Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

During the past week or so, avocados have become of my main ET-related cravings. Twice over the weekend, I decided what to order in a restaurant based on the fact that avocado was advertised as an ingredient in certain dishes.

So, imagine the meltdowns that almost ensued when the avocados were left out. Both times. Chester can tell you that it wasn’t pretty.

I mean, do you think I ordered that stupid roast turkey sandwich because I actually wanted roast turkey? No. I ordered it because what I really wanted was the avocado and that was the only thing on the menu that promised I could have it.

Jerks.

As traumatic as these two incidents were, this post isn’t really about avocados. But, I have a point. And, that is: when you want to eat a particular kind of food, nothing else will do.

Which is why I had to console myself with chocolate chip cookies. They never disappoint.

There are millions of recipes out there for chocolate chip cookies, but this is the first one that I’ve tried that just about replicates the Nestle or Pillsbury varieties that we all scooped out of those plastic tubes of refrigerated dough when we were kids. A generous helping of brown sugar and a healthy dose of chocolate syrup gives these cookies their crispy edges and chewy centers. A cold glass of milk is a must.

The only tweak I would make next time around would be to add an additional half a cup or so of chips, because I like to have that chocolately flavor in each bite. I felt like there were not nearly enough to go around, especially as  I scooped out the last six or so cookies in the batch. (My go-to brand of chips–and any kind of baking chocolate, for that matter, is Ghirardelli–because they have the richest flavor and they can stand up to the heat of the baking process).

This recipe comes from the Milk and Cookies cookbook, which features recipes from the  Greenwich Village bakery of the same name. It’s the first recipe that I’ve tried from the book, which contains about 90 recipes. I like that the author gives the recipe for the base dough in each section (vanilla, peanut butter, double chocolate, etc.) and then several variations. So, once you have the basics down, the possibilities are endless!

Cookes 3_Checkter favorite

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

From: Milk and Cookies by Tina-Marie Casaceli

Makes about 2 dozen

What you will need

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup chocolate syrup
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

What to do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  3. Put butter in bowl of electric mixer and beat until light and creamy
  4. With mixer running, gradually add both sugars and syrups.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat to incorporate. Beat in vanilla.
  6. Add dry ingredient mixture and beat until just combined. When dough is still streaky, remove bowl from mixer. Stir in chocolate chips
  7. Using a cookie scoop, place dough two inches apart on baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes or until brown and crisp on the edges and set in the center.
  8. Remove from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.

The Friday Five: Halloween Leftovers

When we made our trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies in preparation for the hurricane, Chester brought along a coupon for Halloween candy. Although I love a bargain, I refused to use it. We rarely get trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood and I knew that being trapped in the house for two days with three bags of candy would not end well for my waistline.

While out running errands during lunch on Halloween, I started to feel bad. If a little kid did in fact knock on my door that evening all I would have had to distribute would be Wint-o-Green Lifesavers or pennies. I didn’t want to be one of those people. You know you had them on the block where you grew up, too.

So, I grabbed a bag of Reese’s pumpkins, just in case.

Of course, zero trick-or-treaters came.

And, yesterday, Chester came home with quite the assortment of half-priced candy from CVS, including a nice variety pack of Reese’s cups, Hershey Bars, Kit-Kats and Almond Joys. He knows me so well.

So, now I’ve got leftover Halloween candy. And, I’m sure you do, too.

Fortunately, candy can always be incorporated into a variety of other treats. Halloween usually results in a pretty random assortment. Although some of these recipes suggest specific types of candy, they would all still work if you just threw together whatever you happen to have on hand:

  1. Candy Bark (via Bon Appetit)
  2. Candy Jar Ice Cream (via Everyday with Rachael Ray)
  3. Shortbread Candy Bars (via Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food)
  4. Leftover Halloween Candy Bundt Cake (via The Food Librarian)
  5. Halloween Candy Snack Mix (via Babble)

Personally, I’m glad that Halloween is out of the way so that we can move on to the “good” holidays. Bring on all things Thanksgiving and Christmas!

