Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

In 2011, I started  ranking my daily satisfaction quotient. On my morning commute, top down on the convertible, wind in my hair, sun shining on my face, I considered my level of happiness each morning. My ranking was a consistently favorable 7 to 8 – even on a Monday. Life was good.

Fast forward a handful of years, add a revolving door of various managers, include a load of new policies designed to thwart me at every turn, suppress my ability to contribute – and my average daily ranking crept down to a paltry 4.5. For three years, life sucked.

This Friday, I noticed that my ranking catapulted back to an 8… perhaps even an 8.5, and not because of the impending 3 days weekend. How did I do it? How did I turn things around? I quit my job. After 15 years, I joyfully submitted my resignation. One indignity too many, straw and camel’s back stuff, convinced me that it was time.

And, as it’s supposed to happen when one takes a huge risk, Providence prevailed. Within a few weeks, a new job posted, within the same company, but with a group that I respect and adore– and I got the job! I feel good.  C’mon 2017, my groove is coming back.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 175 grams all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 115 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 110 grams light brown sugar
  • 75 grams sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 200 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 115 grams, walnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour, soda and salt. Beat together butter, sugars and vanilla. Add egg and beat well. Stir in flour mixture until incorporated. Stir in chocolate and nuts.
  2. Cover dough and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Drop cookie dough by tablespoons about 1” apart. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets midway through baking. If you prefer a soft cookie, scale back on time as needed.

Body Language

Married life can be challenging – but dating life can be just as tricky.

I recognize this evening as a non-starter before I even order my Sauvignon Blanc. I realize before my ass has warmed the bar stool. There’s no chemistry – no spice. I’m more interested in the cute, tattooed bartender (alas, wedding ring) than the man beside me. Before my first sip of wine, my date has managed to “casually touch” my thigh and arm a half-dozen times during conversation. I don’t need my body language decoder ring – I get it; you’re interested, now back off. Our tactile evening continues with me receiving a demo of his co-worker’s hugging techniques followed by an unsolicited and awkward one-handed back rub. He has unquestionably grabbed or stroked me at least three dozen times. Body language hint – if your date is slowly sliding away to regain her personal space, stop with the hands! Ten minutes into the conversation, he declares that he wants to “claim” me as his own and our next date should be in my neighborhood. Next date?! I’m squirming through this one – and I’m beginning to believe you’re stalker material as well. Okay…polite conversation, polite conversation; I can do this; just finish my wine and leave – fast. I’m out the door in 40 minutes flat – but he insists on walking me to my car. Please don’t try to hug, kiss, or molest me at my vehicle. Not surprisingly, I receive his text on the drive home: “Good night Sweetheart.” Sweetheart?! Disturbing.

Reaching the safety of home, I’m amazed I don’t bee-line for the kitchen and bake up a batch of David Lebovitz’s chocolate chip cookies. This type of dating debacle deserves an edible pacifier – a dozen warm, gooey cookies or even a chocolate cake with thick chocolate frosting – devoured in one sitting. I content myself with a 6” turkey sub from Subway. Probably the smarter choice, since the holidays have made their mark on my bathroom scale.

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

I haven’t made fruit gelato for over a year. My last recipe was Apple Pie gelato while I was at Gelato School.  My experiments frequently result in a dessert lacking sufficient fruit flavor – or – frozen bits of fruit suspended in a bland base. Yes, I know about premade purees available to amp flavor, but I wanted to find a way to accomplish it without unscrewing a jar – using fresh fruit and not much else. I discovered the answer while reading the May/June edition of “Cook’s Illustrated.” Sarah Mullins’ article addressed a lackluster strawberry mouse, but it struck me that her method could work for frozen dessert challenges as well.

Her answer lies in a fruit juice reduction. Following her instructions, I pulsed the strawberries a few times in a food processor, giving them an ample surface area, and mixed them with a liberal amount of sugar and a bit of salt. I let them macerate for 45 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally. After maceration, I drained the juice and pureed the drained berries, straining the pulp to remove the seeds. Her stroke of genius was reducing the remaining juice to just a few tablespoons of concentrated flavor. The strawberry puree plus the juice reduction resulted in colorful dessert with a fresh tang without being icy.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s ‘The Perfect Scoop’ and “Cook’s Illustrated” Fresh Strawberry Mousse

1 lb.        fresh strawberries (insipid store-bought berries are fine)
3/4 c.     sugar
Pinch     salt
1 c.         plain whole-milk yogurt
1 t.          lemon juice

Coarsely chop strawberries in a food processor. Add ½ c. sugar and salt. Macerate for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, mix remaining ¼ c. sugar and yogurt. Add lemon juice. Drain juice from strawberries. Puree strawberries in food processor and strain pulp to remove seeds. Add to yogurt. Reduce strawberry juice to a few tablespoons. Cool and add to yogurt. Let rest in refrigerator for at least an hour, but overnight is preferred. Process in your ice cream maker, following manufacturer’s directions.

Throne

I’ve finished my eight weeks of pottery class.  This was my last project.  What is it, you ask?

It’s a gelato chair.

Pumpkin Gelato with Candied Pecans and Salted Caramel Swirl

2 c.         Whole Milk

Pinch      Salt

½ c.        Brown sugar

¼ c.        granulated sugar

½ t.         cinnamon

¼ t.         nutmeg, freshly ground

¼ t.         ginger

4              large egg yolks

1 c.         heavy cream

½ t.         vanilla extract

¾ c.        Canned Pumpkin**

1 c.         candied pecans, chopped (I made my own)

Salted Caramel (I used David Lebovitz’s Salted Butter Caramel Sauce)

Heat milk, salt and brown sugar.  Whisk yolks with granulated sugar and spices.  Temper yolks.  Heat yolk and milk mixture until it turns into custard that coats the back of a wooden spoon.  Emulsify custard and pour through sieve into heavy cream set over ice water.  Add vanilla and pumpkin and cool.  Refrigerate overnight.  Make gelato following ice cream maker’s instructions.  Add pecans during last 2 minutes.  Layer gelato with salted caramel and freeze.

** In my first version of the gelato base, I used roasted fresh pumpkin.  The flavor didn’t come out pumpkin-y enough so I remade it with the canned pumpkin which gave it a most recongnizable pumkin taste.