Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stairway to Heh-vuhn

Isn't that the way the song goes? In an ongoing effort, er, in a renewed effort to be eat healthy, I've posted a recipe for the most phenomenal chocolate chip cookies ever on my Fierce and Nerdy Blog (possibly even better than the apology cookies.) I'm almost hesitant to tell you they are not only Gluten Free, but vegan.

AND in the effort to regain being physically fit, I have added some stair climbing to my morning walk. These stairs to be precise:

That's just 1 of 5 portions. My March stated goal was to go up and down these 5 times at one go. I've done 4 times, each of the past 2 days and my calves hurt, but I'm picturing my J-Lo booty getting firm. Could use some new uptempo music to make my time on the stairs a tad easier!

Also, after watching my buddy Rachel run the L.A. Marathon last weekend, Sean and I discussed doing a 10k or a half-marathon. I'm in serious consideration to join the Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training for the Disneyland Half Marathon in September. I figure that I already think about Dad a lot while I'm out there walking/climbing/running, I might as well be raising money to defeat the disease that took him from us. The $2,200 fundraising goal is almost as daunting as running 13.1 miles, but I think I'm up for the challenge.

Now I'm off to ice my shin splints. Keep those cards and letters coming!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Apology Cookies

It's Friday! Yippee! Since I'm a celebrating the 1 year anniversary of not having a full-time job, weekends probably don't have the same sweetness for me as they do for y'all, but they're still pretty sweet.

Speaking of sweetness, here is my Friday Sugar Chase hook-up. These cookies make me giggle. I stumbled across Sugar Mama on Etsy, and offer my kudo's for originality.

Disclaimer: I normally don't think nekkid mens/womens bachelor party favor pastries are funny. IMHO dirty-parts molded out of lollypops/cakes/cookies/candy necklaces are just lazy humor. But somehow, these seem different. Just check out how happy that bondage cookie is!

Also wanted to also share with you the pic of cookies I made last weekend.

Last Saturday was rainy and cold and we were stuck inside, glued to the CNN, watching the "Tsunami" hit Hawaii. It seemed like the perfect day to turn on the oven to warm the place up and make some cookies while we're at it. I LOVE to bake, but don't do it often anymore because all of the wheat and sugar involved in delicious baked products, make me feel poopy. Luckily the cookies I had in mind already had an adoptive home waiting.

I needed to make apology cookies. See, we purchased a Wii Fit in January and have been hopping, hooping and generally enjoying the thing ever since. I had been meaning to make cookies, for the neighbor who lives directly below us, as an apology for our recent Fit activity. So here they are, arguably, the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. Our downstairs neighbor seemed happy and surprised to get yummy goodies!

This recipe is from CooksIllustrated. Seen gave me an annual online subscription as my Xmas giftie (smart boy).

This coming weekend is supposed to be rainy too, so just in case you felt like baking; here is the recipe, complete with scientific reasons they are better than regular cookies:

<--Apology cookies, right outta the oven

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 16 cookies. Published May 1, 2009. From ATK Books.

Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. For our winning brand of chocolate chips, see related tasting.

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Recipe Testing
Don't Bake in Batches Baking two trays at a time may be convenient, but it leads to uneven cooking. The cookies on the top tray are often browner around the edges than those on the bottom, even when rotated halfway through cooking.

Recipe Testing
Creating a New Classic Here's how we improved on the Toll House classic to create an even better cookie.

TOLL HOUSE RECIPE: Equal Amounts Brown and White Sugar
A 1-1 ratio of brown to white sugar creates a cookie that's neither crisp nor chewy.

OUR RECIPE: More Brown Sugar
Using more brown sugar than white makes for a chewier cookie.

TOLL HOUSE RECIPE: Creamed Solid Butter
Creaming butter creates a cakier texture in cookies.

OUR RECIPE: Browned, Melted Butter
Melting butter contributes to chewiness; browning it enhances flavor.

Whole eggs contribute to a drier texture.

OUR RECIPE: 1 Whole Egg, 1 Yolk
Eliminating one egg white also boosts chewiness.

Baking the dough immediately after mixing doesn't allow the sugar to dissolve as fully as possible.

OUR RECIPE: Whisk and Wait
Whisking sugar into the liquid ingredients and then waiting 10 minutes allows more of it to dissolve, setting up better flavor and texture.

The smaller the cookie, the more uniform its texture.

OUR RECIPE: More Dough
Three tablespoons of dough per cookie increases its crisp-chewy contrast.

Recipe Testing

For Perfect Cookies, Look to Sugar Crunchy edges, chewy centers, and big butterscotch flavors—that chocolate chip cookie framework sounded pretty sweet to us. As it turns out, perfect cookies have a lot to do with sugar and how it’s treated. Sugar that is dissolved in liquid before baking caramelizes more readily than sugar that simply melts when exposed to the same amount of heat. What would happen if we rested our cookie batter after we added the sugar to allow more of it to dissolve before going into the oven? 

We prepared two batches of our Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. Dough from the first batch went straight from the mixing bowl onto the baking sheet; the other batch rested for 10 minutes (with occasional whisking) after we combined the sugar with the recipe’s liquids.

Cookies baked from the rested batter boasted not only richer, deeper flavor but also crisper edges.

 - Dissolving the sugar in liquid provided by the melted butter, vanilla, and egg (accelerated by whisking and resting) affects both flavor and texture. Dissolved sugar breaks down more quickly from crystalline sucrose into glucose and fructose, which caramelize at a lower temperature to form many rich, new flavor compounds. As the dissolved, caramelized sugar cools, it takes on a brittle structure. In our cookies, this brittle texture is more evident at the edges. Why? As the oven burns off moisture from the cookie perimeter, the remaining moisture gets pulled into the center, keeping it chewy.