The Friday Five: Homemade Halloween Candy

It’s hard to believe that Halloween is next week. While I pretty much have the same antipathy I’ve always had for the holiday, I can get behind the idea of eating mass quantities of candy.

If you haven’t already stocked up on fun-sized candy bars for your neighborhood trick-or-treaters or decided how you are going to fashion a costume out of a trashbag so you can attempt to collect candy yourself, maybe you would consider a DIY Halloween this year:

  1. Candy Corn (via Serious Eats): I’m sure I could never get these to turn out as perfectly adorable as they look in the photo. Can someone with more patience than I have try it out and send me a batch? And while you’re at it, can you come up with a recipe for those little pumpkins that come with the Harvest Mix? Those things are the best.
  2. Twix (via Endless Simmer): The recipe suggests making your own caramel for these. That can be a little tricky and you might burn a finger or two, but it’s so much better than the pre-made stuff.
  3. Kit-Kat Bars (via the Daily Meal): These only require two ingredients and absolutely no baking, so they would be quick and easy to throw together for a Halloween party or other gathering.
  4. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (via Not Your Momma’s Cookie): I’ve made these before (can’t remember which recipe I used, but this one looks pretty similar) and they are just as addictive as the store bought variety. And, like the Kit-Kats, they also don’t require any baking!
  5. Snickers Bars (via Bon Appetit): These just look decadent. I would make a batch to keep in the freezer for emergencies.

I will once again be hitting the CVS the day after for discounted leftovers (if you ask me, the days after Halloween and Valentine’s Day are better than Black Friday). If you get there first, please save me one of the variety packs of Reese’s candies and let me cut in front of you in line. Thanks in advance

How do you feel about Halloween? Do you have any favorite treats?

Recipe: Chocolate Toffee Cookies

I’ve been watching some of the swimming and gymnastic events during these first few days of the Olympics and there was a brief moment where I felt inspired to take up something sporty. But, then I realized that I can’t swim, so any water-based sports are out of the question. And, since I frequently fall when walking up a flight of steps, I should probably stay away from balance beams and uneven bars. It’s a shame that eating isn’t an Olympic sport, because I’m fairly certain I could qualify and probably even win a medal.

To accompany our Opening Ceremony viewing on Friday evening, I decided I wanted to make something British-inspired. The only desserts I remember eating on my visits to London were of the ice cream variety, but that seemed too basic. So, I looked up a recipe for sticky-toffee pudding, but it sounded way too complicated. Then, I came across a fairly easy recipe for Chocolate Toffee Cookies. Perfect.

I didn’t feel like crushing the Heath bars, so I just gave them a rough chop with a knife. The larger pieces caramelized a bit during baking, which enhanced their buttery flavor (I don’t recommend buying the already chopped Heath bits you can sometimes find along with chocolate chips in the baking aisle. They’re pretty bland and there’s too much chocolate coating in comparison to crunchy toffee). I also left out the rum (mostly because Chester wasn’t home and I couldn’t get the cap off myself. I know, I’m a weakling, right? Yet another reason why my Olympic dreams will never come true) and added an extra teaspoon of vanilla.

The cookies will be quite soft when you take them out of the oven, but will crisp up after sitting for about 15 minutes. The combination of the fudgy cocoa, buttery toffee and sweet almonds make this a totally decadent cookie. I’m surprised that we have any left in the container two days later, but it seems that the longer they sit, the richer the flavors become. Be sure to have a big glass of milk nearby.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

Just slightly adapted from:

Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped Heath bars
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
What to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg, rum and vanilla and beat until well blended.
  3. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into small bowl. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture.
  4. Mix in toffee and chopped almonds.
  5. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto heavy large ungreased baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake until cookies puff slightly and crack on top but are still soft to touch, about 11 minutes.
  7. Let cookies cool on sheet 1 minute. Transfer cookies to rack and cool at least 15 minutes, so that cookies will crisp up.

