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Monday, August 31, 2009

Better-than-Brownies Cookies

Finally.  Finally, I baked something other than no-bake cookies (which I suppose don't count for baking since no baking is required).  The no bake cookies were good since I was holding out for a paycheck and could knock them out between lesson planning.  But I got paid today and after a big trip to the grocery store I already knew what I was going to bake first.  I saw this recipe about a week ago and have been wanting to try them out ever since.  

I love brownies... I have never made homemade brownies.  My mother got me hooked on Betty Crocker's Supreme brownie mix as a kid.  It's great and comes with a little pouch of Hershey's syrup to mix in.  I've eaten a lot of brownies, handmade and made from a mix ,and these always seem to be one of the best so I've never really messed with it.  But the problem with brownies is that I never eat them all and I always mean to share them with others, take them to school, etc. but sometimes forget or don't feel like toting around my pyrex everywhere.  So often they are wasted.  That's why I was so excited about the idea of brownie cookies- cookies are much more portable.  

The recipe is simple.  I was so happy that I didn't have to break out my mixer for them.  The chocolate in these aren't for the faint of heart.  A glass of milk is very necessary with most things chocolate and most especially these cookies.  They have a perfect crust on the outside and are still gooey on the inside.  I'm not sure if they will replace my Supreme brownie mix altogether but they are a very good chocolate cookie.  

Since school started several teachers and assistants have been asking me to bake something so I'm planning on delivering them around in the morning.  Teacher's love chocolate.  I should also give them away early before my students see them.  I'm sure I could fit it in the curriculum somehow.  Actually I started reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to them today so there you go. 

Better-than-Brownies Chocolate Cookies 

2 2/3 cups (about 16 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.

In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine well. Slowly add the dry ingredients, folding them into the batter. Once all of the flour is incorporated, fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough (a medium cookie scoop’s worth) onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are firm on the outside. Like brownies, do not overbake! Leave to cool completely on the baking sheets.

Makes about 24 cookies

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The unthinkable happened...

Two nights ago I was up late working on some school things and making sure I had everything ready for open house the following night.  I went in the kitchen for something to drink and suddenly got all this energy to bake something.  It had to be quick fix since I didn't think this random burst of energy was going to last long.  Also, I've not been to the grocery store in about a week and a half so it also had to be minimal on the ingredients.  No Bake Cookies seemed perfect.  I was already excited about them.  And most importantly, they were really fast to make.  I looked up the recipe (I can never remember it even though I've been making them since I was 8).  First ingredient-milk.  The expiration date was questionable but it passed smell test.  I went to grab the next ingredient from the shelf.  That's when I realized...

I was out of sugar.  

There was only a slight layer on the bottom of my canister.  I looked in my cabinet, I almost always have a backup bag.  There was none.  I never run out of sugar.  Ever.  I was a little disappointed that I didn't get my cookies but maybe it's for the best since I would have maybe been too sleepy to even eat them.  

So my lack of sugar, time, resources, etc.  is to blame for my lack of baking lately.  Back to school is stressful.  I thought I had everything straightened out by the time open house started yesterday afternoon.  18 students- all of their names on the door and their desks.  Then 3 new students showed up that weren't even on my roster!  New ones!!! But then I found out I lost a few too, so who knows what my roster is going to look like when I get to school on Monday.  

But hopefully once school starts, I go to the grocery store, and things get settled down I will bake once again.  I'm thinking something fancier than No Bake Cookies too.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Until yesterday I was still eating my mom's birthday cake.  So I've not needed to bake anything and especially haven't felt like baking since it's been in the 90's the past few weeks.  My kitchen is miserable in the summertime.  The afternoon sun comes through the window and my cafe curtains aren't much defense to the heat.  There is only one air conditioning unit in my apartment and it's located as far away from the kitchen as possible.  It does well cooling the bedrooms and living room but the air rarely makes it to the kitchen.  

On top of this, my oven is ancient.  It works fabulously but it's old.  I'm not really sure how old exactly but I'd guess the 1980's or so.  (Well, that's the same age range as me but for an oven that is old right?)  An oldie but a goodie, except for one thing.  I've noticed this summer how much heat it puts out when it's on.  Even after I turn it off, I can still feel heat coming off of it an hour later.  So needless to say, I've used the oven as little as possible this summer, especially lately.  About two weeks ago I discovered that I could remove the knobs to turn the burners and oven on and did so to do some heavy duty cleaning.  Then on Monday I went to make some spaghetti for dinner and realized the knobs were still off.  I hadn't used the oven or the stove in about 2 weeks!  That is kinda ridiculous.  But in my defense, I've had a lot of meals out with people lately.  That and if I have eaten at home it's been something simple or cool from the fridge.  

But last night there was a nice thunderstorm which cooled off things considerably so I took this opportunity to fire up the oven (almost literally) and make some cookies.  I actually didn't discover my love of snickerdoodles until college.  My roommate Kelsey made some and before this I hadn't even heard of them.  This is my first attempt at them but this recipe looked too good too miss out on.

Makes 3 dozen cookies

For the dough:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tarter 
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the cinnamon sugar:
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggs and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt.  Add to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined.  The down will be too soft and sticky to roll.  Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat to oven to 350 F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  

Using a 1 ounce cookie scoop or tablespoon, shape the dough into balls and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar (flatten the cookies a bit while in the cinnamon sugar and flip over as they are placed on the cookie sheet-that way you get a lot of the sugar on the cookie).

Place the cookies 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.  Flatten them slightly with your fingertips so they stay put.  
Bake for about 12-13 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden in color (mine took about 10 minutes, so check then).  These cookies are supposed to be chewy, so do not overbake.  Remove to a wire rack to cool. 

**I made the recipe last night and put in the fridge overnight.  It rained alllllll day today and was barely over 70 degrees!  A very good day for baking.  It almost felt like :gasp: fall.  Or maybe it was just the cinnamon that made me ready to wear jeans and jump in piles of leaves.  

Friday, August 7, 2009

Birthday cake, Mad Men, and babies, oh my!

Sorry for the leave of absence. I've been very busy with a random list of things. School starts back very soon so I've been trying to motivate myself to get my classroom in order which is a lot harder to do when you are switching grades. Besides that, (since we all know that is not all I have been doing) I have been obsessively watching Seasons 1 and 2 of Mad Men. This worked out well when I was working on school work since I could do both at the same time. But now that I've finished watching (and rewatching) both seasons, I don't have as much motivation to sit around and plan lessons.

But maybe, just maybe, seeing the Draper's kitchen over and over has made me appreciate my own kitchen complete with very similar late 1950's knotty pine cabinetry ...

But on to birthday was Sunday. That's another reason I've been busy, I've somewhat still been celebrating it every night this week with someone. Of course with birthdays comes cakes. My grandmother made me pineapple cheesecake. It's her own recipe, I don't know how she thought of it but it's amazing. My mom made me my favorite pound cake. She makes it a lot during the year but it's extra special on August 2nd because she adds cream cheese icing, my favorite!

Here is her recipe:

Crusty Pound Cake
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beaing well after each. Add flavorings. Then add flour alternately with milk, mixing thoroughly. Start in a cold oven! Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Do not open the door!

I need to start using this recipe more for my own cakes.

Also, in other very exciting news, I got an early birthday surprise when my friend Stephanie had her baby boy Maddox last Friday!  Mother and baby are doing well and he's crazy adorable!