Kitchen Captivated: The Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie

by on Mar 7, 2014

PHOTO BY ELLY LEITZ

PHOTO BY ELLY LEITZ

When I fell in love with cooking and baking years ago, it was the humble chocolate chip cookie that first got me into the kitchen, splattering flour on every surface trying out recipes that I eagerly ripped from my mother’s magazines. I made hundreds of cookies, trying this or that. Sometimes they had oatmeal or peanut butter; other times the recipe called for melted butter, browned butter, Crisco.

And they were good. Of course they were. But they were never “the” cookie. Something was always missing. And so it went for years. My repertoire slowly grew, as I advanced into making other things, but that perfect cookie always alluded me.

Then one day a couple years ago, I read a New York Times article on the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The article interviewed several famous bakers in the New York area on their trade secrets. The recipe, at first, appeared a little fussy for a batch of cookies, but I saved it.

Finally, my curiosity got the best of me. I made the cookies. And they are “the cookie” — slightly crisp on the outside, with a soft dense center. The recipe calls for more chocolate than a typical recipe, leaving the cookie with ribbons of melted chocolate. The sprinkle of sea salt adds depth and texture. Quite simply, they are the best chocolate chip cookies. And if they are the best, then truly, the recipe must be shared.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Adapted from The New York Times/David Leite and Jacques Torres)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, such as kosher
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 oz.) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks (It’s important to use high quality chocolate for the best results.)
Coarse sea salt

Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk well; set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low; then add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate.

Using a standard-size ice cream scoop or a ¼ cup, scoop the dough onto a sheet pan or large platter, or anything that will hold about two dozen dough portions in a single layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for 24 to 36 hours (up to six days).

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Place mounds of dough on the baking sheet, making sure to space them evenly. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto the rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough.

One last note: don’t be intimidated by the initial fussiness of the recipe. You can easily trade out the cake and bread flour for all-purpose flour. But do refrigerate the dough. I’m convinced that’s what sets apart this cookie. To simplify, I typically cover my mixing bowl with plastic wrap and throw the whole thing in the fridge instead of scooping out the individual cookie balls. When I’m ready to bake a batch, I simply allow the dough to soften on the counter for a few minutes before balling up the dough and baking the cookies.

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Wrappin’ it Up – Homemade Food for the Road

by on Jan 10, 2014

By Robin Salts Beckett/PHOTOS BY JENNIFER DAGDAGAN

Pringles and Red Vines are great snacks for a road trip, but if you’d like to leave the packaged foods behind on your next journey, try these wrap recipes we took for a test drive.

Ham & Cheese WrapHam & Cheese Wrap
with Maple Mustard
A playful riff on a holiday favorite, this handy sandwich brings savory and sweet together in one delicious package.

Ingredients:
– Sandwich wraps/tortillas
– Sliced deli ham
– Sliced deli Swiss cheese
(or cheese of choice)
– 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard,
or other specialty mustard
– 2 tablespoons maple syrup
(use the real stuff here)
– Lettuce

Layer all ingredients in the wrap (condiments are best in between layers and not in direct contact with the wrap, so it won’t get soggy) and roll.

Sundried Tomato
Caprese Wrap
You can never go wrong with this combination of ingredients: the result is fresh, tasty and convenient.

Ingredients:Sundried Tomato Caprese Wrap
– Sandwich wraps/tortillas
– Fresh basil leaves
– Sundried tomatoes (in oil or dry),
roughly chopped
– Prepared pesto
– Fresh mozarella, sliced

Layer all ingredients
in wrap and roll.

Banana, Almond Butter
& Honey WrapBanana, Almond Butter & Honey Wrap
Almond butter is a new find for me, and you can “make” it yourself at grocery stores that have a nut grinder. And layering fresh bananas with crunchy almond butter and sweet honey is pure bliss.

Ingredients
– Sandwich wraps/tortillas
– Sliced bananas (make them thin,
so the wraps can be easily rolled)
– Generous helpings of
almond butter
– 2 tablespoons or honey

Spread almond butter on one side of the wraps, then place sliced bananas on top. Drizzle with honey and roll.

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Kitchen Captivated – Balsamic Roast Beef

by on Jan 10, 2014

By Andrea McCoy/PHOTO BY ELLY LEITZ

Winter requires hearty wholesome food. After a long day of skiing or just a busy day of work and errands and chasing kids in the bitter cold, it’s all about putting the slow cooker to work and gathering around the table for roast beef with a side of potatoes, carrots and onions.

KitchCapBalsamicBeef-YM-1This recipe is dynamite. It’s full of flavor, has just a hint of heat without being spicy, and leaves the meat juicy and tender. Also, this makes a lot of food. I’m including an excellent sandwich recipe to doctor up those leftovers and make you feel like you are having a completely new meal.

