Home In Disarray

September 22, 2009

The best chocolate chip cookies in existence

The best chocolate chip cookies in existence
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When I was working at Windermere and basically sat around and surfed the internet for my whole shift, I did a lot of reading. Most of the reading was food related, there were a number of blogs that I followed religiously and I’d occasionally end up on a “reading tangent” where I’d get caught up in reading about something and end up so far from where I started that I couldn’t tell you what started the train of thought if you paid me. Chocolate chip cookies were the destination of one of these tangents. To tell you that I’ve been thinking about and testing around for the “perfect” recipe is an understatement. I’ve tried a number of various recipes, methods, etc, and none of them have been as good as the type you get in bakeries, and that has been eating away at me. There’s no reason that I shouldn’t be able to create a bakery-esque cookie in my own home. I happened upon a NY Times article about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. They talked about how Wolfgang Puck has quarter sized chocolate discs made custom for him so that they create a strata in the cookie and it gives it an almost biscuit-like texture, but with chocolate instead of butter, how some bakeries use specialty flours, and all sorts of other crazy stuff like that.

The one thing that I took from the article that I believe that I’d actually make use of in my own kitchen was this -AGE THE DOUGH. I know this sounds strange. The science makes sense though. The eggs are the main source of liquid in cookie doughs, and that liquid is in a protein matrix in the albumen. It takes a while for the flour in the dough to pull the liquid out of the eggs, so a resting phase becomes necessary. In addition to this tidbit, I believe that there’s a small amount of fermentation that takes place while the dough sits in the fridge for 36 hours. This converts starches into sugars and adds a great deal of complexity to the flavor of the finished product. This is also why artisan breads are so heavenly to eat, the byproducts of the metabolism of flour are DELICIOUS! Anywhoodle, that’s the secret. I’m sure most other chocolate chip cookie recipes would benefit from 36 hours in the fridge prior to baking. Now, what sets the recipe apart from other recipes is: Melted butter; no creaming = no extra flattening when the butter melts in the oven, high brown sugar to granulated white sugar ratio; this gives the cookies stronger toffee tones and better caramelization on the edges (crispy bits), egg yolk to white ratio is high as well, 1 yolk for every whole egg makes a richer dough, low-slow baking process seems to cook the centers slowly and caramelize the edges.

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Now for the recipe, I stole it off of another blog, and of course I’ll give credit, it’s a blog that I’ve recently begun following, and I like it very much. Our Best Bites. Here’s the recipe:

2 C plus 2 T flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
12 T butter (1 1/2 sticks) melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 C semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower- middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.

This is where you put it in a separate bowl and chill the dough fro 36 hours.

After this, my method changed a bit. The dough is going to hard as a fucking rock when you pull it out of the fridge. This is partially because of the melted butter method, and partially because of the flour having absorbed most of the liquid, seizing the dough up. I think I’ll roll it out into logs and cut chunks off next time, it’s a lot easier than chipping away at the bowl with a spoon. Anyway, make big balls and fit however many of them you think you can onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. I <3 my silpats and wouldn't ever bake without them. Pop them into the oven at 325º for 15-18 minutes, or at least that's what they take in my oven over the pizza stone. Your mileage may vary. Oh, and be ready to almost die when you eat these. And a double batch is WAY MORE than any one household should have. I did a double batch last weekend and gave a plate to my stepmother, my future mother in law, and filled two large yogurt containers with them for a friend.

Posted in: Baking
September 18, 2009

BLTA Sammiches

BLTA Sammiches
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I’m sure I’ve probably blogged about these. I LOVE the combo. And it takes all of 8 minutes to put together. Plus… well.. bacon. When Craig said that Kelly was coming over for dinner this week and I better come up with an actual meal instead of making him come up with a quesadilla-esque creation with leftover chicken and lemon white wine caper sauce, I figured I better come up with something quick, easy, and delicious.

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Anyway, any excuse to eat bacon that I can come up with, I’ll do. Essential for such a simple sammich is great bacon, great tomatoes, and tasty bread.

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Of course avocado and lettuce are important too, but they don’t make or break the sammich so long as they’re ripe and not rotten.

