Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chocolate Chip Molasses Cookies

These cookies have changed my life. Not to be too extreme or anything.

We're all searching for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie, but what makes a cookie truly perfect? I know I like them really chewy with slightly-crisped edges. Not TOO chewy like the large cheap ones from the supermarket, but not hard either - I'm not a hard cookie kind of girl.

My intensive search for the perfect cookie recipe marked the threshold of my baking obsession, beginning with a batch of cookies that one of my team members' nannies brought to one of our school volleyball games as a snack. OH. MY. GOD. Any cookie I had ever had in the past vanished from my memory, vanished from existence. What I remember most about them was their pale tan, gray-tinged hue - not golden brown like most cookies. It was so perfectly chewy and gooey; a little overly sweet, but the texture and rich dark chocolate drops more than made up for it. It may have been 75% chocolate chips and 25% dough for all I know, which may have accounted for the gray color, but I guess I'll never know. Man, they were good.

So I embarked on the perilous journey that is surfing the internet. The recipe printed on the back of Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips, which I had been making for years, was not longer gonna cut it. It's been 2 years since that fateful volleyball game and the first taste of what would give rise to a culinary passion, yet after sifting through literally HUNDREDS of online recipes, I haven't found one with a grayish tinge. I have no idea why that tinge was so attractive to me, but it almost lent the cookie a translucency so that when you examined it closely (yes, I'm weird like that), you could perceive the dark chocolate chips right beneath the surface of the thin layer of dough covering it. Like I said... I'm weird like that.

So anyhoo, I had given up all hope of ever finding the perfect cookie and was almost resigned to just bake whatever recipe showed up in my search bar when I encountered Joy the Baker's blog. Her incredible photography, apparent popularity, and original recipes were like my Northern Star, pointing me subtly in the direction of her Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies. Molasses?? I was skeptical because of the very little baking knowledge I had at the time. But the photo of the cookie couldn't lie: something couldn't look that good in a picture and then not be at least moderately decent, right? What did I have to lose?? I decided to go for it, and the results were astounding. I think I ate an entire dozen all by mysellf that day. Even now, it is my go-to, no-fail recipe that still manages to oogle people who I have made it for several times with their sheer awesomeness. Friend testimonials include: "You should open up your own bake shop!" and offers to pay me for a batch. It's all so sweet I can't help blushing. In the past, I have been reluctant to give up this recipe or its origins to the many many people who have asked. I know, I hate myself for being so selfish! But I'm sharing this gem with you now, and that's what counts, right??

PLEASE MAKE THESE, THEY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. And feel free to write to me or post below what constitutes the "perfect" cookie to you; do you like them chewy? crunchy? super extra chocolatey? Also feel free to post any chocolate chip cookie recipes you feel are incredible - I'm always on the lookout for recipes! Thanks for putting up with this long post. And now, without further ado:

**NOTE: This recipe calls for making your own brown sugar. How freaking cool is that??? I do it in all of my recipes now and it lends an incredible taste! Also, it definitely feels more homemade than if you buy brown sugar from the store, right??**

A close-up, for your health. :)

adapted from Joy the Baker; you should definitely check out her blog because it's incredible in every way, plus her pictures are better than mine in regards to the process of making these!

Makes 3 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons bread flour (I use 1 c. + 1 tbspn. whole wheat flour, and 1 c. + 1 tbspn. all-purpose if you want to make it a little "healthier")
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon dark molasses, not blackstrap
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks
sea salt for sprinkling on top of cookies just before baking

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

1) Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
2) TO MAKE YOUR OWN BROWN SUGAR: In a medium sized bowl, mix the granulated sugar and molasses until no large molasses clumps remain. I've found that the best way to integrate the molasses and sugar is to begin by blending it on medium speed with a mixer. Once the liquid is fully incorporated into the sugar but still contains large clumps, use your hands to mush it around. It tends to come together into a rich, uniform caramel color very quickly that way!
3) Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the homemade brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture in 2 additions and mix until thoroughly combined. 

