Tag Archives: Chocolate Chip Cookies

{ Italian Seven Layer Cookies }

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I come from a long lineage of family bakers. Cream and sugar are literally coded in my DNA.

And when I was growing up, the holidays signified one thing: cookie season! I would come home from school and my mom would have magazine clippings for cookie recipes that she wanted to try out at one of her infamous cookie exchanges. Given that it was not warm enough to play outside, she would encourage my sister and I to help her sift the flour, roll out the dough, and dip/glaze/sprinkle the tops of cookies in an effort to keep us from turning on the television (or the ‘boob-tube’ as it was referred to in my house!). Of course, we were always more more than happy to oblige!

We would make dozens of spritz cookies, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, pecan tassies, mixed nut turtles, and traditional Hungarian kiffles. But the one cookie we never made, was ironically the one that was my favorite–the Italian seven layer cookie.

Whenever I would spot these in a party tray assortment, I would pick them out, stuff them in a napkin, and then scurry away to eat them by my lonesome. I was–and still am–an Italian cookie fein and hoarder.

This year, I decided to make my own seven layer cookies using the recipe printed in Gourmet, December 2005, and since them endorsed by The Smitten Kitchen food blog. I will admit that they were quite laborious and involved to make, but since they can be frozen in large blocks, I will have them to enjoy/gift over the next few months (or weeks, depending on my level of self-control!).

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{ Ingredients }

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (8 oz) can of almond paste
  • 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 25 drops red food coloring
  • 25 drops green food coloring
  • 1 (12 oz) jar of apricot preserves, heated and strained
  • 7 oz of good-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), roughly chopped

{ To Make Italian 7-layer Cookies }

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two of the ends, then butter paper.

Beat egg whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.

Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks and almond extract and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set the white batter aside. Cover the green batter with plastic wrap and chill in fridge.  Pour the red batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.)

Using the paper overhang, transfer the layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool (see note #1).

When all layers are cool, invert green layer onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread half of the apricot preserves on top. Invert white layer on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining apricot preserves. Finally, invert the red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper (see note #2).

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Cover entire “layer-cake” with plastic wrap and weight down with a large baking pan (I stacked cook books on mine for extra weight!). Chill for at least 8 hours. BE PATIENT!

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Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over the hot water.

Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife so they are clean lines. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into desired number of strips, depending on the size and number of cookies that you want to yield. I cut mine into 10 I believe.   Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies  (see note #3).

**Do ahead: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.

Three important notes:

Note #1Don’t stack the cakes during the cooling process: Not because they crush each other (they won’t) or because they’ll stick (they don’t), but because that paper liner is greased on both sides from baking and the chocolate shell won’t quite stick right to exterior of the red layer because of the grease accidentally left on it.

Note #2Be careful dividing your jam: If there is too much jam between one of the layers, it will ooze out when you cut the cake with a serrated knife. Sadly, the cookie will fall apart.

Note #3They’re easier to cut when frozen: Nevertheless, they tasted amazingly and I was all ready to do a victory lap around my wee kitchen counter, however, when I got to cutting them up and then it all went south. People, these were trying to cut. The problem lies within the differing textures of the layers — the top hard chocolate shell more benefits from a sharp serrated knife (a regular, even very sharp knife will crack the edges when you press down on it), the same serrated knife that gets gummed with jam and tries to pull the soft cake layers in between apart. It was exasperating. It didn’t go well. I packed up some for a party and stuffed the rest in the freezer, only to discover the next day that these cut fantastically when frozen. Seriously. Trust me. I have the gummy floor and gray hairs to prove it.

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{ Chocolate Chip Cookie Throwdown! }

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie
When The New York Times published the recipe for their favorite chocolate chip cookie, shit hit the fan…..in the food blogging world, at least!  It was like everyone instantaneously took out their kitchen aid mixers and got to baking and blogging. Post after post on my RSS feed featured reviews commenting on the cookie’s flavor, texture, and composition. Bakers and cookie connoisseurs alike disputed in blog columns whether or not this recipe was actually the best, and then offered their comments/suggestions to make it even better. With all this sugary hype, I  knew that I would just have to try the recipe out for myself. And being the type A, OCD freak that I am, I decided that I would also give a go at two of the other recipes suggested as contenders for the title of best chocolate chip cookie: (1) Jacques Torres’ Original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe & (2) blogger, “Will Bake for Tattoos’” Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Batches
So with three types of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before me, which cookie recipe proved victorious?!?
Cookies Baked
Jacques Torres Chocolate
The New York Times recipe (#1 on the baking sheet) is a modified version of this classic (and it was a close second place), but the texture was uniform throughout the cookie. I liked that Jacques’ recipe  (#2 on the baking sheet!) had a crispier edge with a softer/chewier center.
NY Times Choc. Chip
The “Will Bake for Tattoos’” Recipe (#3 on the baking sheet) was far too commercial tasting in my opinion; it had a very “cakey” texture as opposed to a chewy texture, and the sugar in the cookie never caramelized to create a golden rim around the edge.
Will Bake for Tattoos
One thing that I did for all of the cookies, was allow them to chill in the refrigerator over night. The New York Times published an article in 2008, stating that the secret to a perfect chocolate chip cookie was to let it chill for a minimum of 24 hours, and ideally for 36 hours! I made sure to plan ahead (a rarity), and prepared my dough 24 hours in advance of baking to get the maximum quality out of the doughs.
Without further ado, here is the recipe for Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies:

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

{ Directions }

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.