 

Recipe: French Silk Pie

For our Valentine’s dinner at home, we decided to keep things simple and make macaroni and cheese. It’s not fancy, but Chester makes the best mac-and-cheese ever. And, I was even able to leverage my limited cooking skills to assist. I’m pretty awesome with a Microplane and grated four kinds of cheese (and only part of one knuckle) in no time at all.

My main contribution was of course, dessert. There’s a restaurant in the Midwest called Baker’s Square (it’s kind of like a Friendly’s) that’s known for their pies. Chester really loves their French Silk, so I tried to duplicate it. Mine was even better.

The nice thing about this pie I was able to assemble the crust and filling and make the chocolate curls ahead of time (which is a good thing, because it took me all afternoon on Sunday). Then, when we were ready to eat it, I just had to make some whipped cream for the topping and arrange the curls in a pretty pattern. All of the recipes I consulted said that the flavors really come together the longer the pie sits, so I definitely recommend giving it a full day before you cut yourself a slice. You should have plenty of leftover filling after you fill your crust to lick the bowl clean.

For the first time ever, I made my own pie crust. I was nervous that I would either burn it or undercook it because my oven and I don’t get along so well. But, to my surprise, it actually turned out perfectly golden brown. I may have overworked it just a bit when rolling it out, so it wasn’t as flaky as I would have liked. But, it stood up to the rich, truffle-like filling and wasn’t overly sweet so it didn’t get in the way of all of that chocolaty goodness.

Be aware that the filling isn’t baked and contains raw eggs. From what I understand, it’s pretty rare to get sick from fresh eggs that are properly refrigerated and not cracked when you take them out of the carton (I believe this to be true, as I haven’t become deathly ill from all the cake batter and raw cookie dough that I’ve consumed over the years). But, you are pregnant, elderly or have an otherwise comprised immune system, you will have to avoid this pie. I am sad for you. Oh well, more for me.

French Silk Pie

Single Crust Recipe: America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

(Good step-by-step guide here)

Filling and Chocolate Curls: The Pioneer Woman

What you will need

Crust

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into ½ inch pieces and chilled
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch pieces and chilled
  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water

Filling

  • 4 ounces, weight Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 1 cup Salted Butter, Softened
  • 1-1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole Eggs

Curls

  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon Crisco vegetable shortening

What to do

Crust

  1. Process flour, sugar, salt in food processor until combined
  2. Scatter shortening over the top and process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter over the top and pulse about 10 more seconds, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over it. Stir and press dough with rubber spatula until it comes together. If it does not, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it does.
  4. Turn the dough out on to a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a four-inch disc. Wrap and refrigerate one hour. Before rolling out, let sit out for 10 minutes to soften.
  5. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle to fit into a nine-inch pie plate. Trim to pie dough so that it hangs over plate by ½ inch, then tuck dough underneath itself to form a neat edge.
  6. Wrap lined pie plate loosely in plastic and place in freezer 30 minutes before using.
  7. To bake, line the chilled crust with a double layer of aluminum foil, covering the edges to keep it from burning.
  8. Fill crust with pie weights (or, in my case, dried black beans) and bake in a  375-degree oven for 40 minutes.

Filling

  1. In small microwave safe bowl melt 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate (about 45 seconds on high). Stir. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat 1 cup of unsalted butter, sugar and salt until fluffy (about 1 to 2 minutes).
  3. When melted chocolate is cooled, drizzle it over the butter/sugar mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  4. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined (on a Kitchen Aid mixer, you will be using the whisk attachment).
  5. Turn your mixer to a medium speed and over a period of 15 to 20 minutes add in the four eggs, one at a time, leaving about 5 minutes between each egg addition. This might seem time consuming, but taking this extra time will help you achieve the right consistency.
  6. Once the pie filling is well mixed, pour it into pie shell. Smooth out the pie filling and place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours (preferably longer)

