Testing Recipes :: The Chocolate Chip Cookie

Glenn and I are on a little getaway in Santa Barbara this week! A dear friend of mine offered up her home while they are out of town! We couldn’t say no, and are already having a blast exploring town and chillaxin. Despite my vay-cay, I HAD to take a minute to post and tell you all about the chocolate chip cookies I made a few days ago.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you already know I was testing out a couple of chocolate chip cookie recipes. I kept seeing this recipe for The NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies come up on fellow food lover’s sites and photo streams, so I wanted to test it out and compare it to my favorite Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookies. Really, I just wanted an excuse to make a ton of cookie dough, so this worked out perfectly.

The ingredients vary slightly.  We’ll start with the Times recipe, which makes a monstrous amount of dough for a monstrous amount of cookies, so I froze about 3/4 of it and will bake them when you come over for dinner. I weighed the ingredients out for this recipe, and I am glad I did. If you have a food scale, I would highly recommend weighing your ingredients so you know your measurements are accurate!

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This recipe has cake flour, bread flour, baking powder, baking soda, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, dark chocolate (I used 72%), eggs, vanilla, and sea salt. Don’t mind the tomatoes. Those are from my garden (GLORY! THEY GREW!!) but they don’t taste very good (HEARTBREAK!) so I canned them when I was done with the cookies. Hoping they make a good marinara sauce.  Back to the cookies: the dough came together nicely, and looked very similar to your classic Toll House dough – light and fluffy.

The Thomas Keller recipe makes what I would consider a decent amount of dough for a decent amount of cookies. I learned a few years back that, for a household of two, I could easily freeze half the dough after shaping it into balls, and have cookies at the ready for months! I love this trick.

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This recipe has all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, dark muscovado brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter that has been cut into little pieces, two types of chocolate (72% and 55%), and eggs. The thing that makes these cookies unique is the dark brown sugar. If you haven’t tried dark muscovado brown sugar, I would highly recommend making these cookies at least once. It is a special ingredient, that is for sure.  It can be found at specialty stores like Whole Foods, or online. Pricy, but oh so worth it for the complexity of flavor and depth it adds to a basic chocolate chip cookie. Because of the dark muscovado sugar, the dough is very dark compared to the traditional Toll House dough. Do not be alarmed.

I tasted each dough side-by-side and both were delicious. I liked the blend of chocolate and depth of flavor in the TK recipe, but I loved the creaminess of the Times recipe dough. I think if you were a real cookie-dough fanatic, you would probably lean toward the Times dough over the TK dough…. but you will have to tell me once you try them both.

After a cool 24-hour chill in the refrigerator, it’s on to the baking! Both cookies are baked at 350. The Times cookies require a bit of a longer baking time than the TK ones, so I made sure to bake them separately. Also, as soon as the Times cookies come out of the oven, you sprinkle them with sea salt. I used Fleur de Sel because that’s all I had.

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I mean….these NY Times Cookies look incredible. I’m trying to decide if they would look as good without the salt, and I really don’t think they would. Just imagining the hint of salty aftertaste is making my mouth water.

Here are the Thomas Keller Cookies.

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Wow. Again. Based on the look of these, I feel as though they would be chewy and have that “fresh out of the oven” melty chocolate taste even a few hours later.

Here are both cookies cooling side-by-side so you can compare.

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AND NOW, the most important part : tasting and opinions.

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New York Times Recipe: This cookie is fluffy, buttery, and tastes like an incredible version of a traditional chocolate chip cookie. My favorite part is the salty bite on top and how that blends in with the buttery sweetness. I don’t love the dark chocolate, and would want to try this with a more traditional semi-sweet as opposed to the dark I used.  I also want to try it with walnuts, as I am a walnut-in-my-cookie kind of gal.

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Thomas Keller Recipe: This cookie is soft, chewy, and full of depth. It has similarities to a traditional chocolate chip cookie, but not many. The molasses from that dark sugar, as well as the blend of chocolates, give it something unique that keeps me coming back for more. This cookie does not taste good with walnuts (I have tried), but could use a little added salt – maybe I will double the salt in the recipe next time I make these and see how that goes.