This is a simple recipe: you don’t have to sear the meat, and there are no complicated instructions. Just throw your meat in the crock pot and add the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have a slow cooker, use an oven-safe pot with a lid and cook at 300 degrees for about four hours. (I actually prefer to cook this way, simply because I have a large pot that accommodates these kinds of recipes better than my slow cooker.)

Balsamic Roast Beef
(Adapted from addapinch.com)
• 1 3-4 lb. boneless roast beef
(chuck or round roast)
• 1 sweet onion, chopped
• 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
into 3-inch pieces
• 3 potatoes, diced
• 1 ½ cups beef broth
• ½ cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon honey
• ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
Place roast beef and vegetables into your slow cooker. In a separate bowl, mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over roast beef and set the timer for your slow cooker (4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low).
Once roast beef is finished, use tongs to remove from slow cooker onto a serving dish. Break apart lightly with two forks and then ladle about ¼ – ½ cup pan juices over roast beef.

The “Man Sandwich”
With your leftovers, whip up these easy sandwiches and please everyone at your table (not just the men).

• Leftover balsamic roast beef
• A slice of fontina cheese
• Sauted onion and green pepper
• Hearty sliced bread, preferably
sourdough or rosemary
• Sriracha dipping sauce

Butter one side of each slice of bread, then layer the meat, cheese and sautéed onions and peppers onto one side of the bread. Slather other slice of bread with sriracha dipping sauce. Assemble and then grill the sandwich on medium heat until the bread is toasted on both sides and the cheese is melted. Devour immediately before someone asks you to share.

To make the sriracha dipping sauce stir together 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon of sriracha and a ½ teaspoon of ketchup. Adjust the amount of sriracha depending on how much spice you like.

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Kitchen Captivated: Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

by on Nov 29, 2013

Andrea's Christmas Cinnamon Rolls. Photo by Jill St. George.

Andrea’s Christmas Cinnamon Rolls. Photo by Jill St. George.

Sometimes a memory tastes like food. And for me, holiday memories will always taste like a gooey warm cinnamon roll packed with raisins and nuts.

Growing up, one of my fondest memories was sitting on the kitchen counter, the Christmas tree glittering in lights, watching my father patiently roll out the dough for these special rolls, begging him to let me sprinkle the cinnamon or raisins.

In our family, this recipe is made only during the holiday season and can’t be tasted until Christmas morning. No exceptions.

My grandmother’s chicken-scratch handwriting is still barely legible on the three index cards she used to write down the recipe. Today, those cards are worn and tattered after years of being splattered with melted butter and flour.

I’ve taken over roll duty in my family. We call them cinnamon rolls, but purists might call them a sticky bun; either way the rolls are sweet and delicious, decadently buttery and oh so satisfying.

To make the dough:
• 1 cup milk
• 2¼ teaspoons dry active yeast
• ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 2 large eggs, room temperature
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat until warm but not hot (about 105 degrees). Pour into large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over milk and let sit until dissolved — approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Melt ¼ cup butter and let cool slightly. Whisk butter, sugar and eggs into milk mixture. Stir in the flour and salt, mixing the ingredients until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
Proof the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for several minutes. Return dough to an oiled large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel to let the dough rise to twice its volume — about 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the filling & form the rolls:
• ¼ cup butter, melted
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon
• ½ cup raisins
• ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a large, ¼-inch thick rectangle. Spread ¼ cup butter evenly over the dough using a spatula. Sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and pecans evenly over the dough. Starting at one long side, roll the dough onto itself, forming a log. Pinch the seam and ends to seal. Use a serrated knife to cut the dough crosswise into 16 equal sections.

For the glaze:
• ¾ cup butter
• 2/3 cup brown sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter, brown sugar, salt and vanilla together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Mix together using a whisk. When sauce has congealed, divide sauce between two greased, 9-inch pie plates. Arrange eight rolls per pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size — about 45 minutes.
Once the rolls have risen, uncover them and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until rolls are golden brown and the glaze is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Invert rolls onto a plate so the cinnamon rolls are “glaze side up” and serve warm.

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Kitchen Captivated: Cheese Tortellini Soup

by on Aug 30, 2013

Cheese Tortellini Soup by Andrea McCoy. Photo by Jill St. George.

There’s just something about soup. It wraps you up like a big bear hug and warms you from the inside out. I love the simple rhythm of making soup. First the chopping, then the stirring, until finally it’s time to ladle up bowls and pass them around the table.

As the leaves begin to shimmer in shades of red, orange and yellow and the days shorten, beginning their slow and steady descent toward winter, soup season begins. It is a comforting welcome.

