Browsing articles in "Cookies"
Nov 27, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, American readers, how was your Thanksgiving? Mine was a blitz of cooking and baking and generous amounts of DayQuil, which, as it turns out, can leave you feeling every bit as festive as Champagne. In the days that have followed, I have been trying not to be too much of a burden on our houseguests as I nurse what is surely the Virus of the Century, alternating sleeping with steam-filled showers and bowls of mish-mashed leftovers bound with gravy.

Luckily, I also have a stash of Kim Boyce’s Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie dough all scooped out in a bucket in the fridge. This allows me to wade into the kitchen between naps, bang several onto a sheet pan and bake fresh cookies every afternoon, in a lame effort to appear as though I am a good hostess. A deaf, mute, hacking, bleary-eyed hostess, but nevertheless one who can provide cookies.

If you’re one of the many who’ve picked up a copy of Good to the Grain, then maybe you were as charmed as I was to find that the very first recipe in the book is for Chocolate Chip Cookies. Even when presented with a topic as daunting and stereotype-laden as whole-grain baking, who isn’t instantly disarmed and delighted by chocolate chip cookies? Communists, that’s who.

And before you go thinking that I’m throwing health food at you during the holiday baking season, don’t you worry. These cookies pack tons of chocolate and have all the butter and sugars of the classic, but the all-purpose flour has been 100% swapped out for nutty, nubbly whole wheat flour. So basically what you get here is an amped-up chocolate chip cookie–more addicitive, toasty flavor and a wonderful, hearty, chewy texture, complete with those crack-like buttery, sweet, crispy edges. The use of whole wheat flour is the ultimate flavor booster here, not some propaganda that will be your gateway drug for wearing hemp and arranging sit-ins. I promise.

And really, as long as we’re on the subject of things that are all good for you, would it kill ya to sneak in a few extra nutrients during this glorious season of holiday eating? Especially when the vehicle for said nutrients is something so dang perfect and completely delicious? I may not be completely in my right mind right now, high on Sudafed, surrounded by tissues, Ricola wrappers and cookie crumbs, but believe me, I know what I’m talking about here.

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Good to the Grain

I used a stone-ground whole wheat flour here and absolutely loved the texture, but you can use any kind of whole wheat flour that you like, including the white whole wheat flour that is available in most supermarkets.

Resist the temptation to use semi-sweet chips–the combination of the whole wheat flour and bittersweet chocolate is dynamite. If you use table salt instead of kosher, use roughly half the amount of salt.

The original recipe says that you can bake the cookies right away, but I found that I much preferred the texture and flavor when the dough was chilled before baking, so I’m including it here. I made my cookies a bit smaller, using a 2 tablespoon scoop, and obviously got a higher yield than the original recipe yield of 20 cookies, but the baking time was the same.

Makes 2-3 dozen

3 cups whole wheat flour (see note)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (see note)
2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 62% cacao), chips or chopped

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), beat together the butter and sugars, just to blend. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer still on low, gradually beat in the flour mixture to the bowl, just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips on low speed.

Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Chill for about 1 hour (at this point, you can store the chilled dough balls in an airtight container and they will keep for 1 week).

Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly browned. Let cool for several minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oct 25, 2010

TKOs (Thomas Keller Oreos)

So I have a few stories to share with you, namely my fabulous “How did I get here?” experience judging the Sears Chef Challenge in Chicago last week, but I need to hang onto those for a couple more days. Because I just realized that I haven’t told you about Thomas Keller Oreos, and that’s a cruel disservice to you, my darling readers. These innocent-looking sandwich cookies are so incredible, I can’t hide this light under a bushel. Not even for a story that involves my beloved hometown, buying fantastically impractical high-heeled shoes, and eating lots of great food and judging it. These are stop the presses cookies, I’m telling you.

