Here are two more recipes to add give bakers a glimpse into the world of Griffith and Cheryl Day's Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Ga., which has inspired two cookbooks: "The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook" and the just-released "Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love."
After talking with Griffith last week, I tested these recipes, and they worked like a charm. Two notes: I followed my mother's example and kept the cake in the pan (the Days recommend removing it from the pan, and icing the cake's sides and top), and because I had blueberries in the freezer, I used them (as per the Days' suggestion) instead of raspberries for the muffins. The results? Delicious.
I'm definitely adding both recipes to my baking arsenal.
GINNY’S CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE WITH CLASSIC CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
Serves 9 to 12.
Note: From “Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love,” by Cheryl and Griffith Day (Artisan, $24.95).
1 c. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. cake flour, plus extra for pan
1 1/4 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pan
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan.
In a measuring cup or a small bowl, stir together milk and vanilla extract and reserve.
In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.
Add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with milk mixture and beginning and ending with flour. Fold in chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared pan and gently smooth top with spatula. Tap pan firmly on the counter to remove any air bubbles from the batter.
Bake until a cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool cake for 15 minutes, then invert to a wire rack and cool completely.
Invert cake to a platter and frost top and sides with Classic Chocolate Buttercream (see Recipe). Cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
CLASSIC CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
Makes about 3 cups.
Note: From “Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love.”
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
In a double boiler over gently simmering water (or in a bowl in a microwave oven), melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside until chocolate is tepid.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add milk, mixing until completely blended. Add cooled chocolate and mix until completely incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add vanilla extract and mix until completely incorporated. Reduce speed to low and gradually add powdered sugar, then continue beating until buttercream is creamy and silky. Frosting can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
RASPBERRY CORN MUFFINS
Makes 1 dozen muffins.
Note: “Swap in the same amount of blueberries (not thawed if frozen) for an easy-peasy variation,” write “Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love” authors Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.
2 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. canned creamed corn (1 14.75 oz. can)
3/4 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen raspberries
2 tbsp. sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, creamed corn, honey, vanilla extract and butter. In a small bowl, gently toss raspberries with sugar.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in liquid mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in raspberries, using as few strokes as possible; be careful not to overmix the batter.
Using a large scoop, scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling approximately 2/3 full. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until muffins are golden brown, about another 20 to 25 minutes. The tops should be firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin should come out clean. Remove from oven, transfer muffin pans to a wire rack and cool about 10 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove muffins from pan, transfer to a wire rack and cool competely. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Plans for a long-promised but never-materialized Lincoln Del cookbook are once again starting to percolate (find the story here). In the meantime, a scan through the Star Tribune's archives have revealed a pair of recipes from the classic deli and bakery.
In 2000, within weeks of the end of the Lincoln Del --- the restaurant's roots reached back to 1935 -- a number of diners contacted the Star Tribune’s Restaurant Requests column (a forum for tracking down recipes to favorite restaurant dishes), asking if the Del would share its cabbage borscht recipe. (That's the Del's fully-loaded bakery case, above, in a 1978 Star Tribune file photo).
Taste staffer Diane Osby tracked down a recipe that had been published in the February 2000 issue of Midwest Living magazine, and the recipe appeared in the June 8, 2000 edition of Taste.
Turns out, there was a hitch.
A few weeks later, Lincoln Del owner Danny Berenberg (who at the time was talking about producing his own Lincoln Del cookbook) revealed the following to Star Tribune gossip columnist CJ:
"I was at my mother's house for dinner the other night and [she] said, ‘You know that article in the Star Tribune about the borscht? That isn't the right borscht recipe.’ Berenberg said he tried to explain. ‘Yeah, but that is an adaptation done by Midwest Living [magazine].’ She said, ‘But the ingredients aren't right.’ This constant argument about are you really honest [with the] recipe, I think the way we are going to solve that is: In the cookbook we are going to give both -- an adaption you can make at home and the bulk one -- it makes 42 gallons."
In short, take this recipe with a grain of sour salt.
LINCOLN DEL’S MEATY CABBAGE BORSCHT
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: Sour salt is also called citric acid, and is often found in the supermarket’s kosher section.
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 lb. beef shank bones
1/2 lb. beef bottom round steak
5 c. beef stock or broth
2 medium tomatoes, cut up
2/3 c. ketchup
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. sour salt (see Note)
2 lb. cabbage, cut into bite-size pieces
Coat a 4-quart Dutch oven or pot with nonstick cooking spray. Over medium heat, brown shank bones and round steak in a pot. Carefully add beef stock, tomatoes, ketchup, sugar and sour salt to meat in pot; stir. Bring to stock to a boil; reduce heat. Cover; simmer for 1 hour. Remove meat and bones from the mixture; cool slightly. Remove and discard the skin, bones and any fat from the meat. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Return the meat to the pot. Stir in the cabbage. Bring the mixture to boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until cabbage is crisp-tender. Ladle the borscht into warm soup bowls.