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I love mixing red and orange heirloom tomatoes. I know it’s totally a trend to buy and eat heirloom tomatoes, but the flavor really is there, it’s a valid trend. I support it, but I feel like and a-hole every time I buy them. Next year I’m starting my heirlooms under garden tunnels very early so I’ll have heirlooms tomatoes that are ripe prior to late September.

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Posted in: Cooking
September 16, 2009

Delicious “light” jalapeño artichoke dip and homemade crackers

Delicious “light” jalapeño artichoke dip and homemade crackers
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I made a bit of a feast for Craig’s work party on Saturday, BBQ pulled pork sammiches, baked beans, cornbread, cole slaw, and the most amazing chocolate chip cookies in existence. Anyway, I was sifting through cornbread recipes in my various cookbooks, and came across a recipe for crackers in Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here For More Food. It got me to thinking, as I’ve never once even thought about making my own crackers. And that’s saying something, I make my own beer, sausage, and pasta, as well as grow my own herbs and veggies.

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Then on Sunday, we were lounging around and we didn’t have anything good to snack on, and I kept thinking about how great it would be to have some crackers and dip. Then on Monday, I got stuck doing some menial laborious chore that required absolutely no conscious brain processes, so I got to thinking about exactly what dips I’d make and how to make them healthier but still be tasty. So I got home, made crackers, and an artichoke jalapeño dip. It was very easy, chop up artichoke hearts, chop up jalapeños, mix in some low fat and fat free cream cheese, a little grated parmesan, and a tiny bit of mayo. Oh, and the crackers are pretty good too.

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Posted in: Cooking
September 7, 2009

The gravel/rock area is nearly complete!

The gravel/rock area is nearly complete!
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At least all of the rock hauling is done. We’re waiting for some clearer weather to stain the deck before placing pavers up against it and scooting the gravel all the way to the edge. I have a few before/after pictures, but I must admit that it doesn’t look very impressive. The initial goals were to; a) get rid of the awkward spot between the two decks that was full of weeds, old cement blocks, and crappy looking bark mulch, b) do SOMETHING with the grass on the north side of the large deck that was full of moss and far from thriving, and c)put in some hardscaping as well as keep bark off the deck and therefore out of the house. The before/after comparison photos were taken about 14 months apart, so weather conditions were significantly different, and the grass was actually alive in the before photos. The lawn should green up and look quite a bit nicer in a couple months.

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Wrapping around the large, main deck is a flower bed. This will allow me to put in the shade garden that I’ve been dying for, and give the strawberries more room to stretch their legs. It also reduces the amount of lawn that I have left. Less area to mow, fertilize, and water as much.

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I carried the gravel theme up the side of the deck as well, Boris brings in a lot of bark from this side of the deck and I’m sick of vacuuming it out of the carpet. BTW, I built a freaking step! Pretty rad!

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This gives me a nice place to put a couple potted plants and eventually a small raised bed (edged with rocks of course!) for salad greens and some pretty edible annuals like pansies.

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I edged the whole rock area with some limestone pavers sunk down to the height of the lawn so that the lawnmower wheels can run over the top of them and there’s no weed whacking to get around the edges of the beds. I learned my lesson with the previous incantation of this bed. As you can see, the bed isn’t full yet. After spending $800 on rocks this weekend, I’m going to try my hand at lasagna gardening (putting down layers of various compostable material and letting it break down over the winter). The first layer is the upside-down strip of grass that I dug out to lay the limestone pavers.

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I also put in another mini-bed on the other corner of the deck to soften the corner of it. I’ll plant something like Rosemary and then some nice smelling annuals or herbs or something colorful. The gravel area to the right of it (where the wheelbarrows are) will eventually have lavender planted there.The “wall” on that deck will hopefully get ripped down this year. I’ll replace it with some railing and trellis to match the other deck and grow a fragrant vine like honeysuckle up it. When we open the door to the bedroom we’ll smell it blooming. YUMMY!

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The final element is the fire pit. I dug it out and lined it with flatish stones. It should let me use my camping dutch oven to cook stuff like delicious pork butt among other things, plus it’ll be a nice feature for a family when we eventually sell the house. Kids love s’mores. Hell, I love s’mores! Who am I kidding? Now where did my marshmallow sticks go?

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Posted in: Landscaping