Evidence has shown that I am not one of those food bloggers who is so on the cutting edge of trendy recipes that I become one of the first to post on them. I tend to need a few (many) nudges before I try a much-hyped recipe and then write about it myself. For this recipe, the nudge came in the form of my week-long foray into pastry school paradise, on the day we covered cookies. One of my fellow students chose the Thomas Keller Oreos as her project (aka TKOs, KWIM?), and during the presentation and tasting part of class, I was so smack-the-counter blown away by these cream-filled gems that they were the first thing I baked at home after class the following week.

Sometimes homemade versions of iconic foodstuffs can fall flat, but Thomas Keller’s version of the Oreo cookie take the original to a “don’t talk to me, I’m having a moment” sort of level, which you’d obviously expect from one of America’s most celebrated chefs. The cookie itself is the deepest, darkest cocoa sable you can imagine, with a healthy hit of salt and a toothy crunch. The luxurious, silky white-chocolate ganache cream in between laughs in the face of waxy, shortening-based commercial fillings.
And while we’re on the subject, I made half the batch with a ganache made with semi-sweet chocolate and there was nothing wrong with that pairing, nothing wrong at all. I think you can understand why I’m refraining from bragging about an experience that allowed me to spend two nights alone in a luxury hotel room. These cookies are Really That Good, people.

TKOs (Thomas Keller Oreos)

This is one of those times where I need to get all Ina on you and implore you to use “good cocoa powder”, or maybe not bother. The glory of these cookies is the intensely dark cocoa flavor—lesser supermarket brands will not do this recipe justice.

I used a 2-inch cutter for my cookies, which I thought was a nice size, and got several more than than the stated yield. the dough scraps can be gathered and rerolled until all the dough is used, chilling it as necessary to keep it firm and easy to work with. If you’re a “double stuf” sort of person, make a batch and a half of the filling.

Makes about 24 sandwich cookies, depending on size

1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened premium cocoa powder (I like Valrhona)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3/4″ cubes, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped (I used mostly chips instead of bar chocolate, it worked fine)

For the filling: In a small pan or microwave-safe bowl, bring the cream to a boil on the stove or in the microwave. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then whisk to melt the chocolate until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and let stand for 6 hours to thicken up (you can also chill it in the refrigerator, stirring often, to speed things up significantly).

For the cookies: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed. With the mixer running, add the butter, a piece at a time. The mixture will be dry and sandy at first, but over 2 minutes, will form pebble-sie pieces that start to cling together–be patient, it will eventually come together. Transfer the dough to a work surface.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half between two large pieces of parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick. Stack the rolled sheets of dough onto a baking sheet (to keep them flat) and chill until firm, at least 15 minutes.

When you’re ready to bake, position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Working with one sheet of chilled dough at a time, use a round 2 to 2 1/2-inch cutter to cut the dough into rounds (scraps can be gathered and rolled out again). Place the rounds about 1/2 an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Remove and cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

To assemble the cookies: Lightly whip the white chocolate cream to smooth it and fluff it up. Transfer filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4″ plain tip. Pipe about 1 1/2 tsp in the center of half the cookies. Top with another cookie to sandwich. Gently press down until the cream comes to the edges. Refrigerate to for a few minutes to firm up the filling.

Cookies can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days (I recommend refrigerating to keep the filling from getting too soft).

Jul 29, 2010

Peanut Butter Caramel Thumbprints

There’s a few things we should discuss today, friends. Firstly, I am typing like a complete moron due to an epic gash in my index finger, evidence that I attempted to have a high-pitched conversation with an excitable, babbling tiny person whilst using my box grater, and failed miserably. Secondly, I then tried to pass off my bandaged finger as a culinary war wound of sorts while shooting a segment in the kitchen of a Very Important Restaurant surrounded by expert chefs, and, uh, yeah–it came out sounding about as dumb as you’d think it would. If there was a locker around, I would’ve totally stuffed myself into it.

But on the plus side, I have something thoroughly successful and utterly delightful to discuss with you as well. And that, my darlings, would be those delicious Peanut Butter Caramel Thumbprints you see up there.

