multigrain sandwich bread - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

Yesterday was a total flop in the kitchen. I started out making this bread, got to step two and couldn’t find the honey ANYWHERE. I asked my 2-year-old daughter, who is notorious for hiding things, where she put it. “Ummmmmmm….in there,” she said uncertainly, and halfheartedly pointed towards the living room. My multigrain cereal was quickly cooling, soon going to drop below the 100 degree mark, and I frantically searched the house, to no avail. I gave up, and scrapped the now very cool cereal, and made granola. (Which turned out great, so I suppose the day wasn’t a total failure. And while I was at my hair appointment, which was also a success, my husband found the honey where Stella squirreled it away in a shopping bag in the kitchen. Sigh.)

weighing ingredients

dough ball

Homemade pasta was on the menu for that night, which I got started on immediately after my haircut. I’d made it only once before, but it was pretty easy and seamless, so I thought it would be no problem to make starting at 3:30 pm. Ha. I mistakenly used a different recipe, and after 2 hours of work had to throw out the whole thing. Of course, I cried. And the kids, bored with TV and with me being in the kitchen, started going bonkers. I turned just in time to see my daughter playing in the bowl of flours that I was saving for the bread I wanted to start on again the next day. When my husband came home from work, I was at my wits end, and said I was never going in the kitchen again. Ok, end of rant.

rolled out dough
rolled out dough
dough log

Here I am, the next day, making the bread. I can say it’s because I’m saving us money, but that would only be part of the truth (good bread is expensive!). But it’s mostly because it’s been a month since I made this last, and I have been dreaming about it. I don’t think I can eat another supermarket loaf again, at least not for awhile. This bread is amazing. It takes my family about 4 days to walk through two loaves. I wouldn’t say it’s SUPER easy to make, but so worth it. This winter, when we didn’t have much to do but sit around and read and play games and make food, I kept us stocked with this bread. So, here I am, back in the kitchen, making this bread, while my crazy daughter is doing who-knows-what. This time I will at least make sure I have the honey, and that she keeps her hands out of the flour.

loaves, before rise
loaves, after rise

 

Multigrain Sandwich Bread - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

 

Easy Multigrain Sandwich Bread - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Easy Multigrain Sandwich Bread

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (of course)

Tools you will need in order to make this:
-Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
-Two 9×5″ loaf pans (I have made this with 8×4″ pans, and it turned out okay, but I would recommend the bigger size)
-Kitchen thermometer (preferably instant-read)

Tools that really really come in handy when making this:
-Water sprayer/spritzer bottle
-Bench scraper (like this one)
-Kitchen scale (I like this one because it comes in a rainbow of colors, and it slides nicely in with my cookbooks on the shelf because it’s nice and flat.)

A note on ingredients: You will need to get a 7-grain hot cereal mix, like the ones from Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills. You will find it in the cereal aisle, with the hot cereals, but I’ve found that it’s not in all grocery stores. I have bought it on Amazon a few times; it’s a good idea if you’re going to use it often because it’s a bigger package. It’s also really delicious as actual breakfast cereal. 🙂

6 1/4 ounces (1 1/4 cups) 7-grain hot cereal mix
20 ounces (2 1/2 cups) boiling water
15 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting work surface)
7 1/2 ounces (1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
4 tbsp honey *(see below for vegan option)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, *(see below for vegan option)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon table salt
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin or sunflower seeds (I do half and half if I have both)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1. Place cereal mix in bowl of standing mixer and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees and resembles thick porridge, about 1 hour. Whisk flours in medium bowl.**
2. Once grain mixture has cooled, add honey, melted butter, and yeast and stir to combine. Attach bowl to standing mixer fitted with dough hook. With mixer running on low speed, add flours, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until dough forms ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes (if it does not clear sides, add 2 to 3 tablespoons additional flour and continue mixing); continue to knead dough for 5 more minutes on low (on my Kitchenmaid, it’s speed level 2). Add seeds and knead for another 15 seconds. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead by hand until seeds are dispersed evenly and dough forms smooth, taut ball. Place dough into greased container with 4-quart capacity; cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.***
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 9×5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and pant into 12×9-inch rectangle ****(see note below); cut dough in half crosswise with knife or bench scraper. With short side facing you, starting at farthest end, roll one dough piece into a log. Pinch seam together gently. Spritz with water all over, then roll in the oats so that they completely cover the loaf. Drop loaf into prepared pan, then repeat process for second loaf. Cover loaves lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes (in the winter, when my kitchen is chilly, I rise the loaves on my stovetop while the oven is preheating). Dough should barely spring back when poked with your knuckle when it is ready to go in the oven. Bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 35-40 minutes. (I start checking at 30 minutes). Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire rack before slicing, about 3 hours.

