Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies

cookies

Baking cookies with a cake mix feels like cheating. Four ingredients? And I get cookies? Shouldn’t I have to measure something? Or use a mixer?

mixing

I usually spend a lot of time baking or cooking since I really enjoy the process but, sometimes, I just want the darn cookie. When we need cookies fast–or with a minimal amount of mess–I break out the cake mix recipes. They usually have just a handful of ingredients and often use vegetable oil instead of butter so you don’t even have to spend time waiting for butter to soften on the counter.

Cookie

These are a great example of a perfect quick cookie. Four ingredients in one bowl and you end up with luscious, moist, chocolaty cookies.

inside

Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 chocolate cake mix. I used a King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Cake mix which is a 22 oz mix.
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk (if you are using a standard cake mix that weights 15-16 oz, use two whole eggs and skip the extra yolk)
3/4 cup of vegetable oil (1/2 cup if you are using a standard mix)
1 cup of chocolate chunks

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. The batter will be very thick! I used a #12 disher (a standard size ice cream scoop) which yielded 12 very large cookies. You can fit 6 on one standard cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 18 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes, then move to a wire rack. If you are doing two sets of cookies on a single sheet, allow the sheet to cool completely before putting the remaining cookies on it to bake.

Ebelskiver Failure

Watching cooking shows is a bit of a problem for me. I watch someone make something and I instantly want to make it as well. Until they invent a system that allows me to push a button and have Bobby Flay show up at my door with whatever I was just watching him cook, I’ll have to make do with making things myself.

egg whites

The latest need-to-have dish is called ebelskiver. Bobby–you made them look so easy! They practically cooked themselves! Bobby Flay lied to me though–these require quite a learning curve on the technique front and my batch was pretty much 90% failure. The batter was easy to put together despite my poor egg-whipping choices. Two egg whites to stiff peaks? Lets do that by hand, shall we? A very, very sore shoulder later, it was ready to put them in the pan.

batter

This is where the complications come in. You are supposed to use two sticks to flip these upside down in the pan so they can finish cooking and form the nice little spherical shape. NOPE. This was not easy and, by the time I got the technique up to very baby novice level, my ebelskivers were burnt. This was still better than the first batch that I couldn’t manage to flip at all and had to dig out of the pan with a spoon.

burnt

We still ate them. They were ok but, obviously, would have been better if I had been able to flip them more quickly and effectively.

Next time, lower heat so I have a little more time to flip them.

Battle Pizza Crust: The Alton Brown Follow Up

pizza

Remember when I froze half of my Alton Brown Pizza Crust?

It lived in the freezer for about a week until I was ready for more pizza. It defrosted in the fridge over night and was perfect by the next day. Unlike the leftover Bobby Flay Crust, this didn’t have any dry patches on it.

I let the dough come up to room temperature and then stretched it out as I had with the fresh dough. It baked up as crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside as it had the first time.

I can see myself making large batches of this dough and freezing it in portions for quick dinners. I bet it makes a great garlic bread to go alongside other dishes as well instead of just limiting it to pizza.

Buttermilk biscuits: The Smitten Kitchen Recipe

biscuit

After having Alton Brown’s Biscuits a few mornings ago, I was on a biscuit roll. Alton’s recipe came together easily but I wanted to try my hand at an all-butter recipe and Smitten Kitchen came to the rescue.

butter

The batter came together similarly to Alton’s but the butter took longer to incorporate into the flour mixture. I took a little extra insurance against butter meltage by sticking the entire bowl in the freezer while I cleaned up the first set of ingredients and measuring cups. It was probably only 2-3 minutes but it did feel a little firmer and colder when I took it out.

batter

I added the buttermilk and plowed ahead. I still don’t have a “proper” biscuit cutter so I used the same straight-sided glass I used for the Alton recipe. I kind of love the charm of the messy last biscuit made from all the scraps.

last biscuit

In the end, these were delicious. More than delicious–buttery, soft, high-rising, and perfect. I have to admit that I am an all-butter biscuit convert. While the half butter/half shortening was easier to bring together as a batter, the difference in flavor was significant.

baked

I finally broke down and bought some cake flour (sadly, White Lily Flour–the southern staple for biscuits–isn’t available where I live. After we move this month, I’ll stock up from amazon). I can’t wait to try the biscuits with the softer flour.

Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter Biscuits

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons (125 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. Combine dry ingredients and work butter in as quickly as possible with your fingers. Stir buttermilk in until just combined. Turn onto a floured surfaced and fold dough back on itself a few times. Pat into a circle 1 inch thick and cut out biscuits. Reform scraps and repeat.

I placed mine shoulder to shoulder on the pan so they could lend each other support while baking. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden, turning pan halfway if needed.

These are best fresh from the oven (and then to snack on the rest throughout the day. I had one leftover for breakfast the next day and it had dried significantly.

Microwave Fudge

fudge

What a silly name. I was tempted to give it some kind of fancier name for the blog entry but I’ll never remember the new moniker in the long run. It has been “Microwave Fudge” since I was old enough to steal cubes of it from my Mom’s freezer as a kid.

bowl

The is one of those recipes that I’ve never bothered to change. Why would I? Its chocolaty, sweet, easy, doesn’t heat the kitchen up, refreshing on a hot summer day, and I always have the ingredients on hand. It is perfection in a melt-in-your-mouth candy. The craziest I’ve ever gotten is to add a little peppermint flavoring during holiday season which is good….but it just isn’t as classic as the original.

melted

You’ll need a microwave safe bowl and some type of freezer safe pan, lined with foil (heavy duty is nice), and about 5 minutes of your time.

pan

Microwave Fudge

1 box/1lb 10x sugar
¼ cup evaporated milk (NOT condensed)
½ cup cocoa
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla (a splash really. I never measure)

My mom always sifts the sugar and cocoa together into the microwave safe bowl but I never do because I kind of like the clumps. This is one of those decisions you are going to have to make for yourself. Add milk and butter on top, do not stir. Microwave just until butter is mostly melted (about 2:30 on my microwave). Stir just the center of melted butter to melt any large chunks of butter that remain with the residual heat. Add vanilla, stir quickly to incorporate. Pour into foil lined dish and store in freezer. It will be ready to cut in a couple of hours.

Slice into squares. How small is up to your discretion. I do about 1 inch cubes.

Store it in the freezer! This is not a stable fudge so it can’t get to room temperature without melting. It is better cold anyway. Its also great on ice cream!

cutting fudge

Buttermilk Biscuits: The Alton Brown Recipe

biscuits

I remember my first biscuit. I was around 15 and was working at that amazing icon of fine southern fare: McDonalds. It is really no wonder that I thought biscuits were pretty terrible, right?

dough

Thankfully, I’ve come around to appreciate the southern biscuit. They are so different than the flaky, buttery biscuits I grew up eating and they are also so much more versatile: breakfast, dinner, snack. They can do it all. I made this batch and left it on the counter where we all snacked on them throughout the day.

cutting

I’m certainly no expert on biscuits but I’m working on it. I am starting here with Alton Brown’s recipe. I’ll admit that I didn’t use the White Lily Flour that he talked about on the biscuit episode but I will next time. Mine were clearly flatter than his and I’m guessing the flour makes a substantial difference. I just hated to buy yet another bag of flour so close to an across the country move.

12

Alton Brown’s Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

baked

Project Cornbread: The Alex Guarnaschelli Recipe

slice

I grew up in the mitten-state of Michigan and, therefore, had little exposure to the wonders of cornbread for many years. Even after we moved to the south, I still wasn’t convinced since most of the cornbread I had was terribly dry and grainy stuff from restaurants. It wasn’t until a friend invited me over to her very southern grandmother’s house for a very southern meal that I had amazing cornbread. Moist, just sweet enough, buttery, and perfect for soaking up everything else on the plate.

batter

I’ve made do with just so-so cornbread since but another perfect recipe quest is about to begin: Project Cornbread. I chose to start with Alex Guarnaschelli’s skillet cornbread recipe. I had everything on hand, so off we went!

crust

In all honesty, I should have let the pan heat up longer than I did. I didn’t get the amazingly golden crust I was hoping for. In the end, this cornbread was just ok. For one, it was far too buttery. I love a butter flavor but this had so much butter that, after it cooled, there was solidified butter sitting on top of the bread. Not so good for eating cold out of the fridge (you do that, right?).

Alex’s Cornbread

1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside to preheat.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In another bowl, combine the wet team: milk, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 tablespoon for the skillet later on.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven. Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

Whew–an entire stick of butter. I will try this recipe again but I will dial the butter back to 6 tablespoons.

