Can’t Catch Me

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Not my gumdrop buttons!!!

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

The gingerbread man story is kind of dark, no?
Triumph after triumph, this little cookie man prances away unscathed, and then boop! gets eaten by a fox.

Cheery.

(I also find eating gingerbread men a little weird.  Do you decapitate?  Or systematically remove all the limbs?  Or just chomp your way up the torso?  Yikes.)

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Tell me, is it a bit late for holiday baking?
Because I have 2, possibly 3, posts coming at you this week.

Hark, all you procrastinators; all you who like to continue baking up until the very last moment.
Let’s make some cookies!

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Side note:
Not into xmas cookies?
I am straight up crying over Deb’s jelly doughnuts.  Help!! Someone get me a big pot of oil, stat.

Or, oh my god, if we’re talking about fried dough, Sam’s glazed pear fritters are SO necessary.  Hey, didn’t we just get a box of pears from Harry and David? Hmmm.

This challah.  So fluffy and perfect!

Finally, and most importantly, Molly put tahini in rugelach!  Have you ever heard a more beautiful union than halva rugelach?  I think not.  (It’s fun to say, too!)

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

So, these cookies.  I made a lot of them.
I baked off 5 or 6 sheets of them one night, covered them up nice and tight, and the next morning, settled down with piping bags, a #1 tip, and the Lord of the Rings (duh).
Unfortunately, I left all of my cookie decorating stuff at school, so I literally only had 1 pastry tip and 3 pastry bags, to last me through 5 colors (plus flooding!) and around 75 cookies.

It took me 5 hours to decorate all of these cookies, and now they are under lock and key so that no one eats them.
These are not for my family to eat.  They are for gifting, so that people nicer than us can enjoy them.
Just kidding!!!!  Kind of.  I’m a little loath to see them go.

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

The two types of cookie that you see here are dark chocolate and honey spice.

The chocolate dough bakes up buttery and crisp, with crunchy edges and a slightly salty, very chocolaty bite.  They are, in short, the most perfect chocolate sugar cookies I’ve ever made.  The deepness of the cocoa is complimented by the sweet royal icing.

The honey spice cookies puff up a little when baked but dry out and get very crunchy-crispy as they cool.
They’re a cross between a regular sugar cookie and a gingerbread cookie; lighter in color but still spicy.  Heaps of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves go into the dough, along with a touch of honey that rounds out the sweetness.
(To be honest, they taste a lot like graham crackers to me.  Which is a good thing, people.)

You can use royal icing made of meringue powder (follow the instructions on the can!) or do what I did, in a pinch, which is use plain old egg whites to get the job done (not if you avoid raw egg, however).  I actually prefer egg white royal icing because it seems to bubble less.  That’s just personal taste, though.

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Decorated cookies come out differently for everyone.  There’s a big learning curve—I certainly have experienced it (and my cookies are still far from perfect).

Part of the fun, however, is in designing your cookies and getting down and dirty in the icing.  The end product doesn’t matter that much—people will love and appreciate them (as long as they taste good!).
So, I’m leaving you with the recipes for the two types of dough, which are both guaranteed to taste good, and the royal icing.
The rest is up to your imagination!

Dark Chocolate and Honey Spice Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Dark Chocolate Roll-Out Cookies
adapted from Sweetopia
makes approximately 35 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
1 cup (225 grams) butter, softened but cool
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (250 grams) flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) dark cocoa powder

directions:
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on high for 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the sugar; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the salt, vanilla, and egg; beat for 5 minutes until very, very fluffy and light.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour and cocoa powder; stir until the dough is homogeneous.
Place the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes, wrapped well in plastic wrap.
To roll it out, flour a clean surface lightly.
Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out cookie shapes.
Collect and reroll scraps.
Place cookies on sheet pans lined with parchment and freeze for at least 1 hour and, wrapped very well, up to 2 weeks.
To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies straight from the freezer, for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Honey Spice Roll-Out Cookies
adapted from Sweetapolita
makes approximately 35 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
3 1/4 cups (405 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 grams) butter, softened but cool
1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 egg
1/2 cup (110 grams) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

directions:
Stir flour and baking soda together.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on high for 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the sugar, salt, and spices; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg; beat for 5 minutes until very, very fluffy and light.
Scrape the bowl and add in the honey and vanilla extract; mix well.
Add in the flour mixture and stir until the dough is homogeneous.
Place the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes, wrapped well in plastic wrap.
To roll it out, flour a clean surface lightly.
Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out cookie shapes.
Collect and reroll scraps.
Place cookies on sheet pans lined with parchment and freeze for at least 1 hour and, wrapped very well, up to 2 weeks.
To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies straight from the freezer, for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Egg White Royal Icing
adapted from Joy of Baking
makes enough for 75 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
2 egg whites
pinch salt
3 cups (330 grams) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon water, and as needed

directions:
Whip egg whites and salt until foamy.
Sift confectioner’s sugar over egg whites and beat until smooth.
Add in water as needed to get desired consistency (check out Sweet Sugarbelle).
Tint as desired, and go to town!

FOTA

Chiaroscuro LARGE

CHIAROSCURO

blackberry caviar, coconut mousse, coconut crumb, coconut yolk, blackberry puree

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Hi!  To any newcomers, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my project for UChicago’s spring Festival of the Arts!

