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These cookies are awesome.  They are chewy.  They are chocolatey.  They are a little bit nutty.  And they have a nice tinge of saltiness to complement the chocolate.

What they aren’t are cookies that you can make at 9:00 at night when your kid says “Oh, by the way, I need to take something to the bake sale tomorrow.”

No, these are cookies that strategic planning and timing.  Seriously – I’m talking, there are STEPS that have to be taken.  But, when you taste the end result, you’ll realize that they’re just so darned worth it!  And, yes, this is another recipe that, when I say to use a rimless baking sheet lined with parchment paper, you really should – the cookies are so gooey and soft when you pull them out of the oven that they’d fall completely apart if you had to spatula them onto a baking rack.

The way I make them, the recipe makes three dozen yummy, scrummy cookies.  And, even with the time needed to prep, they’ll be gone before you know it.

Not Your Mama’s Bake Sale Cookies

  • 1 jar of Nutella
  • 1/4 lb hazelnuts
  • 8 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 bars Green and Black dark chocolate (70%), chopped
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Okay.  So.  Here we go.  First things first – you’re going to roast the hazelnuts and brown the butter.  So, heat the oven to 450 and pour the hazelnuts into a wide-enough pan that they’re not too crowded (I used a square 8×8″ cake pan and that was fine), and roast the nuts for about 15 minutes until fragrant.  When they’re done, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then tip them out onto half of a dish towel, folding the other half over the top, and rub them firmly against the counter to get rid of the husks.  It’s a bit time consuming, but worth it.  Once they’ve been de-husked and cooled, put them in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer to get chunks.  You might be tempted to use your food processor – don’t.  You’ll wind up with ground hazelnuts, not roughly chopped.

Next up, brown the butter.  Put all the butter into a saucepan over medium-high heat and melt, then let it bubble away.  It’ll start foamy, then the foam will disappear, then, as the milk solids start to brown, it’ll begin bubbling again.  If you whisk gently, you’ll be able to see as it starts to brown – when you see the solids turn light brown and the butter smells nice and nutty, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.  Let cool a little bit, then put into the fridge to firm up.  It sounds strange, but you’ll want it to firm, then get soft again to beat with the sugar.  So, my recommendation is that you do the butter and the nuts the night before you want to bake the cookies.  And, when you put the butter in the fridge, throw the jar of Nutella in there, too.

Next day – pull out the butter to come up to room temp and pull out the jar of Nutella.  Get a mellon ball scoop (small – about 1/2 tsp) and scoop out 36 Nutella balls, putting them on a plate, then throw them in the freezer.

When the butter is soft and you’re ready to make the dough, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then add the egg and yolk, yogurt and vanilla, beating well to combine.  Add the flour, nuts and chocolate chips, mixing thoroughly, but not over-beating.  Wrap in plastic (or just pop it into a large zippy bag) and pop into the fridge for 2 hours to rest.

See???  Now do you understand why I say that these are NOT bake sale cookies???!!!

NOW … preheat the oven to 350 and line rimless baking sheets with parchment.

Once the dough has rested, we’re finally (finally!) ready to make the cookies.  Use a teaspoon to scoop out a ping-pong-ball sized bit of dough, roll it into a ball, then flatten.  Get your frozen Nutella ball and put it in the middle, then form the cookie around it, making sure the Nutella is completely covered, so it won’t seep out during baking.  When you lay them out on the lined sheet, flatten slightly and sprinkle with a little sea salt.  Bake for 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.  As mentioned above, don’t try to use a spatula on them when they’re hot, you’ll just moosh them up – pull the entire sheet of paper onto a baking rack to cool, then store in an air-tight container.

Not Your Mamas Bake Sale

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I’m sad.  One of my favorite TV series just finished for the season.  No, not Downton Abbey (although we’re mid-way through the season and I’m already dreading when it’s done).  This year, I succumbed to the allure of The Great British Bake-Off .  GBBO is a contest where everyday people – grandmas, students, professionals, stay-at-home-parents – compete against each other in the kitchen making pretty much any kind of baked good you can imagine, from bread to pies to tarts to cakes to cookies … the whole schmear.  The prize?  Basically, the world’s ugliest trophy and bragging rights to the title Britain’s Best Amateur Baker.  No guaranteed book deal, money, recording contract, TV deal – to be honest, it’s nice to see people try to win for winning’s sake for a change.

