Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

My husband and I have this thing for chocolate chip cookies. I mean, we're talking chocolate chip cookies ... what's not to love? But we've taken it to the next level. About once a week, while we enjoy a food coma following a pretty large dinner for two, one of us will invariably mention how some chocolate chip cookies sure would hit the spot.

Once someone says it, you can't get it out of your head. Duh. So. I make cookies. Lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies.

Now, you can't go wrong with some version of the Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. And if you have multiple types of chocolate and 24 hours to spare, the Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe is pretty phenomenal. Or if you're craving cookies the size of your head, make these Ultimate Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies. But if, like me, you make at least one batch per week, it's fun to mix it up with different versions of the classic. For these, I make the dough ahead to keep in the fridge (it lasts up to 3 days) and pop in a batch or two whenever the craving hits. 

Tips for taking these cookies to the next level. Use quality, grass-fed butter for the ultimate results. Good butter makes all the difference. Browning the butter makes for dense, chewy, nutty cookies. I also like to chop a portion of my chocolate to add more texture to the cookies. Also, pull them from the oven when the edges are just beginning to brown and the middle still looks a bit doughy. They will firm up as they cool and the result is heavenly — crispy outer layer and a chewy center.

{Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies}
adapted from Serious Eats

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
8 ounce dark chocolate chips, chopped
flaky sea salt

1. Allow one stick of butter to soften. Meanwhile, melt remaining stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling pan until it begins to turn golden brown and nutty. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely in the refrigerator, whisking occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla medium-high for about 5 minutes. 
3. Add brown butter to the egg mixture. Add in flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add chocolate. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place rounded spoonfuls of cookie dough onto a parchment-lined baking dish. Bake until golden brown and soft, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack. While still hot, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. 

Since I moved to Utah — altitude 5,600 feet — I've had trouble with flat cookies that spread out all over the pan. Not these. These cookies come out of the oven perfect and plump and bursting with chocolate. The browned butter adds a nutty note missing from other chocolate chip cookies, and chopping a portion of the chocolate chips means ribbons on chocolate in every bite. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Aeropress Coffee

There's no shortage of good camping in the west. And one of the highlights of camping is camp coffee. There's something about sleeping outside that makes a hot cup of coffee so essential. And the best tool for this job is an Aeropress.

What's an Aeropress? It'll change your relationship with coffee — it's that good. Not sure if it's the surroundings (we use our Aeropress when we camp in the mountains) or the coffee but this brewing method has stolen our hearts. The Aeropress combines two different brewing methods, that of the French press and then a combo of an espresso machine and a filter coffee maker. First, the water and coffee steep together, mimicking the French press brewing process. Then to complete the brew the water is pushed through the grounds and then through a paper filter.

The result is a small strong cup of coffee, perfect for enjoying with your feet propped up near a campfire after a long day of hiking. Plus, the Aeropress is cheap (you can buy it here for about $30) and very portable — it takes up very little space in your backpack. And, because it is made out of rubber and plastic, it won't break and it's very easy to clean — big considerations when you're traveling or camping.

So grab your tent and a bag of Pink Elephant Coffee Roasters and head to your nearest mountain knowing that you'll wake up to a great cup of coffee.

{How to Aeropress}

To make coffee with this method, you'll need:

- Fresh ground coffee (18 grams)

- Water (about 220 ml to brew, more to boil)

- Kettle

- Aeropress

- Stir stick (the Aeropress comes with one, or use a spoon)

- Coffee mug

If camping, you'll also need:

- A way to boil water. We use our Jet Boil Stove and a collapsible pot

- Hand grinder

How you grind your coffee, how long you brew it, and how much water is used all depends on what kind of cup of coffee you want to drink. I like my camp coffee how I like my daily coffee — strong, and lots of it. For this, I use a coffee to water ratio of 17 to 1.

1. Begin by heating your water, bringing it to a boil. Use only good tasting water.

2. Grind the coffee just before you begin brewing. For this, I pack a small hand grinder that can be broken apart and packed easily. Grind to a medium-fine grind.

3. Place a paper filter into the filter holder of your Aeropress and lock it into the body of the brewer.  Then, place the Aeropress on top of your coffee mug and add the coffee to the brewer (above the filter).

4. Take the kettle off the boil and wait 20 seconds. Add the desired amount of water to the Aeropress, filling the chamber to just below the top. Give the coffee a quick stir and put the piston part of the Aeropress in place, making sure it seals. Don't push yet.

5. After a minute or two in which you allow the coffee to brew, slowly push down the plunger until all the liquid has been pushed out. You might have to push hard, so make sure your Aeropress is resting on a sturdy mug in a secure position.

6. Discard the spent coffee by removing the filter holder and, holding the brewer over the trash, pushing the plunger to emit the grounds. Rinse and wipe clean the bottom of the piston and brewer.

Now grab a camp chair or a stump, put your feet up and enjoy your coffee.