Applesauce Oat Muffins

pile of muffins

With 6 cups of applesauce in the fridge to use up, I went in search of a simple muffin recipe. I stumbled upon this Healthy Applesauce Oat Muffin recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand, so off we went!

twobowls

The only substitute I made was regular AP flour for whole wheat flour only because I didn’t have any on hand. I also upped the cinnamon a bit and I wish I had added even more. Cinnamon ages fairly quickly in your pantry, so if yours is getting up there in age, you will want to up the cinnamon measurements in almost anything you make.

muffins

The batter came together easily and, amazingly, I actually got the exact number of muffins the recipe called for. This NEVER happens to me with muffins or cookies, so I took it as a good sign.

I baked for 20 minutes, turning my pan (which holds 24 muffins and I had doubled the recipe) once at 10 minutes. These probably could have gone just another minute or two to get all of the edges perfectly golden. I have several more cups of applesauce to use, so I may make another batch of these soon and see how they freeze.

These were moist and had a fantastic apple flavor. My applesauce was chunky, so there were still a few distinct chunks in the middle of the muffins which was a nice touch. Next time, I may also try adding some sanding sugar on top of the muffins for a little crunch. These aren’t overly sweet muffins, so the additional sugar wouldn’t be overkill.

muffins

Applesauce Oat Muffins

1 cup rolled/old­fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prep a muffin tin with liners or, like I did, spray the muffin cups with cooking spray.

Combine oatmeal, applesauce, milk, egg, vanilla, butter and sugar.

In another, larger bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix ONLY until combined. You don’t want to develop any gluten here by overworking the flour or your muffins will be dense, sad muffins. And no one wants dense, sad muffins, mkay?

Distribute the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. As always, I use an ice cream disher. Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning once during cooking.

Remove the muffins to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. Check her out–shes got some amazing stuff over there!

Applesauce

sauce

I’ll admit that I am often on autopilot when I go through the grocery store. I buy the same core fruits each week for us to use as snacks. When I don’t take a stock of what we have on hand before I go shopping, we end up with more of one fruit than we can eat before the pile will start to go south. This week, it is apples. I ended up with 8 extra apples in the fruit basket this week and, with another 7 fresh ones from the store. All signs point toward applesauce.

slicing

We don’t often end up eating the applesauce as a standalone food since it isn’t the most mobile of fruity foods. Instead, I commonly use applesauce as a sweetener in muffins to help increase the healthy factor for the kids. I’ve had good success subbing it for up to 1/3 of the white sugar in almost every quickbread/muffin recipe I’ve tried. This batch of sauce may be destined for pure apple muffins though.

readytocook

If you haven’t ever made applesauce before, it is dead easy! If you are into canning/preserving, this is a good candidate to put up. All of my canning and preserving equipment is packed up right now for the move, so this batch will need to be used up quickly!

mashing

Applesauce

8 Apples. I used mostly fuji with a few honeycrisp.
1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tsp cinnamon. This can be adjusted to taste–I usually use much more.

Peel and slice your apples. Add to a largeish pot with the other ingredients. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until your apples are soft. This timing will depend on the size of your apple slices, so check often!

Mash with a potato masher (Or a stick blender if you want super smooth applesauce). Add water or continue to simmer to adjust the thickness.

Makes roughly 6-7 cups

4 Ingredient Cookies

We had a cookie emergency here yesterday afternoon so the kids and I whipped up a batch of 4 Ingredient Cookies. I wasn’t even going to post about it here but several people on Facebook and Instagram hadn’t heard of these little gems when I thought everyone knew about them. Maybe that is a sign that I spend too much time googling cookie recipes?

The recipe couldn’t be simpler and is very forgiving. Sometimes I just eyeball it instead of measuring. One of my friends dialed the sugar back by half and reported they were still rich and delicious. I like these super sweet so they almost taste like the inside of a Reese’s peanut butter cup, so I will probably keep the sugar as is.

These are fantastic crumbled on top of a few scoops of ice cream, as Mr Piehole and I discovered last night.

Four Ingredient Cookies

1 cup of peanut butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
Chocolate chips (I like milk but I suppose you could use semi sweet)

Mix, scoop, bake at 350 until just barely set.

These will harden significantly as they cool and you want to retain a moist center or they will be crumbly. Mine took 18 minutes, turning halfway through.