Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

The ultimate. For something as essential as chocolate chip cookies, this is a bold claim. But really, what more could you ask for in a cookie? This one starts with a fist-sized ball of chocolate and walnut packed dough. After a few minutes in the oven, it comes out as the mother of all cookies — huge, with crispy edges and a gooey middle. I use two kinds of chocolate and toasted walnuts for an amazing mix of flavors and textures.

This is not on the wedding diet.

{Ultimate Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies}
Yield: 15 cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons corn starch
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2-3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 cup extra dark chocolate chips, finely chopped or grated
1-1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

1. Preheat oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the cubed butter and sugar until well blended.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. Add in vanilla extract.

4. Add salt, corn starch, baking powder and baking soda to sugar mixture. Stir in flour until just combined.

5. Add in chocolate chips and walnuts. The dough will be very thick.

6. Using your hands, divide into large balls. This recipe makes 12-18 cookies, depending upon how big you want them. Place on an un-greased cookie sheet, leaving plenty of space for the cookies to spread out.

7. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies turn golden brown. Now, try to wait long enough to let them cool and eat!

Here in Utah it's a chilly, rainy gray winter day and there is no reason to go outside … or leave my couch, or stop re-reading The Dog Stars by Peter Heller for that matter. My advice is to break them apart and enjoy while still warm — as always, with a large mug of my coffee and a book in hand.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Guess what. I made ice cream again.

Now that we live in Utah, I've come to rationalize spending well over $10 for a pint of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams once or twice a week… call it Ohio homesickness. Those pints don't last long in this house. While I can't stop (won't stop) picking up a pint or two every time I go to Whole Foods — have you seen the new winter woods collection? — I figure it's time to supplement my ice cream habit with my own creations.

This one has it all — knock-out peanut butter ice cream, huge dark chocolate chunks and a hint of honey. It looks like cookie dough and tastes like peanut-buttery heaven.

{Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream}
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon tapioca or corn starch
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 oz. melted dark chocolate

1. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway full with water and ice. In a small bowl, place 1/2 cup peanut butter. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl with the peanut butter.
2. Combine heavy cream, whole milk, salt, 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons brown sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break and whisk in the remaining sugars.
4. Once milk mixture reaches 170 degrees, slowly pour about half of the milk mixture into the egg mixture — one cup at a time, whisking constantly — to temper the eggs. Then, pour the egg mixture into the remaining milk mixture.
5. Heat over medium heat until mixture again reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and pour through the strainer into the small bowl containing the peanut butter. Whisk to combine (Pouring in and whisking a little bit at a time makes this go easier).
6. Immediately place small bowl in ice bath, being careful not to get water in the bowl. Stir occasionally until cool, then store in a covered dish in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
7. Make ice cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Meanwhile, melt chocolate. When the ice cream is nearly finished (and is pulling away from the sides of the ice cream maker) slowly pour the chocolate into the ice cream to form chunks.
8. Store in an airtight container in the freezer. Eat up!

This ice cream is somewhat similar to Jeni's Buckeye State Ice Cream, which I made here. However, through trial and error, I've changed the ingredients, the method of making the ice cream and the size of the chocolate chunks. Try them both and take your pick!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Caramel Pie

This pie has everything: Sugary, butterscotchy caramel tucked between a flaky crust and a fluffy, slightly toasted meringue. It's like heaven in a slice. And I made it for you.

Finding the wrinkled, water-spotted old index card that held my grandma's caramel pie recipe was the easy part. More difficult was reading her spidery cursive writing, deciphering the many abbreviations and making up the directions (as the recipe completely lacked these). It took some eye-straining and a few calls to my aunt, but with patience and lots of taste testing, I give you ... 

{Caramel Pie} 
1 pie crust, baked
1-1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, separated 
6 Tablespoons corn starch
1-1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

For meringue:
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions: Bake pie crust. Beat egg yolks; add milk. Mix corn startch with brown sugar. Add butter. Combine all and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5-8 minutes. This is key — Don't let the mixture come to a boil. As soon as the first bubble breaks, remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir. Pour filling into baked pie crust. Top with meringue.

Meringue: Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over filling and brown under broiler. Enjoy!