(I’ll post more explaining this post-presentation, for all you laypeople.)

////// Okay!  SO Hi!  Yes!  Presentation went off without a hitch. \\\\\\

I gave a 7-ish minute spiel about molecular gastronomy, this here blog, my weird love of reverse frozen spherification, and the three desserts you see here, which were funded by FOTA.

Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly (I definitely did).Chiaroscuro SMALL I

Contrast, made edible.  Fruity, creamy, crunchy, chewy.

Why are there so many seeds in blackberries?  Getting ultra-smooth puree is a pain in the ass.

Fragola LARGE

FRAGOLA

black pepper cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, ginger black pepper sand, walnuts, candied lemons, creme fraiche, honey

Fragola SMALL I

Early summer on a plate.  Spicy, sour, rich, fresh.

PSA: candied lemons are so incredibly addictive.  So is lemon curd.  OMg.

Fragola SMALL II

For my live presentation, I made a deconstructed strawberry pie: strawberry yolk, yogurt cream, 5-spice milk sand.
Simple, delicious.

Tuolo LARGE

TUORLO

mango yolk, watermelon tartar, avocado mousse,  lime curd, creme fraiche, grapefruit

Tuolo SMALL I

A play on tuna tartare with raw egg yolk.  Tropical, crunchy, herb-y, tangy.
(There is nothing quite like cold watermelon on a hot day, amirite?!)

Tuolo SMALL II

Happy to provide any of the recipes pictured for my fellow molecular nuts!

So Question

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Much wonder.
Such searches.
Wow.

“my olive oil bottle had some slimy things”
Eeew.

“is little debbie oatmeal cream pies good for chakras”
Probably not?

“lets make marscarpone ourselves for once”
Yes, let’s.  God.

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“dumb jokes”
“dysfunctional family funny”
“dumb shit jokes”
I think you’re in the right place, my friend.

“homogeneous motor for milk and mango juice”
“gothic baking dishes”
“fairy hand cream mango butter switzerland”
“brass triangle fruit ripener”
“picture of willy wonka marshmallow pillow”
“ready to bake cheese marscapone croissants wholesale”
“kids throwing cookie dough on ceiling”
“plate with some fruits two toothbrush one small pot drawing in pencil”
“lime green fat baby boots with white fluffy stitching on the toe”
What?  No.  How did you manage to end up here?

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“comfy belly pumpkin roll”
“christina tosi maple”
“nigella frangelico tiramisu grams”
“michael laiskonis silpat”
“dorie greenspan is too soft and crumbly cheesecake”
Nope nope nope not me.  Wrong person.

“why is my mississippi mud pie still runny in the middle”
“2c heavy cream 4 tsp matcha 3/4 c sugar 6 egg yolk 1 c milk where is it books”
“how to bake cake in a 5 burner gas cooktop candy”
“660grams of chocolate buttons = cups?”
“should a pumpkin roll cake be wet still when you take it out of the oven”
“why do my meringue cookies always end up with a syrup like crust on the bottom???”
“can u use buttercream piping for a dummy cake or will it rot? cake central”
“creme brulee didn’t set congeal can i freeze it”
“3cups cocoa powder 4sticks butter layer cake”
“why gateau cake didn’t rise”
“do they have pumpkin butter in sweden”
“why does creaming butter and sugar in more than one direction, get curds”
“260 grams flour and sugar and butter cake making how many eggs i use”
“i like to make it my own pomelo powder tall me how”
“i am looking for a recipe that used nutter butter cookies and butter as a crust, and then you melt marshmallows then make a layer of candy using cornsyrup and peanut butter chips”
I wish I could tell you the answers to all these existential questions, but…

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“best ice cream scoopers activated by body heat”
“brown butter cookie nutella fill kitchen dink w/ 2″ of cold water”
“waterproof nut pie crust”
“she made a graham with childish decorated toppings”
“pressure ulcers cooker de leche condensed milk”
“glitter sprinkle french macaron vanipla”
“whot. can. you yes. hef. coleur perpar”
“no egg no milk no butter cookiesh ki,o.lpo.ol”
“cheese lava guna kracker magic”
“like golden ray butter”
“drama psheat”
“pepar fool ke banana”
What?!?

“la peche fraiche”
“lapechefraiche”
“lapechce fraiche”
“la pache frasche”
“la pilche frache”
“peche freche”
“lapechefraige”
“la peche peach”
“rachel sally pastry blogs”
“rachel sally blog”
“ithaca rachel sally”
Lol hai.  Welcome.

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You guys search such silly things and manage to end up here, at my doorstep.
I can only begin to understand my readership through searches like “cheese lava guna kracker magic.”
Conclusion: you guys are weird.  And poor typists.  And are therefore in good company.

