Monday, January 31, 2011

CI's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Review

CI's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Review - ButterYum

I recently watched an episode of America's Test Kitchen devoted to cookies, one of which was "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie".  What's was their idea of perfect?  A soft and chewy cookie that remains that soft and chewy, even the following day.

Based on the traditional Toll House recipe, this version incorporated some non-traditional techniques which piqued my curiosity.  1 - instead of creaming softened butter and sugar together, some of the butter is melted and carefully browned to develop a nutty, caramelized flavor.  2 - the remaining butter is then stirred in to the browned butter to stop the cooking process.  3 - both sugars, eggs, and vanilla are added to the melted butter; whisking and resting, in three phases, until the sugars liquefy before the remaining ingredients are stirred in by hand.  And lastly, 4 - the baked cookies remain on the cookie sheet for a full 30 minutes after they are removed from the oven.

I should also mention the Toll House recipe makes tablespoon size cookies, where as these are about 3 times larger.  From a textural standpoint, they are indeed soft and chewy, even the following day.  From a flavor standpoint, they were very good, but they're not my all-time favorite.  With that said, they're certainly wonderful and my family had no trouble gobbling them up.

CI's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - ButterYum

Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 16-20 cookies 

1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (10 tbsp; and 4 tbsp)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line 2 large sheet pans with parchment or silicone baking mats.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda; set aside.

In a small stainless steel sauce pan or skillet over medium-high heat, melt 10 tablespoons butter; swirling pan until butter is dark golden brown and smells nutty (don't let it burn); transfer to a large, heatproof bowl and immediately stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter until completely melted.  Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla and whisk together.  Add egg and egg yolk and whisk for 30 seconds; let sit for 3 minutes and whisk for another 30 seconds.  Repeat whisking and resting process 2 more times; until mixture is smooth and shiny.  Using silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture completely.  Stir in chocolate chips and optional nuts.

Divide dough into 16 portions or use a #24 cookie scoop.  Arrange 8 cookies per sheet pan.  Bake one pan of cookies at a time; at 375F for 10-14 minutes until the edges have begun to set but the centers are still soft.  Don't remove the cookies from the sheet pan for 30 minutes.

Note:  A #20 scoop will yield 20 cookies.  Ghiradelli bittersweet 60% Cacao chips won CI's taste test.  60% Cacao (not cocoa) means the chips are 40% sugar and 60% cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Die For Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

To Die For Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting - ButterYum
There was a time when I used to reserve overripe bananas to make banana bread, that is, until I sampled this banana cake.  Now I find myself buying extra bananas just so I'll have an excuse to make this amazing cake.  The batter can be mixed, baked, cooled, and ready to frost in about an hour.  The recipe was given to me by a friend a number of years ago, and I added my own delectable frosting to compliment it perfectly - a flavor marriage made in heaven!  It's simply out of this world and you must give it a try.

Note: the photo above is a little misleading - the cake is only about an inch tall.  Also, it's a very dense moist cake.

To Die For Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting
Printable Recipe
makes one 8x8-inch pan (double recipe for a 9x13 pan)

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup mashed super ripe banana (about 2)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste* (see below)
1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar

To make cake (easily mixed by hand):
Preheat the oven to 375F (see note below).  Cream together sugar, sour cream, egg, and 2 tablespoons softened butter.  Add mashed bananas and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Add flour, salt, and baking soda; mix well.  Pour into greased 8x8 pan.  Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting:
Cream butter and confectioner's sugar together until smooth.  Slowly add the heavy cream; stir until smooth.  Stir in the vanilla bean paste until fully incorporated.  Spread on cooled cake. 

Note - Bake at 350F if using a glass pan.
Recipe doubles well to fit in a 9x13 pan.   

*Here's the general rule for substituting vanilla:
1 vanilla bean =
1 tablespoon vanilla powder =
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste =
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Feisty Sun-dried Tomato Soup

Feisty Sun-Dried Tomato Soup - ButterYum
Yesterday I found a must make recipe for Sun-dried Tomato Soup on one of my favorite blogs, One Perfect Bite.  Mary's blog is full of wonderful recipes, tempting photos, and entertaining commentary - if you haven't yet stumbled upon it, I recommend you visit soon.

