Seven Days of Cookies: Mast Bros. x 2

I’ve long loved the Mast Brothers Chocolate cookbook. It’s lovely to look at and full of img_7704amusing, literary anecdotes. The photos are dark and mysterious, the preparation guidelines have an insider’s vagueness, the cover is a glorious matte paper that evokes the 1940s.

In other words, these are speakeasy recipes. Best enjoyed with a bourbon-based artisanal cocktail in a booklined room, seated on a burnished leather Chesterfield that someone found in an alley. This is hipster baking. And I mean that in the very best way.

And, as I am with most things hipster, I’ve been slightly intimidated by the Masts. But I stepped up, making two recipes: Chocolate, Maple & Pecan Cookies and a variation on their Peanut Nib Brittle. (The brittle makes up for the non-cookbook Panforte from yesterday.)

Both are terrific. The maple sugar in the cookies is inspired. But both are true to their Brooklyn roots: These are treelight and firelight sweets, late night on Christmas Eve. Don’t forget the iced bourbon.

(By the way, the lovely plate is by Josie Jurczenia Clay, Berkeley, CA.)

Chocolate, Maple & Pecan Cookies

Adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate, yield about 24 cookies

Ingredients

½ c pecans

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ¾ c maple sugar

2 large eggs

1 ¼ c flour

1 Tbs baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

10 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Guittard semisweet)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350.

Toast pecans on a silpat-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Cool and coarsely chop.

img_7710Cream butter and maple sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture in two additions, beating until combined after each.

Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Use a #40 ice cream scoop to form balls, placed two-inches apart on baking sheets. (I lined with parchment.)

Bake for 15 minutes. Cool one minute on baking sheet before moving to racks to cool completely.

Notes: These exceptionally delicious cookies came out flat, despite the baking powder and the chilling. I live in Los Angeles where maple sugar is a costly ingredient. I used the entire 8.8oz, $12 package from Whole Foods for these. I have since ordered a 48 oz tub of maple sugar from Amazon.

Almond Nib Brittle

Adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate, yields 2 lbs.

The original recipe calls for peanuts. I don’t care for peanuts so I made this with an equal measure of toasted almonds.

Ingredients

2c granulated white sugar

½ c water

½ c honey

½ c cacao nibs (I use Valhrona)

½ c toasted and coarsely chopped almonds

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

Preparation

Arrange a silpat or waxed paper lined, rimmed baking sheet near the stove, along with the nuts and nibs, baking soda, and butter.

Combine sugar, water, and honey in a 1.5 quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer and withoutimg_7709 stirring, cook until golden brown. (I get nervous around boiling sugar and color instructions. I clipped on a candy thermometer and let it go to 300F.)

Remove from heat and quickly add the butter, baking soda, nuts and nibs. Stir until the butter is melted. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.

When cool, break into pieces.

Notes: This is fantastic.The honey notes come through strong in this brittle so be sure to use a great honey whose flavor you enjoy straight from the jar.

Enjoy!

Soul Satisfying Brownies

IMG_5471In the film version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s must-read memoir, Eat Pray Love, Liz (aka Julia Roberts) introduces her Italian tutor to a new English word. Holding up a bottle of wine, she says, “Therapist.”

In the way that Eskimos have a hundred words for snow, I believe Americans have a thousand words for therapist. Wine is one.

Brownie is another. When you’re having one of those days, nothing is faster, easier or more satisfying to your beleaguered spirit than a brownie. Am I right?

And, in the way that there are a thousand words for therapist, there are (at least) a thousand recipes for brownies. We all have a favorite – or many favorites. I grew up making theIMG_5470 one-bowl recipe on the back of the Baker’s chocolate box. In high school, when my friends and I suddenly found ourselves hungry (you remember how that can happen, right?), the Duncan Hines Fudge Brownie mix was the answer. Although, as I recall, the yield was somewhat less than indicated on the box due to excessive batter eating.

