Margarine Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies?  While I’m not the cookie monster that the Pie is, I sure enjoy making them.

This recipe comes from The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie by Gwen Steege, and it’s pretty much the only recipe that the Pie and I use from this book.

It’s also the only reason we buy margarine, for that matter.  Well, that, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

This recipe is actually called “Chocolate Chip Cookies II”, which isn’t all that descriptive, so we call them margarine cookies, as that is the key ingredient.  The consistency of your margarine will determine the ultimate consistency of your cookies, so super-firm stuff will give you big puffy cookies, while the stuff that is more slippery will give you more flat cookies.

These cookies are also dependent on adequate beating with an electric mixer or stand mixer for their fluffy nature.

Keep in mind that cookie batter is pretty basic, and if you aren’t a fan of chocolate chips, you can stick in lots of other things.  When Kelly, Kª’s sister, was in town, I ran out of chocolate chips and so made a conglomeration of baker’s chocolate chunks, raisins, and nuts, and it was very popular.  While I called them ‘garbage cookies’ at the time, she has given them the more gentile name of ‘cupboard cookies.’  When I make these regularly I like to put in a combination of milk chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips for variety.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a bowl, sift together 3 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine 1 cup margarine, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 firmly packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water.  Beat with an electric mixer for about two minutes until it is creamy.

And seriously you have to wait the full two minutes.  If your batter is dark, you haven’t mixed enough.

Add 2 eggs and beat until fluffy.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of your bowl.

Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients a bit at a time.  Once all the mixture is added, beat for another two minutes until smooth and well-blended.

Stir in 3 cups (18 oz) chocolate chips.  I recommend doing this part by hand.  My mixer makes horrid crunchy noises when I use it for this step.

You can keep your dough covered in the refrigerator overnight or you can bake them right away.  You do have the choice.

Drop the dough in heaping teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.  I like to use a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop for this job.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the middle of your oven, rotating the pan halfway through for even cooking.

Do not over-bake.  Remove the cookies from the oven when they are lightly brown and crisp on the bottom.  They may seem slightly undercooked, but it’s a lie. 

They will continue to cook as they cool on the baking sheet for another few minutes, and they’re supposed to be nice and chewy.  Then remove them to paper towels or a rack to cool completely.  Makes a couple dozen.

Alternately, plop your dough in cookie-sized balls on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer.  Once the mounds are frozen you can seal them tightly in a plastic bag, with baking instructions written on it, and keep them that way for a couple of months.  Simply allow them to defrost completely before baking.

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Devil (‘s Food Cake) Made Me Do It

I have designated certain days in my life as chocolate cake days.  You know, those days where things tend to go wrong, and you end up with FLOOR PIZZAThat kind of day.  Normally I turn to the convenient comfort of cake-in-a-box (similar to garlic-in-a-jar but probably not quite as good for you), but recently I’ve been more interested in the process of making one from scratch, and doing it was way easier than I expected.  You, my lovely readers, get the benefit of my experience here.

Seeing as I had recently made an angel’s food cake, it was only fitting that I make a devil’s food cake as well.  You may not know this but traditionally the angel’s food and devil’s food were made concurrently, as the angel’s food used all the whites of the eggs and the devil’s food used all of the yolks.  Modern devil’s food cakes are much lighter affairs these days and generally use whole eggs (and less of them), but I think they would be a nice accompaniment to each other even without the egg symbiosis.  I still have the yolks from the other cake, but I’m going to make them into a masterful pudding sometime soon.

I got this recipe from David Lebovitz, and this is his American-in-Paris masterpiece.  I picked it because of his pictures of the icing on the cake.  I’m such a sucker for chocolate frosting, especially a ganache.  I also thought this recipe had an interesting improvement of putting coffee into the mix.  Coffee and chocolate are always a good combination.  His recipe calls for unsalted butter and salt, but I just use salted butter and I rarely add salt to anything.

Okie dokey (never really sure how to spell that).

Put your oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

Butter up two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and place pretty circles of parchment paper (not to be mistaken with waxed paper, that would be a bad idea) in the bottom of each.  I used a compass because I have a good attention to detail (the Pie called me a nerd for doing so but HE’s the one who wrote a remote sensing exam today).  Put those pans somewhere and work on the other stuff.

Sift together 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose because that’s what I had), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a bowl and set that sucker aside for a spell.

In yer mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter (or a stick, or 4 ounces) and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until creamy and fluffy and stuff.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl on occasion.

Mix 1/2 cup strong coffee and 1/2 cup milk together in a measuring cup (or some other form of vessel).

Add half your dry mixture to the creamy butter goodness in the mixer and stir.  Don’t forget to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the milky coffee and stir that up.

Finally, add the second half of the dry mixture to your bowl and mix that up as well.

Divide your batter between the two buttered and papered pans, smooth it flat, and bake for 25 minutes.

