingly, it’s still the best cookie I’ve made – especially for the simplicity. Say you have a chocolate chip cookie recipe. All you do is add half a cup of peanut butter, half a cup of cocoa powder, and bam: delicious treats that will blow the minds of all your omnivorous friends. Make sure there are no allergies in the crowd you’re feeding.

rubber-scraper-mvt_carmen-ladipo_chocolate-comfort-cookies_0004

I think the key here is the ratio of two eggs to one stick of butter. These are big-bodied cookies, with some heft and height, but they stay soft and chewy and somehow manage to melt in your mouth 24 hours later.

rubber-scraper-mvt_carmen-ladipo_chocolate-comfort-cookies_0012rubber-scraper-mvt_carmen-ladipo_chocolate-comfort-cookies_0013

Chocolate Comfort Cookies
based on the recipe from Bakerella

Yields around 30-40 cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (I use a combo of milk and semi-sweet)

Beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine with the butter mixture gradually. Add the chocolate chips and chill for a couple of hours. Roll the dough into balls of your desired size, and bake in the oven at 350° for around 10 minutes, or until the surface of the cookies are no longer shiny. Devour immediately.

rubber-scraper-mvt_carmen-ladipo_coconut-candy_0001

Seriously folks, these are unfathomably delightful. I fed them to some of the guys that work at the rock climbing gym I go to (baking = friends), and they were elated, many nights made. If you love these as much as I do, or wanna chat climbing beta, leave some words!

Baking With Vanilla

When you’re searching for the best chocolate chip recipe out there, you have to try different forms and variations of ingredients: creamed butter vs. brown butter, chocolate chips vs. chocolate chunks, vanilla extract vs. vanilla beans. There was a co-op in Connecticut where I lived that had two vanilla beans in little baggies for $3.89! I don’t know what magic allowed that to go down, but I wasn’t asking questions. It was time that I tested out the real deal.

DSC_2629

Vanilla beans are super cool because the flavor lies in these tiny seeds that are inside the bean. To get to them, I made a slit with a small knife, trying not to cut all the way through to the other side. Then I could open it up and scrape out the seeds with the blunt side of the knife.

DSC_2652

Inside, the seeds are pasty and oily, and have a strong vanilla aroma. Depending on the size of the vanilla bean, you could use half of the seeds for one batch of cookies and save the rest. If you find yourself with a dried out vanilla bean, just wrap it in a damp paper towel and put it in the microwave for 20 seconds!

DSC_2653DSC_2656

When I tried the chocolate chip cookies with this vanilla bean, I could definitely tell a difference between them and cookies I’d made with vanilla extract. These cookies were almost floral from the vanilla bean, with a sharper vanilla flavor that’s only hinted at in vanilla extract. Surprisingly, it turns out I don’t prefer to use vanilla beans to vanilla extract. For me, the flavor was a little too intense, and did not provide the nostalgic, homey chocolate chip cookie taste that I was looking for. If you’re looking for a more complex, interesting flavor, however, vanilla beans are a great choice. Plus, they make everything look speckled, and therefore much cooler.

Mast Brothers: Genius or Nah?

Once upon a time, I had a week off from work, so I went adventuring in Brooklyn. The destination of one particular afternoon was the Mast Brothers factory of chocolate in Williamsburg. Maybe you’ve seen their chocolate bars around? Or maybe you’ve heard accusations and admittance of chocolate fraud. No matter their previous or current strategies, the Mast Brothers have crazy, inventive chocolate flavors like goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, olive oil, and vanilla & smoke. And their packaging could easily be turned into wall decoration. But I was not in town for this chocolate, no. I was in town for their chocolate chip cookies (go figure). In my quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, substantial research of existing artworks is imperative. I walked into the storefront, took a brief gander around the bags of cocoa beans and podiums of chocolate bars.

rubber-scraper-mvt_mast-brothers_1chocolategif

After taking a peek through the window showing the factory, convincing you to pay for the $10 tour, I circled back to the front and asked for one of the chocolate chip cookies sitting on the counter. I decided to pay for this over the tour, this time, because guess how much it was….a round $4. It was worth it though, this cookie was about the size of my face, or three normal cookies.