Notes:

This bread is called easy, and it is. The 7-grain cereal replaces a whole bunch of different flours, so the ingredient list is pretty minimal for a multigrain bread. I’ve never been much of a bread-baker; baking with yeast seemed daunting to me. This was one of the first bread recipes I ever tried, and it turned out great the first time! However, it is time consuming. It takes almost 4 hours to make this, from start to finish, including resting and rising times. The nice part is that you can get the hot cereal mix going, and get all your other ingredients ready while it’s cooling. But for me, the rest and rise times just aren’t quite long enough for me to go anywhere, so it has to be made on a day that I’ll be sticking around the house.

*Vegan options: For the butter, you can probably substitute Earth Balance, but my trusted vegan source says that what’s way way better is making your own vegan butter from scratch. She uses this recipe. For the honey, my source recommends “Honee”, which is a vegan honey substitute made from apples and lemon. Agave syrup would probably be too sweet, and I think maple syrup is too strong of a flavor, although if you can’t find Honee and don’t want to order on Amazon, maple syrup is probably your best bet.

**Having a digital kitchen scale is so very helpful when baking. I just started doing this, and wish I would have started years ago! It’s a more accurate way to measure flour and other dry ingredients, and it is super fast and easy. I just put my bowl on the scale, hit “tare”, add the first ingredient, then hit “tare” again, and add the next ingredient. “Tare” clears the scale, so you are weighing just what you’re putting in after pushing it. I recommended a scale above, but you can find ones even cheaper on Amazon that get good reviews.

***An easy way to get your dough to the perfect 12×9″ size before making into loaves, spread your flour out on the counter, and then draw a 12×9″ rectangle in the flour with your finger. Then plop your dough in the middle of the rectangle and gently press it to the edges of the drawn rectangle. (See photos)

quick tip
rolled out dough

 

****Today while baking the bread, I ended up running out of time before it would be ready to go in the oven, so I tried slowing down the final rise process by putting the prepared loaves in the refrigerator. They ended up still really great, so if you are short on time for some reason, I recommend putting your prepared loaves in the fridge until you can bake them. I’m not sure exactly how long you can do this for…the recommended rise time for the loaves is 35-40 minutes at room temperature. I put them in the fridge right after preparing them, and took them out to bake about 3.5 hours later and they had doubled in size in the fridge. I let them get back to room temperature (set them on the stovetop while the oven preheated) before baking. I don’t think you could let them sit in the fridge for much longer than that since they doubled already in that amount of time…definitely not overnight. But this is a quick fix if you somehow run short on time and need to come back to it later!

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Greek-Style Chicken Kebabs

August 28, 2014

Greek Chicken Kebabs - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

 

Margaux says…

We recently got a new gas grill, which replaced an ancient double hand-me-down (it was handed down to us from someone who had it handed down to them).  Our new one is also a hand-me-down, but much much newer, with no rust and *GASP!* it actually evenly cooks the food.  The other bonus to the new one is I can use it!  The old one had all these quirks, and it wasn’t easy to get started.  I could do it, but not very easily, and definitely not on a weeknight with two crazy kids hanging on me.  This new one is easier to use than the stove!  So I’ve been grilling every other night…no pan to clean up, and the kitchen stays nice and cool.  This is one of my favorite grilling recipes, an adaptation from the recipe magazine I use all summer long.  It’s not as quick as some of them, and doesn’t take 30 minutes like the magazine says, but it’s still quick enough that I can do it on a weeknight.  Plus, I kind of make it more complicated by doing veggie skewers for my vegetarian son along with it.  The recipe calls for serving it along with grilled pita, but I usually also serve with grilled veggie skewers and a green salad.

Greek-Style Chicken Kebabs with Grilled Flatbread

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Fall 2010 edition

1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced

1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp juice from 1 lemon

1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (about 1 1/2 lbs)

2 red onions, cut into 1″ chunks

4 pita bread rounds

1. Whisk yogurt, 2 tbsp oil, garlic, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in bowl.  Toss oregano, cayenne, and chicken with half of yogurt mixture.

