Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is based on the “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipe in Cook’s Illustrated (May/June 2009), with some modifications. Personally, I prefer a cookie with less sugar than most, so be aware that these are not overly sweet; also, the bit of rye flour is important, because it gives them a lovely texture.

Start with:

  • 1/4 cup rye flour
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (you can buy it at Whole Foods, or take rolled oats and work them through a clean coffee grinder, or Vitamix)
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp chunky salt (Fleur de Sel is nice, but kosher salt will do just fine. Just don’t do something like Morton’s Table Salt. You want the occasional crunchy bite of salt in the cookie)

Sift all of these together in a bowl and let sit. Then, in a sauté pan, melt

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter

and swirl until the butter starts to brown (about 1-3 minutes). Transfer the butter into a largish glass bowl and add

  • another 4 tbsp unsalted butter

into the browned butter, and whisk until everything’s melted. Now, add:

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg (optional) OR
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper and a dash of cinnamon (optional)

Whisk this together until it’s fully incorporated, then add:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk

and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Let it sit for 3 minutes, then whisk for another 30 seconds, then let sit again for 3 minutes, then whisk another 30 seconds. For those counting, that’s whisk for 30 seconds 3 times, with 3 minutes between each whisking episode. The mixture should be smooth, thick and shiny, similar to melted caramel sauce.

Add the flour mixture slowly, and stir everything together with a rubber spatula until it just comes together (about 1 minute). Then add

1-1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cups chopped nuts (if you like)

and mix everything together into a nice, lovely dough.

Now, you can drop them on a cookie sheet covered with a silicon sheet (or parchment paper), about a tablespoon at a time, and bake at 375°F for about 10-14 minutes until the edges are set, but the center’s still soft. Cool on a cookie rack and enjoy.

By the way, these also store really well as dough. Just roll them into balls, put them on a silicon-covered cookie sheet (flatten them a little bit so they’re easier to bake later), and pop them in the freezer until set. Then remove them from the cookie sheet and store in a gallon Ziploc in the freezer until you need them. When you’re ready to make them, bake at 375°F (or in a toaster oven on the “Bakery” setting) for 20–25 minutes.

Nut-free Baklava!

Living in Watertown, home of all the Armenian and Greek supermarkets EVER, it's not hard to find good baklava. What is hard, though, is finding nut-free baklava; and a friend's recent laments about this (nuts are deadly to her), inspired some research. This recipe is a mashup of a few different things: the basic recipe (semolina custard, filo and syrup) was given to me by Sophia at Sophia's Greek Pantry in Belmont, where I also got many of the ingredients; the rest of the filling was inspired by a couple of recipes that I found online and my own thoughts on what would create the texture I was looking for.

You can modify this any way you like, actually; another thought for the "nut" filling is pumpkin seeds and dried Calmyrna figs pulsed with a bit of candied ginger and orange zest for zing.

To make it: 

1 pound filo dough (#4 or #7 - #4 is harder to work with, but gives much crispier layers)

1-2 sticks butter, melted (start with 1 and melt more if needed)

Semolina custard

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp sweet butter

1 cup semolina flour

5 eggs

Vanilla to taste

Melt sugar and milk together with vanilla in a medium saucepan. When it just comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add semolina, whisking briskly until there are no lumps. Beat eggs briefly and add to semolina mixture, whisking again until incorporated. Add butter and whisk again until incorporated.

"Nut" filling

about 1-1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 cup candied citrus

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or honey)

1 tbsp cardamom seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

Pulse pumpkin seeds in a mini-chopper until just broken up a bit. Mix seeds and the rest of ingredients in a large bowl until everything's coated with the molasses.

Syrup:

3 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups filtered water

zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tbsp brandy or cognac (optional)

Bring all ingredients to just boiling, whisking the whole while.

Putting it together:

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Lay out the filo dough, and work quickly to avoid it drying out. Lay down 1/3 of the filo, brushing each with melted butter. After the first layer is down, spread the semolina mixture across the whole sheet, taking care not to break the filo.

Lay down another 1/3 of the filo, brushing each with melted butter. Lay out seed mixture in a single layer and top with the last 1/3 of filo, brushing each layer with butter. Bake at 375°F in a preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

When done, remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes. When cooled a bit, brush the top layer with syrup, cut the baklava into squares, and then pour the syrup over the whole mess and let it soak in.

For the most part, I'm pretty sure that this keeps for a while, which is good because it makes a ton of dessert. Keep in a Tupperware container with sheets of parchment between layers.

Plantains floster

There are some times when you make something and it’s so damn good that you can’t help but believe all is right with the world. This cooks up in about five minutes, and it’s much nicer than using bananas. The plantains have a bit more starch to them, and it tempers the sweetness. Not to mention the plantains are firmer, so they stay together more. Traditional Bananas Foster always seems too sweet, and the bananas fall apart.

To make it: 
  • 1 Plantain, very ripe (yellow, with some brown spots - you can do all brown, but it’s really good when it’s still yellow)
  • 2-3 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2 pinches of Hawaiian Red Sea Salt (I found it at Trader Joes - do NOT try to use regular salt!)
  • 1/4 cup Captain Morgan
  • 1/4 cup Honey Liqueur
  • 1/2 pint Dulce de Leche or Vanilla ice cream (Haagen-Daaz makes a good one)

Heat the oil to very hot. Cut the plantains in quarters lengthwise, then in about 1″ long strips. Put the plantain bits one at a time and keep them moving in the hot oil until all sides are browned pretty well. Pour in the rum and honey liqueur and let cook on high heat, stirring the plantains around, until the liquid reduces by about half. Take off heat, and serve over ice cream. Vanilla Bean or Dulce de Leche is best.

Jazzy No-bakes

I learned this recipe as a little girl from my mom, and modified it as I got older. My version incorporates some orange zest, garam masala and candied ginger. Mind, they’re insanely rich - so you don’t want to eat too many of them.

To make it: 
  • 6 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth)
  • 2 tbsp candied ginger, chopped
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1-1/2 cups rolled oats

Melt chocolate over double boiler and add in honey and cream. Fold chocolate into peanut butter along with zest, garam masala and chopped ginger. Fold in oats. Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Stick in the fridge for about 3-8 hours until set.

Simple pistachio/fig dessert with almond milk

So, recently I got into this mode where I can no longer eat dessert in any traditional fashion - be it cookie, cake, ice cream or marshmallows, any form of dessert (alas!) makes me incredibly tired about ten minutes later. But I still have a sweet tooth - go fig.

This recipe, only slightly modified from one I got in a Yoga Journal e-newsletter I still get, is the perfect answer to my sweet tooth. The figs and candied ginger give it a nice sweetness, while the pistachios and almond milk give it a nice, crunchy, hint-of-vanilla flavor that was completely perfect, but didn’t make me pass out. I highly recommend it - plus, you don’t need a ton of it. Just a small helping of the fruit/nut combo with about 1/2 a cup of almond milk was the perfect serving. This recipe will serve 3.

To make it: 

Ingredients:

  • 2 handfuls of raw pistachios (unsalted)
  • 4 dried Calmyra figs, stems removed and halves
  • 3 small pieces of candied ginger
  • 1 handful of raisins
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain or vanilla

Combine pistachios, figs and ginger in a small chopper or food processor and pulse until chopped roughly. Divide mixture into 3 small bowls. Top each with a few raisins and some almond milk to cover. Serve immediately. I think you could also let this sit for a while, but the almond milk will most likely rehydrate the fruit, which I don’t particularly like.