DSC_3569

There were no seats or tables inside, so I had to leave the premises and find a bench on the side of the street instead. To my surprise, this took about 90 seconds. The chocolate pros figured out that crispy-on-the-outside, soft-and-chewy-on-the-inside refinement, and the sea salt flakes on the top served as both decoration and general flavor enhancement. The top was the perfectly beautiful cracked texture that you see in the cookbooks. It was so delicious, and I managed to save some for later. I decided that I needed to track down the recipe for these cookies to see if any processes, techniques, or secret ingredients were applicable to my own recipe.

DSC_3585

Turns out, the Mast Brothers chocolate chip cookie recipe was no great shakes. There were no alternative mixing approaches or corn starch additions. In fact, their recipe didn’t even call for vanilla.

DSC_3650_1

Even so, I was confident that my cookies would turn out great, and excited to compare previous recipes. What resulted was a batch of perfectly smooth, large cookies that were less exciting than my current chocolate chip recipe.

 

rubber-scraper-mvt_mast-brothers_2.jpg
Pro tip from me: add the chocolate chips before all the flour is incorporated

 

 

Perhaps it was the fact that I did not use Mast Brothers chocolate, but probably not. There are always some variables that are unaccounted for, like evenness in your oven’s heat, oven heat in general, type of butter, and mixiness.

DSC_3664

Moral of the story: You should always feel free to tweak the recipe to your own taste. Things won’t necessarily come out how you think they will/like in the restaurant.

 

Mast Brothers Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
⅔ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
15 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
fleur de sel, for topping

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter with both sugars until fluffy. Blend in eggs one at a time. Add flour, baking soda, salt and chocolate and combine.
Spoon out cookie dough on baking sheets using tablespoons. Sprinkle sea salt to your preference. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

DSC_3701.jpg
Not fleur de sel. And I learned that adding the salt before baking will help it stick.
DSC_3720.jpg
Good with milk, of course.

 Have any perfected chocolate chip cookie techniques? Spill!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, pt. II


      Here it is; I promised the next installation of The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, according to, well, me. Part of the problem here is that cookie eaters have different preferences in a cookie, so it’s hard to say there’s one “best” cookie. But I am close to the best one, for the typical food appreciator’s palate. There are so many things that can be done differently in a CC cookie, so I plan to slowly break down the options and results. The first thing I wrote about was the chocolate in a cookie. I should also be referring to these cookies as chocolate chunk cookies. I have since read somewhere that chunks are better anyway, especially since a lot of chocolate chips have things other than chocolate/milk/sugar. BOO! So take it from the professionals: chunks > chips. A lot of other chocolate-related things were discussed in the first part of this post, check it out here. Otherwise, prepare for some technique talk.

     Today is about butter. If you’ve ever browned butter before, you’re familiar with the aroma and taste that comes with it: caramely, butterscotchy, awesome. It can be tricky at first to not burn it, but once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take too long, and it’s worth the elevated flavor that comes with it.

     Today is also about time. Time is of the essence as much as that vanilla extract is.

     A friend in San Francisco showed me a chocolate chip cookie recipe from a well-known baker in the city, Josey Baker (yeah, his last name is Baker). He’s famous for his breads and $4 toasts in the hip SF cafés, but his chocolate chip cookie recipe also knows what’s up. His calls for all the butter to be browned. This gives the whole cookie a new web of flavor. At first, it hits you in the face. But once you’re used to it, you only notice when the brown butter is missing. This is how cookies should be: brown-buttery to perfection.

     If your butter looks like this on the stove, you’re close, but not quite to browning. Make sure you keep stirring. Melt the butter on medium heat, and this bright yellow color will come after much foaming has subsided. Not long after, the color will begin to change and the little bits of milk solids that have appeared will go from white to brown. As soon as this happens, move the butter to a new vessel so it stops cooking. There you go, brown butter. I’ve read some recipes that say to discard the milk solids – don’t do it!! That’s where all the caramely goodness is. It won’t poison you!

Once all is done, it should look something like this.

     When I say time, I’m talking about baking time. Josey Baker said something pretty interesting:
     “You should probably take the cookies out before you think they’re done.”
He was on to something. Read on.
     “You’ll know they’re done when they’re a beautiful light brown; the middles will still look a little gooey, but the outsides will push back ever so slightly when you poke them with your finger.”
     Now, I’ve found that this is kinda dependent on when you plan on eating the cookies. If you’re curing a cookie fix and are planning to finish half the batch right away, you can probably keep the cookies in the oven a little longer. When you use Josey’s technique, the cookies take a long time to properly set; i.e be able to pick up without the whole cookie falling apart onto the counter. On the other hand, if you have time, the “undercooking” is great for assuring chewy cookies in days to come. I put “undercooking” in quotes because the cookies aren’t really undercooked. Once you take them out of the oven to cool, they’re still cooking slightly from the hot baking sheets, anyway. Moral of the paragraph: take the cookies out about 2 minutes before you normally would. If you’re squirming in your apron, go ahead and put them back in for a minute.