I am a sucker for peanut butter cookies. I just find them so, I don’t know, so comforting, don’t you? (This, of course, excludes those of you who blow up with some kind of life-threatening allergy at the mere sight of the word “peanut”, in which case please click-click away, because I love you and can’t handle the stress). My favorite sort of peanut butter cookie is the crisp, sandy variety, with a perfectly homey little crosshatch pattern brought to you courtesy of a dinner fork. That just feels right to me. But I will throw any of my cookie ideals out the window if you take one, put a dent in it and fill said dent with oozy, gooey salted caramel. I’m so agreeable that way.

When I first saw this recipe in The Art and Soul of Baking (a textbook for home bakers, if there ever was one, truly) and saw a filled cookie, I bookmarked it for a weekend, when I figured I’d have maximum Kitchen Puttering Time (read: Little C kicks it playground-style for a couple hours with Daddy). As we learned previously, I am iffy on the kitchen task/parenting duality lately, so I thought it best to avoid working with boiling sugar when a small tender skull could come careening into my legs at any moment.

But! Turns out my thoughts about this being a Project Cookie were completely unfounded. This is the sort of recipe where you can orchestrate the creation of the components and the recipe steps however it makes the most sense for you. The caramel comes together in a flash, as does the cookie dough, and either one or both can be made ahead and refrigerated until you want to fill the cookies. Which I recommend doing one at a time on an as-needed basis, lest you want to scarf half a dozen during two DVR’d episodes of Barefoot Contessa. Just saying.

Peanut Butter Caramel Thumbprints
Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking

The original recipe shows a yield of 50 cookies, but even using level portions with a tablespoon-sized scoop as suggested, I got an even 3 dozen. Regardless of if you get 3 or 4 dozen cookies out of the dough, you’ll have plenty of leftover caramel after filling the cookies (making it in a smaller amount really won’t work as well). The leftover peanut caramel is so divine over ice cream, it’s worth making all on its own.

As an option, you can melt about 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and drizzle it over the the finished cookies.

Makes about 36

For the dough:

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup creamy salted peanut butter (the commercial kind, not natural)

For the peanut caramel filling:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup finely chopped roasted and salted peanuts

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until smooth and blended. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the peanut butter and beat well until blended. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. On low speed, blend in the dry ingredients.

Place level tablespoons of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet (you should be able to fit about 20 on a half-sheet pan; they don’t spread much). Using your thumb or a similarly-sized kitchen tool (I opted for a nice, rounded metal teaspoon) make a depression in the center of each cookie about 1 inch in diameter. Bake cookies 13 – 16 minutes, or until they are firm and golden brown at the edges but still soft in the center. When the cookies come out of the oven, reinforce the indentations with whatever tool you used before (wrapping a kitchen towel around you thumb to prevent burning, of course). Cool the cookies completely on a wire rack.

To make the peanut caramel, microwave the cream in a small microwave-safe bowl just until hot. Set aside. Place water in a medium saucepan and add the sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to medium high and cook, swirling the pan but not stirring, just until the mixture turns a golden brown (if in doubt, err on the side of less color rather than more–caramel can go from amber to burnt in seconds). Immediately lower the heat to medium low and whisk in the cream. It will bubble up vigorously. Let the caramel bubble, stirring occassionally, for about 1 minute before pulling the pan from the heat. Pour the caramel into a heatproof bowl and let it cool until it’s just warm, but still pourable. Stir in the chopped peanuts.

