Sunday, September 28, 2014

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last month, I finally fulfilled my long-time dream of traveling to New York City.  Talk about a foodie's paradise!  I got to eat at Bar Boulud, Cafe Boulud, Eataly, and Schnipper's Deli, all of which were absolutely fantastic.  But, if you've been following my blog, you know I'm all about the sweets.  And from hearing what other people have said about NYC, that meant it was time to go hunt down those chocolate chip cookies, namely Jacques Torres, Levain Bakery, and Thomas Keller.

To my disappointment, however, I found out that Levain Bakery's famous chocolate chip cookie is made with walnuts (I'm allergic) and they don't make a nut-free version.  My mom who came with me, on the other hand, has no such problem, and she gladly devoured the cookie we bought from there and proclaimed it the best out of the three places above.  She then went back into the bakery and promptly bought five more to take home.  Ha!

Cookie from Levain Bakery
Well, this just wouldn't do.  The "best" cookie in NYC and I can't even taste it for myself?  Oh no!  So, I had no choice but to hunt down a copycat recipe and make them myself, this time with no walnuts.  I came across this recipe on the blog, Parsley Sage & Sweet.  Since a lot of other bloggers commented on how close this one was to the real thing, I figured I couldn't go wrong.

The only thing I changed was to add 1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla.  Whether that made the cookie taste less Levain-esque, I don't know, but I simply have to have vanilla in my chocolate chip cookies.  I then followed a couple of recommendations on her blog and added 1 Tbsp. cornstarch and also froze the large cookie dough balls before baking them.  The result?  I got ooey, gooey centers in my cookies surrounded by a lovely crispy shell.  Then, there was all that chocolatey goodness melting in the middle.  Oooohhh!  I can't even describe how good that was.

My sister, who sampled one of the actual Levain cookies my mom brought back, took a taste too.  Unfortunately, she couldn't for the life of her remember what the original one tasted like, so she couldn't say whether or not this one came close.  And, since I hadn't tasted it either, I guess we'll never know.  But, what I do know was that these cookies tasted awesome!  My sister also loved the thick, chewy texture of the cookies.  She then proceeded to take a lot of them home with her to eat later on.  This one is truly a keeper!

 Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Parsley Sage & Sweet)

1 c. 'cold and cubed' unsalted butter (I used salted)
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (I added this)
3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. kosher salt (I omitted this)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. milk chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, cornstarch, salt (if using), baking powder, and baking soda until combined.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

Form into large balls, about 4 oz. each.  (I did about three of my cookies like this and made the rest of them into small, regular-sized cookies).  Freeze the dough balls for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Bake the large cookie dough balls for 15-20 minutes (mine took 23 minutes).  Bake the smaller, regular-sized dough balls for 12 minutes.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pineapple Chicken Quinoa Pilaf

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned to Chef John and Anne's blog, The Saturday Evening Pot.  Seeing as how Chef John graduated in culinary arts, you can bet that you're going to find some absolutely delicious recipes throughout their blog.  And their two children get to be the taste testers.  Lucky!

In going through their blog, I immediately knew I had found THE recipe to make when I saw their Hawaiian Chicken and Pineapple Rice Pilaf.  I did make a few changes to it.  I used olive oil instead of the bacon, left out the shallot, used quinoa instead of rice, and added some black pepper and red pepper chili flakes to taste.

The result was one yummy dinner indeed!  Mine didn't absorb all the liquid like it was supposed to, but I'm pretty sure that had a lot to do with the fact that I used quinoa instead of rice.  Nevertheless, it was wonderfully flavorful and I found myself going back for seconds.

Thanks Chef John and Anne for your fantastic creation!

Hawaiian Chicken and Pineapple Pilaf (adapted from The Saturday Evening Pot)

15 oz. can of pineapple chunks, juice reserved and chunks cut in half
1 c. smoked almonds, coarsely chopped (I used sliced almonds)
1 1/2 c. uncooked white quinoa
dash of allspice
1 lb. chicken tenders
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. pineapple juice
black pepper and red pepper chili flakes (to taste)

Form a layer of chicken in a 9x13 pan.  

Put 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a non-stick skillet and heat over medium-low heat.  Add the pineapple and almonds and cook till warmed through.  Stir in the quinoa to coat completely.  Sprinkle with allspice and stir again.  Pour the pilaf mixture over the chicken, then add the combined mixture of chicken broth and pineapple juice.  

Cover with foil then bake at 350F for 1- 1 1/2 hours till all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is completely cooked.  Before serving, sprinkle with black pepper and red pepper chili flakes to taste. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins with Toasted Coconut and Almonds

I was recently asked by Rizzi from The New York  Baking Company if I would like to review some silicone baking cups.  Of course, I said yes!!!  Too well I remembered days of having to buy paper muffin cups again and again.  Or, if I didn't use the cups, I'd have to grease my pans and hope that the muffins would leave intact.  But, I'd heard a lot of good things about silicone products, how they make baking and cleanup so easy, how you never have to worry about greasing anything ever again.  I couldn't wait to put them to the test.   

As you can see, the baking cups come in beautiful bright colors.

I decided to make one of my favorite recipes for chocolate chip muffins from King Arthur Flour.  But, this time, I wanted to change things up a little.  So, I used browned butter, subbed in some brown sugar, and topped them off with toasted coconut and almonds.  Into the gorgeous, brightly colored silicone cups went the batter and I sat back to wait for them to bake up.

With eager hands, I took them out of the oven, let them cool, and then set about to remove the muffin from the cup.  1-2-3, out it came!  Not a bit was left on the cups and the muffins were perfectly intact.  Cleanup was a breeze too.  I was super happy.  You can bet that I'll be using these again and again!   

As for the muffins themselves, I loved how the toasted coconut and almonds gave some crunchiness to each bite.  The rest of it was soft, moist, and yummy!  If you'd like to get your hands on these cups yourself, just follow the link above. 

Thanks New York Baking Company for this great opportunity!    
Product Name: Silicone Baking Cups
Brand: The New York Baking Company
RRP: $8.95
Material: BPA free silicone
Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins with Toasted Coconut and Almonds (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

1/2 c. browned butter
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk (I used 1/4 c. Greek yogurt + 1/4 c. water)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. toasted coconut
sliced almonds

Line the muffin with with the silicone baking cups or paper liners.  Combine the browned butter with the sugars.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Mix in the milk.  Stir in the baking powder, salt, and flour until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Divide the batter into the muffin cups.  Top each with 1 Tbsp. toasted coconut and some sliced almonds.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.  

Makes 12-14 muffins

Disclaimer:  I was not paid for this review.  All opinions in it are solely mine.