A second Lincoln Del recipe (the restaurant's Bloomington location is shown above in a Star Tribune file photo, taken a few days before the restaurant closed in 2000) popped up in Nov. 27, 2003. As part of their research for their book “Minnesota Eats Out,” authors Linda and Kathryn Strand Koutsky, tracked down recipes from the state’s legacy restaurants, including the Del. “[Lincoln Del owner Danny Berenberg] provided the recipe of his mother, Theresa, which was used at the Del, in its several locations,” wrote Star Tribune staff writer Peg Meier. “There a quart of the Del's beet borscht was added to 4 gallons of salad dressing. For the home version, canned beet borscht or canned diced beets can be substituted. To retain a chunky texture for the dressing, the ingredients are mashed together rather than blended.”
LINCOLN DEL’S THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING
Makes 5 cups.
4 c. (1 quart) Miracle Whip salad dressing
1/4 c. chili sauce
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. beet borscht (or canned beets with some juice)
3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1/4 c. green pepper, finely diced
In a medium bowl, combine salad dressing with chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, borscht (or canned beets), eggs and green pepper. Use a potato masher to combine the ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
There are probably 200 cookbooks in my kitchen library, which means that there are plenty that rarely get pulled off the shelf. But "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook" gets all kinds of use, year-round.
Which is why it's very happy news indeed to learn that the book's author, Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas (pictured, above, in an image by photographer Ed Anderson) will be in Minneapolis on Friday April 3 at Macy's in downtown Minneapolis (700 Nicollet Mall, lower level), starting at noon.
Macy's is offering a pretty sweet deal: Spend at least $35 in the store's housewares department on Friday, and in return you'll receive a free copy of Douglas' book (a $35 value), which means access to its wealth of instant-classic recipes for cookies, breads, scones, cakes, pies, tarts, sandwiches and soups. Macy's will also toss in a $10 gift card.
(The event, a cooking demonstration and book signing, is free, but it's best to call for a reservation: 800-329-8667).
When the book was released in October 2012, I spoke with Douglas, a powerhouse behind 18 diverse Seattle food-and-drink establishments and a multiple James Beard Foundation award-winner. Here's that interview, followed by two of my favorite recipes from "Dahlia." I've prepared both more times than I can recall.
Q Dahlia Lounge had been around for more than a decade when you opened Dahlia Bakery. Why a bakery?
A We had moved the restaurant across the street and up half a block, and we had an extra 150 square feet of space. There's a restaurant in Manhattan called Balthazar, and next to it is Balthazar Bakery. It's tiny, and it's very charming to have that little retail outlet to sell the house desserts and breads. That was my inspiration. It seemed like fun. We also love to show our effort. We make everything that we sell. That distinguishes us from the Sysco-supplied restaurants, the ones that only pretend to do good work. We may not be the best bread bakers or the best pastry cooks, but no one out-efforts us.
Q Is it safe to say that triple coconut-cream pie saved your first restaurant, the Dahlia Lounge?
A I wouldn't say it saved us -- the lobster potstickers probably did that. But the pie got the most attention in the media. People would stop me on the street and tell me how much they loved it. It really put us on the map.
Q Where did the idea for it come from?
A My grandma was a great pie baker, and I had them all the time when I was growing up, so I challenged Shelley [Lance, Douglas' co-author and original pastry chef] to make several desserts like it. I'm not sure we even thought twice about it. It was just a great pie, you know? But it took on a life of its own and became a standard. Now we sell it in all of the restaurants, even if it's not on the menu. At Lola [Douglas' Greek-inspired restaurant] it's the No. 1-selling dessert, and it's not on the menu. People would ask, "Could I have a slice of that pie?" and because we're in the customer service business, we'd run it from across the street. Now we just keep them in the back.
Q Since this is your fourth cookbook, you are obviously not a believer in the proprietary nature of recipes. True?
A That's such a short-term thing. We're in the hospitality business, and whatever you can do to engage the customer and make him or her remember you, that's what's important. Besides, if you give the recipe to 10 bakers, you'll get 10 different pies, that's just the way of the world. Recipes are up for grabs and generally at the whim and the talent level of the person making it. We make 150 pies a day, so we're consistent. But I will say this: Every time you make a recipe it gets better, because it gets dialed into your personality.