Spoon the caramel into the depressions of each cookie. Allow the filling to set for at least 1 hour before drizzling with the optional chocolate and serving. Store in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

Jul 6, 2010

Toasted Pecan-Cinnamon Wafers

I love my life. Really, truly I do. The husband, Little C, our home here in San Francisco, the craziness, all of it. But it’s taken a lot of work and overly dramatic, awkward young woman years to get to this place, believe you me. You couldn’t pay me to go back to being in my early 20s. Well, maybe I’d go back to what I like to call my Georgia Period. Just for a day. That was pretty sweet. And by “sweet” I mean mostly drunk and full of questionable choices and eating lots of incredible southern food with my best friend from high school who went to college there and gave me plenty of excuses to visit often and wreak delightful havoc on the city of Atlanta.

It was so much ridiculous fun that I swore that I would move there one day, become a Yankee-turned-Southern Belle and throw elaborate, overtly feminine luncheons during which I would serve sweet tea and tiny sandwiches and the sort of delicate, heirloom recipe wafer-like cookies that provoke un-ladylike gossip. However, that was not to be (and, really, thankfully so). But that doesn’t mean I didn’t transport back to those old daydreams when I was stuffing my face with these completely perfect Toasted Pecan-Cinnamon Wafers with a tall glass of sweetened iced tea a few weeks ago.

To be honest, I didn’t have extremely high hopes for these cookies. It was the sort of day where I just felt like baking whatever, and began leafing through cookbooks I hadn’t used in a while for inspiration. I happened to land upon a recipe for an unassuming icebox butter cookie I hadn’t tried before. Simple enough, I thought. I could slice and bake half the dough, freeze the rest. I had a hankering for something involving cinnamon and a sack of pecans in the pantry. Done and done. Well.

The combination of toasty pecans and vibrant Vietnamese cinnamon is totally magical here, people. Have you tried Vietnamese cinnamon yet? Because you really should. It’s all I use for baking now. It’s like cinnamon on steroids. Spicy and sweet, it tastes exactly like Red Hots candy, and nothing like the sort of dust-flavored ground cinnamon you get at the supermarket. It really helps to make this cookie something special and seriously addictive, something I just didn’t see coming from a humble butter cookie recipe.

Don’t you just love it when you have no expectations for something and than that thing rocks you so hard you feel like you got clocked in the face, making you curse out loud before you ask for another? Yeah, that’s this cookie. Every time I reached for one and took a bite, it surprised me all over again. And what’s better, the flavors seemed to really bloom over a couple of days. I’m telling you, this cookie will charm the pants off you. Just like a good old Southern boy. Oh, I said it.

Toasted Pecan-Cinnamon Wafers
Adapted from Tartine

Makes about 3-4 dozen

Toast the pecans while the oven is preheating for about 10 minutes or so or until fragrant. If you’ve never tried Vietnamese cinnamon, now is the time. It is intense, spicy and sweet and tastes exactly like Red Hots candy and I covet it. Use a bit more regular ground cinnamon if that’s all you’ve got. The original recipe called for walnuts, and suggested pine nuts or almonds, too. I’m in love with pecans here, but those sound delicious, too.

For the cookies:

1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

For the coating:

2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream (milk is fine too)
2/3 cup sugar

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed just until combined and creamy–do not whip. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and salt until the egg is uniformly beaten and liquified, and add it to the butter and sugar, beating to blend. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth dough forms. Stir in the pecans.

Turn the dough out onto a plastic wrap or parchment-lined work surface and shape the dough into a rectangular slab, about 1x4x8 inches. Wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours (you can also store it in the freezer for future use).

When you’re ready to bake, position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Unwrap the dough slab and slice it in half lengthwise into two 2-inch wide logs. Beat together the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl, and spread the sugar out in an even layer on a work surface. Brush each log lightly with egg wash and dredge generously in the sugar. Slice each log crosswise into about 1/8-inch thick slices (no more than 1/4-inch thick, otherwise they will not really crisp up). Place the slices on the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and just golden on the edges, about 15-17 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store an airtight container for up to 1 week at room temperature.

May 4, 2010

Monster Cookies

So guys. If you’re ever in the market for what to gift someone who does something epic for you–say, take your child off your hands for two nights so that you and your husband can go up to Napa for the weekend, do some socially acceptable binge drinking under the guise of “wine tasting”, and not have to pack a dozen ever-loving sippy cups (it was lovely, by the way, thank you)–then I have a suggestion for you.