Although, having said that, today’s recipe comes from a new book out from last year’s winner, Edd Kimber, aka “The Boy Who Bakes.”  Edd is embarassingly young and cute in a dorky-but-totally-charming-in-a-sweet-Opie-ish-sort-of-way.  And boy-howdy, can he throw-down in the kitchen.  Case in point:  his double-chocolate and sour cherry cookies.  Now, I admit, I tinkered with the recipe a very little bit, but not because I think it needed help … it was more because I just can’t help my personal taste when it comes to baking.  At any rate, this was last week’s work treat and it went down a storm.  So, show Edd some love and check out his new book – it’s absolutely lovely and is written with the home baker in mind.  Oh, and hey, he even has a gorgeous recipe for Bourbon Pecan Pie that I can’t wait to make – and he’s not even from the American South!

Double Chocolate and Sour Cherry Cookies  (Red’s version, makes about 4 doz)

  • 6 (yes, 6) bars of Green and Black’s Dark Dark Chocolate
  • 7 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare baking trays by lining them with parchment paper.  Then slowly melt three of the bars of chocolate in a double-boiler, putting the other 3 into a plastic bag and bashing the heck out of them to make shards, dust and chips.  After the chocolate has melted, remove it from the double-boiler so that it will start to cool while you make the cookie dough (me, I like to give it at least 30 minutes, if possible).  Last bit of prep, put the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and use a whisk to sift them together.

Okay.  Now, put the butter and sugars into the bowl of a large standing mixer and use the paddle to beat on medium three or four minutes until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time until smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the butter is mixed in.  Next, beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla until smooth.  Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour mixture – when it’s about half-incorporated remove the bowl from the mixer and add the bashed chocolate and dried cherries, mixing in by hand just until the flour is fully incorporated.  Don’t overbeat the flour – you don’t want tough cookies.

Next, use a teaspoon to drop the mixture onto the prepared trays, leaving at least three inches between each and bake about 13 minutes.  When they’re done, slide the entire sheet of parchment paper onto a wire rack and let the cookies cool that way for at leat 10 minutes before taking them off the paper and letting them finish cooling directly on the rack – this way, they’ll maintain their shape.

Have I mentioned how much I love my sister?  She’s been not just my sister but my closest friend for lo these 40-(mumble-mumble) years that I’ve lived on this Earth.  We try to talk every week, we share a love of Target that knows no bounds, we can make each other laugh until we cry.  She adores murder mysteries, Van Morrison and the UGA Bulldogs – the last actually bordering on fanaticism.  Every year when I make my trip home to see family and friends, the mister and I make a point of spending a couple of days with them to see my niece, have a shop and just hang out for a visit.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, she keeps me in PEEPS.

To my knowledge, she has only one fault – she doesn’t like rhubarb, the lovely sour summertime treat.  So, I’m making it my goal in life to find one – just one – recipe that I think she’d like.  Something that will help her see how yummy this ridiculously pink stalk can be. 

I think this is it.  This is your basic coffee-cake composition with the fruit, a nice sponge and crumb topping.  Instead of a heavy cinnamon or other spice flavoring, this cake offsets the sourness of the rhubarb with the richness of vanilla – and is so lovely that even the most rhubarb-averse people like my sister will come back for seconds.  (The only downside of this recipe is that you feel like you use every bowl you own).

By the way – if you don’t own a digital scale, buy one!  I like Salter scales, but get one you like.  If you do a lot of baking, it’s better to cook by weight rather than volume, you get better, more consistent results.

Vanilla Rhubarb Cake

  • 275 g rhubarb, washed, dried, trimmed and cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 50 g sugar
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 g all-purpose flour
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 75 g butter, room temperature
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 50 g butter, melted
  • 25 g light brown sugar
  • 40 g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 g all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare an 8″ square pan by buttering the sides and lining with parchment paper (I do a sheet that covers the bottom and comes up 2 sides so that you can use them as handles to lift out when the cake s done).

Starting from the bottom of the list, make the crumble that will go on top of the cake first – place the 25 g light brown sugar, 40 g sugar, pinch salt and 100 g flour into a bowl and toss together.  Melt the 50 g butter and add to the flour mixture with the 1 tsp vanilla.  Mix together until thoroughly combined, press down lightly and refrigerate while you work on the rest of the cake.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the chopped rhubarb with the 50 g sugar and 2 tsp flour and let it sit for 20 minutes or so.

In a large bowl, combine 100 g flour, 100 g sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt, then add the 75 g room temperature butter, using the edge of a wooden spoon to mash the butter into the flour until it starts looking like small pebbles.  Toss with the ground almonds.  Lastly, in a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, egg, yolk and 2 tsp vanilla extract until combined.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix about half-way before adding the rhubarb and finish mixing.  Pour into the prepared cake pan and top with the crumble before popping into the oven and baking for 45 minutes.

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