’08 Advent Calendar, Day 1

Welcome to the 2nd annual Minimally Invasive Advent Calendar! Like last year, I’ll be bringing you a daily photo entry with related recipe until Christmas.

To start things off, we’ve got what might just be my new favorite cookie of the season — chocolate crinkles. I’ve seen them everywhere, but somehow managed to resist their charms until now. Rich and deeply chocolatey, they’re more like bite-sized brownies than cookies (especially when served warm from the oven), which earns them extra points in my book.

For the 2007 Advent Calendar, click here.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “’08 Advent Calendar, Day 1”

…that’s good enough for me

We finally gave in to temptation this weekend and made those chocolate chip cookies. Oh, don’t play coy with me — you know the ones. They’ve been everywhere since the NY Times article ran in July, but we’ve somehow managed to avoid making them until now. This, as it turns out, was a very wise decision, for these cookies are not kind to the waistline.

The ne plus ultra of chocolate chip cookies, they live up to the hype and then some, though I’m not sure if resting the dough mattered quite as much as the sheer size of these delicious monsters. I mean, they weighed in at nearly a quarter pound apiece. When you have that much goodness going on, you get the best of all possible worlds in one cookie — crispy edges and soft, pillowy centers shot through with large hunks of chocolate.

But the addition of sea salt (coarse grind) elevated the whole recipe to something otherwordly. I even added extra to later batches because I wanted a bit of salty crunch with every single bite.

I hate to run, but I really need to sample another cookie, just for quality control purposes. I wouldn’t want my co-workers to experience anything less than the best, after all.

Recipe here.

Holiday baking and sugary miscellany

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Because of my need to give homemade food gifts for the holidays, this is traditionally the weekend I atone for my lack of baking throughout the year — all at once. But instead of saying two dozen Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers, my personal penance was making THREE batches of pralines, a few POUNDS of spiced nuts, and TWO types of cookies. Oh, my friends, I’m on a sugar high that would do Beavis proud. (What? You’ve never heard of quality assurance?)

For the pralines, I dug out my dad’s recipe which adulterates the traditional praline with marshmallows, but you’ve never tasted anything like them; they’re really creamy instead of gritty the way straight-sugar pralines can sometimes be. Gil would chime in to agree, only he’s shoving broken praline bits into his mouth and banging his head on the wall in the kitchen. Don’t worry — he’s wearing a bucket for protection. The sugar crash is going to be ugly.

But the real surprise of the weekend were the cookies, primarily surprising for the fact that I baked them and did not burn even one. I normally bring in savory treats for my co-workers (last year — bacon brittle and gougères), but I suspect people appreciate the sweet stuff a little bit more, so I was willing to go that extra mile for them. And we weren’t disappointed; I really hope they won’t be, either.

Here’s the really soft and sticky sugar cookie dough, cut and ready to be moved (CAREFULLY) to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

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As it turns out, I didn’t really need to be SO careful because these cookies s-p-r-e-a-d in the oven.

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But dressed up with chocolate and nut toupées, they turned very suave, indeed.

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So I’m really looking forward to a well-deserved break from baking this week. Maybe I’ll be chained to my desk at work, but at least I won’t be in the kitchen, forced to bake and sample delicious sweets!

Are those tiny violins I hear in the distance?

Incidentally, how sad is it that this is the only brandy we have in the house? I had to break into our kitschy Eiffel Tower stash to flavor the cookies.
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recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Holiday baking and sugary miscellany”

A slog, some fog, and a wonderful dog

cookie1a.jpgI worked longer than the expected four hours Wednesday, but less my typical nine, which threw a wrench into Gil’s big plans for holiday baking. He went all Woody Allen on me: “Can I leave the butter out on the counter long enough to pick you up at the train station? Will it meeeelt? Should I keep it in the fridge until we get home and start the whole process later? I don’t want to poiiiison anyone.” I don’t know a LOT about baking, but I figured that unless our kitchen counter spontaneously combusted, the butter couldn’t possibly get too soft for a standard cookie recipe. So he stopped the handwringing long enough to make the trek to Fair Lawn, then came home and baked his famous chocolate chip cookies Wednesday night. They garnered the expected “oohs” and “aahs” at our potluck Thanksgiving dinner, as well as knowing winks that I’ve managed to turn him into a baker. “Ha!” I say thee, “Ha!” I provided the recipe, but he didn’t learn baking from me, since I usually make with the burning.

Oh, and speaking of burning … !

Wouldn’tcha know it? I learned a wonderful lesson yesterday — never walk away from food that is browning under the broiler:

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Hmmm … what’s that smell? Did the heater kick on? I should get back into the kitchen, but how will I find my way through this thick, dark fog?

Despair’s icy fingers clutched at my heart as I mentally inventoried the pantry for something else to bring to dinner in an hour: Maybe they’d like a couple of salt-roasted potatoes with roasted sardines and mustard? Perhaps a bag of frozen corn and whipped cream? Oh, I know! An open jar of pre-grated bottarga! Maybe they haven’t had the good stuff and would find this oddly endearing!

But fortune sometimes favors the stupid and I got lucky, people! The Brussels sprouts were easily salvaged by scraping off the thick layer of breadcrumbs I thought to add to the recipe at the last minute. People declared them heavenly (take that, you hater!) and I don’t think they were all just being polite — at least not the host, who’s a brutally straight shooter if ever I met one. She’d let me have it in a heartbeat if they weren’t up to snuff.

But no pictures of food, as I’m the most unobtrusive food blogger you’ll ever meet. Instead, I present images of the world’s most adorable dog, Dash, guaranteed to make your heart melt:

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Dash loves his belly rubs after a hard day of tug-o-war, and Mark (upper right) & Gil (lower right) were only too happy to oblige.

I hope your Thanksgivings were filled with heavenly dishes and belly rubs of your own.