2. Thread four 12-inch skewers with chicken and onions.  Grill over hot fire, turning skewers every 2 minutes, until onions and chicken are cooked through, about 12 minutes.  Transfer skewers to platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.  Brush both sides of pita rounds with remaining oil and grill until lightly charred and warm, about 1 minute.  Transfer to platter with chicken.

3. Toss cucumbers with remaining yogurt mixture.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with chicken and pita.

Chicken Tikka Masala

February 27, 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

Cook’s Illustrated does it again, as usual.  Well, did it in 2007 in the Sept/Oct issue, at least.  I love Indian food, and chicken tikka masala is my favorite.  But when you have two small children, going out for Indian food isn’t an option because fiery hot food isn’t gonna fly.  And my husband and I just don’t get out to dinner alone much anymore.  So the fabulous Indian restaurants that are available to us up on Devon Ave. are just gonna have to wait a few more years.  Luckily we got to frequent them enough in our pre-kid years to hold us over.  Plus, we have this weeknight version of chicken tikka masala to hold us over, too…it is really really good.

You really can make this on a weeknight.  I did, with one kid “helping” and the other snacking happily in her high chair, our usual dinner making time routine.  The sauce can even be made ahead of time, to make it even easier…but really, I say why bother because it’s easy enough to just make it that night.  The sauce is super flavorful, the chicken super tender, and served over basmati rice you have a fantastic meal!

Chicken Tikka Masala

adapted by Cook’s Illustrated

Chicken Tikka

1/2 tsp Ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp table salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (it really tastes best with this, but you can use lowfat if you must!)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed and minced (unless you want more heat…then leave them in and mince)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp garam masala
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. For the chicken: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger, set aside.
2. For the sauce: Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10-18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

Caldo Verde - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

A soup similar to this was posted by a bunch of people on Pinterest recently, which I made and liked a lot. Then Aunt Suzy emailed me this recipe, which was very similar but looked better. Instead of using cream to make it a creamy soup, you puree some of the potatoes, which I like better. I waited a few weeks to try this one out so that we didn’t over do the potato-greens-sausage soup around here, and I’m so glad I got around to making this! It is fantastic…blows the other soup out of the soup pot. Ha! And my husband, Jason, raved about it as well, claiming it to have the “best broth ever.” He’s really good about complimenting my cooking, but this was more emotion than he usually shows about food. So I put this one in the “win” column and will be definitely making it again!

I think that you can switch out different kinds of greens/sausage/potatoes to suit your likes. I made it with spicy Italian sausage because that’s what I had on hand, instead of the chorizo. Next time I’ll make it with the chorizo probably, but the spicy Italian was still good. I prefer Yukon gold potatoes, but russet would be fine, too. And as for the greens, I would stick with tougher, bitter greens like collard, or any type of kale. I don’t think spinach or chard would hold up as well. The main thing that made this soup stand out to me was the process of taking out part of the potatoes and pureeing them to make the broth thick and creamy.

Aunt Suzy says..

As Margaux mentioned, our initial foray into the greens/potato/sausage soup arena was a recipe we saw on Pinterest that we both made exactly according to the recipe, me with chicken and Margaux with pork sausage.  Then my guy Randy shared this recipe with us from Cook’s Illustrated, which we tried shortly thereafter. I’ve made the Pinterest one with regular kale and unpeeled russets and another time with Lacinato kale, unpeeled Yukon Golds and fully cooked Italian sausage from Trader Joe’s. And then I’ve made this recipe exactly as specified.  All are really good, but I think this one is the winner.  Pureeing some of the potatoes with olive oil creates an emulsion that makes for a very silky texture without dairy. Today, I’ve made one of our favorite stewsand Randy asked me if it included sausage – hehe, guess we’ve had enough sausage around here for a while.

Caldo Verde
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients

¼ cup EV olive oil

12 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (fully cooked, not fresh Mexican)

1 medium onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

4 cups chicken stock or broth

4 cups water

1 pound collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, optional

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chorizo to bowl and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add onion. Cook for a few minutes till translucent. Add the garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, another 3 minutes. Add potatoes, broth, and water; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove 3/4 cup solids and 3/4 cup broth to a bowl or measuring cup.  Set aside. Add collard greens to pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in chorizo and continue to simmer until greens are tender, 8 to 10 minutes longer.

Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil to solids/broth mixture that was set aside. Place in blender jar (or use immersion blender) and process until very smooth and emulsified, about 1 minute. Remove pot from heat and stir pureed soup mixture and vinegar, if using, into soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Cook’s Notes: If you live near a Whole Foods, Amylu Chicken Chorizo in a 9-ounce package works really well with this and the 9-ounces seemed like enough.  You can try with or without the vinegar. AS didn’t use it and Margaux did.

Golden Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

It’s cake season around here…we have several birthdays in January and February in our family, so I’m basically making cake after cake for about two months. This is one of my favorite cake recipes…I typically make it as a 9″ layer cake, but my sister-in-law wanted cupcakes for her birthday party, and they turned out really great.  I’ve posted about the frosting before, on a similar cake that I’ve made often, and also love, but since I discovered this Cook’s Illustrated version I may just make this one from now on whenever I’m wanting a yellow cake.  Because of science-y Cook’s Illustrated details, this cake is fluffier and has a finer crumb.  And the frosting is silky and delicious…you have to try it!

Fluffy Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Fluffy Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting

from Cook’s Illustrated

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon table salt

1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks, room temperature

3 large egg whites, room temperature

1. Adjust oven rack to middle and heat to 350 degrees.  Place 27 cupcake liners into cupcake tins (or grease two 9″ round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then grease and flour).  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl.  In 4 cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and yolks.

2.  In clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, continue to beat until stiff peaks form, about a minute or so.  Transfer to another bowl and set aside.

3.  Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment.  With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds.  Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl.  Return mixer to med-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10-15 seconds.

4.  Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.  Fill each cupcake liner evenly, about 3/4 full.

5.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 17-19 minutes.  Let cool on rack in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.  Frost with milk chocolate frosting.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

While cakes are cooling, prepare frosting.

20 tbsp butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder

pinch table salt

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla

8 oz. high quality milk chocolate, like Ghiradelli, melted and cooled slightly

In a food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, about 30 seconds.  Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5-10 seconds.  Scrape sides of the bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, about 10-15 times.

Fill a pastry bag with frosting and either cut the tip off so that there’s about a 1/2″ round opening, or fit with a piping tip.  Swirl frosting generously on cupcakes.  Eat and be happy!

 

Margaux says . . . 

I know, I know…here we are posting another &^%#@! Cook’s Illustrated recipe. But I promise, these will be the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever make, so all the extra work that those blasted people at Cook’s make us do is very worth it. They really are for everyone: they’re chewy, soft and crispy all at the same time. Crispy on the edges, chewy and soft in the middle. One of the extra steps is browning the butter, which gives them a nutty, toffee-like flavor (and adds to the chewiness). The whisking and resting for 3 minutes (the other extra step in the recipe) is key to the success of your cookies.  I don’t remember the scientific stuff from the original article in Cook’s, but this process, along with the browned butter, is what makes them so chewy on the inside and crispy on the edges.  It’s tiresome, I know, but just think of it as extra arm exercises for the day! I promise you will never make a Toll House batch again.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Randy made these cookies for Valentine’s Day and they were so fabulous, I suggested to Margaux that we each bake a batch and do a joint post.  She had made them before so she readily agreed!  I must say these are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever eaten for all the reasons Margaux stated.  I also proposed that we title these cookies “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ever” :-). These are totally worth the Cook’s Illustrated extra-scientific steps, although when I got to the part where you whisk for 30 seconds and let rest for 3 minutes – TIMES 3! – I thought that a funny video could easily be made about these cookies like the one about CI beef stew that was going around recently.  You might be tempted to use an electric mixer, but these cookies are totally done by hand mixing – another thing that contributes to their delicousness.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Makes 16 large cookies.

14 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, divided use
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
1-3/4 cups (8-3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 cups (7-1/2 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

To prepare oven, baking sheets: Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper. (AS note: my cookie sheets were on the small side, so I ended up needing 3.) Set aside.

To brown butter: In 10-inch skillet, melt 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. (Note: Avoid using nonstick skillet; dark color of nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when butter is sufficiently browned.) Cook, swirling pan constantly, for 1 to 3 minutes or until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma. Transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Stir until completely melted.