Overall, these are both awesome and delicious versions of the chocolate chip cookie, and I would highly recommend them both! I think my heart is still won by Thomas Keller’s version, HOWEVER, I am going to make a few quick tweaks (mainly lowering the intensity of the chocolate I use and adding walnuts) of the NY Times recipe and could easily see that becoming my new favorite.  For those interested, here are the recipe links:

The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie

Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hope this was a fun end-of-summer post for you. Let me know if you make either recipe, and what your thoughts are along the way!

~Kristin

Fancy Fruit Tart

Fruit tarts are so fancy. I feel like, maybe, if fruit tarts had a theme song, it would go something like “ooooh lala, ooooooh lalala…”

I had never made a fruit tart before. It all seemed so complicated: make a perfect shortbread-like crust, whip and whip and whip and whip various creams and eggs until you have something resembling pudding, peel and slice ripe and beautiful fruits and arrange them, somehow, perfectly, so that everyone who sees your fruit tart will think you purchased it from the gourmet grocer.

Much too much effort for some fruit and pudding!

But then I was invited to a dinner party {yippee! we love dinner parties! and we love the people we got to dinner party with this weekend! oh how life would have been different had we met them all a year ago!} and I decided to give the fancy fruit tart a try.

It. Was. Delish.

And not that hard. You just can’t be distracted while whisking the pastry cream — it takes 100% of your focus. Word to the wise.

May today be worthy of a fancy fruit tart!

~Kristin

P.S. I used THIS sweet tart shell recipe and a slight variation of THIS pastry cream recipe.

Dear Internet: A Letter From Me to You

Hi Internet! It’s been a couple of days since we’ve talked, and there are oh so many things I need to update you on.

1. Everything in my life is somehow pushing me toward France.

It all started with the French Dinner Party. Then I read The Vintage Caper which was set in Marseilles and Paris. After I had finished reading The Vintage Caper,  the next book that came up in my library queu was Lunch in Paris. I’ll go ahead and let you guess what that book is about and just how much I drool over every chapter. Guess what happened next, Internet? The October issue of Food & Wine came in the mail, and what is the entire magazine devoted to? All things French! I mean really! What could this possibly mean?

I have realized that the only logical conclusion here is that I need to get myself to France immediately. Extravagant vacation dreaming, anyone?

2. I ran 8 miles. EIGHT. MILES. I know I’ve ran more than that before, Internet, but it’s been a while. And I ran it pretty fast, especially considering it’s still kind of hot here in the Rock of Little.  I’m totally ok patting myself on the back about it. This weekend I am attempting 10 miles. Eeep!

3. I made these ridiculous ice cream sandwiches.

They were so good. They made me nauseous. The good nauseous, obviously, but still nauseous. Here’s how I made them:

Start with your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I added chopped pecans to mine. Mmm.

Let the cookies cool. Eat a couple to make sure they aren’t poisonous. Heaven forbid you poison your family, Internet, we wouldn’t want that.

Once the cookies are cool, grab a couple of them and smear a heck of a lot of Nutella on each side. Nutella has been my friend for a long long time, Internet, but I’m kind of embarrassed to talk about it nowadays because I feel like everyone out there is Nutella-obsessed, which makes me feel like I’m jumping on a bandwagon any time I mention it.  Oh well. I need to get over myself. It’s good. That’s why we’re obsessive bandwagons. Right?

Scoop a lovely heap of vanilla frozen yogurt onto one of the Nutella-smeared cookies, then top with the second cookie. Frozen yogurt is the only reasonable option for these ice cream sandwiches. If you decide to use that Haagen Daaz Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream instead of frozen yogurt, I wash my hands of you. There’s only so much decadence one dessert can handle. I mean really.

This dessert is the easiest thing ever, and it will knock the socks off of everyone you know. Make it as soon as you get home today!