     Okay enough science, here’s an updated chocolate chunk cookie recipe for you! I’ve been making small batches recently so that 1. We don’t eat as many in the same amount of time, and 2. I have more opportunities to play around with different versions. So feel free to double this recipe.


Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 25 cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, browned
1/4 cup white/cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
     ~combine these ingredients after the butter has cooled slightly.
1 egg
     ~mix into above ingredients

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
     ~gradually sift these into the wet mixture, mixing until smooth

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/2 cup milk chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional)
     ~incorporate into dough

Chill for at least two hours in the fridge. Then place teaspoonfulls on baking sheets and place in an oven at 375 degrees for 6-7 minutes, or longer for larger cookies. When the edges have rounded out but the centers still look shiny, take the cookies out and breathe. Wait for some time for the cookies to set. This won’t be when the cookies have cooled, but after. Feel free to transfer to a different flat surface. Enjoy!

Christmas Cookies: Insta-dition

     Happy New Year! I hope dieting was not on your list of resolutions this year, because there are cookies coming your way. Many cookies! They’re all excellent. Since I was running around with flour hands for two days, I thought it best to stick to my phone for the majority of Christmas’s photo-documentation. As a result, I have created a fun photo/recipe link post à la Instagram. Though none of these photos has seen Instagram as of this moment, I edited these 12 photos on my phone as if they were going to be grammed. With minimal staging, and no further ado, I present the 2k14 Christmas cookies, in square format.

      First up: ginger molasses cookies! Or molasses spice, or gingersnaps. I go with the first because I make sure these come out nice and soft so they fall apart in your mouth/hand if you’re not careful. These are particularly great in the getting cold/freezing seasons, but make what you want, when you want. Recipe from Smitten Kitchen here.

      Round two: chocolate chunk cookies! Folks, I’ve been working hard at the next best recipe for these things. So many variables, so many tests, so many possibilities! I’ll give you a hint while I finalize the next post: brown butter, light folding. Vanilla beans don’t hurt, either. In the meantime, find out about all things chocolate in your chocolate chunk cookie here.

     This year’s MVC: the Citrus Snickerdoodle. Introduced to me by my friend Adriel, these cookies throw you for a loop, then make you question your relationship with snickerdoodles altogether. I asked for the recipe he used, but he geniusly made it himself – here’s what he wrote out for me:

Faux Citrus Snickerdoodles
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
1 T. freshly squeezed orange juice (optional)

1/4 c. sugar, set aside
approx. 1 T. ground cinnamon, set aside

1) Preheat oven to 400°F.
2) Cream sugar, butter, eggs, & juices if using. Add flour, baking powder, salt, & zests.
3) Shape dough by scant tablespoonfuls into balls; roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
4) Place 2 in. apart on ungreased (dark) cookie sheet.
5) Bake until set, golden & slightly crisp, about 8 minutes. Cool cookies immediately on wire rack.

Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies

Do make sure to chill this dough for a bit; it will make it a lot easier to work with.

     Winner of best wrap-up to 2014 goes to the lavender shortbread. You see, I brought back the lavender from my stay in France for the first half of the year (memories/mishaps found here), and tried my first lavender shortbread in San Francisco, where I spent the middle of the year. But I still have a whole bag of the stuff (taking suggestions now). Here’s the recipe that I doubled, with too much butter here. Will most likely have an updated recipe later because these were frachement excellents.

     No I did not arrange the sink like this, nor did I plan on taking a photo of it, but I thought it looked kinda cool so, here you go. Dishes.

Here’s to finding the mathematical equation for eating many baked goods while staying extremely fit, right? Happy New Year!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, pt. I

     My culinary quest for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe started long ago, when my chocolate chip cookies started coming out differently. So I sought after the reasons that different things were happening. I started softening butter instead of microwaving it, intentionally melting butter, substituting baking soda for baking powder, and many other things. Since eating my way around San Francisco, the quest has got real: More to experiment with, more frequent testing, more tweaking. Thanks to Goody Goodie and Megan, I am now experimenting with cocoa nibs! What an excellent idea. Cocoa nibs and two other general concepts, all relating the the chocolate of the cookie, will be presented hither. Prepare for casual serious food talk.

