Soothing the Soul

It was a hard week and our friends’ elderly mother passed away. We feel the loss of Edna Mae Reagan Devlin – a fine Irish cailín who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. She made you feel good about yourself and that’s something to be remembered for. Why not make some big, chewy cookies and share them with friends who need a little comfort?

Big and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – You’ll Want to Bookmark this One!
From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

You can substitute any kind of chocolate or peanut butter chips for the semisweet ones. I used both white chocolate and milk chocolate. The recipe calls for 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks (the extra fat makes it chewy but not tough). The melted butter accounts for the chewy inside.

Hint: What to do with the leftover egg whites? I decided to beat them slightly with a tablespoon of water and a few drops of vanilla extract. Brush the cookie all over with the egg wash before baking and you will have a nice browned cookie; otherwise they are a little pale. (If you want to read about pale cookies, click here.)

America’s Test Kitchen is famous for testing their recipes to reach perfection. Follow their meticulous instructions and you can count on them to bring it on home!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks (see my suggestion in the intro for what to do with the leftover egg whites)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, one to two minutes. Beat in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla, until combined, about 30 second, scraping down the bowl and the beaters as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips until incorporates.

Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2-1/2 inches apart. (Hint: Here is where you can brush with the egg wash.)

Bake until the edges are golden but the centers are still soft and puffy, 17 to 20 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack.

Rita + Tom = Some Really Good Cookies

Melanie (blog follower, frequent contributor and test kitchen cook) made more than 100 Rita + Tom sugar cookie hearts for their 40th wedding anniversary. She got conscripted into service to make them as well as 100 German Chocolate cupcakes (but that’s another story).

Aren’t they pretty? I’ve been wanting to work with Royal Icing so maybe some pink-tinted hearts for Valentine’s Day would give me that chance.

The recipe she uses is well tested. Melanie doesn’t make anything that isn’t superb. Her test kitchen is always heating up!

Ann’s Sugar Cookies
By Ann Curry from The Today Show Cookbook

  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and orange peel. Beat together. Add flour and salt. Roll out to a quarter-inch thickness. Cut into shapes; place on ungreased cooking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Yield: Makes about two dozen, two-and-half-inch cookies.

Royal Icing for Hearts

Royal icing is a hard white icing, made from softly beaten egg whites, icing sugar, and sometimes lemon or lime juice. Melanie talks about why she uses Royal Icing and how she makes it:

“I use Wilton’s Meringue Powder to make Royal Icing instead of raw egg whites to make royal icing.  You just add powdered sugar and water, and beat it well.  It’s much easier to use than making Royal Icing from raw egg whites, and I’m not a fan of raw eggs being used anyway.

“When using Royal Icing, you have to be sure not to let it dry out because it sets up like cement, which is why it’s so good for icing cookies (they won’t get mushed).

“To ice Rita and Tom’s hearts, I piped an outline of the blue, filled it in with the blue, and then let that dry. The next day I did the white outline and the writing. I used Wilton paste colors to tint the icing.

“Hint: You can find lots of info and videos online about how to use Royal Icing that would explain it much better than I have.”

Video on how to make Royal Icing: Click here for a complete demonstration from the Joy of Baking on how to make the icing. It really makes a cookie very special.

 

I’ll Fudge a Little for Valentine’s Day

A few years before mom died I asked her if she would make me some of her peanut butter fudge. I lived 1,000 miles away so that meant not only making it, but packing and shipping it. At the time, her illness was starting to take its toll and she sounded worn out. But she made the fudge and shipped it to me. That was the last time I had mom’s fudge made by her. But, the recipe and memories live on.

I planned to make mom’s peanut butter fudge for Christmas, but time got away from me. I have all the ingredients, so why not make it for Valentine’s Day? I added a little chocolate to top it off for the occasion.

Caveat

Mom's recipe card

Mom’s recipe card

Here’s mom’s recipe in her handwriting. Note that the 9-ounce jars of marshmallow cream or 12-ounce jars of peanut butter don’t exist anymore. Consider the recipe a guideline, not an exact science. You’re going to have to fudge it on the fudge.

Mom’s terminology is amusing. When was the last time you heard of oleo? And her instructions to “remove from fire” is classic. Julia Child often said this very phrase. (I know because I’ve read every book written about and by Julia).

Everyone who tastes mom’s fudge claims it’s the best peanut butter fudge they have ever eaten. It’s not a family secret, so spread the love and make some fudge.

Mom’s Peanut Butter Fudge
From the kitchen of Lois Garneau

  • 1 box confectioner’s sugar (1 pound or 3 cups)
  • 3/4 stick margarine (no butter)
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind will do, I used skim)
  • 1 twelve-ounce jar of peanut butter (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 nine-ounce jar of marshmallow cream (closest I could find is 7.5 ounces)

DIRECTIONS

In saucepan, mix confectioner’s sugar, margarine and milk. Cook and stir for about 6-1/2 minutes until it boils. It should be at the candy soft ball stage.

Add peanut butter and marshmallow cream. Beat by hand, Pour into square pan. Cool and cut.

Stand By Me

Spoiler alert: This might not be totally about a KitchenAid stand mixer.

My husband gave me a bright, shiny, candy-apple red KitchenAid stand mixer this past Christmas…again.

He gave me the same mixer three years ago. At the time he said, “I thought a serious home cook like you should have one of these.”

I said, “I know…but I love my hand mixer. I’ve moved it around with me for 25 years. This stand mixer is so big, so heavy, so expensive, I don’t have space for it…and, and, and…”.

Bill said I could take it back, no problem.
So, I returned it.

Fast Forward to This Christmas

This past Christmas the same red KitchenAid stand mixer showed up again under the tree.

I said, “You gave me this three years ago and I returned it.”

“I know,” he said.

I thought, okay, I’ll keep it in the basement and bring it up when I need it. It’s not any old thing that gets real estate on my kitchen counter. I hauled the heavy machinery to the basement. (It weighs about the same as a lawnmower!)

Last week the cookie jar cracked. Prime counter space just came on the market, so I hauled the machine back up from the basement and placed it on the counter. I supposed I would use it someday.

Last Sunday I decided to make a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. Why not try the new mixer? Wow! KitchenAid mixer where have you been all my life!? Why did I resist? My work could have been so much easier and efficient! I felt like a real pro.

They nudge, they suggest, they cajole, and sometimes nag, but we refuse to listen and we shut our eyes. Why is it that others who love us know what we need even before we do? I need to remember that, and trust more.