Love love love and more love to you, dearest Internet.

~Kristin

Dallas, Texas: Hotel Palomar and Other Such Fun

For Glenn’s birthday this year, we decided to visit Dallas. It’s only a five hour drive, it’s a big city {which we love}, and it’s in Texas {which we also love}.

During our visit we stayed at the Hotel Palomar Dallas. The Hotel Palomar is pretty much awesome. It’s centrally located, the staff is exceptionally friendly, and the beds are really comfy. They had a great workout facility, a beautiful spa that I was drooling over, and a wine hour every night where you could mingle with other guests. So fun!

The Hotel Palomar Dallas is part of the Kimpton Hotel Group, and I have to say I highly recommend any Kimpton hotel. I have stayed in Kimpton hotels in San Francisco, San Diego, and now Dallas. Oh! And our great experience at the Hotel Palomar just makes me that much more excited about staying at the Serrano Hotel in downtown San Francisco for my upcoming half marathon. I’ll try to get some better pictures from that stay… it’s just so hard to do anything but fall face-first onto the freshly made bed in a great hotel room when I walk in! How am I supposed to remember to take artsy pictures??!!

Our first stop in Dallas, and a big part of the reason we decided to take a trip to Dallas at all, was the recently opened In-N-Out. I’ve already told all of you about my love for In-N-Out, so there’s no need for me to take time explaining exactly how much we miss it or how amazing that first bite was. Oh me oh my.

Other fun moments on our first day in Dallas included burning the inside of our mouths on a habanero-chili cocktail at The Cedars Social and then looking for a place to grab dessert only to find that there is a Truluck’s in Dallas – home of the Chocolate Bag. I first experienced The Chocolate Bag thanks to my friend Blair back home in San Diego. I pretty much died a blissful death after my first bite. They serve a similar dessert here in Little Rock at a restaurant called SO, and the ever-so-talented Carol  made a version of it herself which you can read about here.

The Chocolate Bag at Truluck’s is a thick paper-bag shaped Belgian milk chocolate concoction, stuffed to the brim with a mixture of pound cake, fresh strawberries and blueberries, small crunchy bites of praline, and a mascarpone/whipped cream mixture.

You break into the bag and then pour homemade hot fudge all over it. It’s the most decadent and ridiculous thing one could ever eat, but it’s perfect for a birthday weekend. You will make yourself sick on this thing, I guarantee it.  Oh, and you see that orange-striped robe covering my arm? Another awesome feature at the Hotel Palomar Dallas was the animal-print bathrobes. I love bathrobes!

Hope you’re enjoying this! More on our second {and last} day in Dallas tomorrow.

~Kristin

The French Dinner Party : A How-To

This past weekend Glenn and I went to Dallas {TEXAS! I LOVE YOU! If you secede from the Union I will totally come along!} but before I share any details from our time there I absolutely HAVE to tell you guys about the French Dinner Party I threw last week. It was awesome. And oh so French. Well, at least it was kind of French. And even if it wasn’t that French it was very “Americans trying to be French” which is super fun.

The first thing you need to do when throwing a French dinner party is pick a date and invite some people. I would recommend keeping it simple and on the smaller side. For a French Dinner Party you really want to keep the focus on the food {it is a DINNER party, after all} so stick to four or six people total. Lucky for me I only KNOW six people in this city, so keeping the party small was not difficult.

Ok fine, I’m lying. I know about 10 people here now. Yea, I’m making friends.

Back to the dinner party. I invited #3 and her bestie Melissa, who we call Meliss. We love us some #3 and Meliss!

Now that you have the date, time, and guests taken care of it’s time to focus on the menu. I wanted to keep things simple as there’s nothing worse than slaving over the stove while your guests drink all the champagne.

The menu I put together:
brie and camembert
excessive amounts of fresh baguette
mussels cooked in a white wine, saffron and mustard sauce
almond cake with strawberry-rhubarb compote and creme fraiche
chocolate bouchons

I chose the desserts because they sounded delicious AND I could prepare them in advance. The same goes for the mussels. Mussels are one of the easiest dishes to put together but also have a fun “wow” factor going for them – plus they are oh-so French Bistro.

