All good cookies start out the same: as good cookie dough.
My husband prefers his cookies as “pre-cookies” – cold and uncooked lumps of dough straight from the mixer bowl while dodging my dough scoop. And growing up? So did my siblings and I. There was no fighting over who would get to lick the beaters in our house. No, sir! Two beaters, one rubber spatula, and a mixing bowl. 4 batter-covered items, 4 kids. Something tells me my mom knew exactly the kind of mess she was avoiding when she baked.
Dawn from Vanilla Sugar whipped up a batch of Levain Bakery-like chocolate chip cookies, that upon seeing in my Google Reader, I decided that I had to make them. Like now. You shape the dough into 4 ounce balls? Quarter-pounder cookies? 5 inches across and over an inch thick? Now that’s a cookie. (Disclaimer: I’ve never had real-deal Levain Bakery cookies.)
I immediately dumped the Foodie Baby in my husband’s lap and ran for the kitchen. And when she’s old enough to have one of these cookies, she’ll understand. And if she’s really my kid, she’ll approve These cookies are puffy and gigantic, over an inch thick – closer to two! And I can’t tell you how long they keep their tender, puffy goodness… they don’t last very long around here. They are definitely replacing the old house favorite.
Levain Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
Big, fat chocolate chip cookies.
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter (very cold, shredded with your food processor)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour (13 1/2 oz)
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
12oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 375. Beat the cold butter and both sugars until just combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat just until incorporated.
Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to the mixer bowl and mix just until blended. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix until distributed. (The dough will be VERY stiff at this point.)
Divide the dough into 12 balls, approx 4 oz each (think a little larger than a golf ball; a slightly rounded 2.5-inch scoop will do the trick perfectly) and place on an ungreased baking pan.
Chill the dough for 20 minutes. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until browned on the edges and set in the center.
Let cool completely on the pans before transferring to airtight storage.
It’s not delivery. And it’s not DiGiorno but it is frozen pizza.
Frozen pizzas have their appeal – they’re a cheap way to have dinner on the table in 15 minutes. They also have severe drawbacks – the toppings aren’t fresh and a lot of times, even a single slice can be a hidden sodium bomb. With some prep work on a rainy weekend afternoon, you can prepare your own frozen pizzas for those busy days when you need a cheap lunch/dinner on the table in 15 minutes.
To start, you need a good pizza dough. I like this one (yields enough for 4 8-inch pizzas) and this one (two pizzas). Then you need to decide: do I just want to have a frozen crust ready to add some fresh toppings later on or do I want to build a complete pizza with standard (aka, freezable) toppings?
Homemade Frozen Pizza
Make your own homemade frozen pizzas - a fresher and healthier option.
1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough (this one is my favorite)
Pizza toppings of choice
Prepare your pizza dough recipe through the point where you need to shape the dough. Preheat the oven to 500. Sprinkle one or two baking sheets (depending on how many pizzas you're preparing) lightly with cornmeal. Divide the pizza dough into two or four equal pieces (if using one of the recipes above). Stretch each dough round into a 7-8 inch round and place on the prepared baking pans. (I take a gallon freezer bag and lay on top of the rounds to test that they'll fit inside.) Bake the crusts for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
To freeze the crusts naked: Place the cooled crusts on a baking sheet in the freezer. Freeze through and then place in separate gallon freezer bags. For storage, stack them horizontally or "file" vertically.
To freeze complete pizzas: Transfer the cooled baking pans to the freezer to freeze through. Top the frozen crusts with the sauce, cheese, and freezable toppings of your choice (if you want to use fresh vegetables or other freezer-unfriendly toppings, I recommend freezing the crusts naked or only with sauce/cheese; then add your veggies before putting into the oven on the night-of). Place the baking pan back into the freezer and freeze. Once frozen through, store the pizzas in separate gallon freezer bags.
To cook: Preheat oven to 425. Place the frozen pizza on a pan in the top 1/3 of the oven. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until toppings are bubbly and crust is golden brown.