Give Monster Cookies. These Monster Cookies, specifically. Actually, maybe have a nice bottle of wine on hand as a backup. Because unless you can bake these Monster Cookies and give them away in record time, they likely will make it into your face before you can gift them. With a mise en place like this, you’ll probably guess you’re totally in for it.

Oats. Chocolate chips. Peanut butter (the good, junky supermarket kind). And…wait for it…REESE’S PIECES. Because I am a peanut butter freak and swapped out the M&Ms for more peanut butter in a crunchy candy shell. Can’t say I was wrong with that call, people. Not for a second.

As with all recipes with which I become completely obsessed, there’s a twist here. These aren’t your typical mix-up-the-dough-plop-it-and-go (hey, rhyme!) kind of cookie. The magic happens with an excrutiating five hour rest of the dough in the refrigerator, during which the dough firms up and the oats become tender and plump with peanut buttery bliss. There’s no other way to get there than with lots of patience and having someone you trust chain you to something heavy.

The other thing I found totally fascinating and am now finding a way to work it into a bunch of the recipes in my regular rotation is the tiniest dab of corn syrup in the dough. With just 1/4 teaspoon in the mix you may be tempted to skip it, but the headnote warns you not to, and because I will do pretty much whatever those Baked boys tell me to, I listened. And though they don’t say why it’s so vital, I’ll venture a guess and say that the tiny bit of corn syrup here supports the irresistibly chewy quality of this cookie (like, days after they are baked) and really helps with the browning of this cookie which is largely composed of peanut butter and oatmeal, two ingredients that don’t brown all that well unless you burn ’em, which would be undelicious. But these bake up so beautifully golden, you might just shed a tear.

You may try to give all these cookies away to a deserving party. You may try to have just one with a short glass of milk. But you will be depriving yourself the beauty of such a go-big-or-go-home cookie. My advice, because I care about you: save at least a half dozen for yourself, eat them two-by-two and go for the biggest milk glass you’ve got. You’re welcome.

Monster Cookies
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Now. The original recipe uses these amounts for a 3 dozen cookie yield, and that’s got to be a typo. I got 3 dozen when I halved the recipe (lightly beat one egg and measure out half for half an egg) and I even used the 2-tablespoon size scoop suggested in the recipe, so who knows? I’m calling it a cool 6 dozen with these amounts below.

Also, most monster cookie recipes use M&Ms, but like I said, I used Reese’s Pieces and am never going back. The result was fantastic.

Makes 6 dozen cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups creamy peanut butter (I like Skippy or Jif for baking)
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) Reese’s Pieces

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and oats until well-blended.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and pale in color, at least 2 minutes. Beat in the sugars on low speed until just incorporated.

Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat just until combined. Add the peanut butter and beat on low just until smooth. Add the dry ingredients on low speed in three additions until the dough is well-blended. Fold in the chocolate chips and Reese’s Pieces by hand. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Scoop the dough into 2-tablespoon size balls using a small ice cream scoop, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies just begin to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. Cool on the pans for 8 to 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Apr 25, 2010

Classic Whoopie Pies

The time has come. Completely ridiculous words have begun to take over our household. And I’m not just talking about Little C’s streaming toddler babble (“Hi! Hello? Apple? Mamadadababy! Toes! No?”). I’m talking about the random words that her parents haphazardly stick into sentences in place of more, shall we say, inflammatory terms, in the hopes of avoiding crass truck driver-parroting by said toddler. Like the day I informed my husband that I’d “scrubbed the–pajamas outta the shower”. A new low of parental dorkery, friends.

