eggcess

When life gives you egg whites…

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Make meringues!

After making a giant pan of tiramisu for a dinner party last week (recipe and story forthcoming), I was left with a container of egg whites begging to be whipped into light and airy peaks and transformed into something sweet. I perused my shelf of baking books for inspiration and finally settled on a recipe from Alice Medrich’s Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies. I’ve had this book for years, but despite fawning over the pages, hadn’t made a recipe from it yet. The success of this inaugural recipe has me already planning out my next cookie baking adventure.

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There are about ten or so recipes for meringue cookies in this book, with variations listed for each, so for an indecisive person like myself, settling on just one was not easy. And in a way, you can say I didn’t even do that. Rather, I baked a version that combines all sorts of flavors. It’s a white meringue spiked with espresso powder and cinnamon and speckled with bittersweet chocolate crumbs that are made by pulverizing dark chocolate and sugar. Although it may sound like there’s a lot going on, the combination of coffee, chocolate, and marshmallow-y meringue melded together into delightfully crisp, airy bites—a simple, delicate, yet decadent use of leftover ingredients.

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“Not-So-Plain” Mocha Meringues

adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

⅔ cup sugar

⅛ tsp salt

3 lg egg whites at room temp

¼ tsp cream of tartar*

2 tsp instant espresso powder

⅛ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor combine chocolate and ⅓ cup sugar and pulse until the chocolate is in crumb-sized pieces. In a large bowl use a hand mixer (or use a stand mixer) to whip egg whites and cream of tartar until they are opaque and forming soft peaks.  At this point, add espresso powder, cinnamon and remaining ⅓ cup sugar slowly while continuing to beat egg whites until they are forming very stiff peaks. This will take another 1 ½ – 2 minutes. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of batter onto parchment paper, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 2 hours, rotating pans halfway through. After 2 hours of baking, turn oven off and allow meringues to cool in the oven. Remove from the oven once cool and store in an airtight container.

*I subbed a squeeze of lemon juice (about ¼ tsp) for the cream of tartar, and it worked just fine!

one classy cookie

On Friday night, we had a med school class mixer and were instructed to bring something “classy” to the occasion. As I conjured classy concoctions in my head—champagne cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries, truffles—I recalled a recipe that I had bookmarked back in February for dark chocolate red wine cookies. Chocolate + red wine = quite the classy combo, and furthermore, cookies aren’t too shabby of a vehicle for a healthy dose of antioxidants.

There’s only half a cup of red wine in these cookies, but it’s enough to impart them with a subtle bitterness and depth that is utterly decadent. They are sturdy, yet slightly soft and chewy, my idea for the perfect cookie consistency. Whether you’re looking to bring class to an affair, or just need a sweet reprieve from class studies, I highly recommend adding these cookies to your repertoire!

Dark Chocolate Red Wine Cookies (Adapted from Keep it Simple Foods)

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup red wine (use whatever kind you have on hand!)
1 bag semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 and line cookie sheets with parchment. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add vanilla, egg, and wine. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add chocolate chips. Drop dough in tablespoon-sized rounds onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool on pan for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

baking up a storm

Miami decided to give me a little going away present: Tropical Storm Isaac. I could tell you I was annoyed that I had to spend my last weekend home cooped up inside our shuttered house. But that would be far from the truth. If I were still in grade school, I would have dubbed this the perfect storm: the kind that poses enough of a threat that school gets canceled and you have an excuse to stock up on “survival items” like dark chocolate at the grocery store, but at the end of the day, amounts to no more than some rain and wind. No floods. No damage. And no power outages. The latter of which afforded me the opportunity to have the oven going all day long.

Making this
 
And Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars, a dessert that takes this classic childhood combo to new heights.
And finally, chocolate chip cookies. Cookies are usually not at the top of my list of things to bake, mostly because I’m too impatient for all the waiting that goes into them. From waiting for butter to soften, to waiting for one batch to bake before putting the second, then third, then fourth into the oven, I usually opt for things that are less time-consuming (well, maybe that’s not entirely true). But this lazy, stormy day beckoned me to try out King Arthur Flour Company’s Essential Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie. King Arthur tends to be an authority on all things baking, and I’m glad I trusted their judgment here. I used big bittersweet chocolate chips and toffee bits for an extra deep brown sugar flavor. They were essentially delicious.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d never wish for a tropical storm or hurricane to come our way. But, I’m happy to report from the other side of this non-eventful system that I thoroughly savored the day.
Chase did too.
The Essential Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie (from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Optional: 1 cup toffee bits or nuts
Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, corn syrup, and vinegar. Add egg. Add vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Fold in flour, chocolate chips, and any other additions. Drop tablespoon-size scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes (will look slightly underdone in center). Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

in search of lost time (or remembrance of cookies past)

I love nostalgia. I keep a big box of postcards, ticket stubs, theater programs, and other ephemera under my bed and each time I pack my stuff and move to a new place (as I did on Monday), I flip through the collection and indulge my inner sap. I often listen to oldies on the radio and get nostalgic for music that I listened to with my parents in the 90s because they were nostalgic for the 60s and the 70s. But the one kind of nostalgia to rule them all in my heart is food nostalgia. Let Proust have his madelines- I’ll take these oatmeal peanut better sandwich cookies with a filling that tastes exactly like those chocolate covered peanut butter wafers we used to eat at afternoon snack time at school and after tee-ball games in elementary school. I can’t remember the name for sure – I think they were called Nutty Bars – but I definitely remember the corn-syrup-infused-deliciousness.

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The best kind of food nostalgia is the unplanned kind. You can’t just set out to make a chocolate cake that tastes exactly like the one your mama made for your 6th birthday unless you just want to set yourself up for disappointment (#realtalk from your food blogger). I’ve tried that approach and I now know better. I chose this recipe not because I was craving the sweets of my younger years but because oatmeal with peanut butter and cinnamon is one of my favorite breakfasts and putting it into cookie form sounded like a way to make something great even greater. The communion with the junk food of my youth was totally serendipitous.

I usually get grouchy when cookie recipes tell me what size utensil to use to measure and shape my dough. I’ll make my cookies whatever size I feel like making them, thankyouverymuch control-freak recipe writer. But mismatched sandwich cookies are just awkward, so I recommend actually measuring out your dough into equally sized pieces in this instance. Please make an odd number of cookies so you can dip the odd cookie out into the extra filling while it’s still warm. Even if you don’t share my odd nostalgia for highly processed, chocolate covered snacks from the 90s, I hope you can indulge your inner 6-year-old with a chewy, substantial cookie and a glass of milk.

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Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies with Peanut Butter Filling

adapted from Joy the Baker

For the cookies:

1 stick butter, softened

1 c brown sugar

1 large egg

1 t vanilla

1 1/4 c uncooked quick oatmeal (the original recipe called for old fashioned oats, so I would wager that either kind will work)

1 c all-purpose flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1 t cinnamon

For the filling:

3 T butter, at room temperature

1/2 c smooth peanut butter

1 c powdered sugar

3-4 T milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Make the cookies: beat the brown sugar and butter until creamy, about 3-4 min with a hand mixer.  Add egg and beat on medium speed about 1 minute. Add vanilla extract and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dries slowly to the butter mixture, mixing until just incorporated.

Portion the dough with a teaspoon and roll each piece into a ball and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes until they just begin to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Make the filling: place butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Mix on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you’ve reached an easily spreadable but still thick consistency.

When cookies are completely cool, flip them over and spread the flat sides of half of the cookies with peanut butter filling. Store in the refrigerator- they’re good served slightly chilled.