**NOTE ABOUT SEPARATING EGGS: If you are inexperienced with this, don't fret, but maybe don't try to separate the egg over the bowl on your first attempt. It definitely took me some practice. The key is to gently crack the egg on a table corner or on the side of the bowl so that a tiny crack forms. Then, delicately peel the crack wider apart and allow the egg whites to slide out and down your hands. Do this over a sink. You can eventually pull apart the egg shell so that two halves remain, with the egg yolk in one of them. If you want to be really thorough, slide the yolk back and forth between the two shells until the last of the egg whites have been drawn out. If this is too complicated, another thing you can try is to simply crack the egg and pour the yolk out onto your open palm, letting the runny egg whites slide out between the cracks in your fingers until only yolk remains. You must be extra careful not to accidentally let the yolk slide through or burst if you decide to use this process! **
 Egg yolk after separating, about to be poured into the brown sugar/butter mixture

4) Stir in the chocolate chips.

Please excuse the poor lighting at the bottom and just enjoy the sheer bliss of this photo. I eat this with a SPOON. 

Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes in the fridge, or 15 minutes in the freezer. Longer is better - the flavors tend to congeal during this time and the cookie just bakes better. I don't know what it is, but you should definitely try to chill the dough as long as possible because it makes a huge difference! Of course, if you can't or don't have time to let the dough chill and simply must bake them immediately, they will still turn out amazing. :)
After chilling, scoop dough into walnut-sized mounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Lightly sprinkle each dough ball with a few flecks of sea salt. <-- THIS IS KEY. DO THIS!!!! It really brings out the chocolate flavor.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Of course it varies whether you are a crunchy-cookie person, or perhaps like them to be little more than hot gooey dough. That's ok too. I won't judge. I like my cookies slightly underdone, so I usually take them out around 8 minutes exactly! 

By the way, if anyone made the connection, this very recipe inspired the name for this blog! I love it dearly and am so excited to be able to share it with you. Have a nice day!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Speculoos Debate

I've been thinking a lot about Speculoos lately. Did you know it actually has curative powers?? For example, today I realized that I have 2 tests on Tuesday, both of which I have barely studied for. 2 spoonfuls later, my temporary depression cured itself. Amazing! But, and I am writing this post to point this out - not all Speculoos are created equal. So over the last week I have accumulated a small and embarrassing collection of Speculoos to see if anything else could level with my precious Biscoff. The contenders: "Cookie Butter" from Trader Joes and Speculoos from Le Pain Quotidien. The results were disappointing, so I will break it down for you to keep in mind the next time you have a hankering for the spiced "peanut butter", although I'm sure I am alone in this obsession.

Biscoff (Lotus Bakeries): Simply perfect. The texture is Soo smooth in a way that enhanced the spices flavor. The list of ingredients on the back was short and included NO "natural or artificial flavors". In fact, I was surprised to find out that it's all natural, including things like wheat flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, vegetable and canola oil. This is by-far the best of the three, if not the best EVER.

Just spoonful of Biscoff makes the medicine go down...but seriously this is pretty dreamy.

Speculoos (Le Pain Quotidien): Great texture, slightly grainier than Biscoff but in a really good way. Slightly oily though - the oil tends to settle on top if you let the jar rest, similar to what happens in all-natural peanut butters, so you have to stir it often. Since peanuts have their natural oils, it makes sense when the oil separates from the spread; however, because this is made out of cookies, this one has no excuse. The taste was slightly sweet for my palate, and the spices were overpowered because of it. Although it ties with Biscoff in the texture department.

Cookie Butter (Trader Joes): I have to say, I was really hyped up about this - so many blogs have been raving about it, and I recently spotted an article on some news website praising its return after a long hiatus. So I rushed to Trader Joes the first opportunity I could, nearly missing a pole vaulting clinic because of it - and was seriously disappointed. First of all, it's WAY too thick and almost slimy - not creamy at all, but the kind of stuff that gets stuck on the roof of your mouth. The only redeeming quality was that it had small, crunchy bits of what I can assume is cookie mixed in. The flavor itself was just weird - not quite cinnamon, and it had a kind of oily taste, like you could TASTE the oil. The ingredients include a ton of "rapeseed oil" in both the cookies used and the actual composition of the spread. I don't know how it differs from vegetable or canola oil, but I'm pretty sure it's what accounted for the strange taste. Overall, it just tasted cheap. If you can, buy Biscoff instead! I was almost reluctant to use my leftover Cookie Butter in the White-Chocolate Chip Biscoff cookies I made tonight just for the sake of getting rid of it. That's a bad sign. Steer clear if you can, and buy the good stuff!!

