Favorite Thing Friday: Best Ever Cookies

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On the last Friday of every month, I like to bake for my co-workers. My usual specialty is frosted brownies that can give you a stomach ache with one small square (and it’s totally worth it!), but this month I decided to pull out my treasured chocolate chip cookie recipe.

For years, I trusted the recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip bag, but I could never get those cookies to turn out quite right. My sister, on the other hand, is a true master of that recipe. Her cookies are crispy and perfectly sweet! After some soul searching I realized I can’t make cookies like that because I like my cookies to have more of a European coffee shop taste. Sweet, but not too sweet. Crispy, yet soft. The Toll House recipe is good, but it can never achieve the taste ratio I love.

Last year I was cruising through yahoo.com when I came across a link that read, “Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies.” The first thing through my head was yeah, right, but I clicked on it anyway.  Little did I know I’d end up at my cookie mecca.  I had finally found a cookie recipe inspired by a European coffee cafe and bakery!

After making several batches, I can attest that they are indeed the best ever chocolate chip cookies. That being said, I still love my sister’s cookies. Rather than claiming the best cookie title, I’d say we are masters of our own cookie domains!

Go ahead and try out the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tbsp) European style unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips (or chunks)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. In a separate, larger bowl mix butter and sugar until creamy (light and fluffy).
  3. Mix in eggs one at a time.
  4. Mix in vanilla extract.
  5. On low speed, mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix!
  6. Stir in chocolate chips until just incorporated. Do not over mix!
  7. Use an ice cream scoop to make dough balls.
  8. Place dough balls on cookie sheets prepared with parchment paper. Refrigerate overnight.
  9. Preheat over 375º with rack in the center.
  10. Make sure cookie sheets are lined with parchment paper and space out dough balls with 2″ between.
  11. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown around the edges and puffy on top.
  12. Cool on wire rack.
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I put my dough in a covered cake pan for their overnight chill. Don’t forget the parchment paper for chilling and baking!

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Freshly baked cookies cooling on the rack!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

Amish Friendship Bread

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Over the last 40 days (or so) I’ve been caught up in a baking frenzy that has swept my workplace: Amish Friendship Bread.  It all started when a colleague brought a freshly baked loaf of sweet bread and told us all to help ourselves.  I am already a nut for Amish baked goods after years of going to an Amish farm market in Indiana, (every year I head to Indy to visit my dad in the summer), so I dug right in!  I can’t even begin to say how excited I was to nosh on Amish bread well before my usual August binge.  It was so good, I asked if she would be willing to share the recipe so I could make it for myself.  Instead of writing it out for me, she handed over a large ziplock bag filled with pale goo and piece of paper with directions on what to do with my “starter.”

For the next six days, that goo sat on my counter and bubbled.  In between mushing the goo each day, I have to admit I was pretty fascinated with watching the yeast ferment.  On the sixth day, I got to add some ingredients and mush the bag some more until Day 10 or baking day arrived.

Baking day is where the real message of Amish Friendship bread comes through loud and clear. During the process, four cups of batter are pulled out and bagged for new starters.  These starters are then distributed to friends, family, neighbors, etc., while one is kept for yourself.  This creates an immediate connection with everyone in the circle as the next bake day arrives.  As the starter chain grows, the community grows and so does the sense of doing something meaningful.  Over the course of four batches, I realized I wasn’t baking alone and that created an instant kinship with every single person who had received a starter, including the people before and after my link in the chain. There is something magical and very warm about doing the same thing at the same time as those in my inner circle and beyond.  Every ten days that feeling comes back when I bake the next batch.

Better still, each batch yields two loaves of bread.  The sharing doesn’t end with starters!  It only continues as one loaf stays at home and the other is shared with others.  The office at work has been loaded with yummy loaves and muffins for weeks, while my grandparents always have a fresh loaf on their counter thanks to the baking efforts of me and my sister.

Batch #4 of Amish Friendship Bread

This experience has been very rewarding and tasty, so I thought I’d pass it along to my friends in the blogosphere.  The recipe for the starter is usually kept under wraps in order to keep the spirit of sharing alive, but I managed to find a starter recipe that matches up with the baking directions I received for my bread.  If you’re interested in starting an Amish Friendship Bread chain, go here for starter and baking recipes.

May we all be inspired to strengthen the bonds of friendship and keep strong the tradition of sharing.