Curls

  1. Melt semisweet chocolate and Crisco in microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir to combine.
  2. Pour melted chocolate over the back of a cookie sheet and spread into a thin layer with a knife.
  3. Place baking sheet in the freezer for one to two minutes. When the chocolate is set, it should leave the slightest mark, but not an actual depression. Also, place a separate plastic container in the freezer to chill, so when you start making your curls you can toss them in there before they melt.
  4. Remove baking sheet from freezer. With a sharp-edged spatula and begin to scrape the chocolate from the bottom of the pan. When the chocolate is just the right temperature, it will curl instead of break. The chocolate may start to melt again, so just place the sheet back in the freezer until it resets.
  5. When you are ready to serve pie, top with whipped cream (You could use Cool Whip and top in advance, but fresh whipped cream is best left to that last minute because it’s not as stable) and chocolate curls.

Recipe: Toblerone Muffins

I always associate Toblerone with traveling, since they sell the big bars of it at the Duty Free shops in many airports. I recall one occasion where I bought one, promising myself that I would just have one piece on the plane and save the rest for later. But, inevitably, one piece turned into two or three, and before I knew it, I was trapped in a middle seat, nowhere near the city of my final destination, with a massive sugar high.

I hadn’t had a Toblerone in quite awhile, however, until Chester got a big bar of it for Christmas. My love for it was instantly reawakened. When I decided to make ice cream last week, I thought about doing something with Toblerone, but went in a different direction when I found the (awesome) Double Cookie Dough recipe. Then, Chester came across a recipe for Toblerone muffins. Toblerone for breakfast? Yes, please!

The concept of this muffin is amazing—a chocolate base, with chunks of Toblerone in the batter, plus more bits sprinkled on top. The finished product was good, but not as amazing as I had hoped. With a few small tweaks, it would be even better.

First, the original recipe didn’t call for salt, but I added some since it really brings out the flavor—especially of chocolate—in pastries. In the future, I would also add a bit of vanilla extract and adjust the ratios of some of the dry ingredients. There was definitely a bit of a floury taste to the muffins (I only mixed about ten strokes, so I don’t think the taste was the result of overworking the batter) and maybe a little less flour and a bit more cocoa powder could do the trick. I’ll have to play around with this recipe a bit and let you know how it turns out!

As a side note, on the advice of America’s Test Kitchen, I didn’t use paper liners when baking the muffins. The muffins baked up much higher than usual, and they had a nice crust on top. I’ll be saving trees from now on, and just greasing my pans when I make muffins and cupcakes.

Although this was a good first attempt at a Toblerone focused creation, but I’m still on the hunt for something really amazing. Have you used Toblerone in your baking projects? Please share your recipes, if so!

Toblerone Muffins

Adapted slightly from: Blue-Eyed Bakers

Makes about 18 muffins

What you will need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 bars of Toblerone, roughly chopped

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a large bowl and combine well. Mix in sugar and set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, butter and milk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in 1 cup of Toblerone chunks.
  4. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full and bake muffins for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Halfway through baking time, remove muffins and scatter remaining chocolate over muffins.
  5. Allow muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe: Chocolate Espresso Sugar Cookies

As I’ve mentioned before, Chester’s preferences for desserts are not as wide ranging as mine. But, he’ll never turn down a cookie. So, instead of a birthday cake, I offered to make cookies instead.

He browsed through some of my cookbooks and came across a recipe for mocha shortbread cookies. They sounded great, but as I reviewed the contents my baking cabinet, I realized that I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand. All was not lost, however, as I had everything I needed for sugar cookies.

I added cocoa powder and espresso powder to a really simple sugar cookie recipe that I discovered around the holidays last year. The end product was pretty amazing. The coffee and chocolate combo provided a rich flavor and the texture was somewhere between a cookie and a brownie—crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle. I sprinkled the tops with extra espresso powder while the cookies where still warm for a bit of an extra kick, but you could skip this is you don’t want the espresso flavor to be too strong.