These cookies are delicious, fat, bakery-sized peanut butter sandwiches, filled with fluffy marshmallow and rolled in honey roasted peanuts, in honor of whoever searched
“i am looking for a recipe that used nutter butter cookies and butter as a crust, and then you melt marshmallows then make a layer of candy using cornsyrup and peanut butter chips”
Sadly, this is the best I can do for you.  I hope you enjoy them, mystery googler.
(I have a feeling they’re more delicious than this suspect nutter butter-corn syrup pie…)

The cookie base has edges that are crispy and crunchy, like a nutter butter, but a thick, soft center.  Perfect for sandwiching, and not too brittle or crumbly, like most PB cookies.
A cookie with bite.
Even better, they can be frozen for later!  Only use what you need, and stick the rest in the freezer for emergencies.
The marshmallowy filling is a billowy Italian meringue, whipped to sticky perfection.
Annnnnd this cookie sandwich is then rolled in
salted honey roasted peanuts.

These are like fluffernutters, only made with cookies.
Fluffernutter cookies.  Do I need to say more?

Perhaps just this: make these, you weirdos.  Ok.  That is all.

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Fluffernutter Cookies
makes 6 very large cookie sandwiches, or 12 cookies
cookie portion adapted from Miette

ingredients:
for the cookies:
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
70 grams (1/3 cup packed) brown sugar
1 egg
160 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
180 grams (1 2/3 cups) flour

for the Italian meringue:
1 egg white
50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water

to assemble:
about 3/4 cup honey roasted peanuts, chopped
pinch or two kosher salt

directions:
Make the cookies: beat butter on high speed until softened, about 2 minutes.
Add in the salt and sugars and beat for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl halfway through.
Add the egg and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the peanut butter; beat for 1 more minute.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour and baking soda all at once.
Mix on low speed until homogeneous.
Scoop out generous (1/3 cup) portions, then roll into smooth balls.
Press a cross-hatch pattern onto the cookies with a fork (or gently press them with a meat tenderizer) to flatten them slightly.
Place on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 15 minutes, and up to a month, wrapped very tightly in plastic and aluminum foil.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through.
Allow to cool completely, then assemble the sandwiches.
Make the Italian meringue: place egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk.
Place the salt, sugar, and water in a small sauce pot.
Begin to whip your egg white while heating the syrup on medium heat.
When your syrup reaches 200 degrees F, the egg white should be all foam; at 240, it should be at soft peaks.
Carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg white; beat the meringue until cooled to body temperature, about 5 minutes.
Spread onto one cookie and sandwich with another.
Mix the honey roasted peanuts with the extra salt, then roll the edges of each cookie in the mixture.
Enjoy with milk!

Mercurial

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“I have been ten days in this temple
and my heart is restless.
The scarlet thread of lust at my feet
has reached up long.
If someday you come looking for me,
I will be in a shop that sells fine seafood,
a good drinking place,
or a brothel.”

-Ikkyu,
fifthteenth-century Zen Buddhist high priest

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Mercury is no longer in retrograde, and I could not be more grateful.
I welcome March and spring and this change of heavenly bodies with a smile and a sigh.

It has been a long and harsh winter, both emotionally and weather-wise.
I am weary.  My soul, my mind, my third eye, are weary.
Three more weeks, and I have the chance to rebalance, reignite, refocus, relax.  

As I urge myself onward, through ninth, tenth, and finals week, I am comforted by the knowledge that it will all be over soon.  Thank god.  I am ready for this quarter to be over.

Mercury being in retrograde (I know it’s all hokey, but…) has seriously funked with me.
Mercury rules clear thinking, communication, and truth, and is supposedly closely linked with Virgos (das meee).
Needless to say, I don’t fully believe in astrology, but honest-to-Pete, this Mercurial retrograde has affected my life.
Things inexplicably going wrong, brain feeling fuzzy, tired, worn-out; life feeling stagnant and shallow, a shell of what it should be.
A veritable smorgasbord of bad things, a series of unfortunate events.
But it’s over!  Now Mars is in retrograde.  Hallelujer.

(I have been ten weeks in this college
and my heart is restless.)

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This is a recipe for those of you who are weary, too.
Those of you who want dessert with minimal effort and maximal results.
Who want to be reassured of Mercury’s reappearance with a perfect tart, an almost foolproof recipe.
This tart is so so simple, fast, and easy, yet manages to be show-stopping and jaw-dropping all the same.

A brown sugar tart shell, crisp and buttery, encases chewy, decadent and heavily-salted caramel studded with a mélange of crunchy, toasty nuts, served with softly whipped cream.

Crisp, chewy, crunchy, sweet.  Buttery, sticky, salty, satisfying.

It’s a finer mixed bag than the past month has been, and much tastier to boot.

Welcome back, Mercury.  Glad to have you.  Now please stop fucking with my life. xx

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Caramel Nut Tart
makes 1 6-inch tart; easily doubled for a 10-inch

ingredients:
for the brown sugar tart crust:
115 grams (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) butter
50 grams (1/4 cup packed) brown sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk
120 grams (1 cup) flour

for the caramel:
125 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
30 mL (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
40 mL (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) heavy cream
generous pinch sea salt