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c.b. 2012

The Bells Have Spoken

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At precisely 6:45 p.m. on November 12, 2011, the Christmas season officially arrived in my home. I heard the Hershey kisses bells ring in the season with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and I broke out into a huge grin. I love this commercial!! It’s so cute!  I look forward to it every year and I fully intend on seeing it at least fifty times before Christmas actually comes.

The timing couldn’t have been better.  Earlier that day, I did my first round of Christmas shopping. I’m keeping things pretty simple this year as I do most years.  I love the holidays, but hate the hoopla so I tend to buy a few small gifts for those I love.  Like most things in my life, the gifts I give have to mean something or it feels like a lost cause.  I’d rather spend $10 on a gift that speaks personally to someone than spend $100 on something that will be obsolete in five minutes.

My husband and I always host the family Christmas party at our house on Christmas Eve.  After the bells sang, we started planning the games and food.  It’s tradition to play Christmas Bingo combined with a gift swap, open Christmas poppers, and hide the Christmas pickle, but this year we decided to add holiday Mad Libs.  For food, I’m going to make fudge and Hershey kisses peanut butter blossoms (of course!) and my husband is going to make a couple batches of Shepherd’s pie for everyone.  He’s been perfecting his recipe all year! It’s far from a traditional feast, but we like to break the rules.

Starting next week, the Christmas playlist on my iPod is going to get overhauled with new music. Yes, I’m one of those people that loves Christmas music, but I am careful not to annoy other people with it.  Ah, the miracle of personal music players! I can’t wait for Burl Ives, Josh Groban, and Narada to wrap me in holiday bliss.

I don’t need a mall, sales, or shiny wrapping paper to get me in the mood.  Just some ringing chocolate bells and the warmth of the season fills me with cheer.

When do you embrace the holidays?  (Or are you a Grinch?  That’s okay, too!)

c.b. 2011

Paying it Forward . . . Again!

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After three full months in the blogosphere, I can’t help but be thankful for every reader that visits my blog.  At the same time, I am just as grateful to have found a wonderful community of bloggers that offer an immense amount of insight and inspiration.  Back in June I posted some of my favorite links, but the list has since grown.  It’s time to share a few more blogs that deserve the spotlight!

Random Acts of Writing [+art]

Stunning photography and art meet beautiful quotations with a dash of philosophical contemplation. Easily one of my favorite blogs because there is always so much inspiration not only for writing, but for life in general.

Moonlight Baker

I’m not much of a cook, but I love this blog!  Recently, she posted a recipe for Nutella Cheesecake Bars that was so easy to follow even I could make them.  They were absolutely divine and I suspect all of her recipes are just as delicious.  This site boasts highly original recipes for everything from breakfast to desert, making it well worth the visit to see what’s cooking!

Joss Burnel – The Crowing Crone

Count on Joss to highlight the simple pleasures of life with beautiful photographs of nature and thoughtful posts on the little things that matter most.  I look forward to new posts as they offer a nice bit of serenity when I need it most.

The Conscious Classroom

A wonderful site that offers interesting and unconventional tools for teachers.  This may be a bit of a shameless plug, but I do contribute to this site from time to time.  😉  If you are an educator or a parent looking for techniques and inspiration for engaging students in the act of learning, this is a good place to find some new ideas.

W. Chaser

The process of writing is never easy as real life, the inner critic, and frustration threaten to rob us of our creativity.  W. Chaser writes about these struggles and the little victories that make writing a truly rewarding craft.  The honesty and humor of this blog is what keeps me coming back for more.

Thinking of Rob

Everyone has a guilty pleasure and this is mine.  😀  In a previous post, I admitted that I am one of those Twilight people, (A Bookshelf of Organized Chaos). Well,  I am also a Robert Pattinson fan. Yup, I’ve seen every one of his movies and loved them!  Thinking of Rob is one of the best fan sites I’ve ever encountered in the mania that surrounds Twilight.  Not only do they post the best photos, fan art, and news, but they are very respectful of Rob as a person, (no tabloid stuff, negativity is not tolerated, and rumors are not proliferated).  They keep things very professional and I have so much respect for what they do and how they do it.  With Breaking Dawn: Part I hitting theaters in a few months, this is the site to keep bookmarked for all the latest news!

Happy Reading!

c.b. 2011