Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bites: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook. Makes approximately 5 1/2 dozen (54) cookies.

Mr. Liggiland's favorite dessert combination is chocolate and peanut b
utter, so I'm always looking for new ways to combine the two. He and his team had a long week at work recently, so I wanted to make a batch of cookies for him to take to the office. I searched high and low, but couldn't find a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I liked. So, I went to my trusty Gourmet Cookbook and decided to adapt its Peanut Butter Cookies recipe to my needs. The results were mixed (haha, get it, mixed? nevermind...). I think I added too many chocolate chips, because the dough broke apart at the end and turned into a crumbly mess. After rolling each ball of dough by hand, they baked up fine, but I thought there had to be a better way.

Mr. Liggiland invited some friends over to play board games Saturday, so I decided to use them as my guinea pigs and took a second stab at the cookies.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter (not "all-natural"; I used Jif redu
ced fat chunky peanut butter, and it was fine)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Gourmet recommends that you butter your baking sheets. I
did the first time, but it felt unneccessary. These cookies have so much fat, I really don't think you'll have a problem with them sticking. But, butter your baking sheets if you like. It can't hurt.)

Beat together butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Before beating.

After beating.

Beat in egg, then add flour, baking powder, and salt, beating just until dough forms.

The dough after it comes together. Apologies for the blurriness.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold in 3/4 c. chocolate chips.

Mmm, mmm, good.

(I think this is where I went wrong the first time - I bea
t in 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips on low speed, and the dough dissintegrated into a crumbly mess. In this particular recipe, less is more, and folding by hand seems to be more effective. Even so, the dough still broke apart a little bit this time. Perhaps mini-chocolate chips would work better next time?)

Roll dough into balls approximately 1 1/4 inches in diameter and place on cookie sheet approximately 2 1/2 inches apart.

Why, yes, I am Type A. How did you know?

Gently flatten balls with fork, creating a crosshatch pattern. This is important because the cookies don't spread much on their own while baking.

Pretty little cookies, ready for the oven.

Bake in middle of oven until golden and slightly puffed, approx
imately 10 to 11 minutes (10 1/2 minutes was perfect for me). Cool on cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Ah, yeah...

After sampling enough cookies to constitute a scientific sample, I
thought this batch was pretty darn good. Maybe still missing a certain something, but definitely better than the first attempt. So I left my cookies to cool and went about my normal Saturday morning routine, reading my usual blogs. And then I came across the most recent post over at Addicted to Costco, featuring these delicious-looking lovelies:

Chocolate-dipped, chocolate-drizzled chocolate chip cookies. Photo from Addicted to Costco.

Now, I am not the kind of girl who can say "no" to anything that inco
rporates a chocolate drizzle. And then I realized: that's what my cookies were missing! A luxurious, gooey, chocolatey drizzle.

I still had half a bag of chocolate chips, so I put 1/4 cup in a microwave-safe bowl and microwaved them on 50% power for 2 1/2 minutes (try them at 2 minutes first, stir to melt, and then continue heating in 30 second intervals after that). I tried drizzling gently with a fork at first, but just got lumpy, second-rate Keebler Elf-looking stripes.

Not so much.

Then I opted for a spoon and more of a spatter paint approach, and got much better results.

Now these look almost as good as they taste.

Mr. Liggiland and I agree: these cookies are much, much better with a chocolate drizzle. The geeky hordes seemed to enjoy them as well (the cookies at least kept them at bay for the evening). I think I might attempt these again sometime down the road, incorporating mini chocolate chips instead of regular ones, or perhaps eliminating them all together and just using the chocolate drizzle. Give the recipe a try yourself, feel free to experiment a little, and tell me what you come up with!

Friday, June 12, 2009

When It Rains...

Last night, Austin experienced a little late season "severe weather" (read: thunder, lightning, wind, rain, hail). We got a fair amount of rain and some hail, but thought we escaped unscathed. We found out differently tonight. With predictions for more strong weather and a possible tornado watch for this evening, I went outside to cover the plants and protect the BBQ again. And that's when I found this:

Hail damage.

That's a golf ball-sized hole punched through the plastic Rubbermaid container we use to store our BBQ equipment. Apparently, we're not so unscathed after all. Still, we fared better than some, so we shall count ourselves lucky.

Now for the fun part: shopping! I'm going to need to replace that storage bin, preferably with something sturdier and weatherproof. Does anyone know if they make those galvanized metal stock tanks with lids? I've always wanted to use one as a planter in the garden, but maybe it could make a good storage container too.

Any suggestions? Extra points if it's aesthetically pleasing and/or green.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bites: Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

"Bites" will be a recurring feature on this blog and will feature my successes and failures in the kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake, from Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites by Giada de Laurentiis

This was absolutely delicious, even if the title was a little misleading. It really doesn't have a traditional pound cake texture - it's closer to a cakey brownie, but in loaf form. I also didn't bother with the dipping sauce. The cakes are plenty moist (thanks to the 1/3 cup mascarpone and 1 cup vegetable oil) without the sauce, although I'm sure the extra chocolate certainly wouldn't hurt.

Makes 2 pound cakes

For pound cakes:
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For Homemade Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

In a small saucepan, combine the unsweetene
d chocolate and 1 cup water.

It's just unsweetened chocolate and water, but I already want some!

Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 2 minutes, then whisk in the mascarpone until the mixture is smooth.

Note: No matter how delicious this looks, don't make the mistake of licking the whisk like I did. Not good (yet)!

Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl for 30 seconds. Stir in the chocolate-mascarpone mixture. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of each loaf comes out with no crumbs attached. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. (If you plan to freeze the cakes, wrap them well in aluminum foil once they are completely cool).

Warm, chocolate pound cakey goodness.

If you want to make the chocolate sauce (which can't possibly hurt):
To make the sauce, place the chocolate chips in a small heat-proof bowl. Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until small bubbles appear at the edges of the pan. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips. Stir with a fork until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the pound cakes and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes to set the chocolate sauce. Return to room temperature before serving.