     So cocoa nibs are chocolate before the chocolate gets processed with cocoa butter, milk and sugar into a bar. At nib form, the chocolate process has reached fermentation and drying. You can get them in their husks, which are technically edible but not tasty, or you can get them already shelled. To be honest, I wouldn’t say the nib itself is all that tasty itself either, but it sure does a great thing for cookies. The nibs are nutty, fruity, and quite bitter. You may not decide to pop a whole nib in your mouth like a cashew or raisin. BUT, the floral taste that sticks around in your mouth (not as well after further processing), does a big thing to a cookie. Too big, however, if you decide to omit any other chocolate-ness. Even so, both the flavor and texture are improved with the cocoa nibs. The crunch definitely confuses people when they can’t see or taste a walnut, and it makes things a little more exciting for your mouth.

      I’ve also sworn off and abandoned chocolate chips. Strange, seeing as I’m trying to make cookies of the chocolate chip variety. So when I say chocolate chips, think more chips in the sense of fragments, bits, chipped. I’ve found chocolate chunks to be so much more appealing. I think it’s a combination of size and psychology. Chocolate chunks are usually big, so you’re sure to get a mouthful of melty chocolate always. You may be wondering if the chunks above are indeed bigger than chocolate chips, and the answer is generally yes – but variety is also good: Some small, some big.
     I also suddenly think chocolate chips are child’s play: How many single chocolate chips have you purchased with chocolate chips and not chunks? Not many, in San Francisco at least. They remind me of 5th grade life skills class in the kitchen at ELMS. But we’re in the big leagues, which calls for big chocolate. Plus, I feel way more credentialed when I’m crushing bars of chocolate. “There are chocolate bars in the cookies”. Don’t tell me that doesn’t sound special.

     Did anyone ask himself/herself why we’re always using semi-sweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate in their cookies? Probably not, since the answer sounds something like “too sweet/mild”. Well, to that I say, everything in moderation. Why not throw all different percentages of chocolate in a batter? This idea I also took from Goody Goodie. If you have milk and dark chocolate in a cookie, you’re pretty much pleasing all chocolate lovers! More for your mouth to do. So now you’ve got cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate in your cookie. Isn’t that a ton of chocolate?

      YES!! Yes it is a ton of chocolate, and that’s definitely the (last) idea here. This picture is actually a representation of what cookie batter would usually look like, so if your batter looks like this, add more chocolate! You should be questioning the integrity of the final cookie with the amount of batter that seems to be missing. But trust me – there’s enough of everything. If you do nothing else from this post, add twice as much chocolate into your cookie batter and watch the magic unfold…melt.

So to summarize, improve your chocolate “chip” cookies with
1. Cocoa nibs (found at your local co-op, or, uh, on the interwebs? Still investigating Wegs)
2. Chocolate chunks
3. Milk chocolate
4. MUCH chocolate. Wow-worthy.

     Thank you Megan for the cocoa beans (nibs inside) from Dandelion Chocolate, also in fact featured on Unique Sweets.

(Click on photos for a better look)

     Nibs, shelled and broken up. They kind of look like brains from the fold-like cracks that make the nibs come apart easily. I would, however, recommend chopping a little after that to make the bits even smaller. Some of my bites were a little too nibby.

     These make up for less than half the total chocolate going into the cookies. But they pack a big punch.

…not to mention the pretty colors! That batter though.
Cutting up chocolate also makes for cool-looking brown flakes in the cookies.
Next experiments are including but not limited to the shape of dough before hitting the oven, oven temperatures, butter beating techniques, chilling variations, and finding out what parchment paper actually does.
Chocolate Chunk Cookies (by me!)
Makes 45 small cookies
Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 natural/evaporated cane sugar
~Cream these ingredients together until smooth.
 
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
~Cream with butter and sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

~Sift these together in a separate bowl, then gradually add by hand to butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chunks
3 oz milk chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped cocoa nibs
~Fold this into dough. Don’t panic.

Let chill in the fridge for a few hours, or in the freezer for fewer. Drop tablespoonfulls of dough onto a baking sheet with parchment paper, if you don’t want to wash your sheet later. Place in the oven at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until the middle doesn’t look like a puddle of melted batter. Cool slightly before eating.

How’s that recipe layout? Seems a little more efficient…feel free to comment if you think otherwise. Look out for updated recipes soonish! Happy tweaking!