The winner, of course, is Biscoff, with the perfect all-around taste and texture combo! Yay! Let me know what you guys think, if you're a speculoos fanatic too, or any opinions. I'd love to hear 'em. :)

Ps: I made some amazing cookies tonight and will make a post about them sometime over the next day or two. I promise you won't be disappointed so stay tuned.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Roulade filled w/ Sweet Cream

I'm almost ashamed at how overdue this post is as Passover ended several weeks ago, although this dessert was so incredible that its memory has lingered with me ever since! 

For all you non-Jews out there, Passover is an important holiday celebrating the escape of the ancient Jewish people from the life of pain and hardship they endured as laborers in Egypt. They wandered the desert for 40 years as outcasts, and baked Matzah, a hard, flat cracker, under the heat of the scorching sun. To commemorate this, Jews do not eat anything that is leavened or that contains flour during Passover. 

And so, this provided the PERFECT opportunity to test this new recipe that apparently came from Joan (of Joan's on Third) herself. The inspiration to make this particular dessert stemmed from an amazing dinner I had at Joan's on Third the week before. The dinner is always incredible there, but the dessert in particular stood out more than usual. Of course, their flourless chocolate roulade was formed in a flawless, perfect spiral (to which my pitiful later attempt could only aspire). The chocolate cupcake I had also ordered paled in sheer proximity to this masterpiece. I knew I had to have it again, whether I was able to go to Joan's on Third or not.

 Joan's on Third Version, AKA perfection 

Initially, I had thought: How hard could this be? It's only a flourless base, which has notoriously few ingredients, and a sweet cream filling, which is also extremely simple. Boy, was I wrong. I slaved HOURS over this, only for it to crack during my attempt to roll it up and end up flat, rather than round and perfect like the one at Joan's. To improve its appearance (because let me tell you, it was against my better judgment to show up to a seder, where there would be people OTHER than family, with something so hideous), I covered it in a thick layer of cocoa powder, piped a hot fudge ribbon along its sides, and decorated it with strawberries. Those improvisations made it presentable enough! Yet, when I bit into it, all this dissatisfaction melted away... not only did it taste exactly like the one at Joan's on Third, but the thick fudge and strawberries had elevated it to a whole other level. Needless to say, the entire 16-inch roll was gone within 10 minutes at the hands of greedy seder-goers. That was a proud moment! So, I insist, you MUST make this - it is not only amazing, but slightly healthier for you due to the lack of some usually omnipresent ingredients, like flour, eggs, and butter. The fresh taste is unbeatable! But, of course, if you don't have a couple hours to spare or a dinner party to impress, you could always just go to Joan's on Third. ;)

Adapted from Joan's on Third recipe, but found at:


8 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, melted in a double boiler and then cooled to room temperature

8 eggs at room temperature, separated (**NOTE: to "separate" eggs, for those of you who don't know, means to separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, i.e. put them into separate bowls**)

1 c. sugar (I used 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. brown sugar)

1 Tbspn. unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Sweet Cream Filling

1 c. heavy cream 

3 Tbspns. confectioners sugar, sifted so that no lumps remain

1/2 tspn. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large shallow baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough so that paper hangs over the edges of the pan. 

1) Whisk the egg whites until mixture is opaque and soft peaks form. Add half of the sugar and beat until peaks are stiff and silky. Set aside.

2) In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks. Add the remaining half of the sugar and keep beating the mixture for about 5 minutes until it is thick and pale.

3) Add the melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated. 

4) Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolks/chocolate to lighten the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 until just incorporated.

5) Spread the cake batter into the baking pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until cake has puffed up and the top is dry.

6) Remove cake from oven and cover with damp paper towels. Let stand for 5 minutes, remove towels, and allow the cake to cool completely. Loosen the edges with a knife.

7) Dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder and then cover with a cloth or kitchen towel. Invert the pan onto the cloth and remove the parchment paper lining from the back of the cake very gently. 

8) To make the filling: Beat whipped cream, sugar, and vanilla until thick, with stiff peaks. 