Baking a practice batch of cookies really got me in the mood for holiday baking. I’ve got four types of cookies on my list to make this year: chocolate with white chocolate chips, peanut butter sandwich with chocolate ganache, roll-out butter, and lemon. Hopefully, they’ll all turn out well and I can share the results! What’s on your list to bake this year?

Chocolate Espresso Sugar Cookies

Adapted from McCormick’s Vanilla Sugar Cookie Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen (note: I used a medium size cookie scoop, which holds about a 1 ½ tablespoon of dough)

What you will need

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of unsweetened, Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Additional sugar, for rolling
  • Additional espresso powder, for sprinkling

What to do

  1. Mix first six ingredients (flour through cocoa powder) together in a medium bowl.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Mix well. Gradually add flour mixture on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Refrigerate dough until firm (at least two hours).
  4. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Use a cookie scoop to shape dough and roll in additional sugar before placing on cookie sheet.
  5. Bake approximately 10 minutes, until cookies are just set. Sprinkle with additional espresso and cool on baking sheet for one minute.
  6. Move to wire racks to finish cooling.

Restaurant Review: Birthday Festivities at Philly Chocolate & Cochon

Chester officially hit his mid-thirties this weekend. All of a sudden, my turning 29 doesn’t seem all that bad.

We headed to Center City on Saturday afternoon to celebrate. Our first stop was Philly Chocolate for birthday treats. This lounge style café is the sister store to Philly Cupcake (where I had the best Pumpkin cupcake ever earlier this fall), and specializes in artisanal chocolates, gourmet baked goods, and chocolate drinks. It took over the space that was vacated several months ago by Naked Chocolate Café, which was one of my favorite places in the city for satisfying my sweet tooth.

While I think Philly Chocolate has a bigger selection than Naked—everything from basic truffles to chocolate covered Twizzlers to old fashioned lollipops to towering layer cakes—something was missing in the quality of the ingredients. We shared a brownie drizzled with milk chocolate, which was giant, but pretty average in terms of flavor. We also ordered hot chocolates. They were similar to what you would get at Starbucks and I was pretty disappointed that they used canned whipped cream (I know. I’m a snob. But seriously, how hard is it to get one of those cans with the nitrous oxide chargers to class things up a bit with homemade whipped cream?).

Birthday Boy!

I would probably go back if I needed a quick chocolate fix, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m still searching for something to fill the void left by Naked Chocolate. They promised that they were going to re-open soon, but so far, that hasn’t happened yet.

We made our way over to Macy’s to see the Holiday Light Show. Like most Philadelphians, I’ve been going to the light show since I was little (I’ve even got some of it memorized. “Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Marie who was given a Nutcracker for Christmas. She loved him very much because he could crack nuts between his teeth.” Impressive, right?) and it’s still one of my favorite things about the holiday season.

Then, we made our way down Walnut Street to Rittenhouse Square Park.

Our final stop was Williams-Sonoma, where Chester picked out his birthday gift—one of those fancy Boos butcher block cutting boards that he’s had his eye on for awhile. I know it kind of takes all the fun out of birthdays when you know what you are getting, but I know next to nothing about knives and all the stuff that goes with them and Chester is kind of the expert. Plus, I’ve got a lot of holiday cookies on my list that require chopping nuts and/or chocolate, and I hope that he’ll be enticed to lend me his chopping skills if he’s got cool new equipment.

Finally, it was time for dinner. While we were waiting in line at Morning Glory a couple of months back, we heard another group of people raving about a meal that they had recently had at Cochon, a French-inspired BYOB in Queen Village that specializes in pork. Chester later checked out Cochon’s menu and decided it was the perfect place for him to celebrate hitting the big 3-5 (and enjoying the fact that he can still enjoy rich foods for at least a few more years with minimal side effects).

All of Cochon’s pork products are house made, so while you can find a couple of beef, fish, and chicken dishes on the menu, the pig is the real reason to go there.  Chester was in charge of the wine, and he picked a really good French Pinot Noir (which I even remembered to ask him for the name of: Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beanue). It was really smooth and fruity, and paired well with all of the pork-centric dishes.

