Chocolate Chip Cookies

_MG_6203 _MG_6221I almost don't want to share this with you because these cookies are so good. But that would be selfish, and I know that you don't think you need another chocolate chip cookie recipe, but you really do. I promise. He might be biased, but Ari ate seven of these the first night I made them, and they only get better the longer you refrigerate the dough (and you should refrigerate it for 36 hours). "What?!" you're probably thinking, "Why would I make cookies only to banish the dough to the refrigerator for a full 36 hours?" Crazy, I know.

_MG_6213

_MG_6215But I learned that trick from the fantastic Kate Miss, and though you can of course bake your cookies sooner than that (which I have to admit, I only refrigerated them for 24), something about refrigerating them for so long makes the flavors come together in this magical way, and the cookies get all caramelized and gooey and amazing. So. Basically you should make these right now (and bake them on Saturday). And top with sea salt, of course._MG_6219

_MG_6214

Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 40, adapted from Ghirardelli and For Me For You)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 3/4 cup sugar 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed 2 large eggs 1 tablespoon vanilla 2 1/4 cups unsifted flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt

11 1/2 oz milk chocolate baking chips

1-2 tablespoons fleur de sel or sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.Refrigerate for at least a few hours, and up to 36.

Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown.  and just set in the middle. Sprinkle with fleur de sel while still warm.

Chocolate Mousse

_MG_5789 _MG_5786When I was growing up, Valentine's Day meant a special dinner with our family, and most importantly, CANDY. I still remember one V-day in particular where my sister and I each received a giant Hershey's Kiss, and I'm pretty certain that we both ate at least half that night (Solveig, you know what I'm talking about). _MG_5812Besides having an incorrigible sweet tooth, Valentine's Day was never really my favorite holiday – I never really thought it was necessary to have one day to let the people close to you know that you love them. Of course, I'm never going to say no to a good dinner, so when Ari and I were deciding what we were going to do (obviously, House of Cards was the first item on the agenda), I thought it would be fun to come up with some things I don't make on a regular basis. Surprisingly, I have never tried my hand at chocolate mousse, always one of my favorite desserts at French restaurants, but after this I will definitely be making it again. Seems fancy, and is deceptively simple  – plus you can make it hours ahead of time, which makes it perfect for a dinner party._MG_5792

_MG_5808

_MG_5787

Chocolate Mousse (adapted from Bon Appétit)

1/2 cup chilled heavy cream, divided 2 large egg yolks 1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee, room temperature 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 3 ounces semisweet chocolate (60-72% cacao), chopped 2 large egg whites

Beat 1/4 cup cream in medium bowl until stiff peaks form; cover and chill.
Combine egg yolks, espresso, salt, and 1 Tbsp. sugar in a large metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water). Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is lighter in color and almost doubled in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 degrees, about 1 minute. Remove bowl from pan. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until room temperature.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl on medium speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually beat in remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until firm peaks form. Fold egg whites into chocolate in 2 additions; fold whipped cream into mixture just to blend.
Divide mousse among 4 teacups or 4-oz. ramekins. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours and up to one day.
Before serving, whisk remaining 1/4 cup cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form; dollop over mousse.

Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Scones with Cacao Nibs

Having seen a number of recipes including cacao nibs around the interweb, I was naturally curious to try some myself. I had eaten them before in chocolate bars, but never plain. Not that I recommend eating them plain -- the flavor itself is rather bitter and slightly on the wooden side. But add them to a baked good, and suddenly you have a lovely, coffee-flavored crunch. I decided to experiment and throw them into some scones, and was pretty pleased with the results. These are great accompanied by a cup of coffee for a leisurely breakfast, accompanied by a few fresh raspberries on the side. I also topped them with raspberry jam, to add a little more sweetness.

Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Scones with Cacao Nibs (makes 10-11)

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced

1  cup chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)

1/2 cup cacao nibs

1 cup raspberries

1/2 cup (or more) chilled milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. With fingers, add diced butter and mix until it resembles a coarse meal. Add chocolate chips  and cacao nibs and mix well. Stir in raspberries Add milk, egg, and vanilla and mix until just together, being careful not to overmix (or the scones will be tough). Drop by the 1/4 cup onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Cool on rack. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chocolate Cake Part 1: The Cake

Since this would be an incredibly long post if I wrote both the cake and frosting recipes in one, I decided to break it up into two separate posts. I actually love making layer cakes and really any excuse is a good one for me to make one -- birthdays, obviously being the best. Though they have a lot of steps, there is something incredibly satisfying in the end product, and I love all of the smoothing and decorating that goes into it. I know, I'm weird, I guess it's just the detail-oriented editorial assistant in me. Also, I always make the layers of a cake a few days ahead of time and freeze them, as frozen cake layers are much easier to work with than soft ones.  Anyways, on to the recipe... Chocolate Cake (adapted from Bon Appétit)

2 cups cake flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa power

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 cup lukewarm water

Measure out 3 9-inch rounds on parchment paper and cut out. Butter and flour 3 9-inch cake pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Alternate adding buttermilk and dry ingredients in three additions each, beating well after each addition. Mix in water. 

Divide batter among prepared pans, and smooth tops. Bake cakes until a tester comes out clean in the center, about 22 minutes. Let cool on a rack, and invert onto plates or cardboard rounds. If making ahead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and tinfoil and store in freezer for up to a week.

Banana Chocolate Chip Mufffins

Maybe it is the fact that it is March and there is still the distinct winter chill in the air. Maybe it is the recipe I saw the other day for banana bread pudding. Either way, these muffins have been on my mind for a few days and the other night I finally had the time to make them. Be sure to use very ripe bananas (I may or may not buy bananas solely to let them go bad for the purpose). You can of course substitute the bananas for nuts or -- dare I say it -- peanut butter chips, to reminisce about 4th grade. However, I don't think you can beat the banana and chocolate combo, particularly when they come out of the oven melting and gooey. Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted, quite a bit, from Bon Appétit)

1 3/4 flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3)

1 1/4 cup chocolate chips (personally, I like milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well afetr each addition. Add buttermilk and flour mixture alternately in two additions each, mixing well after each. Stir in mashed bananas, then stir in chocolate chips.

Prepare muffin tins, then scoop 1/3 cup batter into each cup. Bake 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean in the center.

Minnesota in February

As promised, I have uploaded my photos from my quick weekend trip to Minnesota. Now, many of you may not think that MN is the best place to visit, particularly in February, but I beg to differ. Of course, being from there I may be slightly prejudiced, but the Twin Cities have exploded in the last few years with a number of great restaurants, and shops, not to mention the second-most theaters and museums per capita after New York City. If you don't believe me, just check out the James Beard Award nominations for this year -- Twin Cities chefs all over the place! Anyways, this trip was too short to eat at many places, but we did fit in breakfast at Barbette, one of my old favorites, and the BEST chocolate cake you will ever eat from Café Latte (get the turtle cake and don't ask questions. Trust me.) Much of the weekend was spent seeing my youngest sister's play (she was amazing) and hanging out with my family, though a few bottles of wine may have been consumed. The best one was a Domaine d'Auphilac Montpeyroux from Languedoc, which we actually had for the first time on the Upper West Side at Bar Boulud. It was excellent with our impromptu cheese plate and homemade pizza.