whole wheat chocolate chunk cookies

jumble of cookiesThis is the kind of cookie you want when you
a) want to feel like you’re being healthy even though you’re still devoted to butter
b) desire a more substantial cookie (these vs regular chocolate chip cookies are akin to cake doughnuts vs Krispy Kreme glazed: both delicious, but one has a little more substance)
c) crave a more complex cookie, rather than one made with your generic white flour
d) all of the above
(Can’t you tell it’s exam time?)
cookie dough, ready to be bakedfreshly baked whole wheat chocolate chunk cookiescookies, coolingMy rationale behind these cookies is generally “d,” as all the options apply. Look, I know that no one’s bidding for us to reinvent the wheel on chocolate chip cookies, but I think this is a nice option. As I’ve said, they’re complex: the whole wheat flour adds depth and a wholesome wheat-y flavor (shocker, I know), and the melty shards of bittersweet chocolate, and, if you like, toasted pecans round it out nicely. Texturally, they have a coarser crumb than your average cookie, yet still maintain crispy edges and a softer middle. They pair perfectly with a glass of milk or mug of tea, the rare and lovely fall weather we’ve been graced with in New Orleans, and your favorite sweater (and you, of course).
whole wheat chocolate chunk cookiespile of cookiescrumbly and chocolatey

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chunk Cookies
adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain 

I added some toasted pecans, but that’s completely optional. I would definitely chopping your own chocolate though, because chocolate chips aren’t the same as  having melty shards and chunks of bittersweet chocolate.

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4- 1/2 inch
1/2 cup pecans, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, dumping back into the bowl anything that remains in the sifter (like kosher salt). If you’re feeling lazy, yes, whisking is fine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugars. Scape down the sides of the bowl, and add the eggs, one at at time, beating to combine. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add the chopped chocolate and pecans (if using) and stir just to combine.

Scoop dough in about 3 tablespoons sized  balls. Leave about 3 inches in between the cookies, as they’ll spread out. Flatten the tops slightly with your fingertips.

Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes (the size of your cookies will determine baking time, so if you went smaller, check earlier), rotating the baking sheets halfway through. They should be dark brown, barely set in the middle, and have cracks on the top. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Storing: Boyce recommends eating these the first day. Undoubtedly that’s when they’re the best, but I found that these were good keepers, even up to a week later. They’ll get harder and more crumbly, but definitely still good (especially for dunking in milk).

As always, you can freeze the unbaked dough, letting it soften and then adding a few minutes to the baking time.

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cherry almond biscotti

cherry almond biscotti
I’ll just reveal my partiality now: the classic combination of cherry and almond is perhaps my very favorite pairing, so fittingly, these are my favorite biscotti. (And before you roll your eyes at the fact that I just declared I had a favorite biscotti—I know, I know, it’s a ridiculous category. Favorite cookie, maybe, but who has a favorite biscotti? Ahem.) Anyway, here’s why I think they’re so great: they are a little bit chewy yet have some crunch from the slivered almonds (even more if you toast the almonds),  the dark chocolate dunk provides a bittersweet contrast to the chewy, candy-sweet dried cherries, and they’re double baked (biscotti in Italian means twice baked) to a golden brown.
forming sticky logsfirst bakeslice on the diagonalgolden brownUnlike most cookies, where you want a juxtaposition of textures (crisp around the edges, gooey and chewy in the middle), the goal for biscotti is to bake them golden brown atop and perfectly crisp all the way through (but not dry or stale). Almond extract and  vanilla underscore the floral notes of cherry and almond. To me, these biscotti are nearing the ideal in texture and taste (nearing, of course, because can the ideal ever be reached? It’s like an asymptote…aaannnddd too much math and philosophical musings.)
coolingstationsdunking in dark chocolatebiscotti, post-chocolateI’ve made these several times (see above: favorite biscotti) yet somehow they’re only making an appearance now. Always great keepers, biscotti are perfect for traveling; I have a tradition of baking these for our annual family vacation. I layer them in an airtight tin, and we munch on them throughout our trip. tightly packed in a tinbiscotti, packed uplayers of cherry almond biscotti

Cherry Almond Biscotti
adapted from an AP article written by J.M. Hirsch, which was adapted from Tish Boyle’s “The Good Cookie,” and published in Times Picayune in February 2009 (hopefully that sounds less confusing than it just did typing it)

The original recipe was for cashew cherry biscotti, which would have undoubtably been delicious, but I couldn’t resist the sway of cherry + almond.