to assemble:
generous 1 cup mixed nuts

to serve:
freshly whipped unsweetened whipped cream

directions:
Make the shell: in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 2 minutes, until softened.
Add the brown sugar and salt and cream for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the egg yolk, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
Lightly grease a 6-inch springform or tart pan, and press the dough in evenly and firmly (the dough will be cohesive, but will spread easily when pressed).
Prick all over with a fork, and freeze for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the frozen tart shell with aluminum foil, then place pie weights, dried beans or rice inside to weigh it down.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden, then remove foil and bake for approximately 15 more minutes, until shell is deeply tanned and golden.
Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the filling.
First, toast your nuts in your warm oven: place the nuts on a heavy baking sheet and toast for 7-10 minute, shaking the pan quite often to prevent burning.
Allow to cool completely, then place them in your tart shell (do not overfill!) and save some for pressing into the top.
Make the caramel: Place all ingredients except heavy cream in a small pot, and heat until golden and bubbling, about 7-10 minutes.
Quickly remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream; mixture will splatter and bubble, so be careful.
Pour caramel over nuts in tart shell and shake the pan very well to allow the caramel to seep down through the nuts.
Press the reserved nuts into the still-warm top.
Allow to cool completely.
Serve with freshly whipped, unsweetened cream.

Maillard

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Some real fuckin’ foodie nerd shit is about to go down, y’all.

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This is the shit my chemistry T.A. and I talk about during lab discussion.
These cookies are bringing science back.
I am harnessing one of the most delicious reactions known to man and using its great and terrible power to make some kick-ass cookies.

And I’m SO excited to share these cookies and this technique with you.  Like, I can’t even.
I’ve been working on these here thangs for a while, now.
I’ve decided they’re ready to be unleashed upon the world.
The question is, are you ready?

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Do you know how freaking awesome the Maillard reaction is, man?
This is what is responsible for the heaven that is the crust of a good bread, the browning of butter, the golden color of baked cookies, cakes, and biscuits, dulce de leche, the crust of a steak, caramelized roasted vegetables, french fries, the smell of roasted coffee, chocolate, soy sauce, maple syrup

The Maillard reaction creates essentially all good smells in the kitchen.  It is an aroma powerhouse.
Roasting, toasting, baking, frying and their accompanying intoxicating smells are all derived from this reaction.

Can I get an amen?!

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The Maillard reaction describes the reaction between a single amino acid and a sugar.
It’s a form of nonenzymatic browning.
(The other main form of nonenzymatic browning is caramelization, which is the partial breakdown of a sugar.  The two reactions pair quite nicely, as both produce similarly delicious aromas, flavors, and colors.)
It’s favored in an alkaline environment, and requires heat to occur.
Because there are so many different combinations possible between amino acids and sugars, and because compounds can break down and form new combinations, the variety of aromas and flavors caused by the Maillard reaction is enormous.

Have you ever wondered why pretzels (les bretzels) are dipped in sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) solution before being baked?
It’s because the weak base of (CO3)2- creates an alkaline (basic) environment, facilitating and speeding up the formation of that lovely brown crust on the surface.
(I need to get a pretzel recipe on this blog, stat.)

Obviously, this interaction between amino acids and sugars has been happening since people started cooking and baking, but Louis-Camille Maillard first scientifically described the reaction in 1912, though he didn’t fully know the scope or details of it.
Oh damn! Hold up! That’s a French-ass name, Louis-Camille.  Yeah, my lil croissant, lil cheese on my croissant.

So as if we didn’t already know that the French dominate in the land of carbohydrates, they also pinned down the reaction that literally makes life and bread delicious.

Merci mille fois; mille fois merci.

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Blah blah science blah no one cares.
Except when it comes to cookies.
If science is guaranteeing better cookies, all y’all are gonna hop on board.  I know it.  I know you.

Brown butter is a go-to.  Any recipe that calls for melted butter is a boon, because I automatically brown my butter for a boost of nutty, rich flavor.
Butter browns because the proteins and sugar in the milk solids of butter toast and go through a certain reaction. (Hmm, what was that called again?)
What happens if you toast just milk solids, then?

Magic.

Put some milk powder in a dry skillet, stir it around, and wait.  It will slowly turn brown and toasty, and begin to let off enticing smells.  Don’t stick your face too deep to inhale, though, because you’ll get a nose full of milk.
Put this toasted milk powder into already browned butter, and you’ve just amplified the amount of Maillardian flavors all up in that butter.  By a lot.
Browning a stick of butter gets you about a tablespoon of browned milk solids.
These cookies add 3 tablespoons of browned milk solids to that.
Meaning you get cookies with the flavor of a pound of browned butter.
AKA flavor punch bang pow mother truckers.

Super-charged brown butter, heaps of brown sugar, and a grand old dose of salt make up the base of these cookies, which will end up supremely soft and puffy, like little globes of deliciousness.
Stir in some chocolate chunks, portion out tiny little scoops, and prepare yourself for total cookie domination.
The alkaline batter (yep, we used sodium bicarb) goes into the oven, and even more Maillard reactions occur, both with the dough and with the chocolate.  Holy jeebus.  I’m drooling.

Eat them warm with a glass of cold, cold milk.
Cheers to Maillard.
Cheers to soft, salty, nutty, rich, profound cookies.
These ain’t no basic CCCs.
These are a chemist’s complex chocolate chip cookies.

It may be hard to mess chocolate chip cookies up, but it’s just as goddamn hard to make them freaking amazing.