My favorite fall soup recipe is a riff on minestrone. That’s the beauty of soup: it doesn’t usually require precise ingredients. It leaves room to swap and experiment.
So go ahead, test out this quick and easy cheese tortellini soup recipe, then make it your own. Swap kale for spinach and throw in some zucchini or potatoes.

Cheese Tortellini Soup
•    1 lb. pork Italian sausage
•    1 medium sweet or yellow onion, chopped
•    3 carrots, chopped
•    3 stalks celery, chopped
•    3 cloves garlic, chopped
•    1 tablespoon olive oil
•    1-28 oz. can San Marzano diced tomatoes (any diced tomatoes work, but San Marzano really do make a difference)
•    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
•    2 tablespoons honey
•    3-32 oz. boxes chicken stock (12 cups)
•    1 box cheese or pesto tortellini
•    1-6 oz. bag of spinach
•    Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot (think 6 to 8 quarts — this recipe makes a big pot of soup) brown the Italian sausage until cooked through. Set meat aside. In the same pot, drizzle in olive oil, toss in veggies and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Salt and pepper the vegetables. Add garlic and sauté for two more minutes. Add tomatoes, Italian sausage, balsamic vinegar and honey. Stir to combine. Add chicken stock and tortellini. Bring soup to a slow boil, stirring often until tortellini have plumped up and cooked through. Stir in spinach and let simmer on low, stirring often, until ready to serve. It’s important to stir and taste, stir and taste to make sure the broth is rich and flavorful.
I serve this soup with crusty bread, a sprinkle of salty parmesan cheese and a glass of hearty cabernet sauvignon. On that first cold night in fall, when the leaves are blowing around and you have to dig to find your favorite forgotten sweatshirt, this is the perfect recipe for dinner. … A warm hug on a cool night.

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Snap, Crackle & Yum!

by on Aug 30, 2013

Fall’s cooler weather begs for comfort food, and some of our favorite treats are of the Rice Krispies variety. These recipes put a new spin on a much-loved snack. Enjoy a batch on one of Yakima’s gorgeous fall days.

Strawberry Treat. Photo by Chad Bremerman.

Strawberry Treats

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 – 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
3 tablespoons strawberry preserves

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray (11×7  for thicker treats, 9×13 for thinner treats) and then set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Fold in marshmallows until melted, and then add strawberry preserves. Remove from heat. Stir in cereal. Pour into baking pan of choice and let cool. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Mint Krispies.

Mint Krispies
(Recipe adapted from insidebrucrewlife.com)

The bottom layer is simply a brownie. Use any boxed mix you prefer, reserving three tablespoons of the mix. Cook as indicated, and then allow to cool.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 – 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows
3 tablespoons brownie mix
6 cups Cocoa Krispies cereal
1 cup Andes mint chips

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray (11×7 for thicker treats, 9×13 for thinner treats) and then set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Fold in marshmallows until almost melted, and then stir in brownie mix. Remove from heat, add Cocoa Krispies and stir until thoroughly coated. Pour the mixture on top of the cooled brownie and then gently spread out evenly. Immediately top with Andes mint chips, so that they slightly melt. Let sit for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.

Rice Piggy.

Rice Piggies

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 – 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 tablespoons cooked bacon, crumbled            (or bacon bits)

For maple frosting
(Recipe adapted from Country Living)
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons whole milk

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray (11×7 for thicker treats, 9×13 for thinner treats) and then set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Fold in marshmallows until melted, and then remove from heat. Stir in cereal and bacon. Pour into container of choice and let cool.

In a separate bowl, mix the first five ingredients in the frosting. Thin if necessary with milk. Top treats with the frosting.

Spicy Ricy.

Spicy Ricy
(Recipe adapted from
sallysbakingaddiction.com)

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 – 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 oz. white chocolate chips
24 candy corns

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray (11×7 for thicker treats, 9×13 for thinner treats) and then set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the pumpkin puree and cook until it is warmed through. Fold in marshmallows, stirring frequently until almost melted. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt, and then remove from heat. Allow the marshmallow mixture to cool for 20 minutes before adding the Rice Krispies (failure to do so will result in soggy treats). Stir until thoroughly coated. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking pan, spread out evenly and allow to sit for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.

In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate until smooth and runny. Pour into a zip-lock bag, snip off the corner and then squeeze onto treats. Top with candy corn.

Cripsy Caramel.

Crispy Caramels

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 – 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
4-5 tablespoons caramel sauce
(We used local Copper Pot salted caramel)
Coarse sea salt

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray (11×7 for thicker treats, 9×13 for thinner treats) and then set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Fold in marshmallows until melted, and then remove from heat. Stir in cereal. Pour into baking pan of choice and let cool. Top with caramel and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

 

 

 

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