9) Spread the cream filling over the cake and, using the cloth to help lift, roll the cake up. Transfer to a platter seam-side-down and dust generously with cocoa powder. 

10) Decorate the cake with strawberries, ganache, or whatever your heart desires! Please comment if you would like a recipe for the thick, rich chocolate ganache that I used to pretty-fy this, and enjoy!

PS: For anyone who is curious, below is my failed attempt at rolling the cake into a spiral and also the reason why it had to be decorated so extensively. I wish you success in this endeavor, and a better-looking cake than I! (Although rest assured that no matter how it turns out looks-wise, the taste is OUT OF THIS WORLD.) 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Speculoos (Biscoff)

Hello friends, and sorry for the delay in action since my first post about a week ago. It hasn't been easy - I've been dying for a free moment in which I could share with you my newest obsession.... SPECULOOS!! The label on the jar declares it to be a "European alternative to peanut butter", but don't be fooled -- this is nothing like peanut butter. No oh no oh no it's not. Yes, it shares its divine caramel exterior with the popular spread, but Speculoos is unrivaled, in a league all its own. For those foodies who have somehow never heard of it, I feel sorry for you - you don't know what you have been missing! Speculoos (or Biscoff, as it is called in many major grocery stores), is slightly thicker than peanut butter, but the real star of the show is its major ingredient - Biscoff cookies! Some of you might know Biscoff cookies as those incredibly addicting airline cookies given out on many Delta flights. Picture a slightly milder form of gingerbread, then picture it ground up and blended with milk and other ingredients to form a gingerbread spread. I can't even begin to describe to you how addicting this is except by denoting that I eat it plain, with a spoon, straight out of the jar every morning when I wake up and every afternoon when I come home from school. I went through an entire jar in one week. ONE. WEEK. And so, I knew I would have to find a way to bake with it! Finding a dessert worthy of my Speculoos was not difficult, but options were limited due to its status as a relatively recent novelty. Finally, I decided not to be picky and just go with it - thus, these cookies were born! The recipe is adapted from, but as always (and you will begin to see this as I post more often) I add my own special twist - homemade brown sugar! This cookie is really something special, and the molasses in the brown sugar really adds that personal kick and extra moistness. All friends who tried this cookie swooned, and I mean SWOONED, and one called it "sex in her mouth". Lovely, right? So I guess you'd better make this, although you might have to deal with the embarassing reactions of friends caught off guard by its amazingness. Go on, I dare you.

adapted from Picky-Palate

2 sticks butter, salted or unsalted (although I prefer/usually use salted)

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tbspn. pure vanilla extract, or vanilla paste

4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 c. all-purpose, and 2 c. whole wheat to make it "healthier")

1 tspn. baking soda

1 tspn. salt

1 package of white chocolate chips

approx. 2 cups biscoff spread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1) Beat butter and both sugars in a medium to large bowl until well-combined. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until fully incorporated.

2) In a separate bowl, stir together all dry ingredients - the flour, baking soda, and salt - until combined.

3) Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until fully combined. Then add the chocolate chips!

4) With a medium cookie scoop (although I didn't have one, so I just used an ice cream scooper), scoop walnut-sized mounds of cookie dough onto the baking sheet. Place your thumb in the center of each cookie dough ball to flatten it slightly and create a slight crater, in which you will place the speculoos! Fill each crater with about one tablespoon of speculoos. Cover each cookie dough/speculoos mound with another scoop of cookie dough. Bake for 12-15 minutes, and enjoy with milk.

Bon appetit!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hello! I'm going to start this off by denoting that this is my first time blogging, ever, and I'm super excited! I've been meaning to create a baking blog for a long time, but have been either too lazy or too inundated with work to do so. So, in a burst of inspiration, I have finally made this a reality. I should probably introduce myself - my name is Erin, and I'm a high school student in a big city. I bake ALL THE TIME and have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things food: types of food, food culture, incredible restaurants all over the country/world, and pastries of nearly every kind. It's embarassing. And every time I bake (which has gotten to be at least once a week now-), and am proud of the outcome, I think of how nice it would be to share it with people. Because this was just created, this blog is still under construction in many areas, as I am working on a real layout as well as "about me". Anyways, on with it...I hope y'all enjoy this blog and my recipes! (***Recipes coming soon, I will begin posting them up with pictures this week***)