But I digress.  This soup began as a recipe Mary's husband had clipped from Food and Wine magazine.  He couldn't wait to try the recipe, and neither could I, but I had to make a few adjustments based on the ingredients I had in my pantry.  1) I didn't have any fresh thyme, only dried, and 2) instead of a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, I only had a 10 oz can of mild Ro-Tel tomatoes.  Not wanting to take time to run to the store, I used what I had on hand and adjusted the amount of tomato paste and chicken stock the recipe called for.  I'm so pleased with the results that I doubt I'll ever make the original recipe.  If you like the flavors of the southwest and don't mind a little heat, this is the soup for you - Eeehaaa!
Feisty Sun-Dried Tomato Soup (recipe inspired by One Perfect Bite)
serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped (use kitchen shears)
10 oz can mild Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained but juices reserved
20 oz chicken broth
2 thyme sprigs (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons concentrated sun-dried tomato paste (or canned tomato paste)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Saute onions and garlic in butter and olive oil, over med-high heat, for 4 minutes.  Add sun-dried tomatoes, drained Ro-Tel tomatoes, tomato paste, and thyme; cook for several minutes; stirring frequently.  Add reserved tomato juice and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes. 

Transfer small batches of soup to a blender and puree. Return to pot and warm over low heat. Stir in heavy cream and check seasoning.  Add more chicken stock if you like your soup thinner.

Note:  Although I used mild Ro-tel tomatoes, you can definitely taste the heat.  To see Mary's original, non-feisty recipe, click here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Help - decorating advice please...

Hi everyone - I need your advice.

I've been contacted by CSN Stores to review one of their products. I'm not sure what I'll be reviewing yet, but maybe I'll redo the bed in the guestroom. The walls are painted in a medium to dark taupe, the lamp shades are champagne colored, and I have brown full length drapes on the windows. Click on this link and tell me which of these modern duvet covers you like?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Amaretto Apple Streusel Muffins

Amaretto Apple Streusel Muffins - ButterYum
(excuse the hand sneaking a muffin in the background - hungry teenagers in the house)

Every now and then you come across a recipe and know immediately that you're going to love it - that's exactly what happened when I came across this one.  After a quick confirmation of ingredients, I found myself heading into the kitchen to preheat the oven.

I was so quick to bake a batch that I didn't realize until now that the recipe originates from Cooking Light Magazine.  I'm also just realizing the magazine refers to these as "cupcakes", but chopped apples, a streusel crumb topping, and glaze drizzled over the top screams "muffins" to me.  Whatever you end up calling them, these babies are extremely moist and jam-packed full of apple and almond flavor - it's hard to believe they're only 256 calories.  Enjoy!

Amaretto Apple Streusel Muffins
makes 12

Streusel Topping:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, chilled
2 tablespoons sliced or finely chopped almonds

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (by weight:  7.5 ounces or 216 grams)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
2 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons amaretto (almond liqueur)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup finely chopped Gala apple
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar, icing sugar)
4 teaspoons 2% reduced-fat milk

To make the streusel topping:
In a small bowl, combine ingredients together with your fingers until you have a bowl full of medium-large clumps (don't worry about breaking the almonds); refrigerate until needed.

To make muffins:
Place rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F.

Line muffin pan with 12 paper liners - lightly grease top of muffin pan.  In a small bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside for later.

In a small bowl, combine apples and 1 tablespoon flour; set aside for later.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream and milk; set aside for later.

In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, cream cheese, and 4 tablespoons unsalted butter; beat until well blended.  Add amaretto, vanilla, and egg; beat until well blended.  Add 1/3 flour mixture and stir to combine, add 1/2 sour cream mixture and stir to combine, add 1/3 flour, remaining 1/2 sour cream, and remaining 1/3 flour mixture.  Stir in apple mixture. Divide batter evenly among muffin liners.

Remove streusel topping from the refrigerator.  Using your fingers, break the large clumps into small ones; sprinkle evenly on top of the muffin batter.  Bake muffins in the lower third of a 350F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes clean out of the center of the muffin.  Cool muffins in pan for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Make the glaze by whisking the confectioner's sugar and milk together; drizzle over the cooled muffins.  Decrease milk for a thicker glaze.

Good without the glaze too.