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tl;dr
**make these cookies**

Some thoughts if you do try them, which you ought to: if you don’t want your cookies to be as puffy, I bet another tablespoon of milk plus a teaspoon and a half of neutral oil would do it.  I’ll get back to you on that.
Mini chocolate chips distribute more evenly in mini cookies.  I personally like big chunks, so I stuck with ’em.  Just keep that in mind.
For late night cravings, keep a batch of these in the freezer.  All you have to do from frozen is bake ’em for an extra minute, and that way, you’ll have cookies on hand for every sort of problem and situation that might arise.  Wrap well in plastic and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn!
Sandwiching these with vanilla ice cream is all I want to do with my life.
They would also make a perfect mix-in for ice cream, because they are so so soft.

Number one tip: consume while fresh and hot hot hot.

Shoutout to science and shit, baby.  Bang bang.

P.S. Did you notice the blog’s facelift?
I spent wayyyyy too long designing the new logo and updating fonts, etc.
Tell me what you think!

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Maillard Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 50 tiny cookies, or 12 large

ingredients:
3 tablespoons milk powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter, browned and then cooled until hardened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks

directions:
Brown the butter well ahead of time and set it in the fridge to cool back to a solid state.
Brown the milk powder: in a NONSTICK skillet over low heat, stir the milk powder gently until a deep tan color and very fragrant, about 10-15 minutes.
Be sure not to let it burn.
Scrape the solidified browned butter along with the browned milk powder into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until soft, about 2 minutes.
Add the sugars and the salt and beat for 2 more minutes.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until very light and fluffy, 5 more minutes (stop to scrape the bowl after 3 minutes).
Add in the milk and beat for 30 seconds, just until incorporated.
Add the flour, cornstarch, and baking soda to the bowl with the mixer off.
Slowly stir in the flour, with the mixer or by hand.
Once the dough is completely homogeneous, add in the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
Portion out in 2 teaspoon (smallest cookie scoop) measures for tiny cookies, or in 1/3 cup (standard ice cream/cookie scoop) portions for standard size cookies. (The larger portion size will yield approximately 12 cookies.)
You can now chill the dough balls overnight, or freeze, well wrapped, for much longer.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 6 minutes for tiny cookies, 8 minutes for larger cookies.
Cookies will seem very doughy and underdone; as they cool, they will remain super soft.
Eat warmed up with cold milk.

Superstar

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Who wants to be a millionaire Thanksgiving superstar?

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Cause, like, this pie, yo.

GodDAMN.

Good gracious gravy!

Sorry.  I got excited.

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This pie… There’s just so much good stuff going on!  Yummy, delicious stuff.

First, let’s talk crust.  I know.  It’s the scariest part for most people.  But crust is your friend!

Buttery, flaky, tender crust.  How could it NOT be your friend?

The trick to a good pie crust is not a food processor, I’ve decided.

YesokokIknow, the food processor revolutionized pie crust because it shaved 5 minutes off the preparation time and allowed people to keep their hands clean.
Newsflash: you’re cooking and baking, your hands are going to get dirty sometime.  Pie crust is a good excuse to play around in flour and butter.
(BUTTER.  Not shortening.  As you can see in this pie, I’ve swapped my usual buttermilk for water to give a more sturdy crust, since it’s a custard pie that will not have par-baking.  That said, I could have swapped butter for shortening.  But why, oh why, would I want to sacrifice that flavor?  Oh, right.  I wouldn’t.  And neither would you.  I won’t have it any other way.)

By making your pie crust by hand, you get a good feel for the texture.  In a food processor, an extra 3 pulses gives you a gummy crust that will be tough and shrink during baking.  (Insert sad face here.)

Let’s take this chance to play with our food, no?  It’ll be fun.

Dump your flour, salt, and a pinch of sugar into a big bowl.
Cube your butter into little chunky chunks, then throw it back in the fridge for 5 minutes to re-chill.
Meanwhile, fill a small bowl with cold water, and chuck 2 ice cubes in it.  Keep a tablespoon near the ice water.
Stir the flour n’ stuff around with your hands.
Take your butter chunks and place them all in the flour, all snuggly and nested down in there.
Now, with your fingers and palms, start to smash the cubes into flat sheets.  Rub about half between your hands to create a coarse meal.  The others, leave as small, flattened chunks, the size of peas.
You should have a rough mish-mash of butter and flour and butter-flour meal.
Here comes the fun: dunk the tablespoon measure in the ice water and put 2 measures into your butter/flour.
Using your hands, gently stir the mixture together.  Some will stick to your hands.  Just scrape it off and put it back in the mix.
If there are still a lot of dry chunks at the bottom of your bowl, add up to 2 more tablespoons of water, but go slow.
When your crust is done, it will hold together and all of the flour will be hydrated, but it won’t be very sticky or gooey.  It should be smooth.
Give it a couple kneads, a little massage, and wrap it up nice and snug in some plastic wrap.
Back in the fridge she goes!

To roll the crust out, liberally sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, then place your crust in the middle.
Sprinkle the top with flour, and gently, starting from the middle, roll towards the edges, creating a rough circle shape.
Once it’s 3 inches larger in all directions than the bottom of your pie dish, roll it up on your rolling pin (like a roll of paper towels) and place it in the dish.  Crimp the edges by rolling the excess up underneath, then pinching to create pretty little ruffles.
Back to the fridge!  Keep it COLD, y’all!