I’ve made a few changes to the instructions, namely in the shaping of the logs before the first bake. The original recipe directs you to shape the logs on a “lightly floured countertop,” but you’re gonna lose way too much of that sticky sticky sticky dough on the countertop/cutting board and your fingers. (I speak from experience.) I’ve found it’s easier just to plop the dough directly onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and shape it with heavily floured fingertips there.

Makes around 20 biscotti, depending on how you slice them

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds, chopped (toasted, optional)
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped in halves or thirds
1 1/2 cups dark/bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate*

Preheat oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and extracts, then beat until smooth and creamy.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until a heavy, sticky dough forms. Add the almonds and cherries and mix until just combined.

Divide the dough in half in the bowl. Using a spatula, transfer one half to the baking sheet. The dough is so sticky that it’s probably easiest to dollop it onto the baking sheet, and then, using heavily floured hands, shape it into a 12-inch log. Flatten the log until it’s about 2 inches wide. Repeat with second half of dough. Be sure to leave about 2-3 inches of space in between the logs, as the dough will spread.

Bake on a rack in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the logs just begin to turn  brown.

Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300° F.

Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal into  2/3-inch to 1-inch wide slices, depending on personal preference. Place the slices on their sides on the baking sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch between the slices. (Use another sheet if you run out of room.) Bake again for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the biscotti are golden brown on the top and edges. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack to cool.

Once the biscotti are completely cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water on the stove (double-boiler). Dip half of each biscotti into the chocolate, using a spoon to get full coverage (but avoid covering the bottom), and set on a wire rack to set. If you’re in a hurry or the chocolate is taking too long to set, pop them in the fridge.

Storing: Biscotti will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, for a while, a week-ish. (If they last that long.)

*I mean, I guess you could omit the chocolate if you really wanted to, but no one would be very happy about it.

blackberry granita

blackberry granita, mine
In New Orleans, snowballs reign supreme in the summer. No, NOT snowcones. Or shaved ice, or any other coarse, crunchy ice in a paper cone that you could probably just blitz in your food processor. The New Orleans snowball is a completely different animal. The ice is the defining factor– it must be so fine that it melts in your mouth (the best ice goes to Hansen’s). Next, the flavors. Great snowball stands don’t just have the classics, they have everything from bananas foster cream (at Plum Street) to Pink Squirrel and Robin (at my neighborhood stand, Sal’s). The syrup is poured liberally on the snowball, and voila! Summertime bliss.
blackberriesdark purple pureescrape scrape scrape But granita? I was suspicious, as it always seemed to me to be just a pale imitation of a snowball. However, I’ve come to acknowledge its place. Granita can exist in an entirely separate world than snowballs, as they’re different animals. In this recipe, over a pound of blackberries gives the granita its concentrated flavor and beautifully rich dark purple hue (don’t be like me and wear white shorts when you make/eat this…). Mascarpone cream gives the granita what it lacks by itself—a rounding out of the textures (not so crunchy). Then top with lemon zest and some blackberries, and you’ve got the prettiest dessert.
blackberries, lemon zest, and a dollop of mascarpone creamblackberry granita

Blackberry Granita
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2013

Makes around 6-8 servings

I liked that this dessert was well-balanced, in texture (icy granita + mascarpone cream + juicy blackberries) as well as flavor. That being said, I’d advise you not to skip the mascarpone cream, as it adds greatly to the dessert.

Granita
4 cups blackberries (about 18 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur; optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt

Lemon cream and assembly
1/2 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus more for garnish
1 1/3 cups blackberries (about 6 ounces), cut in half crosswise if you’re feeling fancy like Bon Appetit was

For granita: 
Purée blackberries, sugar, crème de cassis, if using, lemon juice, salt, and 1 cup water in a food processor or blender until smooth. Strain purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan (preferably metal, as it will freeze the granita quicker than a glass pan will), pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

Freeze mixture until edges begin to set, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the freezer, and using a fork, scrape to break up frozen portions. Freeze, scraping and breaking up mixture every 20-30 minutes (or sporadically every 45ish minutes, if you’re a granita-neglecter like me), until mixture resembles fluffy shaved ice, 2-4 hours.

For lemon cream and assembly:
Just before serving, whisk together mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.

Serve granita topped with lemon cream, halved blackberries, and more lemon zest.

