Friday, July 13, 2012

Small-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the challenges with reducing baked goods, especially cookie recipes, is that there's only so far you can reduce them before you're dealing with the ridiculousness that is parts of an egg.  There are ways to address this, and I've used them all.  One-and-one-half Tablespoons of beaten egg will often work for half an egg.  Some recipes choose to use just the yolk.  There's always the use of egg substitute (Egg Beaters being the most recognizable brand name).  And I've got a few recipes that call for a quail's egg instead of a chicken egg, as they're much smaller.  All of these options have their drawbacks.  Using part of a beaten egg means either throwing away the rest or whipping up a partial-serving scrambled egg snack, because it won't last long safely in the fridge (2 days max).  Using just the yolk often makes the final dish taste too eggy and means quickly (within 2 days) finding a use for the white or, again, throwing it away.  Egg substitute is another thing to purchase and have on hand (must be used within 7 days of opening the carton), and to be honest I'm not entirely happy about the product.  They are 99% egg white, with beta carotene for colour and vitamins and minerals added back in, but the manufacturers choose not to disclose how that's done.  And as for quail's eggs, yes, they happen to be available in my town, but they certainly aren't available everywhere, they're more expensive, and the shells are more gelatinous, which not only makes them more difficult to crack but can change the consistency of the white. 

The thing is, we love cookie dough and we even occasionally like to bake chocolate chip cookies.  But if I make an entire batch, or even a half batch, of cookie dough, it'll be gone within 2 days.  We don't even notice we're dipping into it until we're looking at an empty bowl.  And more than 2 dozen cookies is far too many for the two of us.  So I wrote this recipe to solve the problem.
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C + 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chips
1.  In a medium bowl, cream together butter, vanilla sugar, and brown sugar until combined.  Stir in vanilla and mayonnaise until blended.
2.  Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, add to butter mixture and stir until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
3.  Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour.
4.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Drop dough onto baking sheet in rounded spoonfuls.  Bake for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are beginning to brown at the edges.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 8 medium sized cookies (3-inch diameter) or 1 dozen small cookies (2-inch diameter)

Robyn's notes: I'm calling for vanilla sugar instead of regular granulated in order to counteract the slight tang of the mayonnaise.  It is not strictly necessary, I have made the recipe several times with regular sugar.  I did test baked directly on the baking sheet, with parchment paper, and with aluminum foil.  The aluminum foil made for a flatter cookie that I found too crunchy for my taste.  If you like a really crunchy cookie that may be the way to go.  The other two options had no discernible difference, so I'm saving the parchment paper and saying to use just a regular baking sheet.  It was a bit difficult to get all the chocolate chips mixed in, as the dough is not very sticky, so I just forced the stragglers into each ball of dough when I loaded up the baking sheet.  Based on the relative humidity on a given day, the dough may be dry and crumbly (happens about 40% of the time to me), in which case I simply add a very small amount of milk (about 1 tsp is enough) before adding chocolate chips, and mix well.  I find that these cookies have a crispy exterior and soft inside.  There is no trace of mayonnaise flavour, either in the baked cookies or in the dough.  As hard as it is, the cookies are best after 8 hours of resting in a sealed ziploc bag.  I have also made these successfully at high altitude with no changes.   

This recipe has been demonstrated on my YouTube channel!

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Icebox Cookies

This is the base for multiple cookie recipes, read through all notes before beginning.
  • 1/4 C butter, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 7 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp cornstarch
  • pinch salt (see notes, below)
1.  Cream and stir butter and sugar together with a fork until light.  Add flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix until just combined.
2.  Add mix-ins to dough, stirring well to combine (see notes, below).  Shape dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Wrap in plastic or waxed paper and refrigerate at least 2 hours before slicing or baking them (or freeze for up to 8 weeks).
3.  Preheat oven to 325.  Line cookie sheet with parchment or silicone liner.
4.  Unwrap log and slice cookie dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick.  Place rounds on lined cookie sheet and bake until edges of cookies are just slightly browned, 20-25 minutes. 

Robyn's notes: this dough makes very crisp cookies, because of the cornstarch.  For the salt, it should be 1/16 tsp, I used my 1/8 tsp measuring spoon and filled it halfway.  The photo above shows the entire batch, so it's a good recipe for making just a few cookies for two people.  The dough is intended as a base for multiple mix-in options, and I didn't use any of them.  I added 1/2 tsp vanilla to the dough, then flattened it into a 1/4 inch-thick disc, wrapped it in plastic, and refrigerated it for 2 hours.  I then lay it out on the counter and cut out the four stars.  The remaining bits of dough I rolled into balls about an inch thick, and rolled them in sugar that I'd dyed with food colouring.  I placed the balls onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet and flattened them with the back of a metal spatula.  The stars were placed onto the cookie sheet and sprinkled with leftover coloured sugar.  I then baked them for the given time.  The cookies came out only ok, not enough flavour.  We ended up frosting them with leftover frosting from the cupcakes I'd also made, and that was good.  I will try the recipe again with other mix-ins and may increase the star rating depending on how it turns out.  To do the recipe properly, here are suggested mix-ins (use only one):  
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped lemon thyme  OR
1 tsp citrus zest + 1/4 tsp orange flower water OR 
1/2 tsp cinnamon + pinch each of ground cloves & nutmeg + 2 Tbsp toasted chopped walnuts or pecans OR
1/2 tsp vanilla + 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Simple Cupcakes to Share (Or Not!)