Q Is there one particular dish that everyone should know how to bake?
A Berry crisp, absolutely. Every time you make a fruit crisp for me, you are my favorite person in the world. It's something delicious and warm, right out of the oven. I mean, what more could anyone want? And all you're doing is taking the best fruit of the season, putting a crumb topping on it and putting it in the oven. Mastering one recipe is better than mastering too many. Learn something and own it, and you'll feel so much better about it. You'll have more confidence if you've made it five times, and that confidence adds so much fun to cooking.
Q Can you recommend a tool that all bakers should have in their kitchen?
A It's really fun to have a convection oven, even it if it's a little convection toaster oven. It really changes the way you bake. My biggest thing is measurements. I don't get along with them very well. I don't have time for them, which is why I'm not a baker. But measurements are important in baking. So I'd say, get a scale. Good baking cookbooks offer weight measurements in recipes, and you'll become a more consistent baker if you weigh ingredients.
Q That tomato soup is fantastic. Is it your mom's recipe?
A It's inspired by it. She would open up a can of Campbell's most of the time [laughs]. But who doesn't love a good tomato soup? We sell 10 gallons of it a day. It's not full of cream, and a touch of cayenne puts a little heat at the back of your throat. I like that.
Q What makes those molasses-ginger cookies so irresistible?
A It's the ingredients. Most people are so used to getting crap when they go to the grocery store that they have no idea what real ingredients are, and how good real ingredients are. I don't mean to pick on Costco -- they're friends of mine -- but how do you have a non-dairy whipped topping on a coconut cream pie? Why would you want to eat that? When people get the real deal in their mouth, holy cow, it's a revelation.
TOM'S TASTY TOMATO SOUP WITH BROWN BUTTER CROUTONS
Note: "When I was a kid and my mom made tomato soup, she would cut buttered toast into squares and float them on top of each bowl," writes Tom Douglas in "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook." "My twist on Mom's toast is to make brown butter croutons."
• 4-in. chunk (4 slices) rustic bread
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
• 3 garlic cloves, smashed with side of a knife and peeled
• 5 c. (two 28-oz. cans) canned whole tomatoes in juice
• 1 c. water
• 2/3 c. heavy cream
• 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
• 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/4 tsp. celery seed
• 1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or 1/2 tsp. freshly chopped oregano)
• 1 tbsp. sugar
To prepare croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut off and discard bread crusts, and cut bread into 3/4 - to 1-inch cubes.
In a small pan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and cook, stirring often, until butter is golden brown and aromatic, about 3 minutes after butter melts. Remove from heat.
Place bread cubes in a medium bowl and pour butter over them, tossing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until croutons are toasted and golden, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from oven.
To prepare soup: In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, cream, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, celery seed, oregano and sugar. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove soup from heat and puree in batches in blender. Return soup to pot and reheat to a simmer, seasoning to taste with more salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve hot, garnished with croutons.
OLD-FASHIONED MOLASSES COOKIES WITH FRESH GINGER
Makes about 4 dozen small cookies.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook."
• 2 c. flour
• 2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 3/4 c. (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 11/2 c. sugar, divided
• 1 egg
• 1/4 c. molasses
• 2 tsp. peeled and freshly grated ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, molasses and ginger and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour before shaping cookies.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup sugar on a plate.
Make 3/4 -inch balls of dough and roll them in sugar. Place 2 to 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using palm of your hand, press balls of dough flat.
Bake until golden brown and set around the edges but still slightly soft in the center, 7 to 8 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time (if you have 2 pans of cookies in the oven at the same time, also switch them between racks).
Remove from oven, cool cookies on baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to a metal rack.
Forget the instant ramen that comes in a cellophane package with seasoning packet. That originated in 1958 with Momofuku Ando of Nissin Food Products in Japan.
We’re talking homemade ramen here, a dish that seems to be simply noodles and broth and extras, but one which is based on the complex flavors of a long-simmered stock, which comes in as many variations as there are cooks. In Japan, the dish is often sold in small shops called ramen-yas.
Of the four basic kinds of ramen broth, the one made with pork bones – tonkotsu -- is a favorite of many. Its intense pork flavor and opaqueness comes from boiling (not simmering) the bones – a lot of them -- for a very long time (6 hours or more).
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, managing culinary director of the online site Serious Eats, developed this version of the classic. He recommends cutting the bones (or having the butcher do so) into cross-wise disks rather than to split them lengthwise for better flavor extraction during the boiling. He also uses a chicken carcass to mellow out the flavor.