Don’t be scared of mussels! Even #3, who hates seafood {weirdo} liked them. They take on the flavor of the ingredients they are cooked in, and I always eat them with so much baguette I’m basically making myself a mussel sandwich. Also: I promise they are SO easy to prepare and your guests will be blown away!

Step number three in throwing a French Dinner Party would certainly have to be wearing a particularly French outfit. Everything is more fun when your hair’s in a bun and you’re wearing all black. Everything. Or, if you’re Glenn, if you let your wife tie a scarf around your waist and go all Sartorialist “On The Streets in Paris” on your pants.

When your dinner guests offer to bring something, have them pick up a couple bottles of French wine. It’s ok if they pick the bottles based on nothing more than the label.

Finally, the most important aspect of preparing a French dinner party is to EAT! While everyone is noshing on the cheese and sipping their wine, head into the kitchen and throw the mussels into the broth. I prepped the sauce for the mussels earlier in the afternoon so all I had to do was clean the mussels and toss them in. Three minutes later, dinner is served.

Voila! Wait, is that French? I don’t even know….

Happy Dinner Party!

~Kristin

ps. The recipes I used were all from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Cookbook which is readily available at any and all fine booksellers.

True Love

I have a new love. A tried and true love. A love that will stand the test of time.

LARD. It’s that good.

I had never purchased or used LARD before, but last week {when my family was squished into my tiny apartment} I wanted to make a pie. My mother has made several delicious peach pies in her time, and since the Arkansas peaches have been ripe, sweet, and plentiful lately we decided to whip up a pie to put them to good use.

I wanted to try a different pie crust recipe, just to switch things up. I typically make a crust that involves both butter and shortening, in addition to slowly drizzled-in ice water. The recipe I found and decided to try {from the ever-amazing Gourmet cookbook} involved my new best friend LARD as the only fat.

Based 100% on the success of this crust, I now give my full endorsement of LARD in any product. And yes, I feel the need to capitalize each letter in LARD every time I type it out. It’s a very important ingredient/word/friend of mine.

Go buy yourself some LARD. It’s particularly good for practicing those lattice-top crusts.  I think next time I’m going to try to make like twenty really thin pie crust strips to make a super fancy lattice-top.

That is all I came here to say.

Love,

Kristin

ps. Don’t worry, I’m still tracking my calories… and believe me when I say a slice of LARD peach pie was not in my weight loss plan… I had 3 bites. Boy were they delicious bites!

Paula Deen’s Zucchini Bread

I had a couple of rather large zucchini in the refrigerator, needing to be used up. Kimbo came over for a visit, because that’s what she does these days – she visits us! Just for a little while, since she has a big grown up life of her own with a big grown up apartment of her own, but she still visits, and we like her visits.

Kimbo asked me if I remembered  when she made loaf after loaf of zucchini bread last summer. I did, in fact, remember. It was good zucchini bread that Kimbo had made last summer, and she had used just one zucchini for about 10 loaves.

It was a really big zucchini.

The zucchini I used was not quite so large, but still a biggie. I shredded it up, 2 cups total.

I combined the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Flour, baking soda, a little salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a LOT of sugar. This is a Paula Deen recipe, after all. No butter, but a LOT of sugar.

I combined all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Zucchini, eggs, water, vegetable oil.

I poured the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stirred it up. Then the batter was ready. Ooooh yum!

All these ingredients make enough for 2 loaves of zucchini bread. Or 8 mini loaves. Or a heck of a lot of muffins.

The aroma of zucchini bread baking filled the house. I kept opening the oven door just to take a whif. Mmmm. Sugar and flour and oil. My oh my.

Two days later, this is all that is left of my two loaves of zucchini bread. About enough for 3 slices.

Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it ALL. I gave the rest away. It was simply too tempting to keep around! Right Julie?