You can tell it’s done when you stick a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean.  I found that mine took an extra five minutes.  Make sure the cake is completely cool before you think about icing it.  When removing from the pan, run a spatula around the edge to loosen the sucker. Due to time constraints, I actually made up the cake part the day before, then wrapped it tightly in plastic over night, and made the frosting the next day.

While it’s cooling (or sitting politely in plastic wrap) you can make your lovely ganache frosting.

In a double boiler or a bowl set over (but not touching) a pot of barely simmering water, melt 10 oz good quality chocolate (your preference for the type) in 1/2 cup cream.  Just so you know, an ounce of chocolate is one of those squares in the boxes of baking chocolate.

Be very careful removing the top of your double boiler, as escaping steam can burn.

Remove from heat and cut in 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk until butter is thoroughly melted and mixed in and the mixture is smooth and velvety.  Let your ganache cool until it’s spreadable, which could take up to an hour (your cake will take probably this long to cool anyway).  Be sure to give the cooled ganache a good whisk to fluff it up a little.

Pop your cooled cakes out of the pans and remove the paper. 

Put one half of the cake on the plate of your choice.

I made another modification here.  I took the leftover frozen glaze from the previous angel’s food cake and decided to put it on this one as well.  It seemed fitting.  All I did was defrost the glaze and whisk it up a little.  It was slightly lumpy after its time in the freezer but it tasted the same.

Smooth a generous amount of your cooled ganache over the top of the first cake. 

Plop the second cake on top of that frosted layer and go nuts covering the whole thing with luscious ganache (or, in my case, glaze it first, then go nuts). 

The cake was very moist and I didn’t do a crumb coat, so you’ll notice a few crumbs here and there in the frosting. 

I also decided to jazz it up a little by drizzling melted 2 oz white chocolate over it.

As with most cakes, you should eat it the day it’s made but it’s pretty good the next day as well.  And the day after that, and the day after that.  Just keep it wrapped up.  Om nom indeed.

Blueberry Muffins with Yogurt and Lemon

The Pie had some classmates over to collaborate on a project, and I never feel like a good host unless I have something to serve for a snack. This recipe makes about 24 muffins, which leaves you with some to eat now and some to freeze for a time when you aren’t at leisure to bake.

These blueberry muffins are a modification on the classic recipe, and they’re super easy and super moist.  They remind me more of a cupcake than a muffin.  The yogurt keeps the batter dense and soft, while the lemon and nutmeg make for a tangier taste.

I mix these by hand because the batter is supposed to be lumpy, and I find an electric mixer tends to overmix.  I also prefer using a large whisk to do all of this, as it keeps flour and liquids from sloshing all over my kitchen.

Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray two 12-muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

Use a whisk to prevent flour clouds from attacking you.

In another, smaller bowl, whisk together 4 large eggs, 2 cups plain yogurt, 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup melted butter, the juice and zest of 2 lemons, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

This gooey mass will be muffins soon.

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened (a whisk will help you to prevent overmixing).

Add 1 to 2 cups frozen blueberries (depending on how berry-full you like your muffins) and mix in.

Add in as many frozen blueberries as you can handle.

Spoon generous amounts into the prepared muffin pans and sprinkle the tops with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar.

Bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the middle muffin comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the pans for a few minutes, then use a fork to gently pry out the muffins and place on a rack to cool completely.  Once cool, the muffins can be stored in plastic freezer bags and frozen for a couple of months.

Eat as soon as possible, or freeze for future snacking.

Bran Muffins

The Pie LOVES bran muffins.  I have never truly understood this addiction but nonetheless he persists.

Get all your ingredients out before you start.

This is a modified recipe from the Joy of Cooking (1996 edition).

Position a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat it to 400°F.  Grease 2 standard 12-muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.  I prefer to use baking cups when it comes to bran muffins because they’re extra sticky due to the honey, molasses, and sugar they contain.  It just makes cleanup easier.

Leave the bran to soak for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl (I used the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer, which I adore), combine 1 2/3 cups wheat bran with 1 cup boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes.

In another bowl (or a measuring cup, which I find is easier because it has a handle), whisk together 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Into the bran mixture, whisk 3/4 cup honey, 1/3 cup light molasses (I used dark, because I prefer the taste), 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and then 1/4 cup of plain Balkan style yogurt instead), 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (again, I prefer the darker stuff), and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (which I didn’t have, so it’s not in these muffins).  I also added in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract because I generally add vanilla to everything.

I mixed all the wet ingredients together first.

Whisk in (well if you’re using a mixer, then mix in) 2 large eggs, then stir in 1 1/3 cups raisins (I would up this next time to 2 full cups).

Stir in the raisins. Use lots.

Fold in the flour mixture until just moistened.  The batter should be lumpy but still soupy.  Spoon the batter into the muffin pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.

I'm not very good at being tidy with muffins.

Let cool for 2-3 minutes then use a fork to gently pry the muffins out of the pan.  Serve hot or cool on a rack for eating the next day.

Mmmmuffins . . .