The day is fast approaching when I won’t be able to say that I really hate something because it’s basically stupid, and instead I’ll say that I “don’t like it very much” and it’s “silly”. If I ever get to using the word “whoopee” in The Newlywed Game sense, someone please send me out to pasture. Unless, of course, we’re talking about these totally kick-ass Whoopie Pies, in which case no language will be barred, I don’t care what sweet, impressionable, jeans-clinging tiny person is in my midst.

After meeting the greatness that is Rose Levy Beranbaum a couple weeks ago and getting a shiny new copy of her Heavenly Cakes book (just announced as IACP’s Cookbook of the Year, hooray!) signed and in my hot little hands, I started flipping and bookmarking that very night. And the recipes are, of course, at an insane level of creative genius. Most of them are, in a word, complex. So until Little C starts preschool, I’m probably going to stick to a few of the simpler recipes in this book, like these Whoopie Pies–rich, dense, deeply chocolatey cakey cookies sandwiching the most silky, perfect vanilla buttercream I’ve ever had. To die for, basically.

But because we’re friends, I’ll tell you that as far as Whoopie Pies go, the process to make them isn’t the simplest of all the recipes out there. This is RLB we’re talking about, after all. However, I will also say that they are totally, completely worth it, thank God. The cake part of the recipe actually comes together fairly quickly, and the double hit of dark chocolate makes for the kind of fudgy batter that you’ll want to spoon right from the bowl.

And the buttercream filling? Oh mah gah. This filling is one of Rose’s signature “mousseline” buttercreams, and it does not disappoint. And in her new book, she’s made the process a bit simpler for those of us who don’t have eight hands. Hooray!

The combination is nothing short of heavenly. With a tall, cold glass of milk, you’re really going to need to watch your language.

Whoopie Pies
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

The original recipe stated that it would create 6 filled pies, but I easily got 8 out of my batches of batter and filling. The recipe also called for bringing the sugar syrup all the way to firm ball stage (248-250 degrees) before removing it from the heat, and the first time I followed this instruction, the syrup had cooled and mostly soldered itself to the measuring cup before I could get it into the meringue. I found that bringing it to a warm soft ball stage instead (238) worked much better and the end result was still great.

There are a lot of steps here, which I’ve condensed quite a bit from the original recipe. Read it carefully before you begin and try to choreograph the process in your head in the way that will work best for you before you begin.

If you don’t own smaller ice cream scoops, this recipe would be the perfect excuse to go buy a 2 tablespoon scoop–it makes portioning out the batter and filling evenly a breeze.

Makes 8 whoopie pies

For the cakes:

1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (60-62% cacao–I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chips and it was fine)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, then measure)
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

For the filling:

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoons cream of tartar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners’ sugar

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Line two unrimmed baking sheets (or invert two rimmed half-sheet pans) with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds. Let cool until the chocolate is no longer warm to the touch, but still fluid.

While the chocolate is cooling, place the brown sugar, egg, oil and butter in the bowl of an eletrci mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes–the mixture will become smooth and paler in color. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the melted chocolate.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three additions on low speed, alternating with the buttermilk, beating just until each addition begins to disappear into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With a 1-ounce (2 tablespoons) ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto the sheets, 8 evenly spaced mounds per sheet.

Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through baking, until the centers spring back when lightly touched, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the sheet on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before transferring the cakes to the rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to fill.

To make the filling, begin by making the sugar syrup. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and move on to making the meringue (if you’re using an electric range, remove the pan from the heat completely).

In a mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the egg white on high speed until foamy with tiny, relatively uniform bubbles. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted.

Return to the sugar syrup and increase the heat to high. Boil until the syrup reaches 238-240 degrees. To make pouring easier, transfer the syrup to a heatproof measuring cup if you wish.

Beat the syrup into the meringue in a thin, steady stream, aiming away from the beaters so that the syrup doesn’t just spin onto the sides of the bowl. Beat until the outside of the bowl no longer feels hot, about 3 minutes. Beat in 1 tablespoon of the butter and the vanilla extract or paste. Refrigerate for 10 minutes while you make the finishing cream for the filling.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and confectioners’ sugar. Beat on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture is very light in texture and color, almost white. Lower the speed to medium and beat in all the meringue until the buttercream is smooth, about 10 seconds or so.