Today, there are several brownies I enjoy: I like a dark chocolate fudgy one straight from the fridge, I like a dense IMG_5473chewy one like the kind they sell at Zaro’s Bakery in Grand Central Station (the commuter’s best friend I always say), I like a fancy one like cream cheese swirl or salted caramel swirl. They’re all good. They all make me happy. (Despite an earlier post as to whether I actually like them or not. This is about “therapist” not about best treat ever.)

But they don’t all make me satisfied. Happy stomach, happy brain, sure. Satisfied heart, soothed soul? For that I need a no-fuss, traditional, cakey brownie. No bells or whistles, no fancy ingredients you might not have. Just the basics, whisked together in a single bowl and baked for 25 minutes.

It’s a cure for what ails you. (Or at least one of them.)

Soul Satisfying Brownies

Yield: 16 2-inch brownies

Note: I am tinkering with low cholesterol and gluten-free baking. This recipe reflects both. You can make it the “regular” way using whole eggs and unbleached flour.)

Ingredients

6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/3 c sugar

2/3 c brown sugar, packed (I used turbinado crystals for a cakier texture)

½ c Egg Beaters egg substitute (or two large eggs)

1 tsp vanilla

½ c Cup4Cup gluten free flour (or the same amount of regular flour)

¼ tsp salt

Preparation

Butter an 8-inch square pan, lining the bottom and two sides with parchment leaving a 1-inch overhang. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine the chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave safe dish (I use a Pyrex measuring cup), and zap on low until melted. Check every 15 seconds and stir. Set aside.

IMG_5474Combine sugars in a medium mixing bowl. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and whisk to combine. Add the Egg Beaters, in two additions, whisking after each. Whisk in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt, whisking until combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 25 minutes until edges just start to pull away.

Cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan using parchment handles and cool on rack completely.

Enjoy!

 

 

Salted Caramel ‘Need I Say More’ Cookies

Hello friends, it has been quite a while since we’ve been in touch! I’m back with you, IMG_4168offering, of all things, a cookie.

Not just any cookie though. A cavity inducing combo of butter, chocolate and caramel. A carbo-phobe’s nightmare. A cookie that will get real with your resolutions and shatter them all to heck. And you. won’t. care.

From whence comes such a thing? A delightful blog called Grandbaby Cakes where Jocelyn Delk Adams shares the love of baking she learned at her grandmother’s knee. I saw a picture of these cookies on Instagram and had to track them down.

Salted Caramel. Chocolate Chips. OK?

Perhaps I’m late to this party. Perhaps you all knew about hiding caramel inside a ball of cookie dough, then sprinkling with salt. But if you didn’t, don’t be afraid. Take my hand. We’ll do this together.

Note: Fresh from the oven, I found these cookies far too sweet. I sadly set them aside thinking I’d have to give them to my sugar-cube loving friends. The next day, though, they looked so very delicious I ate one. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

You won’t be sorry. Neither will your dentist. .

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from a recipe by Jocelyn Delk Adams

Ingredients

2½ c flour

2 tsps cornstarch

¾ tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 c unsalted butter (room temperature, or beaten cold until soft)

½ c granulated sugar

1½ c packed brown sugar

1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

1 ½ c semisweet chocolate chips (I use Guittard, just shy of a 12 oz package)

1 11-oz bag Kraft caramels, unwrapped

Sea Salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350. Line two large baking sheets with parchment, set aside,

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.IMG_4181

Unwrap caramels and cut each into quarters.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.

Lightly beat together egg, yolks and vanilla, then add to the butter in three additions, beating until smooth after each addition.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in three intervals beating well after each addition. Add chocolate chips and mix until well distributed.

Cover the bocaramelswl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. (according to Jocelyn, two hours is better!)

Use a #40 ice cream scoop to gather balls of dough. Press 4 caramel pieces into each ball and place on prepared baking sheets, 6 balls per sheet.