IMG_5180_01

So you’ve got your awesome all-butter pie crust made and ready and chilling.

Let’s fill it with heavenly goodies.

Start with brown sugar and a friendly pinch of salt, and add the ambrosia of the gods nutty brown butter.

Whisk whisk whisk in warm, autumnal spices and six (6!) egg yolks to ensure a silky, custard-like texture.

Stir in 70% bittersweet chocolate, melted and luxurious.

Finish with a sprinkling of pecans and turbinado sugar.

You’ll smell this pie long before it emerges from the oven.  It’s fragrant with the best things in life: butter, spices, and chocolate.
Once it’s partially cooled, you’ll stick it in the freezer and it will thicken into a custard-y pie, the smooth and gooey chocolate interrupted only by crisp pecans.

Serve this pie sprinkled with a touch of powdered sugar, and unsweetened whipped cream or barely sweetened vanilla ice cream.

I might have to make this again for Thanksgiving.

It is among the 3 best pies I’ve ever made.

It is that good, people.

tl;dr: MAKE THIS.

P.S. I posted this on 11/11 at 11:11.  My wish is for you to make this (JK! Then it wouldn’t come true!!)

IMG_5190_01

Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
165 grams (1 1/2 cups)flour
8 grams (2 teaspoons) sugar
pinch salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, cut into small pieces and cold
45 grams (3 tablespoons ice water, or as needed)

for the filling:
140 grams (scant cup) bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
220 grams (1 cup plus 2 scant tablespoons) sugar
150 grams (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) brown sugar
17 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or a big pinch each cloves, nutmeg, and star anise, plus 2 pinches each cinnamon and ginger
big pinch kosher salt
180 grams (13 tablespoons) butter, browned
120 grams (1/2 cup) milk
6 egg yolks
approximately 300 grams (2 1/2 cups) pecan halves, the pretty ones saved for garnish and the rest chopped roughly
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling, if desired

directions:
Make the crust: stir the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Add the butter cubes in and cut them in with a pastry blender or your fingers, flattening some and rubbing others into the flour.
Leave pieces the size of peas; the rest should resemble a coarse meal.
Stir in the water, starting with 2 tablespoons, until the dough comes together; it shouldn’t be sticky or crumbly, but just barely hold together.
Knead gently 3 or 4 times, then pat into a disk and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, make the filling: begin by melting the chocolate, gently; do this in a microwave on partial power or over a double boiler.
When the chocolate is 2/3 melted, remove from heat and stir until all melted; set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk the sugar, brown sugar, milk powder, spices, and salt together until no little lumps remain.
Whisk the brown butter in vigorously. Whisk the yolks and milk together, then vigorously whisk them into the butter/sugar mixture.
Finally, whisk in the melted and cooled chocolate and stir in the chopped pecans.
Set aside to thicken and rest while you finish the crust.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll the crust out, gently, to a 1/8 inch thickness.
Place it in a 9-inch pie pan that is about 2 inches in depth.
Flute or crimp the edges as desired, then place in the freezer until it is hardened, about 10 minutes.
Pour filling into the crust and decorate with the reserved pecan halves.
Top with a little turbinado sugar, then place on a cookie sheet in the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, until top is shiny and filling is set; you may need to cover the top with aluminum foil to prevent the pecans from burning (mine got a little toasty…).
Remove from oven and allow to cool almost completely, then finish the chilling in the freezer to make the filling extra dense.
Enjoy with unsweetened whipped cream and a little powdered sugar!

Subpar

 
It was my dad’s birthday today!
 
My dad is not your average father… So, obviously, I made him a not so average birthday cake.
It’s birthday cake… with a twist.
Actually, a few twists.
Or a few kicks.  However you want to say it.
 
I’m very tired while writing this post (on Sundays, the credits of Breaking Bad pretty much signal bedtime to me), so I’ll keep it short and hopefully sweet.
 
My dad is a wonderful human being.  Just superb.  I mean, really.
I could not ask for a more supportive, caring, and understanding father.
He is truly the rock to which I am tethered.
I could not have weathered any storms without him keeping me from blowing away.
 
He’s watching golf, now that we’ve finished Breaking Bad, which is maybe his only bad habit.
Watching golf.  Or maybe playing golf.
He just loves golf so much… I guess I forgive him for it.  Depending on my mood, that is.
BUT I should clarify the title of this post: I mean subpar in a golf way, not in a real world way.
Even though it’s not a term they use, I don’t think.
What I mean is that he’s better than average.
Or something like that.
I don’t know.  Stop looking at me like that.
So this cake… It’s spicy.
Spicy, sweet, and over-the-top.
It’s a rich chocolate cake with a silky cheesecake in the center, sandwiched with spicy strawberry-cayenne jam, frosted with a super smooth Italian meringue buttercream, and topped with cayenne-gianduja macarons.
 