To assemble, sandwich generous 2-tablespoon mounds of the filling between the cakes, and press down lightly so that the cream reaches the edges of the pies. Serve at room temperature and store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container, allowing them to come to room temperature again before serving.

Apr 12, 2010

Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle

Attention: This Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle is straight up crack. It will call you from the counter top all day long, and when you go out, you’ll think about it on your way home, and feel the need to cram a hunk in your face before you even remove your coat. This is that sort of thing. You have been warned.

If you’ve been following along at home, you might remember a Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle recipe I shared a while back. That was also extremely crack-like and dangerous to have all up in my area. This recipe is basically the same thing, except without the chocolate chips, which some of you may balk at. But trust me when I say that even chocolate chips become a moot point when replaced with a ton of crunchy, salty peanuts that populate the most crisp, buttery cookie dough you’ve ever had. The whole thing tastes like sweet, salty, caramely peanut brittle in cookie form. And if you can think of anything that sounds instantly more addictive than that, well, please report to me, because I want some of what you’ve got.

Thought the amounts of the ingredients are the same, the other thing that’s a little different from my other cookie brittle recipe is that the butter and sugar are creamed together in this recipe, rather then just melting the butter and stirring everything together. This makes the brittle even crisper and airier than the chocolate chip one, and I’m thinking of editing that one accordingly because it’s such a fabulous texture. But it’s all still so easy, I dare you to not make this stuff three times in the first week that you try it. There’s no faster way to the most delicious cookie-type thing you’ve ever had. Actually, I almost wish it wasn’t quite so easy to throw together–it would be far less dangerous that way.

This recipe comes from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies (and how, Ms. Maida), with just a few changes, namely the addition of a good dose of salt. Now, I need to tell you that Maida is one of my heroes. Love her, love her books, love everything about her. Also, you will be seeing quite a few Maida recipes in the coming months around here, because I could not stop myself from bookmarking when I settled in with this classic cookbook that is a year older than me. I am officially now in my Maida period. I just thought you should know.

I also think you should know that I would love to share some of my Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle with you (along with the chocolate chip version and hunks of this stupid delicious cake), at the San Francisco location of the National Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale! The bake sale will be taking place Saturday April 17th from 12-3 p.m. at my happy place, Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez in San Francisco. If you live in the area, I hope you will stop by, say hi and buy a few goodies to help support a great cause!

That is, if you can manage to leave the house after making a batch of this cookie brittle.

Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle
Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen pieces

You can either cut the cookies neatly into bars while they are still warm, or if you’re feeling rebellious, you can just wait for the cookie slab to cool completely and then just break it into charmingly irregular pieces. If you don’t have a smaller rimmed sheet pan exactly the size of the 15 1/2 by 10 1/2-inch one called for here (I don’t), then fold aluminum foil into wide, sturdy strips and use them as a damn of sorts to approximate an area of that size on the sheet, give or take a couple inches. Don’t worry about perfection here with smoothing and spreading the dough just so–the more sort of rustic the brittle looks, the better. This stuff tastes best the day after baking and beyond.

1/ 2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the cup and leveled
4 ounces (1 cup) roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat in the salt and vanilla, about 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and gradually stir in the flour, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Stir in half the peanuts.

Turn the dough out onto a rimmed sheet pan, about 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough in a thin layer (don’t worry about making it perfectly even). Sprinkle the rest of the peanuts evenly over the dough. Cover the dough with a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and using a rolling pin or a tall, smooth glass, roll over the paper to smooth the dough and press the peanuts firmly into the dough.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the sheet halfway through baking time. Cool in the pan for five minutes before cutting the warm slab into bars, or wait for it too cool completely and break into pieces like brittle candy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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