I’m not really that decent of a couponer but I do try. There aren’t really coupons for the stuff that we usually buy but every once in a while I’ll score a good deal that makes me absolutely giddy. Last week, I ended up with free King Arthur Bread Flour and a jar of yeast. A couple of weeks before that, I ended up with two free bags of King Arthur Whole Wheat flour. Free bread and bagels for a month
When we want bagels, we usually run to a neighborhood cafe chain. Our last trip there was wickedly frustrating. My cranberry-walnut bagel was smaller than my fist (and I have tiny, tiny hands) and should have been officially licensed by the NHL. My husband’s french toast bagel, on the other hand, was 3 times the normal size and soft like Sunbeam bread. My husband got a probably unwanted, impromptu invitation to a lecture on the art of proofing bread dough over $7 of disappointment.
It stinks to go out and pay for something that isn’t anywhere near as good as what you could do at home, for cheaper. And when that happens, I’m usually not-so-subtly handed a challenge of “You know, we should really make these at home.” And by “we,” he means me.
I’ve made bagels before; those bagels were good. But these bagels? These bagels were phenomenal. The biggest differences between the two recipes was reducing the amount of yeast and allowing an overnight rest in the fridge. The texture and taste were fantastic. No hockey pucks here! And they were so much prettier this time, too
Cranberry Walnut Bagels with Hazelnut Cream Cheese
Chewy bagels studded with cranberries and walnuts, topped with a light hazelnut cream cheese.
For the sponge:
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water (divided)
1 tsp active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
For the dough
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
2 1/2 - 3 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
2 3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
3/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
3/4 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
For the Hazelnut Cream Cheese:
8oz cream cheese, 1/3 less fat (chilled is fine)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/2 tsp hazelnut syrup (find it in the coffee aisle)
1-3 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped, toasted, and cooled
Make the sponge: Dissolve sugar into 1/2 cup warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast over top and let proof for 5 minutes. Add the remaining water and flour and mix on low with the paddle until sponge is smooth and the consistency of pancake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled, approximately 2 hours. (The sponge will be foamy and bubbly and will collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop).
Make the dough: Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the additional yeast to the sponge and mix on low until combined. Add 2 cups of the whole wheat flour, all of the salt, gluten, honey, and the dried fruit and nuts (if using). Mix on low until the ingredients form a ball, adding additional flour 1/4 cup at a time to stiffen the dough (I used exactly 2 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour).
Knead the dough for 6 minutes. It will be firm but still pliable and smooth and should clean the sides of the mixer bowl. The dough should pass the windowpane test. If the dough is too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to stiffen. The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
Form the bagels: Divide the dough into 4 oz pieces and shape into rolls. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape the bagels by pushing a hole through the center of each roll and working the dough around your thumb, stretching out the hole to 2.5 inches in diameter. Place bagels 2 inches apart on the pan. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes.
Fill a small bowl with room-temp water. Drop one bagel into the water. If the bagel floats within 10 seconds, remove the bagel, pat it dry, return it to the pan, and place the pans in the refrigerator overnight covered loosely with plastic wrap. If the bagel does not float, pat it dry, return it to the pan, and test again in 10-20 minutes.
Baking the bagels: Preheat the oven to 500 with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Boil the bagels in batches 1-2 minutes on each side (for chewy bagels, go 2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula. Immediately top bagels with your choice of toppings when they come out of the water.
Sprinkle the same parchment-line baking sheets with cornmeal. Transfer the pans to the oven. Bake for 5 minutes and then swap the pans in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450 and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
To freeze: I slice the completely cooled bagels almost all the way through, enough that they flip open all the way but still are just barely attached so tops and bottoms stay together. A square of wax paper in the middle keeps them from freezing shut. I layer them in a gallon freezer bag and put in the freezer. To reheat, I place the frozen bagel halves in the oven when I turn on the broiler to toast. They thaw, heat, and toast perfectly!
To make the cream cheese: Add cream cheese, vanilla, 1/4 tsp hazelnut syrup, and 1 Tbsp sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer. Whip on high until light and fluffy. Taste for sweetness - add additional sugar as desired, whipping until sugar dissolves after the addition. Add an additional 1/4 tsp of hazelnut syrup, if desired. Mix in chopped hazelnuts.
Yields: 12 bagels
Bagels adapted from Breakd Baking Apprentice, Cream Cheese from Confections of a Foodie Bride