 

IMG_4170Bake 14-16 minutes until brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt and let cool on sheets 10 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely. I rushed the cooling step and created little caramel aliens on the bottom of my rack.

Makes about 30 large incredibly delicious cookies.

IMG_4184

Seven Days of Cookies: Chocolate Molasses Buttons

OK, I’m veering from my original plan of only tried and true recipes to closeupinclude this one which I just discovered: Chocolate Molasses Buttons. These are a variation on the traditional molasses crinkle through the addition of cocoa and a chocolate ganache to dress them up. The cookie is crisp-chewy and the flavor is addictive. The molasses comes through clearly here, so if it’s not a favorite, I suggest you go with a traditional molasses crinkle using the best recipe I’ve found.

Also newly discovered this year is delicious. magazine out of the UK. Not sure how I stumbled across it, but their FB feed is fantastic, full of recipes and gorgeous photos. I’ve adapted this cookie recipe from their site, converting the measurements from metric to American Standard. Full disclosure: I weighed my ingredients (setting the scale to grams). If you’d like to do the same, the original recipe is here.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Molasses Buttons

Adapted from delicious. magazine.

Ingredients

1 c plus two tablespoons flour

1/4 c natural cocoa powder

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground allspice

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp fine sea salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c brown sugar, packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/3 c scant, unsulphured molasses (such as Grandma’s)

Crystal sugar for rolling

For the chocolate filling;

1/4 c, generous, dark chocolate, chopped

2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

½ tsp unsulphured molasses (such as Grandma’s)

Preparation

For the dough,  in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Line two large baking sheets with parchment, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat with on medium-high for about 4 minutes or until the mixture transforms from a dark gritty mixture, to a smooth, noticeably lighter color. Beat in the egg. Beat in the molasses until blended.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until fully incorporated. Scrape dough into a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for about  2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

snowPour the crystal sugar into a shallow dish. Using a small ice cream scoop with a capacity of about a tablespoon, portion the dough into balls. Roll the dough balls in the crystal sugar, coating each one completely. Even space 12 of balls on each prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until they are set at the edges but still very soft in the centre.

Quickly pull the baking sheets from the oven to retain the heat then, using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a deep, fairly wide indentation in the center of each cookie. Return to the oven for 5 minutes more. If the indentations have become shallow, press down again with the wooden spoon handle. Cool cookies on racks.

To make the filling, melt the chocolate and the butter in a heatproof glass measuringIMG_3617 cup. Melt in the microwave on low in 30 second bursts, stirring well after each interval. Stir in the molasses. Transfer the ganache to a small Ziploc bag or disposable piping bag  (I use a small sandwich bag draped into a drinking glass) and work it toward the corner. When ready to fill the cookies, snip off a tiny bit at the corner and fill the indent of each cooled cookie. Let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour or until the ganache is firm.

Yields aboutchocmol 24 cookies.

Note: My cookies came out flatter than the rounded version in the photo on the delicious site (which look like traditional chubby thumbprints). The taste, however, is exceptional.

Seven Days of Cookies: Peppermint Sugar Cookies

Peppermint is the flavor of the holidays, showing up in bark, hotIMG_3600 chocolate, cakes and the ubiquitous candy cane. There’s nothing more cheerful than a candy cane but many of us, after the age of 13, like looking at them more than eating them. I don’t know, hard candies and sugar sticks – it’s tough to keep the dentist out of my head.

This cookie gives you what you love about candy canes without the tooth-aching sweetness and guilt. Plus they’re pretty on the plate. And terrific with hot cocoa.

I have a handwritten version of this recipe so can’t credit it, but if I had to guess, it’s another Bon Appetit treat (although it doesn’t come up in an Epicurious search.)

Enjoy!

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 c hard peppermint candies or candy canes, crushed powder fine (about 6 oz), divided
3-5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

Preparation

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients.

