Saturday, July 31, 2010

July's Cookie of the Month: Big Soft Chocolate Cookies

For awhile now I've been itching to make a straightforward chocolate cookie out of The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book. But my primary independent taste tester is way into chocolate chips. This month. . . no chips!

Unlike last month's Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies, a book called The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book is probably required by law to contain a recipe for Big Soft Chocolate Cookies. [BTW, check the comments to last month's post for the book's author's explanation for why he included Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies in the book . . . totally valid, and I kinda wish he explained it in the preamble to the recipe because I love that sort of insight into people's thought processes.]

These cookies were indeed soft and chocolate, as discussed more thoroughly below. But the directions say to just use a rounded tablespoonful. My cookies didn't spread much. So as originally written the recipe does not actually yield big cookies. They were certainly not big enough to make into ice cream sandwiches as recommended in the variations section at the end of the recipe (make perfect discs of ice cream by using a serrated knife to slice up a pint of ice cream in its container then just peal off the container bits . . . genius!). So I made a set of four cookies with double the amount of dough. One appears on the left in the picture above. It is just about the same diameter as a pint of ice cream. Perfect! Do take note that the recipe as written only yields about 20 cookies at the tablespoon size, which my baking confirmed. So if you're going to make BIG, soft, chocolate cookies you'll probably only get ten or fewer . . . only enough for five ice cream sandwiches.

Size aside, the flavor of these cookies was kinda muted, but that might be just my perception as I'm used to having big chunks of solid chocolate in my cookies. On the up side, they would be perfect with other stuff - like made into sandwich cookies of ice cream or peanut butter or pretty much anything, or in a bowl with some raspberry sorbet. Or maybe even add different flavored chips to them . . . like peanut butter or white chocolate or butterscotch. The chocolate is at a good level for pairing with other flavors without bowling them over. Of course my aforementioned independent taste tester said, "You know what these need? Chocolate chips." Argh!

But the softness is beyond compare. Such amazing texture. Not chewy. Not crumbly. Evenly soft from edges to center. Well, I haven't tested the supersized cookies yet, which will probably be a little softer in the middle than the edges . . . but they seem consistent to the touch. I'll update after the Great Ice Cream Sandwich experiment happens. These cookies have the best consistency of any cookie ever. If I could figure out how to translate that softness to every cookie I make, this whole experiment in making a cookie a month from this book will be SO worth it. Well, I get to eat cookies every month, and I discovered a new delectable way to use up frozen bananas, OK, it's already been worth it. But it will be even more worth it.

A tip on the procedure. After adding the melted chocolate to the dough, be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl. Even though everything was at the prescribed temperatures and my kitchen was pretty warm, I got a ring of hardened chocolate around my bowl about an inch below where the dough reached up the side of the bowl. If I hadn't compulsively scraped down the sides, I wouldn't have seen it. It took a little bit of elbow grease to scrape the chocolate back into the dough, but it darkened the dough noticeably, so it's totally worth the effort.

Big Soft Chocolate Cookies adapted from The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book: From Chocolate Melties to Whoopie Pies, Chocolate Biscotti to Black and Whites, with Dozens of Chocolate Chip Cookies and Hundreds More by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough


  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cool, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 C solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C milk (regular or low-fat, but not nonfat)


1. Position the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat; set aside

2. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl that fits quite snugly over a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of simmering water in it. Stir with a heat-safe rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until half the chocolate is melted, then remove the bowl from the heat and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

3. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. Beat the butter and shortening in a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, until softened and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar; continue beating at medium speed until pale brown, thick, but still somewhat grainy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then pour in the chocolate all at once and beat until smooth, about 1 minute at medium speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

5. Stir in half the prepared flour mixture just until you can see no white streaks in the batter. Stir in the milk until moderately smooth, then stir in the remainder of the flour just until uniform--there may still be small lumps in the soft, wet batter.

6. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls (or heaping two tablespoonfuls) onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and back to front. Bake for another 8 minutes. Cookies will have rounded, bumpy tops. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and press the cookies lightly with a heat-safe spatula or a large serving spoon, flattening them a tad to create smoother, rounded tops. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cool the baking sheet for 5 minutes before baking further batches.

Previous Cookies of the Month:
January's Cookie of the Month: Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
February's Cookie of the Month: Chocolate Cream Sandwich Cookies
March's Cookie of the Month: Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
April's Cookie of the Month: Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
May's Cookie of the Month: Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies
June's Cookie of the Month: Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Swaddle Fail


We lost power for 26 hours. It only ended up getting up to 81 degrees so we all did alright, but are very happy to have power back. We temporarily moved Dexter's sleeping quarters downstairs where it was a bit cooler. Dexter still seems like he was hot, though.
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Furrday: Post-Vet Snuggle

Tuesday Augie and Izzy went to the vet for their annual check up. Augie is not a big fan.
So Augie demanded a snuggle session with the perpetrator of this atrocity: David.

Shake it off.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

CSA Basket 9

This week's basket contained Kale, Chard, Radishes, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Ambrosia Melon, Valencia Oranges, Carrots, Grapefruit, Avocado, Apricots, Peaches, Pluots and Grapes.

From Martha Rose Shulman's roundup of dishes using summer squash, I made a vat o' Sauteed Summer Squash With Red Pepper and Onion. My independent taste tester gave it high marks. I plan to use the leftovers to make Summer Squash Gratin.

I again used my KitchenAid FVSFGA Fruit/Vegetable Strainer and Food Grinder for Stand Mixers to strain roasted winter squash for baby food. All of this week's peaches, carrots, green beans, and some summer squash are meeting the same fate. I've got to come up with something else to do with the winter squash because I have about a month's worth of it frozen for baby food and if she eats any more she might turn orange due to excess vitamin A.

I made my last pie from the last basket's nectarines, peaches, and pluots. I tried grinding the tapioca with a mortar and pestle to no avail. Other than the spheres of unground tapioca it was fine. Certainly better than the cherry pie. But I'm totally over pie. Instead, I'm going to make a variation of Tomato, Zucchini, and Leek Galette with Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese, which is arguably a rustic vegetable pie, but I'm not arguing.

For those of you who have not already heard me gush about it to no end, I did indeed milk a cow a week ago Tuesday night.
This is Guinevere. She lives at Amy's Farm. My friend Bridget owns 1/14th of her, which means she gets to milk her on Tuesday nights. This sort of system is called a cow share, which can either be a very convoluted way to evade the laws against selling raw milk or a way for someone to have a pet cow without the 24/7 commitment and a farm. I did take my turn milking Guinevere briefly, for which Bridget rewarded me with a half gallon of milk. Having just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, I am now thoroughly inspired to move on to cheeses that require rennet and possibly canning tomatoes. If you've run out of ideas for what to do with all of your summer squash, they've collected all the recipes from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in one convenient website. I am contemplating their Eggs in a Nest and Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

CSA Basket 8

This weeks basket contained Chard, Tomato, Kale, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Green Beans, Nectarines, Peaches, Pluots, Lettuce, Carrots, Grapefruit, Valencia, Grapes, Cilantro, Lemons, and Cucumbers.

Any thoughts on what to do with grapefruit if you're not into eating it plain?

I used my brand new KitchenAid FVSFGA Fruit/Vegetable Strainer and Food Grinder for Stand Mixers to strain roasted winter squash for baby food. I've been pondering Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. The exciting part of the book is the recipes for toddlers, but the advice for first foods and making baby food at home is handy. And I feel like the best granola crunchy mom ever for serving my wee bairn local, organic food from my CSA basket. Between that and the cloth diapering, I feel totally justified leaving the air conditioning on more than strictly necessary . . . not really, I feel totally guilty about using electricity.

