Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies; Brownie Cupcakes; Nutty Phyllo Logs

As I write this, a friendly Verizon repairman is trying to locate the reason why we have had only intermittent telephone service for the past week. This is why I haven’t had the opportunity to post, since we have dial-up internet. He seemed rather surprised that we still have dial-up… and no cell phones or cable, either. We’re just a couple of basic people, I suppose. Well, except for shelling it out for really good rum and food. Seriously, who needs anything else?!

It was so funny, the expression on his face when Jack mentioned our dial-up connection speed. I’ve honestly never seen anybody’s “jaw drop”! He has something called Fios (of course, he works for Verizon!). He asked how we can stand waiting for things to download. I answered “patience”. In a former life, I used to hurry. No more.

Today I will continue with my review of my Valentine’s Day Baking Extravaganza with Jenni.

I know that I mentioned the peanut butter fudge in my last post, but I really do need to reiterate that this stuff is seriously addicting. I am determined to ignore its little peanut-buttery voice, calling me from the laundry room refrigerator, but some days I am simply too weak. :)

Next up,yet more cookies.

I found this recipe on A Spiced Life and Laura reviewed them very favorably, so we made a double batch. Lots and lots of cookies! Ten dozen, I believe, were the final count.

Now I have gone over and over how I prepared these and I cannot figure out what exactly went wrong but there seemed to be something missing. Jenni agreed with me, but Jack and my Mom thought that they were delicious. I think that they should have had more sugar, but that would my personal preference (being that I have such a sweet tooth…). The toasted hazelnut flavor was just spectacular, though, and I will make them again, perhaps adding an extra ¼ cup of brown sugar to a single batch of dough. And they freeze very well, too.

Following is the recipe as copied from A Spiced Life. Laura got 34 cookies when she made them, but ours were smaller (I used a 1-tablespoon capacity cookie scoop) and we got about 60 per single batch. And, regarding grinding the nuts to powder, I did that and kept a close eye on them (since the time it takes to make hazelnut powder into hazelnut butter is mere seconds). Laura's way is safer, but I was impatient...

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Nancy Baggett's The All-American Cookie Book

7 oz (1 1/3 cups) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

252 g (2 cups) AP flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

heaping 1/4 t salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) shortening, room temperature (I used Earth Balance buttery sticks as it was what I had but white is what she calls for)

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 T milk (I used 2%)

2 t vanilla

1 cup (6 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips

Set a baking rack in the top third of the oven. Preheat to 350 F.

If you have had success grinding nuts to a powder before, then separate out half of the nuts and grind you a powder--chop the other half. What I did instead was partially grind all of them in the food processor until I got 3.5 oz to sift through as powder. The remaining chunks I left as they were.

Whisk together the hazelnut powder, the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder and the salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and shortening together until totally blended and then add the sugars and cream to fluffiness. Add the egg, vanilla and milk and totally blend together. Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Add the chocolate chips and the hazelnut pieces and mix those in. Set the dough aside, preferably in a cool place, for 15 minutes (this is not necessary but I like it as it allows the dough to meld better and firm up a bit--if I had easy room I would always do in the fridge).

Using a mid size ice cream scoop, scoop out level balls of dough, about 12 to a sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes, rotating front to back halfway through. Because they should bake in the top third of the oven, only one sheet at a time can cook. I got 34 cookies. Let them cool on a rack on the sheet for about 3 minutes and then transfer the individual cookies to a cooling rack.

Next, and my to-die-for favorite, the chocolate brownie cupcakes with fudge icing. Kill me, I’m in heaven.

I had a stash of heart-decorated cupcake liners, but I wanted to make something more substantial than cupcakes to mail to my parents.

For some reason, I am unable to locate the source of this recipe. Once we have a reliable internet connection I will search for it because this was a keeper recipe. The brownie cupcakes were dense, fudgy, and chewy (like my favorite kind of brownie), and didn’t even need the frosting. I dusted the tops with powdered sugar on the cupcakes I mailed to my parents.

However, that frosting was fantastic! I needed to thin it with milk, though. To frost the remaining cupcakes I used a pastry bag with a closed-end flower tip. The recipe, however, made an awful lot of frosting and I will cut the ingredients in half next time. And what did I do with the remaining fudge frosting, you might ask. I left it at Jenni’s. Her willpower is way, way stronger than mine. I would have eaten it with a spoon… seriously.

Brownie Cupcakes


4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 cup (105 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

4 ounces (12 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/3 cups (1600 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 12 muffin tins with paper or foil baking cups.

Melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.

Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then stir (can also use a hand mixer) in the sugar. Add the vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the flour and salt until well blended.

Evenly divide the batter between the muffin cups. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake has moist crumbs.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, using a large Wilton 6B closed star tip to make little rose buds.

Chocolate Frosting:

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Here is a photo of the resulting “cookie plate” (minus the biscotti which I posted about earlier). The brownie cupcakes are such a rich, dark color that it was impossible to photograph them well.

And for the final cookie produced for Valentine’s Day this year, ta-da, this one came from this past December’s issue of Eating Well. I’m not big on lowfat cookies because so many of them taste lowfat, and I dismissed the entire “Holiday Cookie Recipe Winners” article because first place was an (ick) no-bake cookie (oh come on, for Christmas?! Seriously, now.). But Jenni suggested the recipe for Nutty Phyllo Logs and I am glad that she did.

Jenni had prepped the filling before I arrived, so these were extra-easy to make. A few sheets of phyllo, spray with butter-flavored cooking spray, sprinkle with filling, cut into pieces, roll up, spray again, and bake. These were finished with a drizzle of chocolate. They were quite good, very crispy (Jack nicknamed them Explod-O-Logs) and the nutty-orange filling and chocolate complimented each other beautifully.

The recipe claims that you can freeze these logs without the chocolate drizzle, but I did and found out why-- the drizzle falls off when the cookies freeze! Not a problem since, by the time I did this, there were only a few left and they were "just for us".

Because of this Mad Cookie Frenzy, the next several posts will be of healthy, light food and hopefully no sweets. Five weeks until Easter and I have to get my sweet-tooth shipped back into submission...