Chocolate Chunk Cookies of Your Dreams

Theeeeese cookies… I completely love a classic chocolate chunk cookie. The new thing is salted this and that, so a sprinkle of salt keeps them up to date, I suppose. Salt or not, they are everything you want when you reach for a chocolate chunk cookie. A slight crisp around the edges, with a soft center and big globs of chocolate.

Adapted slightly from NYTimes Cooking (David Leite).

  • 17 ounces flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 10 ounces butter
  • 10 ounces brown sugar
  • 8 ounces white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pound of chocolate chunks (I chop Valrhona Guanaja discs, but you can go wild with this part -white, caramel, milk chocolates…)

This is a completely basic cookie recipe. Cream the butter and sugars until fluffed. Add eggs, beating until fully incorporated. Slow the mixer speed to low and add the sifted flour mixture (flour, salt, baking soda). When almost entirely combined, add the chopped chocolate chunks and mix only until evenly dispersed.

At this point, I scoop out my cookies onto a sheet tray, cover with plastic, and put them in the fridge for at least 2 hours (ideally until the next day). I prefer to portion them out before the dough is cold and hard, but that is personal preference.

When you are ready to bake, give your cookies a slight smush and sprinkle with a pinch of salt if you like.

Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through.

Enjoy at least one cookie while they are fresh from the oven. You must!

Chocolate chunk cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

Brownies

I am forever in search of the perfect brownie recipe. What is the perfect brownie? I think that’s a very subjective question, and I don’t even know what majestic qualities my perfect brownie would have, but I’m sure I will know when I find it. That said, these are delectably fudgey brownies that I have made repeatedly. Who doesn’t like to have a nice plate of chocolatey goodness at the table for friends on the weekend? They also freeze very well, so you can stow them away and not feel like you have to eat all of them at once. You know, because… January diets and the new sugar guidelines.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz butter
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 8 oz brown sugar
  • 5 oz cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz flour

 

Method

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter, flour, and line an 8×8″ pan. Set aside.

Put the eggs and white sugar in the mixer bowl and whip until fluffy. About 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and cocoa powder over a double boiler on medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let this cool until it is warm to touch before adding the eggs.

Fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture until fully incorporated.

Finally, fold in the flour.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes.

 

 

 

Almond Paste

You can make your own almond paste. It’s super easy and way more cost effective than buying the jar at the market. Keep it in the fridge like a log of icebox cookies and just slice off what you need. (I should note, if you are looking for a marzipan recipe, this is not it.)

Ingredients

  • 125g sugar
  • 40g honey
  • 50g water
  • 250g almonds (or other nuts)
  • 2T butter

 

To Make the Paste:

 

  1. Bring sugar, honey, and water to a boil for about a minute.
  2. Meanwhile, grind the almonds in a food processor.
  3. Add the hot syrup to the finely ground nuts in a steady stream.
  4. Continue processing for about 15 minutes or until the paste is very smooth. If it is too thick to continue, you can add some simple syrup to the bowl by the tablespoon to loosen the mixture just enough to keep moving.
  5. When you are happy with the consistency, form the paste into a disk on a piece of plastic wrap and chill.
  6. At the point when the paste is cool, you can knead in the butter until smooth. Do this directly on your work surface. It is sticky at first, but smooths out and cleans up easily.
  7. Roll your almond paste into a log and wrap in plastic for future use.

Lime Vinaigrette

After the holidays, my shelves are pretty bare. Let’s be honest… so is my bank account. I end up getting super thrifty and have to use what’s available. Make it work! (I just love Tim Gunn!) I had some limes because it was my birthday and I wanted to have key lime pie for dessert. Well, that didn’t happen since people order lots of party dessert type things from the shop for New Year’s Eve and I ran out of energy for my own birthday. Boo hoo. And now it’s the new year when you’re supposed to be extra healthy and whatever. So, salad with every meal it is.

Dressings from the supermarket tend to be loaded with unnecessary preservatives, coloring, and other junk you can do without, so it’s best to make your own unless you’re buying local. And it’s very easy. No excuses.