To arrive at the clean color he wants in his soup, he “washes” the bones by putting them in water and then boiling them. Then he rinses the bones and cleans them off before starting the actual cooking process.
His recipe is strictly for the broth. You can find fresh ramen noodles at United Noodle in Minneapolis or make your own with this recipe from Nancy Singleton Hachisu, author of “Japanese Farm Food,” which is part of her simplified version of ramen in a chicken-based broth.
To find out more about Kenji's process for deducing the best broth, read his article in full: http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/02/how-to-make-tonkotsu-ramen-broth-at-home-recipe.html
For Kenji's step-by-step recipe, go to:http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/02/rich-and-creamy-tonkotsu-ramen-broth-from-scratch-recipe.html
Kenji has also recently posted a vegan version of the broth.
How good is homemade ramen? It just might change your life. For my tale of eating ramen in Tokyo, read this.
Rich and Creamy Tonkotsu Ramen Broth
Makes about 3 quarts, serving 6 to 8.
Note: This broth takes a full day or at least overnight to make (about 2 hours of active attention, 12 to 18 hours total). Plan accordingly. Unused broth can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days or frozen for up to three months. This recipe is for the broth only. For a full meal, you will need ramen-style noodles and toppings of your choice, which could include sliced braised pork belly, soft boiled eggs, sliced green onions, raw enoki mushrooms and blanched baby bok choy leaves. Recipe from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Seriouseats.com.
3 lb. pig trotters, split lengthwise or cut crosswise into 1-in. disks (ask your butcher to do this for you)
2 lb. chicken backs and carcasses, skin and excess fat removed
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, skin on, roughly chopped
12 garlic cloves
1 (3-in.) knob ginger, roughly chopped
2 whole leeks, washed and roughly chopped
2 dozen green onions, white parts only (reserve greens and light green parts for garnishing finished soup)
6 oz. whole mushrooms or mushroom scraps
1 lb. slab pork fatback
Place pork and chicken bones in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Place on a burner over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat as soon as boil is reached.
Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a medium cast-iron or nonstick skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. Add onions, garlic and ginger. Cook, tossing occasionally until deeply charred on most sides, about 15 minutes total. Set aside.
Once pot has come to a boil, dump water down the drain. Carefully wash all bones under cold running water, removing any bits of dark marrow or coagulated blood. Bones should be uniform grey/white after you’ve scrubbed them. Use a chopstick to help remove small bits of dark marrow from inside the trotters or near the chicken’s spines.
Return bones to pot along with charred vegetables, leeks, whites from green onions, mushrooms and pork fatback. Top with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that appears (this should stop appearing within the first 20 minutes or so). Use a clean sponge or moist paper towels to wipe black or gray scum off from around the rim of the pot. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and place a heavy lid on top.
Once the lid is on, check the pot after 15 minutes. It should be at a slow rolling boil. If not, increase or decrease heat slightly to adjust boiling speed. Boil broth until pork fatbck is completely tender, about 4 hours. Carefully remove pork fat with a slotted spatula. Transfer fatback to a sealed container and refrigerate until broth is finished.
Return lid to pot and continue cooking until broth is opaque with the texture of light cream, about 6 to 8 hours longer, topping up as necessary to keep bones submerged at all times. If you must leave the pot unattended for an extended period of time, top up the pot and reduce the heat to the lowest setting while you are gone. Return to a boil when you come back and continue cooking, topping up with more water as necessary.
Once broth is ready, cook over high heat until reduced to around 3 quarts. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. Discard solids. For an even cleaner soup, strain again through a chinois or a fine mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Skim liquid fat from top with a ladle and discard.
Finely chop cooked pork fatback and whisk into finished broth. To serve, season broth with condiments of your choice (salt, soy sauce, miso, sesame paste, grated fresh garlic, chili oil or a mixture of all) and serve with cooked ramen noodles and toppings as desired.
For another variation of the classic ramen dish, this is from Kris Toliao, a cook at Luce in San Francisco.
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: This home version of tonkotsu comes from Kris Toliao, a cook at Luce in San Francisco. He uses bones from three parts of a pig and hard boils them at length to achieve the broth's milky texture. Marrow, which is essential to this broth, can be found in large pork bones, such as the feet. The bones can be found at Asian markets or meat markets. From the San Francisco Chronicle.