Chester picked two of the evening’s specials as his first and second courses. For an appetizer, he had the blood sausage, pig cheek and pig’s feet croquette. He described it as eating “really good, flavorful lard.” It was fatty and rich, but because it was served warm, it melted in your mouth rather than being chewy. For an entrée, he had the pork loin, topped with fried egg and Roquefort cheese sauce. All of the flavors worked so well together. Lentils accompanied the dish. They aren’t Chester’s favorite starch, but they were a nice, light alternative to potatoes or a heavier starch, since the dish was already pretty rich.

For my appetizer, I had the potato herb gnocchi, with pig cheek. I’ve had a streak of good luck with melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi dishes lately (for example, at Le Castagne and Talula’s Garden), and Cochon’s version continued this trend. The pig cheek gave the dish some additional saltiness and substance. Then, I had the pork chop. It was fried in bacon fat (yes, bacon does make everything better), which gave the dish an extra crunch and richness and kept the moisture sealed into the meat. It was served with rice, with bits of sausage mixed in. It was probably the best pork chop I’ve ever had in my life.

We saved room to share two desserts, if you can believe it. One was a banana walnut bread pudding, topped with brown sugar ice cream. The streak of bacon-caramel sauce on the plate made an excellent drizzle for the ice cream, but the bread pudding was actually more like a mini-bundt cake. It was pretty tasty, but the second dish–the poor man’s pudding—was outstanding. This dish features a shortbread dough, which is baked in a deep dish and topped with bacon maple caramel sauce and a scoop of bacon ice cream. The whole dish is served warm so all of the salty-sweet flavors melt together. It might be up there with Barbuzzo’s salted caramel budino for my favorite dessert of 2011.

All in all, Cochon is pretty freaking amazing. The food was outstanding, the meal was paced just right and our server could not have been nicer or more helpful as we tried to narrow down the options.

A couple of caveats: the menu is pretty small and the emphasis on pork dishes might not please every palate, so be sure you know your group before you make a reservation (or just leave the picky eaters at home). In addition, parking is a bitch in the area. The neighborhood is mostly residential, and on a weekend evening when more people were home, street parking was impossible to come by. We ended up parking at a lot on Bainbridge, a couple of blocks away, which was $20 (so much for the savings you usually can count on by going to a BYOB). Finally, the restaurant is cash-only so swing by an ATM on your way there.

All in all, I think we ushered in the second half of Chester’s 30s on a good note (no, I can’t resist the references to his age).

On a sentimental note—Checkter, I love you very much. I’m glad that I’ve had you by my side for the last (almost) seven years so that I haven’t had to eat, travel, and watch bad television all alone. I’m looking forward to many more.

Coffee Ice Cream. And, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Too.

It’s hot. Really hot.

We’ve been trapped under an enormous “heat dome” (where do they come up with these ridiculous terms? Sounds like the plot of a disaster movie.). The city feels dirtier than usual. People are cranky and annoying. My hair looks terrible, and my brain is fried (hence the lame title for this post. I spent awhile trying to think of a catchy one. Just can’t do it). 

It’s time for ice cream.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff that I’ve bookmarked to bake, but I don’t really feel like turning on the oven. Ice cream has been the way to go over the last couple of weeks, and I added a couple new flavors to my repertoire.

First up was coffee ice cream. Chester’s been requesting it for awhile, but it seems like all of the recipes that I was finding called for using instant coffee or steeping whole coffee beans in the custard mixture. Instant coffee doesn’t really seem like it belongs in homemade ice cream, and I didn’t want to buy whole beans just for this recipe.  Then, I came across this version from “Not Eating Out In New York,” which called for “the strongest [fresh] coffee that you’ve ever made in your life.”