To make cookie dough: Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla to melted butter. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk. Whisk for 30 seconds or until mixture is smooth and no sugar lumps remain. Let rest for 3 minutes. Whisk for 30 seconds. Let rest and whisk 2 more times or until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.  (I think this method sets up the leavening of the cookies, as you can see with the bubbles in the pic.)

In medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Using rubber spatula, stir flour mixture into sugar mixture for 1 minute or until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Give dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

To shape and bake cookies: Scoop up 3 tablespoons dough. Roll into ball. Place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls 2 inches apart.

Bake 1 sheet at a time for 10 to 14 minutes or until cookies are golden brown and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft. (Note: Rotate baking sheet halfway through baking.) Transfer baking sheet to wire rack. Cool to room temperature.

Baker’s Notes:

(Margaux): You definitely want to make these the size that the recipe says…I know it seems like really extra-big cookies, but they don’t turn out the same when smaller.  I tried making them smaller once (1 1/2 tbsp) in order to get more cookies out of it, and they turned out flatter and crispy.  When baking, err on the side of under-done.  They still taste great if they get a little over-done, but they’re really great when you take them out when the center looks puffy and slightly raw.  Because you let these cookies cool in the pan, they continue to cook after taking out of the oven.  I found that for my oven and pan combination (I used a regular aluminum cookie sheet) that 12 minutes was just right.

(Aunt Suzy):  Because I like a cookie with not so much chocolate, I used 1 cup of chocolate chips and increased the nuts (pecans) to 1 cup. I agree with Margaux about the amount of cookie dough to use – don’t make them too small, although it’s tempting because these cookies are a lot of work for a small number of end product.  I ended up with 19 cookies, a little more than promised.  Taking a cue from Cook’s Illustrated, I did an experiment of my own. I baked a batch on an insulated cookie sheet – the kind with air in-between 2 layers of metal  – and a batch on a regular aluminum cookie sheet.  They came out very different!  The ones on the insulated spread out more and those on the non-insulated sheets were rounder and  a little more well-done.  Perfect timing for my oven was 10 min for non-insulated and 12 min for the insulated.  Both batches taste great, but if you’ve got an insulated cookie sheet, I’d recommend using it.  

Strawberry Cream Cake

July 8, 2011

Margaux says….

I made this for my Granny’s 86th birthday.  The strawberry season is much too short, and this year it seems even shorter (and even non-existent).  All the strawberries I’ve gotten so far have been pretty flavorless, and when my mom went to get some for this cake, she said that they’re already gone from the farmer’s market in Peoria (IL).
Luckily, Aunt Suzy (not knowing of my strawberry troubles) sent me a text on Tuesday asking if I wanted her to pick up a bucket of strawberries at a farmer’s market in Menomonie, WI that she stopped at on the way down for the party.  YES!  I was seriously considering buying supermarket strawberries because I was determined to make this cake!  I’ve made it a few times over the years, and I was NOT going to let a strawberry season go by without making it.  And the strawberries she got were the biggest, most beautiful and sweetest ones I’ve had this year.  So my strawberry season went out with a bang!

Aunt Suzy says . . . 🙂

This cake isn’t the easiest to make, but it’s also not the most difficult. I think more than anything, it’s just time consuming, because you have to hull and slice all the strawberries. Otherwise, the cake is a cinch to make, and the frosting is just as easy! And it’s really fun to build. Adding the cream layer is a little tricky. I found it was easiest to place dollops on and then gently spread them outward to the edges.
Voila! The cake is light and spongy, so the puree soaks in nicely. And the cream cheese/whipped cream topping is so velvety-smooth! It really is a crowning culinary achievement, and your friends will ooh and ahh when you bring it out!

Best Strawberry Cream Cake

from Cook’s Illustrated 2006

If using a cake pan, you will need one with straight sides that are at least 2 inches high; otherwise, use a springform pan. The cake portion can be made ahead of time, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, and frozen; thaw the frozen cake, unwrapped, at room temperature for about two hours before proceeding with the recipe.

Cake
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 lbs. medium or large strawberries (about 2 qts), washed, dried and stemmed
4-6 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp kirsch
pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour round 9 x 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tbsp sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tbsp sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60-90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.
3. For the strawberry filling: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tbsp sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tbsps, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.
4. For the whipped cream: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).
5. To assemble the cake: Using large serrated knife slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.