Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Day of Cookies

I have this habit of writing blog posts in my head, always with the intention that somehow, I'll write them down in the real world, but as the last few weeks can attest to, that rarely happens.

So I must confess, these cookies were baked almost two weeks ago, and I'm sorry for waiting this long to share them with you. Because these are damn good cookies. Damn good in the classic cookie sense. No finicky ingredients, no 24-hour egg white resting periods or fillings to worry about, just good ole' wholesome cookies that will put a smile on anyone's face. Which is why two weeks ago, I spent my day-off baking these cookies for my "little cousin" (who has somehow put a foot between my head an his in the last two years) for his high school graduation, just because I'm nice like that. And may also enjoy snacking on cookie dough. All day. (And then eat celery in a vain attempt to make the sugar hurting go away. And then contemplate going on a diet of cucumber. Contemplate being the key verb.) But thankfully, after baking up almost 100 cookies, they were packed up and driven a convenient six hours away to feed my cousins (who are boys, who are always hungry), thus putting a safe distance between them and me.

This double chocolate cookie recipe has become my standy-by for double chocolate goodness in cookie form. They're rich and chewy and a cinch to make. The recipe was originally one for double chocolate peppermint cookies, but I just swapped the peppermint extract with vanilla. However, if you want to try the peppermint version, just do the reverse. I can safely vouch for both versions, which will be happily received by any boy cousins you may happen to have.

Double Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Cocoa
1 tsp. Salt
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 Large Eggs
1 - 2 cups Chocolate Chips (I generally use semi-sweet for a more chocolatey cookie, but only had milk chocolate on hand this time round. I find milk chocolate (at least Hershey's) has a toffee-like taste, much sweeter than semi-sweet, but still delicious.)

1. Mix the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda together with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined.

2. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy in a mixer or by hand. (If your butter is too hard to work with, microwave it in a bowl for 10 second intervals to soften it.)

3. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined.

4. Add the dry mixture and stir until almost combined, then add the chocolate chips and mix until combined.

5. Divide the dough into two (or three) portions, then roll each portion into a log on a lightly floured surface. Wrap the dough logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. (You can also freeze the dough and bake the logs off as you need them if you want to stagger your cookie batches. If you're into that self-control thing.)
*You can also just roll the dough into balls and bake your cookies straight away if you want. The theory behind resting the dough is that it allows the liquids from the eggs to be fully absorbed into the flour, leading to a drier dough that bakes into a better tasting cookie. Chilled dough also spreads less when baked, resulting in chewier cookies. So if you want crispy, flat cookies, let the dough become quite soft before popping it into the oven.

6. After the dough has rested (if you have the self-control to include this step) remove it from the fridge (or freezer) and, using a sharp knife, cut the logs into slices roughly 3/4 of an inch thick (or to your desired thick/thinness). If any chips happen to fall out, just push them back in (or eat them). You may want to reshape your slices after cutting in any case, as I do, as mine tend to look like squashed half-circles.

7. Place the cookie dough on a baking sheet, roughly an inch apart, and bake at 375 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes. (If you're baking the dough straight from the freezer, it may take slightly longer. However, don't bake them too long, or they'll dry out.)

8. Transfer the baked cookies to a cooling rack for at least an hour before storing (or eat immediately). Stored in an airtight container, these cookies should keep well for up to five days. If they last that long.

For the longest time, I have relied on the peanut butter cookie recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which is perhaps still my favourite. However, I recently purchased David Lebovitz's new cookbook, Ready for Dessert, which has become my new bible, so of course I had to try his version, which is indeed quite similar to my SK stand-by. I did do a few things differently, albeit not much. I didn't melt the butter, and I added vanilla, and also used natural peanut butter. I also didn't roll the cookie dough balls in sugar, but that's because I'm lazy and consider this step somewhat frivolous. But if you want that little extra sweet crunch on the outside of your cookies, fill a small bowl with granulated sugar to roll your cookie balls in before Step 5.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Peanut Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla (Optional)

1. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together with a fork or whisk to combine. Set aside.

2. Mix the peanut butter and butter together until combined. (In this case, natural peanut butter isn't recommended, as it tends to result in a drier cookie. However, natural peanut butter was all I had on hand, and was what I used, to much success. The dough may be a bit crumblier, but I find natural peanut butter gives cookies a more peanuty taste than the usual stuff.)

3. Cream the peanut butter/butter mixture with the sugars until well combined, then add the egg and vanilla (if using), and mix until well blended.

4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Divide the dough and roll into logs, wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight (again, if you have the patience).

5. After the dough has rested, remove from the fridge, unwrap the dough logs and slice thickly. Roll the slices into balls, place on a baking sheet about an inch apart, and using a fork, press a cross-hatch pattern into each dough ball.

6. Bake for 9 - 10 minutes at 350 degrees. You don't want to over-bake these cookies, so take them out when they're still a bit soft. Don't worry, because they'll firm up as they cool, and you'll have such delicious, moist and delicate cookies.

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