Everything balances out very nicely:
deep, smoky chocolate
slightly sour, rich, thick cheesecake
spicy and tart strawberry
silkier than silky IMBC, which is super buttery and offsets the intense flavors well
slightly crispy, chewy macs with a hint of spice and gianduja (AKA nutella).
This is truly a celebration cake.  You can expect to see more macaron-topped cakes from me in the future.
Once I get my macs down perfectly, that is.
Happy birthday, Daddy!  I love you!
Kickin’ Chocolate Birthday Cake
 
Cayenne Gianduja Macarons
adapted from Jo the Tart Queen
ingredients:
for the first mixture:
70 grams egg whites
130 grams hazelnut flour
25 grams cocoa powder
150 grams powdered sugar
A few pinches cayenne pepper, depending how spicy you want the cookies
for the second mixture:
60 grams egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
150 grams granulated sugar
30 grams water
directions:
Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Process hazelnut flour, confectioners sugar, cocoa powder, and cayenne together in a food processor until all lumps are gone.
Place in a bowl and fold in the first measure of egg whites until the mixture is mostly combined; it will look crumbly and dry.
Make the second mixture.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar.
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan.
Heat the sugar and water over medium heat while the egg whites are whipping.
When the sugar syrup reaches 320 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Heat the syrup until it reaches 340 degrees F.
With the mixer running, slowly pour the syrup over the meringue.
Allow to whip until the meringue has cooled and is stiff.
Fold the first and second mixtures together until the batter is like lava.
Pipe out circles and leave to dry for 15 minutes.
Bake for 12 minutes, or until cookies lift cleanly off the parchment.

Miniature Cheesecake
adapted from Miette

ingredients:
1/2 pound (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and put a large kettle on to boil.
Wrap a 6-inch springform pan tightly in aluminum foil and lightly grease the inside; place inside a roasting pan.
Beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy; stream in sugar and beat until well incorporated.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg, half and half, and vanilla.
Pour into prepared pan.
Carefully pour boiling water around the springform into the roasting pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, until set and the center jiggles only slightly.
Allow to cool completely, then freeze prior to placing in the cake.

Strawberry Cayenne Jam
ingredients:
1 quart strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pectin (low or no sugar)
Few pinches cayenne pepper
directions:
Chop strawberries finely and place in a wide saucepan with the sugar, pectin, and cayenne.
Cook until thickened and jammy, about 10 minutes.
Purée if desired.


6-inch Chocolate cake
adapted from the back of a Hershey’s cocoa powder
ingredients:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot coffee
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease 2 6-inch pans.
Whisk dry ingredients together.
Whisk wet ingredients (except coffee) together, then whisk into the dry ingredients.
Whisk in the hot coffee and pour into prepared pans.
Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
Same as here. 1/2 the recipe.

To assemble:
Place one cake on a cake plate.  
Spread with 3 tablespoons jam, then top with the frozen cheesecake.
Spread 3 tablespoons jam on the underside of the second cake, then place it jam side down onto the cheesecake.
Crumb coat with the buttercream.
Pipe 6 swirls on top of the cake, nestle in macarons that have been sandwiched with a little jam (3/4 teaspoon-1 teaspoon per cookie) or extra buttercream.
Serve at room temperature.

Clafir

It’s not lazy, it’s French.
Clafou-what?  
Clafoutis is derived from the Occitan word clafir, to fill.
And yes, there is an s, even for the singular version of the word.
 
(L’Occitane, anyone?  L’Occitane means “a woman from Occitania.”  
Occitania spans Southern France, Monaco, the Val d’Aran, which is the only part of Catelonia north of the Pyrenees, and the Occitan Valleys of Italy.)
 
According to Wikipedia, Occitan is comprised of 6 dialects, 2 of which are definitely endangered and 4 of which are severely endangered.
 
When I first discovered the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages, I thought it was a little ludicrous.
However, the more I thought about the real meaning of an endangered language, and the implications of such, the more saddened I became.
The fact that a language, something so deep rooted in history and culture, can disappear within a few generations thanks to globalization and modernization, not to mention lazy teenagers/future generations, is upsetting to me.
 
I spent more time than I probably should have exploring UNESCO’s map of endangered languages (here).
The number of languages, ranging from vulnerable to extinct, is mind-boggling.
2471.
231 fully extinct.  And that’s just in recent memory.
Cleopatra spoke 9 languages.
Nowadays, many are lucky to speak two, let alone three.
The broad scope of what we are losing is arresting, but not surprising.
We disregard our history and heritage, both intellectual and physical.
We are letting our environment fall to pieces and our culture, too.
My!  I guess I’ve been feeling a little disconnected after discovering trash strewn all over a state forest.
After hiking down a long and winding path to discover that it ended in a dumpster.
Poignant or repugnant?
I don’t know.
Back to your regularly scheduled program.  (…L’album Noir; The Black Album…)
 
This is my take on a classic French (hailing from Limousin, within Occitania) pastry, the clafoutis.  It consists of an eggy custard surrounding sweet, juicy cherries.
I added a rye crust because I love rye pastry crusts.
And because I felt that the nutty richness of rye complemented the sweet stone fruits well.
 
Traditionally, the pits are left in this dessert, for two reasons.
One, it preserves the beautiful shape of the cherries, and prevents much of the juice from escaping, ensuring a lovely pop of flavor from each little fruit.
Two, the centers of the pits of the cherries, the noyaux, give a wonderful almond perfume to the whole tart.
The kernels in the pits of any stone fruit have a flavor reminiscent of almonds, and are indeed related to the nut.
(And third, albeit not traditional: I was lazy.)
I already had to pick through the cherries to ensure that none were past their prime, let alone try to remove their stubborn little pits with a paper clip.
 
