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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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Back when the mister and I lived in Connecticut, he had to travel one week out of every six or so.  When he was away, I took advantage of the break to play around in the kitchen and try out new recipes.  My work colleagues loved those weeks – and, as time went on, in addition to the new treats I would test drive, there were a few recipes that were requested again and again. 

This is one of them.

In fact, this one is SO well-loved, it became known as the “Stacy Specials,” named after one of the women in my group who could happily munch her way through a batch.

So, I’ll be honest.  I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal cookies – the chewy, raisin-filled, heavily cinnamoned cookies are usually just … too … much.  This version is crisp and, because it uses dark chocolate rather than raisins, the sweetness is tempered a bit.  Lastly, the hint of cinnamon is just that – a hint – not a wallop upside the head.  And it’s just enough to add a nice note to the chocolate.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz. butter, room temp
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz dark chocolate, bashed to bits

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and toss lightly to combine.  In a separate large bowl (preferably of a standing mixer), cream the butter with the two sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat, scraping down the sides.  Add half the oat mixture and incorporate, then add the chocolate bits and mix.  Finish with the last half of the oat mixture and beat until combined.  Drop rounded balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheet, allowing three to four inches between each to give room to spread.  Bake 12-15 minutes until thoroughly cooked.

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.

I wasn’t really sure what I should write about for my first post.  Start with my favorite recipe?  Show you my kitchen?  Talk about gadgets?  Hold forth on my philosophy of cooking?

So, I decided to start at the very beginning …

As I mention in my all-about-me page, the very first kitchen memory I have is sitting on the counter, watching my mom make Toll House cookies.  In fact, I can still pretty much recite her cookie recipe by heart (2 sticks margarine creamed with 2/3 cup white sugar, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, beat in 2 eggs and a teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 pinch salt, 1 cup chopped pecans and a bag of Nestle Toll House chips … there … 40 years later and I can still type that in less than 30 seconds without even trying).  It’s tried.  It’s true.  It’s mom’s.

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that, just because it’s mom’s doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.  Starting with the chips.  Now, I know Nestle’s chocolate chips are an institution and badmouthing them is like spitting on the flag.  BUT.  It’s got to be said – chocolate in chip form is loaded with stabilizers — why, why, WHY would you want to do that to your cookie?  What did it ever do to you?  This bit of buttery, crunchy, chocolate-y heaven-on-earth and you want to add chemical stabilizers?  Good grief, why not just pee in a baptismal font, while you’re at it?!

Instead, grab a couple of bars of good dark chocolate (70% cocoa), enough to make 10 ounces, and bash them into chips — my favorite is Green & Black’s.  What Jon Hamm does for a grey flannel suit and a crisp white shirt (don’t forget the Brylcreem), Green & Black’s does for chocolate.  Mmmm … Jon Hamm … (sigh).   What was I saying?  Oh, yeah … put the bars into a zippy bag and bash the heck out of them with a rolling pin, meat tenderizer or just bash the bag against the counter.  And voila!  Chocolate chips … and shards … and splinters … and dust.  This way, you not only get chocolate chips, but a bit of additional all-over chocolate, as well!  Does it get any better than that?  I think NOT!

A small word about butter in cookies.  If I want a super-thin crisp cookie, I use butter.  If I want a thicker cookie that has a little bit of crunch and a little bit of chew, I use a combination of butter and margarine.  If I want a cookie that is going to hold its shape, I use only margarine.  In this recipe, I prefer something that’s got the crisp+chew factor – if you like super-thin and crispy, just use butter when you make it.

The only other thing I can add to general, all-purpose advice is to avoid overmixing the flour.  When making cookies, treat the addition of flour like you would a covert CIA operation – get in, do what you need to do and get the hell back out as quickly as possible.  All you want to do is incorporate the flour into the batter just until it’s no longer visible.  What you do NOT want to do is mix it so much that you cause the flour to start forming gluten, which is going to make your cookie tough rather than crisp.  Most recipes ask you to add the flour then the chips – resulting in you innocently and without malice aforethought overbeating the flour.  What I recommend is to add the flour, give it a couple of stirs, then add the chocolate and finish incorporating together.  Works like a charm.

Anyway, this recipe has been tweaked from Jeffrey Steingerten’s book, “It Must Have Been Something I Ate”  — which, by the way, is a fantastic read for anyone who has a love of good food.

Red’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt (if it’s sea salt – if it’s table salt, use about 3/4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 oz. butter + 4 oz. margarine at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp strong coffee (room temp)
  • 1 egg
  • 10 oz. bashed dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 F

In a medium bowl, toss together the flour, baking soda and salt then set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and margarine together, combining thoroughly.  Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy, then add egg, vanilla and coffee.  Beat well and make sure you scrape the sides down well.  Add the dry ingredients as described above – pour in the flour, stir a little, then add the chocolate and finish combining without overbeating.

On a lined cookie sheet, use a heaped teaspoon to drop the batter into rows, about 3 inches apart to give them room to spread.  Bake about 12-14 minutes until browned.  Makes about 2 dozen.

Yummy cookie goodness ...

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