Using a 4-ounce ice cream scoop, drop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes.

Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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{ Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread }

Thanks to Ms. Hurricane Sandy, I had an unexpected day off of work today! And that means my my oven was set at a comfortable 350 degrees with a constant rotation of breads, cakes, and cookies going though it’s doors. Four loaves of banana bread, and 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies later….I was ready to attempt a more complicated bread recipe from Peter Reinhart’s cookbook, “The Bakers Apprentice.” I haven’t done much bread baking before, but I was feeling up to the challenge with all of the free time on my hands!

The original recipe calls for a mixture of cranberries and walnuts, but I was running low on berries so I also threw in some golden raisins and dried currants. If a panettone and a babka had a love child, this bread would be it! Everyone in my family agreed that it will be made on Christmas morning for many more generations to come…aka, the bread turned out incredible!

So without further ado, here is my recipe for Kendall’s Christmas Celebration Bread, adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread in “The Baker’s Apprentice.”

{ Ingredients}

  • 3 cups of bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/5 tablespoons lemon extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup of water, at room temperature
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

{ To Make the Bread }

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients (except the dried fruits and nuts) to make a soft dough. Switch the attachment to a dough kneading hook and knead for 5 minutes.

The dough should clear the sides of the mixing bowl, but remain tacky to the bottom. Adjust the concentrations of water and flour so that the dough takes this form.

Add the cranberries, raisins, and currants and continue to knead by hand for an additional 2 minutes.

Then add the chopped walnuts and knead by hand until the nuts are evenly distributed.

Transfer the dough to a well oiled bowl and allow to ferment, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough should almost double in size!

Transfer the dough a counter top surface and divide into 6 pieces; 3 larger pieces and 3 smaller pieces. Roll out all 6 pieces by hand into long strands. Braid the 3 larger strands using the 3-braid technique and then do the same with the 3 smaller strands.

Place the large braid on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and then place the smaller braid directly on top of it. Brush the entire bread with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk) and allow to sit at room temperature for another 2 hours.

The braided bread should double in size. Brush the entire bread with egg wash a second time.

Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.

I like to serve mine with a flavorful homemade butter. Recipe, below:

{ Homemade Sweet Orange Butter }

  • 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

{ To Make the Butter }

Combine all ingredient in the bowl of an electric mixer, and whisk on a medium-high speed until well combined and buttery in texture.

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{ Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies }

I was really sad about missing Thanksgiving dinner this year. Sad to the point where I dreamt about rosemary-infused stuffing, cranberry condiments, and golden-glazed turkey long after the holiday had passed. These thanksgiving “accruciaments” (as Tony Soprano would say) are all obsolete in Argentina, a country that is recognized for both its prized bovine and lack of importation. The only cans of cranberry sauce and pumpkin puree to be found, were in the possession of foreign service agents that had “special postal privileges.” There was literally a black market among BA expats for gravy starter and Sarah Lee products. Unfortunately, my measly teaching salary did not afford me one of these luxury canned items (I will never look at a food-drive the same way again), and so I resorted to a chicken stir-fry on Thanksgiving evening.

For a foodie like myself, this is a crime because Thanksgiving is unequivocally the best day of the year–a day where we are finally accompanied by family and friends in our passion for food and the desire to consume exorbitant amounts of it. So to miss such a momentous event…well, it’s downright depressing. So my family decided to have Thanksgiving round #2. They say it was just for me, but how many people really keep a spare Butterball in their freezer?!? A 16 pound one no less…

We made all of our Thanksgiving family favorites; starting with a juicy Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey, accompanied by Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Lemon-Scented Broccoli, Rosemary and Sage Infused Stuffing, Corn, and my mom’s delicious Homemade Gravy!

But it wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving feast without some sort of pumpkin-flavored dessert, so my sister and I decided to try out Paula Deen’s recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (although we made some modifications, as one must with Paula Deen’s butter rich recipes!).

Overall, I thought the cookies had a really great flavor but they were more cake-like than cookie in composition. If you are a fan of soft cookies, then you will love these!! I would probably opt for my Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting in the future though, because I like crunchy cookies instead.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups (1 12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper
{ To Make the CookiesPreheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or nonstick spray.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar, whisking until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, until everything is well combined.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture in 3 parts, and continue to mix on a low speed until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and drop cookies onto prepared cookie sheet. NOTE: I like to use a small ice cream scoop so that the cookie batter is evenly distributed!

Place the cookie sheet into the oven and allow to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool and serve!

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