IMG_3593In a large bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until blended. Add egg whites and extract, and mix well. The mixure will look grainy, don’t be alarmed. Gradually beat in dry ingredients. Stir in 1/2 c crushed candies.

Gather dough into a ball, flatten it slightly, wrap in plastic and chill for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Position rack in middle of oven.

Using a small (or one-inch) ice cream scoop, scoop blobs of dough and dip rounded tops into remaining crushed candies. Place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned on bottom. Transfer to racks to cool completely.

Melt chocolate and, using a small offset spatula, spread melted chocolate on the bottom of each cookie. Place cookies,  bottoms up, on racks until chocolate sets.

IMG_3599The recipe yields about 4 dozen cookies. The dough freezes well so you can make mini batches throughout the holidays. Just let it defrost in the fridge for several hours before using. (PS, I’ve never tried this, but I imagine you could scoop all the dough, dip the tops in the crushed candy and THEN freeze the dough balls. Give it a try!)

 

Trusting yourself + Everything Seasonal Bread

I know I’m not the only person who reads cookbooks like novels. (Especially since they are more and more often one-part memoir and two-parts recipes.) I always have. My motherFullSizeRender (1) had some real oldies I liked to read sitting at the kitchen table while she cooked. I adored the Better Homes & Gardens gingham book for its ring binding. I spent many childhood hours moving the pages around, sorting favorites or putting together “menus.” To this day, the BHG Baked Custard recipe is my go-to for almost instant homey gratification. (And, ps, if you use ½ milk, ½ heavy cream, it sets up with a moussey texture on the bottom and shiny custard on the top. Complete happiness.)

All that childhood reading has contributed to a sense for flavors and which will be complementary (on both the savory and sweet side). While I don’t have the most adventurous palate (“delicacies” are not my thing), I do think it’s fairly sophisticated. I can tell by the way a recipe is written whether it’s great or just serviceable, and I know when it will work and when it won’t.

Usually.

On the weekend I made a chocolate cake using a recipe from a respectable source. I had reservations – it called for cocoa and buttermilk which don’t harmonize for me – but since it was only one stick of butter, I gave it a go. Oy, friends. Bad. The overly sweet batter tasted “chocolaty” and the cake was…. Well, it was pretty: Dark. Good crumb. Good texture. It just tasted terrible. Thinking it might be my palate, I offered it around. No one cared for it. Well, one of my neighbor’s said, “It’s good. But I don’t want any more of it.” I let it sit for a day, loosely wrapped in plastic, to see if anything would meld or bloom. No. Bad. I trashed it (along with, apparently, all photos of it).

Lesson: Trust yourself. In the kitchen and in life.

IMG_2840So then I had the rest of a quart of buttermilk. And it is autumn, which calls for cozy, which calls for bread. Specifically Dark Chocolate Orange Soda Bread. Super easy, super fun, and super delicious. You can never go wrong with chocolate and orange, and it’s bread! Who cares if I have to run the AC in order to turn on the oven?

This is a recipe from Epicurious. I don’t make any changes to it. The dough is sticky sticky sticky. Scarily so. Be brave, dear reader, and don’t add a ton more flour to make it easier to handle! Just roll it around on your lightly floured work surface until you can take your hand off it without taking half of it with you. It can be done. I have a “vintage” kitchen that has tiled countertops (the horror!), so I work on a marble slab. And use a bench scraper to nudge my mound of dough off the marble and onto the prepared baking sheet.

I first made this last December for a holiday event. The dough was so crazy sticky that I just mounded it onto the sheet and said a prayer. Holy patron saint of bakers, is this stuff delicious! I mean seriously. For its ease and nothing fancy ingredients, it comes together like a trip to heaven. I’d never made soda bread before. I think I’d had it once at a St. Patrick’s dinner 30 years ago and that version was too rusk-like for me. The chocolate and orange drew me in like a moth to a flame. And, turns out, that 30 year old memory? That was just a bad loaf.

IMG_2836As to ingredients, I use Valhrona Manjari 64%FullSizeRender coarsely chopped and candied orange peel from local cooks’ store (oft mentioned here), Surfa’s. I’ve made this bread many times since, using orange peel from the Berkeley Bowl (similar to Surfa’s) and from the supermarket. The supermarket tubs (usually available only around the holidays) are a sweeter, stickier product. The orange bits tend to clump together in the bread, but it still tastes wonderful.

Important: Mind the time! Because the dough is so difficult to manage, my loaves have turned out differently every time. Sometimes wider and flatter, sometimes taller and more compact. The recipe calls for 70 minutes baking. I have never needed that much time, neither when using a fancy calibrated Wolf range nor when using the Home Depot special oven in my current place. The loaf needs to be brown, firm, with a tester coming out clean.IMG_2841 Check it at 40 minutes. I’ll be surprised if you need more than 60 total. It tastes as wonderful regardless of how the loaves appear.

It’s best to let this bread fully cool before cutting. Then you can slather it with butter, toast it, do whatever you like to do with bread. Baked up with a little vanilla custard, it also makes a nice bread pudding.

This baby will take you straight from Halloween through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s brunch.

It’s that good.

Dark Chocolate Orange Soda Bread

From Epicurious

Ingredients

3 c unbleached all purpose flour

½ c plus 2 Tbs sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

6 Tbs (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened), cut into 1/3-inch pieces

6 ounces candied orange peel, diced

1 ¼ c buttermilk

1 large egg

Preparation

UntitledPosition rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; butter parchment. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in chocolate and orange peel. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend; add to dry ingredients. Stir just until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead gently just until dough comes together, about 5 turns. Form dough into 6 1/2-inch-diameter round, about 2 to 2 1/2IMG_2839 inches high. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Using sharp knife, cut 1-inch-deep, 3-inch-long slits in top of bread, forming sunburst pattern.

Bake bread until well browned and very firm when pressed and tester inserted into center comes out clean, turning baking sheet halfway through baking, about 1 hour 10 minutes total. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely, at least 3 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.)

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Feelin’ Like Fall Peanut Butter Cookies

It’s been a tough autumn here in Southern California. Temperatures have been close to IMG_2682100 degrees all across the Southland, with regional blackouts due to 24/7 AC and beach dwellers who are normally proud of their “we don’t need AC” status, flocking to packed movie theaters for relief. There have been a few classic SoCal fall days mixed in, though, with breezy temps in the low 70s and cool nights that might tumble into the low 60s – those are baking days.

This past weekend was cool and cloudy, perfect for making soup and peanut butter cookies. I like my peanut butter cookies crisp with a hint of chocolate, so I use equal amounts of white and brown sugar, and add cocoa nibs. It’s the perfect cookie: Easy to pull together and, with a couple of hours of Hulu to catch up on, the right amount of baking time.

Feelin’ Like Fall Peanut Butter Cookies

Yield 2-3 dozen

Ingredients

1 ¼ c flour

¾ tsp baking soda

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (beat cold butter between wax paper sheets with a rolling pin)

½ c light brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

¾ tsp vanilla extract

1 c chunky peanut butter (I use Skippy)

½ c cocoa nibs

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment (parchment makes a crisper cookie than Silpat).

Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

IMG_2680Beat butter and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium until fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Mix in vanilla, then peanut butter. Beat well. Scrape down the sides and then add flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Mix in cocoa nibs.

Remove bowl from mixer and give the dough a few turns with a wooden spoon or spatula to make sure the nibs are thoroughly mixed in.

Use a small ice cream scoop or rounded tablespoon to scoop up dough. Roll into balls and placeIMG_2684 on cookie sheets, spacing about 2.5 inches apart. Sprinkle generously with crystal sugar.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through baking time, 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

Enjoy! Great with tea or cold milk. (The crispy makes ‘em dunkable.)