In the kitchen with Julia

 

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Quote from the magnificent Julia Child; image from bookishfreaks.com

Tonight, I ruined a chocolate pavé. Sure, it tastes alright but esthetically? I wouldn’t serve it to anyone and am even embarrassed to take a picture of it for Instagram. But you know what happens when I ruin a dessert? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are no ramifications. I just learn not to do that thing and try again tomorrow. And do you know who taught me to embrace that attitude in the kitchen? My friend, Julia. Continue reading

On Cherry Trees and Nostalgia

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This is what Italian cherry trees look like…

I ran out the back door and down the hill at full speed, jumping over the sandbox and straight for the cherry tree. Pulling ripe fruit off the lowest hanging branches before shoving them into my mouth and running toward the swings, I smiled. My sister and I played in our backyard for hours stopping only for snacks from the cherry tree. My mother, wide-mouthed basket in hand approached the cherry tree at a slower gait before selecting fruit for cherry crisp. The kitchen looked like a murder scene when she removed the pits, slicing each cherry in half before baking them with brown sugar, oatmeal and butter, so much butter. Continue reading

Chocolate Chip Cookies…and then some

Cookies with coffee

Cookies with coffee…the breakfast of champions.

I love a good cookie. Any kind of cookie really. Chewy, soft, crisp. Filled with nuts, oats, or morsels of sweetness be they chocolate chips or M&Ms. Peanut butter cookies, ginger molasses, sugar cookies with colored frosting. I’m not choosy.

Despite my love of the cookie, I don’t make them very often. And it’s not because I don’t have a wealth of go-to recipes. I do. Ginger molasses are a Chef Boyfriend favorite and I’m a sucker for a simple chocolate chip cookie. But the time it takes to make cookies…I’m not a fan. There’s the dough making process, which I’m fine with but the bake time? Not so much. 8 minutes in the oven and then you have to spin the pan and bake for another 8 minutes. It’s a lot of stand up, sit down mumbo jumbo that I don’t have the patience for. Which I suppose makes me a terrible baker.

When I baked cookies professionally, I just threw those suckers on a speed rack and baked 12 dozen at a time and got on with my day. Sadly, I don’t have a speed rack at home or an oven large enough for one. So I putter around the kitchen checking the oven every 8 minutes, setting timers and half-ass cleaning the kitchen.

I think these cookies are worth it though. Filled with oats, chocolate chips, white chocolate, walnuts and a heavy hand of sea salt. Yes, these are totally worth it.

These cookies are not an original idea. I found the base recipe online somewhere at sometime and am a horrible person because I can’t find it now to link it appropriately. But you know; you know I’m not claiming it as my own. But at their core, these cookies are juiced-up chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, and then some.

We’ll get to the recipe but first, a few notes:

  • This recipe makes about 6 dozen…I don’t believe in making small batches of cookies. If you don’t have the freezer space for all these cookies, you may want to cut the recipe in half.
  • These cookies freeze exceptionally well! So that’s what you should do. Bake the full recipe and freeze some.
  • I use 1/2 unsalted butter, 1/2 salted but you could easily use all of one or the other. I like the salt throughout the cookie, not just on top but to each their own.
  • Sticking the batter back in the fridge between scooping batches will yield less spreading while baking.

Juiced-Up Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Ingredients:

2 cups butter (1 cup unsalted, 1 cup salted)

2 1/2 cups brown sugar (light or dark, it really doesn’t matter)

1 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs (room temperature)

2 egg yolks (room temperature)

2 teaspoons vanilla (or a decent glug, because who really measures this?)

4 cups all purpose flour

2 cups uncooked old fashioned oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt (play with this, but certainly don’t leave it out. Yes, there is salt in the salted butter and you will top the cookies with sea salt, but never discount the importance of salt within the dough itself. You will notice it if you don’t include any.)

2 cups white chocolate chips

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups roughly chopped walnuts (you can toast these on the stovetop a little, but it’s not necessary)

Sea salt for garnishing (or any flaked salt. I think smoked sea salt would be phenomenal in these cookies!)

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Pour melted butter into a mixing bowl, add brown sugar and granulated white sugar and mix until smooth. Put mixing bowl into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to chill.

Remove from the fridge and mix in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt and mix lightly.

Fold in white chocolate chips, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

Taste. Pat yourself on the back. You’re doing good things.

Put mixing bowl back in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove bowl from the refrigerator and using a portion scoop (or a spoon) place medium sized balls on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, leaving space between each cookie. Press cookies down slightly (to create discs not balls) and top with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown, spinning the baking sheet halfway through. (In my oven, it takes 16 minutes, I spin the sheet at 8 for even cooking). Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then move to a cooling rack.

Warning: you may need to swat away curious “taste testers”. See below.

Chef Boyfriend likes to help but we have vastly different definitions of "helping".

Chef Boyfriend likes to help but we have vastly different definitions of “helping”.

Stressed

I baked last night for the first time in weeks.

I haven’t been happy lately. Work isn’t going well and I come home each night feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I have been overlooking the things I know will help me feel better in favor of sitting on my couch with my dog watching Netflix.

I know cooking will make me feel better. As will writing. As will yoga. But it’s so hard to find the motivation when you feel down. I’ve struggled with depression for years and it comes and goes. And right now, I’m firmly in a depressive episode. I know I am and this weekend I made the conscious effort to engage in the activities I know will make me happier. I went to yoga. I baked a cake. I took longer walks with my dog. And I feel better.

And I’m making a new commitment to writing. I’m writing to you now and I took pictures of my weekend food activities and will write about them later in the week. Because sharing my passion is motivation. Talking about food and wine and my kitchen always make me happy. The more I talk about cooking, the more I cook. The more I cook, the happier I feel.

I need to remind myself of the pleasure I find in preparing food. Chopping is therapeutic. Stirring a pot garners results. And I desperately need results. Positive results. These past few weeks at work have felt futile. Like I’m bailing water out of a sinking canoe and everyone around me is just watching from the shore. But time spent in the kitchen always results in food. This weekend it was a caramel apple cake. Later this week there will be pasta. And I will find comfort in it.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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I don’t know Karen Christensen, but I’ve loved her coffee cake for 20 some years now. Her recipe is dog-eared in my copy of the Zion Lutheran Church Cookbook from Denison, Iowa. It’s the perfect Monday morning baked-good. You mix the batter the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Pop it in the oven the next morning while you’re in the shower and 30 minutes later, you’re greeted with a spicy, tender crumb. The perfect side dish to a mug of strong coffee. Continue reading