These tarts are delicious, and despite the pits, they were all gone by the next day.
This clafoutis is ridiculously easy to make, gorgeous, delicious, and can be served at any temperature: warm, room temp, or chilled.
AKA fresh out of the oven, for an afternoon snack, and dessert.
Parfait!

Rye and Cherry Clafoutis
ingredients:
for the crust:
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup coarse rye flour
for the filling:
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup half and half 
1 tablespoons sugar
2 or so cups of fresh sweet cherries, picked over and cleaned
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: beat butter and sugar together until shiny, fluffy, and smooth, about 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the salt and flours, and mix on low until a ball forms.
Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface and transfer it as best you can into your pans. (I used a 9-inch, a 41/2 inch, and two 3 inch cake rings.  I think that you could use a 10 or 11 inch pan and fit everything in one, but I wanted to have some smaller tarts on the side.)
Do not worry if it rips; it is extremely forgiving.  
Just press and patch the dough into the pans as evenly as possible.
Prick all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, pull the shells out of the freezer and place the cherries in the bottom. (Put as many as you can humanly fit.)
Bake for 10 minutes, until you can just hear the cherries sizzling.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg, egg yolk, half and half, and sugar together.
After 10 minutes, pull the tarts halfway out of the oven and pour the custard into the shells, until it comes up the sides nearly to the top; you probably won’t use all of the custard, especially if you filled your crusts up with cherries.)
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the custard is set and the edges of the pastry are browned and fragrant.
Allow to cool (or don’t!) and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Zaftig

 Zaftig blueberries, people.  Get your minds out of the gutter.
 
I think zaftig is the perfect adjective to describe blueberries, especially those which have been blanketed in delicious crumbles and baked until just about ready to burst.
Pleasantly plump.
Outrageously juicy.
This is a vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, white-tee-staining, antioxidant-bursting, blueberry crisp.
(Well, vegan until I added a dollop of cold and creamy Greek yogurt.  Sue me.)

This crisp is sweet enough, even without any refined sugar, to serve with unsweetened plain Greek yogurt.
Forget the crisps and crumbles served with ice cream.  
 
This one is healthy enough to eat for breakfast, 
satisfying enough to eat for lunch (ahem), 
moreish enough to eat for a snack during a movie, and 
tempting enough to still call you back for an evening sweet.
 
It’s good.  Real good.
The only sweetener in this crumble is maple syrup, a few good glugs of it.
I was just in Vermont/New Hampshire and bought some maple syrup.  I promptly came home and put it to good use in this crisp.  
JK I used my already opened quart of syrup that was in the fridge.  Let’s just say it was inspired by my trip.
 
(Note: I still haven’t found/bought/even tried any Grade B… Who knows where I can get my sticky, grubby paws on some?)
While in New Hampshire/Vermont, I went on a long hike in the pouring rain.
Pouring as in so wet that you throw out your socks after the hike.
Pouring as in so wet that your baseball hat had its own rain cloud directed straight in between your eyes.
Pouring as in so wet that everything in your waterproof backpack is soaked.
I wrapped my camera up in two plastic bags and braved the cold, bone-soaking rain.
I loved it!  I love the rain; I figure, once you’re wet, you’re wet.
My camera… not so much.  Although the body didn’t get wet at all, there were a lot of raindrops that I ended up having to edit out of my photos.  Some were too impossible for even the clone tool to fix.  Sigh.
 
(I was right along the Connecticut River, and was in both states multiple times.  I don’t know whether to say VT or NH.  Both seem misleading.  I’ll go with NHVT.  Nahv-t.  Then I’ll sound really intelligent.)
 
The photos you see here (photovomit, sorry!) were taken in the Quechee State Park, which has a breathtaking gorge.
Unfortunately, later in the day, just as I was driving out of Vermont, the sun came out and the lighting was perfect, unlike earlier, when it was raining buckets.
That’s life for you.
The park is gorgeous- I found a large swath of dead forest, which seems to have been burned out.
It was hauntingly beautiful in all the mist.
I also found a lot of discarded garbage from disrespectful campers.
Seriously?!  Take out what you bring in.
I was immensely saddened by all the rubbish lying about.
How could such a pristine place be downgraded like this?
Pick up after yourself.  Nature doesn’t appreciate slobs.
Dietary-Restriction-Friendly Blueberry Crisp
ingredients:
2+ pounds (900 grams) fresh blueberries, picked over (enough to fill/heap up in your baking dish)
drizzle of maple syrup (depends how sweet your berries are)
100 grams hazelnut flour
100 grams oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free if you intend on serving this to gluten-free guests/friends)
80 grams cornmeal
120 grams maple syrup
80 grams coconut oil
pinch kosher salt
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the blueberries in a 10×6 inch pan.
Drizzle maple syrup over them, if desired (I used 2 tablespoons or so).
Stir the hazelnut flour, oat, cornmeal, and salt together.
Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and stir until combined.
Sprinkle the crisp topping over the berries.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the top begins to brown deeply.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
Allow to cool slightly.
Serve with plain Greek yogurt.