Storing: The granita can be made several days ahead and kept frozen, covered. Scrape with a fork before serving.

berry hand pies

berry hand piesWhile we’re on the subject of neglecting foods/ingredients (see previously: chocolate), pie has been utterly passed over in my kitchen this summer. Why? Not for any particularly noble reasons, but mainly because pie does requires time and care. Pie is commitment, whereas there are a plethora of other ways to use up fruit that are much more easygoing. (I’m looking at you, cobbler.)
pie doughblueberries and raspberriesadd lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, saltmound the berriesBut I got my act together for the Fourth to make some patriotic red raspberry and blueberry hand pies, which, by the way, are essentially the pastry form of a personal pizza. Genius. They’re also an ode to all the crust-lovers out there, as the ratio of crust: filling is most definitely skewed towards the former.
freshly bakedhand pies, cooling on a rackberry hand pies, coolingmineI made these on an impulse, before getting overwhelmed by all the Pinterest-y perfect red, white, and blue concoctions out there, and somehow managed to shoot down my typical scruples about such a recipe– too fussy? (who am I kidding, this is a baking blog, after all), too much crust? (not a bad thing), all too likely to drive me crazy striving for perfectly formed and crimped pies? (perhaps, but I just accepted defeat in the form of misshaped pies). Glad I did, since these were new winners in my book that even passed the patriotic test.
golden brown crustberries oozing + crisp, buttery crustalmost gone

Berry Hand Pies
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2013

As noted, hand pies definitely have more crust and less filling than traditional pie, so all the more reason to master your skills of making great homemade pie dough.

I made 1 1/2 the recipe and used 2 cups blueberries and 1 cup raspberries (see footnote).

Pie Crust (makes enough for 6 hand pies)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
Around 1/2 cup ice water

Stir together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Toss the butter cubes into the flour mixture. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, rub or cut butter into flour until the texture of very coarse meal. You should still have some large clumps and flakes- don’t overwork the dough. Add 1/4 cup ice water and stir the dough together with a rubber spatula, adding more water if dry, until dough comes together. Form into a square, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Crust can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Hand Pies
Pie crust, above, chilled
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
2 cups blueberries (about 10 ounces)*
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough on a floured surface to a 15 x 12 inch rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles.

Toss blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Brush edges of rectangles with water; mound some blueberries in the middle of one side of each. Fold dough over, and use a fork to seal the edges. Place on the prepared baking sheet, brush each with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut slits in tops with a sharp knife.

Bake hand pies, rotating sheet halfway through, until juices are bubbling and pastry is golden brown, 35-40 minutes (juices will run onto parchment). Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*As noted above, I used a mix of blueberries and raspberries. You can use any combination of blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries (maybe slice them if they’re large).

chocolate-dipped pistachio shortbread

pistachio shortbread
If you’re one of those people who vacation off to the Abandon Chocolate Camp during the summer, I’ve got news for you: you’re not alone. I’m absolutely in the habit of neglecting chocolate in the summer (and better bakers than I am are too). The bounty of fruit is often too tantalizing for poor chocolate to have an appeal. I made these a while back but there’s no reason they can’t be the posterchild cookie for a return to chocolate in the summer.
chopped pistachiosadd some greenshortbread doughscoop out tablespoons of doughAnyway, it’s not like this is a flourless-lava-death-by-chocolate sort of thing. It’s a delicate and dainty (if cookies can be) pistachio shortbread cookie that’s simply dipped in bittersweet chocolate. If you insist, the cookies are fine by themselves without the chocolate dip, or make some absolutely perfect ice cream sandwiches with strawberry ice cream smooshed between two. However, I think the crumbly almond-hinted pistachio shortbread is accented nicely by a dunk in slightly bitter chocolate and a sprinkle of pistachios for even more texture. The striking aesthetic appeal is also a nice bonus.
flatten into little logscooling cookiesassembly stationsfreshly dipped After all, chocolate is always in season.
sprinkle on pistachioslet the chocolate setchocolate-dipped pistachio shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread
adapted from Food52

Makes 1 to 1 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 plus 1/3 cup raw unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl using an hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in vanilla and almond extracts and 1/2 cup pistachios. Mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into logs about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long and around 1/3 inch thick. Place on baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch of room between each cookie. Bake until golden brown around edges, 18-20 minutes. Cool completely.

Put chopped chocolate in bowl set over a saucepan of barely-simmering water. Stir chocolate until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Place remaining 1/3 cup pistachios in a small shallow bowl. Dip one end of each cookie in the melted chocolate about 1-1 1/2 inches deep. Or, use a spoon to spread chocolate on the top of the cookie. Let excess chocolate drip back into bowl, then sprinkle chopped pistachios over the chocolate-dipped half. Repeat with the rest of the cookies. Let stand until chocolate has hardened, at least one hour. Cookies will keep in airtight container up to 1 week.