Anyway, from last weeks' summer squash I made Fettuccine with Zucchini which I had clipped from the Pairings column in the New York Times about a year ago for Mom, who was up to her ears in zucchini at the time. I never managed to send her the recipe, but it sure did come in handy. Using handmade fettuccine from Trader Joe's was the key. Of course, my better half would have preferred a big slab of chicken on top, which would have gone very nicely with it, but it wasn't necessary. This week I'm contemplating the options presented in Martha Rose Shulman's roundup of dishes using summer squash.

Thankfully, the cherry supply seems to have dried up. My third incarnation of cherry pie, as contemplated in my last CSA post, was the worst yet: medicinal flavored cherry filling, the liquid portion of which somehow seeped between the bottom crust and the pan to create a tough layer of burned fruit leather. But the top crust, which I got from Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman, (along with my new favorite phrase, "pate sucre") was a great success. So with this week's peaches and nectarines I shall again make a pie. Stay tuned for the outcome.

I did make a paneer of sorts from the raw milk Bridget brought. Just heated the milk for awhile, added some red wine vinegar, and strained it through a dish cloth overnight. Great on my morning bagel. Next week I'm planning to tag along while Bridget milks her cow. I'll try to take pictures.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Grilled chicken


This is the chicken I grilled this week. I brined it in tequila, water, sugar, salt, lime juice, cumin, coriander, and mint (adapted from the "Cumin, Coriander, and Lime Brine" from Mastering the Grill: the Owner's Manual for Outdoor Cooking by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim), then put on a rub (Meathead's "Memphis Dust") before grilling it on indirect heat for about half an hour, then direct heat for another ten minutes (fifteen for the drumsticks) until they got up to temp (170 deg F). In the last four minutes or so, I brushed on some lime honey-butter (adapted from the "Orange Honey-Butter Sauce", also from Mastering the Grill).

That probably sounds like a lot for grilled chicken. But first, it's not as bad as it might sound (I already had the rub, and putting the brine and sauce together are super easy), and second, look at that chicken! It was moist, flavorful, and whether you flavor it or not, I think the butter at the end really gave it a nice color and texture.
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Monday, July 05, 2010

CSA Basket 7

Wednesday we received our 7th CSA basket, the first of the summer quarter. In it were Tomatoes, Chard, Turnips, Kale, Beans, Lettuce, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Radishes, Cucumbers, Dill, Grapefruit, Basil, Carrots, Apricots, Peaches, Cherries, and Pickling Cucumbers.

Following Mark Bittman's advice in his article 101 Fast Recipes for Grilling, I peeled the carrots, rolled them in some brown sugar, cumin, salt, and pepper and threw them on the grill alongside the turnips and radishes which I brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and skewered. All were fantastic! If I could through chard on the grill, I would.

Two weeks ago and this week I made pie from the stone fruits. My first round of pies followed the New York Times recipe for Twice-Baked Sour Cherry Pie. Well, mostly. I found organic pie crusts in the frozen section at Henry's, so the bottom crusts were store bought, but I followed the recipe for the top crust and the filling. Well, I substituted vodka for water in the crust recipe, which made it super crunchy awesome. Other than that I totally followed the recipe.

I made a cherry version and a peach and nectarine version that first round. The peach/nectarine tasted great. The crust on both was great. But the cherry filling just did not taste right to me. But my tapioca did not grind no matter how long I left it churning in the Cuisinart, so there were little spheres of tapioca in the filling. So for the second round I switch to corn starch instead of tapioca. No spheres. But the filling didn't really firm up like I'd prefer. And the cherry filling just didn't taste right to me again.

I have some cherry filling left over. I heard a bit on The Splendid Table today about jam that inspired me to try doctoring the cherry pie filling with a vanilla bean and vodka. I bought some Ketel One vodka at Trader Joe's strictly for vanilla extract production and pie crust making, so I've got plenty to spare for cherry pie doctoration.

P.S. Along with my CSA basket, Bridget brought me a quart of raw milk from her cow share. I'm going to try making paneer, which was also discussed on The Splendid Table today.

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