We make a pot of coffee every morning, so I just reserved some of that. It isn’t strong, so I added more than what the recipe calls for (probably about 1 ½ cups total) until the base didn’t taste like straight up half-and-half anymore. It did turn out a tad on the icy side, though—I’m not sure if the extra coffee threw of the ratios in the recipe or maybe the mixture was still a bit warm when I put in the ice cream maker. Next time, I might try to adjust the measurements for the cream and milk accordingly, and hopefully that will help it retain some of it’s custardiness (not a word, I know). Although I’m not a big fan of coffee ice cream, I enjoyed this one as it was reminiscent of the Starbucks Java Chip flavor (minus the chips), which used to love. Chester likes his ice cream plain, but next time, I’m making a batch for me that has the dark chocolate chips, and then it will be just like it!

Fresh Coffee Ice Cream

From Not Eating Out in New York

 

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup of the strongest coffee you’ve ever made in your life
  • Dark chocolate chunks (optional)

What to do

  1. Blend yolks, whole eggs and sugar in a bowl with a whisk.
  2. Heat milk, cream, and coffee in a saucepan until it’s near boiling. Remove from heat.
  3. Slowly, pour a cup of the hot milk/cream mixture into the egg mixture and beat rapidly with a whisk (this helps keep the eggs from completely scrambling when you pour them into the mix in the next step).
  4. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan with the milk/cream mixture. Heat at medium low, and stir constantly until the mixture becomes thick enough to coast the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.
  5. Pour mixture into a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap (place the wrap right on the surface of the ice cream to keep the mixture from getting a skin on it). Chill in the refrigerator overnight (or at least a few hours, until completely cool).
  6. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze for 30 minutes (or whatever your ice cream maker instructions tell you to do). If using the dark chocolate chunks, add to mixture about five minutes before it’s done freezing.
  7. Transfer to a container (you’ll get about a quart out of this) and put in freezer. Let freeze a few hours before serving.

Next time around, I made my favorite—chocolate peanut butter. This is the second David Lebovitz recipe that I tried (I also made his vanilla ice cream to go with these cookies). I have decided that he’s an ice cream genius. This was the best chocolate peanut butter ice cream I’ve had ever. Period. End of story.

It’s not a custard-based recipe—no eggs—but the peanut butter more than makes up for that. Although some of the recipes that I read said not to use natural peanut butter, I did without any problems. I used my favorite brand of course—Jif—and that doesn’t have as much oil in it as some of the other natural varieties do, so the mix still held together well.

About five minutes before the ice cream was done mixing, I added the peanut butter patties to the mix. You can never have too much PB, and the ice cold chunks of it are my favorite part of this ice cream flavor. I can’t even describe how rich this is. You should make it ASAP.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

From the Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Ingredients

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter

Peanut Butter Patties

  • 6 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

What to do: Ice Cream

  1. Whisk half-and-half, cocoa, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Heat the mixture, stirring often, to a full boil.
  2. Remove from heat, whisk in peanut butter until well blended.
  3. Chill mixture in the refrigerator overnight (or at least until fully cool) and freeze in ice cream maker. If you are using the peanut butter patties (or any mix-ins for that matter), add them to the mixture about five minutes before it’s done churning.
  4. Transfer to container (makes about a quart) and put in freezer.

What to do: Peanut Butter Patties

  1. Mix peanut butter and sugar together in a small bowl.
  2. Line a plate with plastic wrap. Drop ½ tablespoons of peanut butter on to the plastic.
  3. Freeze the patties.

It looks like we’re going to be trapped “under the dome” (Okay, now I remember that there there was definitely a Steven King book with that title not to long ago. It’s being made into a movie. Plot idea taken) through this weekend at least. What to make next? Suggestions?

Stay cool, friends. Make yourself some ice cream. Or, invite yourself to your neighbor’s pool. Or, just stay home with your head in the freezer. Whatever floats your boat. Oh, and remember, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity (Side note: I have never understood this expression. That, and “at least it’s a dry heat.” But, people seem to say them frequently when it’s hot. Some kind of weird coping mechanism, I guess).