Here’s the link to the recipe. And yes, convincing yourself it’s healthy because there are green vegetables in it is completely acceptable.

Happy Weekend, everybody!

~Kristin

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This is rhubarb. It is delicious.

I never would have thought that rhubarb would need an introduction, but here in Little Rock, it does. A few months ago, when the food world was all abuzz with rhubarb recipes, I asked my friend Carol if rhubarb was sold in Arkansas. I had searched high and low, from Walmart to the farmer’s market, with no luck. Carol informed me that rhubarb would be coming, but it would not be until much later in the season, and that when it did appear, I would need to tell my grocery store cashier what it was I was purchasing, as they would have no clue.

This week, on my Kristin Eats Extreme Couponing Adventure, I found rhubarb. I quickly gathered up a couple of pounds and went on with my deal-finding ways. As I was checking out, sure enough, the cashier asked me what it was. As she searched for the code for rhubarb and rang me up, the sweet old gentleman bagging my groceries turned to me and said “That’s a Yankee dish!”

Oh my.

Today, for all you Yankees out there, here is a delicious recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.  I found this on Smitten Kitchen, but changed the cooking time because I wanted the fruits to have more time to mingle and become squishy.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Lattice Top

Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

For crust
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
10 tablespoons (about) ice water

For filling
3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Make crust: Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. Blend in enough ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Make filling: Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Assemble Pie: Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about another 45 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

I served this with a very creamy vanilla frozen yogurt and it was quite the hit!

Have a lovely Thursday,

~Your Favorite Yankee

Perfect Cheesecake

This post is dedicated to Matthew L. Hughes who, years ago, challenged me to a cheesecake competition that has yet to happen. You’re fun to eat with, Hughes family.


Some people just love cheesecake. My mother is one of those people. Every holiday, birthday, and dinner party would end with my Mom’s cheesecake. It was more of a sour cream pie, really, with the cream cheese layer on the bottom and the sour cream layer on top. The layers were often dyed different colors which resulted in quite the exciting reveal once the cheesecake was cut into. Green and red for Christmas, pink and purple for my birthday, blue and yellow for Easter.

In high school, along with the popularity of The Cheesecake Factory came a new understanding of all cheesecake could be. Any flavor and filling was {and still is!} possible. Cheesecakes with brownie crust {yum}, cheesecakes with coconut {double yum}, cheesecake that tastes like a caramel latte. Mom’s favorite was {and still is!} plain cheesecake with fresh berries on top.

Well, Mom, I am happy to tell you I have perfected the cheesecake recipe. Creamy and indulgent with a hint of tartness from fresh raspberries, I dare you to make a more perfect cheesecake.  Oh, and there are no cracks, something that is seemingly impossible with every other cheesecake recipe I have tested.

Let me know if it turns out perfectly for you, too.

Perfect Cheesecake by Kristin Murdock

(recipe inspired by Ina Garten’s Cheesecake with Raspberries)

Crust:

1.5 Cups graham cracker crumbs

6 tbsp melted butter

1 tbsp sugar

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter together until all of the graham cracker crumbs are moist. Press into the bottom, and about an inch up the sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes. *Watch it closely! I frequently burn the crust which is just so disappointing!*

Cheesecake:

2 1/2 sticks of cream cheese {or 1 1/4 pounds}

3/4 cup sugar

3 whole eggs

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Once the crust has cooked, turn the oven down to 225. Allow the crust to cool as you prepare the cheesecake filling.

Combine the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Slowly add in the eggs and yolk, one or two at a time, until combined.  Add in the sour cream and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour into cooled graham cracker crust, place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another hour or two.  When the cheesecake is at room temperature, refrigerate until ready to serve. I would recommend allowing at least 2 hours in the fridge. Just before serving, top with raspberry sauce.

Raspberry sauce:

2 pints raspberries OR 1 small bag frozen raspberries

1/2 container raspberry jam or preserves

Combine the raspberries and preserves in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour onto cheesecake. Serve and enjoy!