Monday, November 2, 2009

C is for Cookie.

Have you ever watched Sesame Street? Well, the Cookie Monster is real. They don’t tell you, however, that instead of a big, blue, furry guy with a deep growly voice and kindergarten reading level, the Cookie Monster is a petite girl with brown hair, freckles, and a college degree.

Amanda's PBJ Cookies

I. Love. Cookies. Sure, I get weak in the knees for many (most) culinary delights, but if I had to single out one specific weakness- that one food that carries with it a little bit of indulgent guilt, that I couldn’t give up no matter how hard I tried—it would be cookies. Everyone has their one-big-weakness. For some people its chocolate or doughnuts. For others it’s potato chips or diet cokes. For Biscuit (the cat) it’s canned Fancy Feast. For me… it’s cookies. It takes incredible will power for me to turn down a cookie (or five). Sometimes, when I start noticing a little too much junk in my trunk, I can cut back on my cookie habit. During these moments, I can muster the strength to have, say, only two cookies a week.

While one could argue that a cookie-lover such as myself must love all cookies, I am (a tiny bit) picky. I don’t want boring ol’ mass produced cookies. When I’m craving cookies, I want the kind of cookies that really pack on the pounds. I’m talking big, fluffy, chewy, melty, gooey fresh baked cookies. My favorite is the classic chocolate chip, which is followed closely by the oatmeal chocolate chip (no raisins), then the peanut butter, molasses, cut-out cookie (gingerbread and sugar), and the ever-elusive snickerdoodle.

Recently, with the onset of crisp fall weather, I’ve been baking like my life depends on it. One night, I made a batch of basic chocolate chip cookies- the kind John always made when we were kids (straight from the Fanny Farmer cookbook). They’re thin and wrinkly, crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle, with a perfectly salty sweet batter and bittersweet chocolate morsels in every bite. I’m an impatient cookie maker/baker (like I’ve said before, I’m a cook, not a baker). By the final batch, I was tired of arranging little tablespoon size drops of dough on the cookie sheet, so I made a few giant cookies. With a cooling rack already full of the classic chocolate chip, I added a dollop of orange marmalade to the final batch to make things interesting. The orange and chocolate combo was delicious! The next evening, still affected by the baking-bug, I made the same basic recipe, but instead of marmalade, I went crazy and made batches with fig jam, almonds, kit-kat pieces, and dark chocolate chunks. All were amazing.

Right when I was thinking up my next cookie experiment, Food 52 announced a chocolate-based cookie contest! Perfect! I’ve never been crazy about regular chocolate based cookies (I mean, I’ll eat them if they are there, obviously), but there are two that I love. One is brownie-biscotti (which I’m considering a cookie), and the other is a chocolate-chai cookie that my roommate in college made for a holiday cookie exchange. For the ultimate chocolate based cookie, I decided to combine the two!

My Chocolate-Chai Biscotti was crunchy without being too hard, and the cinnamon glaze added a sweet spicy contrast to the yummy chocolate. I used powdered chai mix in the dough (probably why I didn’t win…shakes fist at Chai mix), but I think adding actual chai-inspired spices would kick up the chai flavor even more! These are great with coffee in the morning (just ask my coworkers) and with ice cream in the evening (just ask my girl-friends). A few pieces of this biscotti, and you’ll see why it’s so hard to turn down a good cookie.

Chocolate Chai Biscotti

1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cups baking cocoa
3 tablespoons powdered chai latte mix*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 -2 teaspoon cinnamon
4-6 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine butter, eggs, and vanilla until well blended
Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, chai mix, baking powder, baking soda. Gradually add to wet mixture until combined (will be crumbly). Fold in chocolate chips and almonds.
Divide dough in half. On ungreased baking sheet, shape each half into a 12 by 3 inch log (with space between each log). Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool for 10-15 minutes. Cut diagonally into 1 inch slices, and place cut side down on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for another 20-25 minutes until firm and dry. Cool on wire racks.
For glaze, combine powdered sugar, cinnamon, and as much water as needed for drizzle consistency. Drizzle on completely cooled biscotti.

Enjoy with a chai latte!

* For Chai-ier flavor, replace Chai mix with::
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
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