2 pounds pork neck bones
2 pounds pork back bones
2 pound pork marrow bones (see Note)
3 large yellow onions, halved and peeled
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 gallons water
About 1 1/4 ounces dried kombu (kelp)
Shoyu, to taste (soy sauce)
1 pound pork loin
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed or grated garlic
Pinch red chile flakes
1 tablespoon canola oil
Store-bought fresh ramen noodles, cooked
Toppings, as desired: sliced green onion, nori (dried seaweed), sliced store-bought fish cake, bean sprouts
For the broth: Place the bones, onion and garlic in a large stockpot, and add the 3 gallons water. Bring to rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil 6 hours, stirring and skimming frequently to clear away the impurities that arise. Start the pork marinating (see below) while the broth is cooking.
After about 6 hours, wipe the kombu with a damp cloth and add it to the broth; boil for an additional hour.
Turn the heat off and let the broth cool a bit. Carefully strain the broth through a large mesh strainer - you should get about 8 to 9 cups broth. Discard solids, and season broth to taste with salt.
For the pork topping: While the broth is cooking, combine the pork loin, soy sauce, mirin, ginger, garlic and chile flakes in a heavy-duty self-sealing plastic bag, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing. Let marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours, turning a few times.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Remove the pork loin from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on the baking sheet and roast until the pork is slightly firm to the touch, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and move to a cooling rack; cool to room temperature before slicing, about 1/4-inch per piece.
To serve: Pour about 2 cups of hot broth over the desired amount of noodles; refrigerate or freeze extra broth. Top as desired, finishing the bowl off with a few slices of roasted pork.
For the fourth round of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Project, I turned to my close personal friend Dorie Greenspan.
We've never met, of course, but her cookbooks have played a vital role in my baking life for more years than I can recall, so it feels as if we have a meaningful (if wholly one-sided) relationship of long standing.
There’s a Toll House-like recipe in my well-worn copy of her “Baking: From My Home to Yours,” and I almost went there. But then I took a shot and pulled her recently released “Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere” off our kitchen library shelf and began flipping through the index. Could it be possible? Can the French -- or, at the very least, an American in Paris -- have a thing for chocolate chip cookies?
Of course they do, and La Greenspan is on it, naturally. Her recipe originates with bistro owner Eduoard Bobin, and when she first glanced over his recipe, she was disappointed to find little difference from the familiar American version that graces the back of so many chocolate chip packages.
Wait, had my Dorie made a mistake that trips up many bakers and cooks? Had she not read the recipe twice? She doesn't come out and say that, but she does admit to not initially noticing a few key alterations (a failing which, in my worldview, was a tremendously humanizing moment for someone I have long imagined residing in one of Olympus' better neighborhoods, and only increased my reverence for her). There’s significantly more flour in this iteration than the basic American version, and the nuts aren’t chopped, they’re ground.
Ok, this sounded compellingly offbeat, enough to test-drive. And then a light bulb went off over my head: Almond flour! What a great use for the almond flour that's sitting in my pantry, leftovers from our 2014 Taste Holiday Cookie Contest winner. (Greenspan also recommends hazelnut flour).
Here's another quirk: Greenspan suggests adding an unusual step while the cookies are baking. Midway through, use a spatula to gently press down the tops of each cookie. I bake batches that followed this advice, and others that ignored it, and frankly I didn’t see much of a difference between the two (sure, the pressed ones had spread slightly wider, but not much), other than the tops of some of the pressed cookies ended up with unattractive chocolate smears, a result from coming in contact with the spatula.
As for the cookies, I liked, but didn’t tumble head-over-heels. They’ve got the thick shape and chewy texture that I generally aim for (and rarely achieve) in a chocolate chip cookie, and I love the look of the flecks of almond that dot the the dough (it helped that the almond flour I was using was technically almond meal, which uses unblanched almonds, resulting in that verigated brown-and-gold look; almond flour, which is made with blanched almonds, is a pale, monochromatic gold). The chocolate-dough ratio is good, too, a close-to 50/50 match.
But they lack they enticing caramel brown color that generally grabs my eye, and their cakey texture (due to all that extra flour, no doubt) is drier and less buttery than the Toll House role model that obviously still continues to rule my world. However, they’re fantastic with milk, and what more can a chocolate chip cookie fanatic ask for?
EDUOARD’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Note: From “Baking Chez Moi” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40).
3 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 2 c. chocolate chips)
1 1/2 c. almond or hazelnut flour
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until well-blended, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract and beat until well-combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 4 to 5 additions, mixing only until each addition is just incorporated. Add chocolate and nut flour and mix until just combined. Divide dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (and up to 3 days).
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop dough into golf ball-size mounds (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes and then, using a clean metal spatula, gently press each mound down just a little; rotate the baking sheet and bake until cookies are pale brown, about 7 to 8 minutes. (They’ll still be slightly soft in the center, but that’s fine – they’ll firm up as they cool). Remove from oven and cool 1 minute before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
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