Homemade vinaigrette dressings are great because you can keep the flavor nice and light. This one is no exception.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz lime juice and associated zest (about 2-4 limes)
  • 4 oz oil (olive oil is ideal, but any kind would be fine)
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

To Make the Dressing:

Let’s not try to make this more complicated than it is. Unless there is some super fancy vinaigrette technique that I don’t know about, you just pour everything into a jar and give it a good shake. Also, precise measuring is not especially important. If you know your jar is 16 ounces, by all means, guesstimate.

Switching up the juices and oils and adding other interesting spices makes for easy variations on a basic recipe.

 

Pecan Macarons

Pecan french macaron with chocolate filling

Traditionally, macarons are made with almond flour. I did not have almond flour. Or almonds. So. I subbed in some pecans. Now I want to macarons try with all kinds of nuts. It will be an experiment, I guess. These came out perfectly chewy and delicious.

Shells

  • 5 oz pecans
  • 4 oz 10x
  • 2 egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Filling

  • 8 oz  butter
  • 8 oz 10x
  • 2 oz cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons espresso
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream

 

To Make the Shells:

  1. Set up your sheet trays with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats. 2 trays should be sufficient. If you want to be exact, use a sharpie attached to a compass to draw 3/4″ circles one inch apart on each sheet of parchment and then flip the sheets over.
  2. Whip the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar until nice satin-like, stiff peaks form.
  3. Meanwhile, put the pecans and the 10x in the food processor and pulse until you have what resembles whole wheat flour in appearance.
  4. Sift the dry mixture onto a piece of parchment paper. You may have some bits of pecans about the size of nonpereil sprinkles that don’t go through and that’s okay. Dump them on top. The idea is just to make sure that you don’t have any sugar lumps or chunks of nut.
  5. When your egg whites are sufficiently whipped, switch to the paddle attachment and stir in the dry mixture on low speed until incorporated.
  6. Use a spatula to fold the mixture by hand for about a minute until it flows slowly like lava.
  7. Scoop your mixture into a pastry bag and pipe 3/4″ rounds from about a half inch tall at a distance of one inch apart. When the tray is full, smack it firmly on the counter 2 or 3 times to release air.
  8. Let your trays set for 15 minutes at room temperature while you are preheating your oven to 375 degrees. It seems arbitrary, but don’t skip this step. They need time to develop their skin.
  9. Turn oven down to 325 degrees and bake for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
  10. Let them cool for a couple minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. If you are having trouble peeling them from the tray, try sliding an offset spatula underneath.

To Make the Filling:

Any kind of buttercream or icing consistency ganache, caramel, or other confection will work to fill macarons. When I made the ones in the photo, I was aiming to reduce waste and used a basic chocolate american buttercream with a pinch of espresso added for some kick, because I already had some on hand. You only need about a quarter of a cup of filling for this amount of shells, but you can store leftovers in the fridge for your next project. Just let it come to temperature before you try to whip it up again, otherwise condensation will give your anxiety a kick in the gut.

  1. Whip up the softened butter.
  2. Sift together the 10x and cocoa powder and add the mixture to the butter bowl with the cream.
  3. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Whip on high speed until fluffy.
  4. Scoop into pastry bag.

To Assemble:

When the shells are cooled, match them up in same sized pairs. If you did the reverse side template that I suggested, they should all go together pretty well. If not, this may be a fun game, depending how adept you are with pastry bags. 😉

Pipe the filling into the center of one side of the macaron. Do not let it go completely to the edge or it will gush out and look sloppy when you put the top on and take a bite.

pecan french macarons with pastry bag of buttercream

Ideally, macarons will sit filled for 24 hours before serving so that the shells can absorb moisture from the filling and get all nice and perfectly chewy. These were spot on in my opinion.

You can keep them at room temperature for several days or up to a week in the fridge. They can also be frozen. Just the shells or the assembled macarons last frozen for up to six months in an airtight container. Let them defrost in fridge then bring to room temperature.