Monday, June 22, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, as good as they are, the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies aren't my favorite chocolate chip cookies. These are. I stumbled upon the recipe on epicurious a few years ago, and they've been my favorites ever since (I just looked, and apparently I added them to my epicurious recipe box more than 10 years ago! I didn't think it had been that long...). I love the way the dough smells, I love the scent while they're cooking, and I love the taste. They're simple to make, and the dough freezes well -- I put the dough balls on a cookie sheet in the freezer until they're hard, and then pop them into zip-top bags for long-term storage.

These are so good that I don't actually have any pictures of the finished product - I made them for our babysitter before she left for the summer, and the few that we didn't give her got gobbled up in short order. So you're just going to have to trust me that they are that good. They are just a bit crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside -- truly chewy, in a way that non-oatmeal cookies just can't accomplish.

One of the key ingredients in these cookies is nutmeg. While these cookies are good if you use pre-ground nutmeg, they really come alive with freshly-grated nutmeg. It's worth buying a nutmeg just for this recipe, in my opinion (and a Microplane grater, if you don't already have one). And I admit that I don't actually measure the grated nutmeg when I make this recipe; I just grate it right into the batter and eyeball it.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Bon Appetit, via epicurious
Makes about 50 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I usually use a combination of light and dark brown sugars)
2 eggs
1 3.4-ounce package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans (or some of each)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place parchment paper on 3 cookie sheets.

Beat butter in large bowl until light. Gradually add white and brown sugars and beat mixture until fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add pudding mix, vanilla extract, baking soda, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix until well blended. Mix in oats, then flour. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop cookie dough by large rounded spoonfuls (or use a #40 disher) onto parchment-paper covered cookie sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies appear dry and tops are lightly cracked but soft when pressed, about 10-12 minutes (do not overbake!). Cool cookies 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to racks and cool.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rosemary-Parmesan Almost No-Knead Bread

I cannot believe I waited this long to make this bread. This is Cook's Illustrated's Almost-No-Knead Bread, and it is so good and so easy... I've already made it a second time. And I bought a six-pack of beer to keep on hand so I can make it again. And I'm plotting variations.

It takes a little while from start to finish - between 11 and 20 hours - but you don't have to do anything for almost all of that time. Seriously - I think I spent about 10 minutes doing actual work on this bread.

I think I'll be making bread weekly from now on.

Almost No-Knead Bread
from Cook's Illustrated

15 oz (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant/rapid-rise yeast
1-1/2 tsp table salt
7 oz (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) room temperature water
3 oz (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) mild-flavored lager (CI recommends Budwiser, I have Henry Weinhard's Blonde and was quite happy)
1 Tbsp white vinegar
(optional: 4 oz finely grated parmesan (about 2 cups, packed tightly) and 1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves. If you use them, add them with the flour in step one.)

1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl (preferably glass). Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (that's why I like a glass bowl - the plastic wrap sticks better!) and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours. Protip: write the 8-hour time and the 18-hour time with a Sharpie right on the plastic wrap. Then you won't have to remember when your countdown started.

2. Lay a 12- by 18- inch sheet of parchment paper inside a 10-inch skillet and spray the paper with cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10-15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges to middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest (or second lowest) position, place 6- to 8- quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven with lid (mine is only 5.5 quarts and it works fine) on the rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees (my Dutch oven is only 5.5 quarts and can only go to 450 degrees, so I set the oven to 450 and everything worked fine). Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhand and lower into pot (let excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20-30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Note: both times I made this, the bottom of the bread got way overdone -- it was scorched. Next time, I think I'll reduce the oven temp to 400 and see what happens.

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