Since this recipe makes four cupcakes, there's enough to share with company if you're having a couple people over, or to keep all to yourselves and have the other two the next day.
  • 1/4 C buttermilk
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • yolk of 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Fit paper liners into 4 cups of standard muffin pan, set aside.
2.  Combine buttermilk and baking soda in small bowl, stirring to mix.  Gently whisk in egg yolk and vanilla.
3.  Place flour, sugar, and salt in medium mixing bowl, stirring to combine.  Add butter and half of buttermilk mixture.  Beat on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase to medium speed and beat until mixture is lightened and has slightly increased in volume, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.  Pour in remaining buttermilk mixture and beat on medium speed until well blended, 20 seconds.
4.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, dividing evenly.  Fill empty muffin cups halfway with water to protect pan.  Bake cupcakes 20-23 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and tops are just beginning to brown.
5.  Remove pan from oven and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove cupcakes from pan and transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  Frost as desired.

Robyn's notes: I found these to be a little bit eggy, and not as light as I would have liked, but still quite good.  For frosting, I used store-bought vanilla frosting in a canister because I was very tired.  I split the frosting into thirds, adding red gel food colouring to one bowl, blue gel food colouring to another, and leaving the last white.  I placed a large star tip into a piping bag (I actually had to use two bags, so ended up using a #20 tip and a #35 tip) and then spooned red frosting into one side of the bag, white into the center, and blue to the other side.  It was not easy, as can be seen by my results in the photo above.  The first cupcake I frosted was just getting white and nothing else, until finally the red and blue made their way to the tip.  The second cupcake (front left in photo) came out the best, but after finishing it and adding some colour to the first (back left in photo), I was out of frosting in that bag and had to fill another.  For that bag, the red came out great but the blue was hanging out at the top of the bag, not reaching the piping tip.  I think some practice would be good.  For this situation I'm happy with what I got, and doing it a few more times would help me figure out how best to load the piping bags.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blueberry Upside-Down Cakes

Mostly I wanted something to do with the blueberries that I had on hand, and something that could be made visually patriotic for the 4th of July.  I used two mini cake pans, and since they're very nonstick I didn't grease or flour them.  I did line the bottoms with parchment paper, however, as not doing so seemed like it would be pushing my luck a little bit.
  • 1/2 C fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 C + 1 tsp sugar, divided
  • 1/4 C buttermilk
  • yolk of 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 C flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place jumbo muffin pan (3/4 C capacity) or mini cake pan on a piece of parchment paper and, using a pencil, trace around the bottom of one of the cups.  Cut out 4 parchment paper rounds to this measurement.
2.  Grease and lightly flour 2 muffin cups or mini cake pans if needed.  Fit 2 of the parchment rounds into each of the prepared pans, making a double layer.
3.  Place the blueberries and 1 tsp of the sugar in a small bowl, stir to mix.  Spoon the berries into the prepared pans, dividing evenly.  Set pans aside.
4.  Place buttermilk, egg yolk, and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk to mix.
5.  Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium mixing bowl; add remaining 1/3 C sugar and whisk to combine.  Add butter and half of the buttermilk mixture.  Beat with electric mixer on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase speed to medium and beat until batter is lightened and has slightly increased in volume, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.  Pour in remaining buttermilk mixture and beat on medium until well blended, about 20 seconds.
6.  Spoon batter over blueberries in pans, dividing evenly, and smooth tops.  If using a muffin pan, fill empty cups halfway with water to protect the pan.  Bake cakes at 375°F for 20-24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.
7.  Remove from oven and place pans on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.  If using a muffin pan, carefully pour water out of extra cups.  Carefully invert pans on large plate to release cake (if necessary, carefully run a knife around the edge of the cake to help it detach).  Peel off and discard parchment paper.  Serve warm.

Vanilla Creme Fraiche
  • 1/4 C premium-quality vanilla bean ice cream, softened
  • 3 Tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
1.  Place soft ice cream and creme fraiche in a small bowl, whisk just to mix.  Serve immediately.

Robyn's notes: Cakes were served with Vanilla Creme Fraiche and Raspberry Curd.  This was only ok, mostly because I'm not supposed to eat blueberries, they make me fairly ill, so I just tasted a few bites.  He enjoyed it, but not worth raving over.  The vanilla creme fraiche was not worth making again.  The flavour of the ice cream was totally lost, so it was like eating completely liquified creme fraiche.  

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often