Wednesday, December 22, 2010

soft sugar cookies...

Two great cookie finds recently, this recipe for homemade Oreos, and a good recipe for sugar cookies. My 2-year-old is fascinated with cooking and asks for YouTube videos of cake decorating on my iPhone. She helped me make the dough for the sugar cookies (pressing mixer buttons, plunging her hands in the flour and trying to eat dough despite my warnings about raw eggs) and decorated them after we cut them out. At Target I found these cool jars of sprinkles shaped like cows, dolphins, hearts, stars, and dinosaurs. I intended to make some icing but ran out of time. Out of curiosity, I looked at the supposed "cream cheese" flavor of icing in Target, and the label mentioned that it "might contain dairy." Might? (This is to say nothing about the first two ingredients: high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil.) Gross. But the from-scratch cookies are delicious.

My favorite thing about the holidays so far is this three dollar advent calendar we got from IKEA, full of chocolate. Each morning Sofia asks if she can have her "date," which she then opens and eats immediately. And she'll never get ahead of herself-- she understands perfectly that taking a future chocolate away means one less chocolate she gets on the right day. One morning she sat in the living room and just looked at the advent calendar, waiting patiently for us to get up so we could show her which day it was. That took a lot of discipline.

Soft Sugar Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Sift dry ingredients. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Mix in flour mixture, scoop up in a ball and refrigerate for a few hours. Preheat oven and roll out dough on a well-floured board. Cut shapes. Sprinkle. Bake 6-10 minutes, depending on thickness. Thick cookies will be softer.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies

It's the end of the semester here, and today I did some cooking to celebrate. Made empanadas to take to a holiday party and these, ostensibly to take somewhere... but perhaps it would be better if I just keep these all at home. They may be the best brownies I've ever made. A student of mine recommended this recipe and said it was out of this world. Like many other awesome Ina Garten recipes, it definitely delivers. Individual chocolate chips hover inside and melt slightly during baking, and plentiful walnuts add a satisfying texture and crunch. Here's the slightly adjusted version, made to fit in an 8x8 pan.

1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
1 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker's)
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/8 cups sugar
slightly more than 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Melt butter, half the chocolate chips, and baking chocolate together over low heat. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, but not using a mixer, stir together eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar until combined. Combine egg mixture with butter/chocolate mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350. In another bowl, sift most of the flour (save a few tablespoons), baking powder, and salt. Combine with chocolate mixture.

In another small bowl, mix the remaining flour with walnuts and chocolate chips. This keeps the nuts and chips from sinking to the bottom. Stir this into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into 8x8 pan that you've coated with butter and dusted with flour. Bake 50 minutes to an hour total. 20 minutes into it, bang the pan against the oven shelf to let out air bubbles. After 50 minutes, test to see if a toothpick comes out clean. When the toothpick is no longer wet but with moist crumbs, it's ready. Be careful not to overbake.

